News from the State House, October 26, 2023

Dear Cambridge-Somerville Constituent:

Thank you, as always, for being an informed and engaged constituent of the 26th Middlesex District. I want to take a moment to update you on some of the items I've been working on this month.

Governor Healey includes my proposal for a Social Housing pilot program in her $4.1 billion housing bond bill

Last week, I was invited by the Governor to join her in Chelsea, along with Lt. Governor Driscoll, Secretary Augustus and Secretary Gorzkowicz for the public introduction of the Governor's Housing Bond Bill, a once-every-five-years piece of legislation that authorizes our capital spending on housing and includes several major housing policy proposals.

I am delighted to report that the Healey-Driscoll Administration has included language to establish a Social Housing production pilot as part of the $275 million Sustainable and Green Housing Initiatives item in their $4+ billion housing bond bill filing.

Over the past year, I've had several opportunities to engage with the Governor and the LG with regards to the extraordinary potential of the social housing concept, and more recently, I've had meetings with Secretary Augustus and the staff at the new Executive Office of Housing and Livable Communities to further discuss this concept. 

Thank you to the Administration for including so many of my priorities in this high-profile bill. In addition to the social housing pilot program and funding authorization, the bill also includes a local option real estate transfer fee to fund additional local affordable housing production, the legalization of accessory dwelling units (ADUs) across the state, and a change to the law to allow inclusionary zoning ordinances to pass by a simple-majority vote (rather than the current 2/3rds approval threshold), an idea I originally proposed back in 2018.

So what is social housing? Social housing is publicly financed, mixed-income housing, typically owned by a local housing authority or a related entity. In this recent New York Times feature, social housing is described as the state acting like "a benevolent real estate investor." It combines some of the social benefits of traditional public housing with some of the cash-flow and scalability advantages of market-rate development, and it avoids some of the challenges that doomed so many of our public housing programs over the years.

To learn more about our social housing proposal and what's next for the Governor's bill, please check out this post on my State House blog.

House Passes Major Gun Control Legislation

Also last week, I joined with my Cambridge and Somerville House colleagues to pass a major gun control bill, the largest update to gun safety laws in Massachusetts since 2014.

H.4135, An Act Modernizing Firearm Laws, addresses the problem of ghost guns; strengthens the Commonwealth’s red flag laws; updates the definition of assault weapons; and limits the carrying of guns into schools, polling places, government buildings and the private residences of others.

The bill is a result of a comprehensive review of the Commonwealth’s gun laws, with the goal of proposing solutions to emerging threats in technology, such as the prevalence of ghost guns, and responding to last year’s U.S. Supreme Court’s New York State Rifle & Pistol Ass’n., Inc. v. Bruen decision.

Among the bill's many provisions is a section that directs the Secretary of Health and Human Services to seek federal reimbursement from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services for violence prevention programs. This is a result of Amendment #6, which was filed by Rep. Cahill and co-sponsored by myself and others and adopted by the House during last week's floor debate.

As we continue to mourn the victims of another mass shooting — this time, too close to home up in Maine — we need Congress and other states to follow our lead and take action to save lives now.

To learn more about the our gun control legislation, please see this post on my State House blog.

MassDOT moves forward on McGrath Highway resurfacing and road diet plans

Two and a half years ago, I led an effort by our legislative delegation to call on MassDOT to make numerous improvements to McGrath Highway (Rt. 28) as part of the planning for the McGrath Highway resurfacing project.

We called for new bike lanes with physical separation and other safety and physical infrastructure improvements. MassDOT responded by committing to put McGrath Highway on a "road diet" and further committing to physical separation and protection for new bike lanes, along with numerous other safety and physical infrastructure improvements.

Over the past two years, the initial phases of the resurfacing project have been ongoing, as repairs have been made to bridges and related infrastructure, and now, the resurfacing itself has been underway — which has raised questions for constituents who are asking about the status of the project and are wondering about latest details.

I am pleased to see MassDOT is following through on its commitment to put the McGrath Highway on a "road diet." The traffic modeling analysis showed that removing an automobile lane may increase automobile travel by half a minute or up to a minute along the mile-long corridor — a good trade for our community, as this will allow us to make the corridor much more bicycle and pedestrian friendly. It's also important to note how this project will move us a big step closer to fulfilling the vision of "grounding McGrath" and replacing the McGrath Highway with a green, urban boulevard.

For more information relating to the project— including copies of our letters and downloads of MassDOT's engineering drawings — please see this post on my State House blog.

As always, please do not hesitate to reach out if you have any questions or concerns about these or any other matters.

Yours in service,

Rep. Mike Connolly