With session wrapping up, we wanted to share highlights from the FY23 budget, the Zero Waste Caucus, and events that we've been learning so much from! Please note that this is our most up-to-date info, however, with so much happening and solidifying in these final days of the legislative session, some of these items or figures may change.

Full Chapter 70 funding:

Delivering on the Legislature’s promise to fully fund and implement the Student Opportunity Act by FY27, this budget invests $6 billion in Chapter 70 funding, an increase of $495 million over FY22, and doubles minimum Chapter 70 aid from $30 to $60 per pupil. This level of investment ensures the state remains on schedule to fully implement the law, provides school districts with resources to provide high quality educational opportunities, and addresses rising costs and administrative challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ending Child Marriage:

The budget also included bill H1709, banning the marriage of anyone under the age of 18 in Massachusetts. From 2000 to 2018, Massachusetts courts married over 1,200 minors whom did not have the legal right to divorce. With the passage of this bill within the FY23 budget, no children will be entered into a marriage contract in Massachusetts again. Thank you to Rep. Khan, Rep. Donato, and Rep. Jones for filing this bipartisan bill, and thank you to the many advocates from our district for their support of its passage!

School Meals for Kids:

Kids deserve food. And, because universal school meals has been included in the FY23 budget, all public school children will have access to two free meals a day. This program de-stigmatizes free and reduced meals, provides food to tens of thousands of children a day, and will take one thing off of parents' very full plates. We've seen great success with this program during the pandemic, and extending it is the right choice for Massachusetts.

No-Cost-Calls and Fee Relief:

For the first time ever, the House FY23 budget removes barriers to communication services for incarcerated persons and their loved ones. The Department of Correction (DOC), sheriffs and the Department of Youth Services (DYS) must provide phone calls, video chats, and e-mail free of charge to people receiving and people initiating phone calls. Currently, incarcerated persons and their families are paying $14.4 million per year to communicate, but the newly-created Communications Access Trust Fund includes $20 million in initial funding to make no-cost-calls possible.

The House budget also eliminates probation and parole fees to reduce the burden on individuals during their re-entry process. Currently, individuals pay $50 per month for administrative supervised probation fees, $65 per month for probation supervision fees, and $80 per month in parole fees. This places a significant burden on those re-entering their communities, and removing this barrier is another step forward to ease the way for some of our most vulnerable residents.
We've worked hard for the district this legislative session. Below are some of our successes:

  • In the budget, we received $75,000 to fund a Lexington pilot program for a social worker emergency responder to help de-escalate situations alongside other emergency personnel. In light of the tragedy in Lexington over the winter, many constituents have expressed the need for mental health support services trained in de-escalation techniques. This funding will provide Lexington the ability to run a pilot program that implements just that.

  • In the budget, we received $75,000 to create a Lexington trade-in program that will help landscapers comply with the new gas-powered leaf blower ban. This measure is in response to the Town Meeting vote that upheld the ban for commercial landscapers. While the town's ban will make our air cleaner, promote public health, reduce noise pollution, and more, I am cognizant of the financial strain it may place on many of our small landscaping businesses, and I am grateful for this funding to assist them.

  • In the House economic development bond bill, we received $500,000 towards a similar program statewide, mirroring a bill I filed this session. It will be up to the next administration to determine if it wants to launch a new program using this bond funding. The funding is aimed at helping small businesses with zero-interest loans and cities and towns with grants to purchase electric equipment.

  • In the House transportation bond bill, we received $500,000 to continue current service levels of the 76 bus route in Lexington. In the Better Bus Network Redesign plan, the MBTA has proposed limiting the 76 bus route to peak-hour-only frequency, which will severely limit mobility in the district. Maintaining current service levels will help our district get to work, medical care, childcare, and school. Again, it will be up to the next administration to determine if it will utilize this bond authorization and expend these funds.

