Thursday, November 24, 2022

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

The Capitol View wishes you and your loved ones a very Happy Thanksgiving! As we gather to celebrate and count our blessings, let us not forget the men and women of our armed forces who are serving overseas and will not be home to spend the holidays with their families and friends. The members of the House Republican Caucus are forever grateful for their service to our nation.

Friday, November 11, 2022

Veterans Day 2022: Honoring All Who Served

“The willingness of our citizens to give freely and unselfishly of themselves, even their lives, in defense of our democratic principles, gives this great Nation continued strength and vitality.” – President Ronald Reagan, in his 1981 Veterans Day Proclamation

The Massachusetts House Republican Caucus joins with Americans everywhere today to salute our veterans for their service on behalf of our Commonwealth and our nation. Our veterans’ commitment to defending the many freedoms we hold dear should be acknowledged and appreciated, not only today, but every day.

Thursday, October 13, 2022

Representative Mathew Muratore Appointed to Behavioral Health Advisory Commission

House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading) has appointed State Representative Mathew Muratore (R-Plymouth) to the newly-created Behavioral Health Advisory Commission.

Originally proposed as part of an omnibus bill to address immediate COVID-19 recovery needs last fall, the commission will provide recommendations to the Legislature to help address barriers to the delivery of equitable and affordable behavioral health care and services. Legislators will use these recommendations to determine how to best prioritize expenditures from the Behavioral Health Trust Fund, which was created along with the advisory commission through Chapter 77of the Acts of 2022.

“Matt has extensive experience in the human services sector, and his first-hand knowledge will serve him well as a member of the advisory commission,” said Representative Jones. “I am confident he will do everything he can to see to it that the Behavioral Health Trust Fund is used effectively and efficiently to deliver quality behavioral health care to the residents of Massachusetts.”

“I am honored and grateful to Leader Jones for appointing me to the Behavioral Health Advisory Commission,” said Representative Muratore. “We have made some strides this session to improve behavioral health access, services, and affordability and I’m hopeful this Commission’s recommendations will lead to further improvements.”

As part of its directive, the advisory commission will work to identify and assess existing challenges facing the behavioral health workforce, and to consider the feasibility of providing grant, scholarship, and other pipeline development programs to mitigate the financial burden faced by individuals entering the field. In addition to exploring ways to promote the recruitment and retention of behavioral health workers, the advisory commission will also look at economic barriers to treatment as well as access to early intervention services and community-based services, to ensure “the delivery of an equitable, culturally-competent, affordable and clinically-appropriate continuum of behavioral health care and services.”

Representative Muratore is one of 22 members serving on the advisory commission, which is being chaired by Representative Adrian Madaro (D-Boston) and Senator Julian Cyr (D-Truro), who also currently serve as co-chairs of the Joint Committee on Mental Health, Substance Use and Recovery. Additional members include Representative Bud Williams (D-Springfield) and Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz (D-Boston), who currently serve as the co-chairs of the Joint Committee on Racial Equity, Civil Rights and Inclusion, and Secretary of Health and Human Services Marylou Sudders.

Also serving on the advisory commission are representatives from the Massachusetts Association for Mental Health, Inc.; the Association for Behavioral Healthcare, Inc.; the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Massachusetts, Inc.; the Massachusetts Association of Behavioral Health Systems, Inc.; the Massachusetts Organization for Addiction Recovery, Inc.; the Massachusetts chapter of the National Association of Social Workers, Inc.; and the Massachusetts Health and Hospital Association, Inc. Governor Charlie Baker has two appointees to the advisory commission, one of whom must have expertise in developing behavioral health workforce training education and one of whom must have expertise in addressing disparities in access to mental and behavioral health care for populations disproportionately experiencing barriers to care.

Representative Muratore is currently in his fourth term representing the First Plymouth District. A member of the House Ways and Means Committee, he also serves as the Assistant Ranking Minority Member of the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing; the Ranking Minority Member of the Joint Committee on Municipalities and Regional Government; and the Ranking Minority Member of the Joint Committee on Tourism, Arts and Cultural Development.

Sunday, September 11, 2022

Remembering 9-11, 21 Years Later

“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, speaking at the dedication of the 9/11 Pentagon Memorial on September 11, 2008. 

On September 11, 2001, America came under attack when terrorists used two commercial airplanes as weapons to crash into the twin towers of New York’s World Trade Center. A third plane was used to attack the Pentagon, while a fourth plane, apparently intended for an attack on our nation’s capital, was brought down in a Shanksville, Pennsylvania field after passengers fought back against the hijackers. When it was over, nearly 3,000 Americans were dead, including hundreds of first responders who perished at the World Trade Center while trying to save others.

We will never forget the many acts of bravery and heroism that took place on September 11. On this somber anniversary, the members of the House Republican Caucus join with Americans everywhere to honor the memories of the many innocent victims whose lives were tragically cut short on that terrible day 21 years ago.

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Rep. Smola Named To East-West Rail Commission

House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading) has appointed State Representative Todd Smola (R-Warren, Ranking Member, Committee on Ways & Means) to a special commission that will work to advance the long-awaited East-West Rail project establishing passenger rail service between Pittsfield and Boston with stops in Springfield, Palmer, and Worcester.

“Being appointed to the East-West Rail Commission is an opportunity to help develop safe and efficient travel between western Massachusetts and Boston,” stated Representative Smola. “I am grateful to have been selected and eager to contribute to the planning of an advantageous project for the Commonwealth.”

