Monday, January 30, 2012

Senator Knapik Weighs in on Gas Tax

As the MBTA struggles to close a $161 million budget deficit with service cuts and fare increases, the prospect of increasing the gas tax to fund regional transportation projects and ease the T's financial burden took center stage at last week's Transportation Oversight hearing. Senator Michael Knapik (R-Westfield), the Ranking Republican on the Senate Ways and Means Committee, was asked about this proposal, and shared his thoughts with the Springfield Republican. Click here to read the article.

Friday, January 27, 2012

N.E. Police Chiefs Assoc. Endorses EZ-ID Bill

The New England Association of Chiefs of Police (NEACOP) has unanimously endorsed the EZ-ID bill filed by Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester) and co-sponsored by Senator John F. Keenan (D-Quincy) and Representative Anne M. Gobi (D-Spencer), joining a growing list of public safety organizations calling for the bill’s passage.

Robert D. Campbell, President of the NEACOP, recently wrote a letter on behalf of the organization’s Board of Directors labeling the EZ-ID proposal, which was crafted by Danvers resident Gary P. Richard, “truly a worthwhile project that deserves the support of Law Enforcement.”

“It not only serves the need for vehicle identification in cases of child abduction, but also serves as a tool for vehicle identification when a motor vehicle is used for any criminal activity,” Campbell wrote. “With its apparent value, the Board of Directors of the New England Association of Chiefs of Police has, by unanimous vote, endorsed EZ-ID as a project worthy of our support.”

Senate Bill 1798, also known as Molly’s Bill, would direct the Registry of Motor Vehicles to issue license plates that combine the traditional letters and numbers already used with universal, easily distinguishable symbols, such as triangles, squares and other geometric shapes. The bill is named after Molly Bish, a teenager who was abducted while working as a lifeguard in Warren in June of 2000. Molly’s remains were found three years later, but her killer has never been identified.

Molly’s Bill would require license plates to pair up to four alpha-numeric characters with one easily recognized symbol. The new format would assist law enforcement officials by making it easier for witnesses to read, identify and remember the license plate of a motor vehicle used in the commission of a crime.

In many cases, witnesses are able to recall only a partial license plate, forcing police to run a check on thousands of vehicles to narrow the list of suspects, but symbols are more easily identified. With a standard six-character plate, the number of possible matches can be narrowed to about 1 in 4,300 vehicles, but a plate issued under the EZ-ID bill would narrow the possible combinations to only 1 in 123, making it easier to identify and track down the vehicle.
Senate Bill 1798 was the subject of a public hearing before the Joint Committee on Transportation on October 19, 2011. The bill is currently under review by the committee.

“Implementing the provisions of Molly’s Bill will not only help put criminals behind bars, but also will help to save lives,” said Senator Tarr. “The new system established by this bill will significantly strengthen the effectiveness of license plates for their main purpose – identifying cars, trucks and other vehicles. I welcome the endorsement of the New England Association of Chiefs of Police, and I intend to continue lobbying the members of the Transportation Committee and stressing the importance of releasing this crucial public safety measure to the Senate floor with a favorable recommendation as quickly as possible.”

In addition to the NEACOP, Molly’s Bill has also been endorsed by the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police, the Massachusetts Major City Chiefs of Police, the Massachusetts Fraternal Order of Police, the Molly Bish Foundation and the Pioneer Institute. The FBI’s CJIS Division has also deemed the EZ-ID proposal to be “a good idea that can work across the country”.

Supporters of Molly’s Bill are urged to call their senator and representative in the state Legislature at (617) 722-2000 to express their support for the bill’s passage. Contact information for individual legislators is available at

Pictured above is a photo of Robert Campbell (center), President of the New England Association of Chiefs of Police, displaying an EZ-ID license plate with Jay Gardiner (left), Director of the Molly Bish Center, and Gary Richard (right), a Danvers resident and crafter of the EZ-ID license plate identification system.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Tarr Discusses State of the State Address

Earlier tonight, Governor Deval Patrick delivered his sixth State of the State address before a joint session of the Massachusetts Legislature. After the speech, Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr offered his thoughts on the Governor’s remarks and the many challenges facing the Commonwealth during the upcoming year in a video posted below.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Senate Passes Republican Initiative to Freeze Unemployment Insurance Tax Rate

During yesterday’s full formal Senate session, the Massachusetts State Senate passed an unemployment insurance tax rate freeze for the upcoming year, an initiative first proposed by the Republican Legislative Caucus.

