Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Recognition from Common Cause

Recently Common Cause Massachusetts presented me with a Legislative Achievement Award for my work on the 2009 Ethics and Campaign Finance Reform Law.

I am honored to receive this award from Common Cause; reforming our ethics laws is a major priority, and the legislation we developed and passed significantly responds to that priority. The new law reflects a bipartisan effort to move in the right direction.

I served as a member of the six-legislator conference committee that authored the final version of the ethics law, and have been a consistent and strong advocate of reforms to increase transparency and accountability in state government.

Pamela Wilmot, the Executive Director of Common Cause said, “Common Cause is pleased to recognize Senator Tarr and all the members of the conference committee that worked so hard on the 2009 Ethics, Lobbying, and Campaign Finance Reform Law. This legislation was a tremendous accomplishment and the most comprehensive reform in decades. We thank Senator Tarr and the other conferees for their work on this important reform.”

Common Cause is a non-partisan, non-profit organization that works to ensure an open and accountable federal, state, and local government. The organization works to ensure that officials serve the public interest openly and honestly. Common Cause has advocated in establishing a state ethics commission as well as an inspector general’s office. They have been essential in opening the state legislature to televised broadcasts, preventing the elimination of state watchdog groups, and protecting citizen ballot initiatives. Common Cause has also been instrumental in reforms in the campaign finance laws as well as redistricting procedures.


Friday, June 25, 2010

State House to Honor U.S. Army Community Covenant Program

State Representative Bradford Hill and I are hosting an event honoring the United States Army Community Covenant Program at the State House on Monday, June 28th at 1:00pm. Recently a Joint Resolution was passed by the House of Representatives and the State Senate that expresses support for this program and will be presented to several representatives of the U.S. Army in front of the Grand Staircase.

The United States Army Community Covenant Program establishes a community-based partnership with a municipality and serves to recognize support for local troops and their families as well as the sacrifices demonstrated by them. In return, local soldiers have proven their support for these communities by assisting with neighborhood programs, schools, organizations, parades, flag raisings and other volunteer based services. Thus far many communities have entered into these covenants, including Billerica, Salem, Ipswich, Lowell and Peabody.

United States Army Participants:
Major General James C. McConville, Chief Legislative Liaison
Captain Glenn C. Cardozo, Jr., Company Commander, U.S. Army Recruiting Company
Rob Soeldner, Massachusetts Civilian Aide to the Secretary of the Army

• When: Monday, June 28th from 1:00-3:00pm

• Where: Grand Staircase, Massachusetts State House

This is a public event and all are welcome to attend. Light refreshments will be served at the conclusion of the program.


Thursday, June 24, 2010

Senate Passes Pediatric and Adult Organ Donation Bill

Yesterday the State Senate unanimously passed organ donation legislation that I developed in collaboration with local families committed to making a difference for those in need of transplants. With the co-sponsorship of Senator Thomas McGee (D-Lynn), Representative Ann-Margaret Ferrante (D-Gloucester), and family members of pediatric organ recipient Jackson Altieri, and the assistance of Senators James Timilty (D-Walpole) and Steven Panagiotakos (D-Lowell), former Representative Anthony Verga (D-Gloucester), and the New England Organ Bank, I drafted this legislation and brought it to the Senate floor for a 37-0 vote.

The passage of this bill by the Senate reflects the tireless efforts of Jackson’s parents and grandparents to increase the odds that no child’s life will hang in the balance of a protracted wait for a donated organ. Their commitment to making a difference is exemplary.

Nationwide, there is a serious deficiency of organs available for donation. As of June 21, 2010, more than 108,000 people were in need of an organ, according to the United States Department of Health and Human Services, with less than 7,000 transplants performed in a preceding three-month period. Massachusetts is an unfortunate laggard in organ donation rates; while some states have organ donation rates over 70 percent, Massachusetts is below 40 percent. This bill would take several steps to increase adult donor rates, including:

 Establish a means to register as an organ donor when renewing a registration or license online.

