Wednesday, May 20, 2015

House Minority Leader Brad Jones’ Statement on Speaker’s Endorsement of MBTA Control Board

House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading) issued the following statement today regarding House Speaker Robert DeLeo’s announcement that he is backing Governor Baker’s call for the creation of a control board to oversee the MBTA:

I welcome Speaker DeLeo’s endorsement of Governor Baker’s proposal for a control board to oversee the MBTA.  As the Governor has made clear, if nothing changes at the MBTA, then nothing will change.  A control board is essential for focusing on and implementing the reforms needed to provide long-term fiscal stability at the MBTA and to ensure the delivery of safe and reliable services to its riders moving forward.  The Speaker recognizes this, and it is my hope that we are now one important step closer to approving a control board to achieve these worthy goals on behalf of the MBTA's users and the state’s taxpayers.”

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

House Minority Leader Brad Jones Secures Budget Amendment Targeting Unpaid Sex Offender Registration Fees

Sex offenders who fail to pay a required registration fee to the state would face additional sanctions under an amendment to the Fiscal Year 2016 House budget filed by House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading) and members of the House Republican Caucus.

The House of Representatives approved the amendment on a voice vote on April 29 as part of the proposed $38 billion state budget.

Under current law, sex offenders are assessed a $75 registration fee at the time of their initial registration as a sex offender, and again each and every subsequent year on the anniversary of their registration.  Sex offenders who fail to pay the fee are sent notices and follow-up letters, but the law lacks an enforcement mechanism to ensure that the fees are paid in full.

“The current law falls short of providing appropriate penalties for sex offenders who fail to pay the required registration fee,” said Representative Jones.  “This amendment would add some teeth to the law to help ensure that the Sex Offender Registry Board receives these fees on a timely basis.”

Representative Jones’ amendment would require the Sex Offender Registry Board to notify the Department of Revenue (DOR), the Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA) and the Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) whenever any sex offender registration fee is 60 days past due.  Once these agencies are notified, DOR would be directed to deduct the amount owed by the sex offender from any state tax refunds that might be due to them.

The amendment would also prohibit the RMV from issuing or renewing a sex offender’s driver’s license or motor vehicle registration until the fee has been collected.

The amendment was co-sponsored by the House Republican leadership team, including Representatives Brad Hill of Ipswich, Elizabeth Poirier of North Attleborough, Susan Gifford of Wareham, Paul Frost of Auburn and Todd Smola of Warren.  Additional co-sponsors included Representatives Nicholas Boldyga (R-Southwick), Marc Lombardo (R-Billerica), Sheila Harrington (R-Groton), Shawn Dooley (R-Norfolk), Kimberly Ferguson (R-Holden), Leah Cole (R-Peabody) and Steven Howitt (R-Seekonk).

The state Senate is expected to release and debate its own version of the budget in May.  A six-member conference committee will then work to resolve the differences between the two branches’ spending proposals and produce a final budget that will be sent to Governor Baker for his signature.

Monday, May 4, 2015

House Approves GOP Initiative Requiring DCF Background Checks for Hires, Child Placements

The House of Representatives has approved a proposal, offered by House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading) and members of the House Republican Caucus, that would require the Department of Children and Families (DCF) to conduct fingerprint-based checks of the state and national criminal history databases on prospective applicants seeking to adopt or become foster parents.

The proposal, which was filed as an amendment to the House version of the Fiscal Year 2016 state budget, would also require background checks on all individuals, age 15 or older, residing in the same household as adoptive or foster parents, as well as all applicants for employment, interns and volunteers who have the potential for unsupervised contact with children in any department-approved program, including individuals who provide transportation services for such programs.

“Children are our most precious resource, but they are also among our most vulnerable residents, and the state should be making every effort possible to guarantee they are never placed in harm’s way,” said Representative Jones.  Requiring background checks similar to those already conducted by the Department of Early Education and Care will help to ensure that DCF is taking appropriate precautions in its hiring and placement process.”

A 2014 audit of DCF revealed that, in a review of 29 case files, the Department was unable to provide documentation for 48 of 63 required background checks.  The audit also showed that 25 homes matched the address of registered sex offenders.

Representative Jones’ proposal directs DCF to obtain from the Massachusetts Sex Offender Registry Board all available sex offender registry information associated with the address of any center, home or facility licensed through the Department.

“Whether they are in the actual home or in the same apartment building, sex offenders pose a significant risk to child safety,” said Representative Jones.  “Increased oversight and stricter background check regulation policies will help to reduce those risks considerably for children who have been entrusted to the state’s care.”

The amendment, which was approved on a unanimous roll call vote of 159-0, was co-sponsored by the House Republican leadership team, including Representatives Brad Hill of Ipswich, Elizabeth Poirier of North Attleborough, Susan Gifford of Wareham, Paul Frost of Auburn and Todd Smola of Warren.  Additional co-sponsors included Representatives Nicholas Boldyga (R-Southwick), Marc Lombardo (R-Billerica), Angelo D’Emilia (R-Bridgewater), Sheila Harrington (R-Groton), Kimberly Ferguson (R-Holden), Leah Cole (R-Peabody), David Muradian (R-Grafton), Tim Whelan (R-Brewster) and Steven Howitt (R-Seekonk).

