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House-Senate Conference Committee Completes Work on Compromise Budget for FY06

SENATOR JOYCE TO HOLD EAST BRIDGEWATER OFFICE HOURS ON FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 24

SENATOR JOYCE ANNOUNCES PASSAGE OF EDUCATION FUNDING REFORM

EDUCATION REMAINS A TOP PRIORITY FOR SENATOR JOYCE LEGISLATURE PLANS LEVEL FUNDING FOR LOCAL AID, FUNDING INCREASES FOR TRANSPORTATION AND SPECIAL EDUCATION

MITCHELL MIDDLE SCHOOL RECEIVES ENVIRONMENTAL AWARD

IMMEDIATE OPENINGS FOR SENIOR COMMUNITY SERVICE POSITIONS IN EAST BRIDGEWATER

'COMMUNITY' CHOICE’ PILOT PROGRAM LAUNCHED

For Immediate Release: July 12, 2005
Further Information: Marie Blanchard (617) 722-1643

House-Senate Conference Committee Completes Work on Compromise Budget for FY06
Senator Brian A. Joyce, Senator Robert S. Creedon and Representative Kathleen Teahan this week announced the approval of a House-Senate Conference Committee compromise budget for fiscal year 2006 that maintains the Senate’s commitment to local aid to cities and towns, education, health care and public safety. The measure was approved by both the Senate and House of Representatives and heads to the Governor for his approval.

Local Aid
Providing additional funding for financially strapped communities was a critical component of both the Senate’s budget and the Legislature’s final compromise bill. Specifically, the Legislature’s budget includes an increase in lottery aid by $100 million to $761 million, and it also accelerates the schedule to uncap the lottery distribution by allowing it to begin in FY06 rather than FY07. In addition, the budget increases the Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) funding by $3.1 million.

Education
The Legislature’s budget also reaffirms a commitment to education from pre-kindergarten through college.

For early education, the budget establishes and provides the structure and funding necessary for the programs under the new Department of Early Education and Care. In addition, it makes an initial investment of $10 million to improve the quality of early education.

The Legislature’s budget also makes a commitment to primary and secondary school age children by increasing Chapter 70 funding by $105.6 million. This additional funding guarantees that every school district sees an increase of at least $50 per student. East Bridgewater will receive an additional $284,084 in education aid. In addition, the budget includes an increase of $45 million for regional transportation, which will help ease the burden communities have been shouldering.

Even though the Senate’s education funding reserve was not included in the final compromise the House of Representatives has made a commitment to reforming the education funding formula. When the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Education reports out a bill reforming the Chapter 70 funding formula, and it is passed, the House has pledged that additional funding will be made available.

Public Safety
The Legislature included several public safety initiatives in their final budget passed by both branches.

The Commonwealth’s Community Policing Program is an essential component to fighting crime in cities and towns across Massachusetts. Recognizing the importance of this program, the Legislature’s budget includes $21.2 million in funding for Community Policing Grants. It also includes a five percent increase for the state’s 11 District Attorneys and a 2.1 percent increase for Sheriff’s Departments. The Legislature’s plan also fully funds the gang violence prevention initiatives and two new Massachusetts State Police cadet classes.
Knowing that more and more investigations will rely on DNA evidence, the budget also provides funding for additional space and personnel for the State Police Crime lab, and full funding for the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.

In addition to law enforcement, the budget provides fire safety education for children by fully funding the Student Awareness of Fire Education (SAFE) program. The plan also addresses the backlog of recruits for the Massachusetts Firefighting Academy.

Health Care
Acknowledging that health care is the one of the biggest challenges facing the Commonwealth, the Legislature’s budget makes a commitment to providing Massachusetts residents with access to health care.

Senator Joyce was successful in co-sponsoring $300,000 for stroke awareness and $1.3 million for prostate screening initiatives. Knowing that the issue of substance abuse must be addressed over $47 million was secured for substance abuse prevention across the Commonwealth.

The Legislature’s budget restores two vital MassHealth health benefits for pregnant women and new mothers: comprehensive dental coverage and smoking cessation benefits. These benefits are extremely important because they encourage healthy pregnancies and reduce the incidences of premature/low-birth weight infants.

The Legislature continues to recognize the vital role hospitals play, not only in sustaining the health of our residents, but also in our economy. Accordingly, $11.7 million in payments is provided to hospitals with high volumes of public payer patients and $12 million in payments to pediatric hospitals and specialty units.

