Monday, May 28, 2018

MEMORIAL DAY 2018


FREEDOM IS NOT FREE

I watched the flag pass by one day,
It fluttered in the breeze;
A young Marine saluted it,
And then he stood at ease.

I looked at him in uniform,
So young, so tall, so proud;
With hair cut square and eyes alert,
He’d stand out in any crowd.

I thought… how many men like him
Had fallen through the years?
How many died on foreign soil?
How many mothers’ tears?

How many pilots’ planes shot down
How many died at sea
How many foxholes were soldiers’ graves
No, Freedom is not Free.

I heard the sound of Taps one night,
When everything was still;
I listened to the bugler play,
And felt a sudden chill;

I wondered just how many times
That Taps had meant “Amen”
When a flag had draped a coffin
Of a brother or a friend;

I thought of all the children,
Of the mothers and the wives,
Of fathers, sons and husbands
With interrupted lives.

I thought about a graveyard
At the bottom of the sea,
Of unmarked graves in Arlington.
No. Freedom is not Free!

©Copyright 1981 by Kelly Strong

As our nation observes Memorial Day, the members of the House Republican Caucus join with Americans everywhere to pay tribute to our fallen soldiers. Their service and sacrifices will never be forgotten.

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Tuesday, May 22, 2018

WCVB-TV's Karen Anderson Highlights Representative Jones' Rape Kit Testing Reforms

WCVB-TV aired a segment last night on House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr.’s efforts to empower victims of rape and sexual assault by changing the way Massachusetts tests and tracks sexual assault evidence kits.

Working closely with the Joyful Heart Foundation, Representative Jones was able to secure a series of reforms in the omnibus criminal justice reform bill Governor Baker signed into law last month.  Sexual assault victims will soon be able to follow the status of their kits through a statewide database being set up within the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security (EOPSS).  This database will allow victims to track their kits from the time they are collected and transferred to law enforcement, through the testing and storage process. 

The bill also requires police departments to clear their existing backlog of untested kits associated with a reported crime.  Similar testing conducted in other states has helped police to identify hundreds of serial rapists connected with previously unsolved crimes.

You can watch Representative Jones’ interview with WCVB’s Karen Anderson by playing the video posted here.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Representative Jones’ Statement on Release of Senate Ethics Committee Report

House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading) released the following statement today in response to the SenateEthics Committee’s report on its investigation into former Senate President Stanley Rosenberg:

“The Senate Ethics Committee’s report underscores the fact that Senator Rosenberg was not only aware of some of his husband’s inappropriate behavior, but also provided him with access to his official State House e-mail account and other confidential information.  Senator Rosenberg’s lapse in judgement and failure to put a stop to this constitutes a clear violation of the public’s trust that has unfairly compromised the integrity of the Massachusetts Senate. Given the information uncovered by the committee’s investigation, Senator Rosenberg should resign immediately from the Senate.  If he does not, it is incumbent that the Senate takes much stronger disciplinary action than what has been recommended in the report.”

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

House Minority Leader's Statement on Release of House Ways and Means FY19 Budget Proposal

House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading) issued the following statement today in response to the release of the House Ways and Means Committee’s Fiscal Year 2019 budget:

“I appreciate Chairman Sanchez’s efforts in putting together his first budget proposal. Devising a spending plan of this scope and magnitude is never an easy task, but this year’s budget process will be particularly challenging, given the uncertainties over revenues and the unresolved status of several pending ballot questions which could significantly impact state revenues midway through the next fiscal year.  I’m looking forward to reading through the budget over the next few days and working with the members of the House Republican Caucus to identify potential amendments we can offer to protect the interests of the state’s taxpayers.”

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Representative Jones’ Rape Kit Testing Proposal Now on Governor Baker’s Desk Awaiting Signature

A proposal by House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading) to assist and empower victims of rape and sexual assault is one step closer to becoming law.

Language filed by Representative Jones to address the current backlog of untested rape kits and create a statewide database for tracking these kits within the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security (EOPSS) was included in a comprehensive criminal justice reform bill approved by the House and Senate today.  The bill is now on Governor Charlie Baker’s desk awaiting his signature.

Under Representative Jones’ proposal, the Secretary of Public Safety and Security will convene a multidisciplinary task force, in conjunction with the Department of Public Health, to develop a tracking system that will provide sexual assault victims with continuous access to information on their kits.  Victims will be able to track the status of their kits from their initial collection and receipt by law enforcement, through the testing and storage process.

The bill also mandates that all existing untested kits associated with a reported crime be submitted for testing within 180 days.  In 2015, EOPSS requested reports from municipal police departments on the number of untested rape kits in their possession, but only 75 out of 351 departments responded.

