Friday, March 30, 2012

Media Alert: On the Air with Fox 25

I will once again be a guest on the Fox 25 Morning News segment "Monday Morning Quarterbacks" as a political analyst with former Attorney General Scott Harshbarger. We will be discussing with News Anchor Gene Lavanchy some of the latest political topics of the day. Please tune in Monday morning at approximately 7:55am for what will be a lively discussion.

Also, posted below is my Thursday appearance on Fox 25's morning segment "Tolman and Gray". Former State Senator Warren Tolman and I discussed the Supreme Court's hearings on Obamacare and the 2012 presidential election.

Talking with Tolman and Gray:


Protecting Addison Gilbert Hospital

Recently the state public health council and commissioner of Public Health John Auerbach considered and approved an affiliation agreement between Northeast Hospital Corporation and Lahey Clinic, which will essentially allow them to merge operations. Because this agreement has serious implications for the future of Addison Gilbert Hospital, Beverly Hospital and health care in our region, it has been important to secure assurances of and attention to the continued operation of these facilities.

In correspondence to the state regulators, I emphasized the critical nature of keeping our community hospitals open to provide care at the local level. A copy of my letter is posted below.

The commissioner and the council responded to the concerns that the community and its leaders raised by imposing several important conditions intended to promote the continued availability of service at Addison Gilbert Hospital and Beverly Hospital. The entire written approval can be viewed below.

Northeast Health Systems Lahey Clinics Merger Letters


Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Media Alert: On the Air with Fox 25

Tomorrow morning I will once again be a guest on the FOX 25 Morning News segment "Tolman and Gray". Political Analyst and former State Senator Warren Tolman and I will be discussing some of the latest political topics of the day. Please tune in at approximately 7:45AM to watch what will surely be a lively discussion.


On the Air with Fox 25

On Monday I had the opportunity to be a guest on the FOX 25 Evening News to discuss a bill making its way through the legislative process here in Massachusetts. The bill, S661, is a version of other "Stand Your Ground" laws that currently exist in 31 states. To watch Monday's appeareance please play the posted video below.

Version of "Stand Your Ground" law in front of Massachusetts legislators:


Friday, March 23, 2012

Today's Statement on the Indictments of Top Probation Officials

Today I released the following statement concerning the indictment of three high ranking Probation Department officials; former Commissioner John O'Brien, Elizabeth Tavares and William Burke III.

"The Indictments of top probation officials announced today by United States Attorney Ortiz are stinging reminders of just how bad things had become in our state’s probation department, and of the need for everything possible to be done to correct the deeply troubling issues identified in the Ware report.

The Legislature has passed important measures to reform the system, and now the criminal justice system is beginning to take actions to bring those responsible for reprehensible acts to justice. Neither of us should rest until anyone who corrupted our state government in this case is appropriately punished, and all possible reforms are enacted to ensure that this behavior never happens again.

I encourage US Attorney Ortiz to leave no stone unturned until each and everyone responsible for corrupting one of the state's most important public safety agencies are brought to justice in a timely and substantive fashion."



Thursday, March 22, 2012

"Keep Fishermen Fishing" Rally Photos and Video

Yesterday I had the opportunity to speak at the "Keep Fishermen Fishing" Rally at our Nation's Capitol. I was moved by the spirit of fishing stakeholders, some who came from as far away as Alaska to attend. It was a lively event that showcased the support of many of the Nation's Congressmen and Senators. Posted below are some photos of the event and a video of U.S. Senator Scott Brown and I addressing the crowd. Please click here to read an article in today's Glocuester Daily Times for more information about yesterday's fishing rally.


Friday, March 16, 2012

Local Officials, Caucus Working to Close Unemployment Benefits System Loopholes

Earlier this week, representatives of the Massachusetts Municipal Association and local officials from several municipalities across the Commonwealth joined with the members of the Senate Republican Caucus to discuss serious problems with the state's system of unemployment claims and benefits. In a productive meeting at my State House office that lasted more than an hour, we discussed numerous problems with the system, and began the process of developing solutions to those problems.

