Friday, September 22, 2017

House Minority Leader Brad Jones Backs Passage of Drone Search Warrant Legislation in MA


The following column by House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading) appeared in the September 17 edition of the Boston Globe’s North Section:

One of the most fundamental legal protections enshrined in the US Constitution as part of the Bill of Rights is the prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures. Under the Fourth Amendment, all citizens have a reasonable expectation of privacy and cannot be subject to a search without a probable cause warrant.

The growing popularity of unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, presents a challenge to upholding personal privacy rights in Massachusetts because our state laws have not kept pace with this rapidly evolving technology. That may soon change.

Proposed legislation I am cosponsoring would require police to obtain a search warrant before using drones as part of a criminal investigation. Several other states – including Florida, Maine, North Dakota and Virginia – already have similar requirements in place, and Massachusetts residents should be able to enjoy these same protections.

Requiring warrants for drone surveillance would in no way hinder law enforcement’s ability to investigate suspected criminal activity. Rather, it would simply ensure that state and municipal police departments are following the same procedures they already use when conducting an investigation without the use of drone technology.

The proposed legislation contains a provision allowing drones to be used without a warrant in certain limited emergency situations, but only if there is “reasonable cause” to believe there is an imminent threat to the life or safety of a person, such as when a child goes missing. In these cases, the operator of the drone would be required to document the specific nature of the emergency, and a supervisor would need to file an affidavit detailing the reasons for the warrant-less emergency usage within 48 hours of the drone’s deployment.

The bill contains additional privacy protections by mandating drones be used only to collect data on the individual who is the actual subject of the warrant, and requiring any data collected on other individuals not targeted by the warrant be deleted within 24 hours.

Currently, only a handful of municipal police departments in Massachusetts have purchased drones, including Attleborough and Hanover, but that number is likely to increase in the future. Implementing statewide guidelines now, including a warrant requirement for conducting drone surveillance, is critical to ensuring residents’ civil liberties and civil rights are properly protected.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Representative Mirra: Privatizing MBTA Garages Would Mean 'Better Service at a Lower Cost’


The following column by Representative Leonard Mirra (R-Newbury) appeared in the September 10 edition of the Boston Globe’s North Section:

After years of mismanagement and neglect, the financially plagued MBTA is burdened with waste and inefficiency. As recently as 2015, it was projecting a cost growth rate that was three times the amount of revenues. Of the $132 million spent on bus maintenance in fiscal 2016, nearly $100 million was for labor.

Bankrolled by T riders and taxpayers, the MBTA had the highest vehicle maintenance per hour costs of bus operation of six comparable transit agencies in 2015, according to a new report from the Pioneer Institute.

At $44.30 per hour, MBTA bus maintenance costs were 65 percent higher than the $26.82 average of the nation’s 25 largest public transit agencies that year. Clearly, we can do better. Thankfully, bus maintenance privatization offers the MBTA an opportunity to address some runaway expenses.

The proposal to privatize bus operations is not a scheme to “bust unions,” nor a “race to the bottom” that drives down wages and harms working conditions. The plan simply allows for private companies to allow MBTA cost savings through increased flexibility and lower staffing, while still employing union machinists working under their collective bargaining contracts.

For instance, T supervisors are prohibited from turning wrenches, leaving them unable to assist machinists. In a private company, “working supervisors” would be free to work alongside machinists when needed.

Maintenance privatization is hardly a revolutionary idea. Our Regional Transit Authorities — two of which operate in Greater Lowell and through much of the Merrimack Valley — have had private companies service buses for years. Their costs are much lower. While the T’s total cost per revenue hour is $56, RTAs hover around $31, with the Worcester RTA at $25.

The T outsourced overhauls on 190 buses in 2012. The agency found that doing the work in-house cost 50 percent more than shipping buses to Michigan. Recently, the T outsourced cash-handling to Brinks, cutting costs by two-thirds; Brinks runs nearly 15 percent under the $300,000 monthly contract.

While bringing costs under control cannot be accomplished overnight, outsourcing certain operations will move us closer. A focused and efficient transportation agency, combined with reinvested cost savings, means better service at a lower cost.

