Thursday, May 30, 2013

Media Alert: Tarr on WGBH’s “Greater Boston”

Tonight, Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr will be appearing on WGBH-TV’s “Greater Boston” with host Emily Rooney to discuss a state auditor’s report that revealed several disturbing and outrageous oversight issues concerning the administering of public benefits by the Department of Transitional Assistance.

Please tune in to Channel 2 tonight at 7:00 p.m. to watch what will surely be a lively discussion. Greater Boston also re-airs at midnight.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Senate Republicans Call for Unemployment Insurance Reforms; Propose Changes to Ensure System's Long-Term Sustainability

The Senate Republican Caucus today renewed its call for reforming the state’s unemployment insurance system, one day after the co-chairmen of the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development expressed a willingness to address the issue this session.

“I’m glad to hear the chairmen are interested in making changes to the current system, which continues to impose an undue financial burden on the state’s employers and to hamper business expansion and job growth,” said Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester).  “If the committee is serious about tackling this issue, we already have comprehensive reform legislation on the table to revise the existing rate structure, crack down on abuse and ensure the system’s long-term viability.”

In January, Senator Tarr filed Senate Bill 895, An Act Improving Unemployment Insurance, which was the subject of a public hearing yesterday before the committee.  The bill has bi-partisan support and co-sponsors from both the House and Senate.

Senator Tarr noted that Massachusetts currently provides the most generous unemployment insurance benefits in the nation.  Recipients are not only eligible for the highest weekly payment of any state ($625 in 2012), but they also can receive benefits for up to 30 weeks, compared to 26 weeks in all other states except Montana.  Individuals in Massachusetts also become eligible to collect unemployment after just 15 weeks of employment, compared to the 20-week standard used in most states.

The unemployment system is also vulnerable to abuse.  A 2004 analysis by Commonwealth Magazine showed that 700 people had collected unemployment benefits in each of the 20 previous years.  Commonwealth Magazine noted that many seasonal employers game the system by continuously laying off and rehiring their workers, in some cases several times a year, resulting in instances where the benefits paid to these “laid-off” workers far exceed the money paid into the system by the employer.

According to Senator Tarr, Senate Bill 895 will bring Massachusetts’ unemployment insurance benefits in line with most other states, while making sensible reforms to the rate structures for the businesses that fund the program.  Specifically, the bill would:

· increase the amount of time someone must work before becoming eligible to collect unemployment from 15 to 20 weeks;

· reduce the amount of time a beneficiary can receive payment to 26 weeks, with the caveat that if they participate in a job training or internship program, they can continue to collect for the full 30 weeks;

· require employers that use the unemployment system more frequently to pay more money into it; and

· require the Division of Unemployment Assistance to give extra scrutiny to those who show a clear pattern of filing benefit claims without any challenge from their employer.

In additional to these reforms, Senate Bill 895 would:

· require the Division of Unemployment Assistance to hold at least one public hearing attended by the employers who finance the system;

· create a study to examine current inefficiencies in the unemployment insurance hearing process; and

· form a commission to scrutinize the weekly benefit payment structure utilized by the Division of Unemployment Assistance, and examine whether a change in the payment structure could increase the incentive to rejoin the workforce and lower the cost to operate the system.

“Reforming the unemployment insurance system is essential to ensuring its long-term sustainability,” said Senator Tarr.  “Senate Bill 895 offers substantive changes that will help to make the state more competitive while also promoting job growth.”

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Senator Tarr’s Statement on Auditor’s Report on the Abuse of Welfare, EBT Benefits

Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester) released the following statement today regarding a report conducted by State Auditor Suzanne Bump that investigated the administrating of welfare, EBT benefits, and disability funds, and the lack of oversight and security of possible fraudulent accounts and transactions:

“Spending millions of taxpayer dollars on false claims and benefits for ineligible people when others need and deserve assistance is outrageous beyond words.  Clearly Commissioner Monahan understands that, and is making progress on this front.  Yet today’s report by the Auditor tells the story of a system that demands the strongest possible legislative reforms, many of which Senate Republicans have been putting forth for the past several years, and which shouldn’t be postponed any longer.

We have to act now to rebuild the integrity of our system of public assistance and to make sure that public funds are spent wisely, and for those who truly deserve them.”