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

House Republicans Secure Biometrics Study to Prevent Fraud in Public Assistance Programs

House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading) and members of the House Republican Caucus have secured language in the Fiscal Year 2016 House budget aimed at detecting and reducing fraud in the state’s public assistance programs through the use of a biometric authentication system.

The language, approved unanimously as part of an omnibus budget amendment on April 28, requires the Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA) and the Executive Office of Health and Human Services to report back to the Legislature on existing fraud detection measures used within these state agencies and to undertake a study of the feasibility of implementing a biometric authentication system to enhance these efforts.

This study is needed to evaluate if we can feasibly create a reliable system of identification to eliminate fraud within the Commonwealth’s public assistance programs,” said Representative Jones.  “Based on similar efforts implemented in other parts of the country, it seems reasonable to believe that this could save the state millions of dollars by preventing individuals from fraudulently claiming public benefits they don’t actually qualify for or deserve.”

The amendment was co-sponsored by the House Republican leadership team, including Representatives Brad Hill of Ipswich, Elizabeth Poirier of North Attleborough, Susan Gifford of Wareham, Paul Frost of Auburn and Todd Smola of Warren.  Additional co-sponsors included Representatives Nicholas Boldyga (R-Southwick), Marc Lombardo (R-Billerica), Sheila Harrington (R-Groton), Kimberly Ferguson (R-Holden), Leah Cole (R-Peabody) and Steven Howitt (R-Seekonk).

A biometric authentication system can prevent fraud by using a person’s biometric identifiers, such as fingerprints, to cross-check their enrollment in other public assistance programs to see if there is a match.  New York State has saved an estimated $314 million preventing fraud-related losses since April 1995 and Los Angeles County has saved $55 million.  Texas and New Jersey have contracts for pilot programs, both of which utilize fingerprinting, although New Jersey’s program also incorporates some facial recognition techniques.

A May 2013 state audit found that Massachusetts welfare benefits were being paid to dead people and to people living out of state.  Representative Jones said biometric authentication could help prevent this type of fraudulent activity.

“DTA already has a program integrity unit that is focused on preventing fraud and has also implemented a new data matching program, where information from 22 sources is automatically checked when a person applies for state benefits,” said Representative Jones.  “Putting a biometric authentication system in place could supplement these initiatives and reduce wasteful spending of taxpayer dollars so the state can direct its resources to those who truly need public assistance.”

The state Senate is expected to release and debate its own version of the budget in May.  A six-member conference committee will then work to resolve the differences between the two branches’ spending proposals and produce a final budget that will be sent to Governor Baker for his signature.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

House Minority Leader Brad Jones’ Statement on Governor Baker’s Filing of MBTA Reform Bill

House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading) issued the following statement today regarding sweeping MBTA reform legislation filed this afternoon by Governor Charlie Baker:

“I applaud Governor Baker for filing a comprehensive bill that seeks to implement many of the recommendations included in his Special Panel’s report on the MBTA.

There is no question that the MBTA must undergo a complete transformation in the way it operates to ensure that it can maintain long-term fiscal stability and deliver safe and reliable services to its riders.  This bill provides a clear roadmap for achieving these goals, including the implementation of 1- and 5-year operating budgets and 5- and 20-year capital spending plans; the removal of costly restrictions on contracting for services imposed by the Pacheco Law; the development of an evidence-based, long-range approach to system expansion; and the creation of a temporary Fiscal and Management Control Board to get the MBTA back onto a solid financial footing.

It is critical that these reforms be put into place without delay, and I intend to work closely with the Baker Administration to do everything I can to help move the bill through the legislative process as quickly as possible.”

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

House Minority Leader Brad Jones’ Statement on Release of House Ways & Means FY2016 Budget

House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading) released the following statement regarding the $38 billion Fiscal Year 2016 state budget proposal filed today by the House Ways and Means Committee:

“Based on my initial review of the budget, I am pleased the Ways and Means Committee has seen fit to expand upon the local aid increases included in Governor Baker’s budget proposal, which is good news for our cities and towns.  I am also happy to see that the Ways and Means budget begins to address many of the recommended reforms needed to promote increased reliability, efficiency and stability at the MBTA.  I look forward to reading through the budget in more detail over the next couple of days, and I anticipate a healthy and rigorous debate on the amendments that the caucus and our House colleagues will be submitting in advance of Friday’s filing deadline."

Friday, April 10, 2015

Representative Kane Named to Treasurer Goldberg's Task Force on Financial Literacy

House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading) is pleased to announce his appointment of Representative Hannah Kane (R-Shrewsbury) to the Treasurer’s Task Force on Financial Literacy.