Some of the loopholes in the unemployment benefits system discussed include teachers who have filed unemployment claims during school summer vacations while still receiving health insurance and have already collected a paycheck, and public safety officers who have reached the mandatory retirement age of 65 who are collecting a pension and applying for unemployment benefits.

The meeting was triggered by repeated published reports of abuses of the unemployment benefit system by some public sector employees, and a letter to Governor Deval Patrick authored by Lynnfield Town Administrator William Gustus. In the letter Gustus documented numerous examples of abuses through which municipal budgets were being burdened with inappropriate payments. Gustus was an active participant in our meeting.

Senate Republicans are firmly committed to exploring these issues fully, and taking every available action to end the abuses that are diverting precious municipal resources away from priorities like education and police and fire protection. The Caucus will be working closely with local officials over the next few weeks to fully develop a legislative package for meaningful reform on as many fronts as possible.

Here's what my Senate colleagues had to say about the meeting and the need to close these loopholes:

“Addressing the abuses within the state’s system of unemployment claims and benefits will be a critical reform measure. With cities and towns still recovering from the state’s financial crisis, any additional resources to provide essential services such as public safety and education should be explored. I am committed to working with my colleagues in the Senate to develop a plan to end the abuses affecting our municipal governments.” -- Assistant Senate Minority Leader Robert L. Hedlund (R-Weymouth)

“I commend Mr. Gustus and the MMA for bringing these abuses to our attention. The municipalities we met with are surely not the only ones experiencing these issues. The Senate Republicans are ready to take aim at the state’s system for handling unemployment claims to ease the tremendous burden placed on all of the Commonwealth’s cities and towns.” --Senator Michael R. Knapik (R-Westfield), the Ranking Republican on the Senate Ways and Means Committee

“At a time when we are doing our best to manage a difficult economy, it is crucial that state funds are employed solely for appropriate uses. My colleagues and I pledge to work with municipalities and the legislature to address these very serious problems and ensure that this situation does not arise again.” -- Senate Minority Whip Richard J. Ross (R-Wrentham)


Thursday, March 15, 2012

MEDIA ALERT: On the Air with WBZ's Dan Rea

I will be joining host Dan Rea on tonight’s edition of “Nightside” on WBZ radio. Dan and I will be discussing my habitual traffic offender bill (Senate Bill 2012), which would give the Registrar of Motor Vehicles increased powers to suspend or revoke the licenses of dangerous drivers who pose a public safety menace on the state’s roadways. Be sure to tune in to AM 1030 or click here tonight at 9 p.m. to listen to our discussion of this important public safety initiative.


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Senate GOP Caucus Calls for Audit of Patrick Administration’s Job-Counting Methodology

The Massachusetts Senate Republican Caucus is calling on State Auditor Suzanne Bump to conduct an audit of the Patrick Administration’s methodology for counting the number of jobs created in Massachusetts, following reports that the Administration has been inflating the official jobs figures for 2011 by nearly fourfold.

I joined with my Senate Republican colleagues in requesting the review in a letter that was hand-delivered to the Auditor’s office early yesterday. The request follows the disclosure by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics that Massachusetts employers added only 12,200 jobs in 2011, not the 40,700 jobs repeatedly claimed by the Patrick Administration.

“With the Commonwealth struggling to emerge from one of the most difficult recessions in our nation’s history, the need to focus on jobs creation has taken on added significance,” the Caucus wrote. “Being able to accurately gauge the number of jobs being created on a monthly and yearly basis is crucial to determining how effective the state’s regulatory and tax policies are, and for guiding the Legislature and the Administration in adjusting those policies in a way that will be most conducive to creating a more favorable business climate that will encourage job growth and put Massachusetts residents back to work.”

