Monday, February 29, 2016

MBTA Reform Bill One Year Ago This Week

From time-to-time there are particular occasions that cause us to look back and reexamine events of the previous year. The near record high temperatures of this week stand in stark contrast to winter storms that beleaguered us all last year. Though, for more than a million MBTA riders who were unmercifully exposed the failed transit authority last winter will be hard to forget.

One year ago this week, with snow still piling up, I filed legislation to create an MBTA Fiscal Control Board, a legislative approach to increase accountability and establish financial stability. February 2015 proved to all that the only thing more cold and unapologetic than the brutal weather were the consequences of the stone-cold reality of years of failed MBTA management practices.

Expected to serve people across 175 communities, the MBTA is given billions of taxpayer dollars to spend. The impacts of years of MBTA mismanagement will take more than just time to remedy – appreciatively real reform is on the way.

With the unanimous support of my colleagues in the Senate, a modified version of the Fiscal Control legislation was adopted in our Senate budget debate and ultimately signed into law by Governor Baker. T troubles, while unwelcome, were not unpredicted.

Components of the MBTA Fiscal Control legislation include:
• Securing financial and performance stability of the MBTA;
• Implementing uniform budget and planning guidelines and procedures for all departments;
• Requiring the Inspector General to review service and procurement contracts;
• Executing capital budgets and borrowing authorizations to finance or refinance any debt;
• Maintaining authority to appoint, remove, supervise, and control all MBTA employees and personnel matters;
• Developing a long range plan for MBTA financial and structural sustainability; and
• Accountability measures including requiring the filing of a quarterly report to the House and Senate Committees on Ways and Means detailing revenues and expenses.

Years of news accounts, watchdog reports and independent audits have clearly documented what commuters know first-hand - the T has been riddled with dysfunction. We now have an opportunity to mandate that our state’s most significant transit agency function efficiently and effectively, this is the only way that we can get on the right track.

In fact, since being created, the Fiscal Management and Control Board is already at work confronting these challenges, identifying what’s wrong, and taking action to fix it.  To learn more about the work, meetings, minutes, plans, and to read their latest report click on the following link - MBTA Fiscal and Management Control Board


Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Seaport Economic Council Comes to Gloucester

From the days of the Massachusetts Bay Colony to today, the significance and vitality of coastal communities in the Commonwealth has been profoundly important. That’s why I worked to develop and support the legislation that created the first incarnation of the Seaport Council in the Seaport Bond Bill of 1997. I have worked over the years with the council to deliver strategic investments for our working ports.

Governor Charlie Baker and Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito have reorganized and revitalized the former Seaport Council as the new Seaport Economic Council. In his first year in office Governor Baker reinvigorated the Council by reshaping its mission, and its available tools, through an Executive Order which seeks to improve the vitality of our 78 coastal communities.

Yesterday, the Council had its first meeting of the year and it took place at the Tavern on the Harbor in Gloucester. I met with the Council, Lieutenant Governor Polito, Gloucester Mayor Sefatia Romeo Theken, Seaport Economic Council Executive Secretary Carolyn Kirk and others.

Specifically, we are marshaling resources of the Seaport Economic Council to work with maritime communities to promote job creation and economic growth in sectors such as; shipping and trade; marine science and technology; recreation and tourism; ocean-based clean energy; and our diverse seafood industry.

Attending the Council meeting were leaders of several initiatives seeking financial and technical support from the state including:
• Dartmouth Maritime Center,
• UMass Tethered Ballast System for Wave Energy Devices,
• Cape Cod Maritime Economic Development Commission,
• New Bedford Local Maritime Economic Development Planning Commission,
• Massachusetts Maritime Academy Pier Extension Project, and
• Gloucester Branding Campaign for “Gloucester Fresh Seafood”.

From Mayors to Harbormasters, fishermen to ship builders, scientists to scuba divers, we will work together to leverage resources at the local, regional and state levels to revitalize and strengthen industries, enhance cultural and environmental assets, and promote other sustainable opportunities which will empower communities for years to come.

The Seaport Economic Council, and those of us who support the mission of strengthening our coastal communities through collaboration, know that a rising economic tide will lift all boats.


Monday, February 22, 2016

American Heart Month

State House staffers, elected officials and visitors today had an opportunity to participate in CPR and first aid training in Nurses Hall. I joined them to learn about the two fundamental steps of the new hands-only CPR techniques, first- call 9-1-1 and second- do 100 chest compressions per minute.

They say home is where the heart is – the place for family and friends, health and happiness. The word ‘heart’ is often used as a metaphor for emotions and feelings that each of us recognizes as deeply meaningful. But, beyond the figurative language, I would also like you to consider your heart as the vital organ that it is and what you can do to keep it beating for a very long time.

February is American Heart Month and because heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States I think it is vitally important to help raise awareness, and life spans, by connecting people with heart disease prevention information.

Keeping your heart healthy can be as simple as taking steps to lower your blood pressure, adding physical activity to your daily routine, and making health meal choices. Here is a Web link that can keep you keep your heart healthy -



Friday, February 19, 2016

Iwo Jima Day

Our nation will be 240 years old on Independence Day this July. Over those many years we have faced many conflicts that required the service of our brave men and women in battle. Today, February 19th has been declared as “Iwo Jima Day” by Governor Charlie Baker.

Iwo Jima, an island of only eight square miles and within striking distance of Japan, was held by 23,000 Japanese soldiers and navy men during World War II and became the site of a five week battle that produced exceedingly high casualty rates. The U.S. Marines fought hard with three divisions against an enemy using a network of caves and tunnels and underground arsenals and sustained losses of as many as 7,000 dead and 17,400 wounded.

