By Mac Cerullo
---- — BOSTON — Newly sworn-in state Rep. Lenny Mirra has had a busy first month, sponsoring or co-sponsoring over 25 pieces of legislation that he hopes will help save the state money and support vital programs within the district.
Among these proposals are several amendments to the electronic benefit transfer (EBT) system, including one that would place photo identification on EBT cards and another that would modernize the payment of benefits, and a proposal that would exempt energy efficiency programs from certain sales tax and wage laws. The state’s ETB program has been under fire due to numerous abuses.
The West Newbury Republican said over 5,000 bills have been filed since the start of the new session last month, and he said the first, and so far only, bill he sponsored himself was a proposal to alter the current plumbing code that would make it more compatible with farm buildings.
“That’s the first bill I’ve ever sponsored,” Mirra said, explaining that a constituent in the agriculture industry called him to ask why state regulations required him to use copper or cast iron pipes on his state sponsored project.
Using copper or cast iron would’ve been much more expensive than using PVC, and Mirra said the idea that farmers were required to using more expensive materials was ludicrous.
“It made the cost much higher than it had to be,” Mirra said. “It’s ridiculous that we’re requiring copper and cast iron piping for certain projects.”
Mirra expects this and many of the other bills he worked on to pass when they come up for a vote, saying there is broad bipartisan support for proposals that will save money and allow funds to go further. Because there are 5,000 bills on the table, there will be a period of time before they can all be dealt with, he added.
“Right now the bills are being assigned to certain committees, those committees will debate and discuss the bills and then we’ll vote on them,” Mirra said.
An announcement over who makes up those committees is expected to come today. Mirra said he hopes to be placed on the transportation and/or utilities committee, but as the lone freshman Republican in the 160-member House, he recognizes that he doesn’t have much control over where he ends up, if he is assigned to a committee at all.
Mirra won election in November as the 2nd Essex District representative, succeeding Democrat Harriett Stanley, who had held the seat for 18 years. The 2nd Essex District is comprised of Mirra’s hometown of West Newbury, Newbury, Georgetown, Groveland, Merrimac and parts of Boxford and Haverhill.
Prior to winning election, Mirra had no experience in politics and had spent his entire career working in the small business sector. Mirra said the first month has been incredibly busy but described the experience as exciting and fun.
“I thoroughly enjoy it,” Mirra said. “It’s been everything I hoped for and more.”
Mirra has already picked up a symbolic victory with his office placement, however, earning a nice office on the first floor of the State House. The location of a representative’s office on Beacon Hill is considered to symbolize their place on the pecking order, and as a freshman Republican, Mirra expected to start in the basement or somewhere equally unappealing.
“I was expecting a broom closet but I was really lucky,” he said.