Monday, May 27, 2013

Memorial Day Message from Senator Tarr

"Memorial Day this year is especially important as we are reminded almost daily of the great sacrifices that men and women of the Armed Services make to defend our way of life." -Former Congressman Robin Hayes

It is my hope that we all take time to remember those we've lost while in the service of this great country.  The freedoms we enjoy today are the direct results of the men and women who were willing to make the ultimate sacrifice fighting for America and the values that we share.

Especially important to remember is the 60th Anniversary of the Korean War Armistice Agreement.  During this three year war the United States lost over 50,000 brave soldiers, who perished while fighting for South Korea's freedom.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Senate Republican Caucus Seeks Responsible Spending Measures in FY’14 State Budget

On the eve of the Massachusetts State Senate’s debate of a Senate Committee on Ways and Means budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2014 that had garnered over 700 amendments, Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester) and the Senate Republican Caucus have filed several amendments that would put controls on taxes, raise revenue, and promote responsible spending measures.

“Despite the laudable efforts of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means to level fund or reduce the funding for more than 300 line items, the overall cost of the budget now before us represents a 4.4% increase for Fiscal Year 2014 over the current year,” said Senator Tarr.  “Given the uncertainty of the continuing economic recovery and the proposed $350 million withdrawal from the stabilization fund, we need to exhaust every option to save money, capture efficiencies, boost economic growth and generate revenue that doesn’t come from tax increases.”

Unfortunately the committee’s budget proposal does not offer meaningful reforms to public subsidy and government welfare programs that are wracked with fraud and government waste.  Seeking to provide safeguards on such precious and needed programs, the Senate Republican Caucus offered several amendments aimed to achieve that goal.  Those amendments include:

• Amendment #76 would allow the Attorney General to seek recovery of any previously issued public assistance benefits from a recipient convicted under state or federal law for the use of a weapon of mass destruction, with the recovered money going to benefit the victims of the acts of terror.

• Amendment #549 would require all future EBT cards issued by the Department of Transitional Assistance to include the fraud detection phone number and web address.

• Amendment #573 would authorize the Department of Transitional Assistance to terminate the benefits of recipients of welfare benefits if their mailing address becomes unknown.  The amendment would also prohibit the Department of Transitional Assistance to continue using numerical placeholders instead of valid social security numbers for a prolonged period of time.

• Amendment #583 requires the nearly operational Integrated Eligibility System (IES) maintained by the Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS) to cross-check social security numbers of applicants from state and federal data sources and to track eligibility of public subsidies.

“Our system of public assistance provides needed help to those in difficult economic circumstances, and we need to ensure that every dollar we allocate to that purpose gets to them, rather than being consumed by any waste, fraud or abuse,” said Senator Tarr.

Other amendments filed by the Senate Republican Caucus include cuts to the budget, jobs creation incentives, meaningful reforms to higher education funding, and revenue gains provided by online gaming.  Some of those proposals include:

• Amendment #157 creates a job incentive tax credit eligible to companies that increase their net employment figures in the Commonwealth.

• Amendment #143 would require certain government agencies, departments, and offices to reduce its spending by 1% for Fiscal Year 2014.

• Amendment #330 would provide tuition and fee waivers for Massachusetts veterans and active duty service members who are permanent and legal residents of the Commonwealth.

• Amendment #346 level funds several public university and state schools line items and places the FY14 budget proposal increases to be placed in a special fund to be distributed on merit based measures such as graduation rates, improved operation efficiencies, and increased academic successes.

• Amendment #123 would create 4 online gaming licenses to be made available to the 3 fully licensed casinos and the single slot parlor, and tax online gaming revenue at a rate of 20%, placing Massachusetts in the forefront of an evolving industry.

The amendments filed by Senator Tarr and the Senate Republican Caucus are part of an initiative to make government more efficient.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Senator Tarr’s Statement on the Release of the Senate Ways and Means FY14 Budget

Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester) released the following statement today, after the Senate Committee on Ways and Means unveiled its $33.9 billion budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2014:

“The Fiscal Year 2014 budget proposal released today by the Senate Committee on Ways and Means clearly rejects once again the massive tax and spend measures that have been advocated by Governor Patrick, and responds to some important spending priorities such as transportation, special education and police training.  It also provides a “killed in the line of duty” death benefit for the family of slain MIT police officer Sean Collier, which is the right thing to do in light of the ultimate sacrifice made by this young officer who had such a promising life and career ahead of him.