Created as part of the MassTRAC bill, a comprehensive $11.3 billion transportation and climate bill signed into law on August 10, the 20-member commission will investigate and receive public testimony to determine if the East-West Rail project should be overseen and operated by an existing public entity such as the MBTA, or by creating a new public agency with the ability “to design, permit, construct, operate and maintain” the rail service. The commission will also work to identify funding sources for the projected operating and capital budget costs associated with the project.

“The establishment of an East-West Rail has been a longstanding priority for communities in Western Massachusetts for more than a decade and will help to create jobs and stimulate economic development throughout the region,” said Representative Jones. “Todd has been a strong supporter of expanding passenger rail service and his input will be invaluable as the commission works to move these plans forward.”

The East-West Rail Commission will conduct a minimum of six public hearings, including at least one hearing each in Hampden, Berkshire, Hampshire, Franklin and Worcester counties, as well as in a community along the proposed route in Middlesex county. The commission is required to hold its first meeting no later than September 24 and will be filing a report with its recommendations by March 31, 2023.

The MassTRAC bill also provides $275 million in funding for the East-West Rail. This funding can be used for a variety of purposes, including planning, design, permitting and engineering, land and right-of-way acquisitions, vehicle procurement, and construction of stations.

A former member of the Palmer Planning Board and the Palmer Board of Selectmen, Representative Smola currently serves as the Ranking Minority Member on the House and Joint Committees on Ways and Means, and as a member of the Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development. He represents the First Hampden District communities of Brimfield; Holland; Palmer; Wales; Ware (Precincts B and C); Sturbridge; and Warren.

Friday, July 29, 2022

Representative Berthiaume To Serve On Veterans SPEED Act Conference Committee

House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading) has appointed State Representative Donald R. Berthiaume, Jr. (R-Spencer) to serve on a six-member conference committee that is working to finalize legislation providing licensure portability and educational benefits to military families.

House Bill 5000, An Act relative to military spouse-licensure portability, education and enrollment of dependents, also known as the SPEED Act, was engrossed by the House of Representatives on July 7, but differs significantly from the Senate bill that was approved last November (Senate Bill 2559). Representative Berthiaume will be working with his fellow conferees to try to resolve the differences between the two proposals and produce a final bill that can be sent to Governor Charlie Baker before formal sessions end on July 31.

Both versions of the SPEED Act establish a process for K-12 schools to be designated as a “Purple Star Campus” if they meet certain criteria for supporting military families, and also include language to help expedite the issuance of professional licenses and certifications for individuals who are licensed in another state or whose spouse is a member of the armed forces. The bills also classify military personnel stationed in Massachusetts, as well as their spouse and children, as in-state residents for tuition purposes when they enroll at one of the state’s public colleges or universities.

The House bill, however, contains several additional provisions that are not in the Senate bill, including the establishment of a Massachusetts Medal of Fidelity, which will be provided to the next of kin of any Massachusetts service member or veteran who died as a result of combat related post-traumatic stress disorder or a service-connected disease, condition or injury related to exposure to harmful toxin, herbicides, agents or materials. The House bill also creates a commission that will work to develop a suitable memorial to recognize the Official Heroine of the Commonwealth, Deborah Sampson, who fought during the American Revolutionary War after disguising herself as a man and enlisting in the Continental Army.

“Once again Massachusetts is setting the bar when it comes to recognizing the military service of those veterans and active duty personnel that call the Commonwealth home,” Representative Berthiaume said. “It is an honor to be appointed to this conference committee and I thank the House Minority Leader for trusting me to ensure that the House priorities are well represented in the final legislation.”

“Massachusetts is often seen as a national leader when it comes to taking care of our veterans, and the SPEED Act will further cement the Commonwealth’s reputation by expanding benefits for military families,” said Representative Jones. “As a Navy veteran, Donnie has been an outspoken advocate for those who have served, and I am confident he will work with his fellow conferees to produce the strongest possible bill to support our military families.”

Other legislators serving on the conference committee include Representatives Paul McMurtry (D-Dedham) and Sarah Peake (D-Provincetown), as well as Senators John Velis (D-Westfield), John Cronin (D-Lunenberg) and Ryan Fattman (R-Webster).

Representative Berthiaume is currently the Ranking Minority Member of the House Committee on Human Resources and Employee Engagement as well as the Joint Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities. He also serves as a member of the House Committee on Ways and Means and the Joint Committee on Mental Health, Substance Use and Recovery.

First elected to the House of Representatives in 2014, Representative Berthiaume is currently serving his fourth term in office. He represents the Fifth Worcester District, which consists of the towns of Barre; Brookfield; East Brookfield; Hardwick; Hubbardston; New Braintree; North Brookfield; Oakham; Spencer (Precincts 2, 3 and 4); West Brookfield; and Ware (Precinct A).

Thursday, July 28, 2022

Representative Soter Appointed To Economic Development Bill Conference Committee

House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading) has announced his appointment of State Representative Michael Soter (R-Bellingham) to serve on a six-member conference committee that will review legislation designed to promote economic development, tax relief and COVID-19 recovery efforts throughout Massachusetts.

House Bill 5034, An Act relating to economic growth and relief for the Commonwealth, was engrossed by the House of Representatives on July 14, while the Senate version of the bill, SenateBill 3030, was passed on July 21. Both bills call for significant investments in state programs and local projects, using a combination of federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) money, surplus state budget dollars, and bond proceeds.

