Worthington home rule bill passes

state-house

BOSTON, Mass. (The Westfield News) – A contentious home rule bill which would allow the town of Worthington to withdraw from the Gateway Regional School District was passed and enacted by both the Massachusetts State House and Senate Monday.

The bill has now been sent to the desk of Governor Deval L. Patrick, who has 10 days to either sign it into law, veto it, or send it back to the legislature. Since the beginning of the Worthington withdrawal effort, legislators have been curious as to what would happen should the bill pass both houses in Boston and end up in the hands of Patrick, a known proponent of regional school districts.

“There’s no way to predict his decision at this point,” said Representative Stephen Kulik (D-Worthington) in December, shortly after his home rule petition passed the House in an informal session. “But he usually gives a lot of deference to legislation that reaches his desk from the House and Senate.”Following the engrossment of the bill in the Senate last week, Sen. Don Humason, Jr. (R-Westfield) who had been working with Sen. Benjamin B. Downing (D-Pittsfield) on amendments to the bill, has been skeptical of Patrick’s support.

“Breaking up regional districts isn’t in the best interests of the commonwealth, and I don’t know if the governor will even sign it,” Humason said last week. In the House, Rep. William “Smitty” Pignatelli (D-Lenox) says he has no idea what Patrick will do, but he assumes the Governor will sign the bill.“It (the bill) has gone through both houses, and what started as a home rule petition has turned into a bit of a compromise,” he said. “I’d be surprised if he didn’t sign it.”

Pignatelli, who represents the Gateway Regional hilltowns of Blandford and Russell, believes that the situation presents an opportunity to address the treatment of the state’s regional districts, citing similar situations that have occurred in southern Berkshire County.“The Department of Education has failed to address some of these issues over the years, and it’s a situation thats not going away,” he said of funding problems faced by regional districts. “It’s a slippery slope, but it’s an opportunity to fix it once and for all, because this will come up again – I guarantee it.”

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Media Credit: The Westfield News

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