Friday, February 27, 2015

Plum Island Update

Tomorrow morning I will be joining with Senator Kathleen O’Connor Ives and Representatives Lenny Mirra and James Kelcourse to assist in volunteer efforts to shovel out the island’s sewer system, which has caused some residents to experience backups within their homes.  We will also be handing out informational flyers detailing the latest news regarding the sewer system.

Please stop by PITA Hall tomorrow morning at 10:00AM to receive the most up-to-date information, to lend a helping hand, or to voice your concerns.  State and local officials are working hard to expedite normalcy for all those residents who have been affected by the recent sewer issues on Plum Island.

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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

An Interesting Editorial

Today the Gloucester Daily Times published an editorial highlighting a bill that I and the Senate Republican Caucus filed that would provide key tools to assist the beleaguered MBTA and commuter rail system.  The bipartisan and bicameral bill offered by the caucus would create a fiscal recovery trust fund which would be funded by a $25 million loan to meet immediate capital needs, require the Secretary of Administration and Finance to identify funds to assist the MBTA, and would create a new seven member MBTA finance control board that could ultimately be dissolved in favor of a receiver that would take over the board’s responsibilities as a last resort if sufficient progress hadn’t been made.

The responsibilities of the MBTA finance control board include:

             Securing financial and performance stability of the MBTA

             Implementing fiscal controls;

             Implementing uniform budget and planning guidelines and procedures for all departments;

             Levying fines on vendors who fail to maintain on-time rates, vehicle cleanliness, fare collections, station maintenance, and staff training;

             Executing capital budgets and borrowing authorizations to finance or refinance any debt;

             Maintaining authority to appoint, remove, supervise, and control all MBTA employees and personnel matters;

             Developing a long range plan for MBTA financial and structural sustainability; and

             Requiring the filing of a quarterly report to the House and Senate Committees on Ways and Means detailing how any expended loan funds were used in the past quarter.

The Gloucester Daily Times also mentions that the reform process needs to be “fast tracked”, and given the importance Cape Ann, the North Shore, and Greater Boston has on the public transportation system, I agree.

To read today’s editorial, please click here to visit the newspaper’s website.

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Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Opening of the New Wilmington High School

Today the Town of Wilmington and the Wilmington Public School System had an opening ceremony for the new Wilmington High School, and I was honored to have been able to address the large crowd of people in attendance. The new school building is an excellent example of an educational facility that will provide an outstanding learning environment for the community’s children to study and grow for decades to come.

By working together, state and local officials were able to partner in creating the state of the art facility that students will now be utilizing for the first time today.  Other important speakers during today’s opening ceremony included Treasurer Deb Goldberg, Superintendent of Schools Mary DeLai; State Representative Kenneth Gordon; State Representative Jim Micelli; Chair of the Board of Selectmen, Judith O’Connell; Chair of the School Committee, Margaret Kane; Town Manager Jeff Hull; former Town Manager Michael Caira; and former Superintendent of Schools Joanne Benton.

Following today’s speeches and a special ribbon cutting, guests were provided an opportunity to tour the new facilities of the high school.  Please click here to visit my Twitter page where I posted several photos during my tour of the building.  On March 19th, residents will also be given an opportunity to receive student guided tours to explore the new high school.

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Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Senate Republican Caucus Files Major MBTA Reform Package

Today the Senate Republican Caucus distributed the following press release:

Senate Republican Caucus Files Major MBTA Reform Package

Bill Creates Finance Control Board and Other Tools

Boston- Responding to weeks of repeated performance failures by the MBTA and partner Keolis Commuter Services, the Senate Republican Caucus has filed legislation today that will provide several tools for the beleaguered public transportation system that will financially stabilize the MBTA and restore public confidence in the system.  The bipartisan measure authored by the caucus would create a fiscal recovery trust fund, require the Secretary of Administration and Finance to identify funds to assist the MBTA, and would create a new seven member MBTA finance control board that could ultimately be dissolved in favor of a receiver that would take over the board’s responsibilities as a last resort if sufficient progress hadn’t been made.

“Arctic temperatures and unprecedented snowfall totals has only exasperated the issues currently hampering the MBTA and commuter rail services,” said Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester).  “This legislation seeks to address the underlining problems that have been going on for years to address the needs of the public in order to create a world-class public transportation system that they deserve.”

