LAWRENCE — What was listed on the City Council’s agenda as an address by the senator and three House members who represent the city on Beacon Hill was over in minutes Tuesday, when the three House members skipped the meeting and Sen. Barry Finegold, who attended, touched only briefly on a handful of issues.
The entire session was over in nine minutes.
Finegold told the council he is supporting legislation that would require insurance companies to increase reimbursements to Lawrence General Hospital for procedures such as X-rays. He said some companies reimburse LGH $100 for x-rays while reimbursing hospitals in Boston $175 for the same procedure.
He is supporting bills that would increase state aid to Lawrence to maintain roads and to allow same-day voter registration in the state.
Only Councilor Jeovanny Rodriguez had questions. He asked Finegold whether rent controls might be a solution to the increasing cost of housing in Lawrence.
“We need to find ways to tamp down rents, but I’m not convinced rent control is the answer,” Finegold responded, adding that a better solution would be to increase housing construction. “When I hear two-bedroom (apartments) in Lawrence are going for $1,700 – that’s a lot of money.”
Rodriguez also asked Finegold what it would mean for the city if recommendations by the state’s Foundation Budget Review Commission were adopted. The commission recently recommended significant increases in state aid to poor communities like Lawrence.
Finegold responded only that the increases recommended by the commission were “decent.” He said he also supports increasing state reimbursement for the cost of sending special education students to schools in other communities that are better able to educate them.
Finegold’s notes for the meeting included several issues that he did not address. Among them, Finegold’s notes say that a proposal to rebuild the Lawrence police station, for which the state legislature already has agreed to provide $25 million, is “one of my top priorities this session.”
Finegold also did not address the council about the state’s response to the Sept. 13 gas disaster, although his notes for the session included a detailed description of the bills pending in the state legislature to fine gas companies when service goes down and to require them to provide mutual aid during gas disasters. Other proposals would impose tougher controls on gas crews when they work on underground lines and require the state Department of Public Utilities to investigate how gas companies hire and pay pipeline inspectors.
The state House on Tuesday held a hearing on another bill that would require the operators of sewage plants to issue broader and more timely notifications when they spill into the Merrimack River and its tributaries, but the proposal also did not come up at Tuesday’s meeting. Five plants on the Merrimack – including in Lawrence, Haverhill and Lowell – spilled about 800 million gallons of untreated sewage into the river last year, according to the plants.
In an interview after the meeting, Finegold said he will support providing state aid to help municipalities avert sewage spills by installing pipes that will divert storm water away from treatment plants during heavy rains.
State Reps. Marcos Devers, D-Lawrence; Frank Moran, D-Lawrence; and Christina Minicucci, D-Methuen, were listed on the council agenda for the meeting but did not attend.