Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Senate GOP Caucus Calls for Judiciary Oversight Hearings to Review OUI Laws

I have joined with my Senate Republican Caucus members in calling for legislative oversight hearings to review the state’s OUI laws, following recent media reports of repeat offenders being granted lenient sentences.

Six years ago, the Massachusetts Legislature passed Melanie’s Law to get repeat drunk drivers off the Commonwealth’s roads. Despite the positive steps forward, a Spotlight Team investigation by the Boston Globe earlier this month found that more than 80 percent of drunk driving defendants in Massachusetts who go before a judge rather than a jury are acquitted of the charges.

In light of these reports, the Caucus has sent a hand-delivered letter to the co-chairs of the Joint Committee on the Judiciary, asking for one or more oversight hearings to be convened to examine the adequacy of the state’s existing laws for dealing with driving while under the influence.

In our letter, the Caucus cites several recent examples of some of the most blatant repeat offenders, including:

• Patrick Henry of Franklin, who was arraigned on November 28th on charges of driving while under the influence of alcohol, the 11th such time he was arrested for this offense;

• Albert Diaz of East Boston, who was arrested on November 23rd and charged with drunk driving for the 8th time, and whose license was revoked in 2004; and

• Howard Stockbridge of Taunton, who was arrested on November 7th for operating under the influence after five prior charges and for driving without a license, which had been suspended in 2008 for 10 years.

Last year, the National Transportation Safety Board singled out Massachusetts as one of ten states doing the least to combat repeat drunken driving offenses.

Our letter notes: “Our failure to keep repeat drunk drivers off the road is being exacerbated by the judiciary’s reluctance to convict those who are charged with the crime of driving while under the influence. We certainly believe strongly that every criminal defendant is entitled to their day in court and the assumption of innocence until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. An acquittal rate of 80 per cent for bench trials of those accused with driving while under the influence, however, is cause for deep and persistent concern, especially in light of the conviction rate in other states. Unfortunately, this leniency puts Massachusetts in the unenviable position of earning recognition for such a lenient rate, and more seriously, puts the public at a greater risk of danger.”

Attached below is a copy of the Senate Republican Caucus’ letter to the Judiciary Committee co-chairs.

Senate GOP Caucus OUI Oversight Letter to Judiciary Committee


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A North Reading Thanksgiving

Once again this year I had the honor of co-hosting the annual Thanksgiving Dinner for North Reading Seniors with House Minority Leader Brad Jones and his wife Linda. The event was a tremendous opportunity for hundreds of members of the community to gather in the spirit of thanks and appreciation. Posted below are a couple photos from the dinner.


Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

As we gather with our families and friends on Thanksgiving, let us not forget the many Americans who are serving our country overseas and spending the holidays thousands of miles away from their loved ones. It is due to their sacrifices, and the sacrifices of those who served before them, that we as Americans continue to enjoy our many freedoms and live in a country that remains a beacon of hope to the rest of the world. Let us also take the time to reflect on the importance in our own lives of helping others and rededicate ourselves to doing so in the future. May you all have a very safe, healthy and happy Thanksgiving!


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Cold Fusion Inventor Comes to Boston

Andrea Rossi, an engineer who has captured the attention of the scientific world with two successful tests of his “E-Cat” cold fusion reactor, arrived at the State House on Tuesday morning for two days of meetings with government officials and representatives of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Massachusetts and Northeastern University.

Mr. Rossi’s reactor, if successfully proven and developed, has the potential to change the way the world deals with energy, and I’m pleased that he’s willing to discuss basing its production in Massachusetts.

Rossi’s E-Cat reactor, which has thus far been developed and tested in the Italian city of Bologna, is intended to produce large amounts of energy from a reaction between nickel and hydrogen. The reaction produces heat which then heats water to produce steam, from which electricity can be generated. Importantly, the process creates little to no radiation, a major problem for the nuclear fission process currently used to produce power in reactors around the world.

The enormous potential of this technology demands that it be addressed by the best scientific minds in the world. Since Massachusetts is the home of some of the best colleges and universities in the world, it makes sense for that process to happen here.

Our institutions of higher learning have been tremendous in their response to this opportunity, and I look forward to working with them.


GOP Amendment to Human Trafficking Bill Creates Electronic Child Enticement Crime

The tough anti-human trafficking bill signed into law yesterday by Governor Deval Patrick contains a first-in-the-nation provision to penalize those who use the internet to entice minors that I filed with my Senate Republican colleagues, Senators Robert Hedlund (R-Weymouth), Michael Knapik (R-Westfield) and Richard Ross (R-Wrentham). Created through the amendment the new crime of the “electronic enticement of a child” addresses those who use the internet and other electronic devices to lure children into prostitution and other types of sexual servitude.

