Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Representative Jones’ Statement on Passage of Fiscal Year 2017 House Budget

House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading) released the following statement regarding the House of Representatives’ passage of a $39.5 billion Fiscal Year 2017 state budget today:

“I’m very pleased that the House budget places a priority on local aid for our cities and towns. I think there was a good faith effort to try to address a wide range of issues, while still maintaining an eye on the bottom line. It’s always difficult to juggle so many competing priorities and interests when you are dealing with limited resources.  That being said, the unanimous vote to pass the budget is a testament to how successful this entire process has been."

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Representative Jones Calls For Task Force to Review Unfunded Education Mandates

House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading) is calling for the creation of a task force to review all unfunded mandates the state currently imposes on public schools and to develop recommendations for curtailing this practice.

Representative Jones offered the proposal as an amendment during the first day of debate on the House budget for Fiscal Year 2017.  The amendment was approved on a voice vote on April 25.

“This amendment addresses one of the biggest concerns voiced by school officials not only in my district, but across the Commonwealth,” said Representative Jones.  “The state cannot continue to impose new mandates on our cities and towns without providing them with the financial resources to help fulfill those requirements.” 

Under Representative Jones’ proposal, the Educational Mandate Task Force will review all state laws, regulations and directives that impose requirements on school districts, including mandates that require preparing and submitting reports and data to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE).  In addition to identifying the total estimated costs associated with these mandates, the task force will also be asked to develop recommendations for streamlining, consolidating or eliminating any mandates or reporting requirements that are outdated, duplicative or unnecessary.

Between 1995 and 2008, DESE added 4,055 new documents and directives for educators and administrators.  DESE added an additional 5,382 documents between 2009 and 2013, an average of about 3 or 4 new directives per day.

“Over the last few years, we have seen the number of mandates handed down by the state continue to grow at an alarming rate,” said Representative Jones.  “A thorough review of the requirements placed on school districts is long overdue, and my hope is that this task force will help clear the way to providing meaningful relief for our cities and towns.”

The task force will consist of 11 members and will be co-chaired by the House and Senate chairs of the Joint Committee on Education.  The Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education will also serve on the task force, along with a legislator appointed by the Senate Minority Leader and a legislator appointed by the House Minority Leader.  The six remaining members will be appointed by the Secretary of Education, and will include representatives from the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents, the Massachusetts Association of School Committees, the Massachusetts Association of School Business Officials, the Massachusetts Secondary School Administrators’ Association, the Massachusetts Elementary School Principals’ Association, and the Massachusetts Administrators of Special Education.

As part of its review, the task force will be required to hold at least one public hearing.  A final report containing the task force’s findings and recommendations will be due no later than one year after its initial meeting.

The House will continue to debate over 1300 proposed budget amendments this week.  The Senate is expected to release its own version of the Fiscal Year 2017 budget in mid-May.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Representative Jones’ Statement on Release of House Fiscal Year 2017 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 Fiscal Year 2017 budget:

“I appreciate the work done by Chairman Dempsey and the House Committee on Ways and Means in preparing the House Fiscal Year 2017 budget.  The spending proposal presented to the members today contains good news for cities and towns, as it builds on the local aid increases offered in Governor Baker’s budget, particularly in the area of education.  I am especially pleased to see that the budget holds the line on taxes and acknowledges the Governor’s call for fiscal responsibility by significantly reducing the state’s reliance on one-time revenues to balance the budget. The Republican Caucus looks forward to reviewing the budget in more detail over the next two days and having the opportunity to offer targeted amendments that will further protect the interests of the state’s taxpayers and our cities and towns.”

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Equal Justice Coalition Honors Rep. Brad Hill

The Equal Justice Coalition honored Rep. Brad Hill (R-Ipswich) with a Beacon of Justice Award at its annual Beacon of Justice Awards ceremony at the State House on March 23.

The coalition recognized Rep. Hill for his support for civil legal aid, which assists low-income individuals and families in resolving issues related to basic necessities such as housing, employment, classroom accommodations for children with disabilities and conflicts related to child support and custody, divorce, and domestic violence.

“I’m proud to receive this award from the Equal Justice Coalition,” said Hill. “I look forward to my continued work with the Equal Justice Coalition, which is dedicated to ensuring that all those who qualify for this vital service can access it in times of need.”

Rep. Hill currently serves as the Assistant Minority Leader.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Rep. Lombardo: $15/Hour Wage for Fast Food, Big Box Workers Would Devastate Mass. Economy

The following opinion piece by State Representative Marc Lombardo (R-Billerica) appeared in the March 27th edition of the Boston Globe’s Globe North section:

Raising the minimum wage for fast food and big box store employees to $15 an hour would be devastating to the Massachusetts economy. This proposal fails to understand the basic principles of a supply and demand economy and as a result, it would have painful ramifications on the cost of goods and availability of jobs in our state.

The irony of the proposal is it would hurt the very people it attempts to help. Business owners would see significant cost increases to operate and would likely respond by cutting jobs or raising prices. Either response hurts minimum wage earners as they will find themselves out of a job or not able to afford a $12 Big Mac.

Further, minimum wage earners who work outside of the $15 an hour minimum wage industries would be disadvantaged as they would experience higher costs for goods without the benefit of the extra wages being paid to minimum wage workers.

Seattle in 2014 approved a phased-in hike in the hourly minimum wage to $15 with an initial increase to $11 in April 2015. A recent American Enterprise Institute blog post by Mark J. Perry noted the city started “ . . . suffering significant job losses, which then contributed to a noticeable spike in the number of the city’s unemployed workers and a sharp jump in the city’s jobless rate between April and December.”

In addition, the impact on youth jobs will be devastating. Statistics show that the percentage of teens with jobs is sharply down from past decades. Often the first jobs we held as youths shaped our work ethic, taught us life skills, and showed us the value of a dollar. Youth job availability will certainly be damaged under this minimum wage proposal because of the high cost of inexperienced labor.

This proposal falls firmly under the “Do as I say, not as I do” category. State senator Daniel Wolf is a Hyannis Democrat who is also the CEO of Cape Air. The State House News Service reported that Wolf is “. . . both a supporter of the higher minimum wage and an airline CEO who can’t currently afford to pay that wage to all employees.” Doesn’t this statement speak volumes about the practicality of this bill?

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Representative Kane on ‘Greater Boston’

Representative Hannah Kane (R-Shrewsbury) was a guest on WGBH’s Greater Boston last week.  She joined host Jim Braude and No-Boston Olympics Co-Chairman Chris Dempsey for a discussion of the landmark Massachusetts opioid bill, the proposed 2016 ballot question to legalize recreational marijuana, and MBTA funding issues.

You can watch the segment in its entirety by playing the video link attached below or by clicking here.  The segment, which runs for approximately 7 minutes, begins at the 10:15 mark.

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.