Representative Kane will join with other policymakers, educators, banking representatives, and advocates on the Task Force, which was created by State Treasurer Deb Goldberg’s Office of Economic Empowerment to examine the state of financial education in Massachusetts.  The Task Force is charged with developing recommendations on how to empower the Commonwealth’s citizens and provide them with the resources needed for budget planning, saving for retirement, and managing their money.

“Representative Kane has extensive experience as a small business owner and as a member of the Shrewsbury Finance Committee, which gives her a unique understanding of the importance of fiscal responsibility and balancing a budget,” said Representative Jones.  “She also has a strong commitment to education, and will bring a wealth of real-world knowledge to her work on the Task Force.”

A recent national study conducted by Champlain College gave Massachusetts a failing grade on financial education.  To change this, the Task Force will focus on finding ways to improve the financial literacy skills of several key demographic groups, including K-12 students, college students, and adults. 

Representative Kane is the co-owner and managing partner of Beaton Kane Construction LLC in Shrewsbury.  She previously worked as the Vice President of Marketing Services at Kelley Habib John (KHJ) Integrated Marketing in Boston from 1999-2002 and prior to that as the Director of Marketing & Product Development for MassDevelopment.

A mother of three, Representative Kane currently serves as the President of the Shrewsbury Public Schools Foundation, the President of the Floral Street School PTO, and a member of the Oak Middle School Council.  She previously served on the Shrewsbury Public Schools Coordinating Council from 2007-2010, and was a member of the Shrewsbury Public Schools Superintendent Screening Committee in 2009.

The Financial Literacy Task Force plans to hold its first meeting this month, and will file a final report with the State Treasurer by November 1, 2015.

Representative Kane represents the 11th Worcester District, which is comprised of the town of Shrewsbury and Precincts 4 and 5 in Westborough.  She won a special election on March 31 to succeed former Representative Matt Beaton, who resigned his seat in January to become Governor Charlie Baker’s Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

House Minority Leader Brad Jones’ Statement on Release of MBTA Special Panel Report

House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading) issued the following statement today regarding the release of a report by a special panel appointed by Governor Charlie Baker to investigate chronic service problems at the MBTA and to recommend potential solutions for improving the authority’s governance, structure, finances and operations:

“This is an important document that will guide and inform our decisions as we attempt to deal with the myriad issues that have plagued the MBTA.  I commend the Baker-Polito Administration for taking decisive action to appoint this special panel and I appreciate the time and effort the panel’s members have invested in this critical undertaking.  The recommendations contained in this report have the potential for delivering long-term stability and meaningful improvements to the MBTA’s finances and operations.  Now that we have this blueprint for reform, it is crucial that the Legislature and the Administration begin to move forward expeditiously with implementing these recommendations so the residents of Massachusetts can have the first-class transportation system they not only deserve, but also are paying for."

Monday, March 23, 2015

Representative Susan Williams Gifford Weighs in on Single-Payer Health Care Debate

Attached below is a copy of a column by Third Assistant Minority Leader Susan Williams Gifford (R-Wareham) regarding single-payer health care which ran in the Globe South edition of the Boston Globe over the weekend:

When Massachusetts passed its landmark Health Care Reform Act in 2006, the immediate short-term goal was to provide insurance to residents who lacked coverage.  The more challenging problem, which remains elusive, is how to hold down health care costs.

Over the past decade, the Legislature has continued to grapple with this question.  But moving to a single-payer health care system is not the answer.

For starters, the price tag associated with transitioning to a single-payer model would be prohibitively expensive, as Vermont officials recently discovered.

In 2011, Vermont legislators voted to establish single-payer health care by 2017.  But Vermont abandoned those plans when it was determined it would cost $2.9 billion annually and would require an 11.5 percent state payroll tax on businesses.  This would have been devastating for the economy and would likely have driven many employers – and jobs – out of the state.

Fifteen years ago, the Beacon Hill Institute warned that adopting a single-payer system in Massachusetts would cost the Commonwealth $14.393 billion, along with 917,000 lost jobs, and would require increasing the income tax to 13.76 percent.  If a similar study were conducted today, the costs would surely be even higher.

Those who advocate for a government-run health insurance system should be careful what they wish for: government does not always deliver services as efficiently and cost-effectively as the private sector, as the ongoing problems at the Health Care Connector have proven.

To hold down costs, a single-payer system requires government-imposed price controls and scaled-back services.  Consumers would have fewer choices under this “one size fits all” approach, and would not be able to shop around for an insurer that best fits their individual health care needs.

Under a single-payer system, health care providers would receive substantially lower payments, creating a disincentive for investing in new technology, stifling innovation and potentially driving people away from the profession.  Patients would find themselves waiting much longer for a doctor’s appointment, and would experience significant delays in receiving treatment.

There are many options worth pursuing to reduce the costs of health care, but switching to a single-payer system is not one of them.

Monday, March 9, 2015

In Case You Missed It...

House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading) joined WBZ-TV political analyst Jon Keller on Sunday morning to talk about the MBTA and Boston’s bid to host the 2024 Summer Olympics. You can watch the full segment by playing the video links posted below.