Massachusetts Senate expands benefits

Shira Schoenberg MassLive BOSTON — The Massachusetts Senate on Thursday passed a bill giving veterans preference for subsidized housing, protecting state workers called to military service and providing various benefits for veterans and their families. The bill, S.2325/H.4285, would also create a new state-level position overseeing housing for veterans, including at the Holyoke and Chelsea Soldiers’ Homes, although Western Massachusetts lawmakers inserted an amendment ensuring that day-to-day operations at the Holyoke home would remain under local control. “It is our duty as American citizens to honor our dead, but it is equally important to honor our living veterans for their service,” said state Sen. Michael Rush, D-West Roxbury, chairman of the Joint Committee on Veterans and Federal Affairs. “This bill does both those things.” The bill passed the Senate unanimously, 37-0. A similar bill passed the House last month, and differences will now need to be worked out before the final bill goes to Gov. Charlie Baker for his signature. As The Republican / MassLive.com reported previously, the bill would create a new Office of State Veterans’ Homes and Housing within the Department of Veterans’ Services to deal with all matters related to veterans’ housing, including the soldiers’ homes, which provide residential long-term care to veterans. The goal of the new office and its director is to ensure that best practices are shared between the two soldiers’ homes and throughout the state when it comes to housing veterans. Western Massachusetts lawmakers introduced amendments in both the House and the Senate to ensure that day-to-day operations at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home continue to be run by the local board and superintendent. The Senate amendment says the superintendent and board will not be subject to the control of the new Office of Veterans’ Homes and Housing. The amendment, which passed on a voice vote, was sponsored by state Sen. Don Humason, R-Westfield. Humason said the Holyoke home should not be under the direct oversight of the new housing director, since it is already being run by a superintendent, and since the needs of the soldiers’ homes are different than other veterans’ housing needs. “There is a real sense of pride and ownership when it comes to the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home, both on campus and in the surrounding communities,” Humason said in a statement. “So it was important that we did all we could to preserve local autonomy and ensure people with strong ties to...
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State Sen. Humason honored

State Sen. Humason honored for promoting public transparency Conor Berry Masslive WESTFIELD — State Sen. Don Humason has been recognized by a national advocacy organization that promotes open government and public transparency for his legislative efforts in Massachusetts. The Westfield Republican recently received a Massachusetts Public Service Award from Common Cause for his work on updating the state’s outdated public records law. Humason was one of three senators appointed to a conference committee tasked with crafting final legislation based on differing versions of bills passed by the Senate and the House of Representatives. The governor signed the committee’s bill into lawearlier this month, marking the first overhaul of the commonwealth’s public records law in more than four decades. Massachusetts had repeatedly been cited as one of the worst states in the nation for public transparency. Case in point: Last year, the Massachusetts State Police won the “Golden Padlock” award, a dubious honor presented annually to the most secretive agency in the country. “We were delighted to honor Senator Humason and the other conferees for their terrific work on the public records bill,” said Pam Wilmot, executive director of Common Cause Massachusetts. Humason was an advocate for transparency from the start and “a pleasure to work with as part of the conference committee,” Wilmot said. “Kudos to him and to the other conference committee members who made such a great bill possible.” Humason was among those honored at Common Cause’s Building a More Perfect Democracy event on June 11 in Waltham. “I appreciate this award from Common Cause in recognition of the hard work that I had the honor of sharing in with my fellow conferees,” Humason said. “At the end of the day, our work resulted in a sensible, balanced update to an outdated law that was over forty years old.” The annual event recognizing open-government crusaders also honored fellow state lawmakers who served on the conference committee with Humason; Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman; Peter Sturges, a former executive director of the State Ethics Commission; and Janis McQuarrie, a citizen activist and longtime member of Common Cause. The nonprofit, nonpartisan grassroots organization is dedicated to creating “open, honest, and accountable government” for all Americans. Humason represents the 2nd Hamden and Hampshire District, which includes Agawam, Easthampton, Holyoke, Westfield, Granville, Montgomery, Russell, Southampton, Southwick, Tolland and parts of...
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$115,000 ‘green’ grant honors Holyoke efforts to see light

$115,000 ‘green’ grant honors Holyoke efforts to see light Mike Plaisance MassLive HOLYOKE — Municipal facilities will get improved lighting thanks to a $115,895 “Green Communities” grant from the state. “This work is exciting because it will continue our commitment to remaining a national leader in using the green economy to combat climate change and to improve our city’s quality of life while giving taxpayers a good return on their investment,” Mayor Alex B. Morse said in a press release Wednesday. The grant came from the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources and was announced Tuesday by state Sen. Donald R. Humason, R-Westfield, who called Holyoke a “leader” in the state’s clean energy goals. “Congratulations to the city of Holyoke for receiving this competitive grant which will support their continued work to reduce the City’s energy consumption year after year,” Humason said in an email. Improved lighting will be installed at Holyoke City Hall at High and Dwight streets, the Holyoke Gas and Electric Department’s (HGE) Jackson Street garage, HGE’s Walnut Street garage, HGE’s main office at 99 Suffolk St., the Hadley Falls Station, which is on the Holyoke side of the hydroelectric dam on the Connecticut River, Dean Technical High School at 1045 Main St. and other schools and Fire Station 6 at 640 Homestead Ave., the press release from the mayor’s office said. The installations will save taxpayers money, Morse said. Holyoke and Amherst were the only two communities in Western Massachusetts to receive shares in this round of “Green Communities” grants, the press release said. Older lighting will be replaced with LEDs. That stands for light-emitting diodes, which produce light more efficiently than other kinds of lighting and can be more expensive but also last eight times longer than regular fluorescent lights. Specifically, the press release said: Holyoke City Hall will get new exterior floodlights. HGE’s Jackson Street garage will get 42 interior light fixtures replaced. HGE’s Walnut Street garage will get 18 interior light fixtures replaced. Hadley Falls Station will get improved outdoor lighting to improve safety, save power and improve aesthetics at the dam. HGE’s main office lobby will get 18 new lights. Dean Tech will get ugraded parking lot lighting. A hundred exterior wall lights will be replaced at other public schools. Fire Station 6 will get eight new interior lights. Humason also thanked Gov. Charlie Baker and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito for helping the “Green Communities” effort. To...
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