 Includes an option to become an organ donor on all registration renewals mailed out by the Registry of Motor Vehicles.

 Adds on license and registration renewal forms an optional donation of no less than two dollars to the Organ and Tissue Donor Registration Fund.

Richard S. Luskin, President and CEO of New England Organ Bank said, “The passage of this bill would be an important step forward in our shared goal of ending deaths on the transplant waitlist. Over 300 New Englanders died on the waitlist last year alone and that is unacceptable. This legislation allows for new and simple ways for individuals to designate themselves as donors so that their wish to donate may be honored and that more lives be saved.”

The bill stems from the work of Jackson’s parents and grandparents to improve the odds for children who need donated organs to survive. Jackson’s story, in conjunction with that of fellow Gloucester resident J.J. Nicastro, brought together the Cape Ann community and raised statewide awareness of the need for Massachusetts to do better in terms of pediatric organ donations.

While Jackson is now doing well, J.J. was not as fortunate. Living from day to day through the use of an artificial heart, he succumbed to the effects of myocarditis before a heart became available for transplant.

In 2007, the Cape Ann community mobilized to support both of these boys with blood drives, get well cards, charitable fundraising and a benefit concert at Gloucester High School’s Newell Stadium, known as the “Concert from the Heart”.

"Our family will be forever grateful to Senator Tarr, Rep Verga , Rep Ferrante and their staffs for making this life saving bill closer to becoming a reality,” said Fran Aliberte, Jackson’s grandfather.

Pediatric organ donation rates are particularly difficult to raise, both because parents are uncomfortable confronting the possibility of their child’s passing and because no commitment to donate a minor’s organs is legally binding. To address these concerns, the bill repurposes and revitalizes an outdated administrative advisory council as the Advisory Council on Organ and Tissue Transplants to develop strategies to increase donation rates and establish a website within the Department of Public Health to raise awareness of the need for organ donors, with a special focus on increasing pediatric donation rates. The council would also be responsible for setting concrete goals and baselines for pediatric and adult organ donation rates in Massachusetts.

The bill now moves back to the House for consideration. We’ve made tremendous progress on this bill throughout the session, and I am optimistic about our opportunity to make it law before the session ends.

The original bill was also co-sponsored by Gloucester City Council President Jacqueline Hardy, U.S. Senator Scott Brown (R-MA), Senators Richard Tisei (R-Wakefield), Michael Knapik (R-Westfield), Robert Hedlund (R-Weymouth), Anthony Galluccio (D-Cambridge), Susan Fargo (D-Lincoln), Karen Spilka (D-Ashland), Steven Tolman (D-Brighton), Robert O’Leary (D-Barnstable), Susan Tucker (D-Andover), Richard Moore (D-Uxbridge), Stephen Brewer (D-Barre), John Hart (D-Boston), and Brian Joyce (D-Milton), and Representatives Katherine Clark (D-Melrose), Mary Grant (D-Beverly), James Vallee (D-Franklin), Cory Atkins (D-Concord), Kay Khan (D-Newton), Bradley Jones (R-North Reading), Peter Kocot (D-Northampton), Theodore Speliotis (D-Danvers), and Christine Canavan (D-Brockton).


Monday, June 21, 2010

Media Alert: Fox 25’s “Monday Morning Quarterbacks” Segment

Today I made a guest appearance on Fox 25’s “Monday Morning Quarterbacks” segment with former Attorney General Scott Harshberger. Scott and I discussed a wide range of topics including the disastrous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, expanded gaming legislation in Massachusetts, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s remarks about a possible federal lawsuit against the State of Arizona’s illegal immigration legislation, and the current economic distress of the state’s budget. To see the entire segment please click here.


Friday, June 18, 2010

Media Alert: On the Air with Fox 25

On Monday, June 21st at approximately 7:15am I’ll be analyzing four of the top State and Federal issues from this week on the Fox 25 Morning News Segment “Monday Morning Quarterbacks” with former Attorney General Scott Harshberger.


