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SouthCoast residents give legislators earful at Commonwealth Conversations forum

By Michael Holtzman The Herald News

FALL RIVER — Higher taxes for millionaires, restoring college funding cuts, threats to health care, gun laws pro and con, not losing women's domestic violence services, accountability for animal abuse in Westport, not letting the poor, addicted and disadvantaged suffer in a myriad of ways.

Those were among a wide landscape of issues from 50-plus questioning citizens in a crowd double that size at Tuesday night's "Commonwealth Conversations" hosted at Bristol Community College.

Fall River was the second of nine stops in nine weeks for the public to address a geographically diverse group of senators at a two-hour forum moderated by Sen. Michael Rodrigues, D-Westport.

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Senate tour of Taunton

The Commonwealth Conversations 2017 Tour, a statewide listening tour of each senator's district to visit with local residents, businesses and interest groups, got a look at much of Bristol County Tuesday. The tour kicked off Tuesday morning at Martignetti's, the largest wine distributor in New England and one of the largest in the country.

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Commonwealth Conversations tour announced

WRENTHAM -- The Massachusetts State Senate announced the "Commonwealth Conversations 2017 Tour," which will bring Beacon Hill back to main street for a second session.

State Sen. Richard Ross, R-Wrentham, will host a tour with state Sen. John Keenan, D-Quincy; state Sen. Michael Rush, D-West Roxbury; state Sen. Patrick O'Connor, R-Weymouth; and state Sen. Walter Timilty, D-Milton, in the South Shore/Metrowest region on Feb. 28.

The goal of the tour is to foster more civic engagement while helping each senator learn more about issues outside of their own districts. Each member of the Senate has committed to attending at least two of these sessions outside of their own region that is not an adjoining district to their own. Each day will end in a town hall open to the public for the specific region.

One of the four stops in each region will be a public transportation-focused session led by the Barr Foundation.

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OP-ED By Senator Jason Lewis: Senate Hits the Road to Hear From Residents

Editor's Note: The following is an op-ed column from Senator Jason Lewis; who represents the communities of Malden, Melrose, Wakefield, Stoneham, Reading and parts of Winchester

The Massachusetts State Senate launched Commonwealth Conversations in 2015 in order to make the Senate as a body more responsive and accessible to residents all across Massachusetts. Similar to the Community Conversations discussions that I have organized in our district, these forums provide invaluable opportunities for dialogue and sharing feedback and ideas.

The way the Commonwealth Conversations work is that Senators visit other regions of Massachusetts, beyond their individual districts, to hear from residents representing diverse geographies and demographics. For example, at a 2015 stop in Melrose, about one-third of the entire Senate was on hand to discuss a range of important local issues with municipal leaders. The occasion provided my Senate colleagues with greater insight into the unique needs and challenges facing our communities.

The Senate is proud to now unveil Commonwealth Conversations 2017, the next step in our ongoing efforts to make our government more responsive and accessible to you. Senators will be listening carefully to what you have to say, and working hard to make sure that we carry your voices and your ideas back to Beacon Hill. You can visit the Commonwealth Conversations webpage online at https://malegislature.gov/CC/ to see the schedule and stay apprised of updates on the tour, which will be occurring over the next two and a half months. The visit to our region of the state will take place on April 11, with the exact schedule of stops occurring on that day to be finalized soon.

One of the exciting features of Commonwealth Conversations this year is that there will be a heightened focus on regional transportation needs. In collaboration with the Boston-based Barr Foundation, each regional tour stop will include a session dedicated specifically to transportation issues. These transportation discussions, dubbed “MassMoves,” will feature in-depth presentations on relevant local and regional transportation issues. For example, at the April 11 stop in our region, I expect that we will have a robust discussion about the reliability and performance of the Haverhill and Lowell commuter rail lines and the MBTA orange line and bus service.

Commonwealth Conversations is about hearing your feedback firsthand and being as responsive as possible to your concerns. As Senate President Stan Rosenberg noted: “Everyone from Western Mass to Cape Cod will have the opportunity to offer their ideas and hopes about where the direction of our Commonwealth should head by hearing firsthand about people’s dreams and struggles close to home.” I hope that many of you will be able to join us at one of our stops in our region on April 11.

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OP-ED By Senator Jason Lewis: Senate Hits the Road to Hear From Residents

Editor's Note: The following is an op-ed column from Senator Jason Lewis; who represents the communities of Malden, Melrose, Wakefield, Stoneham, Reading and parts of Winchester

The Massachusetts State Senate launched Commonwealth Conversations in 2015 in order to make the Senate as a body more responsive and accessible to residents all across Massachusetts. Similar to the Community Conversations discussions that I have organized in our district, these forums provide invaluable opportunities for dialogue and sharing feedback and ideas.

