Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Seeking to Correct ‘Misconceptions’ About Melissa's Bill

Yesterday I joined with Senate Ways and Means Vice Chairman Steven A. Baddour (D-Methuen) to reach out to the Boston City Council in an attempt to correct some of the inaccuracies and misconceptions surrounding the Senate’s habitual offender bill and to request the Council’s support for the incarceration of violent repeat offenders.

In a letter hand-delivered to the Council’s Public Safety Committee yesterday afternoon, we sought to refute some of the concerns raised in a Resolution proposed by District 4 Councilor Charles Yancey relative to the cost, scope and impact of the habitual offender bill. That bill, along with a scaled-back House version, is currently being reviewed by a six–member House and Senate Conference Committee on which Senator Baddour and I are both serving on.

The habitual offender bill, contrary to published reports, will not cost millions of dollars, nor will it lead to an increased burden on Massachusetts tax payers. In fact, the Senate Ways and Means Committee whose primary function is to ensure that the state budget is balanced and responsible, has analyzed the Senate version of the bill and concluded that it will have no cost in Fiscal Year 2012. The Senate Ways and Means Committee also estimates that, when fully implemented, the costs incurred by this legislation will be offset by cost-saving measures contained in the legislation. This includes an estimated savings of up to $5 million associated with drug offenders who are currently serving mandatory minimum sentences in state prison but who will now become eligible for parole.

In addition to the economic costs, we also refuted several other concerns raised in the Yancey Resolution, including:

• Scope of Bill – The Yancey Resolution suggests that the habitual offender bill would apply to hundreds of felony crimes in Massachusetts and would ensnare the non-violent, the petty criminal, the drug dependent and the mentally ill. The bill would actually impact only those individuals convicted for the third time of committing one or more of the 59 most violent felonies, including rape, murder and other serious crimes that involve violence, force or the threat of force.

• Automatic Life Sentences – The Yancey Resolution compares the habitual offender bill to so-called “three strikes laws” implemented in other states that require a life sentence without parole after two or more previous criminal offenses. The Senate bill simply requires repeat offenders to serve the maximum punishment for a third offense, but does not mandate life sentences for all crimes.

• Prison Overcrowding – The Yancey Resolution predicts massive long-term incarceration if the Senate bill is enacted that will exacerbate an already overcrowded prison system, but the bill will actually free up prison space by reducing mandatory drug minimums, steering those individuals to needed rehab services and freeing up space in our prisons for the most violent criminal offenders. The letter also notes that over the last 10 years, 84 individuals were sentenced under the existing habitual offender statute (an average of 7 to 8 a year), while the Senate bill, once implemented, would impact an estimated 4 to 5 additional offenders a year, due to the fact that the Senate bill specifically targets repeat, violent offenders who have been convicted of some of the most heinous crimes against society, not anyone convicted of a misdemeanor or a lesser felony.

We welcome the City Council’s partnership in our efforts to preserve public safety, and hope that we can move forward by working together to ensure that these violent, repeat offenders will no longer be a threat to the residents of Boston or any other citizen of the Commonwealth.

Posted below is the letter we sent yesterday to the Boston City Council in its entirety.

Letter to Boston CIty Council Regarding the Habitual Offender Bill 2012.02.28


Tuesday, February 28, 2012

On the Air with Fox 25

This morning State Senator Richard Moore joined me on the Fox 25 Morning News to discuss with anchor Gene Lavanchy a bill we sponsored that would protect the public's safety, crackdown on illegal immigration and safeguard against the misuse of public funds.

S.2061, "An Act to Enhance Public Safety", is a comprehensive legislative package that emphasizes both the safety of the citizens of the Commonwealth and protects public funds such as public housing subsidies. Today at 1:00pm our bill, which is also sponsored by Representatives George Peterson and John Fernandes and has 48 cosponsors including all the members of the Senate GOP Caucus, will be heard by the Joint Committee on the Judiciary in Room A-2 at the State House.

To watch today's Fox 25 Morning News segment please play the video posted below. To read the actual text of the bill please click here.

