The Winthrop Chamber of Commerce held its annual Legislative Luncheon with Speaker of the House Robert DeLeo and state Sen. Joseph Boncore as the keynote speakers.
“It’s an honor to have Speaker DeLeo and Senator Boncore join us this year for the Winthrop Chamber of Commerce Legislative Lunch. It is important for the local businesses and community to have an opportunity to hear directly from their representatives and to get a personal update on the budget, particularly in areas where the community benefits directly from their work. I know their schedules are busy so I greatly appreciate them participating each year,” said Betsy Shane, executive director of the Winthrop Chamber of Commerce.
DeLeo began his remarks with the state budget and the number of landmark bills that were passed this session.
Great investments in Massachusetts, DeLeo said, have been made in the war on opioids, gun safety, economic development, veterans’ benefits, first responders training, consumer protection, energy and the environment and early childhood education.
“Many other states are following with legislation for the opioid crisis and gun safety,” DeLeo said, who has been Speaker of the House since 2009. Massachusetts is regarded as a leader in the country. Other states are now looking to us for guidance.”
DeLeo noted that it has been a difficult time for obtaining financing from Washington while Massachusetts has been responsible in its budgeting as well, including a $367 million infusion of funds in to the state stabilization fund.
“We now have the highest bond rating in state history,” DeLeo said of the Aa1 bond status.
One of DeLeo’s top priorities has been early education, which he joked, had nothing to do with his 2 ½ year-old granddaughter.
“The type of education a child receives from birth to five years old has a tremendous effect later on,” DeLeo said. “Early education it’s been found also lowers the chances of being incarcerated. Hopefully this infusion of funds is going to make sure the quality of early education increases.”
DeLeo said they also took aim at the opioid epidemic. The legislation passed takes measures to expand access to non-opioid treatment options for pain management and prohibiting discounts and rebates for certain prescription opioids. There is also legislation about patient care at treatment facilities, expands access to Narcan and for public safety personnel to have training in mental health.
“In these past three years I think we have seen a 68 percent increase in our budget relative to substance abuse,” DeLeo said. “This is the biggest increase I have ever seen in my time as a legislator. The efforts in this area from the House and the Senate are well-warranted.”
He said he expects the next legislative session will focus on transportation and education.
State Sen. Joe Boncore also spoke at the luncheon, admitting that following DeLeo is a tough act.
“There’s never enough meat on the bone (after DeLeo),” Boncore said.
Boncore jumped in about the Commonwealth’s budget $4.129 billion budget, increasing Chap. 90 funds and funds for education.
“We’ve had a very successful year with grants (in Winthrop),” Boncore said. “That stuff doesn’t just happen. They happen because of the relationship the speaker has with the administration.”
Boncore added that the budget gave $25,000 to Chambers of Commerce. Another $900,000 increase for beaches, lifeguards and directed patrols by the state police. Another $35,000 was earmarked for CASA in Winthrop. For the fire department Boncore and the speaker were able to get $45,000 for Winthrop firefighters’ turnout gear.