Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Best Wishes for a Happy Thanksgiving

In these trying times of economic challenge, ongoing threats of terrorism and the responsibilities of being a nation at war, may we all take the opportunity on Thanksgiving to take stock of the blessings of family, friends and neighbors and those who bravely serve in our military so that we can continue to live in the freedom of the greatest nation in the world.


Building Emergency Response Capabilities

Over the Past several months I’ve had the honor of working with North Reading Fire Chief Richard Harris and others throughout the region to build a new resource for our local fire departments – a Tactical Rescue Team. This team, which is staffed by firefighters from many area departments, will be available to respond when needed for rescue operations involving conditions such as structural collapse or instability, confined spaces or trenches.

Recently the team, which has been training intensively for months, convened at the Shriner’s Auditorium in Wilmington in preparation for operational readiness and availability beginning in January. Below is a photo of the entire team and one in which I am pictured with Chief Harris and Training Coordinator Rick Nelson.


Seeking Integrity in the System

We’re working with Inspector General Gregory Sullivan to fully investigate all of the inappropriate acts that appear to have taken place with regard to the approval and rejection of the charter schools in our Commonwealth throughout the last round of such actions. Recently the Boston Globe reported on our request for action and the Inspector General’s timely and effective response. Please copy and paste the below link into your URL bar to read the story.


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

State to Release $388,125 in Stimulus Funding to Gloucester Fire Department

Governor Patrick, State Senate Assistant Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester) and Representative Ann-Margaret Ferrante (D-Gloucester) have come to the aid of the Gloucester Fire Department by releasing $388,125 from federal stimulus funds to prevent the city from having to make serious budget cuts that would impact the safety of Gloucester’s citizens. The funds will also be used to support additional shift staffing needs.

Today’s announcement marks the second round to fire departments from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). Firefighter’s grants are funded through stimulus funds the administration set aside specifically to help fire departments address staffing reductions caused by the current recession.

“The economic crisis has hit cities and towns hard and forced communities to lay off the men and women sworn to protect us,” said Governor Patrick. “With these stimulus funds, we can eliminate dangerous understaffing, put people to work and give our police and fire departments the resources they need to keep our residents safe. I commend our partners in the Congressional Delegation for making this critical funding possible.”

“Through teamwork with Governor Patrick, Secretary Burke and city officials we have been able to capitalize on this major opportunity for Gloucester,” said Tarr. He added that “we identified the grant, and Chief Dench responded with a comprehensive and compelling grant application. The result is the receipt of funds that will make the difference between fire stations being open and fire stations being closed.”

The $388,125 comes from the $11.6 million that the administration set aside to fire departments across the Commonwealth. The federal Recovery Act does make $210 million available nationally for fire departments to compete for grants to support the renovation and construction of local fire stations.

“These much needed state funds will provide the necessary resources to retain firefighters while protecting the safety of our community and assisting the City of Gloucester in these difficult economic times” commented Representative Ann-Margaret Ferrante.

87 fire departments submitted applications to the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security (EOPSS) for the two staffing grant programs. EOPSS used formulas based on budgets, staffing issues and public safety concerns to determine which departments received grants. For a full list of award recipients, please visit

Mayor Kirk said, “This grant can be used over the next 12-months as a bridge to the other side of the recession so we don’t see further impacts on public safety levels in the coming months which are sure to continue to be difficult fiscally.”

“The Patrick-Murray administration has moved to provide critically needed assistance to local police and fire departments,” said Public Safety and Security Secretary Kevin M. Burke. “This is funding each department needs to help ensure the public’s safety across the Commonwealth.”

“We are so appreciative of our state delegation for coming through with the resources we need to get through these difficult fiscal times that have so adversely impacted city services including public safety,” said Fire Chief Philip Dench.


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Votes to Note: Changes to Criminal Sentencing and CORI

Today the Senate considered S.2210, which makes major changes to our state’s criminal justice system in the areas of sentencing for those who commit drug-related crimes and the reporting system for criminal histories known as CORI, or Criminal Offender Record Information.

