Wednesday, February 26, 2014

N.E. Commercial Fisheries to Receive Federal Aid

Today Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr released the following statement regarding the announcement that the New England commercial fisheries will receive almost $33 million in fisheries disaster relief aid:

“Our commercial fishing industry is facing a prolonged crisis that threatens its very survival, and these funds represent a critical lifeline for fishing families and ports.  Although the amount is modest in the context of the threat, it does represent recognition by the federal government of its obligation to provide resources in the face of this dilemma.  Now, the funds need to get to the people who need them without delay, without being sacrificed to the costs of overhead and bureaucracy, and without a mistaken belief that they will solve the problems the industry faces.

Hopefully, with these funds at work to prevent immediate extinction of commercial fishing in Massachusetts and New England, we can use the time they buy to chart a course for better management, and a groundfishery that can survive now and prosper in the days ahead.”

Please click here to read New Bedford Stand Times Reporter Steve Urbon’s latest report on the fisheries disaster relief money.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Senate Approves Restrictions, Inquiry into Foster Care Placements with Individuals having Prior Criminal Records

The Senate today approved temporary restrictions on the placement of children under the care of the Department of Children and Families (DCF) in foster homes with individuals who have a prior criminal record.

The amendment, offered by Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester) and the Senate Republican Caucus, prohibits DCF’s approval of any new foster care placements involving individuals or family members convicted of a felony, unless there are specific written findings on the necessity of such placement and a finding that the placement poses no threat to the safety of the child.  The amendment was approved on a roll call vote of 32-5 as part of a $196.4 million supplemental budget passed by the Senate today.

The amendment also requires the Office of the Child Advocate to examine all such existing foster care placements to ensure the safety of each child, and to determine whether or not such placement is appropriate.

The Senate’s actions follow recent media reports indicating that DCF has allowed foster parents with prior criminal records to take children into their homes in 650 cases since 2013.  There are currently 552 active homes caring for children where the guardian has a prior criminal conviction.

Under DCF policies that were last updated in 2008, prospective foster parents who have been convicted of crimes such as soliciting sex from a minor, motor vehicle homicide, and armed assault are not automatically disqualified from becoming foster parents, and can seek a waiver from DCF.  This is due in part to a 2000 Superior Court decision.

According to recent media reports, DCF maintains a “discretionary” list that includes about 110 crimes applicants can have on their records and still qualify as foster parents.  Some of these offenses include:

·         inducing sex from a minor;

·         soliciting a prostitute;

·         possessing obscene “pornographic” material;

·         assault and battery with a dangerous weapon,;

·         armed burglary;

·         involuntary manslaughter;

·         motor vehicle homicide while driving under the influence; and

·         trafficking in cocaine or heroin within 1,000 feet of a school

Last December, 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 – released a letter calling for an independent investigation into the failures of DCF regarding the disappearance of Jeremiah Oliver.  Oliver, a five-year-old Fitchburg resident, went missing last fall while under DCF care, and his whereabouts remain unknown.

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

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

An Interesting Editorial

In today’s Gloucester Daily Times, the newspaper cites an important issue regarding the federal government’s REAL ID Act, and the repercussions citizens of the Commonwealth will soon face if the state doesn’t comply with the federal law.

To read today’s editorial, please click here.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Senator Tarr’s Statement on Unemployment Insurance Reform

Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester) released the following statement today, following the Senate’s adoption of an order scheduling debate on an unemployment insurance reform bill for Thursday, February 6th:

“The need for reforming our broken unemployment insurance system is clear, and legislative action is long overdue.  Senate Republicans have been offering reforms consistently for the past several years.  Finally, the opportunity is before us to take the steps necessary to implement lasting reforms that will encourage businesses to hire workers, make the system fair for all, and prevent the types of abuses that have plagued the system for years, while at the same time ensuring that the trust fund remains solvent.

Now that it appears the Senate is serious about bringing this issue to the floor, we will be offering a series of amendments to achieve these goals.  Hopefully, this week we can pass the type of real reform bill that we have been calling for repeatedly, and one that will break the cycle of perennial rate freezes while positive change waits for action.”