Officials lay out 2014 agendas

February 14, 2014
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Gun control, drug treatment programs and education funding are among the items on the 2014 agendas of Jamaica Plain’s elected officials.

State Rep. Jeffrey Sánchez said he has “a full plate” this year.

He will be working on legislation to further regulate the pharmaceutical industry, following the distribution around the country of tainted drugs made in Framingham last year.

The state legislature’s two houses are currently reconciling that bill, he told the Gazette.

At the same time, he has filed legislation to restrict the sale of electronic cigarettes, noting that currently, it is completely legal to sell them to minors.

“Our laws are silent in terms of sale of those products to kids. My 7-year-old could go to 7-Eleven and buy one,” he told the Gazette.

Sánchez and fellow state Rep. Liz Malia, who each represents about half of Jamaica Plain, and state Sen. Sonia Chang-Díaz, have teamed up to assist a child care center based of Shattuck Hospital. The center lost its state subsidies and its location last summer.

Sánchez is also working on health care reform oversight and adding pedestrian crosswalks on Centre Street in JP, along with engaging in talks about upping the state’s minimum wage and working to ameliorate gun violence in his district.

“Plus, all the daily stuff like potholes and street lights and stuff,” he said. “That’s the stuff that endears you to people, so they trust you when something big is at stake.”

“This is my tenth year in,” he told the Gazette. “I’m lucky I’ve got my job. I take this stuff to heart and I feel like I’m getting stuff done.”

Chang-Díaz has taken her position in the Public Safety Committee as an opportunity to focus on improving gun control and safety.

“That’s the reason I asked [to be on this committee],” she told the Gazette. Gun control and safety is “something I work on every term,” she said.

Chang-Díaz also heads the Education Committee, which “takes up the single biggest chunk of my time. It’s a huge priority every year,” she said. She will focus on legislation to give more options and flexibility to English Language Learners (ELL) and their teachers as well as stitching together various proposals to close the achievement gap in schools.

The education committee will push for better oversight and revision of the “foundation formula,” the state metric for determining how much it costs to educate students. That formula has gone without comprehensive review since it was implemented in 1993.

She will also push for the success of election reform and an increase in the minimum wage, as well as give strong support to SB 1947, formerly SB 1880, meant to support safe water infrastructure.

“It’s like choosing between your children, which is your favorite,” she said of her full docket.

Malia told the Gazette she will continue to work to expand intervention and treatment programs for high-risk populations, especially for those 18 to 24 years old, the peak ages for drug overdose.

“I think we’ve made some progress but there’s more that I think we can do to support [these programs] in the state budget,” she said.

She will also work on expanding mental health and substance abuse programs and services.

“People providing these programs really struggle. They have a hard time making it [work] because we’ve made it fiscally difficult,” she said. “As much as anything, it’s about educating other legislators.”

State Rep. Russell Holmes said he has three big-ticket items on his agenda this year: passing his bill on reducing gun violence, HB 3250; working to give the control of restaurant liquor licenses back to the City of Boston, an effort made in tandem with Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley; and creating a cadet program for MBTA and state police.

City liquor licenses are regulated by the state government, a relic of 1960s state government. The cadet program would enlist young people into a training program preparing them to attend the police academy.

City Councilor Matt O’Malley has just filed an order with the city council to curb litter and encourage better city maintenance of its trash cans and programs. He also told the Gazette he is working on “making sure we’re doing more in our parks,” mentioning a new water filling station at Jamaica Pond.

He is also planning to focus on trying to reverse significant budget cuts for schools and on his district’s high schools and their programs.

“I feel like sometimes high schools gets short shrift in education,” he said.

Best of JP 2014