Thursday, July 27, 2017

House Minority Leader Brad Jones Hails Today's Signing of MA Pregnant Workers Fairness Act

House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading) hailed today’s signing of House Bill 3680, An Act Establishing the Massachusetts Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, saying it “will provide many important protections for working mothers in the Commonwealth.”

Representative Jones was one of the original co-sponsors of this legislation, which was filed in January as House Bill 1038.  A redrafted version of the bill was reported out favorably by the Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development on May 1, and it later received unanimous approval in both the House of Representatives and the Senate.

The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act requires employers to offer reasonable accommodations to workers who are pregnant or nursing, including modified work schedules, temporary assignment to a less strenuous position, and more frequent bathroom breaks.  It also prohibits employers from discriminating against pregnant workers when hiring or promoting, or retaliating against an employee for requesting an accommodation.

“The new law sends a clear message that Massachusetts will not tolerate discrimination in the workplace,” said Representative Jones.  “I’m proud to stand in support of pregnant workers in the Commonwealth.”

The new law takes effect on April 1, 2018.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Salem News Endorses Rep. Jones' Call for 'Wait and See' Approach to Budget Veto Overrides

The Salem News has endorsed House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr.’s efforts to convince House leadership to adopt a “wait and see” approach to taking up Governor Baker’s FY18 budget veto overrides.  The newspaper is backing Representative Jones’ call for delaying any veto overrides until after this summer’s revenue figures are in, agreeing that legislators “should refrain from overriding vetoes until there is a better idea of the state’s financial health.”

You can read the Salem News’ editorial here.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

House Minority Leader Jones Calls For ‘Wait and See’ Approach to Budget Veto Overrides in Letter to House Speaker

House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading) is calling on House leadership to adopt a “wait and see” approach to taking up overrides of Governor Charlie Baker’s FY18 budget vetoes.

In a letter delivered to House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo yesterday, Representative Jones urged DeLeo to “proceed with caution when considering the scheduling of any potential overrides in the House,” suggesting that the Legislature wait until after the summer’s tax revenues numbers are in before making a decision.

“Given the current fiscal realities, the best course of action for the Legislature to pursue at this time would be to allow Governor Baker’s vetoes to stand and not move forward with any overrides until we have a chance to review the revenue numbers for June, July and August,” Jones wrote.

In his letter, Jones cited a series of reductions in anticipated revenues that have left the Commonwealth facing a $439 million revenue shortfall through the end of May, with June’s final revenue numbers still pending.  He also noted that the Legislature’s decision to override most of the Governor’s vetoes last year “essentially left the state with an unbalanced budget.”

“While the House could still take up a limited number of targeted overrides to address emergency situations as they arise, it would be a mistake to again attempt a wholesale reversal of virtually all of the Governor’s vetoes without first having a better idea of where state revenues are heading,” Jones wrote, adding that “Our focus in the coming months should be on working with the Baker-Polito Administration to identify savings and efficiencies throughout state government, rather than exacerbating an already precarious financial situation by taking up multiple ill-advised veto overrides before the summer recess.”

A copy of Representative Jones’ letter to Speaker DeLeo is attached below.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Representative Muradian Appointed to Madeline Amy Sweeney Award Committee

Representative David K. Muradian Jr. (R-Grafton) is pleased to announce his appointment to the Madeline Amy Sweeney Award Committee with the responsibility of choosing a recipient to be awarded for Civilian Bravery. He was appointed to the committee by House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones Jr. (R-North Reading).

The Grafton Republican will join fellow legislators, public officials and representatives from the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security on the committee. Together, they will sort through hundreds of nominations to present one award to a citizen of the commonwealth who has displayed extraordinary courage and heroism without regard for personal safety, in an effort to save the life of another.

“The Madeline Amy Sweeney Award for Civilian Bravery recognizes individuals who have gone above and beyond to help save others from harm, even when it means putting their own personal safety at risk,” said Representative Jones.  “I am confident Representative Muradian will do a tremendous job helping the award committee to review this year’s nominees and identify a recipient who is truly worthy of being honored with this distinctive award named after one of the many heroes of 9/11.”

The Madeline Amy Sweeney Award was created in 2002 in recognition of Sweeney, a resident of Acton and flight attendant on the Sept. 11 American Airline Flight 11. Sweeney was credited with discretely contacting authorities in Boston to convey important information about the hijackers and their actions on the plane. It is because of Amy Sweeney’s heroism, and the heroism of so many victims of Sept. 11, 2001, that this award was created.

“I am honored to have been appointed to this special committee by Representative Jones,” Muradian said. “The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is home to many selfless and brave individuals. I look forward to working with the committee on choosing a sole recipient deserving of this honorary award.”

The 2017 Madeline Amy Sweeney Award for Civilian Bravery will be presented at a ceremony at the State House on Monday, Sept. 11.

Friday, July 7, 2017

House Minority Leader Brad Jones’ Statement on Passage of the Fiscal Year 2018 State Budget

House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading) issued the following statement today after the House voted to accept the final conference committee report on the Fiscal Year 2018 state budget:

“I commend the conference committee members for their hard work in producing a budget that provides local aid increases for our cities and towns while also rejecting any broad-based tax increases.  The conference committee was faced with the difficult task of putting together a budget at a time of rising costs and declining revenues, but rose to the challenge by working to preserve critical programs and attempting to limit spending reductions to areas that will have minimal impact on the state’s residents.

I’m pleased to see the budget also acknowledges the Baker-Polito Administration’s efforts to rein in MassHealth costs and to provide unemployment insurance relief to the state’s employers, particularly the small businesses that help create jobs and fuel the Massachusetts economy.  However, this work is far from done, and it’s important that we continue to pursue other MassHealth reforms put forward by the administration that were not addressed in this budget.

Moving forward, we must be cognizant of the fact that we still face a significant revenue shortfall, and will need to do everything we can to protect the interests of the state’s taxpayers by making sure the state spends within its means. While I continue to have concerns about certain accounts that have traditionally been left underfunded, I know we have a Governor in the corner office who is committed to fiscal responsibility and will do the right thing to ensure we have a balanced and sustainable budget. What we should not do is rush into taking up overrides once the Governor has issued his vetoes, but instead should allow some time to pass so we can get a better sense of where revenues are trending in the new fiscal year.”

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Rep. Hill: Proposed ‘Millionaire Tax’ Ballot Question Would Hurt Massachusetts' Economy

The Salem News published the following op-ed this week by Assistant Minority Leader Brad Hill (R-Ipswich) on the proposed “Millionaire Tax” ballot question, which is scheduled to appear on the statewide ballot in November of 2018:   

Earlier this month, in a joint session of the Massachusetts House and Senate, the graduated income tax, also known as the “Millionaire Tax,” was voted to be sent to the November 2018 state ballot. Due to the many concerns that I had, I voted against this economic proposal. Some of my concerns surrounded the issues of there being no safeguard to ensure the collected revenue will be allocated to increased support for education and transportation as intended. Additionally, it will hurt our small-business economy resulting in job loss. Not only that, it scares potential employers from relocating to Massachusetts. And lastly, the tax flight theory demonstrates the increased out-of-state migration due to the implementation of a graduated income tax.

Currently, Massachusetts assesses residents’ personal income uniformly at a “flat tax” rate of 5.1 percent, and short-term capital gains at 12 percent. This proposal would amend the state constitution, creating a two-tier tax system that imposes an additional 4 percent surtax on all income in excess of $1 million, effective Jan. 1, 2019, and the revenues would be “allotted” to transportation and education funding. The state constitution explicitly prohibits any amendment that “makes a specific appropriation of money.” However, the proposal attempts to circumvent this limitation by designating the money collected as “subject to appropriation” by the Legislature. Therefore, any and all collected revenue will be placed in the general fund, where its allocation is at the Legislature’s discretion.

During last year’s Constitutional Convention, the House Republican Caucus tried unsuccessfully to amend the proposal to ensure that any funds raised through the surtax would be used “in addition to” rather than “in lieu of” money currently spent on education and transportation, however, because the ballot proposal was not subject to further amendment this year, I expressed my concern that there are no safeguards in place to certify that the funds are appropriately being allocated to education and funding. 

In other words, the funds collected could be used to replace existing revenues spent in those areas, resulting in no net spending increase on transportation or education. A comparable situation was the national tobacco settlement money: in lieu of spending the money exclusively on smoking cessation and health-related programs, only a portion of it was spent on those areas.

Many prominent business groups consider the tax proposal to be anti-competitive, indicating that its impact on small businesses and job creation would be detrimental. Despite the populist label of the Millionaire Tax, the main reason to oppose this bill is that it could harm our economy by waging class warfare on our small businesses and job providers, which is a war we all lose. Furthermore, the Massachusetts High Technology Council warned against it, stating that it “could cause irreparable harm to the state’s innovation economy.” Major business groups, such as the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, Associated Industries of Massachusetts and the Massachusetts Competitive Partnership, are now considering legal action.

It is entirely possible that the full $1.9 billion in projected tax revenue will never be accrued. For example, in 2013, Massachusetts implemented a tax hike on the sale of cigarettes, increasing their sale from $2.51 to $3.51 per pack in the hopes of increasing state revenue. Unfortunately, this sales tax failed miserably, and we instead saw a drastic increase in illegal smuggling of cigarettes into the state, as well as an increase in residents driving over the border into New Hampshire to purchase their cigarettes rather than purchase them in-state, and consequently lost out on the projected revenue. Researchers at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy hypothesized that the increase in sales tax on cigarettes led to the drastic spike of illegally purchased cigarettes in Massachusetts, as the percent of cigarettes brought illegally into the state rose from 12 percent in 2013 to 29.3 percent in 2014 after the tax had been implemented.

In response to increases in a state’s average income tax rate, many of the state’s top earners will likely relocate to avoid the new surtax on their income, thus eliminating the primary source of the proposed surtax-generated funding. The state of New Jersey experienced this phenomenon in 2003. According to 2012 findings by the New Jersey Department of the Treasury, the state accumulated a net loss of approximately 18,000 to 28,000 taxpayers who relocated, and suffered an annual income loss of between $2.2 billion and 2.4 billion between 2003 and 2010. New Hampshire Governor Sununu must be licking his chops hoping for us to pass this ballot measure.

Additionally, there is concern of the volatility of capital gains taxes, which are, under the graduated income tax proposal, depended on to provide about $500 million of the new tax revenues. The Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation noted that in 2002, capital gains tax collections dropped by $670 million and by a whopping $1.65 billion during the recession in 2008. Issues associated with tax hikes are not partisan, and Democratic Gov. Dannel Malloy of Connecticut said it best: “I’ve raised taxes multiple times. It’s not working. And it’s come up a cropper … Spurring economic growth is what’s necessary.”

Historically, graduated income tax ballot proposals have failed in Massachusetts. Between 1962 and 1994, Massachusetts voters rejected five of these ballot initiatives, and the most recent in 1994 was defeated by a margin of more than 2-1. Come November, I urge you to consider all of the facts when considering the graduated income tax ballot question and demonstrate the same wisdom as we have in the past.

Monday, May 29, 2017

MEMORIAL DAY 2017


FREEDOM IS NOT FREE
 
I watched the flag pass by one day,
It fluttered in the breeze;
A young Marine saluted it,
And then he stood at ease.
 
I looked at him in uniform,
So young, so tall, so proud;
With hair cut square and eyes alert,
He’d stand out in any crowd.
 
I thought… how many men like him
Had fallen through the years?
How many died on foreign soil?
How many mothers’ tears?
 
How many pilots’ planes shot down
How many died at sea
How many foxholes were soldiers’ graves
No, Freedom is not Free.
 