“As a legislator who has also run a successful business, Mike has made economic development and jobs creation one of his top priorities,” said Representative Jones. “His background and expertise in these areas will be an asset to the conference committee as it works to negotiate a final compromise proposal that can be sent to Governor Baker before the end of formal legislative sessions.”

A centerpiece of both bills is a nearly $1 billion tax relief package that includes one-time rebates of $250 for individual taxpayers earning between $38,000 and $100,000 a year and $500 for married couples earning between $38,000 and $150,000 a year. Both bills also call for raising the rental deduction cap from $3,000 to $4,000; expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit from 30% to 40% of the federal credit; and increasing the child/dependent tax credit from $180 to $310 per child, while also eliminating the current cap on the number of children who are eligible for this tax credit.

The House and Senate have taken different approaches on other tax relief proposals, however. For example, House Bill 5034 would increase the maximum senior circuit breaker tax credit to $1,755, while Senate Bill 3030 would set the cap at $2,340. Also, while both branches have approved an increase in the estate tax threshold from $1 million to $2 million, the House has proposed taxing only the amount that falls above the $2 million threshold and imposing higher rates on those estates worth more than $5 million, while the Senate bill would provide a uniform tax credit of $99,600 to all estates above $2 million. The Senate bill also makes these tax changes effective for the 2022 tax year, while the House bill pushes them off to the 2023 tax year.

Joining Representative Soter on the conference committee are House Ways and Means Chairman Aaron Michlewitz (D-Boston), Representative Mark Cusack (D-Braintree), Senate Ways and Means Chairman Michael Rodrigues (D-Westport), and Senators Eric Lesser (D-Longmeadow) and Patrick O’Connor (R-Weymouth).

Representative Soter currently serves as the Ranking Minority Member on both the House Committee on Global Warming & Climate Change and the Joint Committee on Revenue. He is also a member of the Joint Committee on Economic Development & Emerging Technologies and the Joint Committee on Cannabis Policy.

A former member of the Bellingham Board of Selectmen, Representative Soter was first elected to the House of Representatives in November of 2018. He represents the Eighth Worcester District, which is comprised of the towns of Blackstone, Millville, Uxbridge and Bellingham.

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Representative Orrall Appointed To MassTRAC Conference Committee

House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading) has appointed State Representative Norman Orrall (R-Lakeville) to serve on a six-member conference committee charged with reconciling the differences between the House and Senate versions of a comprehensive transportation and climate bond bill.

House Bill 4916, An Act relative to Massachusetts’ transportation resources and climate (MassTRAC), was engrossed by the House of Representatives on June 23, while the Senate’s version of the bill – Senate Bill 3016 – was passed on July 14. Both bills commit nearly $11 billion to transportation and environmental infrastructure projects across the state, including $400 million to help the MBTA address safety concerns raised by the Federal Transit Administration.

There are several spending and policy differences between the two bills, however, with the House allocating $250 million for the proposed East-West Rail project and the Senate calling for $275 million. The Senate bill also mandates a low-income fare program at the MBTA while the House bill establishes a special commission on mobility pricing that will study the feasibility of means tested fares.

“Both the House and the Senate have put forward plans for addressing the Commonwealth’s critical transportation and climate needs that will leverage federal funding opportunities provided for in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law,” said Representative Jones. “Norm is well-versed on transportation and environmental issues as a result of his legislative committee assignments and his civil engineering background, so he will be able to share valuable insights with his fellow conferees as they work to negotiate a final compromise bill to send to Governor Baker.”

Joining Representative Orrall on the conference committee are Representatives William Straus (D-Mattapoisett) and Danielle Gregoire (D-Marlborough), along with Senators Brendan Crighton (D-Lynn), Nick Collins (D-Boston), and Patrick O’Connor (R-Weymouth).

First elected to the House of Representatives in November of 2018, Representative Orrall currently serves as the Ranking Minority Member of the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture, and is also a member of the Joint Committees on Bonding, Capital Expenditures and State Assets; Municipalities and Regional Government; and Transportation.

Born and raised in Lakeville, Representative Orrall formerly served as the Town Moderator and on the Lakeville Finance Committee and has been a professional civil engineer for nearly 30 years responsible for major infrastructure projects in Ohio, Rhode Island and Massachusetts. He represents the Twelfth Bristol District, which is comprised of the towns of Berkley; Ward 3, Precinct B and Ward 4 in Taunton; Lakeville; and Precincts 2, 4 and 5 in Middleborough.

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Representative Ferguson Serving On Reproductive Rights Bill Conference Committee

House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading) has appointed State Representative Kimberly N. Ferguson (R-Holden) to serve on a six-member reproductive rights conference committee that is currently reviewing House and Senate legislation recently passed in response to the Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.

The committee will attempt to resolve the differences between House Bill 4954, An Act expanding protections for reproductive rights, which was engrossed by the House of Representatives on June 29, and Senate Bill 3003, An Act expanding protections for reproductive and gender-affirming care, which the Senate engrossed on July 13. Both bills offer protections to medical providers and to patients but differ on the question of late-term abortions performed after 24 weeks, with the House version allowing such procedures in the event of a “severe fetal anomaly” and the Senate bill allowing the procedure only in cases involving a “fatal fetal anomaly”.