Monday, September 11, 2017

REMEMBERING 9/11

“One of the worst days in America’s history saw some of the bravest acts in Americans’ history. We’ll always honor the heroes of 9/11. And here at this hallowed place, we pledge that we will never forget their sacrifice.” – President George W. Bush

Today, we gather as families, as communities, but more importantly as Americans to remember those individuals who lost their lives on September 11, 2001.

Let us never forget.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

WCVB-TV's Mike Beaudet Highlights One of Representative Jones' Sex Offender Bills


WCVB-TV aired an investigative piece on former priest and convicted pedophile Paul Shanley last night which highlighted legislation filed by House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading) to prohibit multiple sex offenders from residing at the same address.

House Bill 858 would bar level 3 sex offenders – those deemed most likely to reoffend – from “renting, residing, or otherwise occupying a single-family dwelling or a unit in a multi-family dwelling with another finally classified level 3 sex offender, regardless of the permanent or temporary residential status of either sex offender, unless those persons are legally related by consanguinity, affinity or adoption.”  Representative Jones originally filed this bill two years ago, in response to concerns raised by the North Reading Police Department and several constituents who had contacted him about two level 3 offenders who were living together in town.

Shanley was recently released from prison after serving 12 years for rape and abuse of a child and now resides in Ware, MA.  Two other level 3 offenders are also residing at the same address, in a building owned by yet another level 3 offender.

House Bill 858 is currently pending before the Joint Committee on the Judiciary.  A public hearing on the legislation has not yet been scheduled.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

House Minority Leader Brad Jones Hails Today's Signing of MA Pregnant Workers Fairness Act

House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading) hailed today’s signing of House Bill 3680, An Act Establishing the Massachusetts Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, saying it “will provide many important protections for working mothers in the Commonwealth.”

Representative Jones was one of the original co-sponsors of this legislation, which was filed in January as House Bill 1038.  A redrafted version of the bill was reported out favorably by the Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development on May 1, and it later received unanimous approval in both the House of Representatives and the Senate.

The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act requires employers to offer reasonable accommodations to workers who are pregnant or nursing, including modified work schedules, temporary assignment to a less strenuous position, and more frequent bathroom breaks.  It also prohibits employers from discriminating against pregnant workers when hiring or promoting, or retaliating against an employee for requesting an accommodation.

“The new law sends a clear message that Massachusetts will not tolerate discrimination in the workplace,” said Representative Jones.  “I’m proud to stand in support of pregnant workers in the Commonwealth.”

The new law takes effect on April 1, 2018.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Salem News Endorses Rep. Jones' Call for 'Wait and See' Approach to Budget Veto Overrides

The Salem News has endorsed House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr.’s efforts to convince House leadership to adopt a “wait and see” approach to taking up Governor Baker’s FY18 budget veto overrides.  The newspaper is backing Representative Jones’ call for delaying any veto overrides until after this summer’s revenue figures are in, agreeing that legislators “should refrain from overriding vetoes until there is a better idea of the state’s financial health.”

You can read the Salem News’ editorial here.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

House Minority Leader Jones Calls For ‘Wait and See’ Approach to Budget Veto Overrides in Letter to House Speaker

House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading) is calling on House leadership to adopt a “wait and see” approach to taking up overrides of Governor Charlie Baker’s FY18 budget vetoes.

In a letter delivered to House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo yesterday, Representative Jones urged DeLeo to “proceed with caution when considering the scheduling of any potential overrides in the House,” suggesting that the Legislature wait until after the summer’s tax revenues numbers are in before making a decision.

“Given the current fiscal realities, the best course of action for the Legislature to pursue at this time would be to allow Governor Baker’s vetoes to stand and not move forward with any overrides until we have a chance to review the revenue numbers for June, July and August,” Jones wrote.

In his letter, Jones cited a series of reductions in anticipated revenues that have left the Commonwealth facing a $439 million revenue shortfall through the end of May, with June’s final revenue numbers still pending.  He also noted that the Legislature’s decision to override most of the Governor’s vetoes last year “essentially left the state with an unbalanced budget.”

“While the House could still take up a limited number of targeted overrides to address emergency situations as they arise, it would be a mistake to again attempt a wholesale reversal of virtually all of the Governor’s vetoes without first having a better idea of where state revenues are heading,” Jones wrote, adding that “Our focus in the coming months should be on working with the Baker-Polito Administration to identify savings and efficiencies throughout state government, rather than exacerbating an already precarious financial situation by taking up multiple ill-advised veto overrides before the summer recess.”

