Now in his 10th year as Speaker of the House and his 27th year as state representative for Winthrop and Revere, Robert A. DeLeo has a few things on his mind as the legislature moves through the next six months of its session.
“We’ve got a couple of things demanding our attention,” he said in a telephone conversation late last week. “One of which is healthcare legislation that we’re currently working on. Hopefully, in a couple of months we’re going to have a piece of legislation that will sort of balance between containing costs and make sure that we provide top-notch care and access for everybody no matter their economic backgrounds.”
He added that at the same time legislators also have to make sure that the Commonwealth remains competitive in the health care field.
“We are very fortunate in Massachusetts to have the finest hospitals in the country,” DeLeo said. “Many people will say even in the world as well.”
Balancing all those interests is the job of the legislature, he said.
“We are also proud that we have the highest percentage of insured residents as well. Having said that, as we’re putting together our budget we see our health costs continuing to rise.” DeLeo said. “The trajectory is unsustainable, and because of that, it makes it more difficult for us to tackle some of the issues we would like to.”
“Considering all of these issues, we’re working on a health care legislation now that will allow to balance these costs and provide high-quality health care,” he said,
Other topics DeLeo said the legislature is working on are short-term rentals like Air B&B.
“Much of the discussion about this has been the revenue aspect, implementing taxes like a hotel tax. It may include taxation and regulation as well (in DeLeo’s hometown of Winthrop short term rentals require a special permit),” he said.
“There has to be a public safety aspect that has to be considered along with taxation. I have talked to people from the Cape area and the Berkshire area, where there seems to be more of these types of facilities. We actually have them all across the Commonwealth.”
Another topic DeLeo is poised for is criminal justice reform. While legislation is currently in conference committee, this has been discussed for sometime.
“We have to figure out how to make the system more equitable while enhancing public safety,” DeLeo said. “For instance the good things going on at the East Boston District Court’s drug court. That will be part of the legislation to see that the people who need that kind of help and the treatment for addiction gets it. Also to not see this as a crime, but an addiction.,” DeLeo said.
He added, “On the other hand, I’m very concerned about what is going on with the trafficking of fentanyl and carfentany.” This particular drug is killing people and I want to get tougher on those who traffic those particular drugs. We have to go stronger than where we are right now. Of course we will be doing something on the opioids as well. Discussions of beds and treatment are going to continue as well. That will probably come as part of the budget.”
DeLeo said the legislature is still reviewing the governor’s budget.
“I think the major topics he hit were good ones. A lot of what he did was in cooperation with the legislature and we’re proud of it. In my role as state representative in Winthrop and Revere what’s important to me is what we do to local aid and Chapter 70 education funding.,” DeLeo said.
Early education is also another area of concern and putting more funding into early education and provide better-quality education in addition to access.
“Some of the other items we’re working on in this areas is with the local chambers of commerce in Winthrop and Revere, and so-called child safety grants that have also worked on for Winthrop and Revere.” DeLeo said.