The Senate Ways and Means budget makes a notable effort to reduce spending in many accounts.  Yet, in responding to yet another sizable budget gap, today’s proposal relies on a combination of over $627 million from one-time revenue sources and $450 million in tax increases, and that’s on top of the millions of dollars in additional tax increases that have been approved in recent years, including a $900 million increase in the sales tax implemented in 2009.

In order to put our state on a steady path toward economic prosperity and future balanced budgets, we need to ensure that the spending proposed by the Senate Ways and Means Committee can be sustained without continuing to resort to one-time fixes and burdening struggling household budgets with more taxes.  We must always remember that we live in uncertain economic times and the robust economic recovery we’ve hoped for hasn’t materialized.  Rather than continuing to raise taxes by millions of dollars, we need to address the real problems of unsustainable state spending and the need to create more jobs and enable a stronger economic recovery than the one we’re experiencing.

As we move forward in the budget process and prepare for next week’s floor debate, the Senate Republican Caucus will be looking for every opportunity to strengthen fiscal discipline in the process and to promote the type of sustainable job growth we need to generate the additional revenues that will help the state navigate through an uncertain economic climate.”

To view a copy of the proposed budget, click here.

A Compelling Editorial in Today's Salem News

An editorial in today’s Salem Evening News spotlights the need for further legislative action targeting those who continue to drive drunk even after a lifetime license revocation.

It also highlights recent successes Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr has had in amending the law toward that goal, and legislation that the Senate Republican Caucus filed earlier this legislative session to include jail time for those who do not adhere to a lifetime licensure ban.

Please click here to read today’s editorial.

Senator Tarr on the air with Fox 25

Yesterday morning Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr was a guest on the Fox 25 morning news to discuss the recent arrest of a Billerica man who was charged with his 12th drunken driving charge, and the need for legislative action targeting habitual traffic offenders.

To watch yesterday’s segment please play the posted video below.

Boston News, Weather, Sports | FOX 25 | MyFoxBoston

Monday, May 13, 2013

Media Alert: Senator Tarr Appearing on the Fox25 Morning News on Tuesday

Please tune in on Tuesday morning at approximately 7:15 a.m. on the Fox 25 Morning News, where Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr will be discussing the recent arrest of a Billerica man who is facing his 12th drunken-driving charge, and the need for legislative action targeting habitual traffic offenders.

Honoring Those Who Protect and Serve

Today marks the start of National Police Week, where events at our nation’s capital are dedicated to those who currently serve as officers, have served, and those who have fallen in the line of duty.  National Police Week was conceived in 1962 when President John Kennedy signed a proclamation dedicating May 15th as Peace Officers Memorial Day and the week as National Police Week.

Since 1962, thousands of officers and supporters from around the country attend events every year in Washington, DC and throughout the nation to join in camaraderie, and to pay respect for those who have fallen while on duty.  Tonight at approximately 8:00 p.m. the Annual National Peace Officers’ Memorial Service, which is sponsored by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF), will commence with its 25th Annual Candlelight Vigil.

To learn more about National Police Week and to watch tonight’s Candlelight Vigil please visit the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund website.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Senator Tarr Calls for Sex Offender Registry Board Reforms at Judiciary Hearing

Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester) testified before the Legislature’s Joint Committee on the Judiciary this afternoon, calling for the passage of legislation that will enhance information-sharing among the state’s public safety agencies and ensure that sex offenders are properly classified and monitored.

Tarr is the lead sponsor of SenateBill 815, An Act Enhancing Assessment Information of the Sexual Offender Registration Board, which has the bi-partisan support of 26 House and Senate members, including the entire Senate Republican Caucus and many Democrats who have signed on as co-sponsors.  The bill was filed following the December 2012 indictment of Wakefield resident John Burbine, who was classified as a Level 1 offender despite being the subject of several investigations since 1989 and is now facing multiple counts of child sexual abuse.

“For too long our systems for dealing with sex offenders have tolerated a lack of information, a lack of transparency, a lack of communication between those charged with protecting us, and a lack of proper tools to access, classify and reclassify those who have committed these crimes,” said Tarr.  “Now, the Legislature must act, in a responsible and effective way, to empower citizens, law enforcement officials and the Sex Offender Registry Board to strengthen public safety and prevent victimization.  The Judiciary Committee has before it bills of ample number and scope to get the job done, and it’s imperative that it move as soon as possible to action.”

