Tuesday, December 31, 2013

In Case You Missed It...

Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr appeared on the Fox 25 News last night to discuss the troubling case of 5-year-old Jeremiah Oliver of Fitchburg, whose family has been receiving services through the Department of Children and Families since 2011 and who has gone missing since September.  Please click on the video below to view the segment in its entirety.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Sen. Tarr's Statement on DCF Missing Child Case

Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester) released the following statement today, following a press conference by Department of Children and Families Commissioner Olga Roche updating the department’s response to the disappearance of 5-year-old Fitchburg resident Jeremiah Oliver:

“Today’s press conference by DCF Commissioner Olga Roche exposed more troubling details about the failure of the department to protect 5-year-old Jeremiah Oliver.  While the commissioner is right to discharge those at fault from state employment, and to order better scrutiny of certain cases, the situation deserves more.

First, a system that tolerated falsified reports and lies needs to be reviewed independently to ensure that there are no other children who are vulnerable due to lack of home visits or other forms of oversight.  In addition, we must all collectively determine what reforms are needed to ensure that no other child goes for months without needed home visits.  And we must also continue to hope and pray for the safe return of this young boy.”          

MEDIA ALERT: Senator Tarr on Fox 25 Today

Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr will be appearing live on Fox 25 this afternoon to discuss the disappearance of 5-year-old Fitchburg resident Jeremiah Oliver, whose family has been receiving services through the Department of Children and Families (DCF) since 2011 but who has been missing since September 14th.

Senator Tarr will be providing reaction to today’s press conference by DCF Commissioner Olga Roche and Health and Human Services Assistant Secretary of Children, Youth and Families Kathy Betts announcing “action steps” the agency is taking to “help strengthen families and ensure a safe and secure environment for children.”  Earlier this month, the Senate Republican Caucus called for an independent investigation by Auditor Suzanne Bump and/or Inspector General Glenn Cunha into DCF’s failures regarding Oliver’s disappearance.

The segment will air live on Fox 25 today at approximately 4:57 p.m.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas!

“I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.” -Charles Dickens

Christmas is the one time of year where everyone has the opportunity to feel like a child again.  It is a special day where strangers become friends, and where loved ones are honored and cherished.  It is the hope of Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr and the members of the Senate Republican Caucus that among all the blessings of this day, that we each take a few moments to honor our servicemen and servicewomen who are currently home and overseas protecting this great nation.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Senate Republican Caucus Seeks Independent Investigation of DCF Services; Immediate Review of All Cases Warranted for the Welfare of Children

Responding to recent reports of the disappearance of a missing 5-year-old Fitchburg child, the Senate Republican Caucus, led by Senator Don Humason (R-Westfield), who is the Republican member serving on the Joint Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities, is calling for an independent investigation by Auditor Suzanne Bump and/or Inspector General Glenn Cunha into the failures of the Department of Children and Families (DCF) regarding the disappearance of Jeremiah Oliver.
Since September 2011, Jeremiah Oliver and his family have been receiving services from DCF, however, the supervisor and social worker assigned to the family failed to conduct monthly, mandated household checks.  Sadly, Jeremiah Oliver was last seen on September 14th, and his whereabouts remain unknown.

In the December 20th letter to Auditor Bump and Inspector General Cunha, the Senate Republican Caucus wrote “Increasingly, as our understanding of the department’s failure to carry out its mandate expands, there are further growing concerns for all other children in the DCF system.”

On Thursday, December 19th, Commissioner Olga Roche of DCF announced that the department will conduct its own internal review into as many as 40,000 cases, however, citing the need for an independent review, the caucus wrote, “We request and encourage a full review and examination independently or in concert (by the auditor and the inspector general), of the DCF’s practices and procedures so that we can prevent any other similar abuse or problem from occurring.”

