Friday, March 28, 2014

House Republican Leadership Letter To Governor Patrick Regarding Justina Pelletier

March 28, 2014

His Excellency Deval L. Patrick, Governor
Commonwealth of Massachusetts
State House, Room 105
Boston, MA 02133

Dear Governor Patrick:

As you are undoubtedly aware, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts currently finds itself at the crossroads of state involvement and parental rights in the case of a young woman currently in the custody of the Department of Children and Families – Justina Pelletier. This case has captured the hearts and attention of many as we have witnessed the struggle of parents desperate to return their daughter to her home state of Connecticut in the ongoing quest to afford her the medical treatment she so desperately needs. As such, we write you today to urge you, in the strongest possible terms, to open the line of communication with Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy, and work to facilitate the safe and prompt return of Justina to Connecticut.

The case of Justina Pelletier has evolved before our very eyes, and has unfortunately been elevated to an unprecedented level. The Pelletier family, residents of Connecticut, has been forced to challenge the will of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in both the courts and through the media. While the Pelletier family continues their effort to seek the best medical care for their daughter, an ongoing struggle with the Commonwealth has placed their daughter in an untenable position, and has forced the family into an unimaginable situation – a showdown with our state over the custody of their own child.

Just this week, in a ruling by the Juvenile Court of the Commonwealth, the Honorable Joseph Johnston wrote in his disposition order that, “Heightened efforts must be undertaken by the MA DCF to place Justina in Connecticut and to transfer both the clinical and legal case to Connecticut.” We, the undersigned, agree whole-heartedly with this directive of Justice Johnston that Justina should be returned to her home state. Therefore, we urge you to pursue every means necessary, in consultation with Governor Malloy, to return Justina to Connecticut. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts can no longer be viewed as obstructionists in a family’s desire to return their daughter home to Connecticut.

We appreciate there may be a myriad of facts in this case to which we are not privy, and we are by no means interjecting ourselves into the medical diagnosis and subsequent treatment of Justina. We are, however, of the certain belief that this young woman belongs in her home state of Connecticut where she can both receive medical care and be close to her family.

We would be happy to meet with you to discuss this issue in greater detail, and we look forward to your timely attention to this extremely pressing issue.


Representative Bradley H. Jones, Jr.
Minority Leader
20th Middlesex District

Representative George N. Peterson, Jr.
9th Worcester District

Representative Elizabeth A. Poirier
14th Bristol District

Representative Bradford Hill
4th Essex District

Representative Viriato Manuel deMacedo
1st Plymouth District

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

House and Senate Republican Lawmakers Decry Inaction on Unemployment Insurance Rate Freeze

With a drastic increase to the Massachusetts unemployment insurance rate taking effect during the first quarter, House and Senate Republican lawmakers have filed legislation to freeze the unemployment insurance rate at its current level. The move comes after continued inaction from the Democratic-led Legislature to act on preventing an increase to the unemployment insurance rate paid by thousands of small businesses across the Commonwealth.

  Led by House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading) and Senate Minority Leader Bruce E. Tarr (R-Gloucester), Republican lawmakers are attempting to prevent a $500 million exposure to businesses, should Democratic legislators fail to act on legislation protecting hardworking entrepreneurs across Massachusetts.

“By leveraging the freeze of our state’s unemployment rate as a means to obtain their desired minimum wage level, Democratic lawmakers have signaled their willingness to use the Commonwealth’s small businesses as a pawn in their political game,” said State Representative Brad Jones. “At this time, it is an extreme disservice to businesses throughout the Commonwealth to not consider this proposal separately based on its merit. A freeze of the unemployment insurance rate is imperative for both our state’s workforce and entrepreneurs. If not approved immediately, this increase will have a negative impact on our economy.”

The effort to prevent an increase to the state’s unemployment insurance rate comes six months after Republican legislators were successful in advocating for the repeal of the crippling technology tax which was approved by Democratic lawmakers. As was the case with the largest and broadest tax on computer and software services in the nation, an increase of 33% to the rate incurred by small businesses in regards to unemployment insurance will have a long-lasting and negative effect on the businesses that are the backbone of the Massachusetts economy.

