Rep wants commission focused on Springfield region

Boston Statehouse

BOSTON, Mass. (State House News Service)–Boston’s status as state capitol means new laws and policies are often crafted or finalized in the eastern part of the state. A bill filed by a Springfield lawmaker proposes taking another, Western Massachusetts-focused look.

Rep. Bud Williams testified before the Community Development and Small Business Committee Tuesday on his bill (H 302) that would create a regional sustainable development commission to evaluate policy impacts on the Springfield region. The panel would make recommendations to the Legislature on “appropriate modifications of these policies” and would “devise strategies of remediation or plans to counter any negative impacts of past policies of the Commonwealth so as to create a more racially and economically integrated, economically vital, and environmentally sustainable region in the future.”

“You get a crane operator in Boston, the pay scale and whatever it is, and you can pay all those large fees,” Williams said. “You come to Western Mass., which is the same fees as Boston and the vicinity, but our workforce just cannot afford it, so we have to find a way to make sure that it’s equitable across the commonwealth and the rich are not getting richer and the poor getting poorer.”

The bill notes that the Pioneer Valley differs from Eastern Mass. in characteristics including population density, types of industry, access to undeveloped land and “visibility to the Boston media.” These differences, the bill said, “have led to differentials in the impacts of policies and programs adopted from time to in the area of housing, fair housing, school integration, regional transportation, taxation, and economic development.”

Last session, the bill died after the Community Development Committee did not vote on it by a biennial bill-reporting deadline. The Economic Development and Emerging Technologies Committee endorsed and advanced a redrafted version of the bill in 2018.

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