Friday, May 22, 2015

Senate Endorsed Tarr Plan to Put MBTA Under Control and Accountability Board

Boston- May 21, 2015    The Massachusetts Senate today overwhelmingly adopted a bi-partisan plan championed by Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester) to move the transit system under a new fiscal control and accountability board after a growing chorus of calls for the adoption of major reforms to the ailing MBTA were amplified across the state and on Beacon Hill.
Tarr was joined by Transportation Committee Chairman Thomas McGee (D- Lynn), Transportation Committee Chairman, and other members of the Senate.  

“One of the most important things that the Senate can do in this budget is provide a major reform package that comports with the framework of the plan offered by Governor Baker and restores confidence from an exasperated public,” said Tarr.  “The bi-partisan support for MBTA reform affirms that we are ready and willing to bring accountability to a dysfunctional system and give riders, taxpayers and the public the mass transit system they need and deserve.” 

Tarr initially filed finance control legislation in February while winter storms still pounded away at the beleaguered transit system which serves 175 Massachusetts communities.

The new MBTA Control and Accountability Board will be comprised of five members appointed by Governor Baker; three of whom will be members of the Mass Department of Transportation Board of Directors, including the Secretary of Transportation; one member will have expertise in transportation finance; and one member with experience in mass transit operations.  Initially established for a three year period, the bill contains an option to extend the board for two additional years.  The control board is responsible for creating operational stability, budgetary, and performance standards including;
  • ·          Requiring rigorous performance management standards, 
  • ·         Providing a safe, reliable and sustainable rail, bus and commuter rail system, 
  • ·         Short and long-term planning of budgets, of one and five years, which align with operational and capital project needs of five and 20 years, 
  • ·         Prioritizing service enhancements for its existing customers and attracting future riders, 
  • ·         Developing a sound management plan for the safety of T workers and others, 
  • ·         Reducing absenteeism, improving employee morale, and achieving procurement and service contract improvements, 
  • ·         Responsibly promoting mass transportation for regional transit needs.
In response the crippled public transit system, Governor Baker commissioned a special panel of national leaders in transportation, economic development and municipal planning after a harsh winter exposed dramatic failures throughout rail and bus systems.  Following an in-depth diagnostic review of the MBTA’s core functions, Baker’s panel recommended the creation of a fiscal control board after reviewing numerous MBTA studies and performance reviews.

The board will be required, by January 1, 2018, to make a determination if it has achieved its goal of operational stability.  If performance standards are met, they will be required to make recommendations on the governance structure of the MBTA. Should the board determine that the goals have not yet been achieved; their continued existence can be extended until permanently dissolved on or before June 30, 2020

Senate Republicans also sought other changes to the agency including; lifting the requirements of the so-called Pacheco Law during the term of the control board, subjecting the MBTA Retirement Fund to the public records law, and subjecting the agency to an audit.

The Republican Caucus, having called for action in the $38 billion budget proposal, worked successfully to build consensus to promote the goals of MBTA reform.



Thursday, May 21, 2015

Tarr Talk Video: Day 3 of the Senate Budget Debate

Senator Vinny deMacedo joined me today before the start of our third and final day of the Fiscal Year 2016 Senate Budget debate.  We discussed MBTA reform, tax cutting options, and an Olympic Games spending freeze.


Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Senate Adopts Olympics Measure Locking down State Spending

Minority Leader Tarr’s Budget Rider Requires Due Diligence

Boston- May 20, 2015  The Senate took action today on legislation authored by Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester) to assure that no state agency or department encumber any expenses related to hosting the 2024 Olympic Games in Boston unless a special act of the Legislature is signed into law by Governor Baker.

“We shouldn’t be committed to financially supporting the Olympics by deficiency, accident, omission or inaction on our part,” said Tarr. “Our amendment ensures that the Legislature and Governor, as responsible stewards of the Commonwealth’s resources, are not excluded from the process.”
Senators included the legislation, which received support from a bi-partisan group of co-sponsors, to provide greater oversight on the use of state money as the International Olympic Committee considers which city will be awarded the games. Under the plan, money can only be spent for due diligence and analysis of Boston 2024 organizer’s plans.

"We need to be on record as asserting that we will have a role to play as the guardians and the stewards of public funds," said Tarr. 

“This is a positive first step in protecting the taxpayers from a costly Olympic Games,” said Senator Robert Hedlund (R-Weymouth), Assistant Senate Minority Leader.

“This significant measure ensures that before the Commonwealth spends any money on hosting an Olympic Games, the legislature determines if it is feasible and done in a responsible manner,” said Senator Richard Ross. “The overwhelming bi-partisan support for this reflects the Senate’s continued commitment and dedication to Massachusetts taxpayers throughout this process.”

The language was not included in the House version of the budget and would need to be included in a final version of the $38 billion budget bill expected to go Governor Baker in June.


Off to a Fast Start: Meet Senators Fattman and deMacedo

Freshman Senators Fattman and deMacedo talk about giving their maiden speeches, and securing passage of key amendments, just before the start of day  two of Senate budget debate.


Tuesday, May 19, 2015

State Senate Adopts Senator Tarr’s Repeal of Rainy Day Surcharge on Drivers

Strips Insurance Charges from $5 Fine for Failure to Use Headlights in Rain

Boston- May 19, 2015   The Massachusetts Senate took action to repeal the new state law that triggers an insurance surcharge for motorists cited under the new headlights and wipers law.

An amendment to the state budget offered by Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester) will eliminate the multi-year auto insurance surcharge included in a new law designed to enhance safety by requiring drivers to use headlights whenever they turn their windshield wipers on.

“We are not adding to public safety by penalizing drivers with an onerous insurance bill,” said Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester). “The Senate unanimously adopted my amendment and I am glad that the motoring public knows that the Senate is on their side.”

“The intent of this law was always to improve public safety and promote safe driving practices during harsh weather conditions. By eliminating the insurance surcharge, the original intent of the law is maintained without severely penalizing our constituents. I am pleased that the Senate was able to unanimously come together on this important issue,” said Assistant Minority Leader Richard Ross (R-Wrentham).

The Senate took up the proposal as part of its budget debate on the $38 billion spending plan.  The Tarr amendment was the first to be adopted of the 942 amendments filed.

"I am very pleased that the Senate voted to repeal the insurance surcharge,” said Donald Humason, Minority Whip (R-Westfield). “While preserving the aim of improving public safety for everyone on the road, we were able to avoid imposing yet another unnecessary fine on residents of the Commonwealth."

The headlight and wiper law is still in effect, a ticket for a violation is set as a $5 moving violation.  The Tarr amendment, if approved by Governor Baker, will remove the insurance premium requirement currently included in state law.


Tarr Talk: Day One of the Senate Budget

Joined by my colleagues Senator Don Humason and Senator Vinny deMacedo just minutes before the start of debate on the Senate's $38 billion budget.  In addition to being members of the Republican Caucus, they are also experienced members of the Senate Ways and Means Committee responsible for drafting the budget bill now before the Senate.


Monday, May 18, 2015

Media Alert: News Coverage of our MBTA Press Conference

   Allison King of New England Cable News filed this story at NECN.

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker says he's open to negotiations with lawmakers over MBTA reform.

Mass. Senate focuses on the “T,” as budget debates begin