Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Tarr, Baddour Seek to Correct 'Misconceptions' About Proposed Senate Crime Bill

Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester) and Senate Ways and Means Vice Chairman Steven A. Baddour (D-Methuen) reached out to the Boston City Council yesterday in an attempt to “correct some of the inaccuracies and misconceptions surrounding the Senate’s habitual offender bill” and to request the Council’s support for the incarceration of violent repeat offenders.

In a letter hand-delivered to the Council’s Public Safety Committee, Tarr and Baddour sought to refute some of the concerns raised in a Resolution proposed by District 4 Councillor Charles Yancey relative to the cost, scope and impact of the habitual offender bill. That bill, along with a scaled-back House version, is currently being reviewed by a six–member House and Senate Conference Committee on which Tarr and Baddour are both serving.

“The habitual offender bill, contrary to published reports, will not cost millions of dollars, nor will it ‘lead to an increased burden on Massachusetts’ tax payers,’” Tarr and Baddour wrote, citing language contained in the Yancey Resolution. “In fact, the Senate Ways and Means Committee whose primary function is to ensure that the state budget is balanced and responsible, has analyzed the Senate version of the bill and concluded that it will have no cost in Fiscal Year 2012. The Senate Ways and Means Committee also estimates that, ‘when fully implemented, the costs incurred by this legislation will be offset by cost-saving measures contained in the legislation.’ This includes an estimated savings of up to $5 million associated with drug offenders who are currently serving mandatory minimum sentences in state prison but who will now become eligible for parole.”

In addition to the economic costs, Tarr and Baddour also refuted several other concerns raised in the Yancey Resolution, including:

Scope of Bill – The Yancey Resolution suggests that the habitual offender bill would apply to hundreds of felony crimes in Massachusetts and would “ensnare the non-violent, the petty criminal, the drug dependent and the mentally ill.” Tarr and Baddour noted that the bill would actually “impact only those individuals convicted for the third time of committing one or more of the 59 most violent felonies, including rape, murder and other serious crimes that involve violence, force or the threat of force.”

Automatic Life Sentences – The Yancey Resolution compares the habitual offender bill to so-called “three strikes laws” implemented in other states that require a life sentence without parole after two or more previous criminal offenses. Tarr and Baddour noted that the Senate bill simply requires repeat offenders to serve the maximum punishment for a third offense, but does not mandate life sentences for all crimes.

Prison Overcrowding – The Yancey Resolution predicts “massive long-term incarceration” if the Senate bill is enacted that will “exacerbate an already overcrowded prison system,” but Tarr and Baddour countered that the bill “will free up prison space by reducing mandatory drug minimums, steering those individuals to needed rehab services and freeing up space in our prisons for the most violent criminal offenders.” The letter also notes that over the last 10 years, 84 individuals were sentenced under the existing habitual offender statute (an average of 7 to 8 a year), while the Senate bill, once implemented, would impact an estimated 4 to 5 additional offenders a year, “due to the fact that the Senate bill specifically targets repeat, violent offenders who have been convicted of some of the most heinous crimes against society, not anyone convicted of a misdemeanor or a lesser felony.”

Tarr and Baddour added that they “welcome the City Council’s partnership in our efforts to preserve public safety, and hope that we can move forward by working together to ensure that these violent, repeat offenders will no longer be a threat to the residents of Boston or any other citizen of the Commonwealth.”

Posted below is a copy of the letter that was sent yesterday.
Letter to Boston CIty Council Regarding the Habitual Offender Bill 2012.02.28

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Tarr on the Fox 25 Morning News

This morning Senator Minority Leader Bruce Tarr joined State Senator Richard Moore on the Fox 25 Morning News to discuss with anchor Gene Lavanchy a bill they sponsored that would protect the public's safety, crackdown on illegal immigration and safeguard against the misuse of public funds.

S.2061, "An Act to Enhance Public Safety", is a comprehensive legislative package that emphasizes both the safety of the citizens of the Commonwealth and protects public funds such as public housing subsidies. Today at 1:00pm their bill, which is also sponsored by Representatives George Peterson and John Fernandes and has 48 cosponsors, will be heard by the Joint Committee on the Judiciary in Room A-2 at the State House.

To watch today's Fox 25 Morning News segment please play the video posted below. To read the actual text of the bill please click here.

Immigration Reform: Sen. Bruce Tarr:

Monday, February 27, 2012

Media Alert: Tarr On the Air with Fox 25

Tomorrow morning at approximately 8:35am Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr will be a guest on the Fox 25 Morning News. Senator Tarr and State Senator Richard Moore will be discussing a bill to advance public safety, illegal immigration and public integrity that they filed with Representative George Peterson and Representative John Fernandes.

