1. Articles from #!/shiraschoenberg

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    1. Controversy emerges over taxes, free speech in proposed 'community benefit districts'

      Controversy emerges over taxes, free speech in proposed 'community benefit districts'

      A bill allowing the creation of Community Benefit Districts where residents can be taxed to fund local improvements is getting a second look after passing both the House and Senate, amid criticism by groups on both the right and the left of the political spectrum. "Many municipalities are struggling to find resources to help grow their local economy and make neighborhood community improvements," said Sen. Brendan Crighton, D-Lynn, who sponsored the bill. "We feel that through this community benefit bill, it will empower the community to decide on additional and supplemental services that could help attract more folks to their ...

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    2. Grant program could provide money for security upgrades for Massachusetts nonprofits

      Grant program could provide money for security upgrades for Massachusetts nonprofits

      A $150,000 grant program included in the state budget could help Massachusetts nonprofits afford security updates to their buildings. "It's very important that we provide these organizations with this type of funding, because a lot of them are shoestring organizations that don't have the budget to put these types of protections in place," said state Sen. Eric Lesser, D-Longmeadow, who sponsored the amendment for the grant program.

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      Mentions: Springfield
    3. Massachusetts House tacks $125 million in earmarks onto economic development bond bill

      Massachusetts House tacks $125 million in earmarks onto economic development bond bill

      State representatives on Tuesday night added $125 million in earmarked spending to a $666 million economic development bill before sending it along to the Senate.  The economic development bill, H.4714, is passed each year as a way to fund major projects around the state. It includes earmarks for specific projects, funding for economic development grants and money for job training.

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    4. Massachusetts House passes health care bill to help community hospitals

      Massachusetts House passes health care bill to help community hospitals

      The Massachusetts House passed a major health care bill late Tuesday night. "We recognize the complex factors that are driving the health care marketplace right now and view this legislation as a smart, stabilizing mechanism to ensure residents in each corner of the Commonwealth have access to quality care throughout the changes," said House Speaker Robert DeLeo, D-Winthrop, in a statement. The bill H.4617, was named "The Honorable Peter V. Kocot Act to Enhance Access to High Quality Affordable and Transparent Healthcare in the Commonwealth," after the late Northampton Democrat who, as House chairman of the Committee on Health ...

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    5. Gov. Charlie Baker signs $623 million life sciences bill

      Gov. Charlie Baker signs $623 million life sciences bill

      Gov. Charlie Baker on Friday signed into law a $623 million life sciences bill. The bill authorizes the state to borrow and spend up to $473 million over five years and provide tax credits of up to $150 million. "This bill demonstrates the Legislature's commitment to economic development and workforce training by providing the tools and resources to allow for the continued investment in our people, our infrastructure, and our Massachusetts-based companies," said Rep. Joseph Wagner, D-Chicopee, House chairman of the Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies, in a statement.

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    6. Gov. Charlie Baker to visit Springfield Museums Saturday

      Gov. Charlie Baker to visit Springfield Museums Saturday

      Gov. Charlie Baker plans to visit Springfield on Saturday to tout a $200,000 grant for upgrades to the Springfield Science Museum. The grant is part of the latest round of awards from the Massachusetts Cultural Council's Cultural Facilities Fund, which were announced in May. The $9.3 million was spread across 63 grants for capital projects and 35 planning grants. The Springfield Science Museum grant will go toward renovations to the bathroom, lighting and carpeting. Other Western Massachusetts grants went to Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival, Northampton Community Arts Trust, Chester Theatre Co., Shakespeare & Co., Sterling and Francine ...

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    7. Businesses aim to save $100M in health care costs by reducing emergency room visits

      Businesses aim to save $100M in health care costs by reducing emergency room visits

      A group of 20 business organizations are launching an effort to save $100 million in health care costs by 2020 by reducing avoidable emergency room visits by 20 percent. The businesses are still figuring out their exact strategies. The first step will focus primarily on raising awareness among employees about the resources available for them to get care outside of the emergency room.  "Our plan is to provide employers with a toolkit, which will include appropriate information communicated in plain English about the most appropriate sites for care, why that's important, and how it impacts premiums," said Eileen McAnneny ...

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    8. Senate passes amendment approving Pittsfield-Springfield-Boston rail study

      Senate passes amendment approving Pittsfield-Springfield-Boston rail study

      The state Senate unanimously adopted an amendment on Thursday requiring the state Department of Transportation to conduct a study of high-speed rail between Boston and Springfield, this time with an extension to Pittsfield. "We owe it to all four counties to make sure the entire four-county region of Western Mass. is included in the analysis," said Sen. Eric Lesser, D-Longmeadow, who sponsored the amendment. The study would look at capital and operating costs, ridership levels, operational issues, environmental and economic impacts, and the availability of funding.

