Thursday, October 4, 2018

Rep. Smola Appointed to Special Commission to Study Crumbling Concrete Foundations

Representative Todd M. Smola (R-Warren, Ranking Member, Committee on Ways & Means) has been appointed to a special commission to study the financial and economic impacts of crumbling concrete foundations in Massachusetts due to the presence of pyrrhotite. The fourteen-person commission was established earlier this year as part of the state’s annual budget.

Some Massachusetts and Connecticut homes built between 1983 and 2017 could be impacted by the presence of the pyrrhotite mineral in their concrete foundations. The mineral has been found in a quarry in northeastern Connecticut that provided building aggregate for construction projects in the region. Over time, pyrrhotite that is exposed to oxygen and water reacts and causes swelling and cracking. As a structure continues to deteriorate, it often becomes unsound.

“There are many layers to this foundation dilemma and the commission will work to address a number of questions that have come up since this problem was identified,” said Representative Smola. “We intend to look at costs related to repairing these foundations, impact on property values and potential remedies for homeowners among other things. Our goal is to develop a commission report with recommendations that can provide assistance to people that are looking for answers. We will also be holding a public hearing in the region where concrete foundations have deteriorated due to the presence of pyrrhotite.”

The commission is seeking input from anyone who has a foundation that may contain pyrrhotite. The commission has been instructed to submit the results of its study and its recommendations by February 1, 2019.  For additional information please contact Representative Smola at Todd.Smola@mahouse.gov or (617) 722-2100.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Rep. Ferguson Appointed to Special Commission on Acquired and Traumatic Brain Injury

House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading) is pleased to announce that he has appointed State Representative Kimberly Ferguson (R-Holden) to serve as his designee on a special commission that will study the needs of individuals and families impacted by acquired and traumatic brain injuries.

Representative Ferguson previously served as a member of the Acquired Brain Injury and Traumatic Brain Injury Commission created by the Legislature in 2010.  That commission issued a report in December of 2011 identifying gaps in state services that led to the implementation of reforms to address those shortfalls.

The new commission, which was created as part of the Fiscal Year 2019 state budget, will review data concerning the epidemiology of brain injury.  The commission will make recommendations by June 30, 2019 for improving rehabilitative residential and integrated community-based support services provided to individuals with acquired brain injury and those suffering from traumatic brain injury.

“Representative Ferguson was instrumental in helping to bring about many positive changes for Massachusetts residents affected by brain injuries during her first term as a state representative,” said Representative Jones.  “I am confident she will continue to play a prominent role in the commission’s efforts to identify additional reforms that can be implemented to further improve the lives of brain-injured individuals and their loved ones.”

According to the Brain Injury Association of America, more than 3.5 million children and adults sustain an acquired brain injury each year, while at least 2.5 million adults and children sustain a traumatic brain injury.  Acquired brain injuries typically occur as a result of a stroke, aneurysm, tumor, or an infectious disease such as meningitis or encephalitis, while traumatic brain injuries are typically caused by motor vehicle accidents, sports injuries, assaults, and falls.

Representative Ferguson is one of four legislators serving on the special commission, which will also include Secretary of Health and Human Services Marylou Sudders; Public Health Commissioner Dr. Monica Bharel; Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commissioner Toni Wolf; Secretary of Elder Affairs Alice Bonner; Secretary of Veterans Services Francisco Urena; and Brain Injury Association of Massachusetts, Inc. Executive Director Nicole Godaire.

As part of its directive, the commission will study the “availability, nature and adequacy” of a variety of services for the brain-injured, including: acute and long-term medical and cognitive rehabilitation and outpatient services; therapy services; residential nursing care; structured day treatment and day activity programs; club programs; respite care services; community-based housing; home-based services; family support programs; case management; companion services; personal care attendant services; specialized medical equipment and supplies; environmental modifications; counseling and training; and prevocational services.

Representative Ferguson represents the First Worcester District, which is comprised of the towns of Holden; Paxton; Princeton; Rutland; Precinct 1 in Sterling; and Precinct 2 in Westminster.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Representative David DeCoste Named to Special Commission on Veterans Tuition

House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading) has appointed State Representative David DeCoste (R-Norwell) to serve on a special commission studying veterans’ tuition.

As a member of the commission, Representative DeCoste will work with other legislators and state officials to study the cost and feasibility of exempting Massachusetts veterans from paying tuition, fees and other costs associated with attending a public college or university.

“Representative DeCoste has been a staunch advocate for the Commonwealth’s veterans while serving in the Legislature,” said Representative Jones.  “His military background and expertise will be of tremendous value to the commission as it works to find ways to make higher education more accessible and affordable to the many men and women who have proudly served our nation.”

The special commission was created as part of An Act relative to veterans’ benefits, rights, appreciation, validation and enforcement, also known as the BRAVE Act, which was signed into law on August 9, 2018 as Chapter 218 of the Acts of 2018.  Representative DeCoste previously served on the conference committee that finalized the bill, which provides for expanded property tax exemptions and other benefits for Massachusetts veterans and their surviving spouses.

Veterans Services Secretary Francisco Urena and Higher Education Commissioner Dr. Carlos Santiago are chairing the special commission, which will also include a member of the Student Veterans of America appointed by Governor Charlie Baker.  In addition to Representative DeCoste, nine other legislators will serve on the special commission, including the House and Senate chairs of the Joint Committees on Higher Education, Veterans and Federal Affairs, and Ways and Means.

