Friday, May 31, 2013

Media Alert: “Broadside” with Jim Braude

Please tune in to “Broadside” tonight on New England Cable News (NECN), where I’ll be discussing with host Jim Braude and former state senator and political analyst Warren Tolman the release of a state auditor’s report on our welfare system, a commercial fisheries lawsuit filed by Attorney General Coakley, and the latest on the Boston Marathon bombings investigation.  “Broadside” airs at 6:00pm and re-airs again at 3:30am.


Fighting for Our Fishermen

     Yesterday on the Boston Fish Pier, I joined with Attorney General Martha Coakley in announcing that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has filed a complaint against the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), federal officials, and regulators for recently implementing a 77% reduction of allowable catches of groundfish species such as cod.

     The suit claims that Frameworks 48 and 50 is in violation of the Magnuson-Stevens Act on several grounds, which include:

·         Failing to achieve optimum yield from the New England groundfish fisheries;

·         Dictating conservation and management measures that are not based on the best scientific information available;

·         Failing to meaningfully take into account the importance of fishery resources to fishing communities; and

·         Refusing to meaningfully provide for the sustained participation of, or to minimize the adverse effects upon, those fishing communities.

     I have been fighting these issues for several years.  Unfortunately federal regulators continue to use antiquated measuring tools to justify their heavy handed reductions of fish stocks.  The groundfish commercial fishery is struggling desperately to stay afloat, and a victory within the courts would provide a significant lifeline to those who depend on our oceans to make a living.

     Posted below are several photos taken during yesterday's announcement.  To read more about Attorney General Coakley’s suit, please click here.


Thursday, May 30, 2013

Media Alert: On the Air with WGBH’s “Greater Boston”

Tonight I will be appearing on WGBH-TV’s “Greater Boston” with host Emily Rooney to discuss a state auditor’s report that revealed several disturbing and outrageous oversight issues concerning the administering of public benefits by the Department of Transitional Assistance.

Please tune in to Channel 2 tonight at 7:00pm to watch what will surely be a lively discussion. Greater Boston also re-airs at midnight.


Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Today’s Statement on an Auditor’s Report of the Abuse of Welfare, EBT Benefits

Today I released the following statement regarding a report conducted by State Auditor Suzanne Bump that investigated the administrating of welfare, EBT benefits, and disability funds, and the lack of oversight and security of possible fraudulent accounts and transactions:

Spending millions of taxpayer dollars on false claims and benefits for ineligible people when others need and deserve assistance is outrageous beyond words.  Clearly Commissioner Monahan understands that, and is making progress on this front.  Yet today’s report by the Auditor tells the story of a system that demands the strongest possible legislative reforms, many of which Senate Republicans have been putting forth for the past several years, and which shouldn’t be postponed any longer.

We have to act now to rebuild the integrity of our system of public assistance and to make sure that public funds are spent wisely, and for those who truly deserve them.”


Please click here to read the Auditor's report.


Monday, May 27, 2013

Observing Memorial Day

"Memorial Day this year is especially important as we are reminded almost daily of the great sacrifices that men and women of the Armed Services make to defend our way of life." -Former Congressman Robin Hayes

It is my hope that we all take time to remember those we've lost while in the service of this great country.  The freedoms we enjoy today are the direct results of the men and women who were willing to make the ultimate sacrifice fighting for America and the values that we share.

Especially important to remember is the 60th Anniversary of the Korean War Armistice Agreement.  During this three year war the United States lost over 50,000 brave soldiers, who perished while fighting for South Korea's freedom.


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Posting of Roll Call Votes Online

Today the Massachusetts State Senate has begun debating a Senate Committee on Ways and Means Fiscal Year 2014 state budget proposal, and for the first time the State Senate is posting the results of the actual roll call votes made by the members.

The Senate Republican Caucus has been championing transparency within the Legislature for years, and this is the direct result of an amendment to the Senate Rules that I offered with the Republican Caucus and others that mandates the Clerk of the Senate to post the results of all roll call votes on the General Court’s website.  With the posting of roll call votes online, every citizen will have the opportunity to review how each and every member of the Senate voted on a particular measure, allowing for more transparency and accountability.

Please click here to review all of the amendments that were filed by the members to the FY’14 budget proposal.  To view the results of a particular roll call vote, click the RC link under the Action column.


Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Pushing Fish Aid in FY’14 State Budget

Posted below is a press release I sent out to the media today:

Tarr Pushing Fish Aid in FY’14 State Budget
State Must Assist in Preventing Industry from Total Collapse

Boston- In response to the ongoing struggle that groundfishermen have been forced to endure because of the draconian federal regulations they have to adhere to, Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester) has filed several amendments to the Senate Committee on Ways and Means FY’14 budget proposal to provide relief and support to the industry.

            “We are now in the 11th hour in trying to keep fishermen, shoreside businesses, and their families afloat while federal regulators continue down a path of destruction to the industry as we know it,” said Senator Tarr. “This state should do everything in its power to provide the lifeline desperately deserved and needed to prevent the industry from collapsing forever.”

            The amendments filed by Sen. Tarr would assist fishing ports to develop recovery and revitalization plans, scientific research studies and testings, and broaden health insurance benefits to more fishermen and their families.  The amendments are:

           Amendment #167 would provide grants to fishing ports to develop recovery and revitalization plans to increase economic viability for host communities.

           Amendment #168 would enable the Division of Marine Fisheries Institute and the School for Marine Science and Technology at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth to conduct a sonar groundfish species assessment study in the northwest Atlantic Ocean.

           Amendment #169 would allow for the development and implementation of a cod species identification sequencing study to be conducted by the Gloucester Marine Genome Initiative.

           Amendment #190 would allow the Large Pelagics Research Center at Hodgkins Cove on Giant Atlantic Bluefin Tuna to conduct research to support that fishery.

           Amendment #519 would create a “Dockside Testing Trust Fund” to be administered by the Department of Public Health to expand testing of shellfish harvested on George’s Bank, allowing an expansion of harvesting opportunities.

           Amendment #621 would allow individuals who received more than 50% of their income from commercial groundfishing to potentially become eligible to receive MassHealth benefits.

“Only with sound research can the state compel the federal government and those who implement these extremely restrictive regulations with the necessary evidence to prove that both the industry and groundfish stocks can co-exist,” said Senator Tarr.

Along with sponsoring those amendments, Senator Tarr is also a co-sponsor to Senator Dan Wolf’s amendment #36 that would open and regulate Massachusetts dealers of lobster tail to purchasers within the state as long as the lobster tails weigh at least 3 oz. and are not egg bearing.

“Our state needs to stand up and produce the science and factual information to make a compelling case that current federal regulations will cause disaster for our groundfishing industry that could be avoided by a more prudent and reasonable course of action.  And, we need to support the industry so it can survive while we make that case.”


 * Click “Read More” to read the actual text of the language of the amendments that I filed.

ENV 167 Grants for Fishing Port Recovery Plans

Mr. Tarr moved that the bill be amended, in Section 2, in item 2300-0100, by inserting at the end thereof the following:-

; provided, that not less than $300,000 shall be expended for grants to fishing ports to develop recovery and revitalization plans in response to federal groundfish regulations that took effect on May 1, 2013; provided further, that the division shall issue requests for proposals from affected ports not later than 60 days following the passage of this act and shall award such grants in a timely fashion; provided further, that all affected ports may submit individual plans or multiple ports may submit a regional plan; provided further, that all plans so developed shall be submitted to the director of the division, the secretary of the executive office of energy and environmental affairs, the secretary of the executive office of housing and economic development, and the clerks of the house of representatives and the senate not later than 180 days following the passage of this act


Mr. Tarr moved that the bill be amended, in Section 2, in item 2330-0100, by inserting at the end thereof the following:-

"provided further, that no less than $350,000 be expended for a program of collaborative research by the Division of Marine Fisheries through the Marine Fisheries Institute, in collaboration with the School for Marine Science and Technology at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, that applies innovative sonar and other technology to assess the biomass of groundfish in the northwest Atlantic Ocean, including cod and yellowtail flounder in the region managed by the New England Fishery Management Council; provided further, that to the maximum feasible extent, such program shall involve commercial fish harvesters in the commonwealth; provided, that the university shall report on the status of the research project to the house and senate committees on ways and means on or before December 31, 2013"


Mr. Tarr moved that the bill be amended, in Section 2, in item 2330-0100, by inserting at the end thereof the following:-

"provided further, that no less than $200,000 shall be expended for the development and implementation of a cod species identification sequencing study to be conducted by the Gloucester Marine Genome Initiative; and provided further, that the Gloucester Marine Genome Initiative shall report on the status of the project to the house and senate committees on ways and means on or before June 30, 2014"