The comprehensive package, which was filed after several incidents involving illegal immigrants, places a premium on both public safety and protecting public funds. S.2061, "An Act to Enhance Public Safety", is scheduled to be heard by the Joint Committee on the Judiciary tomorrow afternoon at 1:00pm.

Please tune in tomorrow morning at 8:35am to watch their lively discussion. To read the actual text of the bill please click here.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Senator Knapik Discusses Jobs Package

Senator Michael R. Knapik (R-Westfield)recently spoke with 22News State House Correspondent Christine Lee about the comprehensive jobs package released by the House and Senate Republican Caucuses last week. Be sure to check out his comments by playing the video link posted below.

GOP pitches jobs legislation, ideas:

Friday, February 17, 2012

Senate Passes GOP Emergency Response Staffing Measure for Utility Companies

Utility companies would now be required to notify the state about the number of employees it has available to respond to storm-related power outages and other emergencies within a 24-hour time period, thanks to an amendment offered by Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester) that passed the Senate yesterday.

Tarr’s amendment seeks to ensure that utility companies have appropriate manpower levels in place at all times so that power can be restored quickly to customers in the event of an emergency. The amendment was adopted as part of an emergency service response bill that was crafted in response to widespread power outages that occurred throughout the state during Tropical Storm Irene in August of 2011 and a major snowstorm in western Massachusetts last October.

“The storms that occurred last year left hundreds of thousands of residents without power, many of them for weeks at a time, which is simply unacceptable,” said Tarr. “Utility companies must be held accountable, and my hope is that this new reporting requirement will compel them to maintain staffing at levels that are sufficient to respond quickly and efficiently to emergencies and restore service in a timely manner.”

Under current state law, all electric distribution, transmission and natural gas distribution companies must annually file an emergency response plan for approval by the state Department of Public Utilities by May 15. Among other things, this plan must include: details on how the utility will communicate with customers during an emergency that extends beyond normal business hours; the names of staff designated to communicate with local officials and state regulatory agencies; and procedures for deploying crews to work assignment areas.

Tarr’s amendment requires utility companies to identify in their emergency response plans “the number of service workers available to respond to an emergency within 24 hours; and the locations where said workers are employed when not responding to an emergency.”

The bill now heads to the House of Representatives for further action.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Senate Republican Caucus Calls For Moratorium on All Utility Mergers

In response to the rapidly paced approval by the Patrick Administration of the NSTAR/Cape Wind merger, the Senate Republican Caucus filed an amendment today to S.2140, "An Act relative to the emergency service response of public utility companies" that would install a three month moratorium on all approvals of utility mergers. The moratorium would provide the Department of Public Utilities three months to complete any outstanding regulatory investigations, procedures and reviews involving storm response by the department.

Last year, several regions of the state were hit particularly hard after an October 2011 snowstorm where wind gusts of 69 mph and 32 inches of snowfall was reported in some areas of the state, leaving more than 600,000 Massachusetts utility customers without power. The amendment would place a higher priority to complete storm response reviews such as the October storm, which has yet to be completed, and other long overdue investigations with utility providers.

“The amendment was on behalf of the thousands of ratepayers who will be affected by this merger, many of whom are likely unaware of this rapidly evolving story,” Senator Michael Knapik (R-Westfield) said. “The intention was not to squash the progress of the negotiating parties, it was to simply provide a more appropriate time frame for the Department of Public Utilities, the legislature, and residents of the Commonwealth to review the details and ensure they are being conducted in the best interest of all parties,” Knapik continued.

Additionally, the moratorium would allow constituents of the Commonwealth with the opportunity to fully understand the benefits and ramifications of such mergers before an agreement would go into effect.

“Today we are acting on a bill to improve emergency responses when power goes out. In addition to reacting to past emergencies, we should take action now to ensure that a merger on the fast track to approval doesn’t pose a risk to electrical service for ratepayers all across the state in the future. Before we allow this major merger to be finalized, we should ensure that we have the answers that will come from current and ongoing investigations by the Department of Public Utilities,” said Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester).

Unfortunately, the amendment failed in a roll call vote of 7-29. The Senate Republican Caucus will continue to fight for full transparency regarding public utility mergers such as these.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

GOP Caucus Unveils Comprehensive Jobs Plan

Today the Senate and House GOP Caucuses announced a job creation plan at the State House that aims to reduce the cost of doing business in the Commonwealth. The Republican package targets five key areas that employers have identified that would substantially help in the retention and the creation of jobs. Those areas are: business regulations, education, energy, healthcare and taxes.

