Friday, May 27, 2011

Video Blog: Senator Tarr Offers Closing Remarks




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Thursday, May 26, 2011

Video Blog: Senator Tarr Discusses Increases to Regional School Transportation and Special Education Accounts




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Video Blog: Senator Hedlund Discusses A U.S. History Education Amendment




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Votes to Note: Tax Amendments Start Early During Senate Budget Debate

This year the Senate Minority Caucus has filed several tax amendments to the Senate's version of the Fiscal Year 2012 State budget and many of them were debated on early Wednesday. Those amendments include a permanent sales tax holiday, a meals tax holiday, a sales tax rollback, and an income tax rollback. Unfortunately, all four of the amendments failed to gain enough support for passage, however, on three of the four amendments the caucus was able to secure roll call votes. You can read the actual text of the amendments by clicking here. In order to view how each member the Senate voted on the roll call votes please click the read more section below.



Permanent Sales Tax Holiday Roll Call Vote: Amendment #6

Roll Call Votes: Yeas/Nays

Steven A. Baddour: Nay
Frederick E. Berry: Nay
Stephen M. Brewer: Nay
Gale D. Candaras: Nay
Harriette L. Chandler: Nay
Sonia Chang-Diaz: Nay
Katherine Clark: Nay
Cynthia Stone Creem: Nay
Sal N. DiDomenico: Nay
Kenneth J. Donnelly: Nay
Eileen Donoghue: Nay
Benjamin B. Downing: Nay
James B. Eldridge: Nay
Susan C. Fargo: Nay
Barry Finegold: Nay
Jennifer L. Flanagan: Nay
John Hart: Nay
Robert L. Hedlund: Nay
Patricia D. Jehlen: Nay
Brian A. Joyce: Nay
John Keenan: Nay
Thomas P. Kennedy: Nay
Michael R. Knapik: Yea
Thomas M. McGee: Nay
Mark C. Montigny: Nay
Michael O. Moore: Nay
Richard T. Moore: Nay
Senate President Therese Murray: Did Not Vote
Marc R. Pacheco: Nay
Anthony Petruccelli: Nay
Michael Rodrigues: Nay
Stanley C. Rosenberg: Nay
Richard J. Ross: Yea
Michael Rush: Did Not Vote
Karen E. Spilka: Nay
Bruce E. Tarr: Yea
James E. Timilty: Yea
Steven A. Tolman: Nay
James Welch: Nay
Daniel Wolf: Nay

4-34 Vote


Sales Tax Rollback Roll Call Vote: Amendment #9

Roll Call Votes: Yeas/Nays

Steven A. Baddour: Yea
Frederick E. Berry: Nay
Stephen M. Brewer: Nay
Gale D. Candaras: Nay
Harriette L. Chandler: Nay
Sonia Chang-Diaz: Nay
Katherine Clark: Nay
Cynthia Stone Creem: Nay
Sal N. DiDomenico: Nay
Kenneth J. Donnelly: Nay
Eileen Donoghue: Yea
Benjamin B. Downing: Nay
James B. Eldridge: Nay
Susan C. Fargo: Yea
Barry Finegold: Nay
Jennifer L. Flanagan: Nay
John Hart: Nay
Robert L. Hedlund: Yea
Patricia D. Jehlen: Nay
Brian A. Joyce: Nay
John Keenan: Nay
Thomas P. Kennedy: Nay
Michael R. Knapik: Yea
Thomas M. McGee: Nay
Mark C. Montigny: Yea
Michael O. Moore: Nay
Richard T. Moore: Yea
Senate President Therese Murray: Did Not Vote
Marc R. Pacheco: Nay
Anthony Petruccelli: Nay
Michael Rodrigues: Nay
Stanley C. Rosenberg: Nay
Richard J. Ross: Yea
Michael Rush: Did Not Vote
Karen E. Spilka: Nay
Bruce E. Tarr: Yea
James E. Timilty: Yea
Steven A. Tolman: Nay
James Welch: Nay
Daniel Wolf: Nay