Mr. Tarr moved that the bill be amended, in Section 2, in item 2310-0200, by inserting after the words “fisheries and wildlife research” the following words:-

“including research performed at the Large Pelagics Research Center at Hodgkins Cove on giant Atlantic Bluefin Tuna and other species”

EHS 519 Dockside Testing Trust Fund

Mr. Tarr moved that the bill be amended by inserting, after section __, the following new section:-

Section 2 of chapter 29 of the General Laws is hereby amended by adding the following new section:

- Section _____. There shall be established upon the books of the commonwealth a separate fund to be known as the Dockside Testing Trust Fund to be expended, without prior appropriation, by the department of public health. The fund shall consist of fees collected from harvesters of molluscan shellfish on Georges Bank, in waters that are not monitored for the presence of paralytic shellfish toxin, in the amount of thirty-five thousand dollars per vessel that harvests in said waters. The commissioner shall make necessary expenditures from this account for the administrative costs of the operations and programs of the department related to regulating and monitoring the shellfish harvesters, including the testing of the shellfish as necessary to ensure that they are safe for human consumption. The department may incur expenses, and the comptroller may certify for payment, amounts in anticipation of expected receipts, but no expenditure shall be made from the fund that would cause the fund to be in deficit at the close of a fiscal year. Moneys deposited in the fund that are unexpended at the end of the fiscal year shall not revert to the General Fund. The department shall use amounts in said fund for the aforesaid purposes and for no other.

EHS 621 Fishing Family Insurance

Mr. Tarr moved that the bill be amended, in Section 2, in item 4000-1405, by inserting, after the word “basis” in line 10 thereof, the following:-

“provided further that individuals deriving more than 50% of their income from commercial groundfishing and affected by the regulatory changes taking effect on May 1, 2013 may be eligible to receive benefits from this item"


Senate Republican Caucus Seeks Responsible Spending Measures to FY’14 State Budget

On the eve of the Massachusetts State Senate’s debate of a Senate Committee on Ways and Means budget proposal to Fiscal Year 2014 that had garnered over 700 amendments, the Senate Republican Caucus have filed several amendments that would put controls and cuts on taxes, raise revenue without raising taxes, and promote responsible spending measures and fiscal discipline.

Despite the laudable efforts of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means to level fund or reduce the funding for more than 300 line items, the overall cost of the budget now before us represents a 4.4% increase for Fiscal Year 2014 over the current year.  Given the uncertainty of the continuing economic recovery and the proposed $350 million withdrawal from the stabilization fund, we need to exhaust every option to save money, capture efficiencies, boost economic growth and generate revenue that doesn’t come from tax increases.

Unfortunately the committee’s budget proposal does not offer meaningful reforms to public subsidy and government welfare programs that are wracked with fraud and government waste.  Seeking to provide safeguards on such precious and needed programs, the Senate Republican Caucus offered several amendments aimed to achieve that goal.  Those amendments include:

           Amendment #76 would allow the Attorney General to seek recovery of any previously issued public assistance benefits from a recipient convicted under state or federal law for the use of a weapon of mass destruction, with the recovered money going to benefit the victims of the acts of terror.

           Amendment #549 would require all future EBT cards issued by the Department of Transitional Assistance to include the fraud detection phone number and web address.

           Amendment #573 would authorize the Department of Transitional Assistance to terminate the benefits of recipients of welfare benefits if their mailing address becomes unknown.  The amendment would also prohibit the Department of Transitional Assistance to continue using numerical placeholders instead of valid social security numbers for a prolonged period of time.

           Amendment #583 requires the nearly operational Integrated Eligibility System (IES) maintained by the Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS) to cross-check social security numbers of applicants from state and federal data sources and to track eligibility of public subsidies.

Our system of public assistance provides needed help to those in difficult economic circumstances, and we need to ensure that every dollar we allocate to that purpose gets to them, rather than being consumed by any waste, fraud or abuse.

Other amendments filed by the Senate Republican Caucus include cuts to the budget, jobs creation incentives, meaningful reforms to higher education funding, and revenue gains provided by online gaming.  Some of those proposals include:

           Amendment #157 creates a job incentive tax credit eligible to companies that increase their net employment figures in the Commonwealth.