The Senate Republican Caucus requests that the investigation include:

* collecting as much information as possible to assess the risk and safety issues for children in the system;

* determining how many children have not had direct, monthly contact with a DCF case worker;

* determining the adequacy of the 110 CMR 6.00 and other pertinent regulations relative to case review procedures for children in foster care and non-foster care settings;

* determining the adherence to standards in comprehensive assessments and family service plans;

* determining the Department’s adherence to procedures established under 110 CMR 13.00 for the Case Investigation Unit;

* assessing the number of service plans initiated as a result of a 51A child abuse or neglect filing or court order;

* collecting information as to the standard number of cases assigned to social workers and the average number of children assigned to social workers;

* determining if there has been public access to appropriately redacted reports of the Department's Case Investigation Unit;

* determining if case management activities and other services provided to children and families were adequate and appropriately adhered with DCF policies and regulations;

* referring any relevant finding of a criminal nature to the Attorney General;

* providing recommendations that may improve the DCF’s policy, regulations, training, or contracted services; and

* providing procedural recommendations, that when adhered to, will require that DCF acts in a manner that is accountable and open to oversight.

“The nature and scope of these developing circumstances demand independent investigations.  Only through well-developed inquiry can we determine how to best help the staff and management of DCF to protect the lives of children,” the Caucus wrote.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Senate GOP Caucus to Call for Independent Investigation of DCF Policies

The Massachusetts Senate Republican Caucus – led by Senator Don Humason (R-Westfield), the Caucus’ representative on the Joint Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities – will be releasing a letter tomorrow calling for an independent investigation into the failures of the Department of Children and Families (DCF) regarding the disappearance of Jeremiah Oliver.

The whereabouts of Oliver, a five-year-old Fitchburg resident, have been unknown to the DCF for several months.  Earlier this week, DCF Commissioner Olga Roche terminated the social worker and supervisor connected to the case.

“We want to know if there are possibly other children under DCF supervision who may be in a similar situation,” said Senator Humason, speaking on behalf of the Caucus.  “It’s important to know whether this is a systemic problem or an isolated incident.”

“With one child in jeopardy because of serious failures of accountability, we can’t take any chances that there may be others that are in vulnerable situations,” added Senator Tarr.

Senator Tarr's Statement on Release of November Unemployment Figures for MA

Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester) issued the following statement today, following the release of figures by the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development showing that the state’s unemployment rate has exceeded the national unemployment rate for the first time since 2007:

“November’s unemployment figures make it clear that we have work to do to bolster our uncertain economic recovery, and to increase our competitiveness in the national and global economies.  In that context, much remains to be done to ensure that we can achieve long-term sustainability and job growth by reducing the cost of doing business in Massachusetts and creating and maintaining much-needed jobs in our state.  Unemployment insurance reform, along with measures to confront the high costs of energy and health care, are just a few of the actions we must take as soon as possible, and the Senate Republican Caucus is committed to continuing to pursue solutions in these critical areas in the upcoming year.”

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Media Alert: Sen. Tarr On the Air with Fox 25

This evening at approximately 6:30 p.m., Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr will once again be a guest on the Fox 25 News.  Tarr will be discussing the disappearance of a 5-year-old Fitchburg child, and the recent firing of two employees of the Department of Children and Families who were assigned to monitor his family upon allegations of abuse, but failed to do so.

Please tune in to see tonight’s discussion.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Hedlund Named Legislator of the Year by MADD

Mothers Against Drunk Driving (M.A.D.D.) has named Senator Robert L. Hedlund their 2013 “Legislator of the Year” in Massachusetts for his legislative contributions to the fight against drunk driving. David Deiuliis, with M.A.D.D.’s Massachusetts State Office, presented Senator Hedlund with the award at the State House.  In their announcement, M.A.D.D. National President Jan Withers thanked Senator Hedlund for authoring legislation improving drunk driving laws in Massachusetts, including Senator Hedlund's pending legislation requiring ignition interlocks for all convicted drunk drivers.

Hedlund has been an active and effective anti-drunk driving legislator over the past decade. In 2005, he was the lead Senate sponsor of “Melanie’s Law,” the landmark legislation that was the first major reform of our state’s drunk driving laws in decades. Under Melanie’s Law, repeat drunk drivers who are still eligible to drive have to have an ignition interlock device installed in any vehicle they drive. Melanie’s Law also doubled sentences for motor vehicle manslaughter, created a mandatory minimum sentence of one year in jail for anyone convicted of driving drunk with a suspended license, increased license suspension for refusal of the Breathalyzer, created a new child endangerment by OUI offense, and increased penalties for knowingly allowing someone under a license suspension for drunken driving to use an automobile.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, drunk driving deaths in Massachusetts have fallen over 20% since the passage of Melanie’s Law.

