Friday, April 28, 2017

Greek Independence Day

Today we celebrated Greek Independence Day at the State House. The invocation was offered by His Eminence Metropolitan Methodias. We were greeted by special guest Konstontinos Bakagiannis, Governor of Central Greece, and we gave our appreciation to Ifigenia Kanara, Consul General of Greece in Boston - this was her final visit to the House Chamber for this annual event. We thank her for her service.

A presentation of a proclamation from Governor Charlie Baker and Lt. Governor Polito was offered to Milton Athanasopoulos, President of the Federation of Hellenic-American Societies of New England.

Essays from Nikolaos Valayannopoulos and Eleni Georgoutzos of the Greek Orthodox Annunciation Cathedral of Boston School were recited. Ellie Pantekidis from St. Nicholas of Lexington.





























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Thursday, April 27, 2017

Concerns Raised – Taking Action on Commuter Rail

The MBTA recently announced its intention to shut down commuter rail service during summer weekends in order to complete federally mandated safety projects and bridge repairs. I have met several times with Department of Transportation officials to share the many concerns that all of us have about the rail service and the impact that a shutdown would have. At this time, the T has not offered to provide alternative service through buses or other means.

Earlier this month I announced a public meeting in Gloucester to hear from those impacted by these plans. Although MBTA officials postponed their attendance at this meeting, it took place last night at Gloucester City Hall. A large number of people attended and shared their concerns about the impacts of losing train service without alternatives.

I am thankful to the many who attended last night and to those who have contacted me in other ways.

I invite you to consider this online petition which we will share with the T officials: PETITION IS AS FOLLOWS: The undersigned oppose closure of all public transit for the commuter rail north of the Salem Commuter Rail Station, as has been proposed for a minimum of 28 days from July 17 through August 13, and of the entire North Station to Rockport line for a series of weekends in the summer of 2017, without suitable mitigation. We and others rely on the commuter service to get to work, school, food shop, visit family and friends and also to reach recreation and entertainment and shopping destinations on Cape Ann. Many people, especially lower paid workers, will lose their jobs if they have no public transit, as they have no private car to use instead or cannot afford the parking costs. Cape Ann businesses often rely on summer income to hit sustainable revenue needs for the entire year and some will fail due to absence of public transit. The valuation of all Cape Ann real estate will be diminished by the enduring poor reputation as having unreliable essential public transit. Alternative public transit must be made available to serve residents and visitors, at times and prices sufficiently affordable to accommodate all public needs. You may participate in this petition by clicking this link - Citizen Petition MBTA






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Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Senator Tarr’s Statement on a Recent News Article


Boston- Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester) released the following statement today on a recently published newspaper article entitled: “Plan to Seize Guns Hits Opposition”:

A recent newspaper article entitled “Plan to Seize Guns Hits Opposition” correctly indicated that I had some questions about a particular piece of pending legislation. Unfortunately and disturbingly, it also created an impression that I am opposed to the concept of preventing those who present an “extreme risk” from having access to firearms.  That is not accurate.  While I have raised such questions about this bill, I do not disagree with its goal.

Massachusetts currently has some of the strongest laws in our nation to prevent this from happening, and I have worked diligently to strengthen them.  Should there be a gap in this area that needs to be filled to protect public safety, we should consider and act on the best means to fill it, and do so in a sustainable and constitutional way.
Those who pose a risk of harm to themselves or others should not only be prevented from having access to firearms, they should receive effective treatment, to prevent them from harming others with anything, including a truck or a bomb improvised from a pressure cooker.
That is a priority we should all share, and I hope we can work together to address it.

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Spofford Pond Elementary Concert and Jazz Band

I was delighted to welcome the 6th grade Concert and Jazz Band from Spofford Pond Elementary School in Boxford to the State House today.

Representative Lenny Mirra and I had the opportunity to listen to show the students around the Senate and House chambers. We also were able to stick around with the students’ friends, family, and other State House employees to hear them put on a fantastic show led by Mrs. Andrea Monty.








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Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Senate Republican Caucus Offers Crime Lab Audit Law



Boston-  Senate Republicans today announced a bill to detect and prevent the mishandling of forensic evidence in the state’s crime laboratory.  The bill, written in the wake of more than 21,000 dismissed drug convictions connected to former state chemist Annie Dookhan, will safeguard the accuracy and integrity of lab procedures and results.