An Interview with WBZ TV

Yesterday I spoke with WBZ TV’s Jonathan Elias about the importance of working on Bunker Hill Day. Please click here to view the story


Thursday, June 17, 2010

Media Alert: Interview with Channel 4 News

Today a WBZ TV (channel 4) news team was scouring the State House in search of legislators working in their offices despite the fact that the day is a holiday exclusive to Suffolk County, “Bunker Hill Day”. Since I am on the job today I had a chance to discuss the issue with WBZ’s Jonathan Elias.

The interview provided me with an opportunity to discuss the unfairness of a holiday that applies to only a select group of people, and the ongoing efforts of Senate Republicans to remedy that unfairness.

Please tune in to WBZ TV Channel 4 for tonight’s 6:00pm newscast to see the interview. Please click here to view a recent report by WBZ TV regarding the issue.


Wednesday, June 16, 2010

A Senior Visit

Yesterday I had the privilege of hosting a visit by a group of distinguished seniors representing the North Andover Senior Center with Senator Baddour and Representatives Torrisi and L’Italien. We had the opportunity to provide our guests with a tour of the State House and to discuss a wide array of issues facing our state during a luncheon in the afternoon. Below are some photos from the day’s activities.


Media Alert: On the Air with Fox 25

On Monday morning at approximately 7:15 am I’ll be analyzing four of the top State and Federal issues from this week on the Fox 25 Morning News Segment “Monday Morning Quarterbacks.”


Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Commemorating Flag Day

The Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks has among its central themes the promotion of patriotism and the American spirit, and Elks lodges throughout the country conduct services commemorating Flag Day and the history of our nation’s flag each year.

Gloucester Lodge 892 is acclaimed for its particularly thorough and moving service, in which I was honored to participate last evening. The ceremonies included the burning of damaged flags to properly retire them, presentations by the Gloucester High School JROTC, inspiring remarks by JROTC instructor and Marine Richard Muth, thoughtful compositions by student essayists, and a pledge of allegiance by Cub Scout Pack 56. I delivered and read a special proclamation from Governor Patrick recognizing Flag Day. Above and below are photos from the ceremonies.


Friday, June 11, 2010

The Spirit of International Competition

From generation to generation Gloucester, MA and Lunenburg, Nova Scotia have produced some of the finest fishermen the world has ever seen, which is why in 1951 it was only natural that these two maritime communities joined together in a friendly rivalry to challenge each other’s seafaring skills in what is now know as the International Dory Races.

Each year in the Spring Canadian rowers are hosted in a competition in Gloucester and in the fall Gloucester rowers venture to Canada for a competition in Lunenburg. This year the Gloucester competition will occur on the weekend of June 19th.

The day’s events will kick off on Saturday, June 19th with a pancake breakfast at 8:00 am at the Gordon Thomas Park at the head of the harbor. The breakfast is open to the public for a modest charge with all proceeds going to the organization that keeps this time honored tradition afloat.

Jim Tarantino and the entire team at the International Dory Races committee always do an exceptional job at this event and Brent “Ringo” Tarr ensures that the breakfast is a tremendous success.

After the breakfast and at approximately 10:00am the races between Gloucester and Lunenburg will commence. Some of the featured races will include mixed doubles, juniors, over 40 and seniors. Once the races are finished and the winners are recorded, there will be an awards banquet at 1:00pm to congratulate all of this year’s fine competitors for what will surely be another exciting day of close races.

Please join us in honoring this great tradition of sportsmanship and friendly competition. The day will write another chapter in the long and lustrous tradition of the nation’s oldest seaport, and you can be a part of it. For more information please click here to go to the International Dory Races official website.


Thursday, June 10, 2010

Recognizing Environmental Leadership

The Toxics Use Reduction Institute is based at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell, and works with Massachusetts companies and communities to identify and promote the use of alternatives to toxic chemicals and to improve efficiency in the use of water and energy.

