Friday, September 22, 2017

House Minority Leader Brad Jones Backs Passage of Drone Search Warrant Legislation in MA

The following column by House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading) appeared in the September 17 edition of the Boston Globe’s North Section:

One of the most fundamental legal protections enshrined in the US Constitution as part of the Bill of Rights is the prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures. Under the Fourth Amendment, all citizens have a reasonable expectation of privacy and cannot be subject to a search without a probable cause warrant.

The growing popularity of unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, presents a challenge to upholding personal privacy rights in Massachusetts because our state laws have not kept pace with this rapidly evolving technology. That may soon change.

Proposed legislation I am cosponsoring would require police to obtain a search warrant before using drones as part of a criminal investigation. Several other states – including Florida, Maine, North Dakota and Virginia – already have similar requirements in place, and Massachusetts residents should be able to enjoy these same protections.

Requiring warrants for drone surveillance would in no way hinder law enforcement’s ability to investigate suspected criminal activity. Rather, it would simply ensure that state and municipal police departments are following the same procedures they already use when conducting an investigation without the use of drone technology.

The proposed legislation contains a provision allowing drones to be used without a warrant in certain limited emergency situations, but only if there is “reasonable cause” to believe there is an imminent threat to the life or safety of a person, such as when a child goes missing. In these cases, the operator of the drone would be required to document the specific nature of the emergency, and a supervisor would need to file an affidavit detailing the reasons for the warrant-less emergency usage within 48 hours of the drone’s deployment.

The bill contains additional privacy protections by mandating drones be used only to collect data on the individual who is the actual subject of the warrant, and requiring any data collected on other individuals not targeted by the warrant be deleted within 24 hours.

Currently, only a handful of municipal police departments in Massachusetts have purchased drones, including Attleborough and Hanover, but that number is likely to increase in the future. Implementing statewide guidelines now, including a warrant requirement for conducting drone surveillance, is critical to ensuring residents’ civil liberties and civil rights are properly protected.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Representative Mirra: Privatizing MBTA Garages Would Mean 'Better Service at a Lower Cost’

The following column by Representative Leonard Mirra (R-Newbury) appeared in the September 10 edition of the Boston Globe’s North Section:

After years of mismanagement and neglect, the financially plagued MBTA is burdened with waste and inefficiency. As recently as 2015, it was projecting a cost growth rate that was three times the amount of revenues. Of the $132 million spent on bus maintenance in fiscal 2016, nearly $100 million was for labor.

Bankrolled by T riders and taxpayers, the MBTA had the highest vehicle maintenance per hour costs of bus operation of six comparable transit agencies in 2015, according to a new report from the Pioneer Institute.

At $44.30 per hour, MBTA bus maintenance costs were 65 percent higher than the $26.82 average of the nation’s 25 largest public transit agencies that year. Clearly, we can do better. Thankfully, bus maintenance privatization offers the MBTA an opportunity to address some runaway expenses.

The proposal to privatize bus operations is not a scheme to “bust unions,” nor a “race to the bottom” that drives down wages and harms working conditions. The plan simply allows for private companies to allow MBTA cost savings through increased flexibility and lower staffing, while still employing union machinists working under their collective bargaining contracts.

For instance, T supervisors are prohibited from turning wrenches, leaving them unable to assist machinists. In a private company, “working supervisors” would be free to work alongside machinists when needed.

Maintenance privatization is hardly a revolutionary idea. Our Regional Transit Authorities — two of which operate in Greater Lowell and through much of the Merrimack Valley — have had private companies service buses for years. Their costs are much lower. While the T’s total cost per revenue hour is $56, RTAs hover around $31, with the Worcester RTA at $25.

The T outsourced overhauls on 190 buses in 2012. The agency found that doing the work in-house cost 50 percent more than shipping buses to Michigan. Recently, the T outsourced cash-handling to Brinks, cutting costs by two-thirds; Brinks runs nearly 15 percent under the $300,000 monthly contract.

While bringing costs under control cannot be accomplished overnight, outsourcing certain operations will move us closer. A focused and efficient transportation agency, combined with reinvested cost savings, means better service at a lower cost.

Monday, September 11, 2017


“One of the worst days in America’s history saw some of the bravest acts in Americans’ history. We’ll always honor the heroes of 9/11. And here at this hallowed place, we pledge that we will never forget their sacrifice.” – President George W. Bush

Today, we gather as families, as communities, but more importantly as Americans to remember those individuals who lost their lives on September 11, 2001.

Let us never forget.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

WCVB-TV's Mike Beaudet Highlights One of Representative Jones' Sex Offender Bills

WCVB-TV aired an investigative piece on former priest and convicted pedophile Paul Shanley last night which highlighted legislation filed by House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading) to prohibit multiple sex offenders from residing at the same address.

House Bill 858 would bar level 3 sex offenders – those deemed most likely to reoffend – from “renting, residing, or otherwise occupying a single-family dwelling or a unit in a multi-family dwelling with another finally classified level 3 sex offender, regardless of the permanent or temporary residential status of either sex offender, unless those persons are legally related by consanguinity, affinity or adoption.”  Representative Jones originally filed this bill two years ago, in response to concerns raised by the North Reading Police Department and several constituents who had contacted him about two level 3 offenders who were living together in town.

Shanley was recently released from prison after serving 12 years for rape and abuse of a child and now resides in Ware, MA.  Two other level 3 offenders are also residing at the same address, in a building owned by yet another level 3 offender.

House Bill 858 is currently pending before the Joint Committee on the Judiciary.  A public hearing on the legislation has not yet been scheduled.