The responsibilities of the MBTA finance control board/receiver include:

  • Securing financial and performance stability of the MBTA;

  • Implementing fiscal controls;

  • Implementing uniform budget and planning guidelines and procedures for all departments;

  • Levying fines on vendors who fail to maintain on-time rates, vehicle cleanliness, fare collections, station maintenance, and staff training;

  • Executing capital budgets and borrowing authorizations to finance or refinance any debt;

  • Maintaining authority to appoint, remove, supervise, and control all MBTA employees and personnel matters;

  • Developing a long range plan for MBTA financial and structural sustainability; and

  • Requiring the filing of a quarterly report to the House and Senate Committees on Ways and Means detailing how any expended loan funds were used in the past quarter.

“For years I have been calling on the MBTA to fund necessary maintenance over costly expansion. The consequences of their decisions and fiscal mismanagement have been on full display, it is time for a new direction,” said Assistant Minority Leader Robert Hedlund (R-Weymouth).

“The legislature cannot sit idly by as commuters continue to feel the pain of a failed public transportation system that they depend on day in and day out to get to work, home, school, and other appointments and destinations,” said Senator Tarr.  “The Senate Republican Caucus has offered a very reasonable, commonsense approach to the long-overdue issues that have been plaguing the public transportation system for years.”

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Friday, February 13, 2015

Senate Repubs Succeed in Senate Joint Rules Debate

Yesterday the Senate Republican Caucus distributed the following press release:

Senate Repubs Succeed in Senate Joint Rules Debate

Transparency, Accountability Measures Now Head to House for Consideration
Boston- Working in a bipartisan effort with Senate colleagues before and during today’s Senate joint rules debate, the Senate Republican Caucus has secured additional transparency and accountability measures that could ultimately govern the current legislative session.  Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester), Assistant Minority Leader Robert Hedlund (R-Weymouth), Assistant Minority Leader Richard Ross (R-Wrentham), Senate Minority Whip Donald Humason (R-Westfield), Assistant Minority Whip Ryan Fattman (R-Webster) and Vinny deMacedo (R-Plymouth) the Ranking Republican on the Senate Committee on Ways and Means, offered a strong proposal of joint rules, and while many weren’t accepted during today’s debate, several important ones were.  They include:

  • Requiring a maximum of 30 days for all approved extension orders for a committee that seeks to extend the reporting deadline of a bill;

  • Requiring that the Rules Committees establish regulations and proper distribution of bills and legislative petitions;

  • Directing all committees to post roll call votes onto the General Court’s website;

  • Requiring all standing committees to provide committee members a minimum of 24 hours to review polls prior to submitting their vote (rule may be suspended by a majority vote by the members of the committee);

  • Requiring that at least one member of a conference committee is a member of the minority party;

  • Directing all joint committees to hold a public oversight hearing during this legislative session to determine if the agencies and programs under its jurisdiction can achieve savings or operate in a more cost effective manner;

  • Requiring that after the completion of an oversight hearing, a committee must report back its findings and recommendations; and

  • Allowing all committee members the opportunity to issue a dissenting minority report prior to the finalization of the report. The report will then be posted on the General Court website.

“Today we made major gains toward making the Massachusetts legislative process more transparent and effective,” said Senator Tarr. “Hopefully we can carry those gains to fruition in the remainder of the process of adopting them.”

Prior to today’s session, the Senate Republican Caucus worked to have important provisions included into the Senate’s joint rules report, which was also adopted today by the members of the Senate.  The caucus sent a letter to Senator Mark Montigny (D-New Bedford), the chair of the Senate Committee on Rules with a list of proposed rules for the committee to consider.  As a result, two of the rules were incorporated into the committee’s report.  Those rules would:

  • Require all joint committee roll call votes to be posted to the General Court’s website within 48 hours; and

  • Require one branch of the legislature to act within 60 days after the other branch has referred a bill to a committee.

Unfortunately, other measures offered by the caucus failed to garner the support necessary to remain within the Senate’s joint rules package.  Those measures include:

  • Expanding the responsibilities of each legislative committee by requiring the committee to consider the cost-effectiveness of all laws, administrative regulations, and programs that fall under the committee’s purview and recommend whether such measures should be continued, curtailed, or eliminated;

  • Extending the duration of the local approval vote required to file a home-rule petition to be valid for up to four years (authorization may be revoked, rescinded, or modified following any duly constituted town meeting or vote by a city council with the approval of the mayor); and

  • Requiring the House of Representatives and the Senate to consider and approve a joint resolution declaring the minimum amount of local aid to be distributed to the cities and towns of the Commonwealth in the upcoming fiscal year by March 15th.