Since 1989 TURI has worked to develop strong partnerships with businesses of all sizes, and recognizes their accomplishments with awards. This year two such companies in our area, Analog Devices of Wilmington and A.W. Chesterton Company of Groveland received awards, and I was pleased to join in recognizing their environmental leadership at a State House ceremony yesterday.

A.W. Chesterton employs 580 people in the Commonwealth, and produces industrial fluid sealing devices, such as mechanical seals. The company was honored this year as a “TURA 20th Anniversary Leader” for switching from chlorinated solvents to water-based cleaners. I am pictured with A.W. Chesterton members and Liz Harriman from TURI:

Analog Devices is a leading manufacturer of high performance integrated circuits used in analog and digital signal processing. The company is headquartered in Norwood, MA and has a major water manufacturing facility in Wilmington. Since 1990 Analog Devices has made significant reductions in chemical use while doubling production. Analog Devices was also recognized as a “TURA 20th Anniversary Leader” and I am pictured below with company officials and Liz Harriman from TURI:


Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Come and Take a Tour of the State House!

I would like to invite all of my constituents to come to the State House for a special free tour of one of the State’s most treasured buildings. Tours are given year round from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm, and last approximately 40 minutes. To reserve a tour please call the tour desk at (617) 727-3676. The State House offers both portraits and historical artifacts of Massachusetts long and storied history.


Monday, June 7, 2010

Considering Gaming Options

Changing the state’s model for gaming to include casinos and/or slot machines at race tracks has been a topic of discussion for years on Beacon Hill. Now legislative actions appear to be moving toward such a change. On April 14th the House of Representatives passed a bill to authorize both new modes of gaming, and you can view that bill by clicking here.

Tomorrow the Senate Ways and Means Committee will hold a public hearing on gaming from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. in Gardner Auditorium. A summary of the current Senate proposal on gaming can be found by clicking “Read more” below.

June 3, 2010


The working draft of Senate gaming legislation is based on topics addressed by members during six roundtable Senate discussions held during the month of May. The draft will be up for discussion at the Senate Ways and Means public hearing on Tuesday in Gardner Auditorium to solicit additional information and feedback, and further policy deliberation. The draft does not represent the final bill to be released from the Senate Ways and Means Committee. This document is a summary of the current Senate draft bill:

Principles of Bringing Gaming to the Commonwealth:
1) Create new jobs both in the gaming industry and in related activities of construction, entertainment, restaurants, and hotels through a competitive bid process for gaming licenses;
2) Diversify our economy and grow new industries in different regions of the Commonwealth;
3) Recoup lost revenue from Massachusetts residents who pursue gaming in other states and countries, and reinvest the funds in a manner that is sustainable and fiscally responsible for the long-term economic growth of the Commonwealth;
4) Institute strong, transparent gaming oversight to ensure fairness for consumers and accountability for all gaming facilities;
5.) Comprehensively address the negative social, community, and criminal impacts of expanded gaming in the Commonwealth; and
6.) Ensure that any future Native American site operates under the same conditions as all other facilities, including the collection of revenue by the Commonwealth.

Determining licenses:
The bill establishes three licenses for resort casinos in Massachusetts, to be distributed by region (East, Southeast and Western Massachusetts). The bill does not designate any licenses for racetracks or former racetracks, though any qualified bidder may apply for a casino license. Two of the licenses would be competitively bid, and the third would be designated for a qualified Native American tribe.
An applicant must show its financial viability through a rigorous financial disclosure process. It must also execute agreements with the prospective host community and surrounding communities that will be impacted by the development and operation of a casino.

The agreements will include the provision of a community impact fee and plans for a referendum vote in host community. The bill offers no guarantees of casinos in any region. Proposals would first be evaluated to show their fiscal soundness and benefit to the Commonwealth.