“Freezing unemployment insurance rates is critical to the viability and sustainability of employers and jobs in our state, and if we don’t act now we will be risking serious damage to our economy,” said Senator Bruce Tarr. “The House and Senate may well continue to be divided over issues like the minimum wage, but there can be no doubt that we should act immediately on behalf of the commonsense a freeze represents.”

Having been filed in both the House and Senate, House Docket 4163, An Act Relative to the Unemployment Insurance Rate, awaits assignment to a legislative committee.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

House Minority Leader Brad Jones’ Statement on Speaker DeLeo’s Proposal to Raise State’s Minimum Wage

House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading) issued the following statement today in response to House Speaker Robert DeLeo’s proposal to raise the state’s minimum wage to $10.50/hour:

“I welcome the release of Speaker DeLeo’s proposals for Massachusetts’ minimum wage rate and the reform of the unemployment insurance system. Economic competiveness must remain a cornerstone of the Commonwealth’s fiscal agenda. As such, I look forward to working with my colleagues across the aisle on striking a balance towards achieving a competitive living wage which will best serve the needs of the Commonwealth’s residents and small businesses alike.

By starting at a lower hourly wage than the State Senate’s proposal, the Speaker's proposal is a better place to start the conversation about crafting a plan that balances the needs of our state’s workforce and the concerns of the thousands of small businesses that are the backbone of Massachusetts’ economy. Furthermore, the lack of an indexing component to the state’s minimum wage rate will force lawmakers to consider a myriad of factors should the Legislature wish to consider adjusting the minimum wage rate in the future. In addition, the Speaker's plan relative to tipped employees appears to be more responsible than competing proposals.

Unfortunately, the Speaker’s proposal falls flat on a number of key provisions, which if not included in the House’s final proposal, will ultimately hurt the thousands of small businesses in our state. The lack of an aggressive approach to unemployment insurance reform is a missed opportunity for the Legislature to demonstrate our support for hardworking business owners. Additionally, the omission of an increase to the state’s earned income tax credit will hinder the overall goal of supporting Massachusetts’ working families.

As we begin this debate, we as a Legislature must put forth a concerted effort that both bolsters our state’s private sector workforce, particularly those on the lower rungs of the income ladder, while supporting those businesses that are pivotal to our state’s economic future.”

Thursday, March 6, 2014

House Republican Caucus to Offer Local Aid Resolution

In an ongoing commitment to providing fiscal certainty to the Commonwealth’s cities and towns, the House Republican Caucus has filed a Local Aid Resolution to provide municipalities with timely notice of the Legislature’s commitment to support them with local aid in Fiscal Year 2015.

In an email distributed to House colleagues, House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading), who drafted the resolution, said, “Local officials across the state are planning their budgets for the coming fiscal year. The decisions they make will determine such things as the quality of education for our children, the ability to keep our citizens safe, and the opportunity to offer other local services.” The letter to Republican and Democratic legislators goes on to say, “Giving municipalities numbers they can rely on will afford them confidence in their planning and decision-making process.”

All of these decisions hinge, in part, on how much local aid each community will receive from the state this year. As of now, these funding levels remain uncertain.

The resolution proposes the following:

• Increase the amount of Chapter 70 school aid given in the current fiscal year by $113 million, which correlates to an additional investment of $50 per student;

• Increase the amount of Unrestricted General Government Aid by $75 million – an 8.15% increase over Fiscal Year 2014;

• Level fund the Reimbursement to Cities in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) with the FY14 appropriation;

• Increase the level of funding for Regional School Transportation by $2.5 million over Fiscal Year 2014;

• Fund the reimbursement for the Special Education Circuit Breaker at $252.5M, slightly above the Fiscal Year 2014 level; and

• Set the level of funding for Homeless Student Transportation (McKinney/Vento) at the projected FY15 district claim amount of $14.9 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 encourage my colleagues across the aisle to join Republicans 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 own budgets.

The entire House of Representatives will now have the opportunity to join the House Republican Caucus in demonstrating its commitment to the Commonwealth’s cities and towns.