           Amendment #143 would require certain government agencies, departments, and offices to reduce its spending by 1% for Fiscal Year 2014.

           Amendment #330 would provide tuition and fee waivers for Massachusetts veterans and active duty service members who are permanent and legal residents of the Commonwealth.

           Amendment #346 level funds several public university and state schools line items and places the FY14 budget proposal increases to be placed in a special fund to be distributed on merit based measures such as graduation rates, improved operation efficiencies, and increased academic successes.

           Amendment #123 would create 4 online gaming licenses to be made available to the 3 fully licensed casinos and the single slot parlor, and tax online gaming revenue at a rate of 20%, placing Massachusetts in the forefront of an evolving industry.

The amendments filed by the Senate Republican Caucus are part of an initiative to make government more efficient.

If you would like to read the actual text of these amendments and the amendments filed by all the members of the Senate, please click here.


Thursday, May 16, 2013

Statement on the release of the Senate Ways and Means FY14 budget

Yesterday I released the following statement, after the Senate Committee on Ways and Means unveiled its $33.9 billion budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2014:

“The Fiscal Year 2014 budget proposal released today by the Senate Committee on Ways and Means clearly rejects once again the massive tax and spend measures that have been advocated by Governor Patrick, and responds to some important spending priorities such as transportation, special education and police training.  It also provides a “killed in the line of duty” death benefit for the family of slain MIT police officer Sean Collier, which is the right thing to do in light of the ultimate sacrifice made by this young officer who had such a promising life and career ahead of him.

The Senate Ways and Means budget makes a notable effort to reduce spending in many accounts.  Yet, in responding to yet another sizable budget gap, today’s proposal relies on a combination of over $627 million from one-time revenue sources and $450 million in tax increases, and that’s on top of the millions of dollars in additional tax increases that have been approved in recent years, including a $900 million increase in the sales tax implemented in 2009.

In order to put our state on a steady path toward economic prosperity and future balanced budgets, we need to ensure that the spending proposed by the Senate Ways and Means Committee can be sustained without continuing to resort to one-time fixes and burdening struggling household budgets with more taxes.  We must always remember that we live in uncertain economic times and the robust economic recovery we’ve hoped for hasn’t materialized.  Rather than continuing to raise taxes by millions of dollars, we need to address the real problems of unsustainable state spending and the need to create more jobs and enable a stronger economic recovery than the one we’re experiencing.

As we move forward in the budget process and prepare for next week’s floor debate, the Senate Republican Caucus will be looking for every opportunity to strengthen fiscal discipline in the process and to promote the type of sustainable job growth we need to generate the additional revenues that will help the state navigate through an uncertain economic climate.”


To view a copy of the proposed budget, click here.


Wednesday, May 15, 2013

A Compelling Editorial

An editorial in today’s Salem Evening News spotlights the need for further legislative action targeting those who continue to drive drunk even after a lifetime license revocation.

It also highlights recent successes I’ve had in amending the law toward that goal, and legislation that I and the Senate Republican Caucus filed earlier this legislative session to include jail time for those who do not adhere to a lifetime licensure ban.

Please click here to read today’s editorial.


On the Air with Fox 25

Yesterday morning I was a guest on the Fox 25 morning news to discuss the recent arrest of a Billerica man who was charged with his 12th drunken driving charge, and the need for legislative action targeting habitual traffic offenders.

To watch yesterday’s segment please play the posted video below.

Boston News, Weather, Sports | FOX 25 | MyFoxBoston


Monday, May 13, 2013

Statement on the Recent Arrest of a Billerica Man Facing His 12th Charge of Drunk Driving

Today I released the following statement regarding the recent arrest of a Billerica man who has been charged with his 12th drunk driving charge, and has previously had his license permanently revoked for life. Starting in August 2011, the Senate Republican Caucus have been pursuing legislation to strengthen the law by increasing penalties for those who are habitual traffic offenders:

“People who drive time and time again without a license and/or under the influence of alcohol, as evidenced in this case, not only disrespect the law but also put public safety at risk. Clearly, these types of repeated acts can’t be tolerated. While we made significant progress last year in increasing the fines for unlicensed driving, it’s clear that for some cases the sanction of jail time is necessary.

We need to act clearly and decisively to send a message that repeated instances of driving without a license and while intoxicated won’t be tolerated in Massachusetts.”


