Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Rep. Kuros: Manufactured Homes Should Count Towards a Community's Affordable Housing Stock

The following column by State Representative Kevin Kuros (R-Uxbridge) appeared in the March 11 print edition of the Boston Globe’s West section in response to the question “Should mobile homes be counted as part of a community’s affordable housing stock?”

Yes, these units should be counted as affordable housing, but first we ought to stop calling them “mobile homes” as they are rarely moved. The more appropriate term is “manufactured” homes. A 2011 Vermont survey showed the average length of residence in a manufactured home park in that state was 11 years. Clearly, the 18 to 20 million people nationwide living in manufactured homes are using them as affordable, permanent residences.

They cost hundreds of thousands of dollars less than traditional site-built homes, yet they share many important attributes with them. They can qualify for Federal Housing Administration and Department of Veterans Affairs financing. If they are permanently affixed to the land and the land is owned, they qualify as “real” property and can be financed with a mortgage. And if used as the owners’ primary residence, a Declaration of Homestead can be filed with the Register of Deeds to protect against unsecured creditor claims.

Since they are built in factories and then shipped to the home site, the construction of manufactured homes is more efficient. The manufacturer and buyer benefit from economies of scale, and there is no lost construction time for weather. The net result is comfortable, safe, quality housing at affordable prices, the exact reason the state’s Chapter 40B Affordable Housing law exists!

A 2012 insurance industry survey of over 10,000 manufactured home owners showed that 55 percent reported an income of less than $30,000, 40 percent didn’t anticipate ever selling or moving from their home, only 9 percent have a 4-year or advanced degree, 23 percent were under 30 years old, and nearly 20 percent were age 60 and above. These are all demographic segments that benefit tremendously from affordable housing.

Manufactured homes are the best means for many people to overcome exorbitant housing costs while fulfilling the American Dream of homeownership. Allowing communities to count them toward their affordable housing stock, which would be allowed under legislation now on Beacon Hill, not only makes sense but will also allow the Commonwealth to better gauge the true inventory of affordable housing for planning purposes. Count manufactured homes in the numbers!

Friday, February 16, 2018

Governor Baker Approves Early Voting Funding

Massachusetts communities are one step closer to being compensated for some of the expenses they incurred during the 2016 state election cycle, the first to offer early voting.

Today, Governor Baker signed into law a $17.8 million supplemental budget that includes just over $1 million in early voting reimbursement for cities and towns.  Inserted through an amendment offered by House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading) and his Republican leadership team, the funding has been allocated to cover expenses that State Auditor Suzanne Bump has determined constituted an unfunded state mandate.

“Communities across the state did a tremendous job implementing the early voting law and making sure the process ran smoothly in the days leading up to the election,” said Representative Jones.  “The funding contained in this supplemental budget will allow the state to fulfill a long-overdue financial obligation to our cities and towns.”

The state’s early voting law was approved by the Legislature in 2014 and was first implemented during the 2016 state election.  The law allows registered voters to cast a ballot as early as 11 business days prior to election day, and up to two business days before the election, during the biennial state election.

A ruling issued by Auditor Bump on February 14, 2017 determined that the state should reimburse communities for a portion of their early voting costs, citing the law’s “requirements that municipalities establish an early voting polling location that has sufficient staffing and privacy for voters.”

The early voting funding was initially inserted in the House version of the supplemental budget on January 31 through an amendment filed by Representative Jones.  The amendment was approved unanimously on a vote of 153-0.

Representative Jones had previously secured partial funding in the House version of the Fiscal Year 2017 final deficiency budget last October, but the final version of that bill omitted the funding and instead included language directing the state auditor to certify the actual costs for each municipality through her office’s Division of Local Mandates.  Auditor Bump recently certified a statewide total of $1,063,978.14 as being eligible for reimbursement.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Rep. Jones: Governor Baker's 72-Hour Hold Proposal Will Save Lives in Fight Against Opioids

The following column by House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. appeared in the February 4 print edition of the Boston Globe’s North section in response to the question “Should doctors be allowed to have addicted patients committed involuntarily to treatment facilities for 72 hours?”:

Despite ongoing efforts to combat opioid abuse, Massachusetts continues to face an epidemic that has claimed thousands of lives. In 2016 alone, the state’s Department of Public Health confirmed 2,094 cases of overdose deaths, a 24 percent increase over the previous year.

