Thursday, March 31, 2011

Senate Republicans Push for Medicaid Reform

Senate Republicans are offering a series of Medicaid reforms designed to crack down on waste and abuse in the state’s Health Safety Net program uncovered by the Inspector General.

Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester) and Senators Robert Hedlund (R-Weymouth), Michael Knapik (R-Westfield) and Richard Ross (R-Wrentham) are calling for better verification of applicants’ Medicaid eligibility, improved safeguards to prevent duplicate payments or payments for medically unnecessary procedures, and an audit of the state’s Medicaid program by the Inspector General. All three proposals are scheduled to be taken up this afternoon when the Senate debates a $325 million FY2011 supplemental budget.

Earlier this week, the Boston Herald reported that the state’s Uncompensated Care Pool – which is funded through contributions by taxpayers, health insurers and hospitals – paid out $414 million in 2009 for 1 million emergency health care claims. According to the Inspector General, $7 million was used to provide health care for non-Massachusetts residents, $17.8 million was spent on “medically unlikely” or “medically unnecessary” claims, and $6 million went towards payments on 13,000 duplicate claims.

“We find it extremely troubling to learn there are such lax procedures in place that have allowed so many people to take advantage of the system,” said Senator Tarr. “At a time when health care costs continue to grow at an unsustainable rate, we simply cannot allow such waste and abuse to continue.”

Although the Health Safety Net was intended to be limited to Massachusetts residents only, the Inspector General’s report found the state does not even require individuals to provide a Social Security number to help verify their assets and eligibility. As a result, the fund was used to provide health care for residents of 48 other states and even other countries.

The Senate amendments would:

- require applicants to provide a Social Security number on all medical benefits request forms, require verification of an applicant’s eligibility prior to payment, and prohibit payments for individuals who have other insurance coverage;

- require the Office of Medicaid to develop regulations to improve record-keeping and minimize the likelihood of paying for duplicate or invalid claims; and

- authorize the Inspector General to conduct a comprehensive audit of the state’s Medicaid program and report back to the Legislature with his findings by April 1, 2012.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

MBTA Oversight Hearings Scheduled

The Joint Committee on Transportation has agreed to the Senate Republican Caucus' request to hold two oversight hearings to investigate recent service interruptions and delays that have plagued the MBTA’s commuter rail system.

The committee has scheduled an initial hearing for Tuesday, April 12 at 2 p.m. in Room A-2 at the State House to question representatives from the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, the MBTA and the Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad, which operates the commuter rail system under a contract with the MBTA. A second hearing, to obtain testimony from the general public, has been scheduled for Tuesday, May 3 at 2 p.m. in Room A-2.

Citing a “growing frustration with the MBTA among the residents of the Commonwealth,” Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester) and Senators Robert Hedlund (R-Weymouth), Michael Knapik (R-Westfield) and Richard Ross (R-Wrentham) wrote to the chairs of the Transportation Committee on March 7 to formally request the oversight hearings. A copy of their letter is attached below.

"We want to thank the chairmen of the Transportation Committee for responding so quickly and favorably to the Caucus’ request for an oversight hearing,” said Senator Tarr. “We’re not looking to point the finger of blame at anyone; we’re simply trying to get some answers as to why these problems are occurring and how we can prevent them from being repeated in the future.”

The commuter rail system has experienced persistent delays in service this winter. In January, 27 percent of the MBTA’s commuter rail trains were delayed and more than 100 runs were cancelled. Nearly 1 in 4 commuter rail trains were still running behind schedule in February.

The worst of the problems occurred during the week of February 28-March 4. On February 28, a commuter rail train from Boston took more than four hours to reach Worcester, even though the trip normally takes less than 90 minutes. Three days later, on March 3, several hundred passengers on board two Fitchburg-bound trains were delayed for about two hours when an electronic circuit board failed.

"These ongoing delays and interruptions in service are unacceptable, and we owe it to commuters who rely on the MBTA to get to the bottom of these problems and to work to resolve them,” said Senator Tarr.

Be sure to check out recent coverage from the Lowell Sun, Newburyport Daily News and yesterday's Gloucester Times editorial.

MBTA Oversight Hearing Letters

Thursday, March 24, 2011

In Case You Missed It...

This morning Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr was a guest on Fox 25’s Morning News Segment “Tolman and Gray”. Senator Tarr and former State Senator Warren Tolman discussed President Obama’s decision to commit United States’ military forces to action involving Libya with news anchor Kim Carrigan. To view their lively discussion, please play the posted video below.

Tolman and Gray:

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Senator Tarr on Fox25 Thursday Morning

Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (left) will be appearing on the Fox25 Morning News segment “Tolman and Gray” Thursday morning analyzing the latest political topics with former State Senator Warren Tolman. Topics scheduled for discussion include the recent decision by the Westboro selectmen to put illegal immigration questions on this year’s town ballot, the latest Census numbers for Massachusetts, and the United States' military involvement in Libya. Be sure to tune in to Fox25 tomorrow morning at approximately 7:15 a.m.

