Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Senate Republican Caucus Secures Child Exploitation Protections

Boston- The Senate Republican Caucus today succeeded in securing an amendment that will raise awareness of child abuse and exploitation in a bill that changes the state’s sexual health education law.

Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester) authored the legislation which directs the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to include among sexual health curriculum, guidelines for child exploitation awareness education for school districts.

“Sadly, experience has taught us that some in our society will put children at risk for abuse, neglect or maltreatment,” said Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester). “Tens of thousands of suspected child abuse reports are filed with the state each year and child safety experts confirm that raising awareness of the warning signs of exploitation can make a significant difference in keeping children safe.”

The Tarr amendment was inspired by Erin Merryn, a childhood sexual assault survivor and the namesake of Erin’s Law.

Erin’s Law requires public schools to include a prevention oriented child sexual abuse program. Tarr’s amendment will better inform school personnel about child sexual abuse, assist parents in recognizing the warning signs of child abuse, and empower children to guard against exploitation.

Following debate on the matter the Tarr amendment was adopted by the Senate by a unanimous vote of the members.

If signed into law by Governor Baker Massachusetts would move into a majority of states which have adopted it. 26 states have adopted Erin’s Law and it is currently pending in 17 others.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Final Formal Legislative Session Bills for 2015

On Wednesday, lawmakers on Beacon Hill will bring to a close the formal legislative session for 2015. The legislature will continue to hold sessions through the end of the year to advance bills that do not require debate or roll call votes in what we often refer to as informal sessions.

A number of bills have been advanced in House and Senate chambers; I want to provide you with an opportunity to become aware of the bills that we expect to see scheduled for debate in the Senate.

There are five significant bills which honor the valor and contributions of our veterans and military members, they are:
• H. 3243 - An Act providing free park access to Purple Heart Recipients,
• H.3173 - An Act relative to the removal of veterans, police and fire, commemorative flag holders,
• H.1306 - An Act relative to veterans' grave markers,
• H.1600 - An Act providing further penalties for intentional loss or damage to a gravestone or other gravemarker,
• H.1641 - An Act concerning the false representation of military status, stolen valor.

Other bills that will likely be voted on in the session include:
• S.757 – An Act regulating notaries public to protect consumers and the validity and effectiveness of recorded instruments (Notaries)  Sets forth the terms, qualifications and requirement for notaries. Prohibits a notary, who is not an attorney, from - advising clients with regards to immigration issues, real estate closings, or providing legal advice. Creates fines for initial and subsequent violation of law up to $5,000 and up to one year in jail.

• S.2052 – An Act establishing the Massachusetts Paint Stewardship program (Paint Stewardship)  This bill creates a program to collect, reuse and recycle post-consumer architectural paint. The bill requires retailers to collect an assessment on the sale of paint on containers of less than five gallons. Requires paint producers to submit to the Department of Environmental Protection a plan to implement paint stewardship

• S.2053 – An Act supporting military leave (Military Leave)  Provides an individual employed in the state who serves in the Army National Guard ,the Army Reserve, the Marine Corps Reserve, the Naval Reserve, the Air National Guard, the Air Force Reserve, and the Coast Guard Reserve the same rights and privileges given under the federal uniformed services employment and reemployment act.

• S.2054 – An Act relative to social media privacy protection (Social Media)   Prohibits employers, or school from requiring a person to disclose a user name or password for personal social media accounts.

• S.2048 – An Act relative to healthy youth (Healthy Youth)  School districts that offer sexual health education are required to provide content that is medically accurate and age appropriate. Mandates that all schools must adopt a written policy ensuring notification to parents and guarantees an opt out mechanism for them to withdraw a child from the program without penalty.

• S.2047 – An Act to promote quality physical education (Physical Education)  Age appropriate physical activity, fitness and nutrition are included in the definition of physical education. Updates the requirements that physical education be taught in all public schools including charters.

• H.3854 – An Act relative to solar energy (Net Metering) Net metering allows customers of electric distribution to generate their own electricity resulting in an offset in their electricity consumption and allows customers to receive credits for any electricity that they generate but do not use. Increases the current cap in utilities ownership of solar generation, creates a new “market net metering credit”, increases the private net metering cap from 4% of utilities’ peak load to 6%. Increases the public net metering cap from 5% to 7%.

The Senate may also take up H3798 – An Act relative to the trafficking of fentanyl. This bill updates the state’s drug trafficking laws to include a penalty for trafficking fentanyl. Although fentanyl is significantly more potent than drugs such as heroin or morphine, under existing law, traffickers can only be charged with the lesser crimes of dispensing. Convictions for trafficking could result in up to 20 years in state prison.

