Springfield State Legislators Preview 2021
On the eve of the inauguration of President Joe Biden, the Springfield Democratic City Committee hosted a virtual gathering to preview legislative priorities for 2021.
The forum was a platform for members of the city’s all-Democratic Beacon Hill delegation to speak on their legislative priorities. But, the program began with a nod toward the changes in Washington from U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, the Springfield Democrat, who is chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.
"This is an exciting time," said Neal. "Some of us, myself included, we've waited a long time for a Democratic president, Democratic Senate and Democratic House. I intend to meet this moment."
Just as the COVID-19 pandemic is likely to dominate the early months of the Biden administration and the new Congress, so does it feature prominently in the plans of local legislators. The members of the city’s legislative delegation all agreed that getting vaccine access in western Massachusetts is a priority along with COVID recovery efforts including help for devastated small and micro businesses.
The legislators unanimously support re-passing the climate bill Republican Gov. Charlie Baker vetoed after the close of the last legislative session.
Because of the changes in Washington, 2021 could be a pivotal year for moving forward on East-West passenger rail in Massachusetts, predicted State Senator Eric Lesser.
"This really is going to be the moment," said Lesser. "If it is going to happen it has to happen now. The state feasibility study is complete. We've got the federal leadership in place to support it. It's going to be all hands on deck this year to make sure we can get it over the finish line."
State Rep. Angelo Puppolo, the dean of the city’s legislative delegation, who is beginning his seventh term, said he is “very enthusiastic” about the new leadership in the Massachusetts House.
" Ron Mariano, I am very pleased, is going to be our Speaker," said Puppolo. He said former speaker Robert DeLeo was a"great friend of western Massachusetts" and predicted Mariano would be as well.
The legislative delegation has three freshmen: State Senator Adam Gomez and State Representatives Jake Oliveira and Orlando Ramos. Gomez and Ramos are both Springfield City Councilors. Oliveira is a Ludlow School Committee member.
"I am so proud to be joining the Springfield delegation," said Oliveira.
In a state where he was hugely unpopular, Donald Trump had an outsized influence for the last four years. Resistance to Trump was an issue in Democratic primaries. Attorney General Maura Healey filed closed to 100 lawsuits seeking to block his policies. The legislature passed an abortion rights law in response to his Supreme Court nominations.
Ramos said he is looking forward to his first term as a Massachusetts legislator with President Biden in the White House.
"We will finally have a president who has a moral compass," said Ramos. "I think we are all grateful for that because it has been four years that we've lacked that."
The forum with the legislators was recorded for posting on the Springfield Democratic City Committee’s Facebook page.