Read the full article here...

From the State Senator’s Office: Commonwealth Conversations 2017 Tour

The Massachusetts State Senate has announced the “Commonwealth Conversations 2017 Tour,” bringing Beacon Hill back to main street for a second session. The Commonwealth Conversations Tour, cosponsored by Senate President Stan Rosenberg (D-Amherst), Senator Michael Rodrigues (D-Westport), and Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (D-Gloucester), is a statewide listening tour of each Senator’s district to visit with local residents, businesses, and interest groups to listen directly to their needs and concerns.

“As the Massachusetts State Senate sets out on a new path forward, it’s an honor to host this session’s first public forum for the Commonwealth Conversation at Sargent Hall, Suffolk University Law School,” said Senator Boncore. “I am proud to represent a district so rich in history, and it feels fitting to start such an important conversation with our communities in Boston, Cambridge and Somerville.”

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Senate going on the road again: Transportation will be a focus of Commonwealth Conversations

THE MASSACHUSETTS SENATE IS GOING on the road again this year, holding nine so-called Commonwealth Conversations around the state with a special focus on regional transportation needs.

The day-long events will for the second year in a row allow senators to hear directly from people in each region of the state, but one common focus of each gathering will be a 90-minute session on transportation needs and concerns arranged by and paid for by the Barr Foundation.

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Mass. lawmakers' listening tour swinging through SouthCoast

On Feb. 7, state senators from across Massachusetts will come to SouthCoast to get a firsthand look at the region's pressing issues, particularly a long-promised and talked-about rail link to Boston.

The lawmakers' visit will be part of a statewide initiative called Commonwealth Conversations, and it follows a similar listening tour across Massachusetts two years ago that produced a comprehensive report on several important issues such as the opioid crisis, criminal justice reform, the environment and education.

"We as a Senate agreed it was a worthwhile event two years ago, and we're going to do it again," state Sen. Mike Rodrigues, D-Westport, said during a recent meeting with the Herald News Editorial Board.

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Senate President Stan Rosenberg, elected to 2nd term, lays out 2017 priorities

BOSTON - Senate President Stan Rosenberg, D-Amherst, was elected on Wednesday to a second two-year term as leader of the Massachusetts Senate.

In a speech before the newly sworn-in members of the Senate, Rosenberg laid out his priorities for the upcoming session, which range from regulating self-driving cars to reforming the criminal justice system to passing paid family leave and raising the minimum wage.

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Mass. Senate 'listening tour' successfully brings Beacon Hill to Main Street: Guest viewpoint

Since we took office on January 7th, we've initiated a sweeping set of reforms that promise to change the culture of the Massachusetts State Senate and make it more accessible, more open, and more transparent in its procedures.

Some consider these changes long overdue. We share their instinct – the time is ripe for action.

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State senators continue Commonwealth Conversations tour

Bristol Community College President John J. Sbrega told a visiting delegation of state senators on Wednesday he appreciates their continued support, while at the same time urging them to loosen their purse strings.

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State senators open up conversation with constituents as part of statewide tour

FALL RIVER - For the past month, state senators have been traveling the state as part of the Commonwealth Conversations Tour, an effort to promote civic engagement organized by Westport's Sen. Michael Rodrigues. On Wednesday, the tour will bring the elected officials to the SouthCoast.

The seventh of eight forums, the local senators will wrap up a day of visits to area communities with a town hall-style meeting at Bridgewater State University.

Rodrigues and state Sen. Marc Pacheco, D-Taunton, Mark Montigny, D-New Bedford, and James Timilty, D-Walpole, will be joined by Senate President Stan Rosenberg, D-Amherst, and Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr, R-Gloucester, and other senators from across Massachusetts.

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Lexington state senators join the Commonwealth Conversations

The Massachusetts senators are traveling around the state hoping to engage constituents in a conversation about priorities for the state. Part of that conversation is going on via social media. Here is a look at where our senators have been and what they have discussed...

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Senators' bus tour hits Lowell teen center

LOWELL -- UTEC and its biggest supporters touted their achievements in keeping youths out of trouble to an audience of about a dozen senators who stopped by as part of a regional bus tour Monday.

The United Teen Equality Center on Hurd Street was one of several stops on the latest leg of the Senate bus tour. A group of senators has been traveling to a different part of the state on eight separate days, starting a month ago and ending March 18.

State Sen. Michael Rodrigues, a Westport Democrat, said he came up with the idea for the bus tour while at a Senate retreat soon after the election. With a new governor and new Senate president, it was a good time to tour schools, service providers and others across the state to hear about a broad range of issues, he said.

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