Thursday, November 24, 2022

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

The Capitol View wishes you and your loved ones a very Happy Thanksgiving! As we gather to celebrate and count our blessings, let us not forget the men and women of our armed forces who are serving overseas and will not be home to spend the holidays with their families and friends. The members of the House Republican Caucus are forever grateful for their service to our nation.

Friday, November 11, 2022

Veterans Day 2022: Honoring All Who Served

“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 Massachusetts House Republican Caucus joins with Americans everywhere today to salute our veterans for their service on behalf of our Commonwealth and our nation. Our veterans’ commitment to defending the many freedoms we hold dear should be acknowledged and appreciated, not only today, but every day.

Thursday, October 13, 2022

Representative Mathew Muratore Appointed to Behavioral Health Advisory Commission

House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading) has appointed State Representative Mathew Muratore (R-Plymouth) to the newly-created Behavioral Health Advisory Commission.

Originally proposed as part of an omnibus bill to address immediate COVID-19 recovery needs last fall, the commission will provide recommendations to the Legislature to help address barriers to the delivery of equitable and affordable behavioral health care and services. Legislators will use these recommendations to determine how to best prioritize expenditures from the Behavioral Health Trust Fund, which was created along with the advisory commission through Chapter 77of the Acts of 2022.

“Matt has extensive experience in the human services sector, and his first-hand knowledge will serve him well as a member of the advisory commission,” said Representative Jones. “I am confident he will do everything he can to see to it that the Behavioral Health Trust Fund is used effectively and efficiently to deliver quality behavioral health care to the residents of Massachusetts.”

“I am honored and grateful to Leader Jones for appointing me to the Behavioral Health Advisory Commission,” said Representative Muratore. “We have made some strides this session to improve behavioral health access, services, and affordability and I’m hopeful this Commission’s recommendations will lead to further improvements.”

As part of its directive, the advisory commission will work to identify and assess existing challenges facing the behavioral health workforce, and to consider the feasibility of providing grant, scholarship, and other pipeline development programs to mitigate the financial burden faced by individuals entering the field. In addition to exploring ways to promote the recruitment and retention of behavioral health workers, the advisory commission will also look at economic barriers to treatment as well as access to early intervention services and community-based services, to ensure “the delivery of an equitable, culturally-competent, affordable and clinically-appropriate continuum of behavioral health care and services.”

Representative Muratore is one of 22 members serving on the advisory commission, which is being chaired by Representative Adrian Madaro (D-Boston) and Senator Julian Cyr (D-Truro), who also currently serve as co-chairs of the Joint Committee on Mental Health, Substance Use and Recovery. Additional members include Representative Bud Williams (D-Springfield) and Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz (D-Boston), who currently serve as the co-chairs of the Joint Committee on Racial Equity, Civil Rights and Inclusion, and Secretary of Health and Human Services Marylou Sudders.

Also serving on the advisory commission are representatives from the Massachusetts Association for Mental Health, Inc.; the Association for Behavioral Healthcare, Inc.; the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Massachusetts, Inc.; the Massachusetts Association of Behavioral Health Systems, Inc.; the Massachusetts Organization for Addiction Recovery, Inc.; the Massachusetts chapter of the National Association of Social Workers, Inc.; and the Massachusetts Health and Hospital Association, Inc. Governor Charlie Baker has two appointees to the advisory commission, one of whom must have expertise in developing behavioral health workforce training education and one of whom must have expertise in addressing disparities in access to mental and behavioral health care for populations disproportionately experiencing barriers to care.

Representative Muratore is currently in his fourth term representing the First Plymouth District. A member of the House Ways and Means Committee, he also serves as the Assistant Ranking Minority Member of the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing; the Ranking Minority Member of the Joint Committee on Municipalities and Regional Government; and the Ranking Minority Member of the Joint Committee on Tourism, Arts and Cultural Development.

Sunday, September 11, 2022

Remembering 9-11, 21 Years Later

“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, speaking at the dedication of the 9/11 Pentagon Memorial on September 11, 2008. 

On September 11, 2001, America came under attack when terrorists used two commercial airplanes as weapons to crash into the twin towers of New York’s World Trade Center. A third plane was used to attack the Pentagon, while a fourth plane, apparently intended for an attack on our nation’s capital, was brought down in a Shanksville, Pennsylvania field after passengers fought back against the hijackers. When it was over, nearly 3,000 Americans were dead, including hundreds of first responders who perished at the World Trade Center while trying to save others.

We will never forget the many acts of bravery and heroism that took place on September 11. On this somber anniversary, the members of the House Republican Caucus join with Americans everywhere to honor the memories of the many innocent victims whose lives were tragically cut short on that terrible day 21 years ago.

