Friday, March 28, 2014

An Interesting Editorial

In today’s Eagle Tribune, the newspaper offers its perspective regarding the ongoing issues that continue to hamper the Department of Children and Families.  The newspaper correctly cites that additional taxpayer money is not the only solution to correct the systemic issues that currently run deep within the agency.

To read the editorial in its entirety, please click here.


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Statement Regarding a DCF Audit by Auditor Bump

Today I released the following statement regarding a two-year audit of the Department of Children and Families by Auditor Suzanne Bump:

“Today’s audit report issued by Auditor Bump reconfirms the risks posed to vulnerable children because of deficiencies and systematic problems at the Department of Children and Families.  Now, more than ever, it is clear that reforming this agency needs to be a priority for the Legislature and the Administration, and the job needs to be done in a timely and effective way.”



Monday, March 24, 2014

Meeting with the Merrimack Valley Chamber of Commerce

This morning I had the opportunity to join with several of my Senate colleagues for a Merrimack Valley Chamber of Commerce forum to discuss the Massachusetts economy.  The forum, which was held at Salvatore’s Riverwalk Conference Center in Lawrence, MA, was well attended by many civic and business leaders from the region.

The forum provided an excellent opportunity to speak directly with members of the business community regarding issues that affect the vitality of our economy, and I am pleased to have joined in today’s discussion.

With the assistance of former State Senator Steven Baddour serving as today’s guest moderator, we discussed issues such as the latest state revenue and unemployment figures, unemployment insurance reforms, the ongoing minimum wage debate, and many proposals the Senate Republican Caucus has offered to reduce health care and energy costs for businesses within the Commonwealth.

For more information regarding the Merrimack Valley Chamber of Commerce, please click here to visit the organization’s website.  Posted below are photos that were captured of this morning’s event.


Thursday, March 20, 2014

Wilmington Minutemen Carrying on with Tradition

On Sunday afternoon, I had the special opportunity to join the Wilmington Company of Minutemen for their 2014 Installation of Officers ceremony.  I would like to congratulate Samantha Richardson for being elected Captain, Paul Rich for being elected Lieutenant, Nanci Robinson for being elected Adjutant Sergeant, and Mike Bodnar for being elected Company Sergeant.  The Wilmington Company of Minutemen carry on a long standing tradition that is rich with Massachusetts’ history.

In April I hope to join the minutemen for their annual March to Concord to commemorate the famous Battle of Lexington and Concord during the Revolutionary War.  It is a fascinating event that begins with a midnight breakfast before the 2:00am march.

For more information regarding the Wilmington Company of Minutemen, please click here.


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Republican Legislators Seek to Freeze UI Rate

Today House Minority Leader Brad Jones and I distributed the following press release:

House and Senate Republican Lawmakers Decry Inaction on Unemployment Insurance Rate Freeze

Impending April Increase to Cost Small Businesses Hundreds of Millions of Dollars

BOSTON - With a drastic increase to the Massachusetts unemployment insurance rate taking effect during the first quarter, House and Senate Republican lawmakers have filed legislation to freeze the unemployment insurance rate at its current level. The move comes after continued inaction from the Democratic-led Legislature to act on preventing an increase to the unemployment insurance rate paid by thousands of small businesses across the Commonwealth.

Led by House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading) and Senate Minority Leader Bruce E. Tarr (R-Gloucester), Republican lawmakers are attempting to prevent a $500 million exposure to businesses, should Democratic legislators fail to act on legislation protecting hardworking entrepreneurs across Massachusetts.

“By leveraging the freeze of our state’s unemployment rate as a means to obtain their desired minimum wage level, Democratic lawmakers have signaled their willingness to use the Commonwealth’s small businesses as a pawn in their political game,” said State Representative Brad Jones. “At this time, it is an extreme disservice to businesses throughout the Commonwealth to not consider this proposal separately based on its merit.  A freeze of the unemployment insurance rate is imperative for both our state’s workforce and entrepreneurs. If not approved immediately, this increase will have a negative impact on our economy.”

The effort to prevent an increase to the state’s unemployment insurance rate comes six months after Republican legislators were successful in advocating for the repeal of the crippling technology tax which was approved by Democratic lawmakers. As was the case with the largest and broadest tax on computer and software services in the nation, an increase of 33% to the rate incurred by small businesses in regards to unemployment insurance will have a long-lasting and negative effect on the businesses that are the backbone of the Massachusetts economy.

