State Representative Denise Garlick returned to Needham to report on her work for the past year, and give a short preview of the year to come.
Selectman Daniel Matthews noted that she is one of the few Representatives who comes to town for such a report. The meeting brought about 80 people to Town Hall on Monday night--residents of Needham, town officials, and some of Garlick's family and staff.
"In my head, I am one of 160 Representatives." Garlick explained her legislative thought process: "But in my heart, I am the representative for Needham, Dover and Medfield."
She added that, while she examines every bill from the larger context of the whole Commonwealth, she always looks for what they mean for her constituents.
Among her projects, she worked to help fund the Needham-Dover-Medfield Rail Trail (the money has been authorized, but not yet appropriated) and the Needham Senior Center. She also worked to ensure NSTAR and other utility companies would be required to work with municipalities and residents before working on vegetation clearing.
Garlick also commented that, "In a really difficult time, our budget increased for aid."
In FY'12 the town received $6.9 million in chapter 70 aid, $1.5 million toward circuit breaker programs and $1.3 million in unrestricted aid. Garlick reported that for FY'13, the town may get $7.6 million toward chapter 70, $1.75 million for circuit breaker and a $1.4 million unrestricted aid budget.
She also worked on a bill entitled, "An Act improving the quality of health care and reducing costs through increased transparency, efficiency and innovation." One of the features of the bill is protections for community hospitals, such as Beth Israel Deaconness-Needham.
During the year, her office received over 800 calls from individual constituents, and she said that many called back often once they realized their call was welcome.
The Year to Come
For the upcoming legislative session, Mass. officials will focus on issues of transportation and the budget.
"What you’ll see is that the budget gets reworked again and again," Rep. Garlick expalined.
She likes to think of the budget as a hockey game. It begins with the Governor's proposal--which came out earlier this year--she describes this as the first period. The House's take on the budget represents the second period, and the Senate's proposal is the third. Overtime is when the various issues are sorted out before the final proposal is accepted.
She also noted that, during the MBTA budget cuts proposed in early 2012, the town was able to keep the 59 bus, but lost Saturday trains on the Needham line.
"We went to the mat trying to save the Saturday train," Garlick added, saying she is still fighting.
In the coming year, the State Legislature will look at 4589 bills. Each will be divided into the various committees within the legislature and then examined. On the three committees of which Garlick is a part, she believes they will hear 700 bills this session. During the year, she encouraged residents to contact her office for more information about the status of each bill.
"I try to be careful with the number of bills I sponsor." Garlick explained that she preferred to have a smaller number which she could keep track of, for when constituents call.
"That said, I have sponsored 79 bills."
She can be reached at the Statehouse through the switchboard (temporarily) at 617-722-2000 or by e-mail at Denise.Garlick@MAHouse.gov