Monday, May 31, 2010


As Massachusetts and the nation observe Memorial Day, we pause to honor the many brave men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. Throughout our nation's proud history, many have answered the call to serve, and many more continue to place themselves in harm's way in Iraq and Afghanistan. Today, we honor all of our veterans for their service to our country, and for the sacrifices they have made to preserve the many freedoms we all too often take for granted.

Friday, May 28, 2010

ON THE AIR: Sen. Knapik on Howie Carr Today

Senator Michael R. Knapik is scheduled to call in to the Howie Carr Show this afternoon to talk about the just-concluded Senate budget debate, including the passage of his proposal to eliminate Evacuation Day and Bunker Hill Day as paid holidays for state workers in Suffolk County. Senator Knapik can be heard beginning around 5:40 p.m. on WRKO.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

ON THE AIR: Senator Tarr on NECN Tonight

Assistant Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (left) will be appearing live in-studio as a guest on "Broadside' with Jim Braude tonight at 6 on New England Cable News (NECN). Political consultant Michael Goldman is scheduled to join the discussion, which will focus on the recent Boston Globe Spotlight series exposing patronage at the state's Probation Department.

GOP Amendments Show Hack's True Colors

The head of the state’s pension fund is stepping down from his $322,000 a year post next month, citing “personal” reasons as well as concerns about a pair of government reforms being promoted by the Senate Republican Caucus.

News reports of Michael Travaglini’s announcement referenced two GOP proposals that would limit how much money he and other state employees would be able to make. One initiative would cap the pay of employees at the state’s quasi-public agencies at $143,000 – the same amount Governor Patrick makes – unless the higher pay differential can be justified in writing to the Secretary of Administration and Finance. The other would ban bonus payments to the state’s pension fund managers during any year the pension fund loses money.

Travaglini – who earned a $68,000 bonus in 2008 and has the potential to make up to 40 percent of his salary in bonus pay – told reporters “I have a wife and three children, and I’m going to provide for them.”

The Caucus’ salary cap proposal has already been approved as part of the Senate’s economic development reorganization bill, while the restrictions on bonus payments were included in the Senate version of the municipal relief bill. Because the House has not yet adopted these two proposals, the Caucus plans to bring them both up again during this week’s Senate budget debate.

Fallout From Probation Probe Continues

Senate Minority Leader Richard Tisei was interviewed by WBZ-TV yesterday about the ongoing probe into the state's Probation Department and the Senate Republican Caucus' proposal to return oversight on all personnel decisions within the department to the chief justice of the Trial Court.

The Caucus proposal, which is scheduled for debate this week as an amendment to the FY2011 state budget, was also cited in a Boston Globe editorial that ran today calling for Probation Commissioner John J. O'Brien to step down. O'Brien was suspended with pay yesterday, pending an independent investigation into charges of political patronage and "sloppy financial oversight" cited in a Globe Spotlight Team series.

Members of the Senate Republican Caucus will discuss their probation reform proposal and other cost-saving measures at a press availability in front of the Senate Chambers today at 11:30 a.m.

Monday, May 24, 2010

GOP Caucus Pushes Probation Reforms

The Senate Republican Caucus is calling for the adoption of a pair of budget amendments members filed last Friday to end the "pay to play" system of patronage within the state's probation system. The Caucus amendments would restore much-needed oversight, transparency and credibility to the Probation Department, which was the subject of a Boston Globe Spotlight report that ran in the newspaper yesterday and today.

The Globe series details the ongoing problems that have taken place since the Legislature took away the Trial Court's control over personnel decisions within the Probation Department and transferred this authority to the Commissioner of Probation back in 2001. In addition to exposing a system where hiring and promotion decisions appear to be driven more by political connections and campaign contributions than to actual job qualifications, the Globe also highlighted the department's "sloppy financial oversight" which it warns makes the department "vulnerable to theft".

Earlier today, Probation Commissioner John J. O'Brien was suspended, with Chief Justice Margaret H. Marshall and Judge Robert A. Mulligan promising "a full, prompt and independent inquiry" into the allegations.

The Senate is scheduled to begin debate on the budget Wednesday morning.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Senator Tisei's Statement on Release of Senate Ways and Means Committee's FY2011 Budget

Senate Minority Leader Richard R. Tisei issued the following statement today following the release of the Senate Ways and Means Committee’s proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2011:

“I’m pleased to see the Senate budget avoids making the same mistake the Governor and the House did by leaving the Rainy Day Fund intact. However, it’s troubling that we continue to rely heavily on other one-time revenues, including federal stimulus funding, to pay for what’s in the budget, without undertaking the fundamental reforms needed to rein in spending and attain long-term fiscal stability for the Commonwealth.

