As we head into the holiday, I want to wish a happy Easter to those who celebrate. And for those who have April vacation next week, I hope you enjoy a relaxing holiday.
We have many things to celebrate. On April 7, the Senate confirmed Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to be our new Supreme Court Justice. Justice Jackson will be the first Black woman to serve on our highest court, bringing with her a wealth of experience. What an historic and inspiring moment in American history!
As Women’s History Month winds down, I am reflecting on all that has happened in the past few weeks. The U.S. Senate held hearings about President Biden’s nomination of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court. Despite the distractions and tangents from some senators, one thing was clear: Judge Jackson is supremely qualified for the job, and will make a calm, rational, formidable addition to our nation’s highest court. And this month, the Massachusetts Caucus of Women Legislators highlighted all 60 members on their social media. I am so proud to be in the company of these illustrious women, and grateful for the mentorship of the more experienced members of our caucus. Although we only make up about 30% of the MA Legislature, we are all working hard to make a positive difference for all residents of Massachusetts.
Women’s History Month is exciting because we have an opportunity to highlight the myriad contributions that women have made in every aspect of society. It was especially meaningful yesterday when the House unanimously passed two important – but very different – bills. First, the CROWN Act, which prohibits discrimination against natural hairstyles. This shouldn’t require a law, but many people – particularly Black women - have been punished for their hairstyles far too many times. Next, the House passed H4555, which creates a Women's Rights History Trail in Massachusetts. Spread throughout the state, this trail will highlight the fight for equal rights, and also boost tourism in the many areas along the trail. Stay tuned as sites are chosen and developed!
In the history of the Massachusetts State Legislature, there have been 221 female senators and representatives. I am proud to be the 207th woman to serve.
I hope many of you had a refreshing school vacation with your families! This week the House is in session and we are optimistic about our work on the budget and on important legislation.
Yet while we look to the future with hope, that winter will end and that COVID numbers will continue to go down and stay down, our hearts are heavy because of the war in Ukraine. As we work so hard to make the Commonwealth and the country a better place for its residents, it is shocking to me how, across the ocean, one man can wreak such havoc on an innocent population. It is horrifying and heartbreaking to witness Russia's unprovoked invasion of Ukraine and the crisis now unfolding.
My thoughts are with the Ukrainian people; those in that country, those who are now displaced, and those in Massachusetts with family members in harm’s way. My hope is that the United States and our allies will stop Putin's cruelty and madness and restore Ukraine to its people.
Last week, after reading “Eyes That Kiss in the Corners” to the 5th graders at Sanborn Elementary School, I noticed a couple of girls hanging back, wanting to talk. When I greeted them, they were full of questions about my path to becoming a State Rep. One girl was very excited to tell me she was Vietnamese-American, too. They had never seen someone like themselves in this leadership position before, but they can see it now. I am always saying that Representation matters, and these young ladies proved that to me. I hope that someday I will be voting for them!
Despite the fact that Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow, there is good news this week!
First, statistics show that Punxsutawney Phil is wrong most of the time. Good news for those of us hoping for spring’s arrival – and a good lesson in the importance of data collection.
Second, the COVID numbers are starting to decline. If we remain vigilant, we can keep this downward trend, and look forward to a return to some version of normal in the coming weeks and months.
Also, the legislature has been busy advancing important legislation.
As the New Year gets underway, we are seeing the state take more urgent action to help stop the spread of the COVID-19 variants. This week the state rolled out a program to provide free rapid test kits to school districts and childcare providers across the Commonwealth. The plan is for all students, faculty and staff to be able to self-test weekly, in addition to the pooled tests taken at school. The opportunity for immediate test results allows students to stay in school and children to remain in childcare if they test negative, thus eliminating quarantine days.
Also this week, the Legislature passed a $55 million COVID Response Bill, which is now on its way to the Senate and then the Governor’s desk.
Wishing you all the best in the New Year! And that includes keeping you and your family safe from COVID-19 in all its variants. Covid did not take a vacation over the holidays, and we are all facing a difficult dilemma to keep schools open and businesses running even as the infection numbers rise.
Despite the high COVID numbers, the vast majority of vaccinated people are staying out of the hospital and recovering. As of Wednesday Jan. 5, the CDC has approved booster shots for children ages 12-15, and has reduced the time between second shot and booster from six months to five. With COVID cases spreading through schools, this should help reduce the severity of illness that our children face.
It's the Holiday Season, and whether you celebrate Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, or Festivus (“for the rest of us”), I wish you and yours the very happiest season. In that spirit, this will be the only newsletter for December; it’s full of helpful information about COVID boosters and testing, so I encourage you to save this until the next newsletter in January.
With Thanksgiving almost here, we wanted to express our gratitude to you for all of your support -- and for your hard work and cooperation in helping keep our communities safe this past year.
To that end, we also want to update you on two ways to stay safe this holiday season: testing and vaccines. Many will be traveling to visit family, and will need updated COVID tests in order to board mass transportation.