In Case You Missed It...

WBZ Radio's Carl Stevens interviewed Senator Michael Knapik this morning about his proposal to honor our nation's veterans by prohibiting stores from opening on Memorial Day. Senator Knapik's bill was heard this afternoon by the Joint Committee on Veterans and Federal Affairs. Be sure to check out the audio clip and related story on the WBZ Radio website, along with today's committee hearing coverage provided by the State House News Service.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Senator Knapik to Discuss Memorial Day Bill on WBZ Radio Morning Show Wednesday

Senator Michael Knapik will be talking with news anchor Deb Lawler on WBZ Radio 1030 Wednesday morning regarding his proposal to honor the state's veterans by prohibiting stores from opening on Memorial Day. The interview is scheduled for 6:30 a.m.

Knapik is the lead sponsor of Senate Bill 1826, An Act Relative to Massachusetts Veterans, which would mandate that all stores and shops in the Commonwealth be closed on Memorial Day to allow for proper recognition of the sacrifices members of the Armed Forces have made for the United States. Since the repeal of the state's "blue laws" in 1994, stores and shops have been able to operate with no restrictions on this holiday.

"Memorial Day is a day when citizens should stop to give pause and remembrance to the sacrifices of our veterans and the men and women who have given their lives in service to our country," Knapik noted. "It's important that we restore a sense of solemnity to this day."

The Legislature's Joint Committee on Veterans and Federal Affairs is scheduled to hold a public hearing on Senate Bill 1826 on Wednesday morning at 11 in hearing room B-2.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Senator Tarr on Channel 5 Today at 5 and 6

Be sure to tune in to the 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. newscasts on Channel 5 today. Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr will be providing an update on the efforts to clean up the thousands of waste filtration disks that have been washing up on many North Shore beaches since being released from a Hooksett, NH municipal wastewater treatment plant two weeks ago. The Attorney General's office has responded favorably to a request by Tarr, Essex County Sheriff Frank Cousins and several other legislators to investigate the release of these disks and to seek reimbursement from the Town of Hooksett to cover local communities' cleanup costs.

Thursday, March 17, 2011


From everyone here at Scaling The Hill, we wish you a Happy Evacuation Day!

Check out what the Boston Globe and State House News Service have to say about the newly "revised" holiday.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Fox 25's Mike Beaudet Provides Update on Senator Hedlund's 'X' Registration Bill

Fox 25 Investigative Reporter Mike Beaudet recently filmed a new segment on Senator Robert Hedlund's re-filed "X" registrations bill, which would require a valid driver's license to register a car in Massachusetts. Public safety officials are concerned that this loophole in state law is allowing thousands of illegal immigrants to drive a car without being properly licensed or insured, and have expressed frustration that individuals caught driving without a license often have their cases thrown out of court.

Since Fox News first broke this story in 2006, Senator Hedlund has been leading the fight to close this loophole, with the full support of the Senate Republican Caucus. To see the latest Fox update, just click on the video link below.

Illegal immigrants registering cars:

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Fox 25 Morning News Interviews Senator Hedlund About His 'X' Registrations Bill

Fox 25 Morning News co-host Kim Carrigan interviewed Assistant Senate Minority Leader Robert Hedlund this morning about his "X" registrations proposal to require a drivers license to register a motor vehicle in Massachusetts and impose stronger penalties for those who drive without a license. Check out the full interview on the clip posted below.

Requiring ID to register a vehicle:

'Broadside', WWLP-TV Highlight the Importance of Passing 'Melissa's Law'

Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr and Les Gosule, the father of murder victim Melissa Gosule, were in-studio guests on New England Cable News' "Broadside" last night, where they fielded questions from host Jim Braude about their ongoing efforts to secure passage of "Melissa's Law."

Filed by Representative Brad Hill on behalf of the Gosule family, "Melissa's Law" has drawn widespread support. The bill would impose a sentence of life imprisonment for three-time serious felony offenders with no possibility of parole.

In addition to co-sponsoring Representative Hill's bill, Senator Tarr has also incorporated habitual offender language into a larger, more comprehensive parole reform bill he filed, which is also being co-sponsored by dozens of lawmakers. Both bills are scheduled to be heard at tomorrow's Judiciary Committee hearing.

In addition to their "Broadside" appearance, Senator Tarr and Mr. Gosule were also interviewed by WWLP-TV Channel 22 reporter Christine Lee. Senator Richard Ross, who serves as the ranking Senate Republican on the Judiciary Committee, also offered his thoughts on the importance of passing "Melissa's Law" to protect public safety.

You can watch both segments in their entirety by playing the video links below this post.

