Friday, May 30, 2014

Honoring our Veterans

Our debt to the heroic men and valiant women in the service of our country can never be repaid.  They have earned our undying gratitude.  America will never forget their sacrifices.” –President Harry S. Truman

On Memorial Day I had the honor of participating in several ceremonies in our region, including those conducted in Gloucester, Wilmington, Wenham, and Rowley.  Each of these events provided me with an opportunity to express gratitude for those who have and continue to defend our nation, and commitment to supporting them.

In particular, I was pleased to highlight several amendments included in the Senate version of the FY’15 state budget, which was adopted last week.  They range from measures assisting veterans in obtaining property tax benefits, strengthening the definition of a Gold Star Veteran, and allowing those in the armed services to be counted as Massachusetts residents for the purposes of reduced tuition and fees while they are residing in our state.

Memorial Day services, and the Senate’s action on the state budget, express in words and in deeds our Commonwealth’s support for those who serve our nation.  May we continue to do so.

Posted below are several photos that were captured during the day’s events.


State House Commemorates Missing Children’s Day

Yesterday, family members, law enforcement officials, legislators, and advocates gathered at the Massachusetts State House for the 14th annual commemoration of Massachusetts Missing Children’s Day, sponsored by the Molly Bish Foundation. The event featured touching accounts by family members and speeches by elected officials, all centering around a common theme of “We Will Never Forget”.

The ceremony reminds us all of why it’s important to provide law enforcement officials, families, and concerned citizens with every possible tool to promote the safety of our children.  We need to keep our efforts moving forward to protect children and prevent these tragedies from happening.

To that end, for many years I have worked with Gary Richard, Magi and John Bish, and the Molly Bish Foundation to reform the state’s license plate system.  That legislation, named “Molly’s Bill” in honor of Molly Bish, would simplify general issue license plates in Massachusetts by reducing the number of alphanumeric characters on each plate, and utilizing commonly recognizable symbols to improve recognition and recollection of license plates in times of emergency.

Current six-character plates can yield matches of approximately 1 in 4,300 vehicles when combined with information about a vehicle’s color and at least 3 license plate characters, whereas the EZ-ID system contained in Molly’s Bill has the potential to reduce matches to approximately 1 in 123 when combined with information about a vehicle’s color, the symbol on the license plate and at least 2 alphanumeric characters.

Both Rep. Todd Smola and I filed and secured amendments to our retrospective House and Senate versions of the Fiscal Year 2015 state budget to create a taskforce to study the EZ-ID system.  We will be working closely with the newly created conference committee to ensure the taskforce remains in the final version of the spending bill.  To learn more about EZ-ID please click here.

Please click here to learn more about the Molly Bish Foundation.


Thursday, May 29, 2014

Media Alert: “Broadside” with Jim Braude

Please tune in to “Broadside” tonight at 6:00pm on NECN, where I’ll be discussing with host Jim Braude and Senator Michael Barrett a Child Welfare League of America’s recently released report regarding the quality of care provided by the Department of Children and Families.  To read the report presented by the CWLA in its entirety, please click here.

“Broadside” re-airs at 7:30pm, 2:30am, and again at 4:00am.


Statement on a Child Welfare League of America Report on DCF

Yesterday I released the following statement regarding a Child Welfare League of America (CWLA) report on the Department of Children and Families (DCF):

“The long awaited report by the Child Welfare League of America offers many needed recommendations that the Department of Children and Families and the legislature should swiftly institute.  It’s important to have sufficient funding, but it needs to be accompanied with meaningful reforms that won't allow one person or a hundred people at DCF to fail to act in the best interests of the children and families in the care of the agency.

The legislature and the Governor have little time to react to the report before the legislative session ends in July, but we need to ensure that the best interest of the state’s most vulnerable children are met.  Too much time has passed already.”


To read the Child Welfare League of America’s full report please click here.


