Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Representative Jones’ Statement on Governor Baker’s Fiscal Year 2017 Budget

House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading) released the following statement today regarding Governor Charlie Baker’s proposed $39.55 billion state budget for Fiscal Year 2017:

“Once again, Governor Baker has delivered a spending plan that is fiscally responsible and accountable to the state’s taxpayers and does not rely on any new taxes or fees, or a draw-down from the state’s Rainy Day Fund.

The Governor’s budget proposal reaffirms the state’s commitment to our cities and towns by expanding local aid with a $72.1 million increase in Chapter 70 education funding and a $42 million increase in Unrestricted General Government Aid to support essential municipal services.  It also makes significant strides towards eliminating the state’s overreliance on one-time revenue sources to balance the state budget, while committing additional resources to the state’s continuing efforts to combat the opioid and heroin epidemic.

I look forward to reading through the budget for further details on the Governor’s spending proposals.  However, my initial reaction is that he has provided the House with a solid foundation and a sustainable blueprint to follow as we begin the process of crafting a balanced budget for Fiscal Year 2017.”

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Representative Muratore: Higher Taxes Should Be Off The Table For Fiscal Year 2017 State Budget

The following opinion piece by State Representative Mathew Muratore (R-Plymouth) appeared in the January 24th edition of the Boston Globe’s Globe South section:

A recent Boston Globe article stated that the Commonwealth could face a $1 billion budget gap in fiscal year 2017. New taxes, or tax hikes, should not be considered viable options for handling additional budgetary concerns. The Commonwealth must learn to work within its means, relying on funding that is already established and will not disappear.

The so-called structural or long-term revenue gap is a familiar and mislabeled problem. Almost annually we hear about the gap in revenue. It wrongly assumes that revenue rather than base-line spending is the problem. Raising taxes would help offset current deficits, but it would not solve the underlying problem of spending assumptions outpacing moderate revenue growth long-term. While tax increases would avoid some hard spending choices, they would not solve the real problem or offer long-term economic stability.

An over-reliance on one-time funding has led Massachusetts to dip into its rainy day fund. Pulling from the fund again would further deplete state resources and potentially harm our ability to borrow federal money at a low interest rate. That’s why Standard & Poor’s credit rating services changed Massachusetts’ outlook from stable to poor, noting a “decline in financial reserves over the past several years despite a prolonged period of economic expansion and generally positive revenue trends.”

Framing the problem as a revenue shortfall is a political label for marketing a tax increase. An equally insidious marketing technique is assuming program reforms automatically mean cuts in base-line services. True reforms should lead to better-run programs with stronger resources behind them. As a legislator with a strong health care background, I know that indiscriminate service cuts are not a way to solve budget problems. As a businessman I also know that efficiency and clear priorities tend to best serve those in need in a sustainable manner.

Each of our families must face tough decisions every day to live within our means. Why is the state spending money that it does not have? Increasing taxes only pushes the problem onto another fiscal year. In order to have stronger short- and long-term plans for the Commonwealth, now is the time to face our budget issues.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Rep. Jones: Changing the Electoral College Should Only Be Done After Careful Consideration

House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading) was recently asked to weigh in on the question of whether the U.S. President should be elected by national popular vote, rather than the Electoral College. This column ran in the Globe North section of the Boston Globe on Sunday.

Altering something as important as the way we elect a president should rightfully be done through a Constitutional amendment. The Electoral College has served the country well since its inception. If we are to make any changes to it — and jettisoning it ought not be one of those — we should do so only after careful consideration.

National popular vote advocates have been trying to circumvent this process by getting states to join a multi-state compact. Since 2007, 10 states and the District of Columbia have joined, pledging to award their electoral votes to the presidential candidate who carries the national popular vote. Together, they account for 165 electoral votes, 105 short of the 270 needed for the compact to be implemented.

When Massachusetts joined the movement in 2010, proponents claimed it would make the state more relevant during presidential elections. Choosing the president by national popular vote would not necessarily increase Massachusetts’s clout during a presidential campaign. In fact, an argument could be made that it would actually disenfranchise many voters.