From January to September of 2017, DPH documented another 932 confirmed opioid-related overdose deaths. Although the numbers are trending downward, there are still far too many people dealing with drug dependency issues, and far too many lives being lost to this scourge.

Governor Charles Baker’s proposal to allow individuals to be involuntarily placed in a drug treatment program for up to 72 hours will help save lives. It will also address the all-too-familiar vicious cycle that occurs when a patient reports to the emergency room suffering from an overdose and is treated and released, only to end up back in the ER after another overdose.

Under previous legislation we adopted in 2016, ER patients treated for an opioid-related overdose, or given the overdose-reversing drug naloxone prior to arriving at the hospital must undergo a substance abuse evaluation within 24 hours. Patients are advised of their treatment options, but are not legally required to enter treatment. Individuals can be involuntarily committed to receive treatment for their addiction only with a court order.

During debate over the 2016 legislation, I offered an amendment to allow attending physicians to restrain a patient and place them in a treatment facility for three days if the patient had already received a substance abuse evaluation and returned to the hospital within seven days with another opiate-related overdose.

Governor Baker’s proposal would allow medical professionals and police officers to authorize the transfer of a patient to a substance use treatment facility without a court order if the patient presents a danger to themselves or others, and for the patient to be held in that facility up to 72 hours if deemed necessary by a physician. A court order would be required to hold patients beyond the 72 hours.

Governor Baker’s 72-hour proposal is intended as a “last resort” option, but will literally save lives, getting people into treatment and hopefully placing them on a path to recovery by reducing their chances of suffering a potentially fatal relapse. It deserves serious consideration as one tool towards addressing this epidemic.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Representative Dooley: Tax Increases Should Not Be on the Table in State Budget Talks for FY19

The following column by State Representative Shawn Dooley (R-Norfolk) appeared in the February 4 print edition of the Boston Globe's West section in response to the question “Should any increases in major state taxes be on the table instate budget talks for next year?”:

In an ordinary year, increasing the taxes of the hard working men and women of Massachusetts should only be on the table after all other options are exhausted. But as we all know, it is not an ordinary year and raising taxes should definitely be off the table for this year’s budget debate.

The reality is that the world has changed dramatically over the past year and fiscal year 2019 is on track to follow course. The new federal tax plan that was passed last month creates a tremendous amount of uncertainty for many of our fellow citizens and has the potential to have a negative impact on the Massachusetts economy. Fortunately, it appears the benefits might minimize these negatives but at this moment it is too early to tell.

The creation of the $10,000 cap for state and local tax deductions in the new federal law is going to send shockwaves through our state. If we couple this with the proposed additional 4 percent tax on earnings above $1 million — the subject of a state ballot question this fall — and our punitive death tax, Massachusetts is poised to be a costly state for taxpayers. To add additional tax increases onto this already excessive structure would be pure folly.

While the Commonwealth is anticipating increased revenue collections, we must still remain vigilant in weeding out waste and abuse. As legislators, we need to make the tough choices to streamline programs and ensure that we spend our neighbors’ hard earned money efficiently.

Having a foolhardy approach toward spending, justified by a tax increase, only sets the groundwork for disaster when the economy eventually adjusts.

Massachusetts is a wonderful place to live; but if we are not fiscally prudent, it will simply become too expensive to raise a family or run a business here. New Hampshire is already trying to poach our current and future businesses by touting their low taxes and inexpensive cost of living. If we vote to raise taxes this year, it will send the message that Massachusetts is not “open for business;” and instead we are embracing the old “Taxachusetts” moniker.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

House Approves Minority Leader Brad Jones’ Early Voting Cost Reimbursement Amendment

Massachusetts communities are poised to receive compensation to offset the costs associated with implementing the state’s early voting law, thanks to an amendment filed by House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading) and members of the House Republican Caucus.