Melissa's bill tough on repeat offndrs:

Senator Tarr, Representative Wong Back 'Three Strikes' Bill Targeting Pedophiles

Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr and State Representative Donald Wong were guests on WRKO's Michelle McPhee radio show yesterday, where they called for the passage of a "Three Strikes" law targetting sex offenders who prey on young children. The bill, which is up for a hearing before the Judiciary Committee tomorrow, would impose a life sentence without any possibility of parole for anyone convicted of three sex offenses against a minor.

Senator Tarr and Representative Wong also called in to RushRadio 1200's "Jeff Katz" show this morning to raise public awareness of the issue and the upcoming hearing. Be sure to check out the Michelle McPhee interview and the Jeff Katz podcast.

Monday, March 14, 2011

AROUND THE DIAL: Caucus Members on Local TV and Radio Tonight and Tuesday A.M.

Members of the Senate Republican Caucus can be seen and heard on multiple media outlets over the next 24 hours discussing their efforts to reform the state's parole system and sentencing laws, as well as legislation cracking down on unlicensed drivers.

Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr is scheduled to appear as a guest on New England Cable News' "Broadside" program tonight to discuss parole reforms, as well as efforts to pass Melissa's Law, which would prevent habitual offenders from qualifying for parole after conviction for a third felony offense. Also joining Senator Tarr in-studio will be Melissa's father, Les Gosule, who has been fighting to change the law since his daughter's tragic murder nearly 12 years ago. The show airs live at 6 p.m., and will be repeated at 8 p.m. and again at 3:30 a.m.

Also tonight, Senate Minority Whip Richard Ross will appear on the second half of Fox 25's expanded 6 p.m. newscast to discuss parole reforms. Senator Ross is the ranking Senate Republican on the Joint Committee on the Judiciary, which is scheduled to hold a hearing on these bills on Wednesday at 1 p.m.

Tomorrow morning, Assistant Senate Minority Leader Robert Hedlund will be a guest on the Fox 25 Morning News, where he will discuss his re-filed "X" registrations bill, which seeks to crack down on illegal immigrants by requiring a valid drivers license to register a car in Massachusetts. The segment is scheduled to air live at approximately 7:45 a.m. Tuesday.

Also tomorrow, Senator Tarr will be calling in to the Jeff Katz Show, which airs weekday mornings on Rush Radio 1200 AM. The segment on parole reforms is scheduled to begin at approximately 8:15 a.m.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Senator Tarr on 'Nightside' Thursday

Please tune in for tomorrow evening’s “Nightside” with Dan Rea on WBZ NewsRadio 1030AM as Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr joins with Dan Rea and State Representative Steven Levy to discuss stricter laws and stronger penalties for those who prey on children. To listen to the lively discussion please tune in at approximately 10:00pm or click "here" to listen online.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Investigating MBTA Commuter Rail Troubles

Yesterday the Massachusetts State Senate Republican Caucus formally requested public hearings by the Joint Committee on Transportation and the Senate Committee on Post Audit and Oversight be conducted to determine the causes of the many service disruptions in the MBTA Commuter Rail system that have occurred over the past several months.

The hearings that the caucus requested would provide an opportunity for the public, government officials, and transportation experts to identify the cause of the service disruptions and solutions to prevent them from happening in the future.

Signed copies of the letters sent to the chairs of the committees by the Republican Caucus are posted below along with a recent State House News report.

MBTA Oversight Hearing

Senate GOP Wants Hearing on T Service Problems

Monday, March 7, 2011

Senator Knapik Touts Restaurant Tax Holiday

Senator Michael R. Knapik (right) was featured prominently in a story on this morning touting the virtues of the Senate Republican Caucus' proposed restaurant meals tax holiday, which is supported by a number of Democrats. The Caucus is calling for a temporary week-long suspension of the sales tax on meals to provide tax relief to Massachusetts residents while generating additional revenues for restaurant owners who are struggling with the sluggish economy.

Senator Knapik also appeared on local radio station WFCR yesterday to promote the meals tax holiday. Follow this link to listen to the interview in its entirety.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

ON THE AIR: Senator Tarr on 'Tom & Todd'

Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr was a guest on WRKO's "Tom and Todd Show" this morning. During the on-air interview, Senator Tarr was asked about Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's recent crackdown on labor unions and whether similar legislation curbing union powers could pass in Massachusetts. Tarr also shared his thoughts on how the state can assist cities and towns with rising health care costs and discussed other GOP reform proposals to rein in government spending and reduce the state's structural budget deficit. If you missed the interview, you can listen to it by clicking here.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Competing for Better Government

The Pioneer Institute is a Boston-based public policy research center that is celebrating its twentieth year of working to improve state government. Among the institute's more celebrated initiatives is its annual "Better Government Competition" which solicits, analyzes, and rewards ideas for making state government more efficient and effective.

Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr has been honored in the past to serve as a judge for this competition, and it often provides the substance of legislative reform.

Given its potential for positive reforms, Senator Tarr encourages Scaling The Hill's followers to develop and submit concepts for the competition. To read more about the competition, please click here to visit the Pioneer Institute's website.