“The justice system was compromised because a so-called scientist with falsified credentials lied about her work for years.  We all want to make certain that those responsible for maintaining the integrity of criminal evidence have proper oversight,” said Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R– Gloucester).  “Accountability and accuracy are essential in every aspect of government and we know that many people were falsely convicted of crimes and others who may have been guilty were let free.  We aim to empower state officials with the authority to conduct audits and reviews of the crime lab so that this doesn’t happen again.”

The state’s Supreme Judicial Court recently ruled that cases tainted by Dookhan would be dismissed or re-prosecuted.   The discredited chemist falsified her academic credentials and admitted in court to intentionally contaminating evidence in an effort to rack up higher lab results, she was convicted of 27 charges in 2013 including for perjury, obstruction of justice, and altering evidence.

The court’s action would require prosecutors to show that they could secure convictions in retrials without using evidence handled or contaminated by Dookhan.  The court’s action comes too late for some who were sentenced because they have already served out their prison terms.

“Annie Dookhan’s mishandling of criminal lab evidence was a travesty.  Investigations into her actions and her conviction brought to light serious gaps in the management and oversight within the crime lab,” said Senator Ross (R-Wrentham), ranking Republican member of the Judiciary Committee. “A thoroughly conducted triennial review of procedures used in crime labs is necessary to take preventative measures against misconduct and abuse of the justice system.”

A 15-month investigation by Inspector General Glenn Gunha which concluded in a 2014 report found that lax lab management failed to detect the actions of Dookan.  The report identified important reforms which have been undertaken such as requiring crime lab facilities to meet national accreditation standards.

“Since the issues of evidence tainting have been identified, the State Police have assumed control of the labs and they have worked effectively to reform the way the labs operate,” said Tarr.  “The work of they are doing is commendable, and it needs to be supported with every tool available. Audits have been proven to be effective tools, and we should make sure they are done regularly because the consequences of evidence tainting are just too negative for the integrity of our criminal justice system.”

Sponsors of the bill propose requiring the Executive Office of Public Safety’s Forensic Sciences Advisory Board to initiate a comprehensive audit of all laboratories providing forensic service for the state by September 1st of this year.  The state Inspector General, in collaboration with the state Auditor, would be directed to initiate such an audit to ensure the accuracy and integrity of lab work every three years.

The Forensic Sciences Advisory Board is comprised of representatives from the District Attorneys Association, Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association, the Commissioner of Public Health, the Massachusetts Organization of State Engineers and Scientists, members of bar associations, and others with expertise in forensic and biological sciences.

Senators expect the bill to gain bipartisan and bicameral support as it moves through the legislative process.

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Monday, April 24, 2017

Public Hearing on Commuter Rail Shutdown Plans

You may be aware that my office had worked to arrange a public meeting with MBTA officials on Wednesday, April 26th at 6:30 pm at Gloucester City Hall to discuss these subjects and others. Unfortunately, we were notified today that the MBTA has postponed their participation while they consider how to best address the situation.

Yet, because there has been such interest in a public forum to discuss concerns, and because so many people and organizations have planned to come to the meeting on Wednesday evening, we WILL continue to hold it for a singular purpose: to allow those who attend to express their concerns. In turn, we will document those concerns, and Cape Ann TV will record the proceedings. All of that information will then be provided to the MBTA.

There may also be a petition to sign that evening, to seek reasonable alternatives to a suspension of service without other options.

Please do not hesitate to contact my office if I may be of any further assistance, and thank you for your consideration.

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Monday, April 17, 2017

Patriots Day

On April 18, 1775, two lanterns were hung from the steeple of the Old North Church, launching the American Revolutionary War. Governor Charlie Baker and I greeted Paul Revere; the Governor gave the keynote remarks at the Annual Lantern Ceremony event. The ceremony included a reading of Longfellow's poem, Paul Revere's Ride, representatives from local colonial militia, the USS Constitution Color Guard, and Honorary lantern carriers as the National Park Service Rangers celebrates their 100th birthday.

 Every year since 1875, on the eve of Patriot’s Day, the Old North Church has commemorated the hanging of the lanterns.















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