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 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.