Immigration Reform: Sen. Bruce Tarr:


Monday, February 27, 2012

Media Alert: On the Air with Fox 25

Tomorrow morning at approximately 8:35am I will once again be a guest on the Fox 25 Morning News. State Senator Richard Moore and I will be discussing a bill to advance public safety, illegal immigration and public integrity that we filed with our House colleagues Representative George Peterson and Representative John Fernandes.

The comprehensive package, which was filed after several incidents involving illegal immigrants, places a premium on both public safety and protecting public funds. S.2061, "An Act to Enhance Public Safety", is scheduled to be heard by the Joint Committee on the Judiciary tomorrow afternoon at 1:00pm.

Please tune in tomorrow morning at 8:35am to watch our lively discussion. To read the actual text of the bill please click here.


Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Come 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.


Thursday, February 16, 2012

Senate Republican Caucus Calls For Moratorium on All Utility Mergers

In response to the rapidly paced approval by the Patrick Administration of the NSTAR/Cape Wind merger, the Senate Republican Caucus filed an amendment today to S.2140, "An Act relative to the emergency service response of public utility companies" that would install a three month moratorium on all approvals of utility mergers. The moratorium would provide the Department of Public Utilities three months to complete any outstanding regulatory investigations, procedures and reviews involving storm response by the department.

Last year several regions of the state were hit particularly hard after an October 2011 snowstorm where wind gusts of 69 mph and 32 inches of snowfall was reported in some areas of the state, leaving more than 600,000 Massachusetts utility customers without power. The amendment would place a higher priority to complete storm response reviews such as the October storm, which has yet to be completed, and other long overdue investigations with utility providers.

Additionally, the moratorium would allow constituents of the Commonwealth with the opportunity to fully understand the benefits and ramifications of such mergers before an agreement would go into effect.

Today we are acting on a bill to improve emergency responses when power goes out. In addition to reacting to past emergencies, we should take action now to ensure that a merger on the fast track to approval doesn’t pose a risk to electrical service for ratepayers all across the state in the future. Before we allow this major merger to be finalized, we should ensure that we have the answers that will come from current and ongoing investigations by the Department of Public Utilities.

Unfortunately, the amendment failed in a roll call vote of 7-29. The Senate Republican Caucus will continue to fight for full transparency regarding public utility mergers such as these.


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Republican Caucus Unveils Comprehensive Jobs Package

Today the Senate and House GOP Caucuses announced a job creation plan at the State House that aims to reduce the cost of doing business in the Commonwealth. The Republican package targets five key areas that employers have identified that would substantially help in the retention and the creation of jobs. Those areas are: business regulations, education, energy, healthcare and taxes.

All five areas focus on a different, but costly element of conducting business in Massachusetts. It is the hope of the GOP Caucus to get the 240,000 still unemployed Massachusetts residents back into the workforce. Posted below is a press release issued today by the caucus that highlights some of the key elements of the package. Also posted below is today's press packet that summarizes the jobs creation plan.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

House and Senate Republicans Propose Innovative Jobs Package

Focuses on Five Targeted Areas Aimed at Job Creation and Retention

BOSTON – Led by House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R- North Reading) and Senate Minority Leader Bruce E. Tarr (R-Gloucester), the Republican Legislative Caucus has proposed an innovative jobs package aimed at cultivating economic growth in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

The jobs package, which comes on the heels of the Republican Caucus’ statewide 2011 G.O.P. Jobs Tour, offers policies that are key to facilitating economic growth in Massachusetts and supporting individuals and businesses statewide.

In speaking with constituents and business owners, House and Senate Republicans have identified five targeted areas aimed at creating and maintaining jobs: business regulations, education, energy, healthcare, and taxes.

“This legislative session, we have done very little relative to the creation of jobs in Massachusetts,” said House Minority Leader Brad Jones. “We, as a legislative body, have a great opportunity to reform the way we create and maintain employment opportunities, while at the same time making government run more efficiently.”