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      Mentions: Springfield
    9. Look inside the new UMass Amherst mobile water treatment lab

      Look inside the new UMass Amherst mobile water treatment lab

      A new mobile water treatment lab run by UMass Amherst will help small towns test new water treatment technology.  "Some of our smaller towns are risk-averse to testing new technologies on their water treatment," said Rep. Smitty Pignatelli, D-Lenox. "This would allow them to kick the tires and test it on a much smaller basis." Pignatelli said making a mistake with a new technology can cost towns tens of thousands of dollars, so this is an opportunity for small systems to test out new technologies and see if they will work on a larger scale.

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    10. Baystate Health secures $1M earmark in House budget

      Baystate Health secures $1M earmark in House budget

      Baystate Health has secured a $1 million earmark in the House version of the state budget, which is being debated this week. "This represents an affirmative step in our quest to equalize the state's commitment to serve the Medicaid population of Western Massachusetts," said Mark Keroack, president and CEO of Baystate Health, in a statement. Baystate has been seeking money annually through the state budget process to make up for what it describes as regional inequities in Medicaid payments.

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    11. MassINC: Building near commuter rail could transform cities

      MassINC: Building near commuter rail could transform cities

      Vacant land surrounding commuter rail stops in Gateway Cities has the potential to house approximately 140,000 people and create a similar number of new jobs. But improvements to commuter rail service is required to encourage development in these areas, according to a study being released Tuesday by the MassINC think tank. At the same time, the study finds, investment in real estate could spur more ridership. "In order to get the most from the billions of dollars we commit to operating commuter rail along these right-of-ways, it's critical to think about what mix of policies could spur reinvestment ...

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      Mentions: Springfield
    12. Life sciences bill envisions $445 million commitment

      Life sciences bill envisions $445 million commitment

      A legislative committee is preparing to release a $445 million life sciences bond bill. "This bill will provide the state with the tools to deploy capital investments in cutting edge equipment and infrastructure, promote innovative research and development, and strengthen existing resources and regional assets through workforce development and strategic partnerships," state Rep. Joseph Wagner, D-Chicopee, chairman of the Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies, said in a statement. "This bill will unlock federal monies and private investments as Massachusetts continues (to) maintain its economic competitiveness on the global level in the areas of life sciences, biotechnology, and ...

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    13. Gov. Charlie Baker optimistic on north-south rail, but not Springfield-to-Boston train...

      Gov. Charlie Baker optimistic on north-south rail, but not Springfield-to-Boston train...

      Expanding passenger rail service between New Haven and Springfield is looking good. But expanding service from Boston to Springfield is far less certain, Gov. Charlie Baker said in a meeting with editors and reporters from The Republican/MassLive.com on Friday. Baker said he has been having "very positive" conversations with Connecticut officials about running trains along the north-south corridor from New Haven to Springfield and then to Greenfield.

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    14. Mass. Gov. Charlie Baker proposes $610 million economic development bill, including...

      Mass. Gov. Charlie Baker proposes $610 million economic development bill, including...

      Gov. Charlie Baker on Friday filed a $610 million economic development bill. The bill includes a potpourri of initiatives meant to encourage local economic development projects, help coastal communities, and incentivize business hiring. The bill would also create a permanent sales tax holiday in Massachusetts. "This bill seeks to grow the economy for all regions of the Commonwealth by providing support for small businesses, continuing the successful MassWorks program for Massachusetts' downtowns and main streets, and purchasing more equipment to expand and improve workforce skills training," Baker said in a statement.

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    15. UMass President Marty Meehan stresses college affordability in State of UMass address

      UMass President Marty Meehan stresses college affordability in State of UMass address

      University of Massachusetts President Marty Meehan on Monday pledged to address college affordability through online education, partnerships with businesses and nonprofits and a new fundraising campaign. Meehan said the renewed focus on affordability is vital to keep higher education accessible to all students and let students choose their own career paths. "Affordability, which is central to our mission, is no longer guaranteed by our status as a public university," Meehan said in his second annual State of the University address at the UMass Club in Boston.

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    16. Long-time Northampton state representative Peter Kocot dies at 61 | masslive.com

      Long-time Northampton state representative Peter Kocot dies at 61 | masslive.com

      Peter Kocot, a long-time state representative from Northampton, has died.  Kocot has served in the state Legislature since 2002 representing the 1st Hampshire District.  He was chairman of the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing.  He was 61 years old.  Kocot had been ill.  House Speaker Robert DeLeo, D-Winthrop, emailed state representatives Thursday afternoon to inform them that Kocot had passed away Thursday morning.  'Chairman Kocot was one of the most kind, decent and selfless individuals that I have had the pleasure to know,' DeLeo wrote.