“Freezing unemployment insurance rates is critical to the viability and sustainability of employers and jobs in our state, and if we don’t act now we will be risking serious damage to our economy,” said Senator Bruce Tarr.  “The House and Senate may well continue to be divided over issues like the minimum wage, but there can be no doubt that we should act immediately on behalf of the commonsense a freeze represents.”

Having been filed in both the House and Senate, House Docket 4163, An Act Relative to the Unemployment Insurance Rate, awaits assignment to a legislative committee.



Monday, March 17, 2014

Media Alert: On the Air with Fox 25

Tonight I will once again be a special guest on the Fox 25 Evening News, where I will be discussing with Investigative Reporter Mike Beaudet the recent arrest of a level 3 sex offender charged with indecent assault and battery on a child under the age of 14, reckless endangerment of a child, enticement of a child, and dissemination of pornography to a minor.

To watch this evening’s discussion, please tune in tonight at 5:00pm.


Celebrating Saint Patrick’s Day

This past Friday, State Representative Brad Hill and I hosted a Saint Patrick’s Day luncheon for seniors organized by the Ipswich Council on Aging.  Everybody who attended had a great time while they enjoyed traditional Irish fare, wonderful music, and good conversations.

The festive occasion brought out the Irish in all of us!  Others who joined us for the luncheon include Town Manager Robin Crosbie and Veterans’ Agent Terry Hart.

Posted below are a few photos that I captured during the luncheon.


Thursday, March 13, 2014

Statement on a Report Released Today by the Child Welfare League

Today I released the following statement regarding a report issued by the Child Welfare League, who has been hired to review the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families:

“Today’s progress report from the Child Welfare League makes it clear that we have substantial work to do to reform the Department of Children and Families, and to ensure that the health, safety, and well-being of vulnerable children are not jeopardized by this agency.

The report confirms the need for responsible caseloads, more modern technology and better medical screening protocols, and woven through all of these issues is greater accountability at all levels.

In addition, the report also points to the immediate need to confront the problem of granting waivers for children to be placed in homes with those convicted of felonies and other crimes.  There is a clear contrast between the situation we have today and the system we need to have, which bans some placements outright and puts in place monitoring and accountability to protect the children in others.

Changing from a system that grants waivers to one that requires approval, as expressed in the report, reflects the intent of the amendment offered by Senate Republicans and approved by the Senate on February 13th, to require that the safety and necessity of these placements be certified in writing before they are allowed.”



Senate Republican Caucus Seeks to Address Major Loophole within State Employee Travel Expense Regs

Today I distributed the following press release regarding a bill that the Senate Republican Caucus is filing to close a loophole within the state employee travel expense regulations:

Senate Republican Caucus Seeks to Address Major Loophole within State Employee Travel Expense Regs
Every Government Entity Should be Held to the Same, High Standards

Boston- Confronting a situation that has recently been highlighted by travel and other expenses incurred by commissioners and employees at the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester), Assistant Minority Leader Robert Hedlund (R-Weymouth), Senate Minority Whip Donald Humanson (R-Westfield), and Senator Richard Ross (R-Wrentham), the Ranking Republican on the Senate Committee on Ways and Means are filing legislation this week that would further regulate expenditures made by state employees.

Current law mandates all governing bodies that receive state appropriations to follow strict travel expense guidelines.  However, because the Massachusetts Gaming Commission does not receive such appropriations, the commission has interpreted that the regulations do not apply.  The bill authored by the Senate Republican Caucus, which is also available for co-sponsorship by the members of the legislature, eliminates the wording of “state appropriations” to make the regulation all-inclusive.

“Our state’s expense rules need to be clear, understandable, and even-handed,” said Senator Bruce Tarr.  “These commonsense reforms achieve those goals and go a long way toward preventing abuses and extreme expenses.”

With unclear travel spending regulations, which were originally codified in 2004, outrageous expenditures may occur if left unchecked.  Recently, the Boston Business Journal found employees of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission to be lavishly spending during business trips nationally and internationally.  Their review of over 700 credit card charges and expense reimbursements from May 2012 to the end of 2013 found employees of the commission spent nearly $85,000 on airfare, $61,000 on hotel accommodations, and $37,000 on meals.

Compelled to address a number of problems with the current law, the bill seeks to resolve the ambiguity of the state employee travel reimbursement regulations by:

           clarifying the reimbursement rules regarding lodging, entertainment, airfare, and other travel expenses;

           applying the state reimbursement rules to every state employee; and

           removing the current distinction between managers and employees.

“These loopholes, if left unchanged, would at the very least create a cloud of impropriety, and at the very worst, allow widespread abuse,” said Senator Bruce Tarr.  “With state government continuing to evolve, this measure aims to instill confidence by removing speculation to ensure state employees are spending precious dollars appropriately.”



Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Statement on a Local Aid Resolution Agreement

Today I released the following statement regarding the announcement of a proposed local aid resolution:

“Local aid accounts are critical for municipal budgets and providing essential services such as education and police and fire protection, and an early local aid resolution is an important tool to provide valuable information to the municipal officials who are working now to write city and town budgets.

Because of that importance, consideration of a local aid resolution is a welcome opportunity for debate about how best to help our cities and towns.  In that debate we should consider the context of a likely increase in state spending of almost 5%, and aspire to reach beyond increases in Chapter 70 spending which account only for inflation and incremental increases per pupil that resemble those we have seen in the past.

Similarly, if the state budget is going to increase by 5%, we need to address Unrestricted General Government Aid more than we have over the past several years, and in a way that addresses the projected performance of the lottery and the needs of our municipal partners in government.”



Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Media Alert: On the Air with Fox 25

Tonight at approximately 5:00pm I will be a featured guest on the Fox 25 Evening News where I’ll be discussing with Anchor Maria Stephanos and Investigative Reporter Mike Beaudet the next steps Massachusetts needs to take to strengthen our sex offender laws.  Please tune in to watch tonight’s lively discussion.


Honoring a Local Olympic Hero

On Saturday, March 8th I had the honor to attend the Welcome Home Celebration for US Women’s hockey player and North Reading resident Alex Carpenter.  During the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, Alex joined her team in the rink against fierce competition and performed admirably while demonstrating teamwork, sportsmanship, and resolution.

With a powerful left handed shot, Alex scored goals during both the semifinals against Sweden, and the finals against Canada, ultimately winning the silver medal for the United States.

Hundreds of people came out in support of Alex during Saturday’s Welcome Home Celebration, which featured two ladder trucks from the North Reading and Middleton fire departments, the North Reading Police Department, and local officials.  I also presented an official House of Representatives Resolution that Representative Brad Jones and I sponsored recognizing Alex for her achievements while serving as an inspiration to us all.

Posted below are several photos from the day’s event, some of which were taken by North Reading Selectman Bob Mauceri.


Monday, March 10, 2014

Senate Republican Caucus Succeeds in Securing Transparency Amendment in Transpo Bond Bill

Today the Senate Republican Caucus distributed the following press release regarding a transportation bond bill the Massachusetts State Senate passed on Thursday, March 6:

Senate Republican Caucus Succeeds in Securing Transparency Amendment in Transpo Bond Bill

Caucus Vows to Continue to Fight for Accountability and Responsibility in State Transportation System

Boston- On Thursday, March 6th, the Massachusetts State Senate debated a transportation bond bill that totaled more than $13 billion to assist in the financing of transportation projects throughout the Commonwealth.  Among the 237 amendments filed, Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester), Assistant Minority Leader Robert Hedlund (R-Weymouth), Senate Minority Whip Donald Humason (R-Westfield), and Senator Richard Ross (R-Wrentham), the Ranking Republican on the Senate Committee on Ways and Means succeeded in securing an amendment to S.2023, An Act financing improvements to the Commonwealth’s transportation system, that would instill needed transparency and allow for more accountability within two of the state’s major transportation agencies.

The amendment, which passed unanimously by a roll call vote of 38-0, requires the Massachusetts Department of Transportation to post an annual report to the MassDOT website of all financial activities.  It also requires the MBTA to post an annual itemized budget online, allowing anyone the opportunity to scrutinize and examine the expenditures made by the agency.

“Our state government spends billions of taxpayer dollars on a system of transportation that people depend on every day, said Senator Tarr.  “It makes sense to open the doors of accountability to allow people to see how their money is being spent, and compare those expenditures with the value they are getting when they drive on a roadway or ride on a train.”

While this amendment passed overwhelmingly, several other amendments aimed at increasing transparency, accountability, and efficiency in the state’s transportation system were offered unsuccessfully by the caucus, which will continue to pursue them in other venues.  They include:

           Requiring the secretary of transportation to issue a five-year plan prioritizing the repair and maintenance of existing transportation infrastructure over expansion projects, also known as the Fix it First Plan;

           Prohibiting the MBTA from undertaking expansion projects without first conducting a cost analysis and demonstrating that sufficient revenue exists or will be generated to operate and maintain the expansion project; and

           Prohibiting the registrar from raising Registry of Motor Vehicle fees until after the secretary of transportation has reported on the status of a mandate requiring all state transportation employees’ salaries and benefits being funded through the operating budget, and not with bond money.