Too many residents continue to face the impossible choice of whether to put food on their table or pay for costly prescriptions. The budget fully funds the state’s Prescription Advantage program for six months, until the implementation of Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage. Upon implementation of this new federal program, we fund a new supplemental prescription drug assistance program to complement Medicare Part D’s prescription drug coverage starting January 1, 2006, in order to help enrollees cover the cost of premiums, co-pays, and gaps in coverage under the federal plan.

The budget also includes funding and authorization for a Spring 2006 open enrollment period in Prescription Advantage, to allow all eligible applicants equal opportunity to receive the supplemental assistance for their Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage.

The Legislature continues to be mindful of the needs of our elders and the challenges they face later in life. We, therefore, aim to assist these individuals, as well as those who care for them.

The budget provides an increase in funding for the Enhanced Community Options Program by $4.5 million in order to clear any waiting lists for this program in FY06. This program provides services to elders at imminent risk of entering a nursing home. In addition, $3.9 million is dedicated to wage increases for Homemakers and Personal Homemakers. These low-income health care workers are the front-line caregivers for elders and the disabled residing in community-based settings.

Councils on Aging offer seniors opportunities to continue to be active in their communities and gives seniors occasions to participate in various enriching programs. Recognizing the importance of these centers, the Legislature’s budget includes $7 million in grants to local Councils on Aging, a $500,000 increase from FY05.

The Legislature also increases funding for the Protective Services Program by $1.3 million in order to eliminate any waiting list for these services aimed at protecting the Commonwealth’s elders from abuse and fraud. This includes $800,000 for the Elder Money Management program.

In addition, the budget also utilizes an innovative funding method to generate financial support for the Commonwealth’s nursing homes. The budget maintains nursing home funding through the Nursing Home User Fee and distributes funding through increased Medicaid rates that include:

• $50 million to increase nursing staff wages and to improve staff to patient ratios.
• $17 million for nursing homes capital costs, prioritizing under-bedded areas, quality-improving projects and de-institutionalization initiatives.
• $9 million in funding for nursing home bed hold days, ensuring seniors retain their bed after a medical or non-medical leave of absence.

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For Immediate Release: September, 2004
Further Information: Marie Blanchard (617) 722-1643

SENATOR JOYCE TO HOLD EAST BRIDGEWATER OFFICE HOURS ON FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 24
Senator Brian A. Joyce is pleased to announce that he will hold office hours in East Bridgewater on Friday, September 24th from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. in the Main Conference Room of East Bridgewater Town Hall.
“I encourage all interested constituents to attend my district office hours,” said Senator Joyce. “This is an opportunity for me to listen to the concerns of the people of East Bridgewater, and hopefully provide some guidance and solutions.”
East Bridgewater Town Hall is located at 175 Central Street. As always, individuals with questions or concerns are encouraged to call Senator Joyce’s State House office at (617) 722-1643, or his home at (617) 696-0200 day or night. The Senator can also be reached by email at [email protected]

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For Immediate Release: July 24, 2004
Further Information: Marie Blanchard (617) 722-1643

SENATOR JOYCE ANNOUNCES PASSAGE OF EDUCATION FUNDING REFORM
Would increase East Bridgewater Funding by $117,900

School districts in Massachusetts would gain valuable additional education assistance under a plan passed this week by the Senate.

The legislation seeks to address current inequities in the state’s education funding formula and will mean thousands of extra dollars for communities across the state.

“Many towns have suffered for some time under a formula that has shortchanged their school districts,” said Senator Brian A. Joyce. “This plan seeks to iron out these inequities and deliver additional assistance to school district across the Commonwealth who are in dire need of added financial resources.”

Specifically, the proposed formula change will mean an additional $117,900 for East Bridgewater in FY06, with further increases each year for the following six years totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Under the bill, Chapter 70 education aid will increase by $150 to $175 million a year, while helping reduce disparities in aid to and local contributions required of similar communities and encouraging professional growth among teachers and administrators.

To cope with the rising costs of health care, special education, and other expenses while attracting and retaining good teachers, maintaining small class sizes and expanding opportunities for students, all districts would see aid grow by at least $50 per pupil.

The legislation has been sent to the House of Representatives for action.

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For Immediate Release: April 22, 2004
Further Information: Marie Blanchard (617) 722-1643

EDUCATION REMAINS A TOP PRIORITY FOR SENATOR JOYCE LEGISLATURE PLANS LEVEL FUNDING FOR LOCAL AID, FUNDING INCREASES FOR TRANSPORTATION AND SPECIAL EDUCATION
“With this budget we are preserving our investment in our students and schools,” said Senator Brian A. Joyce this week, announcing that a Senate and House budget resolution for the next fiscal year will be boosted by $75 million for local aid, to more than $3.1 billion.