There is significant consensus that some changes to the CORI System are warranted, but many of the bill’s impacts on small businesses remain in question.

Worse, the sentencing components of the bill, upon which there is no consensus, would allow drug crime offenders to be eligible for release from incarceration without requiring them to be subject to monitoring through systems such as the electronic bracelet or GPS tracking.

The bill before the Senate combined these two issues, and parliamentary procedures blocked many amendments that were offered to strengthen the criminal justice system from even being considered.

I offered an amendment to separate these distinct components of the bill (CORI changes and sentencing changes) so that members could vote on each of them independently. Despite bipartisan support, the amendment failed by a vote of 10-27. You can view the actual vote by clicking “Read more” below.

The bill itself was identified by the Massachusetts District Attorneys Association as “a threat to public safety” in a letter sent to every Senator which you can view below.

Given the problems identified by all of our state’s district attorneys, I argued in floor debate that it should be rejected in its present form, and such major and potentially dangerous changes should be reviewed with adequate time for their consequences to be fully understood.

Once again, legislators from both parties opposed the passage of the final bill, but it was approved on a vote of 26 to 12. That vote can be viewed by clicking the “Read more” below.


Roll Call Votes: Yea Nay

Steven A. Baddour yea
Frederick E. Berry nay
Stephen M. Brewer nay
Scott P. Brown yea
Stephen J. Buoniconti yea
Gale D. Candaras nay
Harriette L. Chandler nay
Sonia Chang-Diaz nay
Cynthia Stone Creem nay
Kenneth J. Donnelly nay
Benjamin B. Downing yea
James B. Eldridge nay
Susan C. Fargo
Jennifer L. Flanagan nay
Anthony D. Galluccio nay
Jack Hart nay
Robert L. Hedlund yea
Patricia D. Jehlen nay
Brian A. Joyce nay
Thomas P. Kennedy nay
Michael R. Knapik yea
Thomas M. McGee nay
Joan M. Menard
Mark C. Montigny nay
Michael O. Moore nay
Richard T. Moore yea
Michael W. Morrissey nay
Senate President Therese Murray
Robert A. O'Leary nay
Marc R. Pacheco yea
Steven C. Panagiotakos nay
Anthony Petruccelli nay
Stanley C. Rosenberg nay
Karen E. Spilka nay
Bruce E. Tarr yea
James E. Timilty nay
Richard R. Tisei yea
Steven A. Tolman nay
Susan C. Tucker nay
Marian Walsh nay


Senate Bill 2210

Roll Call Votes: Yea Nay

Steven A. Baddour nay
Frederick E. Berry yea
Stephen M. Brewer nay
Scott P. Brown nay
Stephen J. Buoniconti nay
Gale D. Candaras yea
Harriette L. Chandler yea
Sonia Chang-Diaz yea
Cynthia Stone Creem yea
Kenneth J. Donnelly yea
Benjamin B. Downing yea
James B. Eldridge yea
Susan C. Fargo
Jennifer L. Flanagan yea
Anthony D. Galluccio yea
Jack Hart yea
Robert L. Hedlund nay
Patricia D. Jehlen yea
Brian A. Joyce yea
Thomas P. Kennedy yea
Michael R. Knapik nay
Thomas M. McGee yea
Joan M. Menard yea
Mark C. Montigny yea
Michael O. Moore yea
Richard T. Moore nay
Michael W. Morrissey nay
Senate President Therese Murray
Robert A. O'Leary yea
Marc R. Pacheco nay
Steven C. Panagiotakos yea
Anthony Petruccelli yea
Stanley C. Rosenberg yea
Karen E. Spilka yea
Bruce E. Tarr nay
James E. Timilty nay
Richard R. Tisei nay
Steven A. Tolman yea
Susan C. Tucker yea
Marian Walsh yea


Massachusetts District Attorneys Association Letter


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Votes to Note: Flag Amendment Passes

Yesterday the Senate debated and passed S. 2205, “An Act Relative to Education Reform.” During the debate I offered an amendment to require education about the United States Flag in our schools. Following substantial discussion, the amendment, which was expanded to include curriculum about engagement in the political process, was adopted by a unanimous voice vote. Please click on “Read More” below to view the text of the amendment, which is now part of the bill that moves to the House. Special thanks to Senators Tisei, Hedlund and Brewer for their assistance with this effort.

