Westfield Newsroom

Rep. Velis’ weekly update

Hello Westfield! Hope you all had a wonderful school vacation week.

I want to start this week’s update by remembering Officer Sean Gannon and the tragedy that occurred last week on Cape Cod. Although I did not know Sean, I want to thank him and his family for the sacrifices they have made to keep the public safe. We owe a huge debt to Officer Gannon and all other police officers and K-9s who risk their lives every day for us. I also want to recognize Nero, his patrol dog, for his loyalty and bravery and wish him well as he continues his recovery.

I have been approached by a number of constituents this week who are outraged that the individual who murdered Officer Gannon (his name is not worthy of mentioning in the same sentence as Sean Gannon) was allowed to walk free with over 100 arraignments to his record. I can only say that I share your concerns and believe it to be an egregious failure of our criminal justice system. This despicable man should never have been allowed to roam the streets as a free man.

The last few days have been extremely busy in our office. If you read last week’s update, you’ll know that budget season is in full swing. I have received hundreds of emails, letters, and phone calls this week asking me to co-sponsor amendments to the House version of the state budget. As a quick reminder, budget amendments are how we, as Representatives, can make changes to the budget to make sure the needs of our constituents are being met. This week, I thought I would highlight just a few of the amendments that I have agreed to co-sponsor as we head into budget negotiations next week.

First up is the Advanced Manufacturing Training Grant Amendment. This amendment would fund the Advanced Manufacturing Training Grant program for $3 million in the upcoming fiscal year, increasing capacity from the current year. It will address workforce issues in the crucial precision manufacturing sector by increasing funding to train people for manufacturing careers. With only $1.5 million in the current budget, the program trained more than 350 workers, and placed nearly 250 of them in manufacturing jobs within only months of their graduation. Increased funding in the new budget will unlock additional capacity, support new training providers, and help address regional manufacturing needs. Precision manufacturing has been the backbone of Westfield’s economy for a long time, and I am proud to support any program that will help to grow our local businesses and provide them with a skilled workforce.

The next amendment would increase funding for hazardous waste emergency response teams. Under state law, the Commonwealth reimburses municipalities who have to deploy members of an emergency response team. Firefighters who elect to join this team get an additional $3,000 from the state added to their pay every year for taking on the increased risk. The amendment I have agreed to co-sponsor will up this stipend to $5,000 per firefighter. Cleaning up after hazardous waste in an emergency situation is no small task, and we need to make sure that this stipend stays at a rate that adequately compensates first responders. I don’t believe that we can ever pay firefighters enough for the work they do, but this amendment is a step in the right direction.

Finally, I signed my name onto several amendments that will increase funding for organizations that residents of Westfield rely on, such as Meals on Wheels, New England Public Radio, and the Boys and Girls Club. In fact, many of the non-profit organizations that do amazing work in our community receive a portion of their funding from the state budget.

While organizations often rely on grants, revenue, and private donations for the majority of funds, the state does what it can to support the work of these crucial programs, too. For example, one of the amendments I signed onto would earmark, or reserve, funds for the Homeless Animal Care and Adoption fund, which helps defray the cost of spaying and neutering animals in shelters. Another amendment allots money to Valley Eye Radio, which broadcasts local news and information to visually impaired listeners throughout the Pioneer Valley, and another one earmarks funds to a local organization who does outreach to homeless veterans in Hampden County. These are just a few examples of amendments I have supported. They often don’t provide enough funds to keep an organization running, but for local programs, they can make a big difference.

That’s it for this week, folks! I will be heading to the State House for most of next week to finally debate these amendments and pass a final House budget. I will be sure to update you next Saturday on our progress. As always, if you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to reach out to my office at [email protected] or (413) 572-3920. Have a great week!

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