The Patrick Administration claims we’re on the road to an economic recovery, but state revenues remain uncertain at best and are well below the levels that were needed to sustain crucial programs just a few years ago. The real problem, however, is not revenues but spending. Even after hitting Massachusetts’ residents with over $2 billion in new taxes and fees last year, Governor Patrick and the Legislature seem unwilling to change their free-spending ways and tighten their belts, just like every family and business in Massachusetts has already done.

The Senate Republican Caucus will be offering a wide-ranging package of cost-saving reforms during the upcoming budget debate to root out waste and inefficiencies in state government. Our entire focus next week will be on finding ways to achieve a fiscally responsible and balanced budget that requires the state to live within its means. The Governor and the Legislature cannot continue to ignore this problem and keep pushing the tough decisions off to another day. The time to act is now.”

Monday, May 17, 2010

Senator Tisei's Statement on Patrick Administration's Release of Hospital Report

Senate Minority Leader Richard R. Tisei issued the following statement today following the release of a long-delayed report on hospital industry finances, costs and reserves by the Patrick Administration:

“It’s disappointing to learn that the Patrick Administration waited until after the Senate’s amendment filing deadline had already passed to release this report. With the Senate prepared to debate a comprehensive cost containment proposal tomorrow to help ease the health care burden on small businesses in Massachusetts, it would have been nice for members to have the information from this report in hand a lot earlier than today.

Two years have passed since the Legislature first asked for this information, and it’s been almost a year since the original filing deadline passed. I still don’t understand why it has taken the Administration so long to get this information and make it public.

Governor Patrick often talks about the need for transparency in state government, but he has been less than forthcoming in releasing the critical information the Legislature needs to make informed decisions. It’s not that surprising, however, considering that everything the Governor’s done so far on health care cost containment has been done more for political posturing than actually trying to solve the problem.”

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Congratulations, Senator-Elect Ross

Scaling The Hill 2010 congratulates Representative Richard Ross on his well-deserved victory in yesterday's special election to fill the Norfolk, Bristol and Middlesex seat left vacant by Scott Brown's January 19 election to the U.S. Senate.

Senator-elect Ross -- who will be sworn in on May 20 -- said he was "energized and humbled" by the support of the district's voters.

"My record in the Legislature of never voting for a tax increase truly resonated with families and businesses of the district, and I look forward to continuing to fight for the taxpayers who themselves are working so hard every day," Ross said in a statement.

Be sure to check out the election coverage in today's Boston Herald, Boston Globe and the Attleboro Sun Chronicle.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Sen. Tisei's Statement on Municipal Relief Bill

Senate Minority Leader Richard R. Tisei issued the following statement regarding the Senate’s proposed Municipal Relief Bill, which was released today and is scheduled for debate on May 13:

“With local aid being cut and the economy continuing to stall, cities and towns across the Commonwealth are struggling to balance their budgets and preserve essential municipal services. Unfortunately, communities are going to be very disappointed because they won’t find much relief in the proposal the Senate released today.

The municipal relief bill somehow has morphed into a statewide pension reform proposal and now does very little to actually help cities and towns, which I thought was the whole purpose behind municipal relief. But what really stands out is what is not included in the bill. The fact that there are no provisions in this bill to address rising municipal health care costs says all you need to know about how much this proposal falls short of its stated goal. If we are serious about providing true budgetary relief to cities and towns, how can we ignore one of the biggest cost factors responsible for driving up municipal spending?

Mayors and local officials have been pleading with the Governor and the Legislature to give them the power to design their own health plans, essentially the same tool state government has been using to keep its health care costs manageable.

The time for talk is over and the time to take decisive action on municipal health care spending is now. The Senate Republican Caucus plans to address rising health care costs and other issues when the bill is debated on Thursday, with the goal of providing both immediate and long-term fiscal relief to our cities and towns.”

Herald Endorses Restaurant Rejuvenation Act

The Boston Herald is backing the Restaurant Rejuvenation Act, which would allow Massachusetts restaurants to serve alcoholic beverages with Sunday brunch beginning at 10 a.m., two hours earlier than current law allows.

Senate Minority Leader Richard Tisei recently filed the bill with bi-partisan support at the request of the Phantom Gourmet's Dave Andelman, who says it will deliver much-needed jobs and revenues for local businesses. Last month, the House adopted the language during its Fiscal Year 2011 budget debate.