The commission is scheduled to file a report on its findings and recommendations with the Legislature by July 1, 2019.

Representative DeCoste is a 22-year veteran of the United States Army, where he achieved the rank of Major.  He currently serves on the Joint Committee onVeterans and Federal Affairs, as well as the Joint Committees on Housing and Public Service.

Representative DeCoste previously served as a member of the MassachusettsPost-Deployment Commission, which was created in 2016 to develop recommendations for programs to assist the state’s service members as they transition to civilian life after deployment.

Representative DeCoste represents the Fifth Plymouth District, which is comprised of the towns of Hanover, Norwell and Rockland.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Rep. Howitt Named to Special Commission on the Mandated Reporting of Suspected Animal Abuse

Representative Steven Howitt (R-Seekonk) has been appointed by House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading) to serve on a special commission that will explore the possibility of requiring certain state employees to be trained to identify and report suspected cases of animal abuse.

The 18-member commission will attempt to identify the potential costs associated with training employees and contractors of the Department of Children and Families and the Department of Elder Affairs, as well as investigators working for the Disabled Persons Protection Commission, to recognize and report animal cruelty, abuse and neglect.  The special commission will also consider the potential costs associated with training municipal animal control officers to recognize and report the abuse of children, the elderly and the disabled.

In announcing his appointment, Representative Jones cited Representative Howitt’s sponsorship of legislation calling for the creation of a statewide animal abuse registry.  First filed in 2015, the bill would require the Department of Criminal Justice Information Services to establish and maintain a central computerized registry of all persons convicted of an animal abuse crime, and would prohibit animal shelters, pet stores, and breeders from selling an animal to any individual listed on the registry.

“Representative Howitt has been at the forefront of efforts to impose stronger penalties against individuals who abuse or neglect animals,” said Representative Jones.  “His commitment to protecting animals will be an asset to the commission as it considers expanding the number of people responsible for reporting these crimes.”

Representative Howitt is one of 10 legislators serving on the commission, which will also include representatives from the Department of Agricultural Resources; the Disabled Persons Protection Commission; the Executive Office of Health and Human Services; the Attorney General’s office; the MSPCA-Angell; the Animal Rescue League of Boston; the Animal Control Officers Association of Massachusetts; and the Massachusetts Municipal Police Coalition.

Created as part of An Act to protect animal welfare and safety in cities and towns – also known as the PAWS II Act – the commission is due to report its findings and recommendations to the Legislature by March 1, 2019.

Representative Howitt currently serves on the Joint Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure, the Joint Committee on Transportation, and the House Committee on Redistricting.  He represents the Fourth Bristol District, which includes the communities of Seekonk, Rehoboth, and portions of Norton and Swansea.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Representative Sheila Harrington Appointed to Bail Reform Special Commission

House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading) is pleased to announce that he has appointed State Representative Sheila Harrington (R-Groton) to serve as his designee on a special commission on bail reform.

The 19-member commission, which was created as part of the criminal justice reform law signed in April, will consider potential changes to the current bail system, including the use of risk assessment factors to determine when bail should be set and when defendants should be released without bail.  The commission will also evaluate the setting of conditions for defendants when they are released, with or without bail, and will determine if changes need to be made to ensure that defendants are not impacted differently in the pretrial system based on their gender, race, gender identity or other protected class status.

“As a member of the Judiciary Committee, Representative Harrington was a key contributor on the conference committee that finalized the new criminal justice reform law,” said Representative Jones.  “That, combined with her courtroom experience as an attorney, makes her eminently qualified to serve on this special commission that will explore ways to improve our current bail system to ensure equal and consistent treatment for all residents of the Commonwealth.”

The bail reform commission is comprised of a diverse group of legislators, court officials, attorney organizations and advocacy groups.  Among those who will be serving on the commission are Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Ralph Gants, Massachusetts Superior Court Chief Justice Judith Fabricant, Massachusetts District Court Chief Justice Paul Dawley, Attorney General Maura Healey, and Probation Commissioner Edward Dolan.  The commission will also include representatives from the Committee for Public Counsel Services, the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, the Massachusetts Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Inc., and the Massachusetts District Attorneys Association. 

The bail reform commission is scheduled to file a report on its findings and recommendations with the Legislature by June 30, 2019.

Representative Harrington represents the First Middlesex District, which includes the towns of Ashby, Dunstable, Groton, Pepperell, Townsend and Precinct 1 in Ayer.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Representative Muratore Named to Special Legislative Commission on Ocean Acidification

House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading) is pleased to announce that he has appointed State Representative Mathew Muratore (R-Plymouth) to serve as his designee on a special environmental commission that will study the impact of coastal and ocean acidification on commercially-valuable marine species.

Created as part of the 2018 Environmental Bond Bill, the commission will work on developing policies to respond to the adverse effects of coastal and ocean acidification on commercially-important fisheries and the state’s aquaculture industry.

“Representative Muratore has been an active member of the Ocean Advisory Commission, working closely with Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Matthew Beaton to develop the state’s ocean management plan,” said Representative Jones.  “He will be a perfect fit on this new commission as it works to address the environmental impact of ocean acidification on the state’s fishing industry.”

“Excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is being absorbed into our oceans and lowering PH levels below normal,” Representative Muratore said.  “Understanding how this impacts both humans and marine life is important and I am honored to be appointed to serve on this commission.”

Representative Muratore is one of eight legislators serving on the 19-member commission, which is being chaired by State Representative Smitty Pignatelli (D-Lenox) and State Senator Anne Gobi (D-Spencer), who also serve as co-chairs of the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture.  Other state environmental officials serving on the commission include Director of Marine Fisheries Dr. David Pierce; Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Martin Suuberg; and Director of Coastal Zone Management Bruce Carlisle.

Governor Charlie Baker will be appointing the remaining 8 members of the commission.  His appointees will include two representatives of an environmental or community group; three scientists who have studied coastal or ocean acidification; and three commercial fishermen, including one who holds a shellfish aquaculture license, one who holds a commercial fisherman lobster permit, and one who holds a commercial fisherman shellfish permit.

In addition to reviewing relevant scientific literature and studies related to coastal and ocean acidification, the commission will conduct a series of public hearings and coordinate with the Northeast Coastal Acidification Network and the National Caucus of Environmental Legislators to prevent any duplication of effort.  The commission is scheduled to file a report on its findings and recommendations by December 31, 2018.

Representative Muratore represents the First Plymouth District.  He currently serves as the ranking minority member of the Joint Committee on Tourism, Arts and Cultural Development; the assistant ranking minority member of the Joint Committee on Health CareFinancing; and a member of the Joint Committee on State Administration andRegulatory Oversight.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Rep. Crocker Named to Special Commission Investigating Suicide Prevention Among Massachusetts Correction Officers

Representative William Crocker (R-Barnstable) has been appointed by House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading) to serve on a special commission to study the prevention of suicide among correction officers in Massachusetts.

According to a February 2016 investigative report by WCVB-TV, 14 male and female employees of the state’s Department of Correction (DOC) committed suicide over a 5 ½-year period between 2010 and 2016.  In January of 2016, citing figures from the DOC and the Department of Public Health (DPH), the Springfield Republican newspaper reported that the “suicide rate among correctional officers … is around six times the rate of suicides in the general Massachusetts population.”

The 13-member commission, which was created as part of the 2018criminal justice reform law, will review existing suicide prevention programs and policies within Massachusetts’ correctional facilities.  In addition to providing recommendations for improving suicide identification and intervention for correctional facility staff, the commission will also explore ways to make mental health counseling more accessible to correction officers in need of services.

“Representative Crocker is familiar with our state’s correctional system, having previously worked as a teacher in the Bristol County House of Correction for 3 years,” said Representative Jones.  “His prior experience and insight will be an asset to the commission as it works to devise ways to prevent suicide among correction officers by making sure they have the full range of support and services they need.”

Representative Crocker is one of four legislative appointees serving on the commission, which is being chaired by Spencer Lord, Director of Policy and Assistant General Counsel at the Massachusetts Executive Office of Public Safety and Security.  The commission will include a suicide prevention specialist and Massachusetts sheriffs representative appointed by Governor Charlie Baker, as well as representatives from the DOC, DPH, the Department of Mental Health, the Massachusetts Correction Officers Federated Union, the Massachusetts Psychological Society, and the New England Police Benevolent Association, Inc. 

The commission is due to report its findings and recommendations to the Legislature by December 31, 2018.

Representative Crocker currently serves on three joint legislative committees, including Children, Families and Persons withDisabilities; Mental Health, Substance Use and Recovery; and Tourism, Arts andCultural Development.  He represents the Second Barnstable District, which includes Precincts 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, and 13 in Barnstable, as well as Precincts 5 and 6 in Yarmouth.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Rep. Hannah Kane Appointed to Regional Transit Authority Performance and Funding Task Force

Representative Hannah Kane (R-Shrewsbury) has been appointed by House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading) to serve on a task force that will evaluate the performance and funding of the state’s regional transit authorities.

Created as part of the Fiscal Year 2019 state budget, the 19-member commission will look at how the state’s 15 regional transit authorities can best provide and improve transit services for their customers, while conducting regular service planning to maximize ridership.  The commission will also explore ways to ensure that fares, local contributions and other own-source revenues are sufficient to cover an appropriate share of service costs for these regional transit authorities.

“As a member of the Joint Committee on Transportation, Representative Kane has been proactive in supporting the Baker-Polito Administration’s efforts to improve services on the MBTA,” said Representative Jones.  “I am confident she will bring this same commitment to the task force as it works to increase efficiencies at the state’s regional transit authorities and enhance the ridership experience for commuters who utilize these services.”

Representative Kane is one of four legislators serving on the task force, which is being chaired by Astrid Glynn, the Rail & Transit Administrator for the Massachusetts Department of Transportation. Three members will be appointed by the regional transit authority administrators, with Governor Charlie Baker appointing the other 11 members, including one who will represent the disabled commuter population and one who will represent an organization that advocates for regional transit authority riders.

The task force is scheduled to file its initial report by November 1, 2018.