Friday, May 23, 2014

Statement on Passage of Senate FY'15 State Budget

I released the following statement today regarding the Senate passing a version of the Fiscal Year 2015 state budget by a roll call vote of 39-1:

“The Fiscal Year 2015 state budget passed tonight by the Senate includes many commendable features that are important for fiscal discipline and encouraging economic growth, including a relatively limited draw from the state’s stabilization fund, and the absence of any new broad-based taxes.  The budget also provides significant spending on key priorities such as special education, regional school transportation, substance abuse programs, and public safety.

Throughout the budget debate, Senate Republicans have fought to secure needed reforms and critical investments, and to bolster state efforts to grow jobs and the economy, and in many instances the Senate has responded by approving several amendments, some of which include:

  • Creating a commission to study the effects of ACA medical device tax on the Massachusetts economy;

  • Permitting veterans and surviving spouses to continue to receive a veteran tax abatement if the veteran’s property is placed in a trust and administered by a third party;

  • Creating a five-member panel that will have oversight jurisdiction over all facilities engaged in forensic services in criminal investigations;

  • Requiring the Governor of the Commonwealth to seek a permanent waiver under the Affordable Care Act to restore the rating factors and calendar requirement; and

  • Requiring DCF to conduct CORI checks on all household members of a foster home over the age of 14, and ensuring that DCF takes the appropriate actions in its hiring and placement process by requiring CORI, SORI, and fingerprint-based background checks.

This budget is an important step in many fronts.  The work of reform, fiscal discipline, and catalyzing a robust economic recovery is not done, and we still have serious concerns that must be addressed, but this budget moves us forward.”


* Below are several amendments that the Senate Republican Caucus was successful in securing.

OTH 12 Medical Device Tax Credit Commission
Creates a commission to study the effects of the ACA medical device tax on the Massachusetts economy

OTH 21 Foundation Budget Review Commission
Revives the foundation budget review commission to review foundation budget calculations and make recommendations for reform. An initial report will be due on December 31, 2014 and additional reports every four years thereafter.

OTH 35 Veterans Tax Abatements
Permits veterans and surviving spouses to continue to receive a veteran tax abatement if the veteran’s property is placed in a trust and administered by a third party.

OTH 63 Streamlining Municipal Collection
Clarifies the law that allows municipalities to designate a Town Collector. Currently, the law requires all funds due to the municipality to be paid to this office, including minor sums as library fines and senior lunch payments. This amendment changes the language from "all" to "any", giving the authority to collect any costs without requiring the collection of all.

GOV 168 CORI Checks for ACA Navigators
Requires Navigator organizations, established under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, to obtain background checks prior to hiring an employee as a “navigator,” and to conduct a background check for all current “navigator” employees, within one year of enactment.

ECO 329 40B Cost Certification
Calls for a third party audit of all affordable housing projects built through the comprehensive permit process since July 1, 1998 - to determine money owed municipalities.

EPS 622 Oversight Board for Crime Lab
Creates a five-member panel that will have oversight jurisdiction over all facilities engaged in forensic services in criminal investigations.

EPS 631 Removal of Pepper Spray from Firearms Identification
Removes the requirement of a firearm ID to purchase and possess pepper spray or Chemical Mace.

EHS 674 Hospital Stay Waiver
Requires the executive office of health and human services to seek a waiver from the Medicare requirement that admission to a skilled nursing facility be preceded by a 3-day inpatient hospital stay.

EHS 678 Background Check Requirements Department of Children and Families
Ensure that DCF is taking the appropriate precautions in its hiring and placement process by requiring CORI, SORI, and fingerprint-based background checks.

EHS 694 Conducting Background Checks on Household Members of Foster Care Home
Requires DCF to conduct CORI checks on all household members of a foster home over the age of 14.

