Government Affairs Update

The Fall continues to be one of the busiest times when it comes to legislative engagement and advocacy on behalf of our members at the North Central Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce. In September, over 80 local, state, and federal officials and candidates engaged our members during our Annual Legislative and Candidates Reception at the Chocksett Inn in Sterling. The municipal elections earlier this month saw the region’s three mayors successfully fend off challengers while new blood was appointed to all three city councils. Fitchburg resident Sally Cragin mounted a successful run for Councilor-At-Large, while Derrick Cruz won the seat for Ward 6; Gardner saw City Council President Elizabeth Kazinskas move up to Councilor-At-Large and Dana Heath fill her seat in Ward 2; while in Leominster, Todd Deacon became the newest Councilor-At-Large and Bill Brady was elected to Ward 1. The Chamber will continue to engage these newly elected officials with regards to Chamber activities and priorities.

In addition to discussions with our newly elected city officials, the Chamber continues to monitor municipal affairs across the region. Monthly mayor’s meetings with Fitchburg Mayor Stephen DiNatale and Leominster Mayor Dean Mazzarella have resumed, and a joint meeting including Gardner Mayor Mike Nicholson is scheduled for December. In October, the Fitchburg City Council voted in favor of maintaining the single tax rate. Data presented by the Assessor’s office indicated investment in the City is helping it to continue to diversify its tax base. Earlier this month, the Chamber ventured out to Sterling for a presentation on broadband internet now being offered by the Sterling Municipal Light Department. The new broadband offering will serve as a great economic development tool to attract businesses to their main artery through town, and will also prove to be a benefit for area residents.

After months of negotiations in Washington D.C., the House passed their $1.2 trillion-dollar infrastructure bill that includes $550 billion in new federal investments to the country’s infrastructure over the next 5 years including funds for airports, bridges, mass transit, ports, rail, roads, and waterways. Sixty-five billion has been set aside for investments aimed at improving America’s broadband infrastructure, and additional dollars have been set aside to improve the electric grid and water systems. Prior to its passage, Congressman Jim McGovern and Congresswoman Lori Trahan engaged the region’s officials and Chamber members during the annual Congressional Luncheon. After being held virtually last year due to the pandemic, the two spoke to a full room at Great Wolf Lodge in Fitchburg about a number of issues impacting our members including the infrastructure bill, the American Rescue Plan, taxes and political division.

On Beacon Hill, the House and Senate developed their $3.82 billion ARPA spending proposals. The two versions had some common ground on two major areas including a $500 million payment toward the state’s unemployment insurance trust fund, half the amount requests by Governor Charlie Baker, and a $500 million program to offer one-time bonuses to low-income essential workers who continued to provide in-person services during the COVID-19 crisis. Despite those commonalities, the bills differed too much for an agreement to be reached in conference committee before the end of formal session, and as of this writing, no compromise has been reached. The Chamber spent time advocating with the region’s delegation in both branches on workforce development, tourism recovery and education priorities. We also advocated for multiple initiatives contained in the One North Central regional economic development plan including the proposed business investment fund and education compact, the latter of which made it into the Senate version.

U.S. Census data released earlier this year was used to develop proposed redistricting maps for the House, Senate, and Congressional Districts. On a statewide level, population increases led to House and Senate representation shifting further eastward. The 27 communities represented by the Chamber and its affiliates will retain the same total amount of state representation, however, there will be some shifts within who falls into each district. On the federal level, Chamber members will continue to be represented by both Congressman Jim McGovern and Congresswoman Lori Trahan.

If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact Travis Condon, the Chamber’s public affairs manager, at 978.353.7600, ext. 224; or via email at .