In addition to serving on the Joint Committee on Transportation, Representative Kane is also the Ranking Minority Member of the Joint Committee on Public Health, the Ranking Minority Member of the JointCommittee on Marijuana Policy, and a member of the Joint Committee on MentalHealth, Substance Use and Recovery.  She represents the Eleventh Worcester District, which includes the town of Shrewsbury and Precincts 4 and 5 in Westborough.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Assistant Minority Leader Brad Hill Appointed to Special Commission on School Transportation

Representative Bradford Hill (R-Ipswich) has been appointed by House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading) to serve on a special commission that will explore ways to increase efficiencies in student transportation.

Established as part of the Fiscal Year 2019 state budget, the 11-member commission will be responsible for developing recommendations for improving transportation services for students attending regional schools, out of district vocational and technical schools, and out of district agricultural schools, as well as students in special education out of district placements.

In announcing the appointment, Representative Jones cited Representative Hill’s ongoing advocacy in support of public education funding, particularly for regional school transportation.  Representative Hill’s efforts helped secure a $68.88 million appropriation in this year’s state budget to reimburse communities for student transportation expenses, which represents a 12% increase in funding over last year.

“Brad has been leading the fight to deliver additional relief to cities and towns to help them pay for their student transportation costs,” said Representative Jones.  “I am confident he will do a tremendous job helping the special commission to identify ways for school districts to improve transportation services and reduce costs.”

Representative Hill is one of four legislators serving on the commission, which will also include representatives from the Massachusetts Association of Regional Schools, Inc.; the Massachusetts Association of School Committees, Inc.; the Massachusetts Association of School Business Officials, Inc.; the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents, Inc.; and the Massachusetts Association of Special Education Administrators.  The final two commission members will be appointed by Education Secretary James Peyser and Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Jeffrey Riley.

The commission is required to hold a minimum of five public hearings, and is expected to file a report with its recommendations by December 1, 2019.

Representative Hill currently serves as the Assistant Minority Leader of the House of Representatives.  He represents the Fourth Essex District, which includes the towns of Hamilton; Ipswich; Manchester-by-the-Sea; Rowley; Topsfield; and Wenham.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

September 11, 2001: Seventeen Years Later, We Still Remember … and We Will Never Forget


“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

The House Republican Caucus joins with Americans everywhere today to honor the victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and to salute our men and women in uniform who continue to keep America strong and safe. We remember September 11, 2001, and we will never forget.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Rep. Muradian Named to PAWS II/Animal Welfare Bill Conference Committee


House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading) has appointed State Representative David K. Muradian, Jr. (R-Grafton) to a conference committee charged with reviewing two legislative proposals to update the state’s animal cruelty laws.

An Act to protect animal welfare and safety in cities and towns, also known as the PAWS Act II, was approved by the Senate on March 15, with the House passing its own version of the bill on June 6.  Both bills seek to expand on the state’s 2014 PAWS law by adding new requirements for reporting animal abuse and prohibiting the drowning of animals.

Representative Muradian will serve on the conference committee alongside Representatives Louis Kafka (D-Stoughton) and Jim O'Day (D-West Boylston), and Senators Mark Montigny (D-New Bedford), Adam Hinds (D-Pittsfield), and Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester).  The conference committee will attempt to reconcile the differences between the two bills and reach an agreement on compromise language by the last day of formal legislative sessions, which falls on July 31.

“Representative Muradian has served on a number of conference committees and has proven that he can work with other legislators to achieve a consensus,” said Representative Jones.  “I am confident he will do everything he can to help get a strong animal protection bill on the Governor’s desk before session ends.”

Representative Muradian currently serves as a member of the Joint Committee on Municipalities and Regional Government, which reviewed an earlier version of the PAWS Act II last fall and reported the bill out favorably.  He is also a member of the Joint Committee on Elder Affairs, Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security, and the House Committee on Ethics.

Representative Muradian represents the Ninth Worcester District, which includes the communities of Grafton, Northbridge and Upton.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Rep. Berthiaume Appointed to Environmental Bond Bill Conference Committee


House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading) has appointed State Representative Donald R. Berthiaume, Jr. (R-Spencer) to a conference committee that will attempt to reconcile the differences between two environmental bond bills recently passed by the House and Senate.

The House bond bill, which was approved on June 13, includes nearly $3 billion in capital authorizations to support a variety of local and statewide environmental initiatives.  The Senate engrossed its own version of the bill – An Act promoting climate change adaptation, environmental and natural resource protection, and investment in recreational assets and opportunity – on July 12.

“Representative Berthiaume is well-versed on environmental policy, having served as a member of the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture,” said Representative Jones.  “His experience will be an asset to the conference committee as it works to negotiate a compromise bill.”

A Navy veteran and former Spencer selectman, Representative Berthiaume also serves as a member of the Joint Committee on Veterans and Federal Affairs, and the House Committee on Ways and Means.  Joining him on the conference committee are Representatives David Nangle (D-Lowell) and William “Smitty” Pignatelli (D-Lenox), along with Senators William Brownsberger (D-Belmont), Anne Gobi and Donald Humason (R-Westfield).

The conference committee will attempt to reach an agreement on compromise language before formal legislative sessions end on July 31.

