Saturday, July 26, 2014

Media Alert: Senator Tarr On the Air with WBZ-TV’s Jon Keller Sunday Morning

Recently, Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr was interviewed by WBZ-TV’s Political Reporter Jon Keller for his Sunday segment Keller@Large Report.  Jon and I discussed various political topics regarding the Commonwealth, including the situation the nation faces with the influx of immigrant children currently crossing the border and what that potentially means for Massachusetts, and Thursday’s Probation Department trial verdicts, where three former officials were found guilty of fostering a job-rigging scheme.

Please tune in to WBZ-TV on Sunday at approximately 8:30 a.m. to watch our lively discussion.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Media Alert: Sen. Tarr on “Broadside” Tonight

Please tune in to tonight’s “Broadside” at 6:00 p.m. on New England Cable News (NECN), where Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr will be discussing with host Jim Braude and State Senator Brian Joyce the potential political consequences of yesterday’s Probation Department verdicts, Governor Patrick’s plan to house border-crossing children in Massachusetts, and the recent Market Basket dispute.

“Broadside” re-airs at 7:30 p.m., 2:30 a.m., and again at 4:00 a.m.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Senator Richard Ross Secures Multiple Amendments to Housing Authority Legislation

Senator Richard J. Ross today successfully passed three amendments to the housing authority reform bill that will increase oversight of director salaries and enhance transparency in the application process.

Senator Ross spoke in support of his amendment that will require housing authorities to consult the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Database when evaluating applications in order to protect the safety of their tenants. Ross filed the amendment in response to reports that Tamerlan Tsarnaev was listed on the terror watch list, and had been receiving public benefits. Ross was pleased to see the amendment passed.

“This is a commonsense amendment that will increase transparency within the housing authority application process, while protecting the public safety,” said Senator Ross. “We need to give housing authorities the tools they need to protect their residents. This additional information will put them in a better position when making application decisions.”

The Senate passed two additional amendments filed by Senator Ross. One amendment mandates that housing authorities give preference to residents of the town, as well as applicants who have lived in the town for at least twenty-five years, but not at the time of the application. This language was included in a further amendment, filed by Senator Robert Hedlund, to prohibit illegal immigrants from receiving priority status over legal housing authority applicants.

Another successful Ross amendment will require the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) to review any housing authority executive director’s contract that is worth more than $100,000 per year.

The bill was unanimously passed by the Senate. A conference committee will now be appointed to resolve differences between the bills that were passed by the Senate and the House of Representatives.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Nearing the End of Formal Sessions

With July 31st nearing quickly, signifying the end of formal sessions, there is a great amount of work still to be completed by the legislature. Currently, there are several bills within conference committees, which are committees of six members (three from the House and three from the Senate) that are formed after the House and Senate engross their own respective versions of a particular bill and work together to produce a final version of the legislation.  Those bills in conference committee include:

•  An Act promoting economic growth across the Commonwealth;

•  An Act relative to the reduction of gun violence;

•  An Act enhancing protection for victims of domestic violence;

•  An Act financing information technology equipment and related projects; and

•  An Act providing for the preservation and improvement of lands, parks and clean energy in the Commonwealth.

Recently, the House and Senate also passed their own versions of a capital bond bill; however, a conference committee has yet to even be appointed.  Including today, there are only 8 days left of formal sessions for the conference committees to file their reports on the various bills in order for the legislature to have the opportunity to debate and possibly enact them.

Also of concern, there are several important measures still awaiting committee action before the legislation can be brought to the floors for a vote.  Those bills include:

•  An Act relative to the penalty for killing, maiming or poisoning of animals;

•  An Act establishing a Massachusetts seafood marketing program;

•  An Act relative to the expansion of the state DNA database; and

•  An Act relative to local housing authorities.

With time running out, the legislature needs to act swiftly to ensure these matters get the attention they deserve.  Keep checking back to read updates on these measures and others as the legislature continues to progress towards the July 31st deadline.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Tarr Amendment Increases Conservation Land Tax Credit in Environmental Bond Bill

On Thursday, July 10th, the Massachusetts State Senate passed its version of a $1.9 billion environmental bond bill, and a major amendment secured by Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester) seeks to expand the Conservation Land Tax Credit (CLTC) program.  Currently, the CLTC program provides a refundable tax credit of 50% of the appraised donation value, with a maximum cap of $50,000.  The Tarr amendment, which was co-sponsored by the Senate Republican Caucus and passed unanimously by a roll call vote of 38-0, would raise the max to $75,000 allowing for greater land conservation investments at a fraction of the cost, while benefiting both the general public and private land owners.

