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."