Flag Instruction

“Chapter 71 of the General Laws is hereby amended in Section 2 by adding after the word “government” the following phrase:- “and a program of relating to the flag of the United States of America, including but not limited to proper etiquette, the correct use and display of the flag, and the importance of participation in the electoral process.”


Friday, November 13, 2009

Recently I had the honor of welcoming Windsor Place to Wilmington with a Senate Citation. This family-owned assisted living facility represents a tremendous investment in the local economy, and a resource for those who wish to live independently in a warm and supportive setting.

Windsor Place has 87 units, has created 55 new jobs and expects that number to reach 70 when all of the units are leased.

Congratulations and thank you to Windsor Place for investing in the community, and creating employment opportunities.


Thursday, November 12, 2009

Taking a Stand Against Terrorism

When an invitation was extended to Raymond Levasseur a convicted terrorist, to speak to students at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, action needed to be taken. While the Governor insisted nothing could be done to prevent this from happening, Senate Republicans rose to the challenge.

I was pleased to co-sponsor and assist in the drafting of a resolution initiated by Senator Robert Hedlund ( R-Weymouth) condemning the potential appearance by a man whose organization was responsible for the murder of a New Jersey State Trooper, the shooting of two Massachusetts State Troopers, and the bombing of the Suffolk County Courthouse in 1976.

Senate Republicans were joined in this effort by our colleagues across the aisle, many of whom co-sponsored the resolution as well. When a final vote was taken, all but one member of the Senate voted in favor of the resolution, which passed overwhelmingly. Subsequently Levasseur’s parole office prohibited him from coming to Massachusetts, and the appearance, which was as to occur today, was canceled.

Clearly this was an important victory, protecting our state’s flagship institution of higher learning from the talent of an unrepentant architect of domestic terror.

The text of the resolution is posted below:



Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Media Alert: Fox 25 Morning News

I’ll be returning to the Fox 25 Morning News segment known as “Tolman and Gray” this Thursday, November 12th at approximately 7:15a.m. Please tune in for a lively discussion of the issues of the day between former State Senator Warren Tolman, now of the law firm Holland and Knight, and me.


Friday, November 6, 2009

Analyzing State Budget Cuts

Recently I provided some analysis of Governor Patrick’s budget cuts, undertaken by the authority granted by Chapter 29, Section 9c of the Massachusetts General Laws, to the Newburyport Daily News and the Gloucester Daily Times. Please view the article below:

State to Start Making Cuts to Close Budget Gap


Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Progress on School Buildings

Recently I’ve been working with the Massachusetts School Building Authority and its outstanding Executive Director, Katherine Craven, to advance the progress of several school building projects in our region. They include a new elementary school in Gloucester, rehabilitated high and middle schools in North Reading, and a new or reconstructed elementary school in Georgetown.

Below are some photos from a recent visit by Executive Director Craven to the West Parish School in Gloucester. A related story from the Gloucester Daily Times is below the photos.

Gloucester Times Schools Get Help Seeking Money


Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Groveland Celebrates Harvest Dinner

A great tradition in Groveland is the annual Fall Harvest Dinner, which is sponsored by the Groveland Police Department with the assistance of the Council on Aging and the tremendous food service staff of the Pentucket Middle School.

The dinner is a chance for the town’s seniors to spend some time sharing thoughts, great food and outstanding music provided by George Berube. Most of all, it reminds us all of the importance of community spirit.

Thanks to Chief Kirmelewicz and Sgt. Dwight McDonald and all who make this dinner such a special occasion, and for allowing me to be a part of it. Joining me at the dinner were selectmen Betty Gorski and Don Greaney. Below are two photos from the event, including a group portrait.