EHS 724 Quality Outcomes
Requires the Bureau of Substance Abuse Services to establish a public facing dashboard by June 30, 2015, which shall report on, but not be limited to: 1) consumer satisfaction with provided substance abuse services, and 2) key outcomes-based measurers, including step down to next level of care, abstinence measures, and recidivism, with consideration to individual patient acuity as defined in regulation.

EHS 726 Increased Bed Capacity
States that DPH shall prepare a report examining overall substance abuse bed capacity across the full continuum of care from both detox and post-detox treatment, in addition to a plan to ensure access to both short and long term care.

EHS 894 Restoring Massachusetts Health Care
Requires the Governor of the Commonwealth to seek a permanent waiver under the Affordable Care Act to restore the rating factors and calendar requirement.


Thursday, May 22, 2014

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Video Blog Post: Update to the Senate's FY'15 Budget Debate


Senator Humason's Budget Update


Video Blog: Pre-Budget Thoughts


Senate Republican Press Release Regarding the Senate Budget Debate

Senate Republicans Pursue Major Budget Changes

Amendments would Reform, Reinvigorate and Reinvest

      BOSTON – Calling the Fiscal Year 2015 budget proposal filed by the Senate Committee on Ways and Means a good place to start, the Senate Republican Caucus has filed a number of amendments seeking major positive change to capture efficiencies and savings in state government, to strengthen cities and towns and schools, and support working families all across the Commonwealth.
            “The budget is not only the most important spending document of the year, it also charts a course for the future of our state,” said Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester), who added that “Now is the time to begin building a post-recession Massachusetts featuring critical elements like efficiency and prosperity.  These amendments set a course toward those goals.”

            Toward that end, the caucus has carefully examined the budget with an eye toward amendments targeting the three major themes of Reform, Reinvestment and Reinvigoration.  They include amendments to:

·         respond directly to problems at the beleaguered Department of Children and Families (DCF) (amendments 40, 65, 76 and 80);

·         make key changes to the state’s Sex Offender Registry system, to cause better communication with law enforcement agencies, and more properly classify offenders with a greater risk of re-offense (amendment 612);

·         change the state’s interaction with the federal Affordable Care Act by restoring important elements of Massachusetts’ existing law, including rating factors, choice of plans and a website that works (amendments 885, 890 and 894);

·         increase accountability through amendments dealing with state-issued credit cards (amendment 192), the granting of medical marijuana licenses (amendment 911), crime lab oversight (amendment 622) and other problematic areas;

·         implement needed reforms to the state’s system of Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards that remain trapped  in a stalled conference committee (amendment 836)


·         eliminate barriers to job creation and economic growth such as corporate excise taxes for new business ventures (amendment 43), excessive sales and income taxes (amendments 16 and 25), energy costs (amendment 204) and other anti-competitive costs;

·         provide incentives such as tax credits for newly-created jobs (amendments 18 and 45) and the long-delayed FAS 109 tax deduction promised to employers since 2008 (amendment 46);

·         cause the creation of a real state economic development plan with measurable goals and benchmarks (amendment 460)


·         begin to restore unrestricted local aid to its levels in 2008 (amendment 87), and direct a portion of budget surpluses to cities and towns  (amendment 86);

·         improve school performance and student achievement by reinstating the Innovation Schools line item (amendment 464), restore the Foundation Budget Review Commission to address deficiencies in Chapter 70 education funding (amendment 21), and expand the Education Pothole line item to assist communities facing unanticipated fiscal challenges (amendments 82 and 504); and

·         support the statutory promises of regional school transportation funding (amendment 545)

“This budget debate provides us with a great opportunity to start keeping the promises we’ve made to taxpayers for more reform, lower taxes and a better economy with more and better jobs,” said Assistant Senate Minority Leader Robert L. Hedlund (R-Weymouth).  “It’s also a great opportunity to re-commit to our cities and towns, who have taken it on the chin in recent years with inadequate local aid and more and more unfunded mandates.  My colleagues and I in the Republican Caucus are ready to fight for these promises and principles and I hope after all the debate we have a budget I can proudly support.”