Representative Berthiaume was first elected to the House of Representatives in November of 2014.  He represents the 5th Worcester District, which is comprised of 11 communities, including Barre; Brookfield; East Brookfield; Hardwick; Hubbardston; New Braintree; North Brookfield; Oakham; West Brookfield; and portions of Spencer and Ware.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Representative David DeCoste Named Member of BRAVE Act Conference Committee


House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading) has appointed State Representative David F. DeCoste (R-Norwell) to serve on a conference committee charged with reviewing a pair of omnibus veteran bills recently approved by the House and Senate.

An Act relative to veterans’ benefits, rights, appreciation, validation and enforcement, also known as the BRAVE Act, passed the Senate on March 3, while the House of Representatives approved its own version of the bill on March 23.  The conference committee will now attempt to reconcile the differences between the two bills, which provide for property tax assistance and increased funeral expense coverage for veterans, among other benefits.

In announcing the appointment, Representative Jones cited Representative DeCoste’s military background as a 22-year veteran of the United States Army, where he achieved the rank of Major.

“David’s years of service have given him a clear understanding of the many challenges facing Massachusetts veterans and their families,” said Representative Jones.  “With his military experience, David will bring a unique perspective to the conference committee as it works to resolve the differences between the two bills and produce a final bill to address the needs of the Commonwealth’s veterans.”

Representative DeCoste currently serves as a member of the Joint Committee on Veterans and Federal Affairs, as well as the Joint Committees on Housing and Public Service.  The Norwell legislator will be joined on the conference committee by the co-chairs of the Joint Committee on Veterans and Federal Affairs, Representative John Lawn (D-Watertown) and Senator Michael Rush (D-West Roxbury), along with Representative Claire Cronin (D-Brockton) and Senators William Brownsberger (D-Belmont) and Donald Humason (R-Westfield).

The conference committee will attempt to reach an agreement before formal legislative sessions end on July 31.

Representative DeCoste represents the 5th Plymouth District, which is comprised of the towns of Hanover, Norwell and Rockland.

Monday, May 28, 2018

MEMORIAL DAY 2018


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

As our nation observes Memorial Day, the members of the House Republican Caucus join with Americans everywhere to pay tribute to our fallen soldiers. Their service and sacrifices will never be forgotten.

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Tuesday, May 22, 2018

WCVB-TV's Karen Anderson Highlights Representative Jones' Rape Kit Testing Reforms

WCVB-TV aired a segment last night on House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr.’s efforts to empower victims of rape and sexual assault by changing the way Massachusetts tests and tracks sexual assault evidence kits.

Working closely with the Joyful Heart Foundation, Representative Jones was able to secure a series of reforms in the omnibus criminal justice reform bill Governor Baker signed into law last month.  Sexual assault victims will soon be able to follow the status of their kits through a statewide database being set up within the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security (EOPSS).  This database will allow victims to track their kits from the time they are collected and transferred to law enforcement, through the testing and storage process. 

The bill also requires police departments to clear their existing backlog of untested kits associated with a reported crime.  Similar testing conducted in other states has helped police to identify hundreds of serial rapists connected with previously unsolved crimes.

You can watch Representative Jones’ interview with WCVB’s Karen Anderson by playing the video posted here.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Representative Jones’ Statement on Release of Senate Ethics Committee Report

House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading) released the following statement today in response to the SenateEthics Committee’s report on its investigation into former Senate President Stanley Rosenberg:

“The Senate Ethics Committee’s report underscores the fact that Senator Rosenberg was not only aware of some of his husband’s inappropriate behavior, but also provided him with access to his official State House e-mail account and other confidential information.  Senator Rosenberg’s lapse in judgement and failure to put a stop to this constitutes a clear violation of the public’s trust that has unfairly compromised the integrity of the Massachusetts Senate. Given the information uncovered by the committee’s investigation, Senator Rosenberg should resign immediately from the Senate.  If he does not, it is incumbent that the Senate takes much stronger disciplinary action than what has been recommended in the report.”

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Assistant Minority Leader Brad Hill Appointed to Housing Bond Bill Conference Committee

House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading) is pleased to announce his appointment of Representative Bradford Hill (R-Ipswich) as a member of the housing bond bill conference committee.
                                        
The House of Representatives and the Senate recently approved different versions of An Act financing the production and preservation of housing for low and moderate income residents in an attempt to ensure longtime residents of Massachusetts can continue to afford to live in the state they call home.

Representative Hill will serve on the conference committee alongside Senators Joseph Boncore (D-Winthrop), John Keenan (D-Quincy) and Patrick O'Connor (R-Weymouth), as well as Representatives Kevin Honan (D-Brighton) and Joseph McGonagle (D-Everett).  The conferees will try to reconcile the differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill, with the goal of producing a compromise proposal that can be sent to Governor Charlie Baker for his signature before the end of formal legislative sessions on July 31.

“Representative Hill has a clear understanding of the issues that serve as barriers to affordable housing for low and moderate income residents in Massachusetts,” said Representative Jones.  “Brad will bring a wealth of knowledge and expertise to the conference committee as it works to produce a bill that will promote affordable housing construction, create incentives to rehabilitate and modernize public housing, and support affordable housing opportunities.”