The business friendly measure was filed by Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester), House Minority Leader Bradley Jones (R-North Reading), and the members of the House and Senate Republican Caucuses in early January to prevent a 31% increase to the UI tax rate. If left unchecked, businesses would be obligated to pay an average additional increase of $220 per employee.

“I am proud of the actions taken in the Massachusetts State Senate. Leadership has promptly responded to our calls in preventing an unnecessary burden to small businesses,” said Senator Tarr. “I look forward to working with colleagues in both parties to secure substantive reforms to the unemployment insurance system that will promote job growth and prevent the need to freeze rates from becoming a yearly issue.”

House Docket 4205, “An Act Relative to Mitigating the Increasing Costs for Small Businesses by Freezing the Unemployment Insurance Rate”, received widespread, bipartisan support in the House of Representatives and in the Massachusetts State Senate, garnering 49 co-sponsors of the bill. The measure is now one step closer to law, and if passed, would mark the fourth straight year that similar legislation has been passed.

“I applaud members of the Senate for adopting the unemployment insurance tax rate freeze,” said Representative Jones. “We have sent a loud and clear message to business owners and taxpayers alike: we as a governing body will remove any and all impediments to job growth in the Commonwealth.”

The legislation now heads to the House of Representatives for further consideration.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Senator Tarr on WGBH

Please tune in to today’s Callie Crossley Show on WGBH 89.7FM at 1:00pm where Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr will be discussing with host Callie Crossley the need for sentencing reform for habitual violent offenders. Today’s show will include guests Les Gosule (whose daughter was a victim of a habitual violent offender), Marc Mauer of The Sentencing Project, and Rev. George Walters-Sleyon from the Center for Church & Prison in Dorchester.

Please click here to read several past posts on Tarr Talk about sentencing reform, and don’t forget to tune in to WGBH 89.7FM at 1:00pm or click here to listen to today’s lively discussion.

Hedlund Critiques T Cutbacks, Fare Increases

Assistant Senate Minority Leader Robert Hedlund recently weighed in on the MBTA's proposal to close a $161 million budget deficit through a combination of service cuts and fare increases throughout the state's public transportation system. Hedlund shares his thoughts and concerns about the T's deficit reduction plan in an online op-ed piece posted on the Hingham Patch website. Be sure to check it out.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Discussing EBT Fraud

Yesterday Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr had the opportunity to discuss with Fox 25 Morning News Anchor Shannon Mulaire actions taken by the legislature to limit the abuse of electronic benefit transfer cards (EBT Cards) and additional steps he has proposed. Posted on below is yesterday’s segment.

Also, in today’s edition of the Gloucester Daily Times is an editorial discussing the need to increase accountability of state welfare programs. The editorial highlights a bill that Senator Tarr filed that would tighten the oversight of the EBT Cards program. To read today’s editorial please click here.

EBT Card Fraud Renewed Call to Pass EBT Card Bill:

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Sen. Tarr on Dan Rea's 'Nightside' Tonight

Tonight at 8:00 p.m. on WBZ Radio (AM1030), Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr will be discussing with host Dan Rea the abuse of EBT Cards (Electronic Benefit Transfer Cards) and measures the state needs to take to prevent the misuse of the taxpayer funded program. A bill Tarr sponsored, “An Act Preventing the Misuse of Public Funds”, was heard on Tuesday by the Joint Committee on Children, Families, and Persons with Disabilities.

Posted below is a letter Senator Tarr sent to the members of the committee regarding the EBT bill. Please click here or tune in to WBZ-Radio (1030 AM) at 8:00 p.m. to listen to tonight’s broadcast.

Letter to the Joint Committee on Children, Families, and Persons with Disabilties

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Senate, House GOP File UI Tax Rate Freeze Bill

Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester) and House Minority Leader Bradley Jones (R-North Reading) have joined with their House and Senate Republican colleagues in filing legislation to freeze the currently scheduled unemployment insurance tax rate, citing the current economic climate as the primary reason for such a measure.

If passed, the unemployment insurance tax rate would stay at its current level, preventing an increase of about 31%, with an average cost of $935 per employee, compared to last year’s $715 average tax rate. It would mark the fourth straight year that similar legislation had been passed by the legislature and signed into law.