10-28 Vote

Income Tax Rollback Roll Call Vote: Amendment #12

Roll Call Votes: Yeas/Nays

Steven A. Baddour: Nay
Frederick E. Berry: Nay
Stephen M. Brewer: Nay
Gale D. Candaras: Nay
Harriette L. Chandler: Nay
Sonia Chang-Diaz: Nay
Katherine Clark: Nay
Cynthia Stone Creem: Nay
Sal N. DiDomenico: Nay
Kenneth J. Donnelly: Nay
Eileen Donoghue: Nay
Benjamin B. Downing: Nay
James B. Eldridge: Nay
Susan C. Fargo: Nay
Barry Finegold: Nay
Jennifer L. Flanagan: Nay
John Hart: Nay
Robert L. Hedlund: Yea
Patricia D. Jehlen: Nay
Brian A. Joyce: Nay
John Keenan: Nay
Thomas P. Kennedy: Nay
Michael R. Knapik: Yea
Thomas M. McGee: Nay
Mark C. Montigny: Nay
Michael O. Moore: Nay
Richard T. Moore: Nay
Senate President Therese Murray: Did Not Vote
Marc R. Pacheco: Nay
Anthony Petruccelli: Nay
Michael Rodrigues: Nay
Stanley C. Rosenberg: Nay
Richard J. Ross: Yea
Michael Rush: Did Not Vote
Karen E. Spilka: Nay
Bruce E. Tarr: Yea
James E. Timilty: Yea
Steven A. Tolman: Nay
James Welch: Nay
Daniel Wolf: Nay

5-33 Vote


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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Video Blog: Day 1 Recap of the Senate Budget Debate




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Video Blog: Senator Hedlund Discusses Income Tax Rollback



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Video Blog: Senator Hedlund Discusses 40B Projects




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Video Blog: Senator Knapik Discusses a Permanent Sales Tax Holiday




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Pre-Budget Video Blog



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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Media Alert: On the Air with Jeff Katz

Tomorrow morning I will once again be speaking with Jeff Katz of the Jeff Katz Show on Talk 1200AM Boston to discuss the upcoming Senate budget debate for Fiscal Year 2012 and many of the amendments that the Senate Republican Caucus filed. Please click here to read a previous post about some the amendments filed by the caucus and here to read the actual text of all 599 amendments filed by the members of the Senate. Please tune in tomorrow morning at 7:00 AM to listen to our lively discussion.


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Video Blogging the Senate Budget




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Monday, May 23, 2011

Opportunities for Meaningful Change

The Senate Committee on Ways and Means released its budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2012 last week, and by a 12:00pm deadline on Friday 599 amendments had been filed by Senators seeking to modify that proposal. The Senate Republican Caucus has sponsored a number of amendments which offer the potential to reform state government, impose or strengthen fiscal discipline, and promote economic growth. Among them are:

• Meals Tax Holiday (OTHER-11)
Provides a meals tax holiday from October 21, 2011 through October 26, 2011.

• Job Creation Tax Credit (OTHER-40)
Creates a business tax credit of 50% of a new worker’s income tax for every business that increases its work force. A business may take the credit for no more than 50 new eligible employees added, and must take the credit over the course of three years, provided that the business maintains the employment increase.

• Asset Forfeiture (LOC-64)
Provides for the asset forfeiture of motor vehicles for those individuals charged with violating federal immigration laws.

• Revert Local Aid (LOC-55)
Stipulates that 50% of the state’s surplus revenues available at the end of FY12 be slated for distribution to cities and towns through the Lottery formula.

• Confidentiality Agreements (GOV-113)
Directs state agencies and departments that should they enter into a settlement agreement with an employee that includes confidentiality or gag order clauses, the employer must make publicly available a statement as to why the gag order is in the public’s best interest.

• Taxpayer-Funded Advertising (GOV-115)
Prohibits state advertising on subjects other than public health and public safety.

• Gubernatorial Personnel Cost Savings (GOV-119)
Requires the Governor to report on all salary increases and decreases in FY2011 and planned increases or decreases in FY2012.

• Government Transparency and Accountability (GOV-120)
Establishes a searchable website to find out who is receiving state contracts, grants, and other funds. It would build off other existing but inadequate resources, such as Operational Services Division’s Comm-Pass system, and the Executive Office of Administration and Finance’s budget tracking site.

• Fiscal Responsibility with Grants (GOV-121)
Requires the governor, state agencies and quasi-state agencies to submit a cost benefit and job outcome analysis to the Legislature prior to issuing any grants totaling $500,000 or more to private companies.

• Fair Employment and Security (GOV-122)
Requires the Attorney General to set up a hotline for immigration employment and status violations, and also directs the Attorney General to enter into a memorandum of understanding with the U.S. Attorney General relative to enforcement of immigration laws. Increases penalties against employers who hire workers not legally present in the United States as well as prevents companies in violation from obtaining state government contracts. The amendment also increases penalties for individuals in possession of and/or who distribute falsified identification documents and protects taxpayers’ money by insuring state benefits are not fraudulently acquired by undocumented residents, including health insurance, housing and educational assistance.

• Voter Identification (GOV-125)
Requires voters to provide at the time of voting an identification document. Those unable to provide an identification document must meet the requirements of Chapter 54, Section 76 of the MGL, requiring the voter to submit their name and residence in writing on the ballot, and for the clerk to keep an accurate record of such voters.

