Thursday, July 29, 2010
Today’s signature by the Governor culminates months of intense work by courageous family members who have turned loss, hardship and suffering into a law that will save and transform lives. We have been led by the indomitable spirit of 4-year-old Jackson Altieri to a new place in the history of Massachusetts, one in which our organ donation laws are stronger and the chances that a child will be lost waiting for a transplant are less than ever before.
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.
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”.
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 To address these concerns, the bill repurposes and revitalizes an outdated administrative advisory council as the Advisory Council on Organ and Tissue Transplants to develop strategies to increase donation rates and establish a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.
An Act Establishing an Organ and Tissue Donor Registration Fund (S.2515) was co-sponsored by Senator Thomas McGee (D-Lynn), Representative Ann-Margaret Ferrante (D-Gloucester), and has received strong support from the family members of pediatric organ recipient Jackson Altieri, the Nicastro family, Senators James Timilty (D-Walpole) and Steven Panagiotakos (D-Lowell), former Representative Anthony Verga (D-Gloucester), and the New England Organ Bank.
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).
Below is a copy of the signed bill.
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
Today I spoke with reporter Jonathan Elias of WBZ-TV Channel 4 to discuss the growing list of bills languishing in the last days of this legislative session. Please tune in to tonight’s news broadcast on WBZ-TV Channel 4 to see the interview.
Thursday, July 22, 2010
While the U.S. Constitution clearly establishes the procedure for making such a change, the proponents of H.4156 are seeking to circumvent that process by securing an agreement (compact) among several states to cast their Electoral College votes according to the national popular vote for president. This could well result in the members of the Electoral College (electors) representing Massachusetts being forced to cast their votes for someone other than the candidate that the majority of Massachusetts voters actually voted for. Among other problems with this bill are:
The proposed compact has no mechanism for a nationwide recount, and given the disjointed nature of the compact, states may have a perverse incentive NOT to recount a close vote if their preferred candidate is currently winning.
States can withdraw from the compact as late as July 20 of the election year, meaning that three months before the election occurs, individual states or groups of states can completely change the method by which we elect a president.
The bill does nothing to change the primary system, meaning under its provisions the country would select two candidates with a state-by-state method and then pick between them with a totally different system.
The compact, pursuant to Article 1, Section 10 of the United States Constitution, requires the consent of Congress, making the attempt by this legislation to circumvent the constitutional amendment process ultimately futile.
Because of legal standing issues, any court challenge to this compact can only occur when someone is harmed – in other words, once the compact has affected an election. The Supreme Court will then have to hear this case directly following the contested election. This could lead to chaos similar to that which occurred in the case of Bush v. Gore.
An editorial published in the Salem Evening News and the Newburyport Daily News highlights the problems with this legislation. You can read it in the posting below. The actual votes of Senators on this bill can be viewed by clicking on “Read more.”
Newburyport News Don't Shut Down the Electoral System
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
GloucesterDailyTimes Brown Vows Hearings on NOAA Legals
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
Friday, July 16, 2010
On Monday, July 19th 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. Please tune in to watch what is certain to be a lively discussion.
Clearly these actions demand correction, and my office authored a letter which I co-sponsored with Representative Ann-Margaret Ferrante, Speaker DeLeo and Senate President Murray to seek corrective action from our federal legislative delegation. The letter is posted in the “Read more” below.
July 15, 2010
Given your interest in our Commonwealth’s commercial fishing industry and the many highly publicized instances of wrongdoing and improper acts by those in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) charged with enforcing fisheries regulations, you may be aware of recent revelations by the Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Commerce that fisheries enforcement officials have systematically and egregiously abused the asset forfeiture process. We are writing to seek your action to deal with this situation and provide redress for the fishing families of Massachusetts and New England.
You may know that fines assessed by NOAA against fishermen who violate federal fisheries laws or regulations, as well as other related forfeitures, go into an Asset Forfeiture Fund for use by NOAA. Federal law sets out the conditions under which the Fund’s money may be used by the Administration, limiting it to “expenses directly related to investigations and civil or criminal enforcement proceedings, including any necessary expenses for equipment, training, travel, witnesses, and contracting services directly related to such investigations or proceedings”. This fund is used by both the Office for Law Enforcement (OLE) and the Office of General Counsel for Enforcement and Litigation (GCEL). GCEL appears to be virtually entirely funded through this fund. Fishermen from the Northeast were disproportionately affected by these fines, being assessed at a rate up to five times higher than other regions.
On July 1, the Inspector General for the Department of Commerce released a report examining the finances of the asset forfeiture fund. After a forensic review of the fund by the accounting firm KPMG, the report shows a shocking failure to account for withdrawals from the fund or to limit expenditures from the fund.
The review’s conclusions fall into three main categories. First, NOAA has no definition of what the Fund is or how much money is in it, providing three different definitions to the Inspector General and finally conceding that the Fund is more of an “abstract concept” than a delineated account. Although OLE had previously stated they believed the balance of the Fund to be roughly $8.4 million, KPMG’s review reveals the Fund’s current balance to be over $47 million, with approximately $96 million taken in over the past five years. This difference of an order of magnitude is a disturbing indication that NOAA is either deliberately uncooperative or completely unaware of the scope of the Fund.
Second, NOAA maintains extremely substandard documentation of its expenses from the Fund. Given NOAA’s treatment of the Fund as an “abstract concept,” perhaps this is not surprising. But the IG’s report finds an opaque system in which fully 62% of documents selected for review lacked required supporting documentation, and 27% lacked any record of approval. There is no standardization of the documentation process over different regions, there is no oversight of the Fund within NOAA, and at least 4,000 instances were found where transactions appeared to have been split into two to avoid single purchase limits, in violation of federal law.
