| G. Michael Dobbs
WEST SPRINGFIELD – The attendance of state legislators and municipal leaders was a bit slim this year, but those who attended The Springfield Regional Chamber’s annual Government Reception on Nov. 16 certainly took the opportunity to speak with them.
The annual event drew several hundred people from business and non-profit organizations to the Carriage House on the Big E grounds.
Reminder Publications asked the attending legislators what were their top priorities for 2018.
State Sen. James Welch said working with the House on the healthcare reform bills passed by the Senate was on the top of his agenda. Welch is the chair of the committee that crafted the bill.
“I know how important it is as everyone is talking about the rising cost of healthcare,” he said.
When asked how the gridlock in Congress about healthcare has been a good or bad factor for states, Welch explained he would still like to see a federal solution to the issue. He noted 36 states have extended Medicaid programs and that repeal of the individual mandate as proposed in the recently passed tax reform bill by the House would take healthy young people out of the risk pool which will increase costs for others.
“There is the potential for premiums to go through the roof,” he said.
For state Rep. Michael Finn, getting his bill on tourism marketing is very important. He explained that Gov. Charlie Baker has created an “unpredictable” climate for the marketing of tourism, which is not only important for the state’s overall economy, but for the economy of Western Massachusetts. His bill would provide a stable amount of funding for tourism marketing.
He noted the Springfield Museums have become the number one attraction in the region and the Olympia ice rink in West Springfield is a top generator of room nights as many out of town hockey teams come to compete there.
State Rep. Angelo Puppolo said he wants the House to work on its version of a healthcare reform bill and to make sure the funding allocated through earmarks is distributed properly.
He added the Senate and House are “miles apart” on the criminal justice bills.
State Rep. Bud Williams said he wants to work on reconciling the criminal justice bills, secure local aid and work on developing more jobs.
“It’s jobs, jobs, jobs for me,” he emphasized.
State Sen. Donald Humason, Jr. said he really didn’t have any top items. Speaking as a Republican, the minority party, he said, “It’s hard for us to have an agenda. We react to what leadership proposes.”