Our sessions, be they formal or informal, are always open to the public and records of our actions are available free of charge at our Website – You may contact my office for information about these and other bills that are of interest to you.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Standing With the People of Paris

Senate President Stan Rosenberg joined me in the Senate Chamber today to place a bouquet of flowers at the marble bust of the Marquis de Lafayette to show our support for the people of France.

As a courageous teen, Lafayette left France and enlisted in the Continental Army. He service under the command of George Washington and his efforts to secure independence and liberty in America, and in his native France, will forever be remembered.

With the support of Lafayette and the people of France, our capital city is known throughout the world as the cradle of liberty.   Boston and Paris share similar values in that we honor peace and the essential freedoms of an open society.   The violence and terror that was inflicted on innocent civilians will not dim the city of light – just as Bostonians stood strong after the Marathon bombing so too will Paris find that its friends and allies will stand shoulder to shoulder for liberté, égalité and fraternité.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Discussing Renewable Energy and Partnership

This morning Minority Leader Senator Tarr had the honor of joining Governor Baker in welcoming Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard to Massachusetts and the State House. Mr. Couillard was elected as Premier in 2014 and is leading the province toward further development of its hydroelectric generating capabilities, which are already substantial. Together we discussed the tremendous potential for our state to receive the benefits of this renewable, reliable, cost-effective and environmentally friendly electricity as part of an energy portfolio that needs these elements.

The possibilities for extremely beneficial partnerships in renewable energy between Quebec and Massachusetts were highlighted again this afternoon at the 23rd Annual Energy Trade & Technology Conference  where I again met with Premier Couillard for a luncheon and he delivered the keynote address to business and government leaders from the Eastern United States and Canada. 

Senator Tarr is confident and optimistic that by working in partnership, Quebec and Massachusetts can together help to build a future with energy that reduces greenhouse gas emissions and fosters energy independence in ways that help our economies and our environment.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Happy Veterans' Day

Join us today in remembering, and showing respect for, our nation’s veterans.  

I salute the brave men and women who serve today, and those who have ever worn our nation’s uniform, their combined efforts have protected our freedoms and preserved our democracy. 
Massachusetts families have, since the Revolutionary War to today’s conflicts in Iraq and in Afghanistan,  offered the country strong, thoughtful, and brave men and women who have defended and secured our freedoms and protected those around the world from tyranny.
To protect the American way of life our Army soldiers, Navy sailors, Air Force airmen, Marines, and Coast Guard guardians accepted challenges and missions that required extraordinary actions.  Thank you for your service.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Senate Creates Child Safety Net

In response to growing national media accounts and government reports of children being handed off to strangers through Internet sites such as on Facebook and Yahoo, the Senate today took action today to end the practice by adopting a bill co-sponsored by Senator Jennifer Flanagan and Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr.

“We have a solemn obligation to prevent children from being put in jeopardy by being transferred outside the safeguards and accountability of our well-developed adoption system,” said Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R – Gloucester). “This bill reflects that obligation by creating a serious and appropriate range of penalties for those who would put a child in another’s hands without regard for safety and well-being.”

Re-homing, a word associated with pet owners looking for new homes for their animals, has been used to describe the practice of transferring custody of a child without the knowledge or authorization of a court or licensed adoption agency. Increasingly, children of parents no longer willing or interested in caring for them have been offered up in makeshift undocumented adoptions, sometimes to homes with sex offenders and abusers.

A recent U.S. Government Accountability Office report on re-homing found that unregulated exchanges often occur because people were often unable or unwilling to meet adoption agency protocols. Absent agency background checks, children have been placed in dangerous situations.

“By addressing the issue of re-homing , which poses exceptional dangers for one of our most at-risk youth populations, we are building on bipartisan efforts to strengthen protections for children across the Commonwealth,” said Donald Humason (R-Westfield), a member of the Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities. “It is also important for us to take steps to ensure that adults interested in adopting can utilize the safest and most capable legal adoption services the Commonwealth can provide to discourage involvement in unregulated practices like re-homing.”

The bill includes criminal penalties for anyone, other than a duly authorized agent licensed placement agency, who places an advertisement to either acquire or receive a child. In addition, placement agencies will be required to provide a prospective parent with all relevant information about a child so that he or she can knowledgeably determine whether to accept the child for adoption.

