Thursday, October 4, 2018

Rep. Smola Appointed to Special Commission to Study Crumbling Concrete Foundations

Representative Todd M. Smola (R-Warren, Ranking Member, Committee on Ways & Means) has been appointed to a special commission to study the financial and economic impacts of crumbling concrete foundations in Massachusetts due to the presence of pyrrhotite. The fourteen-person commission was established earlier this year as part of the state’s annual budget.

Some Massachusetts and Connecticut homes built between 1983 and 2017 could be impacted by the presence of the pyrrhotite mineral in their concrete foundations. The mineral has been found in a quarry in northeastern Connecticut that provided building aggregate for construction projects in the region. Over time, pyrrhotite that is exposed to oxygen and water reacts and causes swelling and cracking. As a structure continues to deteriorate, it often becomes unsound.

“There are many layers to this foundation dilemma and the commission will work to address a number of questions that have come up since this problem was identified,” said Representative Smola. “We intend to look at costs related to repairing these foundations, impact on property values and potential remedies for homeowners among other things. Our goal is to develop a commission report with recommendations that can provide assistance to people that are looking for answers. We will also be holding a public hearing in the region where concrete foundations have deteriorated due to the presence of pyrrhotite.”

The commission is seeking input from anyone who has a foundation that may contain pyrrhotite. The commission has been instructed to submit the results of its study and its recommendations by February 1, 2019.  For additional information please contact Representative Smola at Todd.Smola@mahouse.gov or (617) 722-2100.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Rep. Ferguson Appointed to Special Commission on Acquired and Traumatic Brain Injury

House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading) is pleased to announce that he has appointed State Representative Kimberly Ferguson (R-Holden) to serve as his designee on a special commission that will study the needs of individuals and families impacted by acquired and traumatic brain injuries.

Representative Ferguson previously served as a member of the Acquired Brain Injury and Traumatic Brain Injury Commission created by the Legislature in 2010.  That commission issued a report in December of 2011 identifying gaps in state services that led to the implementation of reforms to address those shortfalls.

The new commission, which was created as part of the Fiscal Year 2019 state budget, will review data concerning the epidemiology of brain injury.  The commission will make recommendations by June 30, 2019 for improving rehabilitative residential and integrated community-based support services provided to individuals with acquired brain injury and those suffering from traumatic brain injury.

“Representative Ferguson was instrumental in helping to bring about many positive changes for Massachusetts residents affected by brain injuries during her first term as a state representative,” said Representative Jones.  “I am confident she will continue to play a prominent role in the commission’s efforts to identify additional reforms that can be implemented to further improve the lives of brain-injured individuals and their loved ones.”

According to the Brain Injury Association of America, more than 3.5 million children and adults sustain an acquired brain injury each year, while at least 2.5 million adults and children sustain a traumatic brain injury.  Acquired brain injuries typically occur as a result of a stroke, aneurysm, tumor, or an infectious disease such as meningitis or encephalitis, while traumatic brain injuries are typically caused by motor vehicle accidents, sports injuries, assaults, and falls.

Representative Ferguson is one of four legislators serving on the special commission, which will also include Secretary of Health and Human Services Marylou Sudders; Public Health Commissioner Dr. Monica Bharel; Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commissioner Toni Wolf; Secretary of Elder Affairs Alice Bonner; Secretary of Veterans Services Francisco Urena; and Brain Injury Association of Massachusetts, Inc. Executive Director Nicole Godaire.

As part of its directive, the commission will study the “availability, nature and adequacy” of a variety of services for the brain-injured, including: acute and long-term medical and cognitive rehabilitation and outpatient services; therapy services; residential nursing care; structured day treatment and day activity programs; club programs; respite care services; community-based housing; home-based services; family support programs; case management; companion services; personal care attendant services; specialized medical equipment and supplies; environmental modifications; counseling and training; and prevocational services.

Representative Ferguson represents the First Worcester District, which is comprised of the towns of Holden; Paxton; Princeton; Rutland; Precinct 1 in Sterling; and Precinct 2 in Westminster.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Representative David DeCoste Named to Special Commission on Veterans Tuition

House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading) has appointed State Representative David DeCoste (R-Norwell) to serve on a special commission studying veterans’ tuition.

As a member of the commission, Representative DeCoste will work with other legislators and state officials to study the cost and feasibility of exempting Massachusetts veterans from paying tuition, fees and other costs associated with attending a public college or university.