Representative Jones’ amendment would provide more than $1 million in reimbursement to cities and towns across the Commonwealth to cover certain costs that were incurred during the November 2016 state election cycle.  The amendment was approved unanimously by the House of Representatives on January 31 as part of a $17.6 million supplemental budget, but still requires Senate approval and Governor Baker’s signature before the money can be released.

“Over the past year, I have made it a personal priority to ensure that our cities and towns receive compensation for what was essentially a state-imposed unfunded mandate,” said Representative Jones.  “I’m hopeful the Senate will act quickly to pass this proposal so we can deliver this funding to our communities without any further delays.”

Enacted in 2014, the Massachusetts early voting law allows registered voters to cast a ballot as early as 11 business days prior to election day, and up to two business days before the election, every two years during the biennial state election.  More than 1 million early votes were cast during the 2016 election.

In February of 2017, State Auditor Suzanne Bump ruled that some of the expenses incurred by municipalities to implement the law constituted an unfunded mandate, and recommended that these costs should be borne by the Commonwealth.

Last October, Representative Jones led a successful effort to secure a $485,559 funding appropriation for early voting reimbursements as part of the House version of the Fiscal Year 2017 final deficiency budget.  Although the final version of the bill did not contain any funding for early voting costs, it did include language directing the state auditor to certify the costs for each municipality and to report back to the Legislature by January 10.

On January 8, the auditor provided the Legislature with documentation certifying a statewide total of $1,063,978.14 in municipal costs as eligible for reimbursement.  The full amount is reflected in Representative Jones’ amendment.

The supplemental budget now moves to the Senate for further action.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Rep. Poirier Honored as United Regional Chamber of Commerce's 2018 Person of the Year

Congratulations to State Representative Elizabeth A. Poirier (R-North Attleborough), who was honored last night by the United Regional Chamber of Commerce as its 2018 Person of the Year. Poirier, who currently serves as the Second Assistant Minority Leader in the House, was recognized for her support for business and for her work in the community. Be sure to check out the Sun Chronicle's coverage of the Chamber's awards ceremony.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Representative David Muradian Appointed by Minority Leader to House Committee on Ethics

The Office of Rep. David K. Muradian, Jr. recently announced his appointment to the House Committee on Ethics by House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading).

The Grafton Republican will join fellow legislators on the committee, led by Chairman Christopher Markey and Vice Chairman Daniel Cullinane. It is the duty of the committee on Ethics to consider all violations of rules and all questions of conduct of Representatives, report any recommendations relative to it, and recommend any changes in the rules which tend to facilitate the business of the House.

Legislative Committees allow members to focus on specific issues coming before the Legislature and preside over hearings regarding legislation. Members of the Minority Party in the House of Representatives receive their committee assignments for House and Joint committees from the House Minority Leader. Members of the Majority Party receive their assignments from the Speaker of the House.

“Rep. Muradian has done a tremendous job representing the residents of the 9th Worcester District while serving on a number of important legislative committees,” said House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading). “Now more than ever, it is imperative that we have individuals with strong character on key committees. I am confident David will bring the same sense of hard work and dedication to his new role as a member of the House Ethics Committee.”

Muradian said, “I am honored to have been appointed to the House Committee on Ethics by Representative Jones. I look forward to working with my colleagues and ensuring the House of Representatives operates with an effective code of conduct.”