Now the Senate’s package of joint rules will head to the House of Representatives for further consideration.

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Thursday, February 12, 2015

Senate Republican Caucus Urges Gov. Baker to Take Public Transportation Action

Today the Senate Republican Caucus distributed the following press release regarding a letter the caucus sent to Governor Baker urging him to take action on the issues currently hampering the state’s public transportation system:

Senate Republican Caucus Urges Gov. Baker to Take Public Transportation Action

Caucus Stands with the Administration in Seeking Solutions

Boston- Expressing concern of the current state of the Commonwealth’s public transportation system, the Senate Republican Caucus sent a letter to Governor Charlie Baker today to urge him to take the necessary steps in improving Massachusetts’ public transportation system.

“These past few weeks of arctic cold temperatures coupled with abnormal amounts of precipitation have stressed the need for further action to prevent the type of commuter gridlock that has prevented so many from receiving a timely commute to work, home, and other important destinations,” wrote the caucus.

            Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester), Assistant Minority Leader Robert Hedlund (R-Weymouth), Assistant Minority Leader Richard Ross (R-Wrentham), Senate Minority Whip Donald Humason (R-Westfield), Assistant Minority Whip Ryan Fattman (R-Webster) and Vinny deMacedo (R-Plymouth) the Ranking Republican on the Senate Committee on Ways and Means, highlighted several issues currently plaguing the public transportation system within their letter. Those issues include:

  • A lack of timely communications to inform passengers of delays, cancellations, and diversions;

  • A failure of Keolis to fulfill a lengthy list of promised service improvements, e.g., on time performance, equipment performance, safety, customer service, customer satisfaction, ridership growth, etc.;

  • The failure of a strong working relationship between Keolis and the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA); and

  • The purchase of different types of equipment (locomotives, coaches, and control cars) throughout the years from different manufacturers, preventing the formation of a fleet of standardized equipment, which now requires additional training, maintenance and inventory issues and challenges.

“With ridership currently falling over the past decade, an aging infrastructure that has been pieced together through the years, and costs continuing to skyrocket to operate the nation’s oldest public transportation system, we stand with you in exploring methods to ensure the types of adverse issues that have prohibited timely commutes are stymied,” wrote Senate Republicans.

      The senators are optimistic that Governor Baker and the legislature can work cooperatively to bring a cost effective, world class transportation system that commuters can depend on through reforms to address their concerns.

      “We urge you to take all necessary action in improving Massachusetts’ public transportation system.  The Commonwealth depends on a system that delivers a world class service to commuters, and we are dedicated in working with you to ensure the people of this state receive such a system,” wrote the caucus.

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* Posted below is the letter sent today by the Senate Republican Caucus to Governor Charlie Baker.



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Seeking to Extend Tax Abatement Application Deadlines

On Monday, Representative Hill and I distributed the following press release regarding a measure we are filing to allow municipalities to extend the application deadline for property tax abatements:

Senator Tarr, Rep. Hill Seek Tax Abatement Extension Measure
Amendment Would Allow Communities to Extend Abatement Application Deadlines

Boston – Over the past 14 days, much of Massachusetts has been blanketed with historic amounts of snow that has periodically shut down most municipalities across the state, causing residents to miss important deadlines such as the filing of applications for property tax abatements. While a community has the option to waive late fees on taxes if residents weren’t able to pay on time due to municipal offices being closed because of inclement weather, communities don’t have similar authority to delay or extend tax abatement application deadlines, according to the Department of Revenue.

Seeking to remedy the issue, Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester) and Representative Brad Hill (R-Ipswich) have crafted legislation that will be filed as an amendment to a bill sponsored by Governor Baker that aims to close a major budget gap, which is expected to come before the House on Wednesday.  Following the House debate, Senator Tarr will file the amendment once the bill reaches the Senate for consideration.

“The severe amount of snowfall the region has had to endure has already put a major strain on municipalities and the residents who resident in them,” said Senator Tarr.  “The legislature has a great opportunity to alleviate some of the stress many households are feeling by quickly fixing this oversight in the law.”

A separate amendment currently being drafted by Senator Tarr and Representative Hill would make the measure retroactive, meaning that if passed, a community could still extend a tax abatement application deadline that had already passed.

“During a snow emergency, the last thing a resident needs to worry about is whether or not a municipal office is open in order to file a property tax abatement application,” said Representative Hill.  “As legislators, we have a responsibility to act expeditiously when issues like these arise, in order to ensure constituents aren’t penalized for reasons of no fault of their own.”

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