  • Similarly in the House transportation bond bill, we received $500,000 to continue current service levels of the 354 bus in Woburn. This bus is key for many commuters, and its proposed elimination would severely affect those that rely on it.
These past few weeks, the Zero Waste Caucus has been busy! As Chair and Founder of the ZWC, I've been fortunate to go on several waste reduction and recycling tours. Two were organized by the Environmental, Natural Resources, and Agriculture Committee (on which I sit), and one by Representative Roy, who is Charmain of the Telecommunications, Utilities, and Energy Committee.
Above: UTEC is a social nonprofit serving the Greater Lawrence area by providing jobs and job training to young adults. They are centered on bringing opportunity to those most at-risk and helping "disconnected young people trade violence and poverty for social and economic success".
As many of you know, Massachusetts is preparing to ban mattresses from the waste stream by the end of the year - meaning, all mattresses will have to be recycled. This will be a huge win for waste reduction efforts; Massachusetts alone discards roughly 600,000 mattresses each year. With mattresses weighing an average of 80-100 pounds, that's up to sixty million pounds of waste diverted from our landfills and recycled into future mattresses. This ban will bring us one step closer to the circular economy that we need for a healthier future.

To that end, I was able to tour two mattress recycling facilities this month: Tough Stuff Recycling in Fitchburg, and UTEC in Lawrence. These organizations are doing incredible work to break down mattresses into metal, filling, and textiles that can be repurposed and reused to create any number of items. Learning the logistics of mattress recycling has not only deepened my understanding, but my appreciation for the people willing to do the dirty work of saving our environment!
I also joined the Telecommunications, Utilities, and Energy Committee for a tour of Parallel Products, which plays an important role in our bottle recycling economy. Through Massachusetts' bottle deposit program, Parallel Products processes hundreds of millions of pounds of cans and bottles, both metal and plastic, to recycle them. Pictured above are the recycling "bricks" of material after being crushed and processed.

Right now, our bottle deposit redemption rates are among the lowest in the nation, and are less than half of what they used to be. One of the Zero Waste Caucus' legislative priorities is revamping the bottle bill to incentivize bottle redemption and increase our dismal bottle recycling rate. Though the "updated bottle bill" didn't make it through this session, it was reported out favorably from committee for the first time in recent history. We will continue pushing this legislation next session to ensure we incentivize redemption and reduce waste statewide.
The House passed a comprehensive transportation infrastructure package totaling $10.9 billion to be put a wide range of critical transportation needs including safety improvements at the MBTA, funding for the Complete Streets program, and infrastructure for charging e-bikes and electric vehicles.

The House bill also includes the creation of a Mobility Pricing Commission to study how user fees - such as tolls and train tickets - can be implemented to maximize revenue more fairly across communities. The Commission will also study congestion pricing, bike infrastructure costs, and more. I am grateful to Rep. Adrian Madaro for his amendment that was adopted. In addition, the Commission may also study how the current public transportation system can finance climate resilience and our net-zero obligations. This portion of the language was inserted by Senator Crighton and was in part a result of many of the conversations I had with colleagues and activists. It is my hope the commission will survive the final version of the bill which is now in conference committee.

Another win in the House's transportation infrastructure bill are the mandates for the MBTA to move forward on climate issues. The bill includes my amendment, supporting capacity building and requiring the MBTA to report on several key electrification metrics, current staffing levels, and ideas for how funding can help them get to net-zero emissions by 2050. It also provides funding for electric busses on the condition the agency prioritizes the deployment of these busses in communities that are most choked by air pollution.
Last week, the Legislature passed a sweeping clean energy bill, "An Act driving clean energy and offshore wind". Lexington's own Sen. Barrett was the Senate Chair of the conference committee, and we are immensely grateful to both him and House Chair Roy for getting this bill over the finish line. This bill builds upon the Next Generation Climate Roadmap bill, which was passed earlier this legislative session and puts Massachusetts on a path to reach net-zero on greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Below are some highlights:

  • Offshore Wind: With the goal of making the Massachusetts offshore wind bidding process more competitive, the legislation modifies the price cap to set clear criteria to allow for offshore wind project proposals that are cost-effective and promote economic development in the Commonwealth. It also creates the Massachusetts Offshore Wind Industry Investment Trust Fund, which can be used to promote the domestic supply chain components of the offshore wind industry, advance clean energy research and innovation, and supports workforce training for clean energy careers.

