Thursday, May 27, 2010

Illegal Immigration Amendment Passes

Last night, during Senate budget debate on an amendment I had offered with several colleagues to address prohibiting various benefits for illegal immigrants, I called for a comprehensive approach to this issue. The Senate responded in a bipartisan effort that included Senate Minority Leader Richard Tisei, Senate Ways and Means Chairman Steven Panagiotakos, Senator Steven Baddour, Senate President Therese Murray, and me.

Together, we worked into the early hours of this morning to draft legislation that addresses many facets of this issue, but with a single purpose: maintaining the integrity of our legal system and respecting those who reside in our country legally.

This afternoon, the Senate approved this amendment, largely based on the language of amendments I have offered during past budget debates, by a vote of 28-10.

You can also view coverage of the amendment by New England Cable News by clicking here.

Since the bill does encompass many provisions, you can view a summary of those provisions by clicking "Read more" below.

Immigration Amendment Summary


Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Media Alert: Recent Appearance on NECN’s “Broadside”

Yesterday I made a guest appearance on NECN’s “Broadside” with Jim Braude to discuss the impact of the Globe’s Spotlight series regarding patronage jobs within the Probation Department alongside political analyst Michael Goldman and the editor of Commonwealth Magazine, Bruce Mohl. Please click here to view our lively discussion.


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Media Alert: "Broadside" With Jim Braude

Please tune in to “Broadside” tonight at 6:00pm on New England Cable News (NECN). I’ll be discussing the impact of the Boston Globe’s Spotlight series regarding patronage jobs within the Probation Department with host Jim Braude and political consultant Michael Goldman.


Monday, May 24, 2010

722 Budget Amendments Now Pending

Senators spent considerable time last week analyzing the budget proposal released by the Senate Committee on Ways and Means and drafting amendments to modify that proposal. The filing deadline for those amendments was 12:00 noon last Friday. By the deadline 722 amendments were filed. While many of them seek to add spending to a budget that is already tenuously balanced, others offer the hope of substantial reform and the opportunity to capture efficiencies and savings in a time when doing so is at a premium.

You can view all of the amendments at or by clicking here. Debate on the budget in the Senate Chamber begins on Wednesday, and can be viewed in person in the public gallery of the chamber, via the web at, or by clicking here.

This is a significant debate for the future of our Commonwealth, and I encourage you to follow it and make your views known to us.


Friday, May 21, 2010

Writing the State’s Budget

This week the Senate Committee on Ways and Means released its proposed budget for the coming fiscal year, Fiscal Year 2011. The budget is now pending before the Senate for floor debate next week. You can view it in its entirety by clicking here. This budget proposal is commendable because it contains no new broad-based taxes, and because it does not rely on a withdrawal from the stabilization fund, which contains a perilously low amount.

Unfortunately, the budget proposal does depend on a number of one-time revenue sources to be balanced, and this is unsustainable in future years. The deadline for filing amendments to the budget was 12:00 noon today, and I and my colleagues have filed hundreds of amendments. Many of those that I have authored and am co-sponsoring seek to capture savings and enact reforms that are a necessity to achieve fiscal discipline and avoid budgetary problems now and in the future.


Friday, May 14, 2010

Controlling Health Care Costs

Today the Senate Ways and Means Committee, of which I am a member, released S. 2437, “An Act To Promote Cost Containment, Transparency and Efficiency in the Provision of Quality Health Insurance for Individuals and Small Businesses”, setting the stage for the bill to be debated on Tuesday by the full Senate. I have worked collaboratively with Senate President Murray and Senator Richard Moore, the Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing, to develop this bill to control the costs of health insurance for individuals and small businesses.

Rather than the unrealistic approach of preventing insurers from charging premium increases above an arbitrary limit, this bill contains provisions that will engage insurers and health care providers such as hospitals in aggressive efforts to control health care costs and premium charges.

A detailed summary of S. 2437 is posted below. Please click here to view the actual language of bill.

