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.

Monday, September 28, 2015

House Minority Leader Brad Jones’ Statement on DCF Reforms Announced by Governor Baker

House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading) issued the following statement today regarding proposed reforms at the state’s Department of Children and Families released by Governor Baker this morning:

“I commend Governor Baker for developing a timely and comprehensive reform package to address the very serious systemic problems that exist at the Department of Children and Families.  Implementing clear and concise intake policies, reducing caseloads, utilizing CORI checks and requiring a full review of a family’s prior history with DCF and the frequency and nature of 911 calls to a household are all crucial to ensuring that the children entrusted to the state’s care are not placed in harm’s way.  The Fiscal Year 2016 budget includes more than $8 million in additional funding for foster care and clinical support services for DCF clients compared to Fiscal Year 2015, and the House is scheduled to appropriate an additional $5 million in a supplemental spending bill this week to address immediate staffing and training needs at DCF, all of which will help further the administration’s objectives.  I also want to commend the Service Employees International Union Local 509 for its willingness to work with the administration to implement these reforms and ensure their long-term success.  There is much work that still lies ahead, but the proposal released today will move DCF in the right direction.”

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Rep. Kane Appears on 'Greater Boston'

Representative Hannah Kane (R-Shrewsbury) was a guest on last night’s episode of Greater Boston, joining host Jim Braude and Senator William Brownsberger (D-Belmont) to discuss the multiple ballot questions to legalize marijuana that are being eyed for the 2016 state election.  Kane spoke out against the ballot questions, citing her concerns about the impact legalization would have on the state’s youth.

You can watch the segment in its entirety by playing the video link attached below.  The segment begins at approximately the 13-minute mark.

Monday, September 21, 2015

House Minority Leader Brad Jones’ Statement on Representative Leah Cole’s Resignation

House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading) issued the following statement today regarding Peabody state Representative Leah Cole’s announcement that she will be resigning her House seat effective September 28 to return to practicing nursing full-time:

“Leah Cole has served in the Legislature with distinction since her arrival on Beacon Hill in 2013.  She campaigned on a pledge to protect the interests of the state’s taxpayers, to promote job creation and to demand government accountability, and she has delivered on that promise.  As a licensed practical nurse, Leah has first-hand knowledge and personal insight into how our health care system works, and has actively pursued policy changes designed to improve the quality of care and lower costs.  She has been a tireless champion for the residents of the Twelfth Essex District, and I know I speak for all of my colleagues when I wish Leah well as she embarks on this exciting new chapter in her life.”

Rep. Cole to Resign House Seat Effective Sept. 28

Today, Rep. Leah Cole (R-Peabody) announced her intention to resign her seat in the Massachusetts House of Representatives, effective September 28 - one week from today. Rep. Cole is resigning to focus on her nursing career.  Having achieved a perfect attendance record for votes in the House, Rep. Cole is resigning to ensure the people of her district continue to have strong, undivided attention and representation in the future.

“As many people know, prior to being elected to the House of Representatives, I was working as a nurse full-time and continued to work as a nurse part-time after being elected.  I decided to get involved in public service because I wanted to contribute to our state policies and invoke positive changes, but I never intended for politics to be a life-long career,” said Rep. Leah Cole.

Cole continued, “It has come to a point where I can no longer continue to be the State Representative, as well as pursue my passion of nursing.  Though I am deeply grateful for the opportunity I have had to serve, given to me by the people of Peabody, I have come to the difficult decision to focus on my nursing career. It has been an honor to represent the people of Peabody for these past two years, and I have loved working in the Legislature to deliver on priorities for our district.”

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Rep. Howitt Files Pension Divestment Bill Targeting Companies that Sanction Israel

State Representative Steven S. Howitt (R-Seekonk) filed legislation today that would require the Massachusetts public employee pension system to divest all holdings from companies that engage in boycotts or other economic sanctions against the State of Israel.

Representative Howitt’s bill would direct the Pension Reserves Investment Management Board (PRIM) to contract with an independent third party to develop a list of scrutinized companies that have engaged in politically-motivated actions designed to penalize, inflict economic harm, or otherwise restrict commercial relations with the State of Israel.  The PRIM Board would be required to remove all investments from companies appearing on this list, which would be created within 90 days of the bill’s passage and subsequently updated on a quarterly basis.

“This bill is designed to put companies on notice that if they choose to pursue anti-Israeli policies, the state of Massachusetts will refuse to be a part of it and will not allow its pension assets to be used to help finance such reprehensible actions,” said Representative Howitt.  “This will send a clear and unequivocal message that the Commonwealth in no way condones policies that are detrimental to the State of Israel or its right to exist.”

The divestment bill was filed in response to the so-called BDS movement (boycott, divestment and sanctions), a pro-Palestinian campaign that seeks to isolate Israel, both financially and politically.  Similar divestment legislation has been enacted this year in Illinois and South Carolina, while other states – including New York – have recently filed their own versions.

Representative Howitt’s bill includes a timeline requiring the PRIM Board to divest 50% of its assets from scrutinized companies appearing on the list within 6 months, and 100% if its investment holdings within 12 months.  Once divestment proceedings are underway, the PRIM Board must also send letters of recommendation to fund managers requesting, but not requiring, that they either remove companies with indirect holdings from the fund, or create similar investment funds that do not include companies with indirect holdings.

After the initial list of scrutinized companies is created, the PRIM Board will have 30 days to file a report with the clerks of the Massachusetts Senate and House of Representatives.  The board will then be required to file annual reports detailing the most recent scrutinized companies list, all divested assets, and a list of scrutinized companies the Commonwealth has yet to divest from at the time of the report’s filing, as well as updates on the creation of new any funds that exclude indirect holdings.

The bill also calls for greater transparency by requiring the PRIM Board to fully disclose, on a semiannual basis, any decision to end divestment in, or to reinvest in, a company that previously appeared on the list of scrutinized companies.  Written notification must be provided to the Attorney General’s office, the Senate and House Ways & Means Committees, and the Joint Committee on Public Service stating the reasons and evidence used for ending divestment or reinvesting in these companies.

Representative Howitt is currently circulating the bill for additional co-sponsors, and hopes to draw strong bipartisan support from his colleagues in the Legislature.