In his 2008 Cato Institute analysis, “A Critique of the National Popular Vote Plan for Electing the President,” author John Samples warned of such a scenario, noting that “[National popular vote] will encourage presidential campaigns to focus their efforts in dense media markets where costs per vote are lowest; many states now ignored by candidates will continue to be ignored under NPV.”

There could be other unintended consequences for Massachusetts. Let’s say Hillary Clinton wins the Democratic nomination and Donald Trump is the Republican nominee. On Election Night 2016, Clinton could carry Massachusetts by a wide margin, but if Trump wins the national vote he would receive all of Massachusetts’ 11 electoral votes.

The United States is a geographically diverse country, and the Electoral College reflects that by allocating two electoral votes to each state, and the remaining electoral votes based on population. This helps to ensure that all states – large and small – have a role in the process.

As an alternative to the national popular vote compact, we should do what Nebraska and Maine do and award two electoral votes to the popular vote winner, and our remaining electoral votes to the winner in each of the state’s Congressional districts. Such a change could encourage more competitive races without undermining the Electoral College and while respecting our Constitutional process.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Rep. Dooley: Nebraska and Maine’s Hybrid Model for Electing President a ‘Reasonable Solution’

Representative Shawn Dooley (R-Norfolk) wrote the attached column for the Boston Globe in support of creating a hybrid model for electing the President similar to what Nebraska and Maine already use. This column ran in the Globe West edition on Sunday.

For the past few years there has been a movement afoot to do away with the Electoral College in favor of electing our president simply by popular vote.

At face value, this might seem to create a simple and streamlined approach to electing our president, but in reality it will serve to minimize the voice of residents in lower-population states such as Massachusetts.

By oversimplifying the electoral process, candidates would concentrate their time and resources on the most populous states.

A more reasonable solution, not requiring a constitutional amendment, would be to revamp the Electoral College and create a hybrid model similar to the versions Nebraska and Maine have installed in recent years.

This hybrid method takes into account the popular vote by automatically awarding the overall state winner the two electoral votes the state gets from having two senators.

More importantly, this model increases the importance of congressional districts by having their electoral votes go to the top vote-getters in those districts, as opposed to the statewide winner-take-all method utilized in 48 states. Switching to it might put some of Massachusetts’ nine other electoral votes in play.

This hybrid method would have a very positive effect for a diverse state such as Massachusetts.

Currently we are considered a safe state for the Democratic Party, so neither candidate spends much time trying to garner support among average voters. Campaign stops in Massachusetts are done solely to fill the candidate’s coffers by meeting with the ├╝ber rich rather than to hear the concerns and hopes of the majority of voters.

In addition, I believe this will help spur debate and participation in the electoral process. Instead of the nightly news calling Massachusetts 30 seconds after the polls close, the votes will need to be counted. If a candidate’s message is able to resonate with a particular region, he or she would have the ability to win the vote of that particular congressional district. Citizens would no longer feel hopeless and disenfranchised because their votes did not matter.

The goal is for more people to become engaged and active in our political process. Having presidential candidates spend time and resources in the Commonwealth will enhance the political process and make Massachusetts more relevant in the presidential election.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Rep. DeCoste: Repeal the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact for Presidential Elections

Representative David DeCoste (R-Norwell) wrote the attached column for the Boston Globe in support of retaining the Electoral College system for U.S. Presidential elections and repealing the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. This column ran in the Globe South edition on Sunday.

In August 2010, Governor Deval Patrick signed legislation making Massachusetts the sixth state to sign the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. The compact is designed such that once the combined electoral votes of the signatory states reaches 270, those states pledge their electors to the winner of the national popular vote. As of today, 10 states plus the District of Columbia with a combined 165 electoral votes have passed legislation supporting the compact.

In 2000, the Supreme Court awarded the presidency to George W. Bush over Al Gore, halting a recount in Florida that had Bush leading by a 537-vote margin. That marked the fourth election in US history in which the eventual winner failed to win the popular vote. Nationwide, Gore received 543,895 more votes than Bush.