“Kim has been a longtime advocate on many women’s rights issues, including allowing women to make important healthcare decisions in consultation with their doctors,” said Representative Jones. “Her thoughtful approach to negotiations will serve the conference committee well as she works with her colleagues to try to find common ground in formulating a compromise reproductive rights bill.”

Joining Representative Ferguson on the conference committee are House Ways and Means Chairman Aaron Michlewitz (D-Boston), Representative Michael Day (D-Stoneham), Senators Cindy Friedman (D-Arlington) and Cynthia Creem (D-Newton) and Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester). The committee held its first meeting on July 18 and is attempting to negotiate a compromise bill that can be sent to Governor Charlie Baker before formal legislative sessions end on July 31.

Representative Ferguson currently serves as the First Assistant Minority Leader of the House of Representatives and is a member of the Joint Committee on Higher Education and the Special Joint Committee on Redistricting. First elected to the Legislature in 2010, she represents the First Worcester District, which consists of the communities of Holden; Paxton; Princeton; Rutland; Precinct 1 in Sterling; and Precinct 2 in Westminster.

Monday, July 18, 2022

Rep. Gifford Named To Conference Committee Reviewing Open Space Preservation Legislation

House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading) has appointed State Representative Susan Williams Gifford (R-Wareham) to a six-member conference committee that will review competing House and Senate proposals for preserving open space in Massachusetts and attempt to reconcile the differences between the two bills.

The House passed its version of the open space preservation bill (House Bill 851) on July 28, 2021, while the Senate engrossed its version (Senate Bill 2831) on April 14, 2022. Also known as the Public Land Preservation Act, the bills seek to codify in statute the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affair’s “no net loss” policy governing the preservation of open space in Massachusetts protected under Article 97 of the state Constitution.

“As a member of the Wareham Land Trust, Susan is well aware of the importance of preserving public lands for the enjoyment of current and future generations,” said Representative Jones. “I am confident she will work closely with her fellow conferees to focus on developing stronger open space protections for the residents of the Commonwealth.”

The conference committee will attempt to negotiate a final compromise bill that can be sent to Governor Charlie Baker before the end of formal sessions on July 31. Joining Representative Gifford on the conference committee are Representatives Ruth Balser (D-Newton) and James O’Day (D-West Boylston), as well as Senators Sal DiDomenico (D-Everett), Jamie Eldridge (D-Acton) and Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester).

Representative Gifford currently serves as the Third Assistant Minority Leader in the House of Representatives and is also the Ranking Minority Member of both the House Committee on Ethics and the House Committee on Steering, Policy and Scheduling.

First elected to the House of Representatives in 2002, Representative Gifford represents the Second Plymouth District, which is comprised of the towns Carver and Wareham and precincts 3 and 6 in Middleborough.

Tuesday, July 12, 2022

Representative Hannah Kane Appointed To Women’s Rights History Trail Task Force

House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading) has appointed State Representative Hannah Kane (R-Shrewsbury) to serve as a member of the newly-created Women’s Rights History Trail Task Force.

Established under Chapter 76 of the Acts of 2022, which was signed into law on May 26, the task force will be responsible for developing recommendations for specific sites, properties and attractions to be included in the Commonwealth’s Women’s Rights History Trail Program, which was also created under the same Act.

Sponsored by Representatives Kane, Carolyn Dykema (D-Holliston) and Danielle Gregoire (D-Marlborough), the Women’s Rights History Trail bill was initially filed during the 2019-2020 legislative session and was engrossed by the House as both a stand-alone bill and as part of a larger Economic Development Bond Bill, but never acted on by the Senate. A similar bill was filed during the 2017-2018 legislative session by the late Representative Gail Cariddi (D-North Adams).

“Hannah has been a driving force behind the creation of a Women’s Rights History Trail that will highlight the important role women have played throughout our state’s and our nation’s history in the fight for equal rights,” said Representative Jones. “As such, she is ideally suited to help the task force finalize the details that will make the trail a reality.”

The enabling legislation requires the task force to consider sites that “are historically and thematically associated with the fight for women’s rights and women’s suffrage, including the contributions of women veterans; are geographically diverse; and commemorate individuals who reflect racial, ethnic, cultural and economic diversity.” The task force will also make recommendations to increase the representation of women and women artists in the works of art displayed at the State House.

The task force is scheduled to submit its findings by March 1, 2023.

Kane is one of eight legislators serving on the 16-member task force, including the chairs of the Joint Committee on Travel and Tourism and the chairs of the Massachusetts Caucus of Women Legislators. Other members of the task force include the Executive Director of the Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism; the Secretary of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT); the Executive Director of the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women and a representative selected by the organization; one member appointed by the Commissioner of Veterans’ Services to represent the interests of women veterans; one member appointed by the art commission for the State House; an expert in women’s history who works at a  Massachusetts college or university; and a representative of the Massachusetts Historical Society.

 First elected to the House of Representatives in 2015, Kane represents the Eleventh Worcester District, which is comprised of the town of Shrewsbury and precincts 4 and 5 in Westborough.

Friday, July 8, 2022

Representative Muratore To Serve On Cannabis Legislation Conference Committee

House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading) has appointed State Representative Mathew Muratore (R-Plymouth) to a six-member conference committee that will focus on reforming the current regulations governing the state’s cannabis industry.