S.2437 Small Business Health Care


Thursday, May 13, 2010

Media Alert: Today's Appearance on Fox 25's "Tolman and Gray" Segment

Today I made a guest appearance on Fox 25’s “Tolman and Gray” segment to discuss the results of the latest Rasmussen Poll regarding the gubernatorial race. Please click here to view my lively discussion with Warren Tolman and Gene Lavanchy.


Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Media Alert: On the Air with Fox25

Tomorrow morning I’ll be once again analyzing political issues with former State Senator Warren Tolman on the Fox 25 Morning News Segment “Tolman and Gray”. Please join us on Fox 25 at approximately 7:15-7:20 a.m.


Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Municipal Relief Takes Center Stage

Among the most important priorities that the legislature should address in this session is the provision of tools and mechanisms for cities and towns to streamline operations, capture savings and reduce costs. This week the Senate will act on this priority. On Monday, the Senate Committee on Ways and Means released S. 2424, “An Act Relative to Municipal Relief”. You can read a summary of this bill by clicking here.

While the bill does have some valuable components, it does not go far enough to assist cities and towns in these extremely challenging fiscal times. Therefore I will offer or co-sponsor several amendments to give communities even more potent ways to save money and reduce or control tax burdens. They include:

- GIC Local Alternatives. Allows municipalities to offer any health plans with costs no higher than the most expensive Group Insurance Commission plan without collectively bargaining.

- GIC Discretion. Allows municipalities to join the GIC without union sign-off.

- Municipal economic development. Requires the Secretary of Housing and Economic Development to develop a plan to help municipalities facilitate economic development.

- Community Preservation Act. Allows municipalities that have accepted the Community Preservation Act to provide a $100,000 commercial property tax exemption to mirror the residential exemption.

- Municipal Gas Tax. Eliminates the tax on fuel bought and used for municipal government purposes. Rejected.

- Privatization limit increase. Exempts projects under $5 million from the Pacheco Law.

- Increasing SPED reimbursement. Orders the Office of Medicaid to start billing CMS at a higher rate of reimbursement for SPED services, potentially resulting in over $50 million more a year.

- Energy efficiency betterments. Allows municipalities to enter into betterment agreements with property owners for renewable energy projects.

- Municipal building low-interest loans. Directs MDFA to prepare legislative recommendations for a low-interest loan program for the construction of municipal buildings such as police and fire stations.

Debate on this bill is scheduled for Thursday. I’ll try to post information on the bill again after debate concludes.


Thursday, May 6, 2010

Striding with Pride

Each spring citizens of Gloucester come together with strength and in unity to support local organizations in a fundraising walk known as the “Pride Stride”. A tremendous team organizes and conducts this effort, and has produced success year after year. I have been honored to work with them to provide a water and refreshment stop for the hundreds of walkers who participate in the Pride Stride.

This year our water stop team was led by Anthony and Joanne Marks and Troy Petrillo with assistance from Pauline Santapaola and Ron Woodard. We provided refreshments from a great spot on the Boulevard, and were proud to be a part of this tradition.

Thanks to everyone who contributed to a terrific Pride Stride 2010!

Below are a few pictures of activities at our water stop. You can learn more about the Pride Stride by clicking here.


Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Building Rail Infrastructure

On Monday I had the opportunity to join with a host of State and Federal officials to break ground for the $17.4 million Haverhill Commuter Rail Project, which is being funded through the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act. The project will include the installation of a second track and improve signalization on the Haverhill/Reading Line of the MBTA Commuter Rail System. The line runs north from downtown Boston through Malden, Melrose, Wakefield, Reading, Wilmington, Andover, Lawrence, North Andover and Haverhill.

Below I am pictured at the groundbreaking with MBCR Chief Engineering Officer Robert Johnson, MBTA General Manager Richard Davey, Massachusetts Director of Infrastructure Investment Jeffrey Simon, Senator Steven Baddour (& his daughter Victoria), Congresswoman Niki Tsongas, Representative Barry Finegold, Representative Barbara L’Italien, and MassDOT Transportation Secretary Jeffrey Mullan.