Media Alert: On the Air with Fox25

Please tune in tomorrow morning at approximately 7:15am on the Fox 25 Morning News where I will be discussing the recent arrest of a Billerica man who is facing his 12th drunken-driving charge, and the need for legislative action targeting habitual traffic offenders.


Honoring Those Who Protect and Serve

Today marks the start of National Police Week, where events at our nation’s capital are dedicated to those who currently serve as officers, have served, and those who have fallen in the line of duty.  National Police Week was conceived in 1962 when President John Kennedy signed a proclamation dedicating May 15th as Peace Officers Memorial Day and the week as National Police Week.

Since 1962, thousands of officers and supporters from around the country attend events every year in Washington, DC and throughout the nation to join in camaraderie, and to pay respect for those who have fallen while on duty.  Tonight at approximately 8:00pm the Annual National Peace Officers’ Memorial Service, which is sponsored by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF), will commence with its 25th Annual Candlelight Vigil.

It is my hope that all of us will take a moment this week to honor and recognize the invaluable service police officers provide in keeping our communities safe.

To learn more about National Police Week and to watch tonight’s Candlelight Vigil please click here to visit the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund website.


Thursday, May 9, 2013

The Open Door Empty Bowl Fundraiser is Tonight!

Tonight starting at 4:00pm is The Open Door Food Pantry’s 13th Annual Empty Bowl fundraising dinner at Cruiseport Gloucester.  This wonderful event, which has thrived under the leadership of Executive Director Julie LaFontaine, draws nearly a thousand people together in the hopes to collect the necessary funds to feed the thousands who depend on The Open Door Food Pantry’s assistance.

Over a thousand bowls are hand crafted and designed by area residents and supporters, and participants are then presented with one during the event.  Symbolically the bowls serve as a reminder that somewhere, someone’s bowl is empty.

Tickets cost $15 for adults and $10 for children under ten, and are available at the door.  Extra parking has been made available at Harbor Beach with complimentary trolley service to and from Cruiseport Gloucester.  The dinner commences at 4:00pm and ends approximately at 8:00pm.

To learn more about The Open Door Food Pantry and of the Empty Bowl fundraising dinner please click here.  Pictured above is a bowl that I designed from a past year.


Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Judiciary Committee Hears Sex Offender Registry Board Bill

Posted below is a press release that I sent out today regarding a sex offender registry board reform bill that was heard by the Joint Committee on the Judiciary this afternoon:

Senator Tarr calls for Sex Offender Registry Board reforms

Testifies on several public safety bills at Judiciary Committee hearing

 BOSTON – Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester) testified before the Legislature’s Joint Committee on the Judiciary this afternoon, calling for the passage of legislation that will enhance information-sharing among the state’s public safety agencies and ensure that sex offenders are properly classified and monitored.

Tarr is the lead sponsor of Senate Bill 815, An Act Enhancing Assessment Information of the Sexual Offender Registration Board, which has the bi-partisan support of 26 House and Senate members, including the entire Senate Republican Caucus and many Democrats who have signed on as co-sponsors.  The bill was filed following the December 2012 indictment of Wakefield resident John Burbine, who was classified as a Level 1 offender despite being the subject of several investigations since 1989 and is now facing multiple counts of child sexual abuse.

“For too long our systems for dealing with sex offenders have tolerated a lack of information, a lack of transparency, a lack of communication between those charged with protecting us, and a lack of proper tools to access, classify and reclassify those who have committed these crimes,” said Tarr.  “Now, the Legislature must act, in a responsible and effective way, to empower citizens, law enforcement officials and the Sex Offender Registry Board to strengthen public safety and prevent victimization.  The Judiciary Committee has before it bills of ample number and scope to get the job done, and it’s imperative that it move as soon as possible to action.”