Highlights of Senate Bill 815 include:

·         a requirement and authorization for law enforcement agencies and prosecutors to communicate with the Sex Offender Registry Board (SORB) in a timely fashion about the commitment of subsequent offenses by a registered sex offender;

·         the legal authority of the SORB to re-classify sex offenders based on new information, which was taken away by the Massachusetts Court of Appeals on July 16, 2012 in its ruling in the case of John Doe 16748 v. Sex Offender Registry Board (Docket Number 11-P-308);

·         the ability of the SORB to expedite the re-classification process of a sexual offender upon the recommendation of law enforcement and prosecutors; and

·         a requirement for the timely re-classification of sex offenders who have committed subsequent offenses

In addition to Senate Bill 815, Tarr is sponsoring several other sex offender bills that were heard by the Judiciary Committee today, including:

·         Senate Bill 802, which would require out of state classified sex offenders who enter Massachusetts to register with the SORB within two days of moving into the Commonwealth, and would require that this information be shared with the local police department in which the sex offender resides;

·         Senate Bill 803, which would impose a mandatory minimum of: 30 years in prison for the forcible rape of a child; 45 years in prison for the forcible rape of a child with a firearm; and life in prison without parole for any second or subsequent offense by a person over the age of 18;

·         Senate Bill 804, which would impose a mandatory minimum of life imprisonment with no parole for any person convicted three or more times for any sex offense against a child, person with disabilities, mental handicap, or elder;

·         Senate Bill 805, which would eliminate the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse, with a three-year retroactive window;

·         Senate Bill 811, which would require information on all registered sex offenders (Levels 1, 2 and 3) to be provided by the SORB to the public, both online and at local police departments; and

·         Senate Bill 814, which would extend from 60 to 90 days the time frame in which the SORB must notify the offender of his right to submit evidence of his risk of re-offense/dangerousness prior to the offender's scheduled release from prison, and limit the time the offender has to submit the evidence to the board to 30 days.     

Several of these bills are supported by Protect Mass Children, a nonprofit organization committed to protecting the children of Massachusetts from sexual predators through education and legislation.  More information can be found at

Beach Safety Bill Reported Favorably by Committee; Bill Honors Memory of Missing 2-year-old Caleigh Harrison

The Legislature’s Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture took favorable action today on legislation filed by Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester) to promote safety at the state’s public beaches through a uniform, color-coded warning and safety flag program.

Senate Bill 409, An Act Creating Uniform Beach Warnings, was released from committee with a favorable report this morning following a public hearing that included testimony from Senator Tarr, Representative Ann-Margaret Ferrante (D-Gloucester) and the family of 2-year-old Caleigh Harrison, who went missing on April 19, 2012 while playing with her mother and sister at Rockport’s Long Beach.

“Today the committee has taken a decisive step toward making our beaches safer and public safety stronger,” said Senator Tarr.  “The compelling story told by Caleigh’s family moved legislators to action, and is making the difference in getting the bill passed.”

“I am extremely proud of the Harrison family,” added Representative Ferrante.  “They are an inspiration for turning their tragedy into positive advocacy for public safety and preventing future tragedies.  As the former vice chair and current member of the Environment Committee, I am pleased that we as a committee were able to vote this out of committee favorably.”

The effort to pass Senate Bill 409 was initiated by Caleigh’s uncle, David Harrison, who was on a business trip to Panama earlier this year when he learned about the country’s color-coded flag system which is used to warn the public about the dangers of tides and riptides.  Alabama, Florida, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Texas and several other states utilize a similar program, and the Harrison family is seeking to implement the same safety measures in Massachusetts.

“We’re extremely thankful and delighted that the bill moved as fast as it did,” said David Harrison.  “We didn’t expect that, and we’re very grateful.  We’re also thankful for the efforts of Senator Tarr and Representative Ferrante.  This is one big step toward something positive that we’re trying to accomplish, and we want to thank the committee for pushing the bill through.  We’re definitely not the only family to lose a loved one like this, and we won’t be the last, but we hope to reduce those numbers by passing this bill.  It’s a great way to honor Caleigh.”

“I want to thank Senator Tarr and Caleigh’s family for bringing this important issue to our attention,” said Senator Marc R. Pacheco (D-Taunton), Senate Chairman to the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture.  “Massachusetts should certainly employ this strategy; if it prevents another future tragedy, it will be well worth it.”

“I am pleased to work with Senator Pacheco and the Committee members to advance this common sense piece of legislation,” added Representative Anne Gobi (D-Spencer), House Chairman to the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture.  “I know not every tragedy can be prevented but it is important to put measures in place that can raise awareness and increase public safety and this bill will do that.”