“Representative DeCoste has been a staunch advocate for the Commonwealth’s veterans while serving in the Legislature,” said Representative Jones.  “His military background and expertise will be of tremendous value to the commission as it works to find ways to make higher education more accessible and affordable to the many men and women who have proudly served our nation.”

The special commission was created as part of An Act relative to veterans’ benefits, rights, appreciation, validation and enforcement, also known as the BRAVE Act, which was signed into law on August 9, 2018 as Chapter 218 of the Acts of 2018.  Representative DeCoste previously served on the conference committee that finalized the bill, which provides for expanded property tax exemptions and other benefits for Massachusetts veterans and their surviving spouses.

Veterans Services Secretary Francisco Urena and Higher Education Commissioner Dr. Carlos Santiago are chairing the special commission, which will also include a member of the Student Veterans of America appointed by Governor Charlie Baker.  In addition to Representative DeCoste, nine other legislators will serve on the special commission, including the House and Senate chairs of the Joint Committees on Higher Education, Veterans and Federal Affairs, and Ways and Means.

The commission is scheduled to file a report on its findings and recommendations with the Legislature by July 1, 2019.

Representative DeCoste is a 22-year veteran of the United States Army, where he achieved the rank of Major.  He currently serves on the Joint Committee onVeterans and Federal Affairs, as well as the Joint Committees on Housing and Public Service.

Representative DeCoste previously served as a member of the MassachusettsPost-Deployment Commission, which was created in 2016 to develop recommendations for programs to assist the state’s service members as they transition to civilian life after deployment.

Representative DeCoste represents the Fifth Plymouth District, which is comprised of the towns of Hanover, Norwell and Rockland.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Rep. Howitt Named to Special Commission on the Mandated Reporting of Suspected Animal Abuse

Representative Steven Howitt (R-Seekonk) has been appointed by House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading) to serve on a special commission that will explore the possibility of requiring certain state employees to be trained to identify and report suspected cases of animal abuse.

The 18-member commission will attempt to identify the potential costs associated with training employees and contractors of the Department of Children and Families and the Department of Elder Affairs, as well as investigators working for the Disabled Persons Protection Commission, to recognize and report animal cruelty, abuse and neglect.  The special commission will also consider the potential costs associated with training municipal animal control officers to recognize and report the abuse of children, the elderly and the disabled.

In announcing his appointment, Representative Jones cited Representative Howitt’s sponsorship of legislation calling for the creation of a statewide animal abuse registry.  First filed in 2015, the bill would require the Department of Criminal Justice Information Services to establish and maintain a central computerized registry of all persons convicted of an animal abuse crime, and would prohibit animal shelters, pet stores, and breeders from selling an animal to any individual listed on the registry.

“Representative Howitt has been at the forefront of efforts to impose stronger penalties against individuals who abuse or neglect animals,” said Representative Jones.  “His commitment to protecting animals will be an asset to the commission as it considers expanding the number of people responsible for reporting these crimes.”

Representative Howitt is one of 10 legislators serving on the commission, which will also include representatives from the Department of Agricultural Resources; the Disabled Persons Protection Commission; the Executive Office of Health and Human Services; the Attorney General’s office; the MSPCA-Angell; the Animal Rescue League of Boston; the Animal Control Officers Association of Massachusetts; and the Massachusetts Municipal Police Coalition.

Created as part of An Act to protect animal welfare and safety in cities and towns – also known as the PAWS II Act – the commission is due to report its findings and recommendations to the Legislature by March 1, 2019.

Representative Howitt currently serves on the Joint Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure, the Joint Committee on Transportation, and the House Committee on Redistricting.  He represents the Fourth Bristol District, which includes the communities of Seekonk, Rehoboth, and portions of Norton and Swansea.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Representative Sheila Harrington Appointed to Bail Reform Special Commission

House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading) is pleased to announce that he has appointed State Representative Sheila Harrington (R-Groton) to serve as his designee on a special commission on bail reform.

The 19-member commission, which was created as part of the criminal justice reform law signed in April, will consider potential changes to the current bail system, including the use of risk assessment factors to determine when bail should be set and when defendants should be released without bail.  The commission will also evaluate the setting of conditions for defendants when they are released, with or without bail, and will determine if changes need to be made to ensure that defendants are not impacted differently in the pretrial system based on their gender, race, gender identity or other protected class status.

“As a member of the Judiciary Committee, Representative Harrington was a key contributor on the conference committee that finalized the new criminal justice reform law,” said Representative Jones.  “That, combined with her courtroom experience as an attorney, makes her eminently qualified to serve on this special commission that will explore ways to improve our current bail system to ensure equal and consistent treatment for all residents of the Commonwealth.”