The Caucus letter goes on to note that, “unfortunately, the true picture of the state’s economic recovery has been clouded by what appears to be the Patrick Administration’s reliance on a faulty means of counting the number of jobs being added,” and asks Bump to look into “the accuracy and efficacy of the state’s current job-counting methodology.”

While the Patrick Administration has repeatedly claimed that Massachusetts is “leading the nation” in job growth, the Caucus notes in its letter that a new report recently issued by the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce shows that isn’t the case. According to the Chamber, the state has been trailing the nation in job creation, posting a job growth rate of 0.4% between January of 2011 and January of 2012, well below the national rate of 1.5 % during that same time period.

The Caucus considers the latest job creation figures to be particularly relevant, coming on the heels of the Senate and House Republicans’ filing of a comprehensive and innovative legislative package designed to help create and maintain jobs. The jobs package focuses on five key areas identified as crucial to the state’s economic growth, including business regulations, education, energy, healthcare and taxes.

“We are committed to removing the many obstacles that have and continue to impede job creation in the Commonwealth, but to ensure that these efforts are successful, an accurate understanding of how many jobs are actually being created and maintained is essential,” the Caucus wrote to Bump. “An audit by your office will help us to achieve this worthy goal.”

A copy of the Caucus letter to Auditor Bump is attached below.

Senate GOP Job Figures Audit Request 2012.03.13


Thursday, March 8, 2012

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 dicuss loopholes within the Commonwealth's unemployment insurance benefits program costing municipalities precious public dollars. To read more about the issue please click here to view past blog posts on Tarr Talk. Please tune in or click here tomorrow morning at approximately 7:05AM to listen to our lively discussion.


Statement on MA Jobs Creation

Posted below is a statement I released today concerning the state’s job growth rate, following the release of revised job figures for 2011 by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics and a report by the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce that shows the state posted 0.4 % job growth from January of 2011-January of 2012, well below the national rate of 1.5 % during that same time period.

“The revised job figures released by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics are both a reality check and a call to arms that we can’t be complacent about the need to improve the business climate in Massachusetts. According to the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, and contrary to repeated statements from the Patrick Administration, Massachusetts has been trailing, rather than leading, the nation in job growth. Instead of creating 40,700 jobs in 2011, Massachusetts added just 12,200 jobs. Clearly, the numbers that have been touted by the Patrick Administration are wildly inaccurate, and this report is further proof that we need to get our feet back on the ground and start marching forward to improve the state’s business climate and create new jobs.

We need to act swiftly and decisively to remove the obstacles to creating and maintaining jobs in Massachusetts, and the information coming forward in the last 24 hours provides clear evidence of that need. The forthcoming jobs creation package from Senate and House Republicans should be a priority for the Legislature to consider and enact.”

The Chamber’s report can be viewed at


Fixing the State's Broken Unemployment Insurance Benefits Program

Yesterday I released the following statement following the scheduling of a meeting with stakeholders to discuss loopholes in the Commonwealth's unemployment insurance benefits program costing municipalities scarce public dollars (see our March 6th post, Senate Republican Caucus Seeks to Initiate Dialogue with Municipal Officials or by clicking here), and the recent announcement by Governor Patrick on the filing of an unemployment insurance benefits bill. Executive Director Geoffrey Beckwith of the Massachusetts Municipal Association and a coalition of municipal officials will be attending a meeting at the State House with Senate Republicans on Wednesday, March 14th at 11:00 a.m.

"The recent cases brought to light by municipal officials of the blatant exploitation of the Commonwealth's unemployment insurance benefits program are egregious examples of a system gone wrong. I am pleased to announce that Executive Director Beckwith of the MMA and a coalition of municipal officials will be meeting with Senate Republicans next week to discuss long term solutions to this broken system.