The Legislature’s plan also commits to an $80 million increase in Special Education Circuit Breaker funding – reimbursing communities approximately 65 percent compared to last year’s 35 percent reimbursement rate, and the plan increases Regional School Transportation by $11.6 million over last year’s funding level.

“We are at risk of having our economic downturn back the progress we’ve made in our schools but the Legislature has made the choice to preserve and reinforce our commitment to classrooms,” said Senator Joyce.

Senator Joyce noted that the proposed figures for education will preserve funding for East Bridgewater at $9,132,173 in FY05.

Senator Joyce expects that education will continue to be a top priority in the FY05 budget and reiterated his commitment to “investing in our schools so that the progress we have made in improving public education can be maintained and ensure our students of a bright future while at the same time continue our efforts to keep pressure off local property taxpayers.”

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For Immediate Release: April 28, 2002
Further Information: Marie Blanchard (617) 722-1643

MITCHELL MIDDLE SCHOOL RECEIVES ENVIRONMENTAL AWARD

Senator Brian A. Joyce, Senator Robert S. Creedon, and Representative Kathleen M. Teahan are pleased to announce that East Bridgewater Gordon W. Mitchell Middle School has been awarded the Secretary's Award for Excellence in Environmental Education from Ellen Roy Herzfelder, Secretary of the Executive Office of Environmental Affairs (EOEA).

The Middle School was selected based on their impressive environmental program, particularly their ‘trout in the Classroom’ project.

“Learning about nature is an integral part of understanding the importance of preserving our environment,” Senator Joyce said. “I commend the students of the Middle School for their work on behalf of the environment.”

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For Immediate Release: December 6, 2002
Further Information: Marie Blanchard (617) 722-1643

IMMEDIATE OPENINGS FOR SENIOR COMMUNITY SERVICE POSITIONS IN EAST BRIDGEWATER
Senator Brian A. Joyce announces that positions are available in a training program for seniors interested in earning a supplemental income while developing job skills and participating in community service.

The Senior AIDES (Able Industrious Dedicated Energetic Service) Program, administered by Old Colony Elderly Services, is a federally funded program that places seniors in positions such as teachers aides, office workers, computer operators, child and adult care workers and custodians.

The program is designed to promote independence, self-assurance and revitalize job skills so seniors can transition back to unsubsidized employment. To be eligible, applicants mush be 55 years or older, meet income guidelines, live in a service area and have the long-term goal of integrating into the workplace.

If interested, contact the Senior AIDES Coordinator at (508) 584-1561 or 1-800-242-0246.

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For Immediate Release: October 31, 2002
Further Information: Marie Blanchard (617) 722-1643

'COMMUNITY' CHOICE’ PILOT PROGRAM LAUNCHED
Enhanced home care option now available to seniors

Senator Brian A. Joyce is pleased to announce that the state has launched a $3.9 million pilot program which will allow seniors to choose community based services over institutionalized care.

The Community Choices pilot program, modeled after Senator Joyce’s Equal Choice bill, was secured by the senator in the state budget and is designed to remedy the gross disparity in Medicaid aid between individuals who choose to receive care at home, and those who seek care in an institution.

“The current structure of Medicaid reimbursement leaves many seniors with no real choice other than institutionalization. It is small wonder, then, that more than 80 percent of our long-term care spending goes towards institutionalized care.

“The reality is that this pilot program is not only the fiscally responsible thing to do, but it also provides a fair and compassionate solution to those who find themselves no longer able to care for themselves,” said Senator Joyce.

Under the program, integrated health care services are provided at home to persons whose health care costs would be at least 50 percent below the cost of care they would otherwise receive in an institution under the state’s Medicaid long-term care waiver. Institutional care is far more costly than care provided at home. Medicaid currently pays $51,516 per person for nursing home care.

“This program will guarantee that seniors will receive care in the least restrictive setting. It ends discrimination against persons with disabilities by providing home care as an alternative to institutional care,” said Al Norman, executive director of Mass Home Care.

The program will be available to eligible seniors beginning November 1, 2002. For more information, please call your local Aging Service Access Point who can review your case for eligibility and provide you with the services that best meet your needs. In Avon, East Bridgewater, Easton, Stoughton and West Bridgewater, please call Old Colony Elderly Services, Inc at 508-584-1561 or Old Colony Planning Council at 508-583-1833.

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