The bail reform commission is comprised of a diverse group of legislators, court officials, attorney organizations and advocacy groups.  Among those who will be serving on the commission are Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Ralph Gants, Massachusetts Superior Court Chief Justice Judith Fabricant, Massachusetts District Court Chief Justice Paul Dawley, Attorney General Maura Healey, and Probation Commissioner Edward Dolan.  The commission will also include representatives from the Committee for Public Counsel Services, the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, the Massachusetts Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Inc., and the Massachusetts District Attorneys Association. 

The bail reform commission is scheduled to file a report on its findings and recommendations with the Legislature by June 30, 2019.

Representative Harrington represents the First Middlesex District, which includes the towns of Ashby, Dunstable, Groton, Pepperell, Townsend and Precinct 1 in Ayer.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Representative Muratore Named to Special Legislative Commission on Ocean Acidification

House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading) is pleased to announce that he has appointed State Representative Mathew Muratore (R-Plymouth) to serve as his designee on a special environmental commission that will study the impact of coastal and ocean acidification on commercially-valuable marine species.

Created as part of the 2018 Environmental Bond Bill, the commission will work on developing policies to respond to the adverse effects of coastal and ocean acidification on commercially-important fisheries and the state’s aquaculture industry.

“Representative Muratore has been an active member of the Ocean Advisory Commission, working closely with Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Matthew Beaton to develop the state’s ocean management plan,” said Representative Jones.  “He will be a perfect fit on this new commission as it works to address the environmental impact of ocean acidification on the state’s fishing industry.”

“Excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is being absorbed into our oceans and lowering PH levels below normal,” Representative Muratore said.  “Understanding how this impacts both humans and marine life is important and I am honored to be appointed to serve on this commission.”

Representative Muratore is one of eight legislators serving on the 19-member commission, which is being chaired by State Representative Smitty Pignatelli (D-Lenox) and State Senator Anne Gobi (D-Spencer), who also serve as co-chairs of the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture.  Other state environmental officials serving on the commission include Director of Marine Fisheries Dr. David Pierce; Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Martin Suuberg; and Director of Coastal Zone Management Bruce Carlisle.

Governor Charlie Baker will be appointing the remaining 8 members of the commission.  His appointees will include two representatives of an environmental or community group; three scientists who have studied coastal or ocean acidification; and three commercial fishermen, including one who holds a shellfish aquaculture license, one who holds a commercial fisherman lobster permit, and one who holds a commercial fisherman shellfish permit.

In addition to reviewing relevant scientific literature and studies related to coastal and ocean acidification, the commission will conduct a series of public hearings and coordinate with the Northeast Coastal Acidification Network and the National Caucus of Environmental Legislators to prevent any duplication of effort.  The commission is scheduled to file a report on its findings and recommendations by December 31, 2018.

Representative Muratore represents the First Plymouth District.  He currently serves as the ranking minority member of the Joint Committee on Tourism, Arts and Cultural Development; the assistant ranking minority member of the Joint Committee on Health CareFinancing; and a member of the Joint Committee on State Administration andRegulatory Oversight.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Rep. Crocker Named to Special Commission Investigating Suicide Prevention Among Massachusetts Correction Officers

Representative William Crocker (R-Barnstable) has been appointed by House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading) to serve on a special commission to study the prevention of suicide among correction officers in Massachusetts.

According to a February 2016 investigative report by WCVB-TV, 14 male and female employees of the state’s Department of Correction (DOC) committed suicide over a 5 ½-year period between 2010 and 2016.  In January of 2016, citing figures from the DOC and the Department of Public Health (DPH), the Springfield Republican newspaper reported that the “suicide rate among correctional officers … is around six times the rate of suicides in the general Massachusetts population.”

The 13-member commission, which was created as part of the 2018criminal justice reform law, will review existing suicide prevention programs and policies within Massachusetts’ correctional facilities.  In addition to providing recommendations for improving suicide identification and intervention for correctional facility staff, the commission will also explore ways to make mental health counseling more accessible to correction officers in need of services.

“Representative Crocker is familiar with our state’s correctional system, having previously worked as a teacher in the Bristol County House of Correction for 3 years,” said Representative Jones.  “His prior experience and insight will be an asset to the commission as it works to devise ways to prevent suicide among correction officers by making sure they have the full range of support and services they need.”

