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The 'long and ceremonial' stairs Mike Barrett walks every day from a basement garage to his fourth-floor Beacon Hill office offered the first clue the state senator from Lexington was sick with APL, a rare form of leukemia.

Sen. Michael Barrett, D-Lexington, said the measure contains $3.5 million to expand and renovate the Bedford Police Station, $1 million to make playgrounds in Sudbury more accessible and $695,000 to replace firetrucks in Waltham.
The Massachusetts Senate has registered its opposition to reopening any oil and gas exploration or drilling off the coast of New England.

The Senate
MetroWest Daily News
"An Act to Protect Access to Confidential Healthcare," known commonly as the PATCH bill, passed in the Senate on Feb. 14.
The Boston Globe

Linda Dorcena Forry - the highest-ranking elected black official in Massachusetts - was feted by her colleagues Wednesday afternoon as she bid goodbye to the state Senate to take a job with Suffolk Construction.

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Dear Friend,
The Senate Global Warming and Climate Change Committee, of which I'm a member, just released an energy bill that includes my proposal to "put a price on carbon."  I am quite pleased.  Carbon pricing is the single most effective step a state government can take to combat climate change.

The language in the proposal is flexible; it does not identify the specific tool the Executive branch must use.  The Governor and his administration are held to specific deadlines instead -- carbon pricing of some kind for the transportation sector by 2020; for commercial and industrial buildings by 2021; and for residential buildings by 2022.
I want to tip my hat to my colleague, Senator Marc Pacheco, proponent of the larger energy bill of which my ideas are part. In addition to laying out a carbon pricing roadmap for Massachusetts, the Pacheco proposal  would set  new overall limits on greenhouse gases, remove caps on payments for  solar energy, and impose new clean energy procurement quotas on electric utilities. I t would also expand MA's offshore wind power goals and  impose a 10-year moratorium on any fracking that might be attempted within Massachusetts.

The legislative process is complicated; next stop for these initiatives is the Senate Ways and Means Committee. We're getting there.

On a much more personal note ... amid the swirl of legislative work, and after convincing myself that my body was doing strange and painful things that I could tough out, I have quite suddenly found myself diagnosed with APL or APML, a rare form of leukemia.  One day I was at the State House; the next day, at Emerson Hospital; the day after that, transported by ambulance to the Cancer Center at MGH, where I'm in semi-isolation until my blood cells respond to two miracle medicines.  

Which they're doing, thank goodness.  My particular cancer is highly curable. I'm writing this from a high-rise hospital room overlooking the golden dome of the State House, and expect to be back at full strength soon.

Warm regards,

  Sen. Mike Barrett
Energy Committee quizzes Eversource on new fees on solar users

The Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities & Energy (TUE), of which I'm Senate Chair, held a public hearing to inquire into Eversource Energy's request to impose a new charge on solar users.
Last session, the Legislature decided that residents with solar panels on their roofs should pay a share of the basic cost to maintain the electric grid's poles and wires. But no one expected the utilities and the DPU to take this modest idea in such unexpected directions.

My committee colleagues and I pushed Eversource and the DPU for answers about the proposed new fee. We're concerned it may deter people from adopting clean, nonpolluting power at a very time when the Trump administration is belittling the devastating effects of climate change.

Given what we learned at the hearing, the TUE Committee approved a bill to send Eversource back to the drawing board to redesign its proposed minimum monthly charge. The bill's next stop is the full Senate, where my colleagues and I will work hard to get it passed.
Special Senate Committee on Net Neutrality and Consumer Protection

The Trump administration is setting out to curb the free exchange of ideas on the Internet.  As Massachusetts considers its options, I've been appointed to the newly established Special Senate Committee on Net Neutrality and Consumer Protection.

At the Committee's first public hearing, we received testimony from government officials, consumer advocacy groups, and industry representatives. Due to possible federal pre-emption rules, the way forward for state government is unclear, but we're pursuing several possible avenues.  Stay tuned.

Disabilities Caucus meets in the State House

As Senate Chair of the Disabilities Caucus, I joined House Chair Rep. Denise Provost to host an event focused on Mass Health changes and how they might affect people in need of long-term support and services.

Charlie Carr and Dennis Heaphy of the Disability Policy Consortium and Bill Henning of the Boston Center for Independent Living led a lively discussion.