The new crime would;
• carry a maximum sentence of 5 years and/or a maximum fine of $2,500 for a first offense;
• carry a minimum sentence of 5 years, eliminate the options of parole, probation, work release, “good time” behavior or any other deduction from the sentence until at least 5 years has been served, and/or a maximum fine of $10,000 for a second and all subsequent convictions.

Human trafficking has not only been happening in our state, it has been evolving to take advantage of modern technology. Now we’re taking action to combat those who would enslave others for profit, and the creation of this specific crime will strike directly at perpetrators who use electronic means to snare victims in a tangled web of servitude.

I was one of six legislators who served on the conference committee that authored the final version of the bill. Among its chief provisions are those that include:

• a penalty between 5 and 20 years in prison and/or a maximum fine of $25,000 for a first offense of human trafficking;
• a requirement that convicted human traffickers register with the sex offender registry;
• the creation of services for victims of trafficking;
• the establishment of an interagency human trafficking task force chaired by the attorney general to further develop and improve current law;
• a provision for child witnesses to testify out of court using video and audio equipment; and
• the creation of a human trafficking trust fund for victims.

Passing this bill into law will move our Commonwealth to the forefront of the fight against the horrors of human trafficking. Now we will have modern and effective tools to confront the people who profit from enslaving others.

I joined with legislative leaders and Governor Patrick yesterday for the signing of the bill, and am thankful to those who played a role in bringing it to fruition. They include Manchester resident Christina Bain, Director of the Program on Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery at the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School in Cambridge, Senator Mark Montigny (D-New Bedford), Senate President Therese Murray (D-Plymouth), Attorney General Martha Coakley, and Karen McLaughlin, Director of the Massachusetts Human Trafficking Task Force.

Governor Deval Patrick signs the human trafficking bill into law; from left to right: Representative Elizabeth Malia, Speaker Robert DeLeo, Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr, Attorney General Martha Coakley, Senator Mark Montigny, and District Attorney of Suffolk County, Dan Conley.

Senator Bruce Tarr talking with Karen McLaughlin, Director of the Massachusetts Human Trafficking Task Force


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Senate Republicans offer alternative Congressional districts map

Today the Senate Republicans filed an alternative Congressional redistricting proposal to comply with the state’s need to reduce its number of Congressional seats from 10 to 9 beginning with the 2012 elections.

The plan was filed as an amendment to House Bill 3798, “An Act Establishing Congressional Districts,” which is expected to be debated later this evening during a formal Senate session. Click here to view images of the map and the actual text of the amendment.

The GOP amendment:

• limits the number of municipalities that would be split between two Congressional districts to only five, compared to the Joint Committee on Redistricting’s original plan to split 10 municipalities;

• assures that no individual precincts will be divided between two different Congressional districts, differing from the Redistricting Committee’s proposed plan to divide individual precincts within eight municipalities;

• creates a new Bristol County district that connects communities with common interests into a single district;

• supports a majority-minority district of voting age individuals based in Boston; and

• makes all other districts more compact and/or contiguous.


Media Alert: On the Air with Jeff Katz

Tomorrow morning I will be talking with Jeff Katz of the Jeff Katz Show on Talk 1200AM Boston to provide an update from Beacon Hill. Possible topics include human trafficking, parole and sentencing reform, expanded gaming, congressional redistricting and pension reform. Please tune in or click here tomorrow morning at approximately 8:05AM to listen to our lively discussion.


Legislative Agenda

With the legislature concluding formal sessions on Wednesday, November 16 until January, there are some important legislative proposals that the Senate and House needs to take action on. Some bills that we will be taking up today and tomorrow include pension reform, expanded gaming in the Commonwealth, a human trafficking bill, the redistricting of Congressional districts and a habitual offenders sentencing bill.

To read the text of the bills please click the posted links below:
Pension Reform
Expanded Gaming
Human Trafficking
Habitual Offender Sentencing


Monday, November 14, 2011

On The Air with Les Gosule

Last Friday, I appeared with Les Gosule, father of Melissa Gosule, and on-air personality VB on the Fox 25 Morning News, one day after the Senate unanimously approved the passage of a comprehensive bill that would deny parole to three-time violent habitual offenders. The bill – which also contains a Republican-sponsored provision requiring these same repeat offenders to serve their sentences consecutively, rather than concurrently – is now before the House of Representatives awaiting further action.

