Rosenberg re-elected Senate president, sets ambitious agenda

  • Senate President Stanley Rosenberg, D-Amherst, was re-elected to another two-year term on Wednesday. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 1/4/2017 8:24:33 PM

Amherst Democratic Sen. Stanley C. Rosenberg is pledging that the state Legislature will continue to make positive changes for residents of Massachusetts, addressing education funding, income inequality, energy needs and climate change, as well as the demands of ever-changing technology.

As Rosenberg begins his second two-year term as president of the Massachusetts Senate, funding for education will be a priority.

“We really need to come up with a multi-year vision and strategy for public education, from early education to higher education, and a transportation plan for the 21st century,” Rosenberg said in a phone interview from Boston.

The Kids First Plan, Rosenberg said, will identify policies and programs that will help raise resilient children beginning with prenatal care and ensuring sufficient funding for preschool and primary and secondary education. The plan also addresses higher education and professional careers.

Rosenberg was unanimously re-elected as senate president during Wednesday’s opening day of the two-year legislative session, including getting the vote of newly sworn-in Sen. Adam Hinds, D-Pittsfield.

Hinds, whose district includes the Hampshire County towns of Chesterfield, Cummington, Goshen, Huntington, Middlefield, Plainfield, Westhampton, Williamsburg and Worthington, said it was an honor to be sworn in and a privilege to start working for residents.

“This is a humbling way to start this new year, a year that must be one where we do all we can to ensure everyone has the opportunity to thrive,” Hinds said.

On the agenda

In remarks earlier in the day, Rosenberg said the Legislature must stay deliberative, but also move quickly.

“Today, our chambers need to maintain their greatest qualities while becoming more nimble, moving more quickly without compromising quality,” Rosenberg said.

He pointed to the arrival of autonomous vehicles that may be put in use by Uber and Lyft, and the need to look at how to deal with the Airbnb industry.

Rosenberg also emphasized a focus on income inequality and making long-term investments “to equip each of our residents with the skills needed to prosper in this globalized economy.”

In addition, Rosenberg stressed the so-called Fair Share Tax, also known as the “millionare’s tax,” to fund investments in education and infrastructure to grow jobs for all residents.

“It’s the middle class family whose income and home value have never fully recovered from the Great Recession, who struggle mightily just to send their children to college,” he said.

The family leave act should also be prioritized, he said.

“We need again to take up a family leave act to allow people to care for their families without losing the wages they need to put food on the table,” Rosenberg said.

The Senate leader also hopes to hear from residents about transportation issues through a Commonwealth Conversations initiative in which elected representatives meet with residents for nine days in communities across the state. The goal of the conversations is to create a vision for transportation in each region.

Climate change and criminal justice are other issue areas Rosenberg touched on in his Beacon Hill speech.

“The energy sources we choose, the seriousness with which we pursue energy efficiency, the level of commitment demonstrated to developing and implementing resiliency and adaptation plans and the willingness to make the tough decisions around controversial but potentially effective strategies like carbon pricing will all determine what future generations say about our leadership,” Rosenberg said.

Criminal justice reform can include increasing diversion and restorative justice programs and ending mandatory minimums for nonviolent drug offenses.

“We should reform our bail and probation systems and shift away from a focus on long sentences and toward helping offenders re-enter society successfully so they never go back to prison again,” Rosenberg said.

In the coming weeks the Legislature will name committee members, adopt operating rules and members will file legislation for the session by Jan. 20.

When elected as senate president in 2015, Rosenberg became the first openly gay and Jewish member of the Senate to serve as its presiding officer.

On Wednesday, he thanked those who put their trust in him and a “special shout out to my husband Bryon for his unwavering support and to those from my district who have joined me here today.”

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.




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