Representative Hill currently serves as the Assistant Minority Leader of the House of Representatives.  He represents the Fourth Essex District, which consists of the Towns of Hamilton; Ipswich; Manchester-by-the-Sea; Rowley; Topsfield; and Wenham.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

House Minority Leader's Statement on Release of House Ways and Means FY19 Budget Proposal

House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading) issued the following statement today in response to the release of the House Ways and Means Committee’s Fiscal Year 2019 budget:

“I appreciate Chairman Sanchez’s efforts in putting together his first budget proposal. Devising a spending plan of this scope and magnitude is never an easy task, but this year’s budget process will be particularly challenging, given the uncertainties over revenues and the unresolved status of several pending ballot questions which could significantly impact state revenues midway through the next fiscal year.  I’m looking forward to reading through the budget over the next few days and working with the members of the House Republican Caucus to identify potential amendments we can offer to protect the interests of the state’s taxpayers.”

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Representative Jones’ Rape Kit Testing Proposal Now on Governor Baker’s Desk Awaiting Signature

A proposal by House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading) to assist and empower victims of rape and sexual assault is one step closer to becoming law.

Language filed by Representative Jones to address the current backlog of untested rape kits and create a statewide database for tracking these kits within the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security (EOPSS) was included in a comprehensive criminal justice reform bill approved by the House and Senate today.  The bill is now on Governor Charlie Baker’s desk awaiting his signature.

Under Representative Jones’ proposal, the Secretary of Public Safety and Security will convene a multidisciplinary task force, in conjunction with the Department of Public Health, to develop a tracking system that will provide sexual assault victims with continuous access to information on their kits.  Victims will be able to track the status of their kits from their initial collection and receipt by law enforcement, through the testing and storage process.

The bill also mandates that all existing untested kits associated with a reported crime be submitted for testing within 180 days.  In 2015, EOPSS requested reports from municipal police departments on the number of untested rape kits in their possession, but only 75 out of 351 departments responded.

The task force must also identify mechanisms to fund the testing of kits to remove any existing backlogs, to ensure victims of rape are not denied justice due to budgetary constraints.  Grant programs – including the Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence-Inventory, Tracking and Reporting Program (SAFE-ITR) grant and the DNA Capacity Enhancement and Backlog Reduction (Debbie Smith) grant – are already in place to ensure states have the means to provide information to the victim, and bring the offender to justice.  Other cities and states – including the Idaho State Police and Portland, Oregon – also provide software free of charge to streamline the testing and cataloging of kits.

In drafting his proposal, Representative Jones worked closely with the Joyful Heart Foundation – a national organization that advocates for survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence, and child abuse – to develop a comprehensive approach that incorporates the best practices identified in other jurisdictions.  While a number of states have already passed rape kit reform laws, the changes adopted in Massachusetts will be among the most comprehensive in the nation.

“The forensic evidence obtained from testing these kits is critical to helping law enforcement connect individuals to unsolved crimes, but can also be used to help exonerate an innocent person,” said Representative Jones. “The reforms adopted today by the House and Senate send a clear message to survivors of sexual assault that the Commonwealth is fully invested in helping them achieve justice and hopefully realize a sense of healing after enduring such a traumatic experience.”

Major cities like Cleveland, Detroit, and Memphis have tested thousands of backlogged kits in storage.  In Detroit alone, a total of 11,341 kits were tested, resulting in 2,616 matches made on the DNA database and allowing authorities to identify 811 potential serial rapists who have committed crimes in 40 states and Washington, D.C.

In October of 2016, Governor Baker signed a law requiring forensic evidence obtained as part of a sexual assault or rape investigation to be retained for a minimum of 15 years, which corresponds to the statute of limitations for these crimes.  Previously, this evidence was required to be preserved for only six months, and victims had to petition every six months to have it preserved for a longer period of time.

The bill that is now on the Governor’s desk requires hospitals and medical facilities to notify local law enforcement within 24 hours of collecting sexual assault evidence.  Law enforcement agencies must retrieve the evidence kit within 3 business days of being notified, and will have up to 7 business days to submit the evidence for testing at the State Police or municipal crime lab.  The bill requires the lab to test each kit within 30 days of receipt.

The criminaljustice reform bill allows the Secretary of EOPSS to incrementally phase in sexual assault kit tracking systems, but requires all jurisdictions to be fully compliant by December 1, 2019.

Governor Baker has until April 14 to sign the bill into law.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Representative DeCoste: Manufactured Homes Should Count as Part of Affordable Housing Stock

The following column by State Representative David DeCoste (R-Norwell) recently appeared in the Boston Globe’s South section in response to the question: “Should mobile homes be counted as part of a municipality’s affordable-housing stock?”  Rep. DeCoste is currently sponsoring House Bill 660, An Act expanding the definition of affordable housing to include manufactured homes.

The Massachusetts Comprehensive Permit Act, usually referred to as “Chapter 40B” because of its designation in the Massachusetts General Laws, was originally known as the “Anti-Snob Zoning Act.” The law, adopted in 1969, is meant to encourage production of affordable homes by allowing developers to bypass municipal zoning bylaws in communities whose housing stock is below 10 percent affordable. Developers in exchange commit to set aside at least 25 percent of a project’s units as affordable. The law allows a state panel to reverse a local zoning board’s denial of a 40B proposal. This has resulted in developments being constructed without consideration of the impact on schools, roads, water, and other municipal infrastructure.

