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.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

House Minority Leader Brad Jones is Inaugural Guest on ‘State Matters with Matt Muratore’

State Representative Mathew Muratore (R-Plymouth) recently welcomed House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading) as his guest on the debut episode of “State Matters with Matt Muratore”.  The half-hour show includes an overview of the legislative process, the importance of constituent service, and the role of state government.  Representative Jones and Representative Muratore also discuss the problems at the MBTA, the regulatory review process initiated by Governor Charlie Baker, and efforts to combat the state’s opioid crisis.

“State Matters with Matt Muratore” airs every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 9 a.m., 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. on PACTV.  You can watch the show in its entirety here or by playing the video link below.

Monday, September 14, 2015

House Minority Leader Brad Jones: Two-Tiered Tax System a Bad Idea for State's Taxpayers

The Boston Globe ran the attached opinion piece by House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading) in its Globe North edition on Sunday regarding the “millionaire tax” ballot question proposed for the 2018 state election:

One of the potential ballot questions being eyed for the 2018 state election would replace Massachusetts’ flat tax rate – currently set at 5.15 percent – with a two-tiered system where taxpayers in a higher income bracket would pay at a higher rate. Voters have rejected five similar ballot measures in the past, most recently in 1994.

The Fair Share Amendment now being proposed would tax income over $1 million an additional 4 percent, with the new revenues that would be generated earmarked for education and transportation.

Certainly everyone can agree on the importance of maintaining a quality education system to prepare our children for college and the workforce. And after last winter’s historic snowfall ground the MBTA to a virtual halt and stranded thousands of commuters, there is no doubt that transportation improvements need to be near the top of the agenda. But there are ways to improve our schools and public transportation without raising taxes.

Massachusetts residents already face the fourth highest per capita combined state and local tax burden in the country. Raising the income tax rate for one group of Massachusetts residents puts us on a slippery slope. How long before we start imposing higher taxes on other segments of the population and making the state even more unaffordable?

Historically, Massachusetts has a poor track record when it comes to taxes. In 1989, facing a large budget deficit, the Legislature passed a “temporary” tax increase, raising the income tax from 5 percent to 5.95 percent. Frustrated voters demanded relief and sent a clear message by overwhelmingly approving a 2000 ballot initiative to return the tax rate to 5 percent. Today, 26 years after the “temporary” tax increase went into effect, taxpayers are still waiting to get back to the promised 5 percent.

Here is something else to consider: In 1989, the state budget totaled $12 billion. Today it stands at $38.1 billion, more than three times the 1989 total.

The fact is, Massachusetts does not have a revenue problem; it has a spending problem. The Legislature needs to practice fiscal restraint by setting priorities and making sure taxpayer money is being used both efficiently and cost-effectively, rather than automatically resorting to tax increases.

Friday, September 11, 2015

September 11, 2001: Fourteen Years Later, We Still Remember … And We Will Never Forget

Today, our fellow citizens, our way of life, our very freedom came under attack in a series of deliberate and deadly terrorist acts. The victims were in airplanes or in their offices: secretaries, business men and women, military and federal workers, moms and dads, friends and neighbors. Thousands of lives were suddenly ended by evil, despicable acts of terror. The pictures of airplanes flying into buildings, fires burning, huge – huge structures collapsing have filled us with disbelief, terrible sadness and a quiet, unyielding anger. These acts of mass murder were intended to frighten our nation into chaos and retreat. But they have failed. Our country is strong. A great people has been moved to defend a great nation.”  – President George W. Bush

The House Republican Caucus joins with Americans everywhere today to remember and honor the victims of the 9/11 attacks. On this somber anniversary, let us also salute our nation’s troops who are serving overseas to keep America strong and preserve the many freedoms we enjoy.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Representative Donald Wong Named to Metropolitan Beaches Commission

House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading) has appointed Representative Donald Wong (R-Saugus) to serve as his permanent designee on the Metropolitan Beaches Commission.