            “This budget presents a myriad of opportunities to offer significant changes that will benefit taxpayers and municipalities across the Commonwealth,” said Senator Richard J. Ross (R-Wrentham), the Ranking Republican on the Senate Ways and Means Committee. “My colleagues in the Republican Caucus and I will continue to advocate for meaningful government reform to enhance efficiency and transparency, while alleviating the financial burdens felt by taxpayers and businesses statewide.”

            “The Republican Senators are mindful that the citizens of our Commonwealth continue to struggle with the high costs of living and working in Massachusetts,” said Senate Minority Whip Donald F. Humason, Jr. (R-Westfield).  “We intend to promote a state budget that is responsible and respectful to the taxpayers of the Bay State while continuing to push for efficiency and accountability in our state government.  It is the least we can do for the people who send us to be their voice on Beacon Hill.”



Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Fiscal Year 2015 State Budget Amendments

With the Senate preparing to debate the Fiscal Year 2015 Operating Budget, I wanted to highlight the following amendments that the Senate Republican Caucus filed to better aid our local communities:

Amendment 8-Exempting Cities and Towns from Gas Tax Increases
·         Reimburses cities and towns for the gas tax they paid

Amendment 14-Municipal Gas Tax Exemption (and 62 Filed by Senator Richard Ross)
·         Exempts cities and towns from having to pay the gas tax

Amendment 63-Streaming Municipal Collection (Filed by Senator Richard Ross)
·         Clarifies the law that allows municipalities to designate a Town Collector.  Currently, the law requires all funds due to the municipality to be paid to the Town Collector, including such minor sums as library fines and senior lunch payments. This amendment would eliminate the mandate that all fees be paid to the Town Collector, providing the municipality with the discretion to determine which fees go through that office.

Amendment 82/504-Education Pothole
·         Line item 7061-0011 contains a reserve fund to provide financial relief to communities involved in a newly-formed regional vocational district, and to help mitigate one-time municipal cost increases associated with the withdrawal of a member from a regional school district.  This amendment increases the recommended appropriation for the line item from $2 million to $5 million.

Amendment 86-Surplus Funds for Local Aid
·         Provides for 50 percent of the state’s FY 2014 surplus, or $50 million (whichever is less), to be redistributed to cities and towns through the Lottery funding formula as a one-time local aid payment. 80 percent of these funds are to be expended by October 31, 2014.

Amendment 87- Restoring Unrestricted General Government Aid
·         Provides a partial restoration of Unrestricted General Government Aid (UGGA) to those communities whose FY 2015 UGGA appropriation is less than its combined Additional Assistance and Lottery funding appropriation from FY 2008.  Qualifying communities would receive 1/3 of the difference between their FY 2015 and FY 2008 appropriations.

Amendment 470- Unfunded Education Mandates
·         Allows cities and towns to petition the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) for a waiver from any unfunded mandate, unless DESE determines the absence of the mandate will lower the quality of education provided.  The waiver request will be deemed granted if DESE fails to respond within 90 days of the submission of the request.

Amendment 545-Regional School Transportation
·         Increases the Regional School Transportation line item (7035-0006) by $3,161,320 to ensure a 95 percent reimbursement rate for cities and towns

To view all of the amendments filed by the members of the Senate or to read the budget in its entirety, please click here.


Thursday, May 15, 2014

Seeking Justice for Victims and their Families

Yesterday, Senate Bill 2008, An Act relative to juvenile life with parole, received a public hearing before the Joint Committee on the Judiciary.  The bill, which I filed and that has both bicameral and bipartisan support of 32 additional co-sponsors, requires juveniles convicted of first degree murder to serve a minimum of 35 years before becoming eligible for parole.

With the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Alabama v. Miller (2012) and Massachusetts Supreme Court rulings in Diatchenko v. District Attorney and Commonwealth v. Brown (2013), the Massachusetts Courts can no longer sentence juveniles convicted of first degree murder with life without parole, reasoning that such a sentence is cruel and unusual punishment. 