The bill now heads to the Senate for further action.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Caleigh's Bill Set for Hearing on May 7th

A proposal filed by Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester) to promote safety at the state’s public beaches will be heard by a joint legislative committee tomorrow morning.

Senate Bill 409, An Act Creating Uniform Beach Warnings, calls for the Department of Conservation and Recreation to create a uniform warning and safety flag program in which communities can participate on a voluntary basis and utilize a color-coded system to warn the public of potential beach hazards.  The bill is scheduled to be heard by the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture on Tuesday, May 7th between 10 a.m. and noon in hearing room 437 at the State House.

The effort to pass Senate Bill 409 was initiated by David Harrison, whose 2-year-old niece Caleigh Harrison went missing from Rockport’s Long Beach on April 19, 2012 while playing with her mother and 4-year-old sister.  In January of this year, David was on a business trip to Panama when he became aware of the country’s color-coded flag system, which is used to warn the public about the dangers of tides and riptides, and to indicate whether or not it is safe to go swimming.  The Harrison family subsequently contacted Senator Tarr to ask if he could help facilitate the implementation of a similar program in Massachusetts.  The family and Tarr are now joined in partnership to get the bill passed.

“The Harrison family endured a terrible and unthinkable loss last year, but they are determined to do everything they can to help spare other families from the pain and grief they have experienced,” said Tarr.  “I will be joining the family at tomorrow’s hearing and asking the committee to honor Caleigh’s short life by taking favorable action on this important public safety proposal, which we are hopeful will make our beaches safer and help to save lives.”

The bill enjoys bi-partisan support, including the backing of Representative Ann-Margaret Ferrante (D-Gloucester).

“With this very simple and cost-effective program, we can raise awareness and help folks be prepared for the dynamic conditions on our beaches and help them act accordingly to protect themselves,” said Tarr.

New Hampshire is the only New England state that currently utilizes a uniform warning and safety flag program.  Other states with a similar program include Alabama, Florida, New Jersey and Texas.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Senator Tarr’s Statement on Chapter 90 Funding

Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester) released the following statement today, after the Senate engrossed a transportation finance proposal allocating $300 million in Chapter 90 road and bridge funding for Massachusetts’ cities and towns, an increase of $100 million over last year’s total:

“Now that the House and Senate have given initial approval to an increase in Chapter 90 funding, it is imperative that the Legislature move expeditiously to finalize this proposal and approve a terms bill so this money can be made readily available for our cities and towns to capture the widest possible window of the construction season.  We are long past the April 1st deadline for communities to be notified of their preliminary funding allocation, and it is important that we honor this financial commitment as soon as possible.

While we continue to move forward, I’m concerned that Governor Patrick has repeatedly asserted that we can’t afford to increase Chapter 90 levels to $300 million unless we approve his $1.9 billion plan to raise taxes.  He has gone so far as to warn communities that without his massive tax increases, ‘investment in the Chapter 90 program will not be implemented’.

Clearly, the House and Senate believe that the $300 million can be implemented without resorting to a tax increase of the order or magnitude the Governor has requested.  The reality is, the House and Senate are already in the process of finalizing an alternative transportation proposal in conference committee, and the Governor’s $1.9 billion tax increase is no longer under consideration.  Therefore, it is my hope the Governor will not hold this critical bill hostage to a larger tax proposal that is no longer viable.”

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Senator Tarr’s Statement on the Senate's Posting of Roll Call Votes Starting Today

Today Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester) released the following statement regarding the Massachusetts State Senate posting all roll call votes made by the members of the Senate on the General Court’s website. The measure requiring the posting of roll call votes was from a Senate Rule filed by the Senate Republican Caucus that set May 1st as the deadline of such postings, which passed unanimously by a vote of 39-0:

“Today marks the beginning of a new era of transparency and accountability for the Massachusetts Senate, and a clear victory for citizens who deserve to know how members are voting on the issues that affect all of us.  Senate Republicans have worked hard to make this information available, and to garner the bipartisan support needed to reach that goal.

Providing timely access to information can and will make our democracy stronger, and the posting of Senate roll calls in an easily accessible format within 48 hours is a major milestone.  Having reached that milestone, our caucus will continue the fight to open up what happens on Beacon Hill to the light of public scrutiny.”