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Berkshire State Reps Eye 2019 Session

The Massachusetts State House in Boston.

With another election behind them, two Berkshire County legislators are eyeing the upcoming session on Beacon Hill. WAMC checked in with state representatives Tricia Farley-Bouvier and John Barrett as they look to 2019.

Both Democratic lawmakers ran unopposed in September’s primary and November’s general election. But Farley-Bouvier says the record voter turnout in both the Berkshires and the commonwealth at-large spoke to a desire for something new.

“People are looking for change," she told WAMC. "There’s so many people that were active in this election that haven’t been active, that haven’t ever been active before.”

Another new record from the election stuck out to Farley-Bouvier.

“We now have a record number of women in the state legislature. There will be 57 legislators that are women," she said. "That’s a record. We’re at 28.5 percent. Certainly nowhere close to where we need to be yet, but the idea that more women in the legislature – the whole legislature sees more women getting involved is terrific.”

That’s not the only change she sees in the new slate of state lawmakers.

“The other change in the state legislature is the number of progressives that have been elected, both in 2016 and 2018," said Farley-Bouvier. "Overwhelmingly, the number of newly elected legislators are progressives, so I think we’re going to see a shift to the left when it comes to Beacon Hill.”

Farley-Bouvier, who represents the 3rd Berkshire District in the center of the county, says her first priority in the coming legislative session is education.

“The Chapter 70 funding formula is quite old – 25-years-old," said the state rep. "And it is not adequately addressing what we need to fund education, particularly K-12.”

State Representative John Barrett, who represents the 1st Berkshire District, also placed education among a host of other issues he says are facing the county.

“There’s a lot of challenges that we’re facing here in Berkshire County not only as far as the crime figures and things like that go," he told WAMC, "but we also have an economy that is not growing at the rate that they’re growing at in the rest of the state. We have to create some jobs, especially here in Berkshire County. We continue to lose population. Our schools need additional funds so that they can provide every student with a quality education no matter what community they come from.”

Barrett, whose district includes most of northern Berkshire County, says Boston hasn’t delivered on promises made to the region by Republican Governor Charlie Baker and his predecessor, Democrat Deval Patrick.

“One area that I’m going to address is the broadband service here," Barrett told WAMC. "The last mile project, the MBI – it didn’t work, and it goes back to the prior administration, and we have to fix it. We can’t continue to throw money after bad and the issue has not been resolved, and I think we have to take a good hard look at it.”

Josh Landes has been WAMC's Berkshire Bureau Chief since February 2018, following stints at WBGO Newark and WFMU East Orange. A passionate advocate for Western Massachusetts, Landes was raised in Pittsfield and attended Hampshire College in Amherst, receiving his bachelor's in Ethnomusicology and Radio Production. His free time is spent with his cat Harry, experimental electronic music, and exploring the woods.
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