Today, Speaker of the House Robert DeLeo addressed the Massachusetts House of Representatives, outlining his ideas and plans for this year's legislative session. In a speech that touched on the #MeToo movement, our moral obligation to ensure that people have access to high-quality, affordable healthcare, early education, and civics education, the Speaker underscored the fundamental responsibility we have as representatives: Standing up for those we represent.
Below is the full text of the speech:
Friends, colleagues: thank you.
It is an honor to join you today; it is an honor to serve as Speaker of this institution which we love so much.
As Representatives, we are close to the people; tied to our districts. We hear the concerns of our constituents directly and we stand up for those in need.
That may not be flashy, and it’s certainly not what we heard about last night in Washington, but it is at the core of what we do.
We listen. We learn. We help.
That role endures as we address the issues of the day, all while also being sound fiscal stewards.
As in prior years, we will pass a balanced budget that takes care of our most vulnerable residents while maintaining fiscal discipline. We will do so with a budget that comes out of House Ways and Means with no new broad-based taxes.
And today, we take up an interim spending bill that addresses some of the Commonwealth’s most pressing needs.
In the wake of the devastating storms in Puerto Rico, we will provide aid to students who have relocated here. These fellow Americans - and those educating them - deserve our support.
We have all become acutely aware of the critical, pervasive and distressing issues at the heart of the Me Too conversation.
Earlier today, I joined other members to attend a House listening session, part of Counsel’s ongoing review the House’s policies relating to sexual harassment.
As Counsel prepares its independent review, we must also be mindful of the existing supports the Commonwealth has for those reporting sexual harassment.
We have heard directly from MCAD that requests for sexual harassment training are up dramatically, and they expect an increase in the filing of sexual harassment complaints. The funds we will allocate today will allow MCAD to hire two additional staffers for training and one new investigator.
This year, I am proud that with all of the challenges coming from Washington, we’ve kept our eye on the ball: advancing Massachusetts’ leadership while remaining true to our values.
I can think of no policy topic that exemplifies this balance more than healthcare. We have a moral obligation to ensure that people have access to high-quality, affordable healthcare.
Through our work, Massachusetts has set the national example.
We have much to be proud of: near universal insurance coverage, the best hospitals in the world, and a slower cost growth than the rest of the country.
But we must always remain vigilant - especially as the healthcare landscape continues to change dramatically.
That is why we will be taking up healthcare reform in the coming months.
This legislation will maximize the impact of our existing infrastructure and will include new strategies to bring down costs, improve quality and enhance access. These include:
Supporting our community hospitals and community health centers. These institutions are both economic engines and safety nets within our districts.
Shielding patients from bearing the burden of rising healthcare costs and ensuring that they have all the information necessary to make informed decisions.
Increasing pharmaceutical spending transparency while cultivating our reputation as an international leader in research and innovation.
In Massachusetts we are heirs to a tradition of discovery. We take pride in that legacy but we also take concrete steps to advance it.
The Legislature’s $1 billion investment in lifesciences has paid off.
Today, 18 of the top 20 biopharma firms and all 10 of the world’s leading medical device companies have a presence in Massachusetts.
This session we will renew our commitment to innovators and industries at the forefront of scientific and technological breakthroughs.
We will take up legislation providing financial support for the lifesciences sector. These funds are critical to maintaining our competitive edge, promoting advanced manufacturing and developing a productive workforce.
Our work to foster a responsive talent pipeline and provide residents with educational opportunities begins before they learn about science and tech. In fact, it begins before they enter the doors of an elementary school.
We will build on the House’s ongoing commitment to providing high-quality early education and care, in large part by supporting our EEC workforce. This means developing an action plan to build a sustainable workforce development system . . . one that is responsive to the distinct needs of the EEC field.
We know that the EEC years provide a unique opportunity for us to impact learning outcomes for children.
We also know that it is an equally vital time for addressing mental health. I am currently working with the Chairs of Education and Mental Health, as well as the Child Advocate, to coordinate efforts as we again prioritize children’s long-term social, emotional and academic success by investing in early childhood mental health services.
And once children reach school age, we similarly recognize the need to provide effective student supports that go beyond academia. But we also realize that our schools cannot do it alone.
Therefore, we will build on our Safe and Supportive Schools initiative - created in the 2014 Gun Law - to help schools integrate student supports, leverage preexisting investments, and coordinate school and community based resources.
As we foster the intellectual and emotional growth of our students, we also want them to gain the requisite skills to participate in our democracy.
Now, more than ever, we need to ensure children understand the importance of civic engagement, understand the role of state and federal government, and understand the rewards and duties of being an American in a well-functioning democracy.
In our House and in Massachusetts, we are fortunate to enjoy a spirit of civil debate. For example, Leader Jones and I may have our disagreements. But when we disagree, we do so with a sense of the history and solemnity of the House of Representatives.
One cannot look at the roiling national political climate of the last 24 months and not realize that too many are unaware of our basic political tenets and traditions. In the void, pernicious beliefs and basic untruths can take hold.
Several members of the House have been hard at work with the Chair of Education on a bill stressing the importance of civics education. And I have to recognize our Senate President, the gentle lady from Worcester, for her leadership on this issue.
The House will move forward on a civics education bill and increase our existing support for the JFK Library as it engages students, a cause we championed in the FY18 budget as we marked the 100th anniversary of President Kennedy’s birth.
Massachusetts helped make America. We can again help her live up to her ideals by reminding our young people of them.
Today, we approach our work with renewed energy, based on a shared responsibility: Standing up for those we represent.