“In order to increase transparency within our state government and instill the system with greater integrity, it is paramount that measures like these are vigorously pursued at every opportunity, and the Senate Republican Caucus will continue to fight for a more transparent and efficient state government,” said Senator Tarr.

The transportation bond bill was engrossed by the Senate by a unanimous vote of 38-0.  The House previously passed its version of a transportation bond bill, and now the two chambers will work together to reach an accord.



Thursday, March 6, 2014

The PAWS Act

This morning Gifford Cat Shelter Board President Lisa Sacchetti sat down with Shannon Mulaire of the Fox 25 Morning News to discuss animal abuse laws in Massachusetts. During their conversation, Lisa and Shannon discussed the PAWS Act, a measure I filed to strengthen our animal abuse laws, and to justly punish those who would commit such crimes.

The bill was filed in direct response to recent animal cruelty cases, such as the case of “Puppy Doe”, a female pit bull that was discovered in a Quincy park suffering from long term, irreversible damage to her body. Her wounds included the splitting of her tongue to look like a serpent; dislocated shoulder, elbow, wrist, and ankle; burns; starvation; and a stab wound to one of her eyes.

The legislation raises fines and penalties, and creates an animal abuse registry. Highlights of the bill include:

• Establishing an anonymous animal abuse tip hotline;

• Expanding the use of the Homeless Animal Prevention and Care Fund to include the rehabilitation and care of abused animals, and increasing the size of the board that administers the fund to include a special state police officer from an animal humane organization, and a member of local law enforcement;

• Imposing a fine of up to $1,000 on any veterinarian who knowingly and willfully fails to report a suspected act of cruelty to an animal;

• Increasing the penalties associated with cruelty to animals, or maliciously killing, maiming, disfiguring, or exposing them to poison from $2,500 to between $2,500 and $10,000 (current law also includes imprisonment in the state prison for not more than 5 years or imprisonment in the house of correction for not more than 2 ½ years);

• Increasing the penalties for a second or subsequent offense from 5-10 years state imprisonment and a fine between $5,000 to $20,000;

• Increasing the penalty for a hit and run conviction on a cat or dog from a $50 fine to up to $2,000 fine and/or up to 60 days in a house of corrections;

• Creating a statewide registry of convicted individuals of animal abuse crimes, and requires all animal shelters, pet stores or animal breeders to check the registry prior to offering, selling, delivering, or giving an animal to any individual; and

• Creating a 9-member commission to review the state’s animal cruelty laws, many of which date back to the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

To watch Lisa’s interview this morning on FOX 25 please click here and play the posted video.


Senate to Debate a Transportation Bond Bill

Today the Massachusetts State Senate is expected to debate a $13.15 billion transportation bond bill.  Contained within the bill is a five-year $1.5 billion commitment to the Chapter 90 road fund dedicated to assist municipalities in repairing local roads, however, there are several costly items within the bond bill as well.  Two such items include $2.3 billion for the South Coast rail line project and $1.3 billion for the Green Line extension.

Members of the Senate have also filed 237 amendments that comprise both local projects and major policy changes.  Among those amendments are three initiatives that I have filed for today’s debate.  Those include:

·         Amendment #78, which would repeal the state’s 1993 anti-privatization law, aka the Pacheco Law;

·         Amendment #136, which would require the Secretary of Transportation to issue a five-year plan prioritizing the repair and maintenance of existing transportation infrastructure over expansion projects; and

·         Amendment #223, which would make the MBTA retirement fund subject to the accounting, recordkeeping, and oversight provisions of the Public Employee Retirement Administration Commission (PERAC).

To read the transportation bond bill and all 237 amendments in their entirety, please click here.  To follow along with today’s formal Senate Session, please click here to watch a live feed of the debate.  Senate debate is scheduled to commence at approximately 1:00pm.


Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Report by the Special Olympic Commission

Last week the Special Commission Relative to the Feasibility of Hosting the Summer Olympics in the Commonwealth released their findings in a report regarding a possible bid for the 2024 summer Olympics.  The 11 member special commission, which was established by the legislature and signed into law by the governor on October 31, 2013, worked diligently to review the different aspects surrounding the issues for a potential bid.  Those issues include:

·         Economic development and Infrastructure;

·         Tourism, Outreach, and Marketing the Legacy; and

·         Safety and Security.

This report is just the first step in the vetting process of whether or not it would ultimately be feasible for Boston and the region to host such an event.  Posted below is the special commission’s report.

To read a news story by Steve Annear of Boston Magazine regarding a possible Boston Olympic bid, please click here.