All five areas focus on a different, but costly element of conducting business in Massachusetts. It is the hope of the GOP Caucus to get the 240,000 still unemployed Massachusetts residents back into the workforce. Posted below is a press release issued today by the caucus that highlights some of the key elements of the package. Also posted below is today's press packet that summarizes the jobs creation plan.

House and Senate Republicans Propose Innovative Jobs Package

Focuses on Five Targeted Areas Aimed at Job Creation and Retention

BOSTON – Led by House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R- North Reading) and Senate Minority Leader Bruce E. Tarr (R-Gloucester), the Republican Legislative Caucus has proposed an innovative jobs package aimed at cultivating economic growth in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

The jobs package, which comes on the heels of the Republican Caucus’ statewide 2011 G.O.P. Jobs Tour, offers policies that are key to facilitating economic growth in Massachusetts and supporting individuals and businesses statewide.

In speaking with constituents and business owners, House and Senate Republicans have identified five targeted areas aimed at creating and maintaining jobs: business regulations, education, energy, healthcare, and taxes.

“This legislative session, we have done very little relative to the creation of jobs in Massachusetts,” said House Minority Leader Brad Jones. “We, as a legislative body, have a great opportunity to reform the way we create and maintain employment opportunities, while at the same time making government run more efficiently.”

"We can and should take action now to spur economic growth, and incent job creation. This concrete plan contains specific steps we can take to propel our state's recovery from one of the worst recessions in our nation's history," said Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr. "Armed with this plan, Legislative Republicans will begin visiting businesses to chart a course toward economic growth by doing things that really matter for the employers we're counting on to grow our economy."
Highlights of the proposed G.O.P. Jobs Package include:

• Business Regulations: Reduce costs for employers, reform the current Unemployment Insurance paradigm and streamline and consolidate processes for businesses;

• Education: Empower vocational schools by strengthening collaborations with community colleges and employers, improve overall access to higher education, and qualify veterans for licensure and/or academic credit at public institutions of higher learning;

• Energy: Decrease the cost of electricity for businesses and ratepayers, increase the efficiency of Green Initiatives and promote cost-effective renewable energy;

• Healthcare: Shift focus to the consumer, increase options for employers and employees and make healthcare affordable for all;

• Taxes: Reduce commercial vehicle registration fees, simplify and eliminate corporate fees and taxes, incentivize first-time home buyer savings accounts, and establish a job creation tax credit.

Announced by House and Senate Republicans today, the formal proposal will be filed as five major pieces of legislation. In subsequent weeks, members of the Republican Legislative Caucus will travel to local businesses throughout the Bay State to discuss the proposed legislation.

Final Jobs Package Media Handout

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

GOP Caucus to Unveil Comprehensive Jobs Package Wednesday Morning at State House

Tomorrow morning, Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr, House Minority Leader Brad Jones, and Senate and House Republican legislators will be unveiling a comprehensive jobs package. A press conference is planned for 11 a.m. Wednesday outside Room 124 of the State House.

The jobs package offers policies which will support individuals and businesses and are key to facilitating economic growth within Massachusetts. Please check Scaling Beacon Hill tomorrow for more information about the jobs package.

Monday, February 13, 2012

GOP Senators Hit the Airwaves

Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr and Assistant Senate Minority Leader Robert Hedlund were guests on host Emily Rooney's TV and radio shows, respectively, last week.

Senator Tarr joined Representative Shaunna O'Connell (R-Taunton) as a guest on the February 9th edition of WGBH-TV's "Greater Boston" to discuss the ongoing efforts to reform the state's Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card system. Be sure to check out their interview by playing the video link attached below.

On February 10th, Senator Hedlund appeared live on WGBH radio as part of Emily Rooney's "Week in Review" segment. Hedlund, along with Boston Globe columnist Joanna Weiss and Commonwealth Magazine Senior Investigative Reporter Jack Sullivan, debated the latest state and national political news, including the GOP Presidential Primary, the federal debate on birth control, and former House Speaker Sal DiMasi's testimony before a grand jury regarding the ongoing investigation into the Probation Department hiring scandals. You can listen to the segment in its entirety by playing the audio link attached below.

