Thursday, February 4, 2016

MBTA Pension Fund Subject to Senate Public Records Bill

Senate Minority Leader Tarr Secures Passage of Several Amendments

Boston- The State Senate today adopted legislation to make certain Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority Retirement Board records subject to the provisions of a new public records access law.

Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester) successfully championed the legislation which will apply to all documents made or held by the board or any of the public or private entities which receive funds from the MBTA for the payment or administration of employee pensions.

“The value and significance of a fund such as this, with $2.4 billion in liabilities, has a significant impact on the lives of T employees and has major cost implications for the MBTA,” said Senator Tarr.

 “Disclosures about the stability of the MBTA pension fund are paramount and deserve to be subject to this records reform law and transparency.” Senate Assistant Majority Leader Mark Montigny (D- New Bedford), a co-sponsor of the amendment said, “Including the MBTA Retirement Board in this records law is arguably one of the most important components of this bill.”

In addition to the inclusion of the MBTA Pension Fund under the public records law, the Senate also adopted other amendments offered by Tarr and members of the Senate Republican Caucus.

Senators also adopted two other Tarr amendments:
     • The creation of a fund to provide grants to cities and towns for information technology enhancements to increase public access to records. Funds would be collected from assessed punitive damages.
     • The requirement that Statements of Financial Interests, or so-called ethics reports, filed annually by lawmakers to be made available electronically.


Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Tarr Seeks to Strengthen Public Records Law

This week the Senate will debate changes to our state's public records law, the first major reform since 1973. I have offered some changes to make the new law stronger and more effective.
Boston- Seeking to strengthen the state’s public records law to provide increased public access to government information, Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R – Gloucester) has filed a number of amendments to the public records legislation (S. 2120) released last Thursday by the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. The bill is expected to be taken up in the Senate formal session on Thursday.

“Civic engagement and the strength of our democracy depend on the public availability and accessibility of information that can foster understanding, inform decisions and empower oversight,” said Tarr, who added that, “passing strong, workable and practical legislation to modernize and strengthen our public records law is and should be a legislative priority.”
Toward that end, Tarr today filed amendments that would, among other things:
  • Require the display of the cost of taxes on diesel fuel and gasoline on the pumps where they are dispensed.
  • Establish a Public Records Assistance Fund for grants to municipalities for the acquisition of information technology, training and education to boost records compliance
  • Strengthen the Attorney General’s ability to compel compliance with records requests by including language that allows the AG to require compliance even in situations where an agency or municipality did not respond to or acknowledge a public records request
  • Make public information pertaining to the MBTA pension fund
  • Include contracts and invoices over $500,000.00 as a part of the Massachusetts open checkbook system, which would provide clarity and information to the public on the expenses of the state government
  • Require signs to be posted in all stations and terminals displaying a percentage breakdown of Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) sources of funding, including state subsidies and fare collections.
“The Senate Committee on Ways and Means has provided an important start to the process of making information more available,” said Tarr, “and these amendments can make the bill better and more effective.”
The text of Senate Bill 2120


Thursday, January 28, 2016

Bill to Expand Lobster Sales Adopted by Senate

Boston- The State Senate today adopted a bill which updates Massachusetts’ lobster laws to permit the processing, sale, and transportation of cooked and frozen in-shell lobster parts. Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R- Gloucester) sponsored the measure to end prohibitions on in-state sales and processing of lobster parts to accommodate the growing interest of consumers. The bill, supported by the Massachusetts lobster industry, is expected to cause an expansion of lobster processed in state and a reduction in lobster diversions to Canadian processors.

“This bill will allow more American lobsters currently being harvested and purchased here and subsequently processed in Canada, to be prepared for market in Massachusetts,” said Tarr. “The net effect of modernizing the law will bolster local economic activity for lobstermen, processors, and local restaurants and food stores.”

Tarr expressed appreciation for coastal Senators Mark Montigny (D- New Bedford),Vinny deMacedo (R- Plymouth), Daniel Wolf (D- Harwich) and Michael Rodrigues (D-Westport) for their efforts to strengthen the industry and in championing the bill.

“The time has come to eliminate such outdated restrictions on lobster processing and sales in the Commonwealth. Easing constraints on processing operations will allow a thriving industry to further invest in our local economy through expanding operations and creating new jobs. I commend Senator Tarr’s leadership as the sponsor of this bill and am proud to have partnered with him in seeing this through to passage. It is my hope the House will quickly follow the Senate’s lead to have a bill on the Governor’s desk as soon as possible.” said Senator Montigny.

“I am thrilled that the Senate has taken steps to bring this bill forward with a unanimous vote and I know that the lobstermen will be pleased with the advancements that we’ve made,” said Senator deMacedo.

The lobster industry is a critical part of the Commonwealth’s economy and heritage with more than 900 licensed lobstermen. A similar law in Maine has boosted Maine’s economy, produced local outlets for product sales, and created jobs in the state.

