PITTSFIELD, Mass. — State Sen. Adam Hinds will serve as the first stop for many of the big initiatives coming from the State House this year.
Hinds was given his committee assignments on Thursday: He'll chair the Joint Committee on Revenue, be vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Redistricting, and will serve on the Senate Ways and Means, Joint Committee on Education, Joint Committee on Tourism Arts and Cultural Development, Senate Rules, and Joint Committee on Health Care Financing.
"In just about every issue we deal with, the question is how are we going to pay for it," Hinds said on Thursday of his new chairmanship.
This term the position will deal with a lot of moving pieces. The state is seeing additional revenue sources from gambling, marijuana, and soon Airbnb.
Yet, at the same time, the income tax went down. One of the first pieces of legislation expected to come to the committee will be what is known as the "millionaire's tax" that would impose a higher tax on incomes above the first $1 million.
Hinds believes amidst all of the changes in the revenue picture, the Legislature has been taking "an ad hoc approach" toward how it collects money. He said he'd like to sort out the moving parts and implement a more methodological approach, and an approach to help tackle income inequality throughout the state.
A number of his personal initiatives will be touched by the committee's work including a proposal to reform payment in lieu of taxes for state-owned land in rural towns, increasing the tax dedication for child care, and establishing a rural jobs act.
"With all of these issues, it all comes down to where do you find the revenue?" Hinds said.
The revenue picture easily dovetails into his role on the Ways and Means Committee, which reviews every bill with a financial impact. Ways and Means is one of two committee assignments he had last year, the other of which is the Joint Committee on Tourism, Arts and Cultural Development.
Meanwhile, Hinds said he "fought to get on education and health care financing." The state had come close to passing bills last term in both of those areas and finishing that work is a top priority of legislative leadership.
In education, the focus this term will be on implementing the Foundation Budget Review Commission's recommendations. Those recommendations call for a significant increase in state support for schools, particularly in support of health care, special education, low-income students, and English language learners. It calls for a full revamping of the formula used to determine the state's Chapter 70 support for schools.
"The fundamental question with education is the foundation budget and how do we get the revenue," Hinds said, connecting his roles on the multiple committees.
Hinds has filed bills for rural school sparsity aid and is serving on a task force focused on rural school districts.
The state is also looking to pass another health care bill aimed to reduce the costs. That will also be a conversation had in the health care financing committee.
Hinds is also sitting on two behind-the-scenes type committees. He will be the vice chairman of redistricting at a time when the census will be underway. The work will set the stage for the inevitable shifting of legislative districts, which will likely impact the Berkshires the most as the population has declined. Hinds said his question will be how to ensure that the region is best represented given what is projected.
The rules committee is one that handles bills that do not have a financial impact. That group will review those bills to ensure proper compliance. Through that, it serves as an important role in moving bills through the legislative process.
"It is a surprisingly powerful committee," Hinds said, adding that it is often that a lawmaker is in contact with the chair on various matters.
Hinds said he is "very happy" with the assignments though he would have liked to be on transportation to help his Berkshire Flyer and east-west rail initiatives as well. But said he still can work on those projects through other means.
"These committees and caucuses focus on policy interests and areas that are relevant to the communities of my district, and, by advancing their agendas I hope to bolster economic development and investment in public education and infrastructure throughout Western Mass," Hinds said.
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