Both the House and Senate have approved legislation that would grant the Cannabis Control Commission increased oversight of the host community agreements entered into by municipalities and marijuana dispensaries. The proposed changes come in response to concerns that some communities are exceeding their statutory authority when negotiating the terms of their host agreements.

The House and Senate have also called for establishing a process for communities to approve on-site consumption sites, often referred to as “pot cafes”. However, the two legislative branches have taken different approaches to promoting social equity within the industry, with the Senate agreeing to dedicate 10 percent of annual Marijuana Regulation Fund revenues to a new Cannabis Social Equity Trust Fund to help provide access to start-up capital and the House opting to set aside 20 percent of annual revenues for these purposes.

“Matt has an extensive background in municipal government and business management, which gives him a clear understanding of many of the issues associated with the state’s cannabis industry that this legislation is trying to resolve,” said Representative Jones. “His knowledge and experience in these areas will be an asset to the conference committee as it works to negotiate the differences between the House and the Senate bills.”

The cannabis conference committee will attempt to reach agreement on a compromise bill to be sent to Governor Charlie Baker before the end of formal sessions on July 31. In addition to Muratore, the other conference committee members include Representatives Daniel Donahue (D-Worcester) and Joseph Wagner (D-Chicopee), as well as Senators Michael Rodrigues (D-Westport), Joanne Comerford (D-Northampton) and Ryan Fattman (R-Sutton).

Representative Muratore is currently in his fourth term representing the First Plymouth District. A member of the House Ways and Means Committee, he also currently serves as the Assistant Ranking Minority Member of the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing; the Ranking Minority Member of the Joint Committee on Municipalities and Regional Government; and the Ranking Minority Member of the Joint Committee on Tourism, Arts and Cultural Development.

Thursday, July 7, 2022

Representative Jones’ Statement On Proposed Economic Relief Rebates For Mass. Residents

House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading) released the following statement in response to today’s announcement by House Speaker Ronald Mariano and Senate President Karen Spilka that the House and Senate will be providing economic relief rebates for individuals and families:

“I only learned of the proposal today after seeing details in the media. I appreciate this first step towards providing modest one-time relief in recognition of the difficult financial times high inflation is causing far too many of our state’s citizens. I hope we can also find ways of providing permanent and meaningful tax relief to taxpayers in the days ahead as we race towards the end of our formal sessions. The tremendous surplus we are enjoying needs to be shared with the hardworking citizens of the Commonwealth.”

Representative Hannah Kane To Serve On Mental Health Bill Conference Committee

House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading) has appointed State Representative Hannah Kane (R-Shrewsbury) to a six-member conference committee focused on addressing mental health issues.

The House of Representatives recently engrossed House Bill 4891, An Act addressing barriers to care for mental health, which seeks to improve access to mental health services and establish insurance parity between behavioral and physical health care coverage. The Senate approved its own version of the bill, Senate Bill2584, last November.

Both the House and Senate bills would require insurers to provide coverage for annual mental health wellness exams and would take steps to prevent the practice known as “boarding” by creating an online portal to help health care providers identify open beds for minors and adults in need of mental health and substance use services. Currently, patients with acute mental health needs often have to wait an extended period of time in a hospital emergency room before they can secure a psychiatric inpatient bed. The Massachusetts Health and Hospital Association, which tracks boarding statistics, found that last month there were 660 behavioral health patients, including 156 pediatric patients, boarding at 53 hospitals.

There are a number of differences between the two bills, however. For example, the House bill would establish a student stakeholder advisory commission on mental health whose members will work with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to develop and implement school-based programs to promote student mental health and well-being, but the language is not included in the Senate bill. The Senate bill also contains provisions creating a new state Office of Behavioral Health Promotion, which is not included in the House version.

“As a member of the Joint Committee on Mental Health, Substance Use, and Recovery, Hannah is well-versed on the many policy issues contained in the legislation the conference committee is now reviewing,” said Representative Jones. “Her insight and input will be invaluable as the conferees work to resolve the differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill.”

The conference committee, which convened for its first meeting on June 30, will now attempt to negotiate a compromise bill that can be sent to Governor Charlie Baker before the end of formal sessions on July 31. Joining Kane on the conference committee are Representatives Adrian Madaro (D-East Boston) and Denise Garlick (D-Needham), as well as Senators Julian Cyr (D-Truro), Cindy Friedman (D-Arlington) and Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester).

Representative Kane is currently the Ranking Minority Member of both the Joint Committee on Public Health and the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing. In addition to serving on the Joint Committee on Mental Health, Substance Use and Recovery, she is also a member of the Joint Committee on Racial Equity, Civil Rights and Inclusion.

 First elected to the House of Representatives in 2015, Kane represents the Eleventh Worcester District, which is comprised of the town of Shrewsbury and precincts 4 and 5 in Westborough.

Monday, July 4, 2022

HAPPY 246TH BIRTHDAY, AMERICA!


 “I am well aware of the toil and blood and treasure it will cost us to maintain this declaration, and support and defend these states. Yet through all the gloom I see the rays of ravishing light and glory. I can see that the end is worth all the means.” – from a July 3, 1776 letter from John Adams to Abigail Adams

It was 246 years ago today – on July 4, 1776 – that the original 13 colonies declared their independence from British rule and established the United States of America, providing a lasting source of hope and inspiration for the rest of the world. The Massachusetts House Republican Caucus joins with Americans everywhere in celebrating our nation’s Independence Day. Wishing everyone a very safe and happy Fourth of July!