In 2004, fewer than 60,000 voters in Ohio could have carried that state for John Kerry over George W. Bush, sending Kerry to the White House despite losing the national popular vote. If the compact was in force, electors from Massachusetts would have voted for the winner of the nationwide popular vote, George W. Bush, despite 62 percent of the Massachusetts vote supporting Kerry.

The compact guarantees a legal challenge. The Constitution prohibits agreements among states without the consent of Congress. A losing candidate would appeal, initiating another election result decided by a Supreme Court majority.

Are these the outcomes Massachusetts citizens want?

The intent of the Founding Founders in constructing the electoral framework was to insure that urban voters in a few states would not control presidential elections.

Although I would not support it, I believe citizens who seek to elect the president by popular vote should go the route of seeking a constitutional amendment to do away with the Electoral College. Should they instead effect the interstate compact, we would have a hybrid system in which the compact states’ votes would be based entirely on the countrywide popular vote while non-compact states would vote as they do today.

I believe the presidential votes of our state should reflect the votes of our citizens. I support repeal of the compact legislation.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Honoring Our Veterans

The willingness of our citizens to give freely and unselfishly of themselves, even their lives, in defense of our democratic principles, gives this great Nation continued strength and vitality.
-- President Ronald Reagan, in his 1981 Veterans Day Proclamation

The Capitol View salutes the many brave men and women who have served in our armed forces, both past and present, as we observe Veterans Day.  The willingness of these individuals to place themselves in harm’s way to help preserve our many freedoms and democratic principles is something that should never be forgotten.  Our veterans deserve our utmost respect and gratitude, not only today, but every day.  We thank them for their service to our country.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Representative Orrall on ‘Greater Boston’

Representative Keiko Orrall (R-Lakeville) appeared on Thursday night’s edition of WGBH-TV’s Greater Boston as part of a panel discussion of the October 28th GOP Presidential debate moderated by host Jim Braude.  Joining Representative Orrall on the show were former Social Security Commissioner Mike Astrue and former State Treasurer Joe Malone.

You can watch the segment in its entirety by playing the video link posted here.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Rep. Jones’ Proposal Limiting Sex Offenders’ Ability to Stay Their Final Classification on an Appeal Now on Governor’s Desk

A proposal by House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading) to limit the amount of time sex offenders can secure a stay of final classification pending a court appeal is one step closer to becoming law, following its passage today in a modified form by the House of Representatives and state Senate.

Representative Jones first offered the proposed changes during the House debate on the Fiscal Year 2016 state budget in April.  Governor Charlie Baker later returned the proposal with some slight modifications designed to ensure that the changes would not violate the separation of powers doctrine of the state Constitution.  The Legislature approved the governor’s recommendations today.

In addition to prohibiting the state’s Sex Offender Registry Board (SORB) from granting a stay of final classification for longer than 60 days, the state’s courts would be restricted from granting a similar stay on appeal for more than 60 days, unless accompanied by written findings showing good cause for extending the stay.  All court appeals related to SORB classification would be subject to an expedited hearing process whenever a stay is granted.

Representative Jones said these changes will help to ensure that the public is protected from dangerous individuals who are considered to pose a high risk of re-offending.

“If an individual is required to register as a sex offender, they have a right to appeal their classification, but they should not be able to manipulate the system in an attempt to escape scrutiny for their crimes,” said Representative Jones.  “The public has a right to know if there is a dangerous sex offender living or working in their neighborhood, and limiting a stay of final classification will help preserve the public’s ability to access this information.”

There are currently three levels of sex offender classification in Massachusetts.  Level 1 sex offenders are considered to represent a low risk of re-offending and therefore are not deemed dangerous enough to warrant the release of their personal information to the public.  As a result, this information is made available only to certain local, state and federal agencies, including the Department of Correction, county correctional facilities, the Department of Youth Services, the Department of Social Services, the Parole Board, the Department of Probation and the Department of Mental Health, as well as all city and town police departments and the Federal Bureau of Investigation for law enforcement purposes.