Highlights of Senate Bill 815 include:

·         a requirement and authorization for law enforcement agencies and prosecutors to communicate with the Sex Offender Registry Board (SORB) in a timely fashion about the commitment of subsequent offenses by a registered sex offender;

·         the legal authority of the SORB to re-classify sex offenders based on new information, which was taken away by the Massachusetts Court of Appeals on July 16, 2012 in its ruling in the case of John Doe 16748 v. Sex Offender Registry Board (Docket Number 11-P-308);

·         the ability of the SORB to expedite the re-classification process of a sexual offender upon the recommendation of law enforcement and prosecutors; and

·         a requirement for the timely re-classification of sex offenders who have committed subsequent offenses

In addition to Senate Bill 815, Tarr is sponsoring several other sex offender bills on behalf of Protect Mass Children that were heard by the Judiciary Committee today, including:

·         Senate Bill 802, which would require out of state classified sex offenders who enter Massachusetts to register with the SORB within two days of moving into the Commonwealth, and would require that this information be shared with the local police department in which the sex offender resides;

·         Senate Bill 803, which would impose a mandatory minimum of: 30 years in prison for the forcible rape of a child; 45 years in prison for the forcible rape of a child with a firearm; and life in prison without parole for any second or subsequent offense by a person over the age of 18;

·         Senate Bill 804, which would impose a mandatory minimum of life imprisonment with no parole for any person convicted three or more times for any sex offense against a child, person with disabilities, mental handicap, or elder;

·         Senate Bill 805, which would eliminate the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse, with a three-year retroactive window;

·         Senate Bill 811, which would require information on all registered sex offenders (Levels 1, 2 and 3) to be provided by the SORB to the public, both online and at local police departments; and

·         Senate Bill 814, which would extend from 60 to 90 days the time frame in which the SORB must notify the offender of his right to submit evidence of his risk of re-offense/dangerousness prior to the offender's scheduled release from prison, and limit the time the offender has to submit the evidence to the board to 30 days.
Several of these bills are supported by Protect Mass Children.  To learn more about them you can visit their website by clicking here.


Beach Safety Bill Reported Favorably By Committee

Posted below is a press release that I sent out today regarding the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture taking favorable action on Senate Bill 409, An Act Creating Uniform Beach Warnings:

Beach Safety Bill Reported Favorably By Committee

Bill Honors Memory Of Missing 2-Year-Old Caleigh Harrison
BOSTON – The Legislature’s Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture took favorable action today on legislation filed by Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester) to promote safety at the state’s public beaches through a uniform, color-coded warning and safety flag program.

Senate Bill 409, An Act Creating Uniform Beach Warnings, was released from committee with a favorable report this morning following a public hearing that included testimony from Senator Tarr, Representative Ann-Margaret Ferrante (D-Gloucester) and the family of 2-year-old Caleigh Harrison, who went missing on April 19, 2012 while playing with her mother and sister at Rockport’s Long Beach.

“Today the committee has taken a decisive step toward making our beaches safer and public safety stronger,” said Senator Tarr.  “The compelling story told by Caleigh’s family moved legislators to action, and is making the difference in getting the bill passed.”

“I am extremely proud of the Harrison family,” added Representative Ferrante.  “They are an inspiration for turning their tragedy into positive advocacy for public safety and preventing future tragedies.  As the former vice chair and current member of the Environment Committee, I am pleased that we as a committee were able to vote this out of committee favorably.”

The effort to pass Senate Bill 409 was initiated by Caleigh’s uncle, David Harrison, who was on a business trip to Panama earlier this year when he learned about the country’s color-coded flag system which is used to warn the public about the dangers of tides and riptides.  Alabama, Florida, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Texas and several other states utilize a similar program, and the Harrison family is seeking to implement the same safety measures in Massachusetts.

“We’re extremely thankful and delighted that the bill moved as fast as it did,” said David Harrison.  “We didn’t expect that, and we’re very grateful.  We’re also thankful for the efforts of Senator Tarr and Representative Ferrante.  This is one big step toward something positive that we’re trying to accomplish, and we want to thank the committee for pushing the bill through.  We’re definitely not the only family to lose a loved one like this, and we won’t be the last, but we hope to reduce those numbers by passing this bill.  It’s a great way to honor Caleigh.”

“I want to thank Senator Tarr and Caleigh’s family for bringing this important issue to our attention,” said Senator Marc R. Pacheco (D-Taunton), Senate Chairman to the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture.  “Massachusetts should certainly employ this strategy; if it prevents another future tragedy, it will be well worth it.”

“I am pleased to work with Senator Pacheco and the Committee members to advance this common sense piece of legislation,” added Representative Anne Gobi (D-Spencer), House Chairman to the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture.  “I know not every tragedy can be prevented but it is important to put measures in place that can raise awareness and increase public safety and this bill will do that.”

The bill now heads to the Senate for further action.



Beach Safety Bill Set for Hearing Today!

