Q&A: Sen. Rush Talks Driving on VFW Parkway, Redistricting, and Returning Military
Catching up with Rush after the rush of the July 31 legislative deadline session about local issues such as the dangers of driving on the VFW Parkway.
State Sen. Mike Rush, D-West Roxbury, just finished up his first July 31 Legislative deadline as a senator, after previously being a state representative. Patch asked Rush about the July 31 deadline, local legislation and how redistricting affects his constituency.
Patch: Before the July 31 Legislative session deadline, what legislation had your focus?
Rush: During the 2011-2012 Legislative Session, the Legislature was extremely focused on issues influencing our state economy and continuing to nurture its recovery. We have identified and tackled obstacles to business growth to help grow our economy and create jobs, passing legislation to bolster our economic development, control our health care costs, tackle the high cost of energy, and freeze unemployment insurance rates to avoid a hike in premiums for businesses. The unemployment rate in Massachusetts currently stands at 6.0 percent, significantly below the national unemployment rate of 8.2 percent. By encouraging new industry and removing barriers to businesses, we are moving in the right direction.
Patch: With the July 31 session deadline passed, what legislation will you now focus on?
Rush: There are barriers to our economic growth that remain, and it is vital that our Legislature continues to focus on the economic issues impacting Massachusetts families. We must continue to get people back to work and ensure that our small businesses have a friendly environment in which to grow. By supporting our local small businesses, we are strengthening the larger fabric of our Massachusetts economy. Our state has a strong competitive environment and fast-growing core industries, especially in the biotech and medical fields. It is critical that we continue to support and invest in each sector to ensure this continued growth.
Patch: How does the job change after the end of a legislative session? Does your focus change from proposed legislation to other matters?
Rush: Things will continue to be very busy in the Legislature during a period of informal sessions through the rest of the year, which includes a process of moving legislation forward. Although the Senate has recessed from formal legislative sessions, this will allow me more time to spend in the district connecting with constituents. The end of a legislative session is an ideal opportunity to spend more time interacting with the community of the Suffolk and Norfolk district to learn more about the issues that are impacting individuals and families on a day-to-day basis in order to bring their voices to Beacon Hill.
Patch: What legislation do you feel would help the Parkway area the most if enacted, or a bill that was just enacted?
Rush: Constituents who live along the VFW Parkway have voiced an ongoing concern about heavy traffic, the frequency of motor vehicle accidents, and the dangers posed to pedestrians attempting to traverse the Parkway in crosswalks. I have worked closely with Representative Ed Coppinger (D-West Roxbury), along with many state and local officials, to find ways to address this public safety issue. Recently, Rep. Coppinger and I were able to secure $1 million in funding through a transportation bond bill for improvements and maintenance along the Parkway.
Patch: What are the main issues you hear from residents about in the Parkway area?
Rush: I welcome hearing from my constituents about a variety of questions and concerns affecting our state. Particularly, I have heard repeatedly about the continued concern for the growth of our job market and for encouraging a healthy economic climate both locally and throughout Massachusetts. The health and wellbeing of our senior population remains a key concern; the high costs of energy, food, and prescription medication are all issues that influence the day to day lives of our seniors.
Patch: Your State Senate district is changing come fall - how have you been preparing for the change?
Rush: Because of legislative redistricting, this Senate district has been shifted by six precincts. This shift includes adding precincts D, E, F, and G in the Town of Needham and the entirety of the Town of Dover. To prepare for this shift, I have been working closely with Representative Denise Garlick (D-Needham), who currently represents both Needham and Dover, to ensure that we are working together for the common goals of constituents and town officials from these areas.
Patch: As a veteran of our US military, do you think our returning servicemen and women are getting the services they need to regain a non-war society? What do you think is working for returning military and what would you like to see to help them acclimate?
Rush: As a veteran, I am proud of many of the services that are provided for vets and their families here in Massachusetts. But there is still plenty of work to be done. As Chairman of the Committee on Veterans Affairs, I was proud to be the lead sponsor of the Valor Act this session, which extends benefits and increases access to a range of services for military personnel, veterans, and their families. I will continue to focus on ensuring that our veterans and military members are aware of the span of the programs and services available to them. It is critical that Massachusetts is not only number one in the nation in caring for its veterans, but that each veteran is aware of the great services that he or she is entitled to receive.
Patch: You don't have an opponent this fall, what will you be focusing your campaign's energy on? Will you be supporting other candidates, be it local or national? If so, who?
Rush: I am still a candidate for reelection to the State Senate and I will be busy throughout the campaign season asking citizens of the district to consider voting for me in the Primary on Thursday, September 6 and in the General Election on Tuesday, November 6. Having spent 11 months away from home on deployment, there is plenty of work to do throughout the district. In addition to working on my own campaign, I will be assisting Representative John Rogers of Norwood with his campaign for re-election to the House of Representatives.