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    17. $45 million for new Springfield police station included in Senate bond bill

      $45 million for new Springfield police station included in Senate bond bill

      The Senate passed a bond bill Thursday that includes $45 million for a new Springfield police station. The House already included the money in its version of the bill, which makes it more likely that the earmark will be included in the final version and ultimately become law. Springfield police officials say the current headquarters on Pearl Street is old and outdated and does not meet the needs of current policing. The city will contribute another $45 million to the project. "This money and the new headquarters will mark a turning point for public safety in Springfield and be a ...

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    18. Hearing on Massachusetts rail plan scheduled for Springfield

      Hearing on Massachusetts rail plan scheduled for Springfield

      The Massachusetts Department of Transportation will hold a hearing on its rail plan in Western Massachusetts. The hearing will be held Friday, Feb. 2 from 3-4:30 p.m. at the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission in Springfield. "It is critically important to provide the people of Western Massachusetts with an opportunity to be heard on the state-wide rail plan, and to provide input that will be helpful in both developing and implementing that plan," Sen. Stan Rosenberg, D-Amherst, said in a statement.

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    19. Solar cap puts drag on Massachusetts projects; alternative program in the works

      Solar cap puts drag on Massachusetts projects; alternative program in the works

      A cap on reimbursements is again stalling some solar energy projects in central and Western Massachusetts. It remains an open question whether a new incentive program for solar projects, which is expected to start this summer, will solve the problem. Gov. Charlie Baker's administration says it will, although solar industry representatives are skeptical. "We are continuing to be a national leader in solar energy and energy efficiency," said Mike Judge, director of the Renewable and Alternative Energy Division at the state Department of Energy Resources. "We're continuing to promote solar, at a lower cost than we have been."

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    20. Massachusetts awards $20 million for 'game-changing' energy storage grants

      Massachusetts awards $20 million for 'game-changing' energy storage grants

      Gov. Charlie Baker plans to announce the grants Thursday at UMass Memorial Hospital in Marlborough. The University of Massachusetts Amherst will receive one of the largest awards, $1.14 million, to install a lithium ion battery storage system in its energy supply system. The battery will provide more resiliency to the system, which currently involves a cogeneration plant and a solar array.

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    21. Gov. Charlie Baker signs bond bill authorizing $45 million for Western Massachusetts...

      Gov. Charlie Baker signs bond bill authorizing $45 million for Western Massachusetts...

      Gov. Charlie Baker signed a bond bill on Tuesday that will authorize the state to spend another $45 million on broadband projects in Western Massachusetts. "It's very hard to keep kids, attract kids, attract businesses, keep businesses, keep families, attract families in this day and age if you don't have high-speed internet," Baker said at a bill signing ceremony. "It's almost like a core piece of infrastructure for someone to succeed in this century."

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    22. Legislature sends broadband bill, including $45M for WMass, to Gov. Charlie Baker's desk

      Legislature sends broadband bill, including $45M for WMass, to Gov. Charlie Baker's desk

      The Legislature passed a $244 million bond bill on Wednesday, sending it to Gov. Charlie Baker's desk. The bill, H.4015, includes $45 million for the expansion of broadband internet in Western Massachusetts. It also includes $199 million for the design and construction of a new Chelsea Soldiers' Home. The bill had a strict deadline, since if it were not passed before the legislative session ended on Wednesday, millions of dollars of federal money for the Soldiers' Home would have been at stake. The broadband money is part of the "Last Mile" project, which uses state subsidies to make ...

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    23. How much did your community get? State transportation grants to rural Western...

      How much did your community get? State transportation grants to rural Western...

      The Baker administration on Tuesday announced that it was awarding $8.5 million in grants for infrastructure projects in 10 rural towns. The grants came through MassWorks, a grant program that funds local infrastructure. Each year, 10 percent of grants are reserved for transportation and roadway projects in small towns, those with fewer than 7,000 inhabitants. Many of these projects are in Western Massachusetts. Secretary of Transportation Stephanie Pollack said in a statement, “These grants will renew critical local infrastructure which connects our residents and visitors in rural communities to the education resources, hospitals, and the good and vital ...

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    24. Study finds improving rail service is top transit priority for Western Mass. residents

      Study finds improving rail service is top transit priority for Western Mass. residents

      Ask a Massachusetts resident how to get across the state and the answer, in many cases, is "You can't get there from here." At least not easily, and not using public transportation. A group of Massachusetts senators asked residents what transportation improvements are most important to them. The answer in Western Massachusetts was similar to the answer around the state: residents want improved rail service, followed by better buses. "Whatever region people came from, people saw as a top mobility priority regional rail," said Jim Aloisi, a former state transportation secretary who worked on the Senate study.

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