Friday, February 10, 2012

MEDIA ALERT: Senator Hedlund Appearing on WGBH's 'Week in Review' Today at Noon

Assistant Senate Minority Leader Robert L. Hedlund will be on Emily Rooney’s Week In Review this afternoon between noon and 1 p.m. discussing the week's most important stories including the 2012 Presidential Election, Santorum’s resurgence, and the recent foreclosure settlement, among others. Tune in to 89.7 FM to follow the discussion.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

ON THE AIR: Senator Tarr to Discuss EBT reform on 'Greater Boston' Tonight at 7

Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr will be appearing on WGBH-TV’s “Greater Boston” with host Emily Rooney tonight to discuss his ongoing efforts to reform the state’s Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards program. Joining Tarr in the studio will be State Representative Shaunna O’Connell (R-Taunton), who was recently named to a special commission charged with investigating reported abuses within the EBT program and developing recommendations to stop this illegal activity and preserve the integrity of the system.

Assistant Senate Minority Leader Robert Hedlund (R-Weymouth) is also serving on the commission, which is due to report back with its findings by April 1st. Be sure to tune in to Channel 2 at 7 p.m., or watch the show when it re-airs at midnight.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Senator Knapik on Probation Department Scandal: 'The Public's Trust Was Betrayed'

Senator Michael Knapik (R-Westfield), a member of the bipartisan working group that recommended sweeping reforms in the wake of the state's Probation Department scandal, was recently asked to comment on the ongoing investigation. As reporter Dan Crowley notes, the troubling allegations of qualified job candidates being passed over in favor of less-qualified individuals with political connections can be traced back nearly 30 years. Be sure to check out Crowley's story on Rafael Lopez-Sanchez' federal lawsuit and out-of-court settlement, as well as Senator Knapik's comments, in an article that was published in the Daily Hampshire Gazette.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Senate Passes Prescription Drug Monitoring Bill, Rejects Opportunity to Create Drug Offender Registry By Vote of 5-30

Yesterday the Senate voted unanimously to approve a bill containing several important measures to confront the availability and misuse of illegal opiates and the abuse of prescription drugs. S.2122, “An Act Relative to Prescription Drug Diversion, Abuse and Addiction”, if it becomes law, will strengthen the monitoring system for prescription drugs and require its use by physicians and pharmacists. You can view the actual text of the bill by clicking here.

Unfortunately, the Senate rejected an amendment proposal by Senator Richard Ross that would begin the process of establishing a registry of drug dealers to assist law enforcement in the identification and prosecution of these individuals, and to use information to combat the threats they pose to public safety.

The Senate rejected the opportunity to provide this tool for public safety by a vote of 5-30. An accounting of that vote is posted below.

Roll Call Votes: Yea/Nay

Steven A. Baddour: Nay
Frederick E. Berry: Nay
Stephen M. Brewer: Nay
William N. Brownsberger: Nay
Gale D. Candaras: Nay
Harriette L. Chandler: Nay
Sonia Chang-Diaz: Nay
Katherine Clark: Nay
Cynthia Stone Creem: Nay
Sal N. DiDomenico: Nay
Kenneth J. Donnelly: Nay
Eileen Donoghue: Nay
Benjamin B. Downing: Nay
James B. Eldridge: Nay
Susan C. Fargo: Nay
Barry Finegold: Yea
Jennifer L. Flanagan: Nay
John Hart: Nay
Robert L. Hedlund: Yea
Patricia D. Jehlen: Nay
Brian A. Joyce: Nay
John Keenan: Nay
Thomas P. Kennedy: Nay
Michael R. Knapik: Yea
Thomas M. McGee: Did Not Vote
Mark C. Montigny: Nay
Michael O. Moore: Did Note Vote
Richard T. Moore: Nay
Senate President Therese Murray: Did Not Vote
Marc R. Pacheco: Nay
Anthony Petruccelli: Nay
Michael Rodrigues: Nay
Stanley C. Rosenberg: Did Not Vote
Richard J. Ross: Yea
Michael Rush: Nay
Karen E. Spilka: Nay
Bruce E. Tarr: Yea
James E. Timilty: Did Not Vote
James Welch: Nay
Daniel Wolf: Nay

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

'The Minority Report' Launches on Tom & Todd

WRKO’s Tom Finneran and Todd Feinburg introduced a new monthly segment on their "Tom and Todd Show" this morning. The inaugural edition of "The Minority Report" featured an informative discussion with Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr about the habitual offender bill as it makes its way through the legislative process, as well as the upcoming state budget process. Be sure to tune in to the "Tom and Todd Show" on the first Wednesday of every month at approximately 7:30 a.m. for future editions of "The Minority Report" with Senator Tarr.