Also, since the Governor and the CDC have now authorized booster shots for all who have received their second Pfizer or Moderna shot more than six months ago, or their J&J shot more than two months ago, we have updated our list of where to receive the vaccine.
We wanted to send this newsletter before Veteran's Day, to let you know of the opportunities in each community to celebrate and honor our veterans.
Tewksbury: The Veteran's Day Ceremony will take place on November 11th at 11am at Tewksbury Town Common, 1009 Main Street, Tewksbury.
Andover: The Office of Veterans Services will be conducting their annual Veteran’s Day Ceremony on Thursday November 11th at 11:11am at Ballardvale Green, in the Ballardvale area of Andover.
Boxford: The James L. Melvin American Legion Post #379 will host the annual Veteran's Day Commemoration on November 11th at 11am at Melvin Green in East Boxford.
North Andover: The annual Veteran's Day Parade kicks off at 10:15am at First and Main and goes up to Patriots Park for a brief ceremony.
After a rough rainy week, I hope everyone is ready to enjoy a fun and safe Halloween! It looks like all of the towns in our district will be holding Trick or Treat hours on Halloween night, Sunday October 31. Remember to follow all safety rules: bring flashlights and be careful crossing streets. Parents should carefully inspect all candy before the kids eat it. Let’s have a safe and happy Halloween!
Sometimes you have to stand up for what you believe. Two weeks ago I had the opportunity to do that, for two very important issues.
First, I was asked to speak in support of reproductive rights at the Rally for Reproductive Rights in Amesbury (part of the National Women's March). The recent law in Texas which bans abortions after 6 weeks, as well as the Supreme Court case on the Mississippi ban on abortions at 15 weeks, has made it clear that the rights of pregnant people are in danger across the country. While we have passed the ROE Act in Massachusetts, we have to continue to fight for our ability to make our own reproductive healthcare decisions.
So much is happening in our district! These past two weeks I have felt so fortunate to be able to attend a variety of activities in our community, from fall festivals to Eagle ceremonies. I hope you’ve been able to get outside and enjoy everything our towns have to offer, too.
September brings back to school, and back to hearings in the State House. We’ve already been busy with more than a dozen hearings, some of them at the same time. But we’ve also been enjoying the beautiful weather, and looking forward to some upcoming Festivals in the district.
I hope that you have enjoyed some relaxation time this summer. I’ve been catching up on my emails, responding to constituents, working on legislation, and watching the Olympics and Paralympics. Wow! There are amazing athletes in the world, especially those who have overcome physical obstacles to compete.
The legislature has been busy in the last few weeks, wrapping up budget overrides and other legislation before August, when legislators will be spending more time out and about in our respective districts. We’ve held hearings in my committees: Labor and Workforce Development; Municipalities and Regional Government; and Mental Health, Substance Use and Recovery, and we just heard public testimony for the Commission on Structural Racism in the Probation Service.
I have good news to report! Yesterday the House voted on the final state budget as reconciled by the Conference Committee. Included in the budget is one of my bills, An Act to promote safety for victims of violent crime and human trafficking, which helps victims who have been helpful in an investigation or prosecution of serious crimes the certification form they need to help them apply for a U-visa or a T-visa.
The budget also includes over $600,000 in the special project funding for our district! Now it goes to the Governor's desk for his signature. I am grateful to my colleagues for supporting this budget; it's time to invest in our communities!
PRIDE Month is winding down, but the Fourth of July is almost here! Let's enjoy the glory of summer while being mindful of precautions still in place for COVID-19, including wearing masks in certain locations (like hospitals and public transportation) and continuing to work or meet remotely in many instances. My office hours will continue remotely; every first Friday of the month, 10-11am (including this Friday), or third Tuesday at 5-6pm. Sign up for office hours online at this link.
June has been a busy month so far! I want to congratulate all of the students who graduated from Andover High School, North Andover High School, Tewksbury Memorial High School, Masconomet Regional High School, Greater Lawrence Technical High School, Essex Technical High School, Phillips Andover, Brooks School, and all of the other local schools. The Class of 2021 was forged in fire these past two years; you have proven that you can overcome obstacles and succeed.
Starting tomorrow, May 29th, people who are fully vaccinated can resume most activities without face coverings. All industry COVID-19 restrictions and capacity limits will be lifted. Face coverings are still required for vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals in the following settings: public and private transportation, including rideshares; transportation hubs like train stations and airports; inside K-12 public schools and childcare programs; inside health care facilities including nursing homes, rest homes, hospitals, urgent care, behavioral health clinics; congregate care settings; and health and rehabilitative day services.
May has been a month of big changes in the weather, in the State House, and in the COVID-19 pandemic -- all of them hopeful. That’s why we are switching back to our Tram’s Take newsletter instead of the COVID-focused newsletters of the past year. We will still have all of the COVID information you need. But there is a lot more happening at the State House as we, like the rest of the Commonwealth, get back to business.