State Representative Natalie Higgins released the following statement regarding Senator Jen Flanagan’s appointment to the Cannabis Control Commission and resignation on August 31, 2017:
“It has been the ultimate privilege and a pleasure to serve with Senator Jen Flanagan for these past eight months. In my short time here I have noticed the common identity and collaboration among the North Central Mass delegation, and this is due in large part thanks to the Senator’s leadership. While I am sad to see her leave the Legislature, she will be a phenomenal addition to the Cannabis Control Commission.
I also want to thank all of my supporters who have reached out encouraging me to run for Senator Flanagan’s seat. When I decided to run for State Representative in Leominster, I understood the unique and serious responsibility of representing a community I care so deeply about. It would not be fair to the people of Leominster for me to run for Senate at this time. I am just getting started here in Leominster and transitioning to a district of 10 ½ cities and towns would mean I would have to divert my focus from Leominster before finishing what I have started.
Senator Flanagan has set a high bar for representing the Worcester and Middlesex District, and I am confident the people of North Central Mass will select the best candidate to succeed her in this special election. I look forward to working with our new Senator to raise up every resident in Leominster and the rest of North Central Massachusetts.”
Originally published in: http://www.leominsterchamp.com/articles/back-to-school-back-to-affordable-college/
The public higher education system in Massachusetts (and across the country) was designed to make college accessible to the working classes, with costs as close to zero as possible for students and their families. For more than a century, that remained true and was responsible for both America’s stunning economic growth and, especially after World War II, the growth of a broad middle class.
But, that does not seem to be a priority anymore.
In my lifetime, the state of Massachusetts has walked away from funding and affordable public higher education. As a result, the cost has risen dramatically to students and their families.
Until 1987, a student could attend UMass Amherst and graduate completely debt-free by working a 10-hour minimum-wage job during the school year. Now that same student graduates with an average of over $30,000 in debt, hampering their ability to choose a career they are most suited for, start a family, buy a house, and live without a weight of debt over their head.
We need to organize and fight to rebuild the promise of fully-funded public higher education to our citizens. At the same time, we must address the growing student debt crisis. There are a number of important bills before this Legislative Session, and I would like to bring some bills to your attention.
H3000 creates a scholarship to cover the entire cost of tuition and fees for any year after the first leading to an associate’s or bachelor’s degree at a Massachusetts public college or university for Massachusetts residents whose household income fall under twice the median household income. This is an important first step in restoring truly free and accessible public higher education in Massachusetts.
H2173 establishes a bill of rights for student loan borrowers in Massachusetts, licenses student loan servicers that operate in Massachusetts, and with those fees creates an office of the student loan ombudsman, to better educate and support student loan borrowers across the Commonwealth. Given the uncertainty of protections at the federal level, Massachusetts must step up and provide more support for the nearly 1 million student loan borrowers that carry more than $24 billion in student loan debt.
H116 establishes a loan repayment program for low-paid direct care staff that meet certain qualifications. Until we have universal assistance programs to support borrowers in making their payments like the Federal Income-Based Repayment Program, state-level programs that target loan repayment for areas of high need, like human service workers, can incentivize more individuals to enter the field and help them stay in areas like central and western Massachusetts. We already have similar programs in Massachusetts for certain health professionals, and the Federal Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program.
I am happy to announce that the Joint Committee on Higher Education will be hosting a public hearing in Leominster on Monday, Sept. 11 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Leominster High School Auditorium.
For more information on the bills and programs mentioned, or the hearing, please contact me at Natalie.Higgins@mahouse.gov or at my office at (978) 227-5278.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Natalie Higgins, 978-602-3772
August 18, 2017
Legislature Formally Condemns Neo-Nazi and White Supremacist Groups
Joins the Baker Administration in pledging to promote equality, justice and tolerance
(BOSTON) – Representative Natalie Higgins (D-Leominster) joined her colleagues in the Massachusetts Legislature to support a resolution that unequivocally denounces white nationalism and neo-Nazism, and condemns the hatred, bigotry and violence these groups consistently espouse. The resolution will be transmitted to the Mayor of Charlottesville, Governor of Virginia and President of the United States.