The retroactive rulings now require parole eligibility for those juveniles convicted of first degree murder at 15-25 years after the conviction, which is the same for an individual who has been convicted of second degree murder.  Senate bill 2008 would make parole eligible to juveniles serving life sentences at 35 years after conviction and ensure that the parole board considers factors recognized by the Courts as necessary to safeguard a proportional sentence.

Prior to yesterday’s Judiciary hearing, the families of Beth Brodie, Janet Downing, Amy Carnevale, Lewis Jennings, and Bonnie Sue Mitchell stood with me in support of the measure.  To view some of the news coverage from yesterday, please play the posted videos below.  Also, to read today’s report please click here.

Boston News, Weather, Sports | FOX 25 | MyFoxBoston


Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Statement on the Release of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means’ version of the FY’15 State Budget

Today I released the following statement regarding the release of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means’ Fiscal Year 2015 state budget:

“The Fiscal Year 2015 budget proposal released today by the Senate Committee on Ways and Means invests in important priorities such as special education, substance abuse, child welfare, and public safety.  In addition the committee has made laudable strides in the proposal to reduce its dependence on the stabilization fund and increasing taxes.

Today’s action by the committee is an important starting point, and in the days ahead we must work vigorously to secure initiatives to grow jobs, reform state government, and find savings and efficiencies to complete the effort.

Our caucus will be offering many ways to do so, and we look forward to working with our colleagues to build a post-recession Massachusetts that has efficiency and fiscal discipline in state government, and an economic climate that promotes prosperity for years to come.”


If you are interested in reading the text of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means’ version of the FY’15 state budget, please click.


Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Open Door Food Pantry’s Empty Bowl Fundraiser

On Thursday, May 8th the annual Open Door Food Pantry’s Empty Bowl fundraiser was held at Cruiseport Gloucester, and I was happy to once again attend and participate in this wonderful event.  Hundreds of people came together on Thursday in an effort to ensure that the thousands of people who depend on the pantry continue to receive greatly needed assistance.

Over a thousand bowls are hand crafted and designed by area residents and supporters, and participants are then able to bring a bowl home with them.  Symbolically the bowls serve as a reminder that somewhere, someone’s bowl is empty.  This incredibly successful event has thrived under Executive Director Julie LaFontaine and I would like to thank her for her leadership in assisting those in need.

To learn more about The Open Door Food Pantry and of the Empty Bowl fundraising dinner please click here.  Pictured above is the bowl that I painted for the event, and posted below are several photos that I was able to capture throughout the night.


Monday, May 12, 2014

Supporting a Good Cause

On Saturday, May 10th I had the opportunity to participate and speak at the “Touch a Truck” fundraiser at the O’Maley Middle School in Gloucester.  The event supports the annual Horribles Parade and draws hundreds of people from Cape Ann.  Those in attendance had the opportunity to take photos with and climb on some of the region’s most iconic vehicles, many of which will be on full display during this summer’s parade.  Some of those vehicles included fire trucks, police vehicles, dump trucks, backhoes, tractors, and a Coast Guard Cutter.

Also, new to the event was the Chowderfest.  People in attendance had the opportunity to participate and vote on what they thought was the best chowder.  Participants included the Cape Ann Brewery, Causeway, Sugar Magnolia’s, Stone’s Pub, and Latitude 43.  All the chowders provided were delicious, and offered a good representation of the region’s cuisine.  Congratulations to Cape Ann Brewery for winning Saturday’s Chowderfest competition.

Posted below are a few photos I was able to capture during Saturday’s “Touch a Truck” fundraiser.  To learn more about this event or of the upcoming Horribles Parade on July 3rd, please click here.