I'm glad that Governor Patrick has decided to join the efforts of Senate Republicans in addressing some of these very glaring issues, however, the bill he has filed does not go far enough in protecting precious taxpayers' dollars. It is going to require a methodical approach and a lot of work to ensure that the loopholes are closed that are costing municipalities scarce public dollars from being subjected to the many frivolous cases that are being tolerated by the current system.

The Governor's bill addresses some of the "low-hanging fruits" of the issue, but a true solution will require the cooperation of the administration, legislative leaders and local officials in order to restore the integrity of an unemployment benefits system that so many rightfully depend on. I look forward to the opportunity to discuss with Governor Patrick the findings of Senate Republicans, and hope he will support a comprehensive legislative package that will address all of the loopholes surrounding the issue."


Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Media Alert: Globe Editorial Hightlights GOP Jobs Package

An editorial in today's Boston Globe highlights the GOP Jobs Package that was unveiled by the House and Senate Republican Caucuses last month. The editorial calls the jobs package - which focuses on five critical areas of importance to employers, including business regulations, education, energy, healthcare, and taxes –"a solid effort, featuring a number of ideas that merit serious consideration."

The editorial is reproduced below in its entirety.

"Until the last election, the Massachusetts Republican Party’s legislative ranks had been in decline for almost two decades. Too often, Republican lawmake*rs leaned into irrelevance by failing to push an eye-catching agenda or to act as attention-generating opponents to Beacon Hill’s prevailing Democrats. The party was flat, a collection of odd pieces with no coherence.

But that may be changing. Since the 2010 election, Republicans have more than doubled their House numbers, which now stand at 33. Emboldened by that gain, GOP legislators are determined to play a more important role. Republican representatives and senators recently unveiled a broad legislative agenda focused on making Massachusetts a less costly and cumbersome place to do business.

Reasonable people will disagree about various aspects of the GOP agenda, but in general, their package is a solid effort, featuring a number of ideas that merit serious consideration.

They propose, for example, bringing the state’s generous unemployment insurance program into line with those of most other states. Although business people have long maintained that the high cost of the Massachusetts program inhibits job creation, Democrats have been wary about tackling the issue because of union resistance. Republicans would also overhaul the unemployment insurance rate structure to reward companies whose employees seldom use the system, while raising costs for firms whose workers resort more frequently to unemployment benefits.

When it comes to education, Republicans propose allowing relevant military training, education, or experience to apply toward state college degrees, as well as licenses and certifications granted by the state, to get qualified workers into the employment ranks sooner. They also favor “finish-line’’ grants to help financially challenged students complete the final year of a degree program.

They call for job-creation tax credits that would phase out over about a decade; for state-tax-free savings accounts to help first-time home buyers save up to $4,000 toward that purchase; and for offering firms that register five or more commercial vehicles in Massachusetts a 10 percent break on registration fees.

The GOP effort would be strengthened by reliable price tags for their various initiatives, something Republicans say they plan to develop. Those should include not simply the cost in new state spending but, where relevant, in lost tax revenue, since the package includes a number of tax cuts or credits.

When fully fleshed out and filed as legislation, the GOP proposals should receive a respectful hearing from the majority Democrats. Interesting ideas, after all, aren’t the province of a single party. Massachusetts can only benefit from a broader, more robust public-policy debate on Beacon Hill."


Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Senate Republican Caucus Seeks to Initiate Dialogue with Municipal Officials

Responding to issues brought to light by municipal officials concerning the Commonwealth's unemployment insurance benefits program, the Senate Republican Caucus has invited Geoffrey Beckwith of the Massachusetts Municipal Association and a coalition of municipal officials to the State House to assist in the exploration of whether a legislative package is needed to ensure the proper expenditure of precious taxpayer dollars to those who truly need it.