A copy of Representative Jones’ letter to Speaker DeLeo is attached below.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Representative Muradian Appointed to Madeline Amy Sweeney Award Committee

Representative David K. Muradian Jr. (R-Grafton) is pleased to announce his appointment to the Madeline Amy Sweeney Award Committee with the responsibility of choosing a recipient to be awarded for Civilian Bravery. He was appointed to the committee by House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones Jr. (R-North Reading).

The Grafton Republican will join fellow legislators, public officials and representatives from the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security on the committee. Together, they will sort through hundreds of nominations to present one award to a citizen of the commonwealth who has displayed extraordinary courage and heroism without regard for personal safety, in an effort to save the life of another.

“The Madeline Amy Sweeney Award for Civilian Bravery recognizes individuals who have gone above and beyond to help save others from harm, even when it means putting their own personal safety at risk,” said Representative Jones.  “I am confident Representative Muradian will do a tremendous job helping the award committee to review this year’s nominees and identify a recipient who is truly worthy of being honored with this distinctive award named after one of the many heroes of 9/11.”

The Madeline Amy Sweeney Award was created in 2002 in recognition of Sweeney, a resident of Acton and flight attendant on the Sept. 11 American Airline Flight 11. Sweeney was credited with discretely contacting authorities in Boston to convey important information about the hijackers and their actions on the plane. It is because of Amy Sweeney’s heroism, and the heroism of so many victims of Sept. 11, 2001, that this award was created.

“I am honored to have been appointed to this special committee by Representative Jones,” Muradian said. “The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is home to many selfless and brave individuals. I look forward to working with the committee on choosing a sole recipient deserving of this honorary award.”

The 2017 Madeline Amy Sweeney Award for Civilian Bravery will be presented at a ceremony at the State House on Monday, Sept. 11.

Friday, July 7, 2017

House Minority Leader Brad Jones’ Statement on Passage of the Fiscal Year 2018 State Budget

House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading) issued the following statement today after the House voted to accept the final conference committee report on the Fiscal Year 2018 state budget:

“I commend the conference committee members for their hard work in producing a budget that provides local aid increases for our cities and towns while also rejecting any broad-based tax increases.  The conference committee was faced with the difficult task of putting together a budget at a time of rising costs and declining revenues, but rose to the challenge by working to preserve critical programs and attempting to limit spending reductions to areas that will have minimal impact on the state’s residents.

I’m pleased to see the budget also acknowledges the Baker-Polito Administration’s efforts to rein in MassHealth costs and to provide unemployment insurance relief to the state’s employers, particularly the small businesses that help create jobs and fuel the Massachusetts economy.  However, this work is far from done, and it’s important that we continue to pursue other MassHealth reforms put forward by the administration that were not addressed in this budget.

Moving forward, we must be cognizant of the fact that we still face a significant revenue shortfall, and will need to do everything we can to protect the interests of the state’s taxpayers by making sure the state spends within its means. While I continue to have concerns about certain accounts that have traditionally been left underfunded, I know we have a Governor in the corner office who is committed to fiscal responsibility and will do the right thing to ensure we have a balanced and sustainable budget. What we should not do is rush into taking up overrides once the Governor has issued his vetoes, but instead should allow some time to pass so we can get a better sense of where revenues are trending in the new fiscal year.”

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Rep. Hill: Proposed ‘Millionaire Tax’ Ballot Question Would Hurt Massachusetts' Economy

The Salem News published the following op-ed this week by Assistant Minority Leader Brad Hill (R-Ipswich) on the proposed “Millionaire Tax” ballot question, which is scheduled to appear on the statewide ballot in November of 2018:   

Earlier this month, in a joint session of the Massachusetts House and Senate, the graduated income tax, also known as the “Millionaire Tax,” was voted to be sent to the November 2018 state ballot. Due to the many concerns that I had, I voted against this economic proposal. Some of my concerns surrounded the issues of there being no safeguard to ensure the collected revenue will be allocated to increased support for education and transportation as intended. Additionally, it will hurt our small-business economy resulting in job loss. Not only that, it scares potential employers from relocating to Massachusetts. And lastly, the tax flight theory demonstrates the increased out-of-state migration due to the implementation of a graduated income tax.

