Hello Westfield! Hope you all had a wonderful week. As usual, it was a very busy week for my office, starting with the Annual Holyoke St. Patrick’s Day parade on Sunday. It was a blast to march with the Westfield delegation!
On Tuesday, I visited 3 more Grinspoon Award winners from our Westfield Public Schools to present them with citations from the Massachusetts House of Representatives. First was Melissa Van Heynigen, the visual arts teacher at Paper Mill Elementary. In addition to presenting her with the citation, I had the opportunity to visit with some of her students and look at the artwork they’ve created in the past few months. It’s hard to believe some of it was made by 9 and 10 year olds, absolutely incredible! Next, I visited Sarah Corbett at Westfield High School, an incredible and patient educator who works with students in the special education department. Finally, I visited Deborah Chouinard, who teaches 3rd grade at Russell Elementary. I can’t thank them enough for all the hard work they do, and we are so very lucky to have these amazing teachers in our school system.
On Wednesday morning, I returned to Westfield High School to attend the grand re-opening of their new CareerPoint center, which is part of the Commonwealth’s one-stop career network. The center is available to help kids in the school with applying to jobs, creating their resumes, and looking for internships. They’ll also be assisting them with life skills, like opening a bank account and balancing a check book. In addition, they can provide counseling on post-high school options, like applying for colleges or joining the military. It is an invaluable resource for our students, and I’m proud that Westfield is able to support this great program.
On Thursday, we had formal session in Boston, but I was still able to stop by Munger Hill Elementary in the morning to participate in Reach Out and Read. I always say that ROAR is one of the best parts of my job- I love interacting with the kids around town, especially when they ask so many questions! I also had the chance to present one more citation to a Grinspoon Award winner, Julie Orzolek- congrats again Julie!
At the State House this week, we took up the regulation and taxation of short-term vacation rentals, like those available through Airbnb and similar platforms. As the number of short-term rentals (meaning 28 days or fewer) has exploded over the past few years thanks to apps and websites, the legislature has been seeing more and more calls to regulate and tax the industry fairly. While new taxes are something I am generally skeptical about, the taxation of these rentals was really a matter of fairness when it comes down to it. Hotels and motels, which serve the same purpose as vacation rentals, have to charge their guests an occupancy tax on the nighty rate, but short-term vacation rentals have historically been left out.
The bill we passed defines three tiers of short-term renters, with progressively higher taxation rates. The lowest tier, owners with 1 or 2 units for rent, will be able to charge their guests a lower rate than owners with 3 or more properties. The highest tier, for owners with 6 or more properties for rent, would be taxed at the highest rate. The bill also gives localities the option of imposing additional excise tax on short-term rentals, with limits for each tier, as long as at least half the income from this tax goes to local infrastructure and affordable housing projects.
Additionally, this bill seeks to regulate the industry by mandating that properties for rent face inspection, like hotels and motels must do. This ensures that renters are accessing safe, habitable rooms when they pay for any short-term rental in Massachusetts. It also requires the highest tier of hosts, those with 6 or more properties, to employ property managers to maintain the rental homes. Finally, it would prohibit hosts from denying rentals to anyone based on any protected categories, like age, sex, or religion. The bill is now headed to the Senate for their approval.
I finished Thursday at the St. Mary’s School Pasta Dinner fundraiser to help them raise money to save the school from closure. Although I did not attend St. Mary’s, the school has been a fixture of our community for many years, and I have been doing everything I can to assist them in their efforts to stay open.
My week ended on Friday with several meetings and events. Although I was not able to attend myself due to a conflict, my staff was able to attend the ribbon cutting for JDog Junk Removal and Hauling, a new locally franchised business run by a Veteran, Wade Rivest. Congratulations Wade- I love seeing more Veteran-owned and operated businesses around town!
That’s it for this week, folks. Have a great weekend, and as always, if you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to reach out to my office at (413) 572-3920 or [email protected].