Thursday, July 29, 2010

Jackson’s Bill Now Law

Major legislation to increase organ donation in Massachusetts was signed into law today by Governor Patrick. Known as “Jackson’s Bill”, I authored the legislation in collaboration with the family of 4 year old pediatric organ transplant recipient Jackson Altieri, the New England Organ Bank and others. At the bill signing, Jackson, his mother Nicole Altieri, and grandparents Fran and Rebecca Aliberte were in attendance alongside Tammy Silveira and John Nicastro, J.J. Nicastro’s mother and father.

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.

07292010 Chapter190Actsof2010


Wednesday, July 28, 2010

An Interview With WBZ-TV

Yesterday I had the opportunity to discuss with WBZ-TV’s Jonathan Elias about several pieces of important pending legislation, that has been languishing before the House and Senate for weeks and months and now face expiration on Saturday, July 31st. To view Jonathan’s report please click here.


Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Media Alert: On The Air With WBZ-TV

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

Votes to Note: National Popular Vote (H.4156)

On Thursday, July 15th the Senate debated and voted to engross H.4156, which would seek to create a system where the president of the United States is elected through a national popular vote rather than through the current method of the Electoral College.

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

Doc 001


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Brown Comes to Gloucester, Commits Support to Fishing Industry

Recently U.S. Senator Scott Brown came to Gloucester on a visit that grew out of our continuing dialogue about the commercial fishing industry and his commitment to taking action to ensure its viability. This story in the Gloucester Daily Times chronicles the visit.

GloucesterDailyTimes Brown Vows Hearings on NOAA Legals


Tuesday, July 20, 2010

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

Yesterday I made a guest appearance on Fox 25’s “Monday Morning Quarterbacks” segment with former Attorney General Scott Harshbarger. Scott and I discussed a wide range of topics with host Kim Carrigan, including small business health care concerns, the financial regulation bill moving through Congress and Senator Brown’s role in that legislation, issues involving the national Tea Party movement, and the controversy surrounding President Obama’s vacation in Maine. To see the entire segment please click here.


Friday, July 16, 2010

Media Alert: On the Air With Fox 25

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.


Response to US Inspector General's Review of NOAA Fisheries Enforcement Practices

A recently released report from the U.S. Inspector General for the Department of Commerce has exposed and documented numerous and extensive improper acts by enforcement officials from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in imposing fines on fishing families and misspending the proceeds of those fines. You can read that report by clicking here.

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

Dear Congressman,

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.


Bruce Tarr
State Senator

Therese Murray
Senate President

Ann-Margaret Ferrante
State Representative

Robert DeLeo
Speaker of the House


Votes to Note: Expanded Gaming

On Thursday, July 1, the Senate voted to approve a bill, S. 2530, which would authorize expanded gaming in Massachusetts in the form of three resort-style casinos. Although I believe that capturing gaming revenues now escaping across state borders is important and warranted, I did not support this legislation for a number of reasons, including:

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.

Expanded Gaming


Monday, July 12, 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 exchange of Russian spies for American spies, gubernatorial political ads, President Obama campaigning around the nation, and Lebron James’ recent decision to join the Heat. To see the entire segment please click here.


Friday, July 9, 2010

Media Alert: On the Air With Fox 25

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.


A. Piatt Andrew Bridge Construction Update

Even though the hot days of summer are here and traffic is flowing across all lanes on the A. Piatt Andrew Bridge carrying Route 128 over the Annisquam River, work on the reconstruction of the bridge is continuing at a steady pace.

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.

Municipality Gloucester
Project Bridge Preservation: Route 128 over the Annisquam River
Status 82% complete
Cost $25,500,000
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: 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

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

Yesterday I joined Jim Braude on New England Cable News Network’s “Broadside”. We engaged in a lively discussion about the expansion of gaming in Massachusetts, and the many issues surrounding the future of legislation now pending before a conference committee. I hope that you’ll view the discussion by clicking here.


Reporting on Organ Donation

Recent articles in the Cape Ann Beacon and the Gloucester Daily Times chronicles the progress we’re making in securing the passage of comprehensive legislation (S.2515) designed to strengthen organ donation in Massachusetts. You can view them by clicking the “Read more” section below.

Gloucester Daily Times Organ Donation Bill

Cape Ann Beacon Organ Donation Bill


Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Media Alert: "Broadside" With Jim Braude

Please tune in to “Broadside” tonight at 6:00pm on New England Cable News (NECN), where I’ll be discussing with host Jim Braude expanded gaming here in Massachusetts and what type of compromises might be necessary prior to legislation of this type becoming law. “Broadside” re-airs at 8:00pm and again at 3:30am.


Friday, July 2, 2010

Celebrating the American Spirit

Over the next few days we will celebrate the birth of our great nation and the hope for liberty and justice for all. I hope that each of us will also express our gratitude for those men and women who defend the principles that we share in our armed services.

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

Barbecuing in Boxford

A great annual tradition in the town of Boxford is the outdoor barbecue at the Community Center hosted by the Council on Aging. Director Pam Blaquiere and her dedicated crew provided us all with an enjoyable afternoon of food, camaraderie and music at this year’s event. I was pleased to join with Representatives Hill and L’Italien, Town Administrator Alan Benson and members of the Board of Selectmen in lending a helping hand with the day’s activities.

Below are some photos from the event: