Friday, March 30, 2012

Representative O'Connell Makes Media Appearances

In case you missed it, Representative Shaunna O’Connell recently made a handful of media appearances. As you may have heard, the eight-member Electronic Benefit Transfer Card Commission voted on Thursday to approve a final report before its April 1 deadline that recommended banning the use of EBT cards at nail salons, tattoo parlors, firearm dealers, bars, smoke shops or spas. Representative O’Connell weighed in on the panel’s findings, as well as their shortcomings in terms of solutions to combat EBT card abuse.

Click here to listen to Representative O’Connell’s appearance on the Jeff Katz Show

Click here to listen to Representative O’Connell’s appearance on the Howie Carr Show

To view Representative O’Connell’s appearance on the FOX-25 Morning News, play the video posted below

Flawed system? EBT fraud crackdown:

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

House Republican Caucus Offers Local Aid Resolution

In an ongoing commitment to providing fiscal certainty to the Commonwealth’s cities and towns, the House Republican Caucus offered a Local Aid Resolution during today’s full formal session.

In an email distributed to House colleagues, House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading), who drafted the resolution, said, “As our cities and towns continue to develop their local budgets during these very tough times they need certainty and reliable information more than ever. It is important that we, as legislators, provide some predictability for our districts.”

The resolution proposes the following:

1. Establish a minimum level of Chapter 70 and Unrestricted Local Aid equal to the amount proposed by the Governor for FY13.

a. The minimum Chapter 70 appropriation - $4.14 billion for FY13,
b. The minimum Unrestricted Local Aid appropriation - $899 million,
c. Reimbursement to Cities in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) - $26.3 million.

2. Establish a modest increase in funding from the amount proposed by the Governor for FY13 for each of the following accounts:

a. Regional School Transportation - $51.5 million,
b. Special Education Residential Schools - $221.6 million.

“As a former local official, I appreciate and understand the need for a strong set of local aid numbers,” said Representative Jones. “Knowing firsthand the current struggle of cities and towns, I am confident that my Republican colleagues and I have presented a strong set of numbers to be considered. I am disappointed that this was not taken up for debate, as many cities and towns in the Commonwealth are anxiously awaiting the release of local aid.”

This resolution would provide, among other things, flexibility during budget debate so that the Legislature may further increase local aid appropriations from an established floor. It would also provide predictability for municipalities who are in the midst of constructing their budgets.

With one single objection, the resolution was referred to the House Committee on Rules without any opportunity for debate.

FY13 Local Aid Reso

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

House Minority Leader’s Statement on Massachusetts’ Sluggish Economic Growth

House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading) issued the following statement today in response to reports released by the University of Massachusetts that further illustrate Massachusetts’ stagnant economic growth:

“With the most recent figures underscoring Massachusetts’ stagnant economic growth, Governor Patrick needs to learn that denial is, and should remain, just a river that runs through Egypt, not the corner office.

Massachusetts’ residents and businesses can no longer afford excuses and fuzzy math from the Patrick Administration. Getting the residents of the state back to work is far more important than Governor Patrick painting over the fact that he has failed to create jobs.

The Governor needs to put away the rose colored glasses from his vacation and deal with the reality of Massachusetts’ actual job creation numbers and not the fantasy of what he keeps wishing they were.”

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

House Minority Leader’s Statement on the Patrick Administration’s Misrepresentation of Job Creation Numbers

House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading) issued the following statement today in response to reports that Massachusetts ranked 40th in the country for job creation in 2011:

“Yet again, we find the Patrick Administration playing games with numbers. This time, the distortion-du-jour is job creation.

With figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicating that Massachusetts tied for 40th in the country in job creation last year – along with Nebraska, Arkansas and South Dakota – Governor Patrick finds himself with a lot of explaining to do.

Despite these most recent statistics, Governor Patrick continues to tout inaccurate and misleading figures. In his address to the Boston Chamber of Commerce earlier this week, the Governor said, ‘…all of these are driving nation leading growth here in the Commonwealth. Thanks to that growth, we have moved from 47th in job creation in 2006 to 5th in the last couple of years.’

If the Patrick Administration spent as much time looking over the GOP Jobs Package as they did figuring out how to distort job creation and unemployment numbers, Massachusetts might be touting substantive job creation and retention figures instead of demonstrating how far we are from recovery.”

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Education Paves the Way for Jobs in Massachusetts

In case you missed it, Representative Richard Bastien (R-Gardner) recently wrote an op-ed about the Education legislation included in the GOP Jobs Package. In his op-ed, Representative Bastien highlights the new pieces of legislation, filed by the Republican Caucus, aimed at creating and retaining jobs in the Commonwealth.

To read the op-ed in its entirety, see below.

Recently, members of the Republican Legislative Caucus unveiled a jobs plan that reflects the vital role education plays in promoting job growth in Massachusetts. Nowadays, more jobs require a minimum of an associate’s level degree or advanced technical training. We need to prepare our workforce to fill new positions and secure our economic future as a Commonwealth.

The educational component of our Jobs Package addresses this challenge. First, we create a Finish Line Scholarship Program, a vital aid for cash-strapped students putting themselves through school. I worked my way through college. The high cost added years to that process. I appreciate keenly the struggle that families face with the ever escalating cost of higher education. But higher education equals higher earnings, a win-win situation. Higher wage earners have more economic opportunities and share those opportunities with the communities and businesses around them, spurring economic growth.

The second part of our proposal empowers vocational schools to better serve the demand of Massachusetts’ employers for workers with advanced training and skills. With additional flexibility, vocational schools will be able to offer new service programs for those looking to advance their professional careers. We also facilitate a corporate sponsorship program to help expand resources for not-for-credit vocationally-oriented instruction and targeted skills training.

Collaboration and communication between our educational institutions is key if we want to lead the nation in workforce development. Our proposal calls for members of the boards of trustees for community colleges and vocational schools to serve on one another’s boards, enhancing regional collaboration and communication. Unlike other proposals to consolidate educational control in Boston, our proposal trusts local leaders to create jobs in their communities without tethering them to overbearing Boston bureaucracy.

With such excellent institutions of higher learning, Massachusetts has always had the best and the brightest students. Yet our most high-profile students, like Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, consistently take their creative talents and ideas elsewhere after graduation because the cost of doing business is so high. We must fix this problem.

Our proposal also establishes a student-investment fund to foster early stage companies and provide technical and capital support to our student entrepreneurs. Connecting students’ ideas with capital will foster the spark of creativity and enhance job growth right here in Massachusetts instead of elsewhere.

As a veteran, I have spent time talking to service members and have heard a common story: they cannot transfer their military skills into educational credentials. They have gained valuable skills, experience, and training. But when they come home they can’t apply them toward certifications, licenses, and college degrees. Post 9/11 veterans experience an unemployment rate close to 13% compared to the national average of 8.3%. Our proposal allows veterans to qualify for licenses and academic credit, taking a big step toward solving this problem.

My colleagues and I filed a comprehensive set of proposals in our Jobs Package. We have included education because it is critical to our economy and to growing jobs. Given the global competitive environment, we must help Massachusetts residents access educational opportunities to sharpen their skills, create new ones, and better reflect those already earned.

Richard Bastien is the State Representative for the 2nd Worcester District and serves on the Joint Committees on Higher Education and Veterans and Federal Affairs.

This is the first in a series of five Op-Eds aimed at highlighting the GOP Jobs Package.

Monday, March 12, 2012

House and Senate Republicans File Innovative Jobs Package

Led by House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R- North Reading) and Senate Minority Leader Bruce E. Tarr (R-Gloucester), the Republican Legislative Caucus has formally filed their innovative jobs package aimed at cultivating economic growth in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

The formal proposal, which comes on the heels of the Republican Caucus’ statewide 2011 GOP Jobs Tour, offers policies that are key to facilitating economic growth in Massachusetts and supporting individuals and businesses statewide.

Unveiled during a press conference in February, House and Senate Republicans have identified five targeted areas aimed at creating and maintaining jobs: business regulations, education, energy, healthcare, and taxes.

“With the recent news that the Commonwealth in fact created 30,000 fewer jobs in 2011, now is the time to act on a solution that will put our residents back to work,” said House Minority Leader Brad Jones. “I encourage my colleagues to join the Republican Caucus in taking a proactive approach towards job creation and retention in Massachusetts.”

“We’ve got no time to waste to create a better climate for job creation in Massachusetts, and the corrected job growth figures released last week prove it,” said Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr. “The Republican jobs package offers a prime opportunity for all of us to work together to take targeted, decisive actions to confront real barriers to creating jobs, and to get people who need them back to work.”

Highlights of the G.O.P. Jobs Package legislation include:

• Business Regulations: Reduce costs for employers, reform the current Unemployment Insurance paradigm and streamline and consolidate processes for businesses;

• Education: Empower vocational schools by strengthening collaborations with community colleges and employers, improve overall access to higher education, and qualify veterans for licensure and/or academic credit at public institutions of higher learning;

• Energy: Decrease the cost of electricity for businesses and ratepayers, increase the efficiency of Green Initiatives and promote cost-effective renewable energy;

• Healthcare: Shift focus to the consumer, increase options for employers and employees and make healthcare affordable for all;

• Taxes: Reduce commercial vehicle registration fees, simplify and eliminate corporate fees and taxes, incentivize first-time home buyer savings accounts, and establish a job creation tax credit.

The legislation has been filed as five omnibus bills in the House of Representatives, and as sixteen individual bills in the Senate.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

House Minority Leader’s Statement on the Patrick Administration’s Misrepresentation of Employment Numbers

House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading) issued the following statement today in response to reports that Massachusetts added 30,000 fewer jobs in 2011:

“Yet again, Governor Patrick and his Administration are playing games with employment numbers in Massachusetts.

With reports surfacing that Massachusetts had in fact added 30,000 fewer jobs than were touted by the Patrick Administration, we discover that once again the Governor is trying to pull the wool over our eyes.

As usual, the Administration is passing the buck. Of course the misrepresentation of numbers is not their fault, but that of the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics for ‘applying an imprecise methodology that underreported the number of jobs the state actually added last year.’

It is time to stop playing games with numbers and start getting results for the unemployed and underemployed in Massachusetts. According to Governor Patrick, ‘the strategy’s a winning strategy,' which begs the question – what strategy?”

House Minority Leader’s Response to Questions Concerning His Fiscal Discipline

House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading) issued the following statement today in response to allegations from the Patrick Administration that appeared in a recent State House News Service article:

“The same day Governor Patrick says he is ‘not following the primaries,’ his underlings take a swipe at me and our former Governor and current presidential candidate Mitt Romney for our supposed lack of ‘fiscal management and responsible budgeting.’

Governor Patrick’s minions conveniently forget his ‘sound fiscal management and responsible budgeting’ were facilitated by $2.3 billion in reserves left to him by Governor Romney and $5 billion in special federal aid to deal with the economic downturn.

These two pillars dramatically helped the Commonwealth in ‘earning the strongest bond ratings in history.’ This would not have been possible without the efforts of his predecessor – Governor Mitt Romney.

Coming into office with a $2.5 billion budget deficit and depleted reserves, Governor Romney closed the budget gap, left the Rainy Day Fund at its highest balance in history, and achieved two bond rating upgrades.

Unfortunately, while we were earning the ‘strongest bond ratings in history,’ Governor Patrick’s political role model, President Obama, was presiding over the first credit rating downgrade in the nation’s history.

Perhaps the Governor needs to be reminded that the fiscal luxuries he inherited were thanks to fiscal discipline and responsible budgeting under the leadership of Republicans in the Commonwealth. ”

See below to read the aforementioned State House News Service article in its entirety.

Legislature Restores Funds for Gop Sheriffs Vetoed by Patrick

Representative Brad Jones Appears on the FOX-25 Evening News

In case you missed it, House Minority Leader Brad Jones (R-North Reading) made an appearance on the FOX-25 Evening News yesterday. Representative Jones joined Mark Ockerbloom to discuss legislation filed by Governor Deval Patrick aimed at closing a loophole that currently allows municipal employees the opportunity to collect unemployment benefits while collecting their pension.

To view the entire segment play the video posted below.

We're talking about: legislation closing the loophole on unemployment benefits:

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Boston Globe Editorial: “GOP {Jobs} Proposals Should Receive a Respectful Hearing from the Majority Democrats”

In case you missed it, the Boston Globe recently published a positive editorial regarding the proposed GOP Jobs Package.

The editorial highlights the five targeted areas within the Jobs Package - business regulations, education, energy, healthcare, and taxes – and says that “reasonable people will disagree about various aspects of the GOP agenda, but in general, their package is a solid effort, featuring a number of ideas that merit serious consideration.”

See below to read the Boston Globe editorial in its entirety.

"Until the last election, the Massachusetts Republican Party’s legislative ranks had been in decline for almost two decades. Too often, Republican lawmake*rs leaned into irrelevance by failing to push an eye-catching agenda or to act as attention-generating opponents to Beacon Hill’s prevailing Democrats. The party was flat, a collection of odd pieces with no coherence.

But that may be changing. Since the 2010 election, Republicans have more than doubled their House numbers, which now stand at 33. Emboldened by that gain, GOP legislators are determined to play a more important role. Republican representatives and senators recently unveiled a broad legislative agenda focused on making Massachusetts a less costly and cumbersome place to do business.

Reasonable people will disagree about various aspects of the GOP agenda, but in general, their package is a solid effort, featuring a number of ideas that merit serious consideration.

They propose, for example, bringing the state’s generous unemployment insurance program into line with those of most other states. Although business people have long maintained that the high cost of the Massachusetts program inhibits job creation, Democrats have been wary about tackling the issue because of union resistance. Republicans would also overhaul the unemployment insurance rate structure to reward companies whose employees seldom use the system, while raising costs for firms whose workers resort more frequently to unemployment benefits.

When it comes to education, Republicans propose allowing relevant military training, education, or experience to apply toward state college degrees, as well as licenses and certifications granted by the state, to get qualified workers into the employment ranks sooner. They also favor “finish-line’’ grants to help financially challenged students complete the final year of a degree program.

They call for job-creation tax credits that would phase out over about a decade; for state-tax-free savings accounts to help first-time home buyers save up to $4,000 toward that purchase; and for offering firms that register five or more commercial vehicles in Massachusetts a 10 percent break on registration fees.

The GOP effort would be strengthened by reliable price tags for their various initiatives, something Republicans say they plan to develop. Those should include not simply the cost in new state spending but, where relevant, in lost tax revenue, since the package includes a number of tax cuts or credits.

When fully fleshed out and filed as legislation, the GOP proposals should receive a respectful hearing from the majority Democrats. Interesting ideas, after all, aren’t the province of a single party. Massachusetts can only benefit from a broader, more robust public-policy debate on Beacon Hill."

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Get Out and Vote!

Regardless of your political affiliation, today is a very important day for the Commonwealth as thousands of voters are expected to turn out to vote in the primary election for President of the United States. Voters will also be able to cast votes for Massachusetts State Committee members and, in some towns, Town Meeting members. The polls opened at 7 a.m. this morning and will remain open until 8 p.m. this evening.

Be sure to do your civic duty today - get out and vote!

Monday, March 5, 2012

House Minority Leader’s Statement in Response to Boston Herald Article “Retired but Still Getting Paid”

In case you missed it, House Minority Leader Brad Jones (R-North Reading) recently released a statement in response to a February 29th Boston Herald article entitled, “Retired but Still Getting Paid.”

As you may have heard, the Boston Herald reported on statewide allegations of the misuse of public funds by municipal employees. Representative Jones weighed in, saying the following:

“I read with dismay and concern this morning’s Boston Herald article entitled “Retired but Still Getting Paid.” In this day and age where taxpayers and municipalities across the Commonwealth are faced with fiscal uncertainty, any allegation of misuse of public monies is egregious.

I am in contact with local officials in Lynnfield regarding this matter, and I will be filing corrective language at the state level. While at first glance it may not appear that anything illegal was done, these allegations indicate that there are glaring loopholes on the law. The situations outlined in today’s article highlight the serious need to review and overhaul our state’s unemployment rules and laws, and the administration of these benefits.”

Click here to read the Boston Herald article in its entirety.