Friday, May 9, 2014

Media Alert: On the Air with Fox 25

Tonight I will once again be a guest on the Fox 25 Evening News to discuss the recent 10-1 vote taken by the Massachusetts Connector Board to approve a $121 million plan to fix the health insurance signup website.  Please tune in at 6:00pm to watch tonight’s lively discussion.


Thursday, May 8, 2014

Statement on a Proposed Substance Abuse Recovery Bill

Today I released the following statement regarding a substance abuse treatment and recovery bill released from the Senate Committee on Ways and Means:

“We have all seen the destructive nature of what opioids and other drugs can have on the life of someone caught in the vicious cycle of addiction, and the harm it can have on a family and their community.  It is vital that Massachusetts does not stand idly by as families deteriorate and continue to suffer, and it is time that the legislature puts in place the tools necessary to seriously combat this issue in an effective and responsible fashion.

The measure offered by Senate President Therese Murray and Senator John Keenan is a great starting point and a wonderful opportunity to begin the process of exchanging ideas to best combat this major issue troubling our society.  I applaud their efforts for creating the vehicle for that to happen, and I look forward to having a spirited debate on the matter where Senate Republicans will be active participants.”



Wednesday, May 7, 2014

On the Air with Channel 5

Yesterday WCVB Channel 5’s Pam Cross visited the State House to report on the progress of S.2008, An Act relative to juvenile life with parole, a bill I filed that would set parole at 35 years for juveniles convicted of 1st degree murder.

To watch Pam’s report please click here.  To read a previous blog post on the issue please click here.


Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Supporting Public Housing

Public housing continues to be important to me, and it is vital that as a state, Massachusetts continues to offer affordable housing to those most in need, including low-income families and senior citizens.  Equally important is ensuring that such housing is safe and sanitary, and public dollars are being spent responsibly.  Committed to that goal, I am one of many legislators who co-sponsored Senate Bill 612, “An Act to further enhance efficiency and accountability of operations at local housing authorities.”

Because of my efforts, the National Association of Housing & Redevelopment Officials (NAHRO) recently honored me with a certification of appreciation recognizing me for my co-sponsorship of the bill, and my dedication to serving community residents in need of assistance.  It is important that Massachusetts public housing be efficiently managed, safe, clean, and cost-effective.  That means always seeking to capture opportunities to find savings, and create innovative ways of providing housing, and I will continue to do so in the future as I have in the past.


Friday, May 2, 2014

Honoring the Patton Family in Hamilton

On Saturday, April 26th, the AP Gardner Post 194 American Legion in Hamilton, MA, dedicated their Post Hall to General George S. Patton, Jr. and Major General George S. Patton, and I was honored to have been able to join and participate in the naming ceremony.

For generations members of the Patton family have served our nation proudly while risking their own lives.  General George Patton, Jr. and his son Major General George Patton IV, who both served in the U.S. Army for a combined 70 years of service, are excellent examples of patriotism, dedication, character, and honor, and the Patton name will forever be remembered and celebrated in our history books because of their remarkable and exemplary service.

Saturday’s event featured passionate speeches, good food, great conversations, and wonderful music.  Attendees included Lieutenant General James D. Hughes, veterans and their friends and families, and supporters of the armed services.  Posted below are several photos I was able to capture during the dedication ceremony.


Thursday, May 1, 2014

Some Special Guests at the State House

On April 23, 2014, Girl Scouts from across the Commonwealth visited the State House for their bi-annual “Girl Power Day on the Hill” event, which encourages Girl Scouts to learn more about women in government and the importance of leadership and advocacy.

Scouts from Troop 60028 and 66864 attended the special event.  Scouts in the photo include Meri Fullford and Lily Fullford of Newbury; Lynn Wideberg, Kelly Frithsen, Isabella Lesinski, Alice Thornton, Morgan Monroe, and Gillian Garvey of Rowley; and Alexandra Zabroski of Newburyport.

To learn more information about the Girl Scouts, to join, or ways to volunteer please click here.