Please click on “Read more” to read a press release with details of the event and the project.

For Immediate Release

Monday, May 3, 2010

Patrick-Murray Administration, Congressman Niki Tsongas Kick Off $17.4 million Haverhill Rail Improvement ARRA Project

New Construction Jobs Created Through Stimulus Funding

ANDOVER - As part of the Patrick-Murray Administration's Massachusetts Recovery Plan to support economic development by strengthening public transit and rail service, Congresswoman Niki Tsongas joined MassDOT Secretary and CEO Jeffrey Mullan today to announce the groundbreaking of the $17.4 million Haverhill Commuter Rail Project funded by the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA). The project complements a $50 million ARRA-funded double-tracking and rail improvement project on the Fitchburg commuter rail line.

"We have made it a priority to invest in maintenance and repair projects like this one that will improve the experience for commuter rail and transit riders throughout the Commonwealth," said Governor Patrick.

"Our administration is committed to improving our rail infrastructure and commuter rail customer service," said Lieutenant Governor Timothy Murray. "Thanks to the support of our congressional delegation and the Recovery Act funds, we will strengthen commuter rail service along the Haverhill line, offering more service for residents as well as economic and community development in the region." ‪

"These Recovery Act funds will create jobs by improving our public transportation infrastructure and decreasing commute times for residents along the Haverhill line," said Congresswoman Niki Tsongas. "This is an excellent investment and I want to thank Governor Patrick and Lt. Governor Murray for their continued efforts to derive the broadest benefit for the Commonwealth from these federal funds."

"This project will greatly improve the reliability of the Haverhill Commuter Rail Line and provide riders with much better on - time performance in their daily commutes, " said Mary Beth Mello, FTA Deputy Regional Administrator.

The ARRA project will improve reliability and service for Haverhill commuter rail line customers with the installation of a double-track along the Haverhill line and improvements to the train control systems that have affected on-time performance. It has already resulted in the hiring of twelve new construction jobs to help complete the required work.

The double-track will allow trains to use a new second track to maneuver around disabled trains and maintain service near scheduled levels. New signal systems and track circuits will enhance system reliability and safety for passengers and at crossing through neighboring cities and towns.

"Access to the commuter rail is one of Haverhill's strongest assets", said Senator Steven A. Baddour (D-Methuen). "Double tracking the line has been one of my highest priorities as Senate Chairman of the Joint Committee on Transportation. This enhancement will certainly improve service between Haverhill and Boston and will better serve the many families and commuters who rely on public transportation."

"Adding a second track between Lawrence and Andover is a huge win for Merrimack Valley commuters and businesses. This will greatly improve commuter rail service, making it a more reliable, efficient, and attractive way to travel between the Merrimack Valley and Boston," stated Senator Sue Tucker.

"Safe and efficient rail infrastructure is important for the economic future of our region and our state. This project is an investment in that future," said Senator Bruce Tarr.

"Residents in the area have requested more train service," said Representative Barry Finegold (D-Andover). "This funding will help make this a reality."

"This stimulus funding will address the critical need to enhance the safety and reliability of the Haverhill line for those commuters to depend on this service daily. Projects like these are essential to repairing vital infrastructure that will create jobs and boost the economy" said Representative Brian S. Dempsey.

"MassDOT's mission is to strengthen safety and customer service and this project will do both for commuter rail customers along the Haverhill line," said Secretary Mullan.

"This project is a huge investment to improve service for customers while at the same time put people to work," said MBTA General Manager Richard A. Davey. "Congratulations to the new hires."

The Haverhill/Reading Line runs north from downtown Boston through the cities and towns of Malden, Melrose, Wakefield, Reading, Wilmington, Andover, Lawrence, North Andover, and Haverhill. Completion of the double-track work is slated for December 2010, with the signal project to begin in 2011.

For MBTA news and updates visit

For transportation news and updates visit MassDOT at our website:; blog; or follow us on twitter at