Happy April Fools!
I know it’s a little late for that so you can rest assured that everything in this weekly update is accurate and prank-free. I wish we had time for pranks over here, but it was another busy week in the Second Hampden and Hampshire Senate District.
This week I met with Bo Sullivan of the Westfield Boys and Girls’ Club to discuss their proposed expansion and how I can help advocate for a federal grant to fund it. This project would expand their space by 15,000 square feet and allow hundreds of kids who have not been allowed in due to COVID restrictions to be welcomed back. The reduction of programs like this will have effects on kids for years to come and getting the kids back into programs such the Boys and Girls club is the first step for many on the path to true normalcy.
I also had the pleasure of meeting with the Mass Forest Alliance this week to discuss how forestry and land management can be a way to both fight the effects of climate change and be a regional economic driver. Massachusetts is the tenth most forested state in the Union, and for those us in the Western part of the Commonwealth, our outdoor recreation and natural beauty are a point of pride. I look forward to working with the Forest Alliance to expand and protect the ways in which we interact with our natural resources.
Wednesday night I attended a Candle Light Vigil at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home to honor those who were lost during the COVID-19 outbreak over a year ago. This tragedy will never be forgotten and I’ve been working very hard with my fellow legislators to investigate this tragedy and pass the pending bond bill so that we can build a new Soldiers’ Home to ensure that something like this can’t happen again. Our Veterans are the best of us and therefore they deserve the best from us.
A couple weeks ago, Senate President Spilka nominated me for an Opioid Policy Fellowship through the National Conference of State Legislatures, which officially kicked off this week. I, along with other state legislators from across the nation, will be meeting with opioid and addiction experts to learn what policies and regulations work best to combat the opioid crisis. As the Vice-Chairman of the Joint Committee on Mental Health, Substance Abuse, and Recovery, this fellowship will be crucial to the way that I and the Legislature tackle the Opioid Crisis.
This week I joined almost thirty other State Senators on to a letter to the Governor Baker asking him to postpone the MCAS testing requirement until the fall. With the logistics of holding this test and the complete overhaul in teaching that happened this year, it would be unfair to both students and school districts to have to take these exams and then hold school districts to the same level of financial accountability that we usually use these tests to benchmark.
I was also able to attend the Montgomery Town Select Board meeting this week and I was ecstatic to be able to get out into the district and interact with my constituents face to face. The select board and city council meetings are where I can learn in person what is going on the communities I represent. Finding ways for the State to help is the core of my job as a state senator and is the thing I’m looking forward to most as we move out the pandemic.
I’ve also started sending out both quarterly newsletters and weekly email updates regarding the COVID-19 vaccination rollout. To sign up for my COVID-19 updates, head to senatorjohnvelis.com/covid-19-updates/ In a few weeks, the second issue of my quarterly newsletter will be going out as well, and you can sign up at senatorjohnvelis.com/quarterlynewsletter/ to receive the newsletter right in your email inbox.
As always, if there is anything I can do to assist you, please never hesitate to reach out to my office. I can be reached at my email: [email protected] or by phone: (413) 572-3920 and you can find me online at senatorjohnvelis.com.