I heard the sound of Taps one night,
When everything was still;
I listened to the bugler play,
And felt a sudden chill;
 
I wondered just how many times
That Taps had meant “Amen”
When a flag had draped a coffin
Of a brother or a friend;
 
I thought of all the children,
Of the mothers and the wives,
Of fathers, sons and husbands
With interrupted lives.
 
I thought about a graveyard
At the bottom of the sea,
Of unmarked graves in Arlington.
No. Freedom is not Free!
 
©Copyright 1981 by Kelly Strong
 
The members of the House Republican Caucus join with Americans everywhere on this Memorial Day in saluting our nation’s fallen soldiers. Their service and sacrifices will never be forgotten.

Monday, May 8, 2017

House Republican Caucus Seeks State Employee Vacation and Sick Leave Policy Reforms

The Massachusetts House Republican Caucus is spearheading efforts to reform vacation and earned sick leave policies for state employees to prevent individuals from abusing the system.

During its recent budget debate, the House of Representatives approved amendment #274, the Caucus’ proposal to establish a task force to develop uniform policies for cashing out unused vacation and sick leave credits. The amendment mirrors language included in House Bill 2559, which is currently pending before the Joint Committee on Public Service.

Just two years ago, former Bridgewater State University President Dana Mohler-Faria cashed in nearly $270,000 in unused sick and vacation time when he retired. In March, longtime Mount Wachusett Community College President Daniel M. Asquino retired with a payout of more than $334,000 for unused sick and vacation time. The Board of Higher Education now caps vacation payouts at 64 days and prohibits state college employees from converting their unused vacation time into earned sick time, but it’s clear that more reforms are needed.

If the task force language is included in the final budget sent to Governor Baker, its recommendations will be filed with the legislature by December 31, 2017.  Reforming the current system will ensure the Commonwealth’s vacation and sick leave policies are in line with other public employers, while promoting greater fiscal responsibility throughout state government.

Friday, May 5, 2017

House Republican Caucus Budget Amendment Promotes Interstate Compact for Online Education

Massachusetts is one step closer to joining a multi-state compact that offers uniform standards to promote distance learning and online education programs to out-of-state students.

An amendment to the Fiscal Year 2018 budget, filed by House Republican leadership and adopted by the House of Representatives last week, authorizes the Board of Higher Education to sign on to the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA). Joining SARA will allow public and private colleges and universities offering distance learning programs in Massachusetts to reach students in other states in a much more efficient and cost-effective way. Massachusetts is one of only three states (the others being Florida and California) that are not currently participating in this innovative interstate program.

In our evolving economy, colleges need to be able to respond quickly to students’ changing needs, and delivering high quality online programs through SARA is a great model for addressing those needs.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

House Republican Caucus Proposal Sets Penalties for Unpaid Sex Offender Registration Fees

Sex offenders in Massachusetts who fail to pay their required registration fee will face enhanced penalties under a House Republican Caucus proposal adopted last week as part of the Fiscal Year 2018 state budget.

State law currently requires sex offenders to pay a $75 registration fee at the time of their initial registration, and then annually thereafter. Although the state can waive this fee for individuals who are deemed indigent, a significant amount of the fees goes uncollected. A 2015 investigation by New England Cable News found that, between January 1, 2012 and June 11, 2015, the state collected less than half of the $2.3 million in registration fees it was owed.

The Caucus proposal (filed as amendment #496) calls for imposing additional sanctions against delinquent sex offenders.  If a sex offender hasn’t paid the fee – or has paid only a portion of it – the Sex Offender Registry Board will be required to report them to the Registry of Motor Vehicles and the Department of Revenue within 30 days. Once that happens, the sex offender will be unable to acquire or renew their driver’s license or motor vehicle registration until the fee is paid in full. In addition, DOR will be authorized to intercept the uncollected fee from any state tax refunds due to the sex offender.

The state needs to do a much better job collecting outstanding sex offender registration fees and making sure these fees are paid on time.  The Caucus proposal will hold sex offenders accountable and ensure that they are in compliance with the law.