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Rep. Smola Named To East-West Rail Commission

House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading) has appointed State Representative Todd Smola (R-Warren, Ranking Member, Committee on Ways & Means) to a special commission that will work to advance the long-awaited East-West Rail project establishing passenger rail service between Pittsfield and Boston with stops in Springfield, Palmer, and Worcester.

“Being appointed to the East-West Rail Commission is an opportunity to help develop safe and efficient travel between western Massachusetts and Boston,” stated Representative Smola. “I am grateful to have been selected and eager to contribute to the planning of an advantageous project for the Commonwealth.”

Created as part of the MassTRAC bill, a comprehensive $11.3 billion transportation and climate bill signed into law on August 10, the 20-member commission will investigate and receive public testimony to determine if the East-West Rail project should be overseen and operated by an existing public entity such as the MBTA, or by creating a new public agency with the ability “to design, permit, construct, operate and maintain” the rail service. The commission will also work to identify funding sources for the projected operating and capital budget costs associated with the project.

“The establishment of an East-West Rail has been a longstanding priority for communities in Western Massachusetts for more than a decade and will help to create jobs and stimulate economic development throughout the region,” said Representative Jones. “Todd has been a strong supporter of expanding passenger rail service and his input will be invaluable as the commission works to move these plans forward.”

The East-West Rail Commission will conduct a minimum of six public hearings, including at least one hearing each in Hampden, Berkshire, Hampshire, Franklin and Worcester counties, as well as in a community along the proposed route in Middlesex county. The commission is required to hold its first meeting no later than September 24 and will be filing a report with its recommendations by March 31, 2023.

The MassTRAC bill also provides $275 million in funding for the East-West Rail. This funding can be used for a variety of purposes, including planning, design, permitting and engineering, land and right-of-way acquisitions, vehicle procurement, and construction of stations.

A former member of the Palmer Planning Board and the Palmer Board of Selectmen, Representative Smola currently serves as the Ranking Minority Member on the House and Joint Committees on Ways and Means, and as a member of the Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development. He represents the First Hampden District communities of Brimfield; Holland; Palmer; Wales; Ware (Precincts B and C); Sturbridge; and Warren.

Friday, July 29, 2022

Representative Berthiaume To Serve On Veterans SPEED Act Conference Committee

House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading) has appointed State Representative Donald R. Berthiaume, Jr. (R-Spencer) to serve on a six-member conference committee that is working to finalize legislation providing licensure portability and educational benefits to military families.

House Bill 5000, An Act relative to military spouse-licensure portability, education and enrollment of dependents, also known as the SPEED Act, was engrossed by the House of Representatives on July 7, but differs significantly from the Senate bill that was approved last November (Senate Bill 2559). Representative Berthiaume will be working with his fellow conferees to try to resolve the differences between the two proposals and produce a final bill that can be sent to Governor Charlie Baker before formal sessions end on July 31.

Both versions of the SPEED Act establish a process for K-12 schools to be designated as a “Purple Star Campus” if they meet certain criteria for supporting military families, and also include language to help expedite the issuance of professional licenses and certifications for individuals who are licensed in another state or whose spouse is a member of the armed forces. The bills also classify military personnel stationed in Massachusetts, as well as their spouse and children, as in-state residents for tuition purposes when they enroll at one of the state’s public colleges or universities.

The House bill, however, contains several additional provisions that are not in the Senate bill, including the establishment of a Massachusetts Medal of Fidelity, which will be provided to the next of kin of any Massachusetts service member or veteran who died as a result of combat related post-traumatic stress disorder or a service-connected disease, condition or injury related to exposure to harmful toxin, herbicides, agents or materials. The House bill also creates a commission that will work to develop a suitable memorial to recognize the Official Heroine of the Commonwealth, Deborah Sampson, who fought during the American Revolutionary War after disguising herself as a man and enlisting in the Continental Army.

“Once again Massachusetts is setting the bar when it comes to recognizing the military service of those veterans and active duty personnel that call the Commonwealth home,” Representative Berthiaume said. “It is an honor to be appointed to this conference committee and I thank the House Minority Leader for trusting me to ensure that the House priorities are well represented in the final legislation.”

“Massachusetts is often seen as a national leader when it comes to taking care of our veterans, and the SPEED Act will further cement the Commonwealth’s reputation by expanding benefits for military families,” said Representative Jones. “As a Navy veteran, Donnie has been an outspoken advocate for those who have served, and I am confident he will work with his fellow conferees to produce the strongest possible bill to support our military families.”

Other legislators serving on the conference committee include Representatives Paul McMurtry (D-Dedham) and Sarah Peake (D-Provincetown), as well as Senators John Velis (D-Westfield), John Cronin (D-Lunenberg) and Ryan Fattman (R-Webster).