Last year, Senator Hedlund helped pass an amendment in the Senate to strengthen Melanie’s Law by closing a loophole that allows repeat drunk drivers who admit to sufficient facts for a finding of guilty avoid license revocation because their admission was not considered a conviction. The amendment for license revocation included repeat drunk drivers assigned to an alcohol or controlled substance education, treatment, or rehabilitation program. While the wording included in the final conference committee budget wasn’t as strong as the Hedlund amendment, it was another step in helping to prevent recidivism.

This year, Senator Hedlund has filed legislation aimed at closing loopholes within Melanie’s Law that drunk drivers have used to avoid responsibility and punishment. If enacted, the bill, which is entitled “An Act relative to enhancing Melanie's Law,” would; 1) make it more difficult for repeat drunk drivers to escape the harsher penalties contained in Melanie’s Law; 2) remove the ability for drivers acquitted of drunk driving who refused a breathalyzer test from applying to get their license back immediately instead of serving the mandated 180-day suspension; 3) ensure that the sentences of repeat offenders are served consecutively, not concurrently, and; 4) would give judges the ability to sentence habitual drunk drivers to up to 20 years in jail.

“Drunk driving is one of the biggest threats to public safety and we must remain vigilant to continue the progress we have made in our fight to prevent it,” said Hedlund. “I am honored to receive this award and I am committed to continuing to make our drunk driving laws stronger  and more effective.”

Monday, December 9, 2013

Senator Humason Named Minority Whip

Senator Don Humason (R-Westfield) has been named the new Senate Minority Whip by Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester).

As Minority Whip, Humason will be responsible for coordinating the votes within the Senate Republican Caucus and assisting the Minority Leader in developing policy recommendations for the remainder of the 2013-2014 legislative session, while also working to build coalitions with members across the aisle.  Humason succeeds Senator Richard Ross (R-Wrentham), who had served as Minority Whip since January of 2011.

Humason was elected to the Massachusetts Senate by the voters of the Second Hampden and Hampshire District in a special election that took place on November 5, 2013.  The seat had previously been held by former Senator Michael Knapik (R-Westfield), who resigned in August to accept a position with Westfield State University. Humason had been a member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives since 2003 and had previously served as the Director of Legislative Affairs at the Massachusetts Executive Office of Health & Human Services and Knapik’s Chief of Staff in the House and Senate.

“Don Humason has proven as a state representative that he can not only effectively and passionately represent the needs of his constituents, but also that he understands the intricacies of policy-making needed to get things done in Boston,” said Senator Tarr. “As the Minority Whip, Don will be an integral part of my leadership team and will work with the members of our Caucus every day to ensure that the Republican Caucus is effectively involved in all matters taken up on Beacon Hill.”

“I am honored to be appointed Minority Whip by Senator Tarr,” Humason said.  “I appreciate his confidence in my abilities to navigate the legislative process in the Senate and build coalitions wherever possible.  I am looking forward to working alongside my Republican colleagues in the Senate and with our Democrat colleagues on the other side of the aisle as we serve the people of the Commonwealth.”

“Although Republicans are outnumbered by Democrats in the Senate, we have no shortage of good ideas for improving the economy and making the state a more affordable place to live,” said Senator Tarr.  “Don Humason has garnered tremendous respect from his colleagues for his willingness to work with other people, and I look forward to working closely with him in the months ahead to address the issues that are important to our constituents and to ensure that state government is responsive to the needs of all its citizens.”

Humason noted that his hometown, Westfield, is known as the Whip City because of its history as the capital of the buggy whip manufacturing industry.  “I can’t think of a more appropriate way to begin my Senate tenure than as the Minority Whip from the Whip City,” he said.

The Second Hampden and Hampshire district consists of the cities of Holyoke and Westfield, parts of the city of Chicopee, and the towns of Agawam, Easthampton, Granville, Montgomery, Russell, Southampton, Southwick and Tolland. 

Senator Humason encourages his constituents to contact him at his Boston office, State House, Room 213A, at 617-722-1415 or his District Office at 64 Noble Street in Westfield at 413-568-1366.  His email address is Donald.Humason@MASenate.gov.  His website is DonHumason.org.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

North Shore 104.9 & Senator Tarr Hit the Road for 18th Annual North Shore Holiday Toy Drive

With the need for toys at an all-time high for local children, Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester) and North Shore 104.9 will once again broadcast live all day from several locations on the North Shore to collect as many toys, gift cards, and monetary donations as possible to fulfill that need.