A proposal I filed to promote safety at the state’s public beaches will be heard by a joint legislative committee this morning between 10:00AM and noon in room 437 of the State House.

Senate Bill 409, An Act Creating Uniform Beach Warnings, calls for the Department of Conservation and Recreation to create a uniform warning and safety flag program in which communities can participate on a voluntary basis and utilize a color-coded system to warn the public of potential beach hazards.  The bill is scheduled to be heard by the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture.

The effort to pass Senate Bill 409 was initiated by David Harrison, whose 2-year-old niece Caleigh Harrison went missing from Rockport’s Long Beach on April 19, 2012 while playing with her mother and 4-year-old sister.  In January of this year, David was on a business trip to Panama when he became aware of the country’s color-coded flag system, which is used to warn the public about the dangers of tides and riptides, and to indicate whether or not it is safe to go swimming.  The Harrison family subsequently contacted me to ask if I could help facilitate the implementation of a similar program in Massachusetts.  We are now working in partnership to get the bill passed.

The Harrison family endured a terrible and unthinkable loss last year, but they are determined to do everything they can to help spare other families from the pain and grief they have experienced.  I will be joining the family at today’s hearing and asking the committee to honor Caleigh’s short life by taking favorable action on this important public safety proposal, which we are hopeful will make our beaches safer and help to save lives.

The bill enjoys bi-partisan support, including the backing of Representative Ann-Margaret Ferrante (D-Gloucester).

With this very simple and cost-effective program, we can raise awareness and help folks be prepared for the dynamic conditions on our beaches and help them act accordingly to protect themselves.

New Hampshire is the only New England state that currently utilizes a uniform warning and safety flag program.  Other states with a similar program include Alabama, Florida, New Jersey and Texas.


Thursday, May 2, 2013

Statement on Chapter 90 Funding

Today I released the following statement after the Senate engrossed a transportation finance proposal allocating $300 million in Chapter 90 road and bridge funding for Massachusetts’ cities and towns, an increase of $100 million over last year’s total:

"Now that the House and Senate have given initial approval to an increase in Chapter 90 funding, it is imperative that the Legislature move expeditiously to finalize this proposal and approve a terms bill so this money can be made readily available for our cities and towns to capture the widest possible window of the construction season.  We are long past the April 1st deadline for communities to be notified of their preliminary funding allocation, and it is important that we honor this financial commitment as soon as possible.

While we continue to move forward, I’m concerned that Governor Patrick has repeatedly asserted that we can’t afford to increase Chapter 90 levels to $300 million unless we approve his $1.9 billion plan to raise taxes.  He has gone so far as to warn communities that without his massive tax increases, ‘investment in the Chapter 90 program will not be implemented’.

Clearly, the House and Senate believe that the $300 million can be implemented without resorting to a tax increase of the order or magnitude the Governor has requested.  The reality is, the House and Senate are already in the process of finalizing an alternative transportation proposal in conference committee, and the Governor’s $1.9 billion tax increase is no longer under consideration.  Therefore, it is my hope the Governor will not hold this critical bill hostage to a larger tax proposal that is no longer viable.”



Special Guests at the State House

On Tuesday I had the chance to meet with 25 members of the Massachusetts chapter of TeenPact Leadership Schools. The organization’s mission is to train young people to understand the political process. I spoke with the students about our everyday legislative processes and the historical significance of the State House.

Posted below are a few photos captured of us in the Massachusetts Senate Chamber.


Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Senator Tarr’s Statement of the Senate Posting Roll Call Votes Starting Today

Today I released the following statement regarding the Massachusetts State Senate posting all roll call votes made by the members of the Senate on the General Court’s website. The measure requiring the posting of roll call votes was from a Senate Rule filed by the Senate Republican Caucus that set May 1st as the deadline of such postings, which passed unanimously by a vote of 39-0:

“Today marks the beginning of a new era of transparency and accountability for the Massachusetts Senate, and a clear victory for citizens who deserve to know how members are voting on the issues that affect all of us.  Senate Republicans have worked hard to make this information available, and to garner the bipartisan support needed to reach that goal.

Providing timely access to information can and will make our democracy stronger, and the posting of Senate roll calls in an easily accessible format within 48 hours is a major milestone.  Having reached that milestone, our caucus will continue the fight to open up what happens on Beacon Hill to the light of public scrutiny.”