Specifically with respect to the Northeast, even though the Magnuson-Stevens Act requires that fines for violations of the Northeast Multispecies Fishery Management Plan be used to enforce that Plan, NOAA has no system in place for segregating or accounting for those fines.
Finally, the Inspector General’s report reveals a shocking number of abuses of the AFF to pay for expenses far beyond the scope permitted by statute. As referenced above, AFF funds should only be used for expenses directly related to investigations and enforcement proceedings. However, KPMG’s investigation showed that AFF funds were used for virtually all of GCEL’s expenses, and a large number of OLE expenses that clearly do not fall within this category.
To address this injustice, we believe that Congress should act to compensate fishermen who were the subject of these unnecessary enforcement actions. Specifically, we believe that the $96 million that KPMG estimates constitutes the balance of the asset forfeiture fund should be withheld from NOAA’s annual appropriation, and that Congress should establish a Fishermen’s Compensation Fund, made up of the money withheld from NOAA, to repay those individuals against whom NOAA levied fines over the appropriate period of time. We understand that the Commerce/Justice/Science appropriation bill is currently under consideration by the relevant House and Senate appropriations subcommittees, and ask that you support an amendment containing these proposals either in the committee process or during further House and Senate deliberations.
There is, unfortunately, no easy solution that will wipe away years of inappropriate actions by NOAA. But the sooner action is taken to make whole those who have borne the brunt of an agency’s excessive use of its enforcement power, the sooner the fishing industry, which has supported New England families for hundreds of years and is one of the defining pieces of the culture of Massachusetts, can move forward.
Thank you for your consideration of this request, and please do not hesitate to contact us if we may be of any further assistance.
Speaker of the House
1) The number of resort casinos it authorizes could well lead to market saturation.
2) It authorizes new forms of spending, rather than directing new gaming revenues to existing commitments such as local aid and the stabilization fund.
3) It creates a massive new bureaucracy around the regulation of gaming.
I did offer several amendments to address these issues, but most were rejected along with those offered by many members of the Senate. You can read summaries of them and view the actual vote taken on the bill (S. 2530) by clicking “Read more” below.
Clerk 117.1: Ensures that all people working either at a casino or in the construction of a casino are legally authorized to work in the United States. This amendment was adopted by a voice vote.
Clerk 123: Allows an exemption to anti-gambling laws for bona fide coin-operated amusement machines.
Clerk 125: Strikes the designation of the gaming board and commission as an independent authority, bringing them within the executive branch.
Clerk 127: Combines the duplicative gaming control board and gaming commission into one entity.
Clerk 128: Disqualifies any person convicted of a felony from being employed by the gaming control board. This amendment was adopted by a voice vote.
Clerk 131: Sends all gaming revenue to three destinations: 10% to the gaming mitigation trust fund, 45% to the stabilization fund, and 45% to local aid.
Clerk 132: Requires the governor to remove any gaming commissioner or board member if they commit malfeasance, are unable to discharge their duties, are convicted of a felony, or neglect their duties.
Clerk 134: Requires that all commissioners be residents of Massachusetts at the time of appointment. This amendment failed on a 14 to 25 roll call vote.
Clerk 135: Strikes a requirement that board members make a salary equal to the secretary of administration and finance, and allows them to receive a salary not more than the secretary.
Monday, July 12, 2010
Friday, July 9, 2010
On Monday, July 12th 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 and co-anchor Bob Ward. Please tune in to watch our discussion.
I am pleased to provide you with an update detailing current activities and progress on the project, and some photos of the project. Particularly noteworthy in the MassDOT's report is the information relative to the construction schedule continuing to include Saturdays and Sundays.
Please click “Read more” to review the Massachusetts Department of Transportation’s most recent update.
Newly completed bridge deck and median barrier shortly before all travel lanes were reopened.
Ongoing substructure repairs at the base of existing piers.
Project Bridge Preservation: Route 128 over the Annisquam River
Status 82% complete
Description The work involves the removal and replacement of the wearing surface of the bridge deck along with rehabilitation of the superstructure and portions of the substructure on Bridge No. G-05-017 carrying Route 128 over the Annisquam River in Gloucester. The project also included replacement of the sidewalks along with significant structural repairs and painting portions of the superstructure. A new wearing surface has been placed on the bridge along with a new median barrier. The existing bridge railing was refurbished and a suicide deterrent safety screen erected along the sidewalk. SPS New England, Inc. is completing the work.
Current Project Status – All travel lanes were reopened to traffic during the last week in May, prior to the Memorial Day weekend. Prior to reopening all of the lanes, the new concrete deck overlay was sealed and diamond ground to a smooth riding profile with transverse grooves added to ensure a safe ride. New thermoplastic pavement markings were also installed. There will be continuing temporary lane closures on weekdays to facilitate ongoing work on the underside of the structure. The Contractor is currently working on masonry repairs/rehabilitation and structural steel repairs below the bridge. The Contractor is also cleaning and painting the structural steel. The Contractor will continue to work Saturdays and Sundays, as needed, as well as extended hours during the week to remain within the approved schedule of operations.
Note: Additional project information and history can be found by visiting MassDOT’s website at: http://www.massdot.state.ma.us and clicking on the Projects tab, then selecting “Current Road and Bridge Projects” and after entering the City of Gloucester, select Project No. 604797.
Wednesday, July 7, 2010
Gloucester Daily Times Organ Donation Bill
Cape Ann Beacon Organ Donation Bill
Tuesday, July 6, 2010
Friday, July 2, 2010
Lastly, my hope is that each of us will be reminded on this Independence Day weekend of the unyielding spirit of those who founded our country and put forth the Declaration of Independence. May we remain as committed to each other today as they were when they pledged to each other “our Lives, our Fortunes and our Sacred Honor.”
Thursday, July 1, 2010
Below are some photos from the event: