Following three marathon (though virtual) sessions over three successive days, the Senate adopted its version of a state government budget for Massachusetts.
The body's take on this foundational document does what it should do: advance the public interest while going the extra mile for those who need the help. And another thing: it gives a boost to local projects. Some of the priorities I was able to promote:
1. An extension to funding for the Waltham Field Station, a working farm that serves as home base for a community of non-profits involved in agriculture, farming, and sustainability. In November 2020, the Legislature authorized the city of Waltham to purchase the Field Station from UMass, stipulating that the land’s protected status remain in place.
During this spring's debate on the new state budget, I added language to allow $200,000 in funds for the Field Station that I had secured previously to be “carried over” and used in the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2021. The money will assist in improving the Field Station for the nonprofit tenants and, by extension, for the many visitors to the property.
2. Financial support to Bedford for the cost of educating children of families living on Hanscom Air Force Base. Bedford High School has been pleased to educate Hanscom students for over 50 years. Federal reimbursement has lagged, so the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has stepped in.
3. Adding Concord, Lexington, and Lincoln residents to a new Commission on the 250th Anniversary of the American Revolution. The Commission is charged with choreographing events in 2025 and 2026 to celebrate the one-quarter-millennium that will have passed since the events of 1775 and 1776. (The formal term is "semiquincentennial," which I am adding to my Word Power list right this minute.) Massachusetts can expect company from all over the country and the world. The prospect is enticing, but I think we need a plan.
My amendment preserves the original commission but tweaks its enabling legislation, which had guaranteed a spot on the body for a representative of Boston but not for a representative of Cambridge, Arlington, Lexington, Lincoln, or Concord, the five communities along the British line of march on the day the first shots of the American Revolution were fired.
Quick refresh: On April 18th, 1775, at around 11 p.m., 700 Red Coats set out from Boston waters on a very quick trip, landing in the Lechmere area of Cambridge and making their way in darkness through the city. Their ultimate destination was a store of arms rumored to be somewhere on the Concord farm of one James Barrett (no relation).
Colonists feared that, along the way, the British would arrest John Hancock and Samuel Adams, lodging that night in Lexington. By 1 a.m. on April 19th, thanks to hard riding by Paul Revere and others, word was spreading to nearby towns. At approximately 5 a.m., on Lexington Green, combatants on the two sides heard someone fire a shot, and the American Revolution began.
The British reached Concord and Barrett's farm but found no guns, which had been hidden or moved. The exhausted troops then had to turn around, empty-handed, and head back to Boston. Minute Men from multiple towns engaged with the Brits at a crook in the road in the town of Lincoln, in an encounter that came to be known as the Battle of Bloody Angle. Later in the afternoon, still on their way to Boston, the now-angry Red Coats used guns and bayonets to often-grisly effect. The worst of the violence took place in Menotomy, in present-day Arlington, where 25 Colonists died, half the American fatalities for the day, as well as an estimated 40 British, more than half their total casualties.
4. Support for the Senior Center in Chelmsford, water quality monitoring in rivers running through Sudbury, Concord, Carlisle, Bedford, and Chelmsford, and a food pantry serving food-insecure residents of Weston and Lincoln.
On the way to its ultimate destination, the Governor's desk, the immediate next step for the state budget is a "conference committee" of thee Senators and three Representatives. Their job is to reconcile differences between the Senate and House versions of the document. Ideally, but not always actually, this will happen before July 1.