Friday, June 29, 2012

Senate GOP Caucus hails EBT, immigration reforms

The Massachusetts Senate Republican Caucus today welcomed a series of reform measures targeting abuses in the state’s public benefits programs, cracking down on unlicensed drivers, and expanding the use of immigrant status verification systems for MassHealth applicants, which they have fought to include in the state budget for the upcoming fiscal year.

The reforms were included in the Conference Committee report on the $32.5 billion Fiscal Year 2013 state budget, which was approved today by the Legislature. These reforms reflect many of the Caucus’ priorities initiated during the Senate budget debate in May.

The reforms included in the budget target two of the biggest problems we as a Caucus have been trying to address: the misuse of Electronic Benefit Transfer cards and the public safety issues raised by unlicensed drivers, including those who are in this country illegally. For too long, individuals who do not qualify for public assistance have been receiving taxpayer-funded benefits, sometimes at the expense of those who truly need help. At the same time, unlicensed drivers continue to pose a serious public safety threat to all law-abiding citizens. The changes approved by the House and Senate today will help protect those residents who choose to play by the rules while punishing those individuals who would rather manipulate the system for their own advantage.

Some of the Caucus reforms incorporated in the final budget include:

• expanded restrictions on the types of products and services that can be purchased with EBT cards, including a ban on tattoos, gambling and jewelry;

• increased penalties for unlawful purchases made with EBT cards, up to and including the potential loss of direct cash assistance;

• fines for individuals and organizations that traffick in food stamps;

• the establishment of a direct vendor payment program at the Department of Transitional Assistance for recipients who fail to pay rent and/or utilities on time;

• the creation of an independent commission to study and report on the development of a cashless payment system for EBT cards by December 31, 2012;

• a requirement that the Inspector General conduct a data match survey involving the case records for households receiving cash assistance benefits to identify inconsistent or contradictory information that might indicate fraud or abuse;

• a requirement that applicants provide a license, Social Security number, or other proof of legal residence when registering a motor vehicle;

• increased penalties for knowingly employing an unlicensed individual as a motor vehicle operator, or an individual whose license has been suspended or revoked

• expanded penalties for stealing, forging or counterfeiting a learner’s permit, license or ID card; and

• a requirement that MassHealth begin utilizing the federal Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) system by July 31, 2013 to verify the immigration status of all applicants who apply for benefits with an alien admission number or alien file number

The budget now heads to Governor Deval Patrick, who will have 10 days to review the spending proposal and to issue any vetoes.


Tuesday, June 26, 2012

A Compelling Editorial

Today the Eagle Tribune offers a very interesting perspective into the illegal immigration discussion that is happening across Massachusetts and the country. Importantly, the paper notes the stance Governor Patrick has taken in regards to the illegal immigration provisions passed by the House and Senate for inclusion in the FY’13 state budget.

It’s unfortunate that the governor would take such a position on a measure that hasn’t made its way to his desk yet. Before the governor formulates his opinion on the matter, he should at least collect input from the people he represents and then act accordingly after he’s had time to review it. To express your opinion on the subject, please contact Governor Patrick’s office. It is an extremely important issue that needs to be given time for careful consideration.

Please click here to read today’s editorial by the Eagle Tribune.


Media Alert: On the Air with Michele McPhee

Today I will once again be a guest on WRKO 680AM’s The Michele McPhee Show, where Michele and I will discuss controls for illegal immigration. Please tune in to today’s radio broadcast or click here at approximately 12:45pm to listen to our lively discussion.


Friday, June 22, 2012

Walking for a Cure

On Friday, June 15th I had the honor to address the crowd of walkers, supporters, and volunteers at this year’s annual Cape Ann Relay for Life walk, which is celebrating its 10th year in existence. This wonderful fundraiser, the proceeds of which contribute to finding a cure for cancer and assisting patients and their families with cancer, brings out the true spirit of community and camaraderie.

Every year this event delivers an uplifting amount of support and I was proud to be able to take part in it yet again. To donate, volunteer or learn more about the Relay for Life Organization and the American Cancer Society please click here. Posted below are some pictures of Friday’s event.


Wednesday, June 20, 2012

On the Air with Fox 25

Last night I had the opportunity to speak with news anchor Mark Ockerbloom of the Fox 25 Evening News to discuss a MBTA funding legislation and the need for more oversight that was debated during yesterday’s formal Senate session. To view my discussion with Mark, please play the posted video below.


Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Votes to Note: MBTA Financial Accountability

Today the Massachusetts State Senate debated a bailout proposal of $51 million dedicated to the MBTA to close the agency’s budgetary shortfall. The bill, S.2308, was ultimately approved by a 26 to 9 vote. The Senate Republican Caucus offered several amendments to improve our mass transportation system and provide safeguards that demonstrate fiscal responsibility.

One such measure that we offered was an amendment that would require the MBTA to develop on its website a searchable database that would allow the public to research monetary data regarding the agency. The searchable information would include:

· a complete accounting of all capital assets under the control of the authority;

· operating expenses;

· monthly ridership data aggregated by each mode of transit;

· the fare recovery ratios for each mode of transit and by line; and

· the financial plans for any proposed expansion projects, and the development, conceptual planning, design and construction of any effort to expand the scope of MBTA services.

Unfortunately, the amendment did not pass and thus was not included in the final version of the Senate’s bill by a roll call vote of 12 voting in the affirmative to 25 in the negative. The amendment, if approved would have been a major victory for transparency and accountability. The Senate Republican Caucus will continue to fight for amendments like this one, so that everyone is given the opportunity to know how their taxpayer and ratepayer dollars are being utilized.

Posted below is the roll call vote made today by the members of the Senate.

Amendment #25 MBTA Financial Accountability

Yeas: 12 Nays: 25

Roll Call Votes: Yea/Nay

Frederick E. Berry: Did Not Vote
Stephen M. Brewer: Nay
William N. Brownsberger: Nay
Gale D. Candaras: Yea
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: 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: Nay
Mark C. Montigny: Nay
Michael O. Moore: Yea
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: Yea
Karen E. Spilka: Nay
Bruce E. Tarr: Yea
James E. Timilty: Yea
James Welch: Yea
Daniel Wolf: Nay


Media Alert: On the Air with Fox 25

Tonight at approximately 6:15pm I will once again be on the Fox 25 news to speak about today’s actions by the Senate on a bailout proposal of $51 million dedicated to the MBTA. Please tune in to watch our lively conversation.


Friday, June 15, 2012

A. Piatt Andrew Bridge

With the passage of Memorial Day Weekend, the summer season has unofficially begun and while important work will continue, permanent lane restrictions have been eliminated and any temporary lane restrictions will be limited to off-peak hours.

Please click “Read more” to view the latest update from MassDOT. Below are three photos of the bridge’s progress.

Photo showing structural steel repairs to a column. 

Photo showing ongoing structural steel repairs to a truss section.

Photo showing ongoing structural steel repairs to a truss section.

Gloucester – Route 128 over the Annisquam River - Project Briefing
June, 2012

Project Description – Gloucester – Route 128 over the Annisquam River bridge rehabilitation - $25.5 million: The project involves the removal and replacement of the wearing surface on the bridge deck along with rehabilitation of the superstructure and portions of the substructure on the bridge carrying Route 128 over the Annisquam River. The project also includes replacement of the sidewalks along with significant structural repairs and repainting of portions of the superstructure. A new wearing surface will be placed on the bridge along with a new median barrier. The existing bridge railing will be refurbished and a suicide deterrent safety screen will be erected along the sidewalk. The project is being constructed by SPS New England, Inc. from Salisbury, MA and the work is being overseen by the MassDOT – Highway Division’s District 4 Office.

Current Project Status - The majority of the work on the top side of the bridge has been completed. In addition to several corrective actions items, the primary elements of work that remain involve cleaning and painting of structural steel elements along with associated structural steel repairs for the main arch. The permanent lane restrictions implemented in each direction of Route 128 in late March to allow necessary structural steel repairs to be completed were removed on May 18th.

The east and west ends of the main span have been cleaned and primed. The contractor is currently completing cleaning and painting operations on portions of the mid span and the east and west approaches.

MassDOT is awaiting the submission of a corrective action plan from the contractor on the necessary alterations to portions of the previously installed bridge expansion joints. A definitive schedule for the corrective action items the contractor must perform has not been approved by MassDOT though it is expected that this work will continue to take place during the remainder of the 2012 construction season. Similar to the ongoing work, these activities are expected to be undertaken using temporary lane restrictions during off peak hours. MassDOT is currently reviewing the extent of the remaining structural steel repairs identified during the detailed field inspection and the associated costs with the FHWA and the design consultant in order to determine the most practical and cost effective method to implement the work. Until a determination is made, the installation of the painted coatings for the upper deck is on hold.