In highlighting Massachusetts’ historic role in promoting civil rights and justice, the resolution emphasized that the values of these groups stand in irreconcilable conflict with the founding principles of both the Commonwealth and the nation. “I am proud to stand with my colleagues in the Legislature and Governor Baker to enact this resolution to stand against the bigotry and racism on display earlier this month,” said Higgins. “We have made a lot of progress with and since civil rights movement of the 1960s, but events like Charlottesville show us how much more work there is to do. Our communities cannot be silent against hate, and we will not lose the progress we have made.”
“I’m proud to sign this joint resolution on behalf of the House to clearly and unambiguously condemn neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups at work in Charlottesville,” said Speaker DeLeo. “I’m grateful to Leader Rushing, Chairwoman Benson and the members of the House for pushing for this important action. Massachusetts residents can be reassured that on matters like this, Governor Baker, Senate President Rosenberg and I, and our respective institutions, stand shoulder to shoulder in opposing violent hatred and intolerance.”
“I am proud that the Commonwealth came together to denounce the violence in Charlottesville and condemn the hateful ideologies of white supremacists and neo-Nazis,” said Chairwoman Jennifer Benson (D-Lunenburg). “I was honored to propose this resolution, and I thank Speaker DeLeo, Senate President Rosenberg and Governor Baker for their leadership on this issue.”
“It is so important that the citizens and residents of Massachusetts know that their government condemns the detestable messages of hate that are abroad in this our nation,” said Assistant Majority Leader Byron Rushing (D-Boston). “The tragic events that took place on August 11 and 12, 2017, in Charlottesville, remind us again that what we take for granted and what we work together to attain, is a threat to the narrow ideology of too many. We adopted these words today and heard them read by our leaders. Now, I hope, as many as possible will read them and find ways, where they live and work, to strongly denounce and oppose the totalitarian impulses, violence, xenophobic biases, and bigoted ideologies.”
Following the signing of the resolution, legislators joined Governor Baker and Lt. Governor Polito in a moment of silence for the Charlottesville victims. The legislation, which was filed in the wake of the Charlottesville tragedy, states that “intolerance has led to senseless acts of violence that continue to terrorize members of ethnic and religious communities.” It urges law enforcement agencies and elected officials to condemn white nationalist and neo-Nazi ideology, vigorously pursue justice in response to hate-fueled violence and work to ensure the protection of marginalized and targeted communities.
REPRESENTATIVE HIGGINS TO HOST COMMUNITY CONVERSATIONS IN AUGUST
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 18, 2017
Contact: Natalie Higgins, 978-602-3772
LEOMINSTER - During the last two weeks of August, Representative Natalie Higgins will host her first ever series of Community Conversations. There will be four forums focused on the four most popular topics that constituents have reached out to her office about. Each night will have esteemed panelists to set the tone for a successful conversation with the community! All forums will be held at the Leominster Public Library from 7:00PM-8:30PM.
The forums are free and open to the public, and will be streamed on Representative Higgins’ Facebook account (@StateRepNatalieHiggins).
Below is a list of our esteemed guests and the topics of the forums they will be participating in:
Tuesday August 22nd - Education
Tracy Novick - Field Director: Social Media and Advocacy, MA Association of School Committees
Barbara Madeloni - President, Massachusetts Teachers Association
Natalia Berthet - Lead Organizer, Central Mass for the No On Question 2 campaign; Jobs with Justice
Wednesday August 23rd - The Economy
Noah Berger - President, MassBudget
Lew Finfer - Co-Chair, Raise Up MA; Executive Director, Massachusetts Community Action Network
Wednesday August 30th - The Environment
Joe O’Brien - Political Director, Environmental League of MA
Erica Wood - Community Engagement Coordinator, Growing Places
State Representative Jennifer Benson (D-Lunenburg)
Thursday August 31st - Healthcare
Ture Turnball - Executive Director, MassCare
Kurt Isaacson - President and CEO, Spectrum Health Systems
Jackie Buckley - Chief Operating Officer, Community Health Connections
Diane Lane Cormier - Registered Nurse, HealthAlliance Leominster Hospital
The Massachusetts State House Comes to Leominster: Representative Natalie Higgins Hosts the Joint Committee on Higher Education at Leominster High School for a Public Hearing
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – August 16, 2017
CONTACT: Rep. Natalie Higgins, Natalie.Higgins@mahouse.gov, 978-602-3772
BOSTON - On Monday, September 11, 2017, Representative Natalie Higgins (D - Leominster) will host the Joint Committee on Higher Education for a public hearing on college affordability and access in the Leominster High School Auditorium (122 Granite Street, Leominster, MA 01453) from 11:00AM-1:00PM.