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Rep. Durant: No Question Mass. Can Afford To Give Residents A Break From The State Gas Tax

The following column by Representative Peter Durant (R-Spencer) appeared in the June 26 print edition of the Boston Globe in response to the question “Should Massachusetts suspend the state gas tax?”:

Recently, the average price for a gallon of unleaded gasoline topped $5 for the first time in Massachusetts. This means someone with a 20-gallon tank in Natick, Plymouth, or Salem would need to spend more than $100 to fill their vehicle. Filling up your car twice a week, as many do, is approaching $1,000 per month in fuel costs. This is a significant and painful bite for many residents of the Greater Boston area and across the Commonwealth this summer.

A suspension of the 24-cent gas tax would have three immediate benefits.

First and foremost, it would provide instant relief to consumers and businesses struggling with incredibly rapid inflation.

Second, it would buy time for cities and towns to adjust and plan. As an example, budget constraints caused by the high cost of gasoline could affect spending on our first responders, potentially making communities less safe. One Michigan police department is responding to some “non-life-threatening” calls with phone conversations instead of responding in person. Added pressure on municipal budgets could push communities to seek Proposition 2 ½ overrides, extending further pain to local taxpayers.

Third, actions speak louder than words. Suspending the state gas tax would show our constituents we are committed to helping them, not just providing lip service. And if a broader tax cut package appears before the end of the legislative session, all the better. More relief from the high cost of living in Massachusetts is always welcome.

Critics will argue that suspending the gas tax will not lower prices at the pump, that suppliers will pocket the profits instead. However, Maryland, Georgia, and Connecticut demonstrated that this theory is simply not true — all saw corresponding reductions in price after suspending their gas taxes.

Others will say the Commonwealth’s bond rating will be negatively affected. However, S&P Global Ratings said temporary gas tax suspensions are unlikely to cause changes to state bond ratings.

Finally, the question from leaders on Beacon Hill is: Can we afford it? After all, suspension of the gas tax through the end of the year will cost the state upwards of $200 million, but with a major budget surplus expected this fiscal year, there is no question we can afford to give the taxpayers of Massachusetts a break they deserve.

Monday, June 27, 2022

Representative David Muradian Named To Sports Betting Conference Committee

House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading) has appointed State Representative David K. Muradian, Jr. (R-Grafton) to serve on a six-member conference committee that will work to develop a consensus framework for legalized sports betting in Massachusetts.

More than 30 states have authorized sports betting since a 2018 US Supreme Court ruling cleared the way for states to regulate the process, including Connecticut, Maine, New York, New Hampshire and Rhode Island. Massachusetts has taken steps to join that list, with the House of Representatives approving sports wagering legislation on July 23, 2021 and the Senate passing its own version on April 28, 2022.

“Massachusetts continues to lose valuable revenues to our neighboring states that have already moved forward with implementing some form of state-sanctioned sports wagering,” said Representative Jones. “Although the House and Senate have taken significantly different approaches to this issue, I am confident that David will find a way to work with his fellow conferees to reach a compromise that will best position the Commonwealth for a successful rollout.”

Under the House proposal, sports wagering would be allowed for both professional and college sporting events, but the Senate version would preclude college betting. The Senate has also proposed a significantly higher tax rate than the House to be assessed on sports betting receipts and would ban sports betting ads during live sports broadcasts.

Joining Representative Muradian on the conference committee are Representative Jerald Parisella (D-Beverly) and Senator Eric Lesser (D-Longmeadow), who currently serve as the co-chairs of the Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies. Also serving on the conference committee are the chairmen of the House and Senate Ways and Means Committees, Representative Aaron Michlewitz (D-Boston) and Senator Michael Rodrigues (D-Westport), along with Senator Patrick O’Connor (R-Weymouth).

First elected to the House of Representatives in 2014, Representative Muradian represents the Ninth Worcester District communities of Grafton, Northbridge and Upton. He currently serves as the Ranking Minority Member of the Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies and the House Committee on Operations, Facilities and Security, and is a member of the House Committee on Global Warming and Climate Change and the Joint Committee on Housing.

Wednesday, June 8, 2022

Representative Jones’ Statement on House Override of Governor Baker’s Work and Family Mobility Act Veto

House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading) released the following statement today regarding the House of Representatives’ override of Governor Charlie Baker’s veto of the Work and Family Mobility Act:

“Governor Baker and the members of the House Republican Caucus have raised legitimate concerns about the Work and Family Mobility Act, which will give individuals access to a state driver’s license without having to provide proof of lawful presence. The Registry of Motor Vehicles is not adequately equipped to determine the validity of the alternative documentation allowed under this legislation to verify the true identity of individuals applying for a license, which is problematic given that a driver’s license can open the door to many things. The bill lacks basic safeguards and provides no real guarantees that it will actually enhance public safety as its proponents have claimed. Furthermore, it is grossly unfair for the state to be issuing driver’s licenses to undocumented individuals that are identical and indistinguishable from the licenses provided to those who have followed the law to secure lawful presence or citizenship. This is bad public policy, and I am disappointed that the House chose to ignore these concerns and override the Governor’s veto.”