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.


Thursday, June 14, 2012

Happy Flag Day!

The whole inspiration of our life as a nation flows out from the waving folds of this banner. ~Author Unknown

On this day in 1777, the Second Continental Congress passed a resolution to adopt a United States flag. Although the flag has seen alterations over the years since its conception, it has always served as a constant reminder that our great nation is a free nation and will continue to be a source of pride as our country moves forward.

I hope we all take a few moments to reflect on this great nation and the men and women who risk their lives to ensure the flag continues to fly as a symbol of freedom and democracy.


Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Progress on the Bates Bridge

Even with the recent bouts of rainfall, progress on the Bates Bridge over the Merrimack River continues to be made. The work by MassDOT officials and the contractor have brought the project up to 49% of completion with the resumption of concrete placement on the Southeast retaining wall, and drainage work on the North and South sides of the project.

Please click "Read more" to view the latest update from MassDOT. Below are two photos of the bridge’s progress.

 Installation of steel girders over pier 1.

Ongoing concrete and steel reinforcing work at the southeast wall.
Project Briefing

Release Date June 11, 2012

Municipality Groveland/Haverhill

Project Bridge Reconstruction: Bates Bridge over the Merrimack River

Status 49% complete

Cost $49,750,000

Description The project consists of the replacement of the existing Bates Bridge carrying Routes 97/113 over the Merrimack River with a new bridge located approximately 60 feet downstream. The existing bridge will remain in service during construction. The proposed bridge will have a movable span similar to the existing bridge. In addition to the 775 feet long bridge, the project includes reconstruction of the approach roadways in Haverhill and Groveland and traffic signal and geometric improvements at the intersection of Groveland Street with Lincoln Avenue in Haverhill and at the intersection of Groveland Street with Main Street near Elm Park in Groveland. Cianbro Corporation from Pittsfield, ME is constructing the project.

The primary elements of the roadway work include excavation, grading, installation of bituminous pavements, curbing, sidewalks, highway guardrail, pavement markings, relocation and/or adjustment of existing utilities, and installation of traffic signal systems.

The primary elements of the bridge work include the construction of a new movable span bridge which includes the installation of drilled shaft foundations, reinforced concrete piers, a structural steel superstructure, a concrete filled grid deck, a moveable bascule lift section, concrete abutments on pile foundations and retaining walls. Temporary cofferdams will be used during the construction of the work, which will include removal of the existing bridge.

Current Project Status – The majority of work within the river continues to be staged from two working barges that are in place to support heavy construction activities. Concrete placement has re-commenced for the southeast retaining wall and the cap associated with the northeast wall. The contractor has finished placing cement concrete for piers 1, 2, and 4 and continues to place cement concrete and steel for pier bases and walls in cofferdam 3. Riprap has been placed to finish grade at the abutments in the area where steel erection from the north abutment has commenced. Drainage work has resumed at the north and south approaches.

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 Town of Groveland or the City of Haverhill, select Project No. 600988.


Thursday, June 7, 2012

Media Alert: On the Air with NECN’s ‘Broadside’

I will be joining Senator Brian Joyce of Milton and host Jim Braude as a guest on this evening’s episode of “Broadside” on New England Cable News. Tonight’s segment will focus on this year’s presidential election, the impact of the Wisconsin gubernatorial recall election, and the latest action on the Massachusetts Fiscal Year 2013 state budget.

Be sure to tune in tonight at 6:00pm for the live broadcast, or watch the show when it re-airs at 8:00pm.


Monday, June 4, 2012

Media Alert: On the Air with Dan Rea

I will be joining Les Gosule on Dan Rea’s “Nightside” program on WBZ radio tonight to discuss the current status of Melissa’s Bill.  Named in memory of Les’ 27-year-old daughter who was raped and murdered by a repeat offender in July of 1999, Melissa’s Bill seeks to protect the public by imposing stronger penalties against violent repeat offenders, including the possibility of lifetime imprisonment without parole for chronic offenders.  Les will be appearing in studio with Dan Rea beginning at 9 p.m., and I will be joining them shortly thereafter.  Be sure to tune in to 1030 AM tonight to hear our discussion of this important public safety proposal, or listen online at