“It is an honor to serve on the Joint Committee on Higher Education, as a first generation college student, proud graduate of UMass Amherst, and former director of the Public Higher Education Network of Massachusetts (PHENOM),” said Higgins. “I am thankful for the Chairs’ interest in hosting a public hearing in my district. This is a great opportunity for Leominster residents to see the Legislature in action and share their own stories and struggles.”
The Joint Committee on Higher Education has already heard more than 90 bills ranging from free college to campus safety, adjunct faculty rights, and more. The Committee is chaired by Representative John Scibak (D - South Hadley) and Senator Michael Moore (D - Millbury).
The public hearing is open to all Massachusetts residents, on any of the bills before the Committee, which can be found at MALegislature.gov. If you cannot attend, but would like to submit written testimony, you can email it to Taylor.Landry@mahouse.gov.
Originally published in: http://www.leominsterchamp.com/articles/on-healthy-incentives-the-snap-gap-and-new-trees/
Summer gardens and barbecues are in full swing, and I wanted to use this column to talk about new programs that are increasing food access and trees throughout the city.
New healthy incentives
The Massachusetts Healthy Incentives Program (HIP) kicked off in April and matches SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly food stamps) recipients’ purchases of local fruits and vegetables at participating farmers markets, farm stands, mobile markets, and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm share programs.
SNAP recipients receive an instant, dollar-for-dollar match credited to their EBT card on eligible purchases. Your monthly cap depends upon your household size. Households of one or two can earn up to $40 per month, three to five members $60, and households with six or more members can earn up to $80.
Leominster residents can participate in HIP at the Leominster’s Farmers Market at Monument Square downtown on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Closing the SNAP Gap
Did you know that an estimated 5,000 Leominster residents qualify for SNAP benefits, but aren’t currently receiving them? The SNAP Gap across Massachusetts is estimated at 680,000, and closing that gap could help bring over $800 million in federal SNAP nutrition dollars to our state each year and generate over $2 billion in economic stimulus to the state and local economy.
There is legislation this session that would create a universal common application portal to let low-income families apply for MassHealth and SNAP at the same time. This would help more residents meet basic food expenses and reduce food insecurity, reduce health care costs, and enable more low-income children to be “directly certified” for free school meals through SNAP.
The legislation is making progress this year, and in the budget we approved a study of the costs to fully implement the program. In the meantime, my office is ready to help eligible individuals and households enroll in SNAP and take advantage of the Healthy Incentives Program discussed above.
Greening the Gateway Cities
Finally, you may have noticed new trees popping up throughout Leominster. According to Growing Places, the organization administering the program in the city: Certain “neighborhoods of Leominster have been selected as part of a statewide program to increase tree canopy cover. With more canopy cover, our community will reduce home energy use for heating and cooling — that translates to cheaper heating and AC bills. As part of the Greening the Gateway Cities Program (GGCP), experienced Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) foresters will visit Leominster homes and businesses to recommend the best trees for each property.”
You can see if your home is eligible at www.growingplaces.org/trees, learn more about volunteer opportunities, and request your free tree at (617) 626-1514.
Thank you for taking the time to read this column. If you have any questions, or need to get in touch with me and my office, email me at Natalie.Higgins@mahouse.gov or call (978) 227-5278. Hoping you have a fun and healthy summer!