“The action of the Senate today helps consumers, suppliers and lobstermen, I expect that we will see an economic boost for the lobstermen in my district and in other coastal communities in the state as well,” said Senator Rodrigues. “Our historic lobster industry deserves the opportunity to be more creative and flexible in how they market and sell their popular product,” said Cape and Islands Senator Wolf. “This legislation is a huge help in that regard, and will create economic benefits that will ripple through our coastal communities.”

While the sale of live, cooked, and canned lobster is legal in the state, the legislation expands the industry market with the inclusion of other lobster products. The Senate bill allows Department of Public Health licensed wholesale dealers to process unfrozen lobsters, authorizes the importation of unfrozen shell-on lobster parts and tails, and it allows for the retail of previously frozen raw in-shell tails.

The Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries will be responsible for maintaining essential regulations including enforcing minimum lobster shell size standards and processing standards. The lobster fishery adheres to stringent state regulations including trap limits and the release of live juveniles.

The bill now moves to the House for further consideration.


Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Governor Baker Files Budget Bill

Governor Baker has filed a FY 2017 budget proposal today that honors a commitment to our state’s highest priorities while providing the fiscal discipline that comes from appropriations that match expected revenues, a healthy deposit into the Stabilization Fund, and avoiding tax increases.

More specifically, key appropriations in the budget proposal include an increase of 4.3% for unrestricted local aid, adding 600 needed employees at the Department of Children and Families and the expansion of efforts to combat the opioid crisis through treatment services.

Not only does this budget continue the long-term process of reducing and eliminating structural budget gaps, it also lays the foundation for continuing economic growth and employment opportunities through support for meaningful workforce training programs.

Senate Republicans are committed to working through the budget process in the days ahead with our legislative colleagues and the Baker-Polito Administration to build on the great start the Governor has given us today toward delivering a balanced budget that makes progress on so many fronts.

You can read the budget bill by clicking this link - Baker Budget for FY 2017


Monday, January 25, 2016

Legislation End MCI-Framingham Civil Commitments for Substance Misuse Disorder

This afternoon I was pleased to join Governor Charlie Baker, Lieutenant Governor Polito, Senate President Rosenberg, House Speaker DeLeo and many other colleagues in state government for the signing of H3956, An act Relative to Civil Commitments for Alcohol and Substance Use Disorders, into law.

The bill represents a long overdo reform to ensure that women with addiction are no longer forced into state correctional institutions to be able to obtain treatment.  For 25 years, women have been sent to MCI Framingham instead of to a center for treatment.  What's worse is that for the past 25 years, many women in need of medical assistance have also had to receive a criminal sentence to get treated for an appropriate duration of time.  These conditions are unacceptable, and that is why I was pleased to join with so many of my colleagues in the effort to secure this much needed legislation.

The law Governor Baker signed today represents an important step in confronting one significant issue that needed to be addressed.  The bi-partisan collaborative and decisive way it happened points to our ability to take even more steps to address drug addiction if we remain focused , and I will work to ensure that as well.


Thursday, January 21, 2016

Governor Baker's State of the State

The remarks we’ve heard tonight reconfirm that Governor Baker is taking a hands-on and productive approach to finding practical ways to confront issues like opiate abuse, problems at the MBTA and the need for fiscal discipline in the state budget.

And importantly, his approach of consulting stakeholders, engaging the legislature and rejecting partisan polarization is working to move us forward, in contrast to what we see too often in Washington.

The Governor’s focus on pressing challenges with initiatives like combatting the opioid epidemic, expanding our renewable energy portfolio with sources such as hydroelectricity, expanding job training efforts, and being more fiscally responsible with our state budget is well placed, and will provide a solid foundation for us all to move forward in 2016.


Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Bright Days Ahead

Osram Sylvania celebrated the relocation of their American headquarters and customer center with a grand ribbon cutting ceremony recently. The company will have more than 500 employees staffing their Wilmington office location. Grant Wright, CEO of OSRAM Americas, gave a tour of the 124,000-square-foot building.
Osram Sylvania has as a long track record in Massachusetts having first established its roots in 1901 by Frank Poor, a partner in a small company in Middleton, MA, that renewed burned-out light bulbs. Poor’s Bay State Lamp Company had locations in Danvers, Beverly and Salem. In 1931 the company merged with Sylvania and produced fluorescent lamps. The 1940s saw new company developments in consumer electronics and precision materials and by 1993 OSRAM Sylvania was created by a merger with the German pioneer in the development of electric light, OSRAM. Today, the research, development, and manufacturing of this world-leading company helps keep Massachusetts at the leading edge of innovation.

Dr. Olaf Berlien, Osram’s world-wide Chief Executive Officer, flew to Massachusetts from Osram’s world headquarters in Munich, Germany. Osram Sylvania, known for their pioneering work in lighting, gave us all an impressive lightshow inside the lobby of the new building. I wish them much success in Massachusetts and thank them for investing their time, energy and efforts here in the Commonwealth.