Legislature Passes Supplemental Budget, Including Funding for the Merrimack Valley and School Safety Measures
BOSTON — The House and Senate enacted a supplemental budget Monday, filling gaps in the state budget through the end of the year on a number of measures, including school safety funds and emergency funds for relief in the Merrimack Valley. The funding bill, H.4930, is awaiting Gov. Charlie Baker’s signature and includes the following allocations:
$40 million for local roads and bridges to the Massachusetts Transportation Trust Fund
$19.4 million for the Department of Early Education and Care for TANF and child care access
$7.5 million for access to mental and behavioral health in public schools
$2.5 million to implement early voting for November 6, 2018
The bill also includes $7.5 million for a grant program for school safety infrastructure improvements, including retrofitting and upgrading school buildings with security enhancements such as classroom door locks, security cameras or active shooter detection systems. The legislation also prioritizes those schools most in need of safety improvements and most in need of financial assistance for implementing them.
“Given recent tragedies, it has become vital to provide security upgrades to our schools and ensure that they are safe places for our children to learn,” said Sen. Eric P. Lesser. “I join many parents in their frustration that more has not been done on the national level to address rising rates of gun violence, particularly in our schools and other public places. Here in Massachusetts, we are working to protect our children and have already banned devices like bump stocks that were used in last year’s mass shooting in Las Vegas.”
The supplemental budget bill also includes $10 million to aid Merrimack Valley communities affected by the recent string of gas explosions that leveled more than 60 homes in Lawrence, North Andover and Andover. The funds will cover the “costs of Commonwealth personnel and overtime expenses, immediate living and medical costs, and costs incurred by” the three municipalities, according to the bill.
Following the explosions on Sept. 13, Sen. Lesser called on the Department of Public Utilities to conduct an investigation of all gas lines operated by Columbia Gas in the state. An investigation is currently underway.
“Unfortunately, our region has seen the devastating impact of gas leaks. Springfield experienced an explosion as recently as 2012 that caused widespread damage. It shouldn’t take a tragedy to force action. Enough is enough. Columbia Gas has a moral obligation to protect the public and to fix their infrastructure,” Sen. Lesser said at the time.
“There are hundreds of gas leaks we already know about across the state, including here in the Pioneer Valley. The DPU needs to take this threat seriously, and there must be a halt to new permitting and construction, including the proposed Longmeadow metering station,” Sen. Lesser added today.