Members of the Senate Republican Caucus offered several amendments to the bill including a stiffening of penalties for those who would advertise alternative placement of a child for money or those who place or receive a child. First offenders will be subject to fines up to $10,000 and up to 2 and a half years incarceration. Second and subsequent offences will be subject to fines of $50,000 and $100,000 respectively. Other amendments included amendments examined options for mandated reporters to alert authorities of re-homed children, and a measure to create a commission to study barriers to adoption. While reports of re-homing have focused on disrupted adoptions, sponsors of the bill noted that the law, in its current form, does not ban the practice from occurring for biological offspring.

November is National Adoption Month and Senate backers of the bill are hopeful that the House will schedule the bill for a vote prior to the legislative recess November 18.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Senate Supplements Priorities in Funding Bill

Tomorrow, the Senate will take up a bill, Senate 2025, which will fund significant state government programs and advance a number of public policy priorities.  The $341 million proposal reflects a series of items first initiated by Governor Baker in order to fulfill functions outlined in the state budget such as training at the Department of Children and Families, final payments for contractors who cleared last winter’s snow and ice, and initiatives for public health and public safety.

MassHealth will receive $203 million to address shortfalls and to expand substance abuse coverage.

Other substance abuse related programs funded by the bill:
  • $300,000 for the Trial Court to hire a project coordinator to oversee coordination, administration and financial oversight of the sequential intercept model project,
  • $15.2 million to fund substance abuse and residential beds and school-based substance use screenings,
  • $1.2 million for verbal substance use screening,
  • $5.8  million for a substance use treatment program to provide detoxification and clinical services for civilly committed women with substance use disorders at Taunton State Hospital,
  • $3.8 million to fund substance abuse counselors in schools.
In addition, other major areas of funding include:
  • $31.5 million for snow and ice removal costs for Mass Department of Transportation,
  • $21.7 million to close deficiencies in ten Sheriff Departments,
  • $3 million to fund Department of Children and Families training services for foster families and adoptive families and congregate care and adoption support services,
  • $5 million to support homelessness diversion, prevention and housing stabilization programs,
  • $9.5 million for National Guard student tuition and fees reimbursements,
The bill makes a $120,000,000 deposit into the state’s so-called Rainy Day Fund and revives a special commission charged with examining housing and shelter options for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.

Members of the Senate Republican Caucus and I have offered several amendments to the bill to provide assistance to municipalities, low-income families, and health patients, these include:
  • Providing cities and town with $20 million in additional Local Aid payments for essential services,
  • Creating a two year pilot program to examine ways to qualify patients needing extended hospital stays to be covered under Federal Medicare,
  • Requiring the Department of Public Health to seek approval from the federal government to allow those who receive WIC benefits to use them on diapers for children. Currently, families receiving WIC cannot use the benefits to purchase diapers,
  • Protecting businesses against patent infringement threats, known as patent trolling,
  • Providing low-income households with $10 million in heating assistance, 
  • Requiring the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) to conduct a feasibility study before adopting the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness (PARCC) standardized test, in place of the MCAS including procedures required to repeal the 2010 decision of the board to adopt the PARCC standards.  
  • Promoting compliance with the health care cost transparency law which requires health insurers to provide patients with accurate pricing information.
The text of the bill can be read by clicking this link:

Friday, October 2, 2015

Senate Passes Opiate Addiction Prevention Bill

Senate Republican Amendments Safeguard Public Health and Safety

Boston- The State Senate today unanimously adopted a bill intended to reduce the rate of opioid addiction and increase efforts to retool pain management practices through policy changes at state agencies and municipal health, safety and education departments.

 “Our actions in the Senate today will help to prevent the human and economic costs caused by abuse of opiates and pain killers and give hope to those families who have struggled to aid a loved one suffering with addiction,” said Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester). “Through our Republican Caucus amendments to the bill, we engage the resources of state agencies to maximize collaboration with police, reduce incidents of driving under the influence of drugs, assess obstructions to inpatient treatment and reduce the over prescription of opiates.”

The Senate bill, known as the Substance Abuse Prevention Act, developed from recent findings of the Senate Special Opioid Committee following a year-long effort to produce recommendations to further strengthen opioid abuse prevention, intervention, treatment and recovery options.

 “Over the past several years, we have seen with alarming regularity an increase in drug-related deaths across the Commonwealth. This opioid epidemic touches every community and no family is immune to it. Last session, we passed comprehensive legislation that made a strike against this epidemic, but today we went a step further by focusing on education and prevention,” said Senator Richard Ross (R-Wrentham) a member of the Special Committee. “It is my hope that this legislation will not only reach those who are already in need of addiction treatments, but also our children who are most susceptible to outside influences. This legislation provides key tools for our schools, physicians, and public safety officials to limit the amount of unused and unwanted prescription pills available, keep our communities safe, and ultimately save lives.”