To watch the interview in its entirety, just click play on the video posted below.

Parole reform bill: One step closer to law:


Thursday, November 10, 2011

Media Alert: On the Air with Fox 25

Tomorrow morning I will be joining with Les Gosule, Melissa Gosule’s father, as guests on the Fox 25 morning news. We will be discussing with political commentator VB a comprehensive parole and sentencing reform bill, which passed today in the Senate by a 36-0 unanimous vote. Please tune in tomorrow morning at approximately 8:55am to watch our lively discussion.


Senate Unanimously Passes Parole Reform Bill

The Massachusetts Senate today approved a comprehensive parole reform bill that includes a Republican-sponsored measure requiring third time violent habitual criminals to serve their sentences consecutively, rather than concurrently. The bill passed unanimously on a vote of 36-0.

The efforts to reform the state’s parole system originated with legislation that was filed in January by the Republican Caucus in partnership with many of our Democratic colleagues.

Today marks an important victory in our efforts to secure justice for the families of those who have been victimized by violent crime and to ensure that violent habitual offenders serve their time so they cannot harm any other innocent victims. There is still much work to be done, and we cannot be satisfied until the House and Governor Patrick follow the Senate’s lead and these changes are signed into law.

In addition to securing language barring concurrent terms for violent habitual offenders, the Senate also approved Republican-sponsored amendments that would:

· require the members of the parole board to certify in writing that they have reviewed the criminal record of those inmates that come before the board seeking parole;

· mandate that the parole board provide written certification of its attempts to comply with requirements that it notify the attorney general, district attorney, police chief, victims and victims’ families before conducting a hearing to consider granting parole to anyone serving a life sentence;

· give the governor the authority to remove members of the parole board for cause after giving notice and holding a public hearing; and

· require that if the parole board does not post portions of public records and summary statements of their hearings on the Internet, the board must state the reason(s) why it cannot do so.

The bill now heads to the House for further action.


Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Senate Republicans Push for Parole Reforms

With the Senate poised to take up a comprehensive parole reform bill on Thursday, the Senate Republican Caucus is hailing the bill as a major step forward in protecting public safety.

We have been fighting for extensive parole reforms since the session began in January, and we are now very close to achieving that goal. This is a very good bill, but at the same time, we feel we can make it stronger by taking steps to ensure that some of the proposed changes do not undermine the integrity of our criminal justice system.

Senators Robert Hedlund, Michael Knapik, Richard Ross and I have filed a series of amendments designed to crack down on violent habitual offenders and make it tougher for individuals serving a life sentence to qualify for parole.

The Caucus is attempting to block efforts to reduce minimum mandatory sentencing terms for drug offenders and a proposal that would make it easier for criminals to shave time off their sentences by participating in “good time” credit programs of questionable value. The Caucus is also calling for changes that would empower the governor to remove parole board members for cause and require law enforcement officials, victims and the families of victims to receive advance notice of parole hearings so they can testify before the parole board.

The Senate Republicans’ amendments would:

• Strike language contained in the proposed bill that would reduce the minimum mandatory sentence for several drug offenses;

• Increase the minimum time served for individuals serving a life sentence before being eligible for parole from 15 to 20 years;

• Require sentences imposed on third time habitual offenders to run consecutively, not concurrently;

• Remove proposed increases in the “good time” sentencing reductions for prisoners;

• Require prison superintendents to get approval from the commissioner of corrections before approving of the worthiness of the good credit program;

• Maintain drug-free school zones at 1,000 feet, rather than the proposed reduction to 500 feet;

• Set term limits for parole board members at two consecutive terms, or 10 years;

• Require that at least two members of the parole board have law enforcement experience;

• Mandate that a victim or victim’s advocate serve on the parole board;

• Require the parole board to read criminal records aloud at parole hearings and to document having done so in the record;

• Require that if the parole board does not post portions of public records and summary statements on the Internet, it must state the reason(s) why it cannot do so;

• Mandate that the parole board provide written certification of its attempts to notify law enforcement, victims and victims’ families prior to holding a hearing;

• Require parole board Internet postings to include a summary of the proceedings;

• Require the governor to use the recommendation panel when filling a vacancy on the parole board, and also give the governor the authority to remove a parole board member for cause after notice and a public hearing;

• Establish a special commission to study the potential effects of adopting the federal model for authorizing sentencing reductions in place of the current state parole system; and

• Increase the size of the parole board nominating panel from five to seven to fill vacancies on the board, while mandating that the two new positions be filled by a local law enforcement official and a member chosen by the state’s District Attorneys Association.