"We can and should take action now to spur economic growth, and incent job creation. This concrete plan contains specific steps we can take to propel our state's recovery from one of the worst recessions in our nation's history," said Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr. "Armed with this plan, Legislative Republicans will begin visiting businesses to chart a course toward economic growth by doing things that really matter for the employers we're counting on to grow our economy."
Highlights of the proposed G.O.P. Jobs Package include:
• Business Regulations: Reduce costs for employers, reform the current Unemployment Insurance paradigm and streamline and consolidate processes for businesses;

• Education: Empower vocational schools by strengthening collaborations with community colleges and employers, improve overall access to higher education, and qualify veterans for licensure and/or academic credit at public institutions of higher learning;

• Energy: Decrease the cost of electricity for businesses and ratepayers, increase the efficiency of Green Initiatives and promote cost-effective renewable energy.

• Healthcare: Shift focus to the consumer, increase options for employers and employees and make healthcare affordable for all;

• Taxes: Reduce commercial vehicle registration fees, simplify and eliminate corporate fees and taxes, incentivize first-time home buyer savings accounts, and establish a job creation tax credit.

Announced by House and Senate Republicans today, the formal proposal will be filed as five major pieces of legislation. In subsequent weeks, members of the Republican Legislative Caucus will travel to local businesses throughout the Bay State to discuss the proposed legislation.


Final Jobs Package Media Handout


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Republican Caucus to Unveil Comprehensive Jobs Package

Tomorrow morning I will be joining with House Minority Leader Brad Jones (R–North Reading) and Senate and House Republican legislators to unveil a comprehensive jobs package.

The jobs package offers policies which will support individuals and businesses and are key to facilitating economic growth within Massachusetts.

Please check back tomorrow for more information about our jobs package.


Saturday, February 11, 2012

Discussing EBT Fraud on "Greater Boston"

On Thursday night State Representative Shaunna O’Connell and I were guests on WGBH-TV’s “Greater Boston” with host Emily Rooney. We discussed the ongoing efforts to reform the state’s Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards program. To view Thursday’s broadcast please play the posted video below.


Thursday, February 9, 2012

Media Alert: On the Air with Emily Rooney

I will be appearing on WGBH-TV’s “Greater Boston” with host Emily Rooney tonight to discuss my ongoing efforts to reform the state’s Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards program. Joining me in the studio will be State Representative Shaunna O’Connell (R-Taunton), who was recently named to a special commission charged with investigating reported abuses within the EBT program and developing recommendations to stop this illegal activity and preserve the integrity of the system. The commission is due to report back with its findings by April 1st. Be sure to tune in to Channel 2 at 7 p.m., or watch the show when it re-airs at midnight.


Friday, February 3, 2012

Votes to Note: Senate Passes Prescription Drug Monitoring Bill, Rejects Opportunity to Create Drug Offender Registry

Yesterday the Senate voted unanimously to approve a bill containing several important measures to confront the availability and misuse of illegal opiates and the abuse of prescription drugs. S.2122, “An Act Relative to Prescription Drug Diversion, Abuse and Addiction”, if it becomes law, will strengthen the monitoring system for prescription drugs and require its use by physicians and pharmacists. You can view the actual text of the bill by clicking here.

Unfortunately, the Senate rejected an amendment proposal by Senator Richard Ross that would begin the process of establishing a registry of drug dealers to assist law enforcement in the identification and prosecution of these individuals, and to use information to combat the threats they pose to public safety. I am a strong supporter of this amendment, and argued on its behalf during this afternoon’s floor debate.

The Senate rejected the opportunity to provide this tool for public safety by a vote of 5-30. An accounting of that vote is posted under the “read more” section below.

Drug Offender Registry

Roll Call Votes: Yea/Nay

Steven A. Baddour: Nay
Frederick E. Berry: Nay
Stephen M. Brewer: Nay
William N. Brownsberger: 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: Yea
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: Did Not Vote
Mark C. Montigny: Nay
Michael O. Moore: Did Note Vote
Richard T. Moore: Nay
Senate President Therese Murray: Did Not Vote
Marc R. Pacheco: Nay
Anthony Petruccelli: Nay
Michael Rodrigues: Nay
Stanley C. Rosenberg: Did Not Vote
Richard J. Ross: Yea
Michael Rush: Nay
Karen E. Spilka: Nay
Bruce E. Tarr: Yea
James E. Timilty: Did Not Vote
James Welch: Nay
Daniel Wolf: Nay