In the last several years, legislation has been filed to have 40B regulations modified to allow mobile homes to count toward the 10 percent affordable home stock requirement in specific towns or in some cases throughout the Commonwealth. To date, all of this legislation has failed to be acted on by lawmakers. In 2016, the Legislature directed the state Department of Revenue to conduct a study of mobile home communities to measure the percentage of resident households that would qualify for low- or moderate-income housing under 40B.

The report, issued last April, found that 78 percent of mobile home residents with identified tax returns would qualify for low- or moderate-income housing based on income. This should not come as a surprise to anyone familiar with the very affordable nature of these communities. Yet current law stipulates that cities and towns cannot count a single one of these units against their affordable-housing inventories.

A better policy for the state is to give municipalities an incentive to approve mobile home communities. Manufactured housing represents an excellent value on a square-footage basis for housing. We should recognize that fact and give communities credit for all or a significant percentage of existing manufactured housing units. This would result in a more accurate count of ‘affordable’ units, but it would also spur the addition of more of this type of housing in our state. 


Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Rep. Kuros: Manufactured Homes Should Count Towards a Community's Affordable Housing Stock

The following column by State Representative Kevin Kuros (R-Uxbridge) appeared in the March 11 print edition of the Boston Globe’s West section in response to the question “Should mobile homes be counted as part of a community’s affordable housing stock?”

Yes, these units should be counted as affordable housing, but first we ought to stop calling them “mobile homes” as they are rarely moved. The more appropriate term is “manufactured” homes. A 2011 Vermont survey showed the average length of residence in a manufactured home park in that state was 11 years. Clearly, the 18 to 20 million people nationwide living in manufactured homes are using them as affordable, permanent residences.

They cost hundreds of thousands of dollars less than traditional site-built homes, yet they share many important attributes with them. They can qualify for Federal Housing Administration and Department of Veterans Affairs financing. If they are permanently affixed to the land and the land is owned, they qualify as “real” property and can be financed with a mortgage. And if used as the owners’ primary residence, a Declaration of Homestead can be filed with the Register of Deeds to protect against unsecured creditor claims.

Since they are built in factories and then shipped to the home site, the construction of manufactured homes is more efficient. The manufacturer and buyer benefit from economies of scale, and there is no lost construction time for weather. The net result is comfortable, safe, quality housing at affordable prices, the exact reason the state’s Chapter 40B Affordable Housing law exists!

A 2012 insurance industry survey of over 10,000 manufactured home owners showed that 55 percent reported an income of less than $30,000, 40 percent didn’t anticipate ever selling or moving from their home, only 9 percent have a 4-year or advanced degree, 23 percent were under 30 years old, and nearly 20 percent were age 60 and above. These are all demographic segments that benefit tremendously from affordable housing.

Manufactured homes are the best means for many people to overcome exorbitant housing costs while fulfilling the American Dream of homeownership. Allowing communities to count them toward their affordable housing stock, which would be allowed under legislation now on Beacon Hill, not only makes sense but will also allow the Commonwealth to better gauge the true inventory of affordable housing for planning purposes. Count manufactured homes in the numbers!

Friday, February 16, 2018

Governor Baker Approves Early Voting Funding

Massachusetts communities are one step closer to being compensated for some of the expenses they incurred during the 2016 state election cycle, the first to offer early voting.

Today, Governor Baker signed into law a $17.8 million supplemental budget that includes just over $1 million in early voting reimbursement for cities and towns.  Inserted through an amendment offered by House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading) and his Republican leadership team, the funding has been allocated to cover expenses that State Auditor Suzanne Bump has determined constituted an unfunded state mandate.

“Communities across the state did a tremendous job implementing the early voting law and making sure the process ran smoothly in the days leading up to the election,” said Representative Jones.  “The funding contained in this supplemental budget will allow the state to fulfill a long-overdue financial obligation to our cities and towns.”

The state’s early voting law was approved by the Legislature in 2014 and was first implemented during the 2016 state election.  The law allows registered voters to cast a ballot as early as 11 business days prior to election day, and up to two business days before the election, during the biennial state election.

A ruling issued by Auditor Bump on February 14, 2017 determined that the state should reimburse communities for a portion of their early voting costs, citing the law’s “requirements that municipalities establish an early voting polling location that has sufficient staffing and privacy for voters.”

The early voting funding was initially inserted in the House version of the supplemental budget on January 31 through an amendment filed by Representative Jones.  The amendment was approved unanimously on a vote of 153-0.

Representative Jones had previously secured partial funding in the House version of the Fiscal Year 2017 final deficiency budget last October, but the final version of that bill omitted the funding and instead included language directing the state auditor to certify the actual costs for each municipality through her office’s Division of Local Mandates.  Auditor Bump recently certified a statewide total of $1,063,978.14 as being eligible for reimbursement.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Rep. Jones: Governor Baker's 72-Hour Hold Proposal Will Save Lives in Fight Against Opioids

The following column by House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. appeared in the February 4 print edition of the Boston Globe’s North section in response to the question “Should doctors be allowed to have addicted patients committed involuntarily to treatment facilities for 72 hours?”:

Despite ongoing efforts to combat opioid abuse, Massachusetts continues to face an epidemic that has claimed thousands of lives. In 2016 alone, the state’s Department of Public Health confirmed 2,094 cases of overdose deaths, a 24 percent increase over the previous year.

From January to September of 2017, DPH documented another 932 confirmed opioid-related overdose deaths. Although the numbers are trending downward, there are still far too many people dealing with drug dependency issues, and far too many lives being lost to this scourge.

