2023 Year in Review

Since taking office, my priority has been to elevate the needs of our communities and advocate for my constituents. I’ve sought to meet these goals through legislation I’ve either introduced or supported and by enhancing my relationship with our towns and constituents on issues that matter the most to them. For more on what I’ve been up to in my first year in office, I offer the following review that explores what I’ve accomplished in the legislature and the district.

Legislature

Committees – The Spring season brought with it my first committee assignments. I was thrilled to receive the following appointments: Agriculture, Public Health, Emergency Preparedness and Management, and Community Development and Small Businesses.

Budget  – In July the legislature passed a $56.2 billion dollar budget that included funding for roads, schools, and services in the 8th Middlesex District. Locally, I was thrilled to advocate for the inclusion of funding to support  a new transportation vehicle for the Millis Senior Center and toward the positions of Economic Development Officer in both the Town of Holliston and Town of Hopkinton.

The FY24 budget was a historic investment in both K-12 and higher education. Minimum per pupil Chapter 70 aid doubled from $30 to $60. In total this represented over $27 million in funding for the public schools in our district. The budget also included free school meals, so that every student is properly alert to learn, and families with a student in school will save $1200 a year per student.  $50 million was also earmarked toward the goal of free community college by the fall of 2024 with funding currently available for students 25 years and older and those studying nursing. We also sought to combat food insecurity with increases to the Healthy Incentives Program, Community Food Security Direct Assistance, and the Emergency Food Assistance Program.

Tax Relief –  Following the budget, the legislature set its eyes on tax relief. The $561 million package that passed in September will help make the state more affordable, equitable, and competitive. We raised the estate tax threshold to $2 million while doubling the senior circuit breaker. This package also doubled the Child and Dependent tax credit while lowering the short-term capital gains tax from 12% to 8.5%. Increases to housing tax credits were also included in order to spur production as demand for housing continues to outpace availability across the state.

Back Home In The District

One of the top priorities of my first year was to connect with as many people across the district as possible. From groups of advocates to individual constituents, I spent countless hours grabbing coffee or visiting homes to learn as much as I could about how to help serve our communities. Hearing from constituents is crucial in keeping me informed of the issues that matter the most to our towns. I look forward to connecting with even more people across our region in the year ahead.

Constituent Services – In total my office directly helped and responded to over 500 constituents in 2023! From delayed unemployment claims to fuel assistance applications that hit a roadblock, it is incredibly gratifying to lend a hand to individuals who reached out to our office. The question that remains, however, is how many people in the district needed help or wanted to share their perspective but did not know who to contact in government? This question is a priority that I am intent on solving by continuing to connect with all facets of our communities and offering my office as a first point of contact.

Memorable Events – When I look back on this year some of the most memorable moments are all the great events I attended! After being sworn into office in January I was honored to begin representing the Commonwealth at events in the district. From annual town meetings to Eagle Scout ceremonies to holiday and cultural celebrations, there is always something to look forward to in our towns!

I focus much of my time as Representative meeting with state officials to advocate for our towns. One example that stands out is my meeting with the Secretary of Housing and Livable Communities Ed Augustus. After meeting with all of the housing authorities in the district about inefficiencies in the housing placement system, I sat down with the Secretary to relay these concerns and discuss solutions that will maintain flexibility for housing applicants while ensuring all units are filled. During this meeting we identified how the system will improve with new regulations and we extended an invitation to meet with the Housing Directors in the district.

In the summer I hosted a series of roundtables in each town in the district focused on key populations: veterans, seniors, and small businesses. These listening sessions were a valuable opportunity for me to connect in a small group setting to discuss the challenges these groups face and how the state can better assist them. As a follow-up to one group, I shared concerns with the Veterans Secretary Jon Santiago about better resource sharing that they are already implementing. An incredible group of student interns hailing from the different towns of the district worked hard to put these amazing events together. These discussions help to shape my policy priorities for the next session.

Looking Forward To 2024

As we enter the second year of this legislative term, we hope to address many of the larger issues facing the Commonwealth related to the environment, housing, and overall affordability. I look forward to deepening my relationships within the district while continuing to meet new members of our communities. I plan on filing legislation to support our schools, seniors, small businesses and farmers. I am focused on continuing to meet the challenges that affect out district especially related to the environment and removing PFAS or forever chemicals from our water, supporting responsible housing development, and making sure our schools are properly funded in the face of growing populations.  I especially look forward to taking up items such as the Governor’s housing bond bill as we strive to meet the challenges of the state’s housing crisis and support responsible housing development.

I want to thank my legislative and community partners that made this first year such a success. These collaborations are so important in making sure we are meeting the needs of our constituents. I  look forward to continuing to serve our towns in the years to come.

Sincerely,

Representative James Arena-DeRosa

James Arena-DeRosa

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