Speaker Robert DeLeo’s 2016 Annual Address to Members

Colleagues: I am proud to stand before you today to mark the beginning of a new year and discuss our agenda; an agenda shaped by conversations with each of you, whether here in the State House or in your communities across the Commonwealth.

Under the Massachusetts constitution, members of the House of Representatives have a unique job. You bring the individual voices of 6.75 million Massachusetts residents to Beacon Hill. With each of you representing some 40,000 residents, it is you who hear local concerns first.

Your sacred role as the voice of the people in Massachusetts government comes with tremendous challenges and weighty responsibilities.

And, I’m proud to say, you’ve met these challenges.

With this as our foundation, the House will continue its legacy of constructing practical and sustainable solutions that address the concerns of your constituents. With 160 members, one of the first things every representative learns is that none of us can accomplish anything alone.

In the House, consensus drives us.

We embrace our reputation as consensus builders. We owe that to our constituents; and that, my friends, has made our state a national leader.

From education, to energy to transportation; from economic development bills that focus on diverse regions and industries, to our nationally-heralded gun safety legislation; we are known for pairing bold ideas with commitment to collaboration.

We also know that excellence – the historic excellence that makes Massachusetts a national model in areas like education – is achieved by laying groundwork for continuous improvement over time.

Although we recognize that we’re facing real financial constraints, the House will keep its focus on our most precious resource: our children. We have one shot to get this right. And we will.

That’s why more than a decade ago, members of the House had the insight to create the first-in-the-nation Department of Early Education and Care. Access to high-quality early education provides short and long-term benefits that not only impact an individual, but impact our society on the whole: everything from kindergarten readiness, to financial independence, to widespread economic health, to incarceration rates.

We will seek ways to improve and revitalize the Massachusetts EEC framework in a responsible, sustainable and forward-looking way.

We will help build a system that early educators, parents, and, most of all, our children deserve. To do so, we will enhance our three-tiered strategy which places a premium on building a strong workforce to ensure improved access to high-quality EEC programming.

In 2014, the House was proud to pass a thoughtful, balanced and consensus-driven achievement gap bill. But we must not stand by idly, waiting for our goals to take shape because there are bumps in the road. Time-and-time again you have steadfastly committed to collaborating in our tried-and-true committee process; to building consensus; and to crafting legislation that is a catalyst for perpetual progress.

We will not allow ourselves to be derailed by distractions and will continue to focus on finding ways to provide educational opportunities for students, especially those most at-risk in the classroom.

We will continue to advance our standing as national leaders in education and explore ways to bring communities together so that parents and students who want innovative learning opportunities can secure them. Districts that want charters should be given the chance to pursue them, or any other option they may deem necessary, in order to do right by their students. We may not always agree on how we get there, but we must respond collectively to students who call out for opportunity.

Another issue that cries out for solution is energy. We know that energy is one of the most complicated matters facing Massachusetts. Our work has to stand the test of time. It must be comprehensive, diverse and deliberate. Because of this, the House has sought to bring all sides to the table.

While we must tackle the complicated questions that our rapidly changing energy infrastructure poses, at the same time, we have to make sure we keep the lights on at a reasonable cost to ratepayers. As I listen to advocates and policy experts, I keep in mind the seniors who have worked their entire lives to build a better future for their family only to find themselves struggling to pay for necessities such as energy. I keep in mind the new moms and dads who are struggling to keep their growing family warm.

This year, the House will pass legislation that will promote resource diversity and cleaner energy, contain costs and ensure that we maintain a reliable electric grid.

While the concepts are complex, at its core this bill will be about supporting our constituents as the Commonwealth continues to grow and compete in a dynamic economy.

When we think about energy costs we are also reminded of the small companies in our hometowns struggling to stay in business. We think about retaining the best and the brightest. We think about attracting companies that could be a game-changer for the Commonwealth’s economy.

I want to congratulate all of you for your role in creating a climate that brought GE’s world headquarters here. Governor Baker and Mayor Walsh deserve tremendous credit for their bipartisan collaboration in wooing this international leader here, and members of this House paved the way – making tough decisions to exercise fiscal prudence and having the foresight to back economic development programs that support innovation and attract a highly-educated workforce.

One of the reasons that I’m so proud of the House’s tradition of consensus-building is because that reputation goes hand-in-hand with fostering a stable, responsible political climate: a key component to improving our economy and supporting hardworking families across the state. With this in mind, the budget coming out of Ways and Means will not contain any new taxes or fees.

In Massachusetts, we embrace innovation. In doing so, we balance time-honored notions of fairness and equity with a belief that competition is healthy. We will again take this approach as we deal with the Transportation Network Company issue. We will find a way to make companies such as Uber and Lyft part of the permanent landscape in Massachusetts while keeping in mind the benefit that competition from taxicabs and livery companies brings to the marketplace.

Consumer choice is a good thing, and we will take up legislation that accomplishes that goal in February.

Each year I look forward to speaking with you as we kickoff the new year. And while we’re only a few weeks in, I’m incredibly proud to say that this year we’ve already passed incredibly meaningful legislation. Our substance addiction bill is a resounding example of consensus-building and bipartisanship, and I want to thank each and every one of you for your leadership and thoughtfulness in combatting this devastating epidemic.

In the House we seek, lasting, meaningful pieces of legislation that help people and reflect thoughtful action. In the months ahead, we will tackle the budget and act on education, energy and innovation.

Coming together from every corner of the Commonwealth, we will do this and more.

God bless the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. God bless America. Thank you.

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