Posted below is a list of crimes for which three convictions would eliminate the possibility of parole.

List of Offenses


Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Media Alert: On the Air with Dan Rea

Tonight at 10:00 on WBZ Radio (AM1030) I will be discussing with Senator Steven Baddour and host Dan Rea parole and sentencing reform now pending before the Senate. That legislation, based on a bill we filed several months ago and another bill, known as “Melissa’s Law”, targets those serving multiple life sentences and repeat violent offenders, and is scheduled for debate on Thursday.

Posted below is a summary of the bill. Please click here or tune in to WBZ-Radio 1030 AM at 10:00pm to listen to tonight’s broadcast

S.2054 Summary


Monday, November 7, 2011

Today’s Proposed Congressional Districts

The unveiling of the Massachusetts Congressional redistricting maps signals that the committee and the legislature are now focused on perhaps the most important element of this year’s effort.

Given the importance of the necessary changes in our congressional districts, transparency and inclusiveness are absolutely critical to the process of approving these maps. What began with extensive public hearings, which centered largely around changes in Congressional districts, must continue now that the time to make decisions is approaching.

Unfortunately the committee did not meet to discuss the maps that were put forth today prior to their release, and that limited the role of the committee members in producing them.

Now, however, as we continue to digest the numbers and the details of the maps presented today, it is imperative that legislators and the public have sufficient time to understand what is being proposed and offer comment before any more decisions are made. Should doing so mean returning to formal session for a day past the scheduled date for the end of those sessions, then we should do exactly that.

Please click here to view an image of the proposed congressional map and to read more about the redistricting process.


Friday, November 4, 2011

Yesterday’s Media Appearances

Yesterday I had the opportunity to be a guest political analyst on Fox 25’s morning news segment “Tolman and Gray”. Boston City Councilor Michael Ross and I discussed the GOP presidential primary race and the Hard Rock Café International Group’s interest in operating a casino in western Massachusetts.

Later in the day I also made a guest appearance on NECN’s “Broadside” where I discussed with Representative Straus and host Jim Braude the status of the expanded gaming legislation.

Please play the posted videos below to watch yesterday’s appearances.

Tolman and Gray:


Thursday, November 3, 2011

Media Alert: On the air with NECN’s 'Broadside'

I will be joining State Representative Bill Straus of Mattapoisett and host Jim Braude as a guest on tonight’s episode of “Broadside” on New England Cable News. Tonight’s segment will focus on the status of the expanded gaming legislation as it makes its way through the conference committee process and on to the Governor’s desk. Be sure to tune in tonight at 6 p.m. for the live broadcast, or watch the show when it re-airs at 8 p.m.


Making Our Roadways Safe

Today over 70 Massachusetts police chiefs came to the state house to speak in unison on a bill they support and I co-sponsored that would allow a municipal police officer the authority to administer a traffic stop in a neighboring community as long as the officer has been engaged in the continuous pursuit of the suspect vehicle. Senate Bill 662, An Act Improving Apprehension of Drunk Drivers and Other Law Violators, is sponsored by Senator Brewer and would provide law enforcement officials with a long overdue tool in the fight to keep our communities’ streets safe from drunk drivers.

The police chiefs also participated in a hearing of a Joint Committee on the Judiciary, on SB 662 today, and testified on the importance of swift passage of the bill. I had the opportunity to speak with reporter Jon Keller of WBZ-TV as part of his coverage of SB 662. To read the actual text of the bill please click here.

Below are two photos taken today of me standing with the chiefs, including one photo of me with Chiefs Peter Silva of Essex and Ken Walsh of Wenham.


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Media Alert: On the Air with Fox 25

Tomorrow morning I will once again be a guest political analyst on the Fox 25 Morning News segment “Tolman and Gray”. Boston City Councilor Michael Ross and I will be discussing the GOP presidential primary race, the Hard Rock Café International Group’s interest in operating a casino in western Massachusetts, and the Occupy Boston movement.

Please tune in tomorrow morning at approximately 7:15AM to watch our lively discussion.


Tuesday, November 1, 2011

New Districts Approved

Today the House and the Senate voted to approve new districts for each of the legislative bodies and the Executive Council. The new maps, which were approved, are based on the information produced by the most recent (2010) federal census and the work of the Special Committee on Redistricting. You can view the maps depicting these new districts by clicking here.

Still pending in the legislative process are the state’s Congressional districts, which must be redesigned to reflect the results of the 2010 Federal Census. These districts are likely losing one seat in Congress, and all of the remaining 9 districts must be reconfigured as to accommodate the redistribution of the total population.