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IN THE NEWS: Downing Discusses Legislation With County Residents
July 19, 2011

By Andy McKeever
iBerkshires Staff
08:52AM / Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Legislation on mobile homes is still at the committee level and there will be chances for residents to weigh-in on proposed amendments to the bill, Sen. Benjamin Downing, D-Pittsfield, told two representatives from the state Mobile Home Federation.
LANESBOROUGH, Mass. — County residents sat down Monday with state Sen. Benjamin Downing, D-Pittsfield, to discuss transportation, head start, mobile homes and gun control.

Downing held another constituent forum, which he titles "Coffee and Conversation," at the Lanesborough Town Hall, where a half dozen of the county's residents prodded Downing on legislative issues.

Michael Gormalley, a former senior director at the national Veterans of Foreign Wars headquarters and now a county resident, took the time to advocate for better public transportation. The VFW is falling short on helping returning veterans travel to and from jobs, Gormalley said.

"Veterans can't get a job because of it," Gormalley said. "They want to come back to the town they grew up in."

Downing agreed that public transportation in the county is difficult but hopes the Berkshire Regional Transit Authority's recent analyst of routes will help alleviate some of the issues until more funding can come from the state.

"We've pretty drastically underfunded transportation," Downing said. "There are certainly investments we need to make."

Increased funding could possibly come soon with state revenues coming in higher than anticipated, Downing said. Those funds could also help with local Head Start programs. Mary Beth Peck, an assistant teacher with Head Start in North Adams, told Downing that the job is getting even more difficult with the loss of federal stimulus funding.

"We're seeing more behavioral problems and kids who need speech therapy that they're not getting," Peck said. "It's getting more difficult."

Gov. Deval Patrick is a firm supportor of Head Start Programs and recently visited a few of the county's programs so if revenues continue to climb, it is more likely to receive more funding, Downing said. However, the state is still waiting on the federal government to make decisions on health-care reforms and the debt ceiling before legislators can have a picture of future finances.

Peck also used the informal conversation to invite Downing up to her husband's gun shop in Adams to better understand the ways compliance laws are hurting businesses. According to Peck, there is no database listing which guns are not compliant and dealers often will not talk to her husband to avoid the stringent laws. The lack of a specific list makes running the business more difficult, she said.

Gun control is a subject Downing has not been asked about in the other forums and he agreed to visit the shop.

Sandy Overloch and Jesse Martinez, both of the state Mobile Home Federation, asked for an update on Senate Bill 614, which Downing co-sponsored. The bill intends to rewrite laws on mobile home parks that will give the residents more power. That bill is still at the committee level, Downing said.

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