State Representative Kathleen LaNatra, who serves the 12th Plymouth District, held constituent hours on Monday, December 23 at the Holmes Public Library in Halifax. LaNatra holds constituent hours monthly for each of the towns she represents. The Express had the opportunity to sit down with both Representative LaNatra and her legislative aid Chris Jean to get a sense of what was accomplished in the last year as well as what’s on the docket for 2020.
Jean said that LaNatra was pleased with her committee assignments in her first year in office. LaNatra serves on a number of committees but was especially pleased to be appointed to the Joint Committee on Economic Development as well as the Joint Committee on Elder Affairs. LaNatra has spent a great deal of time volunteering at the Council on Aging as well as Meals on Wheels and considers elder affairs to be priority for her. “We have a really big shortage right now of CNA’s and nurses… they’re not paid very well and it is a really tough job,” LaNatra explained. She continued, “We’re very concerned about our senior population now – are there going to be people to take care of them? We have nursing homes closing. These are major concerns. There are many bills on these subjects so hopefully we’ll be taking some of them up.”
LaNatra has sponsored a number of bills currently in committee. The David Hanson Act focuses on boater safety and would implement a required boating education program prior to operating a boat. Hanson, who inspired the bill, was a 20-year-old call firefighter in Kingston who tragically died during a boating accident in Plymouth Bay in 2010. Another bill sponsored by LaNatra aims to increase the penalties for hit and runs involving recreational vehicles.
The bill is to be known as the James Ward Act. Ward was only 14 when he was killed following an off-road vehicle accident while riding his dirt bike in 2012.
The operator of the other bike involved in the collision said he was leaving to get help but never returned.
LaNatra said, “A lot of our bills have really sad stories to them so we become emotionally connected to the families too. They’re very important to us and we think about them daily; we’re always trying to advocate for them.” Regarding these bills, LaNatra said that she is hopeful that they will be voted out of committee.
Another important bill that was filed with State Rep. Josh Cutler would establish a MassMade Program. The intention of the program would be to identify, connect, and support businesses making products in Massachusetts as a means of boosting the local economy.
LaNatra cited being named Legislator of the Year by the Massachusetts Mental Health Counselors Association (MaMHCA) as one of the highlights of her first year in office. LaNatra delivered the keynote speech at their conference in November.
LaNatra said they are looking forward to 2020 and expect it to be a great year in the district. LaNatra hopes to continue the focus on healthcare that just resulted in the passing of a combined bill that will extend healthcare to children in foster care until the age of 26.
There are also plans to start a cable show in the new year. “We’re very excited; it’s going to be a mobile show, it’s not going to be just a sit down. We’re going to be throughout the district, meeting with people,” LaNatra explained. The show will travel to the COAs and hear the concerns of the older population as well as meeting with the selectmen from the district’s towns. The show will also provide an opportunity to spotlight events that people may not otherwise realize are available in their community.
There are plans to do an episode on the Jones River in Kingston as well as to cover the 400th celebration in Plymouth.
The show, which is scheduled to begin filming in February, will be available to view through PACTV as well as Area 58.
Regarding his position as Legislative Aid, Jean said, “I love it so far. It’s nice to be able to be in a position to help people in my community.” Jean, who grew up in Plymouth, graduated from George Washington University in May with degrees in both political science and history. Jean described the constituent hours as an opportunity to hear concerns from residents as well as answer any questions that they may have.
Jean said that they hope to do whatever possible to advocate for constituents, whether it be at the state or town level. LaNatra offered a reminder that they are available and willing to meet anytime.