BOSTON (SHNS) – A child care bill will soon emerge in the state Senate, President Karen Spilka said Tuesday as she lamented the cost and access challenges around early education and care and the pandemic’s drag on women’s participation in the workforce.
Speaking to the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce and drawing applause from the crowd, Spilka said the bill she teased, if fully implemented, would be “transformative in expanding access to high quality, sustainable, and affordable early education and care for young children and families in Massachusetts.” The House and Senate took different steps to shore up the early education and care field in their versions of the state budget, which lawmakers are negotiating.
Spilka said the forthcoming bill also “recognizes that our workforce needs significant supports, through salary, and education and training.” The Senate president she is “feeling very optimistic” about what lawmakers can accomplish by the July 31 end of formal legislative sessions. She pointed to a voting package that’s now on Gov. Charlie Bakers desk and said she is “extremely hopeful” that a comprehensive mental health reform bill can become law, now that the Senate and House have each approved their own bills.
Spilka and House Speaker Ron Mariano added another item to the agenda on Tuesday, announcing plans to hold an oversight hearing into the MBTA as the Federal Transit Administration continues a safety probe that so far has uncovered significant enough concerns in areas like control center staffing and delayed maintenance for the FTA to order immediate corrective action.
On Monday, the T rolled out a reduced weekday service plan on the Red, Orange and Blue Lines in response to the staffing shortage. “It’s high time that Massachusetts has the public transportation system to match the values and aspirations of its residents, not just here in Boston but throughout the entire state,” Spilka, an Ashland Democrat, said in her speech. “As a Commonwealth, we need to take a comprehensive look at what we have, what we want, where we’re going and how we pay for it — statewide.”
The Senate president also said she is “looking forward to continuing … conversation” around a low-income fare program for the T and commuter rail as a transportation bond bill moves through the Legislature.