“Conserving and preserving open space is important for our environment, our quality of life and the character of our state,” said Senator Tarr.  “This tax credit has a proven track record of success, and strengthening it in the environmental bond bill will make a good tool even more powerful and effective.”

The Conservation Land Tax Credit was first signed into law in 2008; however, the application did not become available to the public until 2011.  Since then the program has conserved land for an average cost at just under $1,000 per acre, and for every $1 in tax credit provided by the Commonwealth, $5.60 has been generated for the state in land value. To date Massachusetts has conserved over 5,100 acres of land valued at over $21.3 million, while only costing the Commonwealth $3.8 million to purchase. 

The CLTC program has a $2 million cap limit for each calendar year, even though the tax credit has gained in popularity since becoming first available.  During the 2013 calendar year the program exhausted its cap limit from just 44 approved requests, and thus far, 2014 has at least 24 requests totaling $1.15 million, more than half of the program’s cap limit.  In July of 2011, the Massachusetts Commission on Financing Forest Conservation, which was also established by the legislature, recommended increasing the program’s cap to $20 million per calendar year.  With the vast benefits gained by the state, Senator Tarr is committed to increasing the CLTC program’s cap limit for future years to increase conservation land investments.

“Bonding and spending state money isn’t the only way to conserve land, we can also provide incentives that are equally or more effective.  By increasing this modest tax credit we can partner with private land owners to create a win-win situation that is extremely cost effective in promoting open space acquisition in our state,” said Senator Tarr.

The Senate passed the environmental bond bill by a vote of 38-0.  The House of Representatives previously passed its version of the bond bill on June 4th by a vote of 138-5; however, because the Conservation Land Tax Credit program was not included in the House version of the environmental bond bill, the amendment is subject to negotiation in an upcoming House-Senate conference committee.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Senator Tarr’s Statement on a Pharmacy Reform Bill Signed into Law Today

Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester) released the following statement today regarding H.4235, “An Act relative to Pharmacy Practice in the Commonwealth”.  Senator Tarr supported the legislation and served as a member on the special conference committee that was charged to reconcile the House and Senate’s versions of the bill to produce a final report before ultimately being signed into law today:
 “Compounding is a necessary and important part of pharmacy and modern medicine, and yet we have seen the tragic consequences that result when it doesn’t have proper oversight. The bill that becomes law today takes major steps to provide that oversight, from licensing measures to address drugs that are imported and exported, to labeling, to a board of registration that has a better composition and the proper perspective to regulate effectively.
Given the harm that has occurred in the past, we must continue to watch closely this area of our health care system. Yet today we have improved the safety of that system significantly.”

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Tarr Beach Safety Bill Passes Senate; Seeks to Honor the Memory of 2-year-old Caleigh Harrison

On Tuesday, the Massachusetts State Senate took a major step forward by unanimously engrossing a bill sponsored by Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester) that seeks to create a color-coded flag warning system to promote safety at the state’s public beaches.  Senate Bill 2247, also known as “Caleigh’s Bill”, was crafted due to the tragic case of Gloucester 2-year-old Caleigh Harrison, who was last seen on Rockport’s Long Beach on April 19, 2012 and is believed to have been swept out to sea.

“Caleigh’s Bill provides a great public safety and awareness tool for the public beaches across the Commonwealth,” said Senator Tarr.  “This bill honors Caleigh, and through this measure, there will be greater consciousness of the dangers that the ocean presents, and that will ultimately save lives.”

In an effort to promote beach safety, Senate Bill 2247, An Act creating uniform beach warnings, would:

·  Require the Department of Conservation and Recreation to develop a uniform warning and safety flag program to be used at all public beaches maintained by DCR, by providing a uniform size, shape, color, and definition for each warning and safety flag; and

·  Allow a municipality to adopt the uniform flag warning and safety program by requiring a vote by a city council, town council, or town meeting.

“Caleigh’s Bill”, which is also supported by Representative Ann-Margaret Ferrante (D-Gloucester), was first developed by Caleigh’s uncle, David Harrison, Jr., who was on a business trip to Panama last 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.

“My family and I are pleased to hear of the news that Caleigh’s bill has now passed the Senate and is in the final stages of becoming a reality! Our vision of helping to prevent other tragedies like the one that we live through every day seems to be very close to happening! We would like to thank Sen. Bruce Tarr along with Rep. Ann-Margaret Ferrante for their hard work in making all of this possible,” said David Harrison, Jr.