If multiple projects in a region met the Board's requirements, the license would be awarded through an auction. The bill requires the commission to consider geographic separation as a factor when determining the economic benefit of a new facility.
Native American Gaming:
The legislation would designate a license for a qualified Native American tribe. Any tribe receiving the designated license would have to enter into a contract with the Commonwealth regarding the conduct of gambling on the tribal lands. The tribe would then be subject to the same conditions as any other casino license holder, including those related to revenue.
Gaming would be regulated by a bifurcated agency modeled on the State of Nevada's system. A policy-making gaming commission would be the final authority on all licensing matters and serve as an adjudicatory body, while a gaming control board, with a dedicated state police unit, would be responsible for administering regulations and monitoring the industry.

The board would have broad powers to enforce laws, distribute mitigation funds, monitor the financial activities of gaming facilities and make recommendations to the commission related to licensing and development of regulations.

These entities would be assisted by specialized Advisory Committees, which would be composed of groups of experts on subjects related to gaming and contribute oversight and policy recommendations to the commission.
Revenues/Distribution of Funds
The Senate continues to conduct its independent fiscal analysis of how to maximize revenues from gaming and has not yet determined final figures relating to fees and tax rates.
The plan will likely include a minimum licensing fee and competitive auction if multiple bidders in a region are found to be qualified. Licensees would also be required to make a minimum initial investment and pay a tax on gross gaming revenue.
The Senate is actively seeking feedback on the optimal fees, taxes and investment for casinos. Our goal is to ensure a rate that maximizes the Commonwealth's revenue from gaming, while ensuring that the casinos are not taxed to the point of instability.
The Senate's spending priorities with revenues generated from gaming are:
1. Direct impacts from gaming (such as the regulatory body created to oversee gaming and law enforcement expenses);
2. Indirect impacts from gaming (such as community mitigation and addiction services);
3. Offsetting any lost Lottery revenues for cities and towns; and
4. Contributions to the stabilization fund.
Criminal and Law Enforcement:
A specialized State Police Unit, reimbursed by the board through assessments paid by the casino operators, would have exclusive jurisdiction over gaming facilities.
The Unit would have to execute a memo of understanding with the applicable local police department regarding the local police department's role in enforcement on gaming facilities. Gaming-related crimes would be prosecuted by a division of gaming enforcement within the Attorney General's Office.
The bill creates new crimes of unlicensed gaming, money laundering, enterprise crime, swindling casinos and related offenses (such as unlicensed devices, age restrictions, unlawful manufacture of devices).
The board would be responsible for maintaining both a general exclusion list and a "self-exclusion list." The general exclusion list would consist of individuals whose presence in casinos the board feels would pose a threat to the well-being of the casino or Commonwealth (such as those who have been convicted of crimes relating to gaming).
The self-exclusion list would allow those who struggle with problem gaming to limit their access to casinos. Concerned family members, law enforcement or medical professionals could also petition to put individuals on the exclusion list.
Community Mitigation:

The bill would consider both initial mitigation expenses (such as the creation of new infrastructure) and ongoing expenses associated with casinos. The Gaming Control Board would be responsible for administering community mitigation.


Thursday, June 3, 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 recent issues addressed during the Senate budget. Please click here to view my lively discussion with Warren Tolman.


Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Media Alert: On the Air with Fox25

Tomorrow morning I’ll once again be analyzing political issues with former State Senator Warren Tolman on the Fox 25 Morning News Segment “Tolman and Gray”. Topics we are likely to discuss are the Senate’s actions on budget amendments dealing with the enforcement of illegal immigration laws and the elimination of Suffolk County holidays and the ongoing issues surrounding the approval of a new contract between the City of Boston and Fire Fighters Local Union 718. Please join us on Fox 25 at approximately 7:15-7:20 a.m.


Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Media Alert: "On the Record" with Greta Van Susteren

Tonight I will be featured on the Fox National News Channel’s "On the Record" with Greta Van Susteren to discuss with her and her audience a recent budget amendment regarding the enforcement of federal illegal immigration laws that I and my colleagues in the Senate passed into the Senate’s version of the pending FY’11 state budget. Please tune in tonight at 10:00pm to see the segment.