• State Contracting Threshold (ECO-210)
Increases from $500,000 to $2 million the threshold for determining which state projects are eligible for privatization.

• Inmate Fees (EPS-354)
Requires $2 daily payment from prisoners as a form of defraying the costs of incarceration. Also requires sheriffs to report on the success of the program 12 months after passage.

• Restrictions on Cash Benefits and Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) Cards (EHS-444)
Prohibits the purchase of alcohol, tobacco, and lottery tickets with cash assistance benefits. Provides appropriate penalties for both store owners who knowingly sell prohibited items to recipients and for recipients who use benefits for prohibited purchases. Also adds tough penalties for fraudulent uses of cash benefits – for example, fines and possibly prison time for those who misrepresent their life status to obtain benefits.

• Prescription Drug Waste (EHS-445)
Directs facilities licensed by the departments of public health, mental health and corrections to recycle or return unused medication if it is unopened, individually sealed and within its recommended shelf life. Similar legislation has been adopted in 38 states, and will save the state millions of dollars in drug costs. In particular, in nursing homes, unopened and unused drugs are wasted and disposed of after patients leave the facility, discontinue use of the medication, or pass away.

• Medicaid Utilization (EHS-448)
Requires the office of Medicaid to develop and improve regulations to ensure that Medicare-like claims editing is fully and effectively implemented.

• Mandatory Prescription Drug Coverage (EHS-449)
Gives Massachusetts residents the option of selecting a health care plan that does not include prescription drug coverage without violating the individual mandate law.

The amendments proposed by all of the members of the Senate can be viewed by clicking here. Debate on the amendments will begin at 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday, and will be webcast at http://masslegislature.tv/?l=sen_video.



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Today’s Appearance on the Fox 25 Morning News

This morning I had the opportunity to discuss the upcoming Senate budget debate and some amendments to the budget that the Senate GOP Caucus and I filed with news commentator VB of the Fox 25 Morning News. Among the subjects we discussed were voter id and the income tax rollback approved by the voters in 2000. To watch our lively discussion please play the posted video below.

Budget debate: What will get cut?: MyFoxBOSTON.com




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Friday, May 20, 2011

Media Alert: On the Air with Fox 25


On Monday, May 23rd, I will once again be appearing on the Fox 25 Morning News to discuss the upcoming Senate budget debate and amendments that the Senate Republican Caucus has filed with news commentator VB. Please tune in at approximately 7:35AM to watch our lively discussion.




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Thursday, May 19, 2011

Senate Adopts Republican Probation Reforms

The Senate adopted a series of probation reforms offered by the Senate Republican Caucus today, incorporating the GOP proposals into a comprehensive probation reform and court reorganization bill that passed unanimously.

A total of seven Republican amendments were approved by the Senate, including one that directs the newly-created advisory committee on personnel standards to use merit-based standards for hiring court personnel, and to post these standards on the trial court’s website. Another amendment requires applicants for any trial court position to be certified as meeting the merit-based considerations for employment before any letters of recommendation submitted on behalf of the applicant can be taken into consideration.

The probation department has operated for far too long under a dark cloud where politics tainted the hiring and promotion process. With the passage of this bill, we can begin to restore public confidence that probation and court personnel are being hired or promoted based on their qualifications and skills, and not on other factors such as political connections.

The move to create a more transparent hiring process was sparked by a scathing November 2010 report by independent counsel Paul Ware that unveiled evidence of an extensive “pay to play” system within the probation department under former commissioner John O’Brien. The report, which detailed examples of “systemic abuse and corruption” within the department, concluded that “[H]iring and promotion have been thoroughly compromised by a systemic rigging of the interview and selection process in favor of candidates who have political or other personal connections.”

The Ware report uncovered a serious patronage issue within the probation department which needs to be addressed. Probation officers play an important public safety role, and it is imperative that these positions be filled by individuals who are truly qualified for the rigors and demands of the job.

Other Republican amendments adopted by the Senate today would:

• require the newly-created court administrator to study the feasibility of allowing trial court fees and fines to be paid with a credit card;

• clarify the process for filling court vacancies;

• expand the membership of the proposed advisory board charged with offering recommendations on the management of the probation office to include an active member of the Massachusetts Bar and an experienced probation officer;

• require the chief justice of the trial court and the court administrator to submit a report to the Legislature 90 days prior to the temporary closure or temporary relocation of any courthouse, detailing personnel transfers, reallocation of resources, the impact on other courthouses and other factors associated with such actions; and

• ensure that supervision is provided in an orderly and effective manner for those individuals who are subject to dual supervision.

The House approved a version of the court reorganization bill last week. The differences between the two versions will be worked out by a six-member conference committee that is expected to be appointed next week.


