By Lillian Ilsley-Greene
BU News Service
BOSTON — The Pioneer Valley’s newly elected state legislators will cover a broad range of topics, from election laws to marijuana policy to revenue, under long-delayed committee assignments announced last week.
“We have some good coverage … in terms of what committees we were assigned.” Rep. Mindy Domb, D-Amherst, said on Friday. “We have a lot of bases covered for western Massachusetts.”
First-term representatives generally sit on four committees, three joint and one House only, as a learning experience. Joint committees contain both the House and Senate members.
Domb, who was assigned to the House Committee on Bonding, Capital Expenditure and State Assets, and the higher education and revenue committees, said she is excited about her assignments.
“The four connect in real-world ways … and really impact the commonwealth.” Domb said.
Domb is looking for ways to bridge the gap between western Massachusetts and Boston, she said, and hopes the experiences of district residents can have real impact in the Statehouse, particularly in higher education.
Rep. Lindsay Sabadosa, D-Northampton, will serve on the House Committee on Steering, Policy and Scheduling, and the election laws, marijuana policy, and transportation committees.
“We have a true lack of public transportation in this part of the state,” said Sabadosa, who has a strong interest in east-west rail efforts. “If you can’t get to our part of the state, people are not going to want to live here. And that doesn’t even mean moving here, it means retaining the people that we have.”
Sabadosa’s plans include expanding and improving on the Pioneer Valley Transit Authority bus system, as well as securing more consistent funding.
Boston was recently ranked worst in the nation for rush-hour traffic congestion — a fact that deeply concerns Sabadosa.
“This is not 21st-century infrastructure. We really need to make investments into our public transportation,” she said.
Dan Carey, D-Easthampton, shares a seat on election laws with Sabadosa. He will also join the mental health, substance abuse and recovery, education and the environment, natural resources and agriculture committees.
“The education committee will have a lot of focus on funding this session and that’ll affect school districts across the commonwealth but especially in western Mass.,” Carey said. “I’m so happy to be representing western Mass. on that committee.”
Carey’s background is in both education and law, having chaired Easthampton’s School Committee and previously worked for the Northwestern district attorney’s office in drug diversion.
“I’m going to be able to really use my professional experiences and my personal experiences to benefit all four of these committees,” Carey said.
Rep Natalie Blais, D-Sunderland, will sit on tourism, arts and cultural development, municipalities and regional government, and public service as well as joining Sabadosa on transportation.
“The jurisdictions of these committees reflect some of the primary issues impacting rural Massachusetts,” Blais said in a press release Thursday.
Blais shares Sabadosa’s concern for improving transportation conditions in western Massachusetts, promising to be a “strong advocate.”
Sen. Jo Comerford, D-Northampton, was given the task of chairing the Legislature’s Committee on Public Health. She will also be the vice chairwoman on higher education, and serve on the revenue, mental health, substance abuse, and recovery, and marijuana policy committee. She will be on the Senate Committees of Global Warming and Climate Change, and Post Audit and Oversight.
Many of the issues these committees address overlap, Comerford said. She said she hopes to use her positions on her overlapping committees to help shape what she hopes will be good policy.
“To chair public health is going to give me a real opportunity to look at the whole cross-section of health care in the commonwealth,” Comerford said. “And then also the intersection of health care with all kinds of things … there’s a broad range of intersections in public health.”
She has already submitted a bill examining health equity, and looking at the disparities of health care across race and class divides.
In her position on post audit and oversight, Comerford joins the only committee in the Senate with subpoena and investigatory power. She has already brought an issue to the chairman that she hopes will be brought to the committee in the coming weeks.
Sen. Eric Lesser, D-Longmeadow, will return as Senate chairman of the Legislature’s Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies, and vice chairman of the transportation committee.
Lesser said he thinks his new colleagues are well positioned to make important decisions for their districts.
“They really are going to have influence over a wide range of topics or policy areas, you know, covering issues vital to western Mass.,” Lesser said. “These are the core issues that state government is tackling.”
Now in his third term, he will chair the Senate Ethics Committee and sit on the joint and Senate Ways and Means Committee, and the Legislature’s Judiciary Committee.
Assistant Senate Minority Leader Donald Humason Jr., R-Westfield, will serve on the Senate Post Audit and Oversight, Ethics, and Bonding, Capital Expenditures and State Assets and the Legislature’s Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure committee.
This story was previously published in the Daily Hampshire Gazette.