Created as part of the Fiscal Year 2015 state budget, the Commission was recently expanded from 19 to 27 members and is responsible for conducting an annual review of the existing maintenance, operational and infrastructure needs of the state’s metropolitan beaches.  In addition to identifying any security measures and capital-intensive repairs necessary to ensure the future recreational use of these beaches, the Commission is also charged with examining best management practices and alternative funding sources – including public-private partnerships and nonprofit entities – to promote improved water quality and beautification efforts.

“Our state beaches are wonderful natural resources, and Representative Wong is committed to working with the Metropolitan Beaches Commission to ensure that they are properly maintained and remain fully accessible for the enjoyment of all residents,” Representative Jones said in announcing the appointment.

The 18 metropolitan beaches that fall under the purview of the Commission include: Nahant Beach in Nahant; Red Rock Park, King’s Beach and Lynn Beach in Lynn; Revere Beach and Short Beach in Revere; Winthrop Beach in Winthrop; Constitution Beach, Carson Beach, City Point Beach, M Street Beach, Pleasure Bay, Malibu Beach, Savin Hill Beach, and Tenean Beach in Boston; Wollaston Beach and Squantum Point Park in Quincy; and Nantasket Beach in Hull.

“I am honored to be appointed to the Commission,” Representative Wong said.  “The Commonwealth’s beaches are among our most valuable resources and deserve our strongest efforts to promote improved water quality and to maintain the beaches’ beauty for generations to come.”

In addition to Representative Wong, the Commission is comprised of 11 other state legislators; 1 member appointed by the Governor or the Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs; 1 member appointed by the Commissioner of Conservation and Recreation; and 3 members appointed by the Mayor of Boston, including 1 resident each from East Boston, Dorchester and South Boston.  The Commission also includes 6 members representing the communities of Lynn, Nahant, Revere, Winthrop, Quincy and Hull, and 4 members representing the philanthropic, non-profit, business and academic communities in the Greater Boston area.

The Commission is responsible for holding annual hearings to solicit testimony from interested stakeholders, including local municipalities, non-profit organizations, friends’ groups, and business and community leaders.  The Commission is also required to file an annual report containing its recommendations with the Senate and House chairs of the Joint Committee on the Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture, and the clerks of the two legislative branches.

Representative Wong represents the Ninth Essex District, which includes portions of Saugus, Lynn and Wakefield.  A former Saugus Town Meeting member and past Chairman of the Saugus Board of Selectmen, Representative Wong is currently serving his third term in the Massachusetts Legislature.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Representative Muratore Weighs in on Release of CHIA Health Care Cost Report for 2014

Representative Mathew Muratore (R-Plymouth), a member of the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing, was interviewed by WWLP-TV State House Correspondent Tiffany Chan yesterday following the release of a new report by the Centers for Health Information and Analysis detailing Massachusetts’ health care costs for 2014.  The story and segment that aired last night is posted below.

The cost of health care is on the rise. The Centers for Health Information and Analysis’ (CHIA) annualreport shows the state spent a whopping $54 billion on health care in 2014. Governor Charlie Baker blames the rocky rollout of the Health Connector website. One of the governor’s fellow Republicans in the House agrees and doesn’t think it will be repeated.

“I think it’s a one time problem with the Health Connector, everyone being put on, redetermination isn’t being done at MassHealth,” said State Representative Mathew Muratore (R-Plymouth).

The Health Connector website wasn’t able to determine whether people qualified for subsidized health insurance last year. As a result, the state spent more money to make sure people were covered, if only temporarily.

That wasn’t the only problem. The spending report found that the cost of prescription drugs is skyrocketing. Senate President Stan Rosenberg, an Amherst Democrat, wants to save money by allowing the state to bulk purchase drugs. He said, “We should be able to take advantage of our buying power by aggregating demand and negotiating with pharmaceutical companies, bringing down costs.”

Massachusetts recently started to bulk purchase the anti-opioid drug Narcan.

Governor Baker expects that health care spending in 2015 won’t be as high as last year.