Representative Crocker is one of four legislative appointees serving on the commission, which is being chaired by Spencer Lord, Director of Policy and Assistant General Counsel at the Massachusetts Executive Office of Public Safety and Security.  The commission will include a suicide prevention specialist and Massachusetts sheriffs representative appointed by Governor Charlie Baker, as well as representatives from the DOC, DPH, the Department of Mental Health, the Massachusetts Correction Officers Federated Union, the Massachusetts Psychological Society, and the New England Police Benevolent Association, Inc. 

The commission is due to report its findings and recommendations to the Legislature by December 31, 2018.

Representative Crocker currently serves on three joint legislative committees, including Children, Families and Persons withDisabilities; Mental Health, Substance Use and Recovery; and Tourism, Arts andCultural Development.  He represents the Second Barnstable District, which includes Precincts 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, and 13 in Barnstable, as well as Precincts 5 and 6 in Yarmouth.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Rep. Hannah Kane Appointed to Regional Transit Authority Performance and Funding Task Force

Representative Hannah Kane (R-Shrewsbury) has been appointed by House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading) to serve on a task force that will evaluate the performance and funding of the state’s regional transit authorities.

Created as part of the Fiscal Year 2019 state budget, the 19-member commission will look at how the state’s 15 regional transit authorities can best provide and improve transit services for their customers, while conducting regular service planning to maximize ridership.  The commission will also explore ways to ensure that fares, local contributions and other own-source revenues are sufficient to cover an appropriate share of service costs for these regional transit authorities.

“As a member of the Joint Committee on Transportation, Representative Kane has been proactive in supporting the Baker-Polito Administration’s efforts to improve services on the MBTA,” said Representative Jones.  “I am confident she will bring this same commitment to the task force as it works to increase efficiencies at the state’s regional transit authorities and enhance the ridership experience for commuters who utilize these services.”

Representative Kane is one of four legislators serving on the task force, which is being chaired by Astrid Glynn, the Rail & Transit Administrator for the Massachusetts Department of Transportation. Three members will be appointed by the regional transit authority administrators, with Governor Charlie Baker appointing the other 11 members, including one who will represent the disabled commuter population and one who will represent an organization that advocates for regional transit authority riders.

The task force is scheduled to file its initial report by November 1, 2018.

In addition to serving on the Joint Committee on Transportation, Representative Kane is also the Ranking Minority Member of the Joint Committee on Public Health, the Ranking Minority Member of the JointCommittee on Marijuana Policy, and a member of the Joint Committee on MentalHealth, Substance Use and Recovery.  She represents the Eleventh Worcester District, which includes the town of Shrewsbury and Precincts 4 and 5 in Westborough.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Assistant Minority Leader Brad Hill Appointed to Special Commission on School Transportation

Representative Bradford Hill (R-Ipswich) has been appointed by House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading) to serve on a special commission that will explore ways to increase efficiencies in student transportation.

Established as part of the Fiscal Year 2019 state budget, the 11-member commission will be responsible for developing recommendations for improving transportation services for students attending regional schools, out of district vocational and technical schools, and out of district agricultural schools, as well as students in special education out of district placements.

In announcing the appointment, Representative Jones cited Representative Hill’s ongoing advocacy in support of public education funding, particularly for regional school transportation.  Representative Hill’s efforts helped secure a $68.88 million appropriation in this year’s state budget to reimburse communities for student transportation expenses, which represents a 12% increase in funding over last year.

“Brad has been leading the fight to deliver additional relief to cities and towns to help them pay for their student transportation costs,” said Representative Jones.  “I am confident he will do a tremendous job helping the special commission to identify ways for school districts to improve transportation services and reduce costs.”

Representative Hill is one of four legislators serving on the commission, which will also include representatives from the Massachusetts Association of Regional Schools, Inc.; the Massachusetts Association of School Committees, Inc.; the Massachusetts Association of School Business Officials, Inc.; the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents, Inc.; and the Massachusetts Association of Special Education Administrators.  The final two commission members will be appointed by Education Secretary James Peyser and Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Jeffrey Riley.

The commission is required to hold a minimum of five public hearings, and is expected to file a report with its recommendations by December 1, 2019.

Representative Hill currently serves as the Assistant Minority Leader of the House of Representatives.  He represents the Fourth Essex District, which includes the towns of Hamilton; Ipswich; Manchester-by-the-Sea; Rowley; Topsfield; and Wenham.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

September 11, 2001: Seventeen Years Later, We Still Remember … and We Will Never Forget


“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

The House Republican Caucus joins with Americans everywhere today to honor the victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and to salute our men and women in uniform who continue to keep America strong and safe. We remember September 11, 2001, and we will never forget.