 Larry Kirby, a now 92 year old, recalled today at the State House what it was like to be a Marine in the middle of a fight where he lost 22 close friends. "I visit them every day in my mind," he said. "All those young boys - they didn't just die, they gave their lives."

Larry lives in Manchester by the Sea and we are friends. His experiences on the war-torn island are remarkable. He was an advance scout, an expert in locating the enemy and this of course meant that he was often exceeding close to them. He survived every form of assault in his service from bullets to hand grenades.

War should not be glorified and while we can honor the warriors we have respect even for those we are forced to fight. Larry wrote a book about his experiences at war, called “Stories from the Pacific.” He lamented in a poem in the book the loss of life that he caused during the battle –
Long years have passed since when he fell
My heart still aches, no sense of pride
Though I seem here I live in hell
On that cruel day I also died

He joined Senator Mike Rush, a Lieutenant in the United States Navy, and other veterans of Iowa Jima in Memorial Hall for a special ceremony to honor those who fought and those who gave their lives for their nation. Semper Fidelis.
Ceremony photo by Sam Doran/SHNS

Larry Kirby


Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Free School Vacation Family Fun Opportunities

Families with school children on February vacation have many options this week to find free family fun in every part of the state.

The Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) is offering more than 70 family-friendly activities including daily public skating and many outdoor winter activities on beautiful landscapes. The DCR is offering day hikes, crafting for kids and adults, games, history lessons, Winter Beach Safaris, and trailside campfires.

A full list of activities and programming can be found at DCR’s website.

In addition to the special vacation week programming, DCR will also offer ongoing recreational programs. Those activities include public skating at DCR’s eight ice rinks, cross country skiing at Leo J Martin Ski Track in Weston, and adaptive programming that includes universally accessible hiking, skiing, skating, snowshoeing and snowmobiling.

Remember to prepare properly for your outings by wearing appropriate outerwear, including coats, boots, hats, and gloves. I hope that you find these opportunities fun and enjoyable.


Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Future Leaders Visit State House

The February school vacation week has always been a terrific time for students to have an opportunity to visit the State House – today, I had the pleasure of hosting Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts in the Senate Chamber.

These Boy Scouts, guests of Senate President Stan Rosenberg, began their day by spending time with Governor Baker in his office. I had the pleasure of then introducing them during a Senate session, after we adjourned I gave them a tour of the Senate Chamber. Senate Clerk William Welch, a former Scout, talked about his 1961 State House visit with his troop to meet Governor Foster Furcolo.

It was certainly a pleasure to have the Scouts and their adult leaders join us – it gives me confidence in the future to know that these leaders of tomorrow have strong community pride, civic spirit, and code of responsible conduct.


Wednesday, February 10, 2016


I talked with New England Cable News reporter Alison King today about the campaign for the White House. Tune in to NECN's tonight for a look at the presidential race now that all the ballots have been counted in the New Hampshire primary.


Thursday, February 4, 2016

MBTA Pension Fund Subject to Senate Public Records Bill

Senate Minority Leader Tarr Secures Passage of Several Amendments

Boston- The State Senate today adopted legislation to make certain Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority Retirement Board records subject to the provisions of a new public records access law.

Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester) successfully championed the legislation which will apply to all documents made or held by the board or any of the public or private entities which receive funds from the MBTA for the payment or administration of employee pensions.

“The value and significance of a fund such as this, with $2.4 billion in liabilities, has a significant impact on the lives of T employees and has major cost implications for the MBTA,” said Senator Tarr.

 “Disclosures about the stability of the MBTA pension fund are paramount and deserve to be subject to this records reform law and transparency.” Senate Assistant Majority Leader Mark Montigny (D- New Bedford), a co-sponsor of the amendment said, “Including the MBTA Retirement Board in this records law is arguably one of the most important components of this bill.”

In addition to the inclusion of the MBTA Pension Fund under the public records law, the Senate also adopted other amendments offered by Tarr and members of the Senate Republican Caucus.

Senators also adopted two other Tarr amendments:
     • The creation of a fund to provide grants to cities and towns for information technology enhancements to increase public access to records. Funds would be collected from assessed punitive damages.
     • The requirement that Statements of Financial Interests, or so-called ethics reports, filed annually by lawmakers to be made available electronically.


Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Tarr Seeks to Strengthen Public Records Law

This week the Senate will debate changes to our state's public records law, the first major reform since 1973. I have offered some changes to make the new law stronger and more effective.
Boston- Seeking to strengthen the state’s public records law to provide increased public access to government information, Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R – Gloucester) has filed a number of amendments to the public records legislation (S. 2120) released last Thursday by the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. The bill is expected to be taken up in the Senate formal session on Thursday.

“Civic engagement and the strength of our democracy depend on the public availability and accessibility of information that can foster understanding, inform decisions and empower oversight,” said Tarr, who added that, “passing strong, workable and practical legislation to modernize and strengthen our public records law is and should be a legislative priority.”
Toward that end, Tarr today filed amendments that would, among other things:
  • Require the display of the cost of taxes on diesel fuel and gasoline on the pumps where they are dispensed.
  • Establish a Public Records Assistance Fund for grants to municipalities for the acquisition of information technology, training and education to boost records compliance
  • Strengthen the Attorney General’s ability to compel compliance with records requests by including language that allows the AG to require compliance even in situations where an agency or municipality did not respond to or acknowledge a public records request
  • Make public information pertaining to the MBTA pension fund
  • Include contracts and invoices over $500,000.00 as a part of the Massachusetts open checkbook system, which would provide clarity and information to the public on the expenses of the state government
  • Require signs to be posted in all stations and terminals displaying a percentage breakdown of Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) sources of funding, including state subsidies and fare collections.
“The Senate Committee on Ways and Means has provided an important start to the process of making information more available,” said Tarr, “and these amendments can make the bill better and more effective.”
The text of Senate Bill 2120