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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

A Senate Budget Proposal

Producing a state budget proposal is a daunting task under any circumstances, and particularly so in the face of vanishing federal stimulus funding and a challenging economic climate. Thus, I appreciate the work that’s been done by Chairman Brewer and the members of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means and Senate President Murray to take the initial steps toward a responsible budget for next year without resorting to new broad-based taxes or other inappropriate measures.

Through their work the stage has been set for a vigorous and productive debate about the meaningful reforms and economic growth actions necessary to improve efficiency, expand our state’s economy, create new jobs and strengthen the sustainability of our state government for those who depend on what the budget funds, and those who bear the burden of providing those funds.

Senate Republicans are now working vigorously to digest and analyze the Senate Committee on Ways and Means proposal, and to develop and introduce the types of amendments that can make a true difference for our Commonwealth.

To read the Senate version of the FY'12 budget please click here.



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Monday, May 16, 2011

Probation Reform Advances

Today the Senate Committee on Ways and Means released its version of “An Act Relative to the Reorganization of the Judicial System in the Commonwealth,” which contains major changes in the way our courts are managed, and substantial and needed reforms in the practices utilized to hire and promote Probation Department personnel and court officers.

The bill follows the November 2010 public release of the shocking report completed by Independent Counsel Paul Ware for the Supreme Judicial Court and repeated calls for reform by the Senate Republican Caucus. The bill does, in fact, contain some key elements of legislation proposed as recently as last month by Senate Republicans.

An order adopted today set a deadline of Wednesday at noon for amendments to the bill, which is scheduled to be debated in the Senate on Thursday beginning at 1 p.m.

A summary of the bill provided by the Senate Ways and Means Committee is posted below. To read the Ware Report in its entirety please click here.

Doc 001

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A Well Deserved Honor

On Monday, May 9th I had the distinct honor of presenting an official Senate citation to Gloucester Rotary members Gregory Bover and Paul Ingram commemorating them as recipients of the Paul Harris Fellow Award. Greg and Paul truly embody the meaning of “service over self” both for their dedication in community service and their contributions to the Rotary’s charitable programs such as the Annual Programs Fund, PolioPlus, and the Humanitarian Grants Program.

Below are a few pictures taken during Monday’s Paul Harris Award Dinner. To learn more about Rotary please click here to view the organization’s web site.









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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Media Alert: On the Air with Jeff Katz

Thursday morning I will be speaking with Jeff Katz of the Jeff Katz Show on Rush Talk 1200AM Boston to discuss a meals tax holiday bill that I filed and that is cosponsored by members of both parties and both branches. The bill will be heard during tomorrow‘s Joint Committee on Revenue hearing in room A-1 of the State House at 10:30AM. Please tune in or click here tomorrow morning at 7:00 AM to listen to our lively discussion. To read the actual text of the bill please click here.


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Friday, May 6, 2011

May is Mental Health Month

In order to raise awareness regarding both mental health conditions and the importance of receiving help, May is designated as Mental Health Month. Throughout the month organizations such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) are hosting events to decrease the stigma that prevents people from getting the appropriate help that they may need.

One such event to raise both awareness and donations is the 8th annual NAMI Walks fundraiser that takes place in over 80 communities throughout the country. The uplifting attitude by both walkers and volunteers truly demonstrates the spirit of the event and I encourage all to participate in this year's walk.

Posted below is a flyer distributed by NAMI and for more information about the walk or to donate to this worthy cause please click here to visit the NAMI Walks website.
Namiwalk Flier


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Tuesday, May 3, 2011

A Victory for Freedom

The news that President Barack Obama delivered to the nation on Sunday night of the successful military operation that not only located but killed Osama bin Laden in a compound in Pakistan is a welcome and important development in the war against terrorism and a testament to the commitment of those who defend our nation to bring bin Laden to justice. It has been almost ten years since bin Laden orchestrated the terrorist hijacking of four commercial airliners on September 11, 2001 that resulted in nearly 3,000 victims losing their lives and even more sustaining long-lasting health afflictions.

Although the War on Terrorism is far from over, the elimination of bin Laden is an accomplishment of incalculable significance, and offers us all an opportunity to reflect and think of not only those lost on that tragic day but of those who have fallen bravely fighting to thwart the objectives of tyrants and terrorists. With the efforts of our service members, our intelligence agencies, and the dedication of countless others both domestically and abroad, the search for the most wanted man in the world is over and we can take solace in the fact that bin Laden won't ever have the opportunity to kill again.

The decade long search for bin Laden, initiated by President George W. Bush and advanced by President Obama, is a true testament to the dedication and unity that this nation has maintained in bringing this man to justice and I want to express my appreciation to all of those who contributed to this successful effort.



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