The bill now moves to the House of Representatives for further consideration.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

MEDIA ALERT: Senator Tarr to Discuss PAWS Act on Fox 25, NECN and Channel 5 Tonight

Tonight at 6:30 p.m., Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr will once again be a guest on the Fox 25 Evening News where he’ll be discussing the status of an animal cruelty bill that contains important provisions of the PAWS Act.  The bill, H.1182, was recently released from the Joint Committee on the Judiciary and would:

·  Increase the fine of committing animal abuse from $2,500 to $5,000;

·  Raise the maximum time in prison from 5 years to 7 years;

·  Require veterinarians to report suspected animal abuse (similar to the requirement of medical staff who suspect child abuse); and

·  Create a special taskforce of experts in law enforcement, animal protection, veterinary, and legal professionals to review methods to prevent animal abuse and punish those who commit animal abuse.

Earlier today, Senator Tarr, along with the MSPCA and the Animal Rescue League of Boston, met with members of the media to discuss the release of H.1182 and the potential the bill has to becoming law during this legislative session.  Tune in to NECN, Channel 5, and Fox 25 during tonight’s broadcasts to see today’s interviews.

Senate Republican Caucus Succeeds in Securing DCF Reform in FY’15 State Budget; Measure Aims to Protect Children Under Agency’s Watch

Seeking to address deep concerns regarding those who come into contact with children through the Department of Children and Families (DCF), 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 Member on the Senate Committee on Ways and Means, sought and secured a critical amendment to the Fiscal Year 2015 state budget that will provide an important safeguard in protecting the welfare of children within the state’s child welfare system.  The DCF amendment will require the agency to properly vet the backgrounds of household members of potential foster and adoptive homes for child placement.  In doing so, the measure will provide another level of protection for the children currently within the Massachusetts child welfare system.

“Sadly, over the past year we have witnessed the systemic failures of the Department of Children and Families, and the tragic results of those failures,” said Senator Tarr.  “Government’s primary responsibility is to ensure the safety of its citizens, and this amendment will provide a powerful tool to prevent children and families involved with DCF from coming into contact with those who could harm them.”

Current law requires the Department of Children and Families to conduct background record checks (BRCs) of all adult household members where a foster child has been placed; however, the law falls short of those under the age of 18.  This amendment rectifies that oversight and will provide greater safeguards to protect the more than 7,000 children currently receiving foster care.  The amendment will require DCF to conduct CORI checks on all household members of a foster or adoptive home over the age of 15.

“We’ve witnessed the Department of Children and Families fail to fulfill its mission time and time again and, every time, the consequences have been devastating,” said Senator Hedlund. “I’m proud to have helped secure this amendment as it represents a step in the direction of true reform. There is still work to be done and we cannot stop fighting until every child in the Commonwealth receives the protection they need and deserve.”

In March, Auditor Suzanne Bump released her findings of a recent audit of the agency.  The Auditor’s report stated that “DCF does not have adequate documentation to substantiate that it has conducted all required BRCs on individuals living in some of its foster homes.  Therefore, DCF cannot substantiate that these BRCs were performed before DCF placed children in foster homes.”  Additionally, the audit cross checked Level 2 and Level 3 registered sex offenders to the addresses of children receiving services from DCF over a 27-month period, and found 25 address matches.

“This amendment aims to increase oversight and transparency in the Department of Children and Families, so that our citizenry no longer feel the tragic effects of the agency’s shortcomings,” said Senator Ross. “Our children are too important and this amendment is a step forward in raising accountability, addressing deficiencies, and better protecting those that the DCF cares for.”

“The health and safety of our children is paramount; DCF has to be more accountable with criminal background checks,” said Senator Humason.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Senator Tarr’s Statement on the Passage of an Economic Development Bill by the Senate

Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester) released the following statement tonight after the Senate passed Senate Bill 2231, “An Act promoting economic growth across the Commonwealth”:

“It is important that we do not forget the taxpayer as we develop strategies to stimulate economic development in the Commonwealth.  Just as important as providing funding for grants and programs is ensuring that working families and small businesses get the opportunity to retain and invest more of their earnings in creating jobs and bolstering the economy.  Despite the fact that several key opportunities to confront the costs of doing business in Massachusetts were lost during today’s debate, the bill that was passed does contain some important measures to use tax relief as a powerful tool to produce gains for our economy, including those which:

•  provide a two day sales tax holiday in August;

•  strengthen and modernizing the state’s Research and Development Tax Credit; and

•  improve the usefulness of the Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit for projects in transition.

While these are positive steps, the conclusion of today’s debate leaves us with much more work to do to reduce or eliminate the costs of, and impediments to, job creation and economic growth if we are to secure robust and lasting economic recovery as we emerge from one of the longest and most difficult recessions our state and nation have ever faced.”