In endorsing the proposal, the Boston Herald notes that "the hospitality business has suffered enormously during this fiscal crisis, and this is the kind of obstacle to business improvement that Beacon Hill should be happy to remove."

Be sure to check out the Herald's editorial, and visit the Andelman Brothers' website to learn more about the Restaurant Rejuvenation Act.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Boston Globe's Scot Lehigh Backs Repeal of 'Misguided' Anti-Privatization Pacheco Law

Scot Lehigh has an op-ed in today's Boston Globe supporting the repeal of the state's anti-privatization Pacheco Law, which Lehigh calls a "misguided statute" that "erects a high and thoroughly unrealistic hurdle to tapping the private sector" for potential cost savings in the delivery of state services.

Citing figures provided by the Reason Foundation, Lehigh notes that Florida saved $550 million over eight years and Virginia saved $40 million a year through the privatization of certain state services. He also quotes Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation President Michael Widmer, who projects "large and growing savings year after year" if the Pacheco Law is repealed or amended, adding that "states and municipalities across the country have shown that competitive bidding can save money and improve services."

The Senate Republican Caucus doesn't need to be convinced about the millions of dollars in savings Massachusetts could realize by doing away with the Pacheco Law. You may recall that the Caucus led the effort to repeal the law during last year's budget debate, only to fall short on a vote of 11-28. The Caucus claimed a partial victory, however, when the Senate agreed to raise the cost threshold for determining which projects are exempt from the Pacheco Law.

With the state facing a structural deficit in the Fiscal Year 2011 budget approaching $3 billion, now is the time to streamline state government and implement cost-saving reforms. Repealing the Pacheco Law should be at the top of that "to do" list.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Tisei Hits Legislative Committee Process

What promised to be a relatively brief and routine Senate session today turned a bit more interesting, as Senate Minority Leader Richard Tisei blocked action on a proposed extension order affecting a number of bills still pending in committee.

Although joint legislative committees were required to take action on all timely-filed bills by March 17, most of these committees have already been granted temporary extension orders. The latest request for an extension order – which passed the House earlier this week – would allow these committees to extend their reporting deadline to May 18, but Tisei moved to lay the extension order on the table.

As the State House News Service is reporting, Tisei is questioning whether the current committee process in broken and in need of a shake-up. Tisei said the joint committees have “failed in their duty” to render timely decisions on many important pieces of legislation. Nearly 17 months into the current session, and with less than three months of formal sessions remaining, he argued that these committees have already been given more than enough time to make a decision.

“I do think that we need a little more accountability,” said Tisei, who suggested the continued delays could be viewed as an attempt by legislators to “run out the clock” and avoid taking positions on many controversial matters which remain bottled up in committee.

Herald Highlights Quasi-Public Salaries

A story in today's Boston Herald highlights a Senate Republican Caucus proposal to cap salaries at the state's quasi-public agencies, which has stalled in the House since passing the Senate by a near-unanimous vote of 35-2 on April 8.

The proposal, filed by Senate Minority Leader Richard Tisei as part of an economic development agency reorganization bill, would prohibit any employee at the state's quasi-public agencies from earning a salary higher than the Governor, who currently takes home just over $140,000 a year. The proposal allows for limited exceptions to the salary cap, but only if the agency can justify the pay differential in writing and secure the approval of the Secretary of Administration and Finance.

The Herald has identified more than 450 employees at various quasi-public agencies making over $100,000 a year, including 76 who currently earn more than the Governor. Be sure to check out the Herald's front-page story and its accompanying sidebar on some of the highest-paid employees. While you're there, make sure you cast a vote in the Herald's on-line poll.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Suffolk Law School Republican Club Hosts Members of Senate Republican Caucus

Members of the Senate Republican Caucus were invited to speak at the Suffolk Law School Republican Club's Spring Event on April 29. The club is open to all Suffolk Law School students, and it's mission is to further conservative goals and ideals by bringing together law school students who understand and support conservative policies, agendas and candidates.

Pictured above are (left to right) Assistant Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr; Senate Minority Whip Robert Hedlund; club officers Kristin Billera and Pamela Risseeuw; and Sente Minority Leader Richard Tisei.

ON THE AIR: Senator Knapik Discusses Massachusetts' New Anti-Bullying Law

Governor Patrick is scheduled to sign the state's new anti-bullying bill into law today at 1 p.m. Senator Michael Knapik, who was the Senate Republican Caucus' representative on the Conference Committee that finalized the legislation, recently weighed in on this important initiative to crack down on school bullying and cyber-bullying. Be sure to check out Senator Knapik's remarks to New England Cable News and to the local CBS affiliate in Springfield.