October Legislative Update

September was a busy month for the Chamber on the legislative front and October promises to continue that trend. In recent weeks, our staff helped organize a workshop to educate members about the recent “Grand Bargain” legislation, reconvened monthly meetings with the region’s mayors, and published an updated Public Affairs Agenda for the new fiscal year. This last item was approved unanimously by the Chamber’s Board of Directors and includes a new section addressing the debate over international trade and tariffs in Washington.  The month culminated with the Chamber’s Annual Legislative and Candidates Reception, held at the Chocksett Inn in Sterling.

Though this event always draws a crowd, we set records for attendance this year, attracting nearly sixty public officials and candidates and close to one hundred members of the general public. Illustrating the Chamber’s strong presence at all levels of government, the public officials who participated included Congressman McGovern; State Auditor Bump; the region’s entire state senate delegation; the vast majority of its state representatives; the mayors of Fitchburg and Leominster; councilors from Fitchburg, Leominster, and Gardner; and numerous town managers, administrators, and select-people from throughout North Central Massachusetts.  The first in the Chamber’s fall series of public policy related events, the reception will be followed this month by our Annual Congressional Luncheon on Friday, October 5th and a special congressional debate scheduled for Thursday, October 18th between the final contenders in the race for the Commonwealth’s Third Congressional District seat. It is especially fitting that the luncheon precedes the debate, as the former will be Congresswoman Tsongas’s final Chamber appearance before voters identify one of the debate’s three contenders as her successor.

While that election unfolds, the Chamber has also been working hard to monitor ongoing developments. For many of our members, the recently implemented Employer Medical Assistance Contribution (EMAC) has been an issue of pressing concern. After considerable criticism following its rollout, the state has chosen to provide waivers to businesses facing a disproportionate impact from this new tax. While still applied too narrowly, providing far too short a window to apply, and offering no opportunity for appeal if rejected, this step does represent a positive development. Employers can learn more about the hardship exemptions here and have until Friday, October 12th, to apply. Applications can be found here.

At the local level, several communities in our region will conduct annual reviews of their respective assessor’s tax rates this month. As always, the Chamber will be actively advocating in those communities for policies that treat both commercial and residential property owners fairly. Such efforts have proven successful in recent years, with Leominster maintaining a common rate and Fitchburg moving towards one with increasing speed. These successes illustrate just how important this work is and lead us to believe there will be further progress in the weeks ahead. If you own a business in Fitchburg, Leominster, or Clinton and would like to make your voice heard on this tax issue, or you are interested in any of the other topics discussed above, feel free to reach out to Christopher McDermott, the Chamber’s Public Affairs Manager, at 978.353.7600 ext. 224 or cmcdermott@northcentralmass.com.