Lynnfield Town Administrator William Gustus and 23 other municipal officials recently sent a letter to Governor Patrick revealing several circumstances of exploitation of the unemployment insurance benefits program. I joined with Assistant Senate Minority Leader Robert Hedlund (R-Weymouth), Senate Minority Whip Richard Ross (R-Wrentham) and Senator Michael Knapik (R-Westfield), the Ranking Republican on the Senate Ways and Means Committee in contacting both the municipal officials and Executive Director Beckwith in a letter sent to them on Friday to arrange a meeting, stating that "state government should act swiftly to address the concerns raised to expedite the prevention of the wasteful loss of taxpayers' dollars."

Compelled to take action, the caucus wrote, "Public dollars, especially during these fiscal times, need to be protected and allocated wisely with the utmost of prudence. Unfortunately, the approval of the particular cases presented to and approved by the Department of Unemployment Assistance Review Board do not demonstrate that prudence."

The Senate Republican Caucus plans to host meetings with municipal officials in an effort to close the loopholes that are costing municipalities precious public dollars. In the caucus letter, the Senate Republicans state they intend to "offer a comprehensive legislative package that will address these very concerns." Adding, "Restoring integrity into an unemployment benefits system that many so rightfully depend on is paramount."

Posted below is the letter sent by the Senate Republican Caucus to Lynnfield Town Administrator William Gustus.

Letter to Lynnfield Town Admin. Gustus 3.1


Monday, March 5, 2012

Judiciary Committee to Consider Proposal to Toughen Laws for Driving Menaces

On Tuesday afternoon I will be testifying before the Judiciary Committee in support of a bill I proposed to give the Registrar of Motor Vehicles increased powers to crack down on habitual traffic offenders and suspend or revoke the licenses of dangerous drivers who pose a public safety menace on the state’s roadways.

Senate Bill 2012, An Act Promoting Motor Vehicle Safety, was filed last August, with bicameral and bipartisan support of every House and Senate Republican, as well as a dozen of my Democratic colleagues from both branches. I drafted the bill after a Taunton teenager was struck and killed by a driver whose license had been suspended 16 times over a 22-year period preceding the accident.

At the time of this tragic accident, many people – myself included – demanded to know how the Registry of Motor Vehicle could allow someone with so many prior license suspensions to still be on the road, but we soon discovered the problem was not with the Registry, but with our own laws, which are woefully inadequate for dealing with dangerous drivers. Senate Bill 2012 will correct this shortcoming and will give state and local officials the tools they need to revoke the licenses of those individuals who pose a significant threat to public safety, in some cases for life.

Current Massachusetts law defines a habitual traffic offender as someone who has been convicted of three enumerated offenses (including driving while intoxicated, reckless driving, leaving the scene of an accident, operating a motor vehicle with a suspended license, driving without a license and the use of a vehicle while committing a felony) and/or has committed 12 other general traffic offenses carrying a license suspension of 30 days or more. The current penalty for such offenses is a loss of license for up to four years.

Senate Bill 2012 would create a tiered system of suspensions for habitual traffic offenders by creating new categories of level 2 and level 3 traffic offenders who would be subject to progressively increasing penalties. Specifically, the bill would:

• require a 5-year license revocation for first-time habitual traffic offenders;

• create a level 2 habitual traffic offender classification for individuals who have already had their license revoked for being a habitual offender, making them subject to a second revocation of not less than 5 years and not more than 15 years;

• establish a level 3 habitual traffic offender classification for more serious repeat offenders who have had previous license suspensions, which would provide the Registry with the option of imposing a lifetime ban; and

• allow the Registrar of Motor Vehicles to attach any terms and conditions the Registrar deems necessary if and when returning a license to a habitual traffic offender, regardless of the level at which they are classified.

The current law needs to be changed to ensure that dangerous drivers are not given a free pass to continue to threaten public safety on our roadways. My message to the committee tomorrow will stress the need to take immediate corrective action before another innocent victim loses their life because of the reckless actions of a dangerous driver.

The Judiciary Committee hearing is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. on Tuesday, March 6, and will take place in hearing room A-2 at the State House. To read the actual text of the bill please click here.