By: State Rep. Linda Dean Campbell
This year has certainly been a trying one for our Nation, and in this time of federal gridlock, the role of State Legislatures has become all the more important. It has been an extraordinarily productive year for the MA House of Representatives, as we have continued to push forward with bold action on the issues affecting our communities.
In Methuen, the legislation I filed with the strong support of the Methuen House delegation and in collaboration with Governor Baker has restructured Methuen’s city government by requiring: state oversight until all state loans have been repaid, and the hiring of financial professionals to ensure that the City Council, School Committee, and Mayor are knowledgeable and accountable for every penny spent and every contract issued. The state Inspector General’s report that I strongly requested also helped the City to resolve the superior police officers’ contract dispute earlier this year.
This year, the House passed legislation to: help Veterans succeed in our public universities; protect youth from smoking addiction; prevent distracted driving caused by cell phone use; protect unions; invest in local road improvement projects; and more. The House also passed a landmark education bill that invests an additional $1.4 billion in our public K-12 schools and makes major strides toward addressing education inequality across our state. The Merrimack Valley will receive substantial increases in funding under this legislation.
The Legislature also enacted a state budget and supplemental budget that included significant funding for the Merrimack Valley, including earmarks I secured with the support of the Merrimack Valley delegation: $300,000 for the Veterans Northeast Outreach Center, $200,000 to resurface the Methuen High School track, $50,000 for the Haverhill Vietnam Veterans Memorial, $50,000 to expand mental health services at Methuen High School, $100,000 for a new health care facility in Haverhill operated by the Greater Lawrence Family Health Center, $1.2 million for a young adult recidivism reduction program, and $50,000 for the Merrimack Valley Chamber of Commerce. In addition to investing in public safety, affordable housing, and nursing homes, the budget raised the state’s reserve fund to over $3 billion, an all-time high that will provide a necessary cushion should we experience a recession in the near future.
It has been a true privilege this year to serve as Chair of the Committee on Veterans and Federal Affairs and to support our Veterans and their families through legislation, events, and other initiatives. I was proud to assist with the Veterans’ portions of the state budget, which increased funding for social services and included $1.3 million for Veterans’ mental health care through the Home Base Program. For Veterans Day, I shepherded legislation through the House to expand PTSD resources for student Veterans and establish a memorial for historic MA Veteran Deborah Sampson. We have also begun working with Home Base on a statewide suicide prevention campaign that will connect our Veterans to life-saving care right in their own communities.
This year, legislation I filed to notify the public when sewage is spilled into rivers like the Merrimack has made great progress. The bill has received a favorable vote from the Environment Committee and now awaits a vote on the House floor. It benefits from the bipartisan support of legislators and the determination of many Merrimack Valley leaders, as was demonstrated by our kayak trip down the Merrimack River this past summer.
Our region has seen a lot of growth this year, including the grand opening of UTEC’s Haverhill site, the announcement of a New Balance factory in Methuen slated for operation in 2020, the expansion of the Bradford Rail Trail, and the completion of the Methuen Rail Trail, all of which received state support. I also worked with our delegation and the state Department of Transportation (MassDOT) to make serious headway regarding the Bradford train station – MassDOT is now actively pursuing plans to relocate the station and has set aside funding in their Capital Investment Plan to do so.
I look forward to another year advocating for our Veterans and for the projects and issues that matter to you. I wish you abundant health and happiness as we enter the New Year.
State Representative Linda Dean Campbell represents the cities of Methuen and Haverhill in the State Legislature and serves as House Chair of the Joint Committee on Veterans and Federal Affairs. She can be reached at Linda.Campbell@mahouse.gov or (617) 722-2380. ◊