Currently, Massachusetts assesses residents’ personal income uniformly at a “flat tax” rate of 5.1 percent, and short-term capital gains at 12 percent. This proposal would amend the state constitution, creating a two-tier tax system that imposes an additional 4 percent surtax on all income in excess of $1 million, effective Jan. 1, 2019, and the revenues would be “allotted” to transportation and education funding. The state constitution explicitly prohibits any amendment that “makes a specific appropriation of money.” However, the proposal attempts to circumvent this limitation by designating the money collected as “subject to appropriation” by the Legislature. Therefore, any and all collected revenue will be placed in the general fund, where its allocation is at the Legislature’s discretion.

During last year’s Constitutional Convention, the House Republican Caucus tried unsuccessfully to amend the proposal to ensure that any funds raised through the surtax would be used “in addition to” rather than “in lieu of” money currently spent on education and transportation, however, because the ballot proposal was not subject to further amendment this year, I expressed my concern that there are no safeguards in place to certify that the funds are appropriately being allocated to education and funding. 

In other words, the funds collected could be used to replace existing revenues spent in those areas, resulting in no net spending increase on transportation or education. A comparable situation was the national tobacco settlement money: in lieu of spending the money exclusively on smoking cessation and health-related programs, only a portion of it was spent on those areas.

Many prominent business groups consider the tax proposal to be anti-competitive, indicating that its impact on small businesses and job creation would be detrimental. Despite the populist label of the Millionaire Tax, the main reason to oppose this bill is that it could harm our economy by waging class warfare on our small businesses and job providers, which is a war we all lose. Furthermore, the Massachusetts High Technology Council warned against it, stating that it “could cause irreparable harm to the state’s innovation economy.” Major business groups, such as the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, Associated Industries of Massachusetts and the Massachusetts Competitive Partnership, are now considering legal action.

It is entirely possible that the full $1.9 billion in projected tax revenue will never be accrued. For example, in 2013, Massachusetts implemented a tax hike on the sale of cigarettes, increasing their sale from $2.51 to $3.51 per pack in the hopes of increasing state revenue. Unfortunately, this sales tax failed miserably, and we instead saw a drastic increase in illegal smuggling of cigarettes into the state, as well as an increase in residents driving over the border into New Hampshire to purchase their cigarettes rather than purchase them in-state, and consequently lost out on the projected revenue. Researchers at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy hypothesized that the increase in sales tax on cigarettes led to the drastic spike of illegally purchased cigarettes in Massachusetts, as the percent of cigarettes brought illegally into the state rose from 12 percent in 2013 to 29.3 percent in 2014 after the tax had been implemented.

In response to increases in a state’s average income tax rate, many of the state’s top earners will likely relocate to avoid the new surtax on their income, thus eliminating the primary source of the proposed surtax-generated funding. The state of New Jersey experienced this phenomenon in 2003. According to 2012 findings by the New Jersey Department of the Treasury, the state accumulated a net loss of approximately 18,000 to 28,000 taxpayers who relocated, and suffered an annual income loss of between $2.2 billion and 2.4 billion between 2003 and 2010. New Hampshire Governor Sununu must be licking his chops hoping for us to pass this ballot measure.

Additionally, there is concern of the volatility of capital gains taxes, which are, under the graduated income tax proposal, depended on to provide about $500 million of the new tax revenues. The Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation noted that in 2002, capital gains tax collections dropped by $670 million and by a whopping $1.65 billion during the recession in 2008. Issues associated with tax hikes are not partisan, and Democratic Gov. Dannel Malloy of Connecticut said it best: “I’ve raised taxes multiple times. It’s not working. And it’s come up a cropper … Spurring economic growth is what’s necessary.”

Historically, graduated income tax ballot proposals have failed in Massachusetts. Between 1962 and 1994, Massachusetts voters rejected five of these ballot initiatives, and the most recent in 1994 was defeated by a margin of more than 2-1. Come November, I urge you to consider all of the facts when considering the graduated income tax ballot question and demonstrate the same wisdom as we have in the past.