BOSTON – On Wednesday State Senator Benjamin B. Downing (D – Pittsfield) was chosen by his colleagues to serve as the Acting Chair of the Joint Committee on Higher Education. Downing was nominated by the Senate President and confirmed by the members of the Democratic Caucus.
“I am grateful that the Senate President and my colleagues trust me to handle this important role,” said Downing. “I look forward to using my time as Acting Chair working with my House counterpart and Committee members to ensure vigorous oversight of capital spending authorized under the 2008 Higher Education Bond Bill and ensuring support for all our public higher education institutions – community colleges, state colleges and the University system – in the coming budget cycle.”
Downing has served as the Senate Vice-Chairman of the Committee since 2007. As Acting Chair Downing will work closely with House Chairman David M. Torrisi (D – North Andover); together they will lead the Committee, which under the Joint Rules is tasked with reviewing and making recommendations on all legislative matters concerning higher education in the Commonwealth.
“During his tenure in the Senate, Senator Downing has consistently proven his leadership ability, which is why I chose him to step into this role,” said Senate President Therese Murray (D – Plymouth). “As Vice-Chairman, he has the understanding of the issues and challenges facing our higher education system, and as Acting Chairman, I am confident that Senator Downing will utilize that knowledge as we go forward in these difficult economic times.”
In addition to this new leadership position, Downing continues to serve as the Chair of the Joint Committee on Revenue. He also actively serves on the Senate Committee on Ways and Means and the Joint Committees on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies; Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure; and Veterans and Federal Affairs.
Downing’s new role was lauded by public higher education leaders in Berkshire County.
"Senator Downing brings tremendous leadership and knowledge about the critically important work of public higher education in advancing the educational, economic, and civic well being of the Commonwealth. He has been a strong, passionate voice for MCLA, our students, and the Berkshires and a true champion for the Berkshire Compact for Education. We are fortunate that he will bring that same strong voice and passion for the mission of our public institutions to the Chairmanship. I look forward to working with him in his new role,” said Dr. Mary K. Grant, President of Mass. College of Liberal Arts.
"In my five years as President of Berkshire Community College Senator Downing has demonstrated a deep understanding of the importance of public higher education as an investment in the economic future of Massachusetts,” said Dr. Paul E. Raverta. “I couldn't be more pleased and look forward to working with the Senator in his new position as Acting Chairperson of the Higher Education Committee."
Downing’s leadership position on the Higher Ed Committee is considered acting and thereby does not authorize him to receive an additional financial stipend.