“Unemployment insurance is already a major cost for employers in Massachusetts, and one that relates directly to the number of people they employ. A substantial rate increase now will not only imperil a struggling economic recovery, it will also put a new obstacle in the way of getting people back to work,” said Senator Tarr.

“Passing this rate freeze is the best and most concrete way we can help to move the Massachusetts economy forward in the new year,” said Representative Jones. “In these tough fiscal times, we need to remove any impediments to economic growth in the Commonwealth.”

In October 2010, the Tax Foundation, a Washington D.C. think tank, ranked the Massachusetts’ unemployment insurance tax 49th worst in the nation. The scheduled unemployment insurance tax rate took effect on January 1st; however, employers will not have to begin paying the tax until the end of the first quarter. Currently, the Republican caucus is also working on some long range reforms to the unemployment insurance system to help lower the cost of doing business in Massachusetts and promote more job creation statewide.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Sen. Tarr Renews Call for Passage of EBT Bill

Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester) today renewed his call for the passage of legislation regulating the use of Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) cards.

Tarr is the lead sponsor of Senate Bill 68, An Act Preventing the Misuse of Public Funds, which was the subject of a public hearing before the Joint Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities today. The bill, which was filed in January of 2010, makes it illegal to use an EBT card to purchase alcoholic beverages, tobacco or Lottery products and imposes a combination of fines and possible jail time for store owners and employees who accept EBT cards as payment for these purchases.

In a letter hand-delivered to the committee this morning, Tarr acknowledged that many of the provisions contained in his bill were signed into law last summer as a result of a budget amendment he sponsored. However, he urged the committee to take further action, noting that “it is important that we continue to forge ahead to implement stronger oversight measures within the EBT system to ensure that the abuses that have already taken place do not continue to occur.”

“State oversight of the EBT program has been far too lax, and has allowed recipients to manipulate the system at the expense of the taxpayers who fund these benefits,” Tarr wrote. “Published reports continue to provide examples of the types of abuses that we are trying to prevent and prove that our work is far from finished. We owe it to the residents of Massachusetts to take steps to ensure that EBT cards are being used strictly for authorized purchases, and to punish those who try to take advantage of the system.”

The problems associated with the EBT program first came to light more than a year ago, following published reports of recipients using their EBT cards to withdraw money and purchase non-food items that were never meant to be included in the taxpayer-funded program. Just last month, eight people were arrested in Lynn on charges of EBT fraud after undercover police officers were able to obtain cash with their EBT cards and purchase drugs, including crack and heroin.

While the current law requires EBT recipients to reimburse the Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA) for any illegal purchases, Tarr’s bill goes a step further by allowing the DTA Commissioner to disqualify individuals who break the law from obtaining future EBT benefits. Tarr’s bill also requires the Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission and the state Lottery Commission, in consultation with the DTA, to inform recipients of the penalties associated with using EBT cards for illegal purchases and to post this information on their websites.

In Case You Missed It...

Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr joined Harvard Law School Professor Charles Ogletree and host Emily Rooney to discuss the proposed "three strikes law" for violent habitual offenders on last night's edition of Greater Boston on WGBH-TV. To watch the segment in its entirety, just play the video clip posted below.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Sen. Tarr on WGBH's 'Greater Boston' Tonight

Tonight at 7:00 p.m., Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr will be a guest on WGBH’s Greater Boston with host Emily Rooney. They will be discussing the progress of a habitual offender bill that is currently under consideration by a six member conference committee. Please tune in to Channel 2 at 7:00 p.m. tonight to watch the lively discussion, which will also be re-broadcast at midnight.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Tarr, Knapik Discuss 2012 Legislative Agenda

Christine Lee, the State House Correspondent for WWLP 22News, filed a report yesterday previewing the 2012 legislative agenda for the Massachusetts House and Senate. Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr and Senator Michael Knapik, the Ranking Republican on the Senate Ways and Means Committee, were among the legislators who shared their thoughts on some of the major issues they anticipate the Legislature will tackle this year. Be sure to check out the segment by playing the video clip posted below.

New year, new legislative agenda:

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Happy New Year from Scaling Beacon Hill

Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr offers the following New Year's Greeting from Scaling Beacon Hill on behalf of the Massachusetts Senate Republican Caucus:

May the New Year bring peace, health and happiness to us all, and many successes as we move forward throughout the year.

Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other.” - Abraham Lincoln

Happy New Year!