Governor Charles Baker’s proposal to allow individuals to be involuntarily placed in a drug treatment program for up to 72 hours will help save lives. It will also address the all-too-familiar vicious cycle that occurs when a patient reports to the emergency room suffering from an overdose and is treated and released, only to end up back in the ER after another overdose.

Under previous legislation we adopted in 2016, ER patients treated for an opioid-related overdose, or given the overdose-reversing drug naloxone prior to arriving at the hospital must undergo a substance abuse evaluation within 24 hours. Patients are advised of their treatment options, but are not legally required to enter treatment. Individuals can be involuntarily committed to receive treatment for their addiction only with a court order.

During debate over the 2016 legislation, I offered an amendment to allow attending physicians to restrain a patient and place them in a treatment facility for three days if the patient had already received a substance abuse evaluation and returned to the hospital within seven days with another opiate-related overdose.

Governor Baker’s proposal would allow medical professionals and police officers to authorize the transfer of a patient to a substance use treatment facility without a court order if the patient presents a danger to themselves or others, and for the patient to be held in that facility up to 72 hours if deemed necessary by a physician. A court order would be required to hold patients beyond the 72 hours.

Governor Baker’s 72-hour proposal is intended as a “last resort” option, but will literally save lives, getting people into treatment and hopefully placing them on a path to recovery by reducing their chances of suffering a potentially fatal relapse. It deserves serious consideration as one tool towards addressing this epidemic.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Representative Dooley: Tax Increases Should Not Be on the Table in State Budget Talks for FY19

The following column by State Representative Shawn Dooley (R-Norfolk) appeared in the February 4 print edition of the Boston Globe's West section in response to the question “Should any increases in major state taxes be on the table instate budget talks for next year?”:

In an ordinary year, increasing the taxes of the hard working men and women of Massachusetts should only be on the table after all other options are exhausted. But as we all know, it is not an ordinary year and raising taxes should definitely be off the table for this year’s budget debate.

The reality is that the world has changed dramatically over the past year and fiscal year 2019 is on track to follow course. The new federal tax plan that was passed last month creates a tremendous amount of uncertainty for many of our fellow citizens and has the potential to have a negative impact on the Massachusetts economy. Fortunately, it appears the benefits might minimize these negatives but at this moment it is too early to tell.

The creation of the $10,000 cap for state and local tax deductions in the new federal law is going to send shockwaves through our state. If we couple this with the proposed additional 4 percent tax on earnings above $1 million — the subject of a state ballot question this fall — and our punitive death tax, Massachusetts is poised to be a costly state for taxpayers. To add additional tax increases onto this already excessive structure would be pure folly.

While the Commonwealth is anticipating increased revenue collections, we must still remain vigilant in weeding out waste and abuse. As legislators, we need to make the tough choices to streamline programs and ensure that we spend our neighbors’ hard earned money efficiently.

Having a foolhardy approach toward spending, justified by a tax increase, only sets the groundwork for disaster when the economy eventually adjusts.

Massachusetts is a wonderful place to live; but if we are not fiscally prudent, it will simply become too expensive to raise a family or run a business here. New Hampshire is already trying to poach our current and future businesses by touting their low taxes and inexpensive cost of living. If we vote to raise taxes this year, it will send the message that Massachusetts is not “open for business;” and instead we are embracing the old “Taxachusetts” moniker.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

House Approves Minority Leader Brad Jones’ Early Voting Cost Reimbursement Amendment

Massachusetts communities are poised to receive compensation to offset the costs associated with implementing the state’s early voting law, thanks to an amendment filed by House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading) and members of the House Republican Caucus.

Representative Jones’ amendment would provide more than $1 million in reimbursement to cities and towns across the Commonwealth to cover certain costs that were incurred during the November 2016 state election cycle.  The amendment was approved unanimously by the House of Representatives on January 31 as part of a $17.6 million supplemental budget, but still requires Senate approval and Governor Baker’s signature before the money can be released.

“Over the past year, I have made it a personal priority to ensure that our cities and towns receive compensation for what was essentially a state-imposed unfunded mandate,” said Representative Jones.  “I’m hopeful the Senate will act quickly to pass this proposal so we can deliver this funding to our communities without any further delays.”

Enacted in 2014, the Massachusetts early voting law allows registered voters to cast a ballot as early as 11 business days prior to election day, and up to two business days before the election, every two years during the biennial state election.  More than 1 million early votes were cast during the 2016 election.

In February of 2017, State Auditor Suzanne Bump ruled that some of the expenses incurred by municipalities to implement the law constituted an unfunded mandate, and recommended that these costs should be borne by the Commonwealth.

Last October, Representative Jones led a successful effort to secure a $485,559 funding appropriation for early voting reimbursements as part of the House version of the Fiscal Year 2017 final deficiency budget.  Although the final version of the bill did not contain any funding for early voting costs, it did include language directing the state auditor to certify the costs for each municipality and to report back to the Legislature by January 10.

On January 8, the auditor provided the Legislature with documentation certifying a statewide total of $1,063,978.14 in municipal costs as eligible for reimbursement.  The full amount is reflected in Representative Jones’ amendment.

The supplemental budget now moves to the Senate for further action.