The task force must also identify mechanisms to fund the testing of kits to remove any existing backlogs, to ensure victims of rape are not denied justice due to budgetary constraints.  Grant programs – including the Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence-Inventory, Tracking and Reporting Program (SAFE-ITR) grant and the DNA Capacity Enhancement and Backlog Reduction (Debbie Smith) grant – are already in place to ensure states have the means to provide information to the victim, and bring the offender to justice.  Other cities and states – including the Idaho State Police and Portland, Oregon – also provide software free of charge to streamline the testing and cataloging of kits.

In drafting his proposal, Representative Jones worked closely with the Joyful Heart Foundation – a national organization that advocates for survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence, and child abuse – to develop a comprehensive approach that incorporates the best practices identified in other jurisdictions.  While a number of states have already passed rape kit reform laws, the changes adopted in Massachusetts will be among the most comprehensive in the nation.

“The forensic evidence obtained from testing these kits is critical to helping law enforcement connect individuals to unsolved crimes, but can also be used to help exonerate an innocent person,” said Representative Jones. “The reforms adopted today by the House and Senate send a clear message to survivors of sexual assault that the Commonwealth is fully invested in helping them achieve justice and hopefully realize a sense of healing after enduring such a traumatic experience.”

Major cities like Cleveland, Detroit, and Memphis have tested thousands of backlogged kits in storage.  In Detroit alone, a total of 11,341 kits were tested, resulting in 2,616 matches made on the DNA database and allowing authorities to identify 811 potential serial rapists who have committed crimes in 40 states and Washington, D.C.

In October of 2016, Governor Baker signed a law requiring forensic evidence obtained as part of a sexual assault or rape investigation to be retained for a minimum of 15 years, which corresponds to the statute of limitations for these crimes.  Previously, this evidence was required to be preserved for only six months, and victims had to petition every six months to have it preserved for a longer period of time.

The bill that is now on the Governor’s desk requires hospitals and medical facilities to notify local law enforcement within 24 hours of collecting sexual assault evidence.  Law enforcement agencies must retrieve the evidence kit within 3 business days of being notified, and will have up to 7 business days to submit the evidence for testing at the State Police or municipal crime lab.  The bill requires the lab to test each kit within 30 days of receipt.

The criminaljustice reform bill allows the Secretary of EOPSS to incrementally phase in sexual assault kit tracking systems, but requires all jurisdictions to be fully compliant by December 1, 2019.

Governor Baker has until April 14 to sign the bill into law.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Representative DeCoste: Manufactured Homes Should Count as Part of Affordable Housing Stock

The following column by State Representative David DeCoste (R-Norwell) recently appeared in the Boston Globe’s South section in response to the question: “Should mobile homes be counted as part of a municipality’s affordable-housing stock?”  Rep. DeCoste is currently sponsoring House Bill 660, An Act expanding the definition of affordable housing to include manufactured homes.

The Massachusetts Comprehensive Permit Act, usually referred to as “Chapter 40B” because of its designation in the Massachusetts General Laws, was originally known as the “Anti-Snob Zoning Act.” The law, adopted in 1969, is meant to encourage production of affordable homes by allowing developers to bypass municipal zoning bylaws in communities whose housing stock is below 10 percent affordable. Developers in exchange commit to set aside at least 25 percent of a project’s units as affordable. The law allows a state panel to reverse a local zoning board’s denial of a 40B proposal. This has resulted in developments being constructed without consideration of the impact on schools, roads, water, and other municipal infrastructure.

In the last several years, legislation has been filed to have 40B regulations modified to allow mobile homes to count toward the 10 percent affordable home stock requirement in specific towns or in some cases throughout the Commonwealth. To date, all of this legislation has failed to be acted on by lawmakers. In 2016, the Legislature directed the state Department of Revenue to conduct a study of mobile home communities to measure the percentage of resident households that would qualify for low- or moderate-income housing under 40B.

The report, issued last April, found that 78 percent of mobile home residents with identified tax returns would qualify for low- or moderate-income housing based on income. This should not come as a surprise to anyone familiar with the very affordable nature of these communities. Yet current law stipulates that cities and towns cannot count a single one of these units against their affordable-housing inventories.

A better policy for the state is to give municipalities an incentive to approve mobile home communities. Manufactured housing represents an excellent value on a square-footage basis for housing. We should recognize that fact and give communities credit for all or a significant percentage of existing manufactured housing units. This would result in a more accurate count of ‘affordable’ units, but it would also spur the addition of more of this type of housing in our state. 


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.