Tuesday, June 7, 2022

Representative Smola Appointed to FY23 Budget Conference Committee

Representative Todd M. Smola (R-Warren, Ranking Member, Committee on Ways & Means) has been selected as one of three House legislators appointed to the conference committee that will negotiate differences between the House and Senate versions of the state budget. Both the House and Senate recently passed budgets totaling roughly $49.8 billion for fiscal year 2023. The conference committee will reconcile differences between the two proposals. Rep. Smola will be joined on the committee by Reps. Aaron Michlewitz (D-Boston) and Ann-Margaret Ferrante (D-Gloucester) from the House of Representatives. On the Senate side, Sens. Michael Rodrigues (D-Westport), Cindy Friedman (D-Arlington) and Patrick O’Connor (R-Weymouth) have been appointed to the committee.

"I am honored to have been selected to the budget conference committee once again,” said Representative Smola. "The budget is the number one priority for the legislature and every aspect of it is closely examined and deliberated. I look forward to working with my fellow conference committee members to produce a responsible budget for the commonwealth."

“As the Ranking Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee, Todd has long been committed to prioritizing the needs of our cities and towns while also advocating for fiscally responsible state spending on behalf of the Commonwealth’s taxpayers,” said House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading). “His many years of experience in helping to craft the annual state budget will be an asset to the conference committee as it works to reconcile the differences between the House and Senate spending plans and develop a consensus budget for Fiscal Year 2023.” 

Fiscal year 2023 begins on July 1st, which gives the conference committee less than a month to negotiate a compromise between the two versions of the budget. A final document will go to the House and Senate for a vote before moving to Governor Baker’s office for final approval. For additional information please contact Representative Smola at Todd.Smola@mahouse.gov or (617) 722-2100.

Monday, June 6, 2022

Remembering D-Day, 78 years later

Today marks the 78th anniversary of D-Day, the start of the Allied invasion of Western Europe, when more than 156,000 American, British and Canadian troops stormed the beaches of Normandy in France. The invasion was launched in the early morning hours of June 6, 1944, and marked a major turning point for America and its allies during World War II, but came at the cost of thousands of American lives.

Today’s anniversary, coming just one week after Memorial Day, serves as another reminder of the commitment and sacrifices made by America’s military personnel. The Massachusetts House Republican Caucus salutes our D-Day veterans, and the many men and women who continue to keep our country strong by serving in the United States Armed Forces.

Monday, May 30, 2022

HONORING OUR FALLEN HEROES

Last week, the Registry of Motor Vehicles unveiled a new Medal of Liberty license plate to honor the Commonwealth’s fallen heroes. This special plate is now available free of charge to recipients of the Massachusetts Medal of Liberty, which was established in 2009 and is presented to the next of kin of Massachusetts service members who were killed in action, died in service while in a designated combat area in the line of duty, died as a result of wounds received in action, or died as a result of a training accident in the line of duty.  

The Medal of Liberty is awarded in conformance with the standards and protocol of the Purple Heart. Recipients are selected by a three-member commission consisting of the state’s Adjutant General and two field grade officers. 

The idea for the Medal of Liberty Plate came from Reading resident Arthur Vars, a constituent of House Minority Leader Brad Jones. Mr. Vars received the Medal of Liberty in 2019 in honor of his uncle, US Army Sgt. Christopher Young Vars, a World War II and Korean War veteran who died as a Prisoner of War in North Korea in 1950. Working in collaboration with Mr. Vars, Representative Jones filed the language needed to create the new plate in two consecutive legislative sessions, and it was eventually adopted as an amendment to the FY22 state budget. 

Residents can learn more about the Massachusetts Medal of Liberty and see if their family may qualify by using this link. Applications for the new Medal of Liberty Plate are available on the RMV website.

The House Republican Caucus joins with Americans everywhere to honor our nation’s fallen soldiers on Memorial Day. As we pause to remember all who have served and have made the ultimate sacrifice, let us never forget the true cost of freedom.

Pictured above with an oversized replica of the new Medal of Liberty license plate are (left to right): House Minority Leader Brad Jones; 2019 Medal of Liberty recipient Arthur Vars and his wife Karen; Registrar of Motor Vehicles Colleen Ogilvie; and Colonel Jason D. Oberton, representing Major General Gary Keefe, the Massachusetts Adjutant General.

Thursday, April 7, 2022

Representative David DeCoste To Serve On Soldiers’ Homes Conference Committee

House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading) has appointed State Representative David F. DeCoste (R-Norwell) to a six-member conference committee charged with reconciling the differences between the House and Senate’s proposals to reform the oversight and governance structure of the Holyoke and Chelsea Soldiers’ Homes.

Legislators have given initial approval to sweeping administrative changes at the two state-run soldiers’ homes, following the deaths of 77 residents of the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home near the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. DeCoste previously served on the special joint oversight committee that was established in the wake of these deaths, which cited “systemic governance failures” and “long-standing staffing deficiencies” at the facility as contributing factors. Another 38 COVID-related deaths were reported at the Chelsea Soldiers’ Home.

“As a legislator, David has been an outspoken advocate
for his fellow veterans and their families,” said Representative Jones. “He understands the importance of implementing meaningful reforms to ensure that our veterans receive the best possible care and services and to prevent a repeat of the terrible tragedy that claimed the lives of so many veterans during the pandemic.”

DeCoste is a 22-year veteran of the United States Army, where he achieved the rank of Major. He previously served as a member of the Massachusetts Post-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.

Joining DeCoste on the conference committee are the chairs of the Joint Committee on Veterans and Federal Affairs, Representative Paul McMurtry (D-Dedham) and Senator John Velis (D-Westfield), along with Representative Joseph Wagner (D-Chicopee), Senator Mike Rush (D-Boston) and Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester).

