STATE REPRESENTATIVE
PAUL C. CASEY

Room 473-B
State House
Boston, MA 02133
Telephone: (617) 722-2230
District Office
585A Main St.
Winchester, MA 01890
Telephone: (617) 721-7285 or (617) 438-7185

A View from the Hill

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: November 11, 1998
CONTACT: Erica Quigley (617) 722-2230

BACK IN THE SWING OF THINGS

Now that the excitement and fervor that builds up during the weeks prior to Election Day have come and gone, the Massachusetts legislature can prepare to gear up for the most anticipated time of year- the beginning of "Formal Session." After the New Year, formal sessions will be called back into order and the House of Representatives and Senate will begin where it left off in July. The most controversial pieces of legislation will make their way back onto the floor for further debate.

A few months ago in this column, I praised the legislature for tackling many tough issues spanning from education reform to the largest tax cut this state has known. Citizens of the Commonwealth can seek comfort in the fact that in 1998 benefits were increased for local Chapter 70 funds, alternative retirement options for teachers were improved, the rate of taxation applied to unearned income was reduced from 12% to 5.9% and much, much more. The state legislature continued to place emphasis on health care and the economy, but unfortunately, there were a few controversial issues which stalled at the first line and will now be taken up in the beginning of the 1999 session.

It occurred to me, as I reflected on all of the achievements accomplished in the 1998 session that there are still strides to be made in a variety of areas. At the start of each year priority legislation is developed and hot issues, like managed care and ATM surcharges, become targeted priorities. After my re-election as State Representative for the 34th Middlesex District, it is my privilege and duty to ensure that the legislature addresses certain key pieces of legislation that the citizens overwhelmingly support.

One area of major contention promised to be scrutinized this session is managed health care. In a few months, enthusiastic debate will pick up where it left off last July. As the formal session came to close, both the House and Senate had passed versions of legislation which would increase eligibility and benefits for three major health care programs for low and moderate income children and senior citizens, and would expand coverage to protect those with certain mental illnesses. Proposals were also passed which would restrict the ability of managed care organizations to unilaterally deny certain claims or requests. Since consensus has not been reached between the House and Senate on a few key differences in the two proposals, the issues involving managed health care remain open for debate next session.

Another highly contested issue which will surely make its way back to the front of our agenda is the ATM surcharges legislation. The surcharge ban would prohibit banks from charging consumers twice to use their ATM machines once. Such legislation will continue to receive my support in order to protect consumers from these exorbitant "double-dipping" fees.

Aside from the general legislation legislators take up, as Chairman of the Committee on Public Safety, I will also be responsible for overseeing and researching (when necessary) hundreds of bills covering a vast array of public safety issues from prison reform to highway safety. Last session, more than 600 bills were sent to my committee and this year it is doubtful that there will be a reprieve. The tasks that lie ahead for the Public Safety Committee are exciting, as well as challenging. Areas of particular interest which the committee intends to target next session range from improving highway safety (road rage) to implementing some type of prison industry enhancement legislation, as well as passing legislation to reduce recidivism and substance abuse in prisons.

Apart from state-wide issues, the formal session is the time to address many local issues. In Winchester, Stoneham and Reading, there are many concerns which have been subject of lengthy debate in the local governments throughout my incumbency. Leading the charge to secure funding for the research and development for repair of the Mystic Dam is also a priority. The heavy rains of this past summer illustrate the complexity of the flooding problems which affect Winchester and many surrounding towns. I also intend to press for the completion of renovations to the Mystic Valley Parkway (Phase II). For the past several months, my office has been working with officials to bring the Tri-Community Bikeway project to fruition. The support the project has received thus far in its beginning stages is encouraging and we hope to carry that momentum into the new term. Stoneham's Spot Pond will also remain a priority, as we attempt to gain increased funding to expand its recreational value.

I would like to thank the voters of the 34th Middlesex District for their continued support and confidence in my representation. With wise and disciplined leadership, the legislature was able to take many steps in passing positive, citizen-oriented legislation that often catapulted Massachusetts to the national forefront in many areas. Now is not the time to rest on our past achievements, yet we can carry the positive momentum we have generated forward into next session to further promote the quality of life in Massachusetts. As a member of the legislature, I intend to continue fighting for reliable and trustworthy legislation, while attacking controversial matters with a clear and level head. I look forward to addressing the new challenges ahead and to representing the interests of the 34th Middlesex District into the millennium.

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