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Dear Neighbor,

As always, the best source for understanding the budget content and process is MassBudget.  I will not even attempt to summarize their report on the Senate and House budgets; it's worth reading, and it's easy to find issues you care about.  Here I'll just let you know about the amendments for which I was lead sponsor and which were adopted.  Thanks to all of those who wrote about their priorities.
Amendment #59 would allow candidates to use campaign funds for childcare expenses incurred while campaigning.  These, funds, which supporters donate, are intended to pay for necessary campaign expenses.
The only reason I was able to run for school committee in my first election is that a friend volunteered to take care of our children while I knocked on doors. Having to pay for child care while campaigning is a serious barrier for parents, especially women, who consider running for office but don't have big bank accounts.  We should remove it.  (This issue is a priority for the Mass. Commission on the Status of Women.)

529 plans allow parents to contribute funds toward accounts for their children's future college education.  In MA, parents can take a tax deduction of up to $2000/year for a couple, and the interest accumulates tax-free.
Last year, Congress vote by a narrow margin to allow 529 plans to be used for K-12 education; it defined "higher education expenses" to include " an elementary or secondary public, private or religious school."  Our law is linked to the federal law, so these funds can now be used for K-12 education, essentially a voucher program but for wealthier families, helping them pay for private schools.
A recent report estimates the revenue loss to Mass. to be $6.7 million a year.
My amendment 38 would restore the Mass. 529 program to be one that helps people save for college, not pay for private schools.  More on MassLive.
Amendment #205 requires the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to consider the fiscal impact on sending districts before approving a new or expanded charter school.  Currently, the Board does not believe it can consider the needs of all children, but only the quality of the application.  The amendment requires the board to make a budget request to the state for full funding of charter school reimbursement and it would stop the grant of a new charter or the expansion of an existing school if the reimbursements that the state is obligated to pay are not fully funded in the state budget.  More from the Lowell Sun.

Amendment #315 would create a special commission to review UMass Boston's debt.  UMass Boston has been faced with years of crippling cuts, along with increased tuition and fees. These have largely resulted from the legacy debt and required reconstruction that resulted from the scandal-ridden and deficient construction at Harbor Point.  Recently, the campus saw a reduction in faculty, a hiring freeze, layoffs, and the closure of 17 important institutions and centers.   I look forward to a day when the value of UMass Boston and all UMass campuses is recognized and supported.  More from the Sentinel and Enterprise.
Amendment #214 would increase funding for the Massachusetts Consortium for Innovative Educational Assessment (MCIEA). MCIEA was established in FY17 to develop and pilot valid alternatives to high-stakes standardized tests, utilizing multiple measures of assessing student progress and school quality.   Full funding is needed for professional development in the consortium districts (currently Boston, Revere, Lowell, Somerville, Winchester, and Attleboro), and for expansion in other school districts (just added: Milford).  More from the Sun Chronicle.
In FY17,  Elder Health Mental Outreach Teams (EMHOT) provided mental health services, counseling, and outreach to elders with myriad diagnoses. This need is increasing as reflected in current waiting lists for EMHOT services. My amendment #452 requested $500,000 to allow the continuation of 5 elder behavioral health programs, serving 47 communities.
This spring, the Department of Correction issued new visitation regulations. The changes, designed to reduce contraband entering the prisons, require all visitors to be pre-approved and limited the number of visitors that can be pre-approved. Those in maximum are only allowed a maximum of 5 visitors (with exceptions for certain family members). Receiving visitors and maintaining connections to the community while in prison are vital to successful reentry upon release.  My amendment #1059 would require DOC to report on the effects of this visitation policy.  They would be required to report on whether inmates are receiving fewer visitors and whether the policy has had any impact on the amount of contraband in prison.
The Senate also adopted my amendments to fund the Innovation Schools initiative, the West Medford Community Center, improvements for pedestrian safety in Medford & Somerville, and the transformation of the Kensington Underpass in East Somerville, as well as Teen Empowerment, Improbable Players, Journey into Education & Teaching (JET), and Jumpstart. 
Copyright © *Committee to Re-Elect Pat Jehlen, All rights reserved.

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CTE Pat Jehlen, 67 Dane St, Somerville MA 02143

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