Thursday, June 26, 2014

Senate Republican Caucus Seeks Affordable Care Act Amendments in State Budget

Recognizing the harm being inflicted on the Massachusetts economy due to the 2010 enactment of the federal Affordable Care Act (ACA), the Senate Republican Caucus secured two amendments to the Senate’s version of the Fiscal Year 2015 state budget that would study the effects of a medical device tax on the state’s economy and compel a formal request for a permanent waiver to certain provisions of the ACA.  With the ongoing negotiations between the members of the conference committee charged with reconciling the House and Senate’s versions of the spending bill, Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester), Assistant Minority Leader Robert Hedlund (R-Weymouth), and Senate Minority Whip Donald Humason (R-Westfield) have sent the members of the committee a letter expressing a need to include the amendments in the final version of the bill.

Upon passage of the ACA in 2010, medical device manufacturers became subjected to a tax that has inflicted on this important group of employers.  In an effort to support the industry, bolster the economy, and protect jobs in the state, Senate Republicans secured an amendment that would create a commission to study the short and long term effects of the medical device tax on the Massachusetts economy and its employers.

“The medical device tax contained in the ACA has significant negative impacts on this critical group of employers in our Commonwealth, and thus for our state’s economy as well,” wrote Senate Republicans to the members of the conference committee.  “Accordingly, the Senate embraced our amendment to create a commission to study those impacts and inform a course of action to address them.”

Widely lauded as the model for the federal Affordable Care Act, the 2006 Massachusetts Health Care reform law has achieved the overall goals of the ACA by providing healthcare to over 97% of the Commonwealth’s residents; however, due to restrictions on risk rating factors, and the requirement of a new health care exchange website have undermined the Massachusetts health care law.

“Unfortunately, the Massachusetts law touted repeatedly as the prototype for the federal ACA is now being undermined by its federal successor,” wrote the caucus.  “Our amendment now before you would require the administration to request a permanent waiver from two important elements of the ACA: the requirement to use only 4 risk rating factors as opposed to the 9 currently used in Massachusetts, and the requirement to create a new exchange website, even though the Commonwealth’s exchange has complied with the ACA’s goal of health care coverage.”

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Senate Republican Caucus Seeks Answers on Immigration Detainees Policies

In an effort to seek clarification on recent reports regarding immigration detainees being transported to Massachusetts, Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester), Assistant Minority Leader Robert Hedlund (R-Weymouth), Senate Minority Whip Donald Humason (R-Westfield), and Senator Richard Ross (R-Wrentham), the Ranking Republican on the Senate Committee on Ways and Means, have sent a letter to Todd Thurlow, Assistant Field Officer for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)  inquiring about the agency’s practice.

Recent media reports have confirmed that at least six commercial, agency-owned charter flights have transported immigration detainees from the United States’ southern border to Hanscom Air Force Base and Logan International Airport.  According to these same reports, Governor Patrick was not notified of this unilateral operation.

“We are deeply concerned about the potential impacts of the policy of ICE transporting immigration detainees to Massachusetts and then transferring them to Department of Homeland Security facilities or elsewhere,” wrote Senate Republicans.

The questions posed in the letter by the caucus aim to discover if there is any validity to these recent media reports, and whether the issue demands further action.  Their questions include:

* When was the policy of transferring immigration detainees to Massachusetts by ICE instituted and who authorized this policy?

* To what extent, if any, were members of the Patrick administration briefed on this policy?

* Were are the immigration detainees currently being held?

* After being transferred to Department of Homeland Security facilities, are the immigration detainees remanded to the custody of the federal government, or are they released pending further action? If they are released, what conditions or restrictions are put on them?

The Senate Republican Caucus also points out that a May 2014 report by the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) has found that ICE has released 36,000 convicted criminal immigration detainees into the United States in 2013 alone.

Attached below is the letter sent by the Senate Republican Caucus to Assistant Field Officer Todd Thurlow.

Senate GOP Caucus seeks answers to ICE immigration detainees policy by Troy Wall

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Senator Tarr’s Statement on Today's Senate Passage of a Minimum Wage/UI Bill

Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester) released the following statement today following the passage of S.2195, “An Act restoring the minimum wage and providing unemployment insurance reforms”, by a vote of 35-4:

“Today the Massachusetts State Senate passed a major increase to the state’s minimum wage rate, and although a wage increase was warranted, I fear that an increase of this magnitude will prove onerous to the economy and detrimental to small businesses throughout the Commonwealth by stifling job growth.  A survey conducted by the Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce found that 85% of businesses have reported that they will be negatively impacted by the increases to the minimum wage, and without careful consideration to assist employers, this bill will have done a great injustice to those who provide the necessary jobs that stabilize our local economies. The plan passed today is an example of taking one step forward, and several steps back in terms of competitiveness and job creation.

Rather than relying solely on a highest-in-the-nation minimum wage increase, which can’t effectively lift families out of poverty, Senate Republicans have consistently advanced a carefully crafted plan.  The Minority Party offered, quite simply, a better plan.  A plan that did not focus on Massachusetts having the highest minimum wage in the nation, but a plan that would have eased the burden of higher business expenses with a balanced and fair approach to encourage job growth and generate economic competitiveness that would have assisted the 750,000 residents currently living in households below the federal poverty threshold; sadly, the Senate chose a different path.  Highlights of the Senate Republican plan include:

• Doubling the anti-poverty and work incentive program called the Earned Income Tax Credit from 15% to 30%;

• Providing incentives to employers who provide low wage earners with health insurance;

• Increasing the minimum wage from $8 to as much as $9.50 in two years; and

• Requiring the Secretary of Labor and Workforce Development to recommend appropriate minimum wage rates following a review of their effectiveness in helping low wage workers and impact on job creation and economic competitiveness.

Although the legislature has missed a prime opportunity for a balanced and comprehensive approach to help low-wage earners without jeopardizing the jobs they need, the Senate Republican Caucus will continue to fight for measures that will benefit all of the state’s citizenry rather than pitting some against others, and will continue to fight for productive measures to help those who work every day and continue to struggle with poverty.”

Friday, June 6, 2014

Media Alert: Tarr On the Air with Fox 25

Tonight at 5:00 p.m., Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr will once again be a guest on the Fox 25 Evening News where he’ll be discussing with Maria Stephanos Thursday’s parole board hearing and decision to grant parole to Frederick Christian.  In 1994, Christian, while still a juvenile, was sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole because of his role in a robbery that resulted in the death of two individuals, and seriously wounding a third.

However, in light of a U.S. Supreme Court decision and a Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court decision, juveniles can no longer be sentenced to life in prison without the option of parole citing the 8th Amendment’s cruel and unusual punishment clause.  The retroactive rulings now require juveniles convicted of first degree murder to serve at least 15 years after their conviction for parole eligibility, which is the same for an individual convicted of second degree murder.

In response to those rulings, Senator Tarr and the Senate Republican Caucus sponsored a bill setting parole for juveniles convicted of first degree murder at 35 years.  The bicameral and bipartisan bill, which has 32 co-sponsors, has the support of the District Attorneys Association.  To read more about the bill, please click here to read a previous blog post.

Tune in at 5:00 p.m. to watch tonight’s Fox 25 segment.