  • Green Transportation: As the transportation sector is the largest source of carbon emissions in Massachusetts, the bill takes steps to encourage the use of electric vehicles, including expanding and codifying the state’s MOR-EV electric vehicle incentive program into statute, which provides point-of-sale rebates to individuals who purchase electric vehicles.

  • Building Decarbonization: To tackle emissions from the building sector, the bill creates a 10-municipality pilot project allowing all-electric building construction. Participating municipalities must receive local town meeting or city council approval before applying into the demonstration project. The measure has two important provisions: first, each community must first meet achieve the benchmark 10% affordable housing 40B standard; and second, each must exempt life sciences labs and health care facilities from the all-electric requirement. Lexington is well positioned to be included in this pilot.

  • Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy: Included in the bill is some of my proposed language expanding the use of the CPACE program and eliminating subsidies of natural gas hookups. The CPACE program is a great way to incentivize commercial electric infrastructure upgrades, and I plan to continue working on expanding CPACE to residential buildings next session.
On May 5th, I spoke on a panel of state legislators at the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC)'s MetroCommon 2050 launch. MetroCommon 2050 is a comprehensive long-range plan created for the Commonwealth that tackles issues like racial injustice, transportation, climate change and conservation, education, workforce development, and more. As former President of MAPC, I was thrilled to contribute to their first in-person event in over two years alongside my colleagues, Rep. Andy Vargas and Rep. Christine Barber.

Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley keynoted the event with a captivating and inspiring speech that reminded me how much work we have in front of us, and how lucky I am as a legislator to have the opportunity to help those who need it across our district and state. As Congresswoman Pressley said in her remarks, "If we can legislate hurt and harm, then we can legislate compassion, healing, and justice."

Thank you to all those who work day-in and day-out to help and heal our communities. I am greatly looking forward to continuing our work over the years to come.
I was so excited to march in the parade this past Patriots' Day! Patriots' Day in Lexington is one of my favorite celebrations of the year as we come together to reflect on our town's role in the Revolutionary War and to support community organizations.

I am constantly reminded of how special our community is, but never more than this year, after two years of canceled Patriots' Day festivities. Thank you, as always, to all of the staff and volunteers that make such celebrations possible. I hope everyone was able to enjoy the re-enactments, breakfasts, and parades that make Patriots' Day in Lexington so special!
In 2020 Congress designated 988 as the new nationwide calling code for mental health emergencies. 988 is easy to remember, faster to dial and offers a wider range of care. The 988 Lifeline provides support for thoughts of suicide and mental health and substance use crises. When someone calls or texts the 988 Lifeline or chats on 988lifeline.org, they are connected with a trained crisis counselor who listens to them, offers support and provides further resources if needed.
With a lot of changes statewide, we need your voice! Here are two public engagement opportunities for those interested in transportation, climate, or building decarbonization:

MBTA Better Bus Network Redesign Feedback: In an effort to bring higher quality service, the MBTA is proposing a new bus network. You can view how this will affect our district here, and you can submit feedback via survey here. Feedback is due by July 31st!

Department of Energy Resources Stretch Building Code Feedback: The DOER has redrafted their new building energy codes in response to the first round of feedback. You can view the new building code and find info on how to submit your comments here! Comments are due by August 12th.
I am hosting virtual office hours on September 7th! I will be talking to constituents like you from 4:30-5:30 PM. You can sign up and submit questions ahead of time here

As the State House is open to the public, some meetings are now occurring in the office, but we will continue to host office hours over Zoom to make them as accessible as possible. If you'd like to discuss something outside of office hours, please never hesitate to reach out to me: Michelle.Ciccolo@mahouse.gov

Please also contact me if you'd like to host a meet and greet or other forum for your group, network, or neighbors. I would be happy to coordinate and attend!
Representative Michelle Ciccolo | Website