Level 2 sex offenders are considered to be a moderate risk of re-offending, while Level 3 sex offenders are deemed to pose a high risk of re-offending.  Due to public safety concerns, information on both Level 2 and Level 3 sex offenders is readily accessible to the public through the local police department and the SORB.

Under current law, a sex offender who has been classified by the SORB can seek what is referred to as a 30A judicial review through the court system.  A stay of the classification is typically granted pending the appeal, which results in the sex offender essentially becoming declassified.  When this happens, the police cannot disclose information on these individuals to the public because they technically are no longer designated as a Level 2 or Level 3 offender.

“The prospect of a sex offender being able to delay their classification status indefinitely is completely unacceptable, given the serious nature of these types of crimes,” said Representative Jones.  “The changes approved today will provide important protections for the public by tightening the current sex offender law and upholding the public’s right to know.”

The sex offender classification changes are now on Governor Baker’s desk awaiting his signature.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Rep. Kane Appointed to Public Health Committee

House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading) is pleased to announce that he has appointed Representative Hannah Kane (R-Shrewsbury) to the Joint Committee on Public Health.

Representative Kane replaces former Representative Leah Cole (R-Peabody), who previously served on the committee before resigning her House seat on September 28th to resume a full-time nursing career.  In addition to her new committee assignment, Representative Kane will continue to serve as a member of the Joint Committee on Transportation, the House Committee on Personnel & Administration and the House Committee on Redistricting.

“The Public Health Committee deals with a wide range of issues that directly impact the health and well-being of every Massachusetts resident and I am confident that Representative Kane will do an exemplary job to help facilitate the committee’s work in this area,” said Representative Jones.

“I am honored to accept this appointment and I look forward to working with my colleagues to address some of the critical public health issues that will come before the committee this session,” said Representative Kane.

Representative Kane has recently hired a new intern who will aid in the research of important public health issues such as the proposed legalization of recreational marijuana use, an issue Representative Kane has openly opposed and one that is likely to appear as a ballot initiative in 2016. The new research intern, James Ko, is currently in his junior year at Boston University as a political science major. Representative Kane also serves on Worcester County District Attorney Joe Early's Opioid Task Force.

Representative Kane represents the 11th Worcester District, which is comprised of the town of Shrewsbury and Precincts 4 and 5 in Westborough.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Rep. Whipps Lee Named to State Administration and Regulatory Oversight Committee

House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading) is pleased to announce that he has appointed Representative Susannah Whipps Lee (R-Athol) to the Joint Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight.

The Athol Republican replaces former Representative Leah Cole (R-Peabody), who previously served on the committee before resigning her House seat on September 28th to resume a full-time nursing career.  As a member of the State Administration Committee, Representative Whipps Lee will review legislation pertaining to competitive bidding on public contracts, public construction, the state’s open meeting laws, state regulations, state agencies, and lobbyists’ reporting laws, among other issues.

In addition to her new committee assignment, Representative Whipps Lee will continue to serve as the ranking minority member on the Joint Committee on Elder Affairs; the assistant ranking minority member of the Joint Committee on Mental Health and Substance Abuse; and as a member of the Joint Committee on Municipalities and Regional Government.

“Representative Whipps Lee has proven to be a strong advocate for the residents of her district and the Commonwealth as a whole while serving in the Legislature, and I am confident she will continue to do a tremendous job protecting the public’s interest in her new committee assignment,” said Representative Jones.

“I appreciate the trust Representative Jones has placed in me, and I look forward to getting to work and addressing the many important issues that remain before the committee,” said Representative Whipps Lee.

Representative Whipps Lee is currently serving her first term in the Massachusetts House of Representatives.  She represents the Second Franklin District, which consists of the communities of Erving, Gill, New Salem, Orange, Warwick, Wendell, Belchertown, Athol, Petersham, Phillipston, Royalston, and Templeton.