By Lauren Bennett
Freshman State Rep. Nika Elugardo came to the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council meeting on February 26 to give the community an update on how she is doing so far and what her legislation looks like.
This is Elugardo’s first time being an elected official, and gave those in attendance an overview of her general plan for the district. She talked about “Team Nika,” which anyone can join, she said. Team Nika is a group of volunteers and supporters, and Elugardo said that 80 people have stayed on after her election. She only has one staffer right now, Isabel Torres, who also attended the meeting to introduce herself to the community. She said that Team Nika enables the district to “do more policy-wise.”
Elugardo said her core issues are housing, education, and healthcare. “Our theme is justice and opportunity for all,” she said. Elugardo said she wants to focus on public safety, jobs, and workforce development for youth (ages 26 and below), as well as elder.s
“We want to make sure there’s funding for that and I’m paying attention to the resources I can bring into the district,” Elugardo said, adding that she would also like to focus on youth in the LGBTQ+ community, people with disabilities, and those who are incarcerated, in order to find “systemic solutions to the issues they are facing.”
Elugardo also reported that she was given her top choice committees: Arts, Culture, and Tourism and Elder Affairs. She said she is excited to use the former opportunity to address climate related issues and tourism with “noncontroversial, exciting ideas.” She was also assigned, though she didn’t ask for, the committees on Children, Families, and Disabilities, as well as Intergovernmental Affairs and Technologies.
“We’re all having a lot of fun and building coalitions,” Elugardo said. “There’s a real spirit of innovation and coalition amongst us.”
She said her strategy for legislation was to “read as much as possible about what other people were doing.” She said she is being careful not to duplicate the work of others, but rather “coming under champions” on the issues that mayor most to her. At the time of the meeting, she said she had cosponsored 381 bills and “it is continuing to go up.” She said she is able to co-sponsor so many bills because of her team that can assist her with briefs and policy research.
She said her number one bill is a housing bill regarding federally subsidized housing that would allow people to “use the value of that land to enter into a deal,” which she said is currently done in Brookline.
Elugardo also has a desire to help elders age in place, she said, as well as a piece of legislation on denuclearization. She is looking at a recapture of corporate tax expenditures as well as a bill for “medically fragile children” who need care in school. Elugardo said that medical insurance companies do not currently cover care in school for these kinds of students, so she is looking into getting some money for this, as the state currently has to pay for it. She said much of her legislation focuses “on the places where there is hidden money that people aren’t paying attention to.”
“People are really eager to help me be successful,” Elugardo said of her time at the State House so far. “It’s a very friendly environment.”