Muradian also serves on the Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security, the Joint Committee on Elder Affairs, and the Joint Committee on Municipalities and Regional Government.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Representative Jones’ Statement on Governor Baker’s Fiscal Year 2019 Budget Proposal

House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading) released the following statement today regarding Governor Charlie Baker’s proposed $40.9 billion state budget for Fiscal Year 2019:

“Since taking office, the Baker-Polito Administration has closed the $1.2 billion structural deficit it inherited and dramatically reduced the state’s reliance on one-time revenue sources, all without raising taxes.  Governor Baker’s latest budget proposal continues to take a fiscally responsible approach to state spending, providing funding increases for critical programs while also promoting accountability to the state’s taxpayers.

Local aid remains a priority of the Baker-Polito Administration, as evidenced by the budget’s inclusion of nearly $4.9 billion in Chapter 70 education funding and $1.1 billion in unrestricted local aid.  Cities and towns will also see a $10 million increase in special education circuit breaker funding, while communities impacted by the recent influx of hurricane victims will receive additional funding to help manage these unanticipated costs. The Administration has long emphasized the importance of maintaining strong state-municipal partnerships, and this budget builds on that commitment.

The Governor’s budget also prioritizes higher education and workforce training.  I strongly support the Governor’s proposal to expand scholarship funding to help make our community colleges more affordable, and I appreciate his commitment to promoting workforce development and skills training in critical areas such as advanced manufacturing, information technology, and healthcare.  I also applaud his continuing efforts to address the scourge of opioid abuse by providing additional funding for substance abuse programs and expanding the number of treatment beds across the state.

The Governor’s FY19 budget is a very strong starting point for the legislature to begin its deliberations.  As the budget process unfolds, I look forward to working with my colleagues and with the Administration to develop a spending plan that will address many of the critical needs of the Commonwealth and its citizens.”         

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

House Minority Leader's Statement on the Governor’s State of the Commonwealth Address

House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R–North Reading) released the following statement in response to Governor Charlie Baker’s annual State of the Commonwealth address:  

“Governor Baker’s remarks tonight show that the State of the Commonwealth is strong and getting stronger, with the economy continuing to move in the right direction. That is due in large part to the competence and integrity the Baker-Polito Administration has demonstrated since taking office, which has been essential in protecting taxpayer dollars. The Administration has a proven track record of making state government more responsive to the residents of the Commonwealth, from implementing much-needed reforms at the Department of Children and Families to improving the management and operations of the MBTA, in addition to making advancements across a broad spectrum of areas important to the citizens of the Commonwealth. Governor Baker has outlined an impressive agenda for 2018 that calls for enhancing the state’s efforts to address the opioid crisis, creating more affordable housing, and implementing critical cost-saving measures at MassHealth.  I look forward to working with the Administration and the members of the House Republican Caucus to help advance the Governor’s legislative priorities this session.”

Monday, January 22, 2018

Representative Keiko Orrall Named to Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Committee

House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading) has appointed Representative Keiko M. Orrall (R-Lakeville) to a joint special legislative committee that will consider proposals for a permanent Massachusetts memorial to the late Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Created by an order adopted by the House and Senate last year, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Committee will develop recommendations for establishing a state memorial to honor the late civil rights activist.  In addition to identifying at least three potential locations for the memorial, the committee will also develop cost estimates for its design and construction, as well as its perpetual care and upkeep.

“Representative Orrall has been a steadfast champion of promoting diversity in the Legislature and equality in the workplace,” said Representative Jones.  “I am confident she will provide valuable insight to the committee as it looks to establish a permanent state memorial to honor Dr. King’s legacy.”

The 11-member committee includes four state Senators and seven members of the Massachusetts House of Representatives.  The committee is due to report back to the Legislature with its recommendations by May 31.

Representative Orrall represents the 12th Bristol District, which is comprised of the towns of Berkley and Lakeville and portions of Taunton and Middleborough.  She currently serves as the Republican National Committeewoman for Massachusetts.

In addition to being the Ranking Minority Member of the Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies, Representative Orrall is a member of the Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development, and the Joint Committee on Export Development.  She also currently serves on a special commission that is scheduled to file its findings and recommendations for addressing wage disparities in Massachusetts by January 1, 2019.