In 2018, DeCoste was a member of the conference committee that finalized the BRAVE Act (An Act relative to veterans’ benefits, rights, appreciation, validation and enforcement), which expanded property tax exemptions and other state benefits for Massachusetts veterans. He later served on a special commission that developed recommendations to make higher education more affordable for those who have served in the military.

A member of the House of Representatives since 2015, DeCoste represents the Fifth Plymouth District, which is comprised of Hanover, Norwell and Rockland. He currently serves as the Ranking Minority Member of the Joint Committee on Housing, and as a member of the House Committee on Operations, Facilities and Security; the Joint Committee on Public Service; and the Joint Committee on Transportation.

Monday, February 14, 2022

Representative Steven Howitt Named To Hate Crimes Task Force

House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading) has appointed State Representative Steven Howitt (R-Seekonk) to serve on the state’s newly-reorganized Hate Crimes Task Force.

Members of the task force serve in an advisory capacity to help guide state policy on hate crimes and to provide support to victims. As part of its mission, the task force will work to improve the prevention, investigation and prosecution of hate crimes by encouraging cooperation and coordination between law enforcement agencies and communities affected by hate crimes. It will also provide technical assistance to help school districts incorporate hate crime education into their curricula.

“As a Commonwealth, we must all stand united against hate-filled messages and acts of violence that single out a particular group based on their race, religion, or other protected class,” said Representative Jones. “Steve has been a leader on these issues through his words and actions, having co-sponsored legislation to reform the state’s hate crimes statute as well as the genocide education bill that was signed into law last December. He will be a valuable addition to the task force as it works to prevent and respond to hate crimes and to provide outreach and support to victims.”

Established in statute by the Massachusetts Legislature as part of the Fiscal Year 2022 state budget, the Hate Crimes Task Force traces its origins to 1991, when it was initiated by former Governor Bill Weld. What was then known as the Governor’s Task Force on Hate Crimes was formalized through Executive Order 401, issued by former Governor Paul Cellucci on December 5, 1997. Governor Charlie Baker reaffirmed and reconstituted the task force on November 6, 2017 through Executive Order 578.

As currently constituted, the Hate Crimes Task Force is co-chaired by Secretary of Public Safety and Security Terrence Reidy and includes appointees from the Attorney General’s office and the House and Senate Minority Leaders, as well as the House and Senate chairs of the Joint Committee on the Judiciary and the Joint Committee on Racial Equity, Civil Rights and Inclusion. Governor Baker has 19 appointees to the task force who represent a broad cross-section of stakeholders, including victim assistance agencies; advocates for communities affected by hate crimes; district attorneys’ offices; and state, local and university police departments.

The Hate Crimes Task Force is required to submit an annual report to the Governor and the Legislature by December 31. In addition to outlining targeted objectives and metrics for measuring the effect of the task force’s recommendations on hate crimes, the annual report will also include any recommended legislation, regulations, policies or procedures to better combat hate crimes.

Howitt currently serves as the Ranking Minority Member on both the Joint Committee on Export Development and the Joint Committee on Transportation. He is also a member of the Joint Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure.

A member of the House of Representatives since 2011, Howitt represents the Fourth Bristol District communities of Norton (Precincts 1 and 2); Rehoboth; Seekonk; and Swansea (Precincts 4 and 5 

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

House Minority Leader’s Statement on Governor Baker’s Fiscal Year 2023 Budget Proposal

House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading) issued the following statement in response to Governor Charlie Baker’s release of his Fiscal Year 2023 budget proposal: 

“As he has done every year since taking office in 2015, Governor Baker has delivered a fiscally sound and responsible budget proposal to the Legislature. The governor’s budget commits to providing over $5.9 billion in Chapter 70 education aid to local and regional schools districts, along with $1.2 billion in unrestricted aid to communities to support essential municipal services. I am also pleased to see the administration’s filing of accompanying legislation to deliver tax relief to the residents of the Commonwealth, which along with the budget includes a doubling of the tax break available for children and dependents, an increase in the Circuit Breaker tax credit to assist our seniors, and an updating of the estate law to eliminate the ‘cliff effect’ for homeowners. Governor Baker’s budget offers a strong starting point on which the House and Senate can now build their own spending proposals for the upcoming fiscal year.”  

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

House Minority Leader’s Statement on Governor Baker’s 2022 State of the Commonwealth Address

House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading) issued the following statement in response to Governor Charlie Baker’s 2022 State of the Commonwealth address: 

“Governor Baker may not be running for re-election in 2022, but it’s clear that he has no intention of resting on his laurels during his final year in office. The governor used tonight’s State of the Commonwealth address to outline an ambitious agenda that focuses on making Massachusetts more affordable by tackling critical issues such as reducing housing costs and offering a series of tax policy changes that will benefit all residents of the Commonwealth. The Baker-Polito Administration can point to many positive accomplishments over the last seven years, but there is still much more work to be done. Governor Baker has made it clear that he intends to follow through on his vision for moving the Commonwealth forward, and I hope his message and the policy proposals he unveiled tonight will find a receptive audience in the House and Senate.” 

Monday, January 17, 2022

Honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

“Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction.”– the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 

The House Republican Caucus honors the life and legacy of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., whose message of non-violence provided a path for achieving meaningful progress on the issues of justice and equality.