This year’s Holiday Toy Drive will take place on Thursday, December 12th from 6:00am to 6:00pm from ten locations on the North Shore. The live broadcast will feature local entertainment, school choirs and bands, great food, and interviews with local officials.  Even Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus will be lending a helping hand to support the cause!  The Paper Store has also partnered once again with Senator Tarr and North Shore 104.9 to present the 18th annual North Shore Holiday Toy Drive broadcast.

“The holiday season gives us all a chance to show just how much we care about our neighbors and the children in our communities,” said Senator Tarr.  “By joining together this year as we have in the past we can make a real difference in the lives of children who need to know that we think it’s important for them to have a happy holiday.  It’s about more than a toy; it’s about knowing they’re not forgotten.”

North Shore 104.9 President Todd Tanger stated, “We are thrilled to be a part of this wonderful event. The North Shore Holiday Toy Drive is such an exciting event that brings holiday joy to deserving children right here in the North Shore. We thank everyone for their overwhelming generosity and kind contributions, especially Bruce Tarr for his continued efforts and energy year after year. We appreciate listeners and clients allowing us to break from normal programming to broadcast this event and hope they help us bring some holiday joy to the lives of children on the North Shore this holiday season.”

The scheduled live broadcast locations, which are open to the public, are as follows (times are subject to change):

6:00 a.m. Capitol Diner 431 Union Street, Lynn, MA
Family & Children's Service of Greater Lynn, Inc.

7:30 a.m. Devereux House, Marblehead 39 Lafayette Street, Marblehead, MA
Toys being collected for: Marblehead Counseling Center

8:15 a.m. The Paper Store, Swampscott 435 Paradise Road Swampscott, MA
Toys being collected for: Toys for Local Children (The Paper Store in Swampscott will only collect toys on December 12th.)

9:00 a.m. Flint Public Library, Middleton 1 South Main Street, Middleton, MA
Toys being collected for: Neighbors in Need

10:30 a.m. Dawson’s True Value Hardware 50 Enon Street, Beverly, MA
Toys being collected for: Beverly Bootstraps

12:00 p.m. First Ipswich Bank 31 Market Street, Ipswich, MA
Toys being collected for: Action Inc./ Ipswich Caring

1:15 p.m. Woodman’s of Essex 121 Main Street, Essex, MA
Toys being collected for: Action Inc.

2:00 p.m. Manchester Athletic Club 8 Atwater Avenue, Manchester, MA
Toys being collected for: Pathways For Children

3:30 p.m. Shalin Liu Performance Center 37 Main Street, Rockport, MA
Toys being collected for: Action Inc.

5:00 p.m. Cape Ann Savings Bank 109 Main Street, Gloucester, MA
Toys being collected for: Action Inc.

In addition to the above broadcast locations, the below locations are welcoming any and all donations for the Annual North Shore Holiday Toy Drive. Please note that North Shore 104.9 will not be broadcasting from the below locations:

Wenham Museum

Cape Ann Savings Bank, Manchester

Marblehead Community/Aging Center

Abbott House, Lynn

Rosewood, Peabody

Align Credit Union, Danvers

First Ipswich Bank: Essex, Rowley, Gloucester

Honey Dew Donuts, Danvers

Delande Lighting, Salem

Beverly Chamber of Commerce

Additional toy donation locations listed at www.NorthShore1049.com.

Toys can be dropped off at any of these locations now through Friday, December 20th.  For further information, please call JoAnn Gillette at North Shore 104.9 at 978-927-1049 extension 19 or Senator Bruce Tarr at 617-722-1600.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Media Alert: Senator Tarr to Appear on WBZ Radio’s “Nightside” with Dan Rea Tonight

Tonight at 9:00 p.m., Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr will be joining “Nightside” host Dan Rea to discuss the tragic case of Puppy Doe and the PAWS Act, the comprehensive legislation he has filed to address animal abuse.  If you have any questions or comments please call in during tonight’s segment by dialing (617) 254-1030.

To learn more about Puppy Doe and the PAWS Act, please click here to read a previous post regarding the issue.