Representative Berthiaume is currently the Ranking Minority Member of the House Committee on Human Resources and Employee Engagement as well as the Joint Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities. He also serves as a member of the House Committee on Ways and Means and the Joint Committee on Mental Health, Substance Use and Recovery.

First elected to the House of Representatives in 2014, Representative Berthiaume is currently serving his fourth term in office. He represents the Fifth Worcester District, which consists of the towns of Barre; Brookfield; East Brookfield; Hardwick; Hubbardston; New Braintree; North Brookfield; Oakham; Spencer (Precincts 2, 3 and 4); West Brookfield; and Ware (Precinct A).

Thursday, July 28, 2022

Representative Soter Appointed To Economic Development Bill Conference Committee

House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading) has announced his appointment of State Representative Michael Soter (R-Bellingham) to serve on a six-member conference committee that will review legislation designed to promote economic development, tax relief and COVID-19 recovery efforts throughout Massachusetts.

House Bill 5034, An Act relating to economic growth and relief for the Commonwealth, was engrossed by the House of Representatives on July 14, while the Senate version of the bill, SenateBill 3030, was passed on July 21. Both bills call for significant investments in state programs and local projects, using a combination of federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) money, surplus state budget dollars, and bond proceeds.

“As a legislator who has also run a successful business, Mike has made economic development and jobs creation one of his top priorities,” said Representative Jones. “His background and expertise in these areas will be an asset to the conference committee as it works to negotiate a final compromise proposal that can be sent to Governor Baker before the end of formal legislative sessions.”

A centerpiece of both bills is a nearly $1 billion tax relief package that includes one-time rebates of $250 for individual taxpayers earning between $38,000 and $100,000 a year and $500 for married couples earning between $38,000 and $150,000 a year. Both bills also call for raising the rental deduction cap from $3,000 to $4,000; expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit from 30% to 40% of the federal credit; and increasing the child/dependent tax credit from $180 to $310 per child, while also eliminating the current cap on the number of children who are eligible for this tax credit.

The House and Senate have taken different approaches on other tax relief proposals, however. For example, House Bill 5034 would increase the maximum senior circuit breaker tax credit to $1,755, while Senate Bill 3030 would set the cap at $2,340. Also, while both branches have approved an increase in the estate tax threshold from $1 million to $2 million, the House has proposed taxing only the amount that falls above the $2 million threshold and imposing higher rates on those estates worth more than $5 million, while the Senate bill would provide a uniform tax credit of $99,600 to all estates above $2 million. The Senate bill also makes these tax changes effective for the 2022 tax year, while the House bill pushes them off to the 2023 tax year.

Joining Representative Soter on the conference committee are House Ways and Means Chairman Aaron Michlewitz (D-Boston), Representative Mark Cusack (D-Braintree), Senate Ways and Means Chairman Michael Rodrigues (D-Westport), and Senators Eric Lesser (D-Longmeadow) and Patrick O’Connor (R-Weymouth).

Representative Soter currently serves as the Ranking Minority Member on both the House Committee on Global Warming & Climate Change and the Joint Committee on Revenue. He is also a member of the Joint Committee on Economic Development & Emerging Technologies and the Joint Committee on Cannabis Policy.

A former member of the Bellingham Board of Selectmen, Representative Soter was first elected to the House of Representatives in November of 2018. He represents the Eighth Worcester District, which is comprised of the towns of Blackstone, Millville, Uxbridge and Bellingham.

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Representative Orrall Appointed To MassTRAC Conference Committee

House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading) has appointed State Representative Norman Orrall (R-Lakeville) to serve on a six-member conference committee charged with reconciling the differences between the House and Senate versions of a comprehensive transportation and climate bond bill.

House Bill 4916, An Act relative to Massachusetts’ transportation resources and climate (MassTRAC), was engrossed by the House of Representatives on June 23, while the Senate’s version of the bill – Senate Bill 3016 – was passed on July 14. Both bills commit nearly $11 billion to transportation and environmental infrastructure projects across the state, including $400 million to help the MBTA address safety concerns raised by the Federal Transit Administration.

There are several spending and policy differences between the two bills, however, with the House allocating $250 million for the proposed East-West Rail project and the Senate calling for $275 million. The Senate bill also mandates a low-income fare program at the MBTA while the House bill establishes a special commission on mobility pricing that will study the feasibility of means tested fares.

“Both the House and the Senate have put forward plans for addressing the Commonwealth’s critical transportation and climate needs that will leverage federal funding opportunities provided for in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law,” said Representative Jones. “Norm is well-versed on transportation and environmental issues as a result of his legislative committee assignments and his civil engineering background, so he will be able to share valuable insights with his fellow conferees as they work to negotiate a final compromise bill to send to Governor Baker.”

Joining Representative Orrall on the conference committee are Representatives William Straus (D-Mattapoisett) and Danielle Gregoire (D-Marlborough), along with Senators Brendan Crighton (D-Lynn), Nick Collins (D-Boston), and Patrick O’Connor (R-Weymouth).

First elected to the House of Representatives in November of 2018, Representative Orrall currently serves as the Ranking Minority Member of the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture, and is also a member of the Joint Committees on Bonding, Capital Expenditures and State Assets; Municipalities and Regional Government; and Transportation.

Born and raised in Lakeville, Representative Orrall formerly served as the Town Moderator and on the Lakeville Finance Committee and has been a professional civil engineer for nearly 30 years responsible for major infrastructure projects in Ohio, Rhode Island and Massachusetts. He represents the Twelfth Bristol District, which is comprised of the towns of Berkley; Ward 3, Precinct B and Ward 4 in Taunton; Lakeville; and Precincts 2, 4 and 5 in Middleborough.

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Representative Ferguson Serving On Reproductive Rights Bill Conference Committee

House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading) has appointed State Representative Kimberly N. Ferguson (R-Holden) to serve on a six-member reproductive rights conference committee that is currently reviewing House and Senate legislation recently passed in response to the Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.

The committee will attempt to resolve the differences between House Bill 4954, An Act expanding protections for reproductive rights, which was engrossed by the House of Representatives on June 29, and Senate Bill 3003, An Act expanding protections for reproductive and gender-affirming care, which the Senate engrossed on July 13. Both bills offer protections to medical providers and to patients but differ on the question of late-term abortions performed after 24 weeks, with the House version allowing such procedures in the event of a “severe fetal anomaly” and the Senate bill allowing the procedure only in cases involving a “fatal fetal anomaly”.

“Kim has been a longtime advocate on many women’s rights issues, including allowing women to make important healthcare decisions in consultation with their doctors,” said Representative Jones. “Her thoughtful approach to negotiations will serve the conference committee well as she works with her colleagues to try to find common ground in formulating a compromise reproductive rights bill.”

Joining Representative Ferguson on the conference committee are House Ways and Means Chairman Aaron Michlewitz (D-Boston), Representative Michael Day (D-Stoneham), Senators Cindy Friedman (D-Arlington) and Cynthia Creem (D-Newton) and Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester). The committee held its first meeting on July 18 and is attempting to negotiate a compromise bill that can be sent to Governor Charlie Baker before formal legislative sessions end on July 31.

Representative Ferguson currently serves as the First Assistant Minority Leader of the House of Representatives and is a member of the Joint Committee on Higher Education and the Special Joint Committee on Redistricting. First elected to the Legislature in 2010, she represents the First Worcester District, which consists of the communities of Holden; Paxton; Princeton; Rutland; Precinct 1 in Sterling; and Precinct 2 in Westminster.

Monday, July 18, 2022

Rep. Gifford Named To Conference Committee Reviewing Open Space Preservation Legislation

House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading) has appointed State Representative Susan Williams Gifford (R-Wareham) to a six-member conference committee that will review competing House and Senate proposals for preserving open space in Massachusetts and attempt to reconcile the differences between the two bills.

The House passed its version of the open space preservation bill (House Bill 851) on July 28, 2021, while the Senate engrossed its version (Senate Bill 2831) on April 14, 2022. Also known as the Public Land Preservation Act, the bills seek to codify in statute the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affair’s “no net loss” policy governing the preservation of open space in Massachusetts protected under Article 97 of the state Constitution.

“As a member of the Wareham Land Trust, Susan is well aware of the importance of preserving public lands for the enjoyment of current and future generations,” said Representative Jones. “I am confident she will work closely with her fellow conferees to focus on developing stronger open space protections for the residents of the Commonwealth.”

The conference committee will attempt to negotiate a final compromise bill that can be sent to Governor Charlie Baker before the end of formal sessions on July 31. Joining Representative Gifford on the conference committee are Representatives Ruth Balser (D-Newton) and James O’Day (D-West Boylston), as well as Senators Sal DiDomenico (D-Everett), Jamie Eldridge (D-Acton) and Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester).

Representative Gifford currently serves as the Third Assistant Minority Leader in the House of Representatives and is also the Ranking Minority Member of both the House Committee on Ethics and the House Committee on Steering, Policy and Scheduling.

First elected to the House of Representatives in 2002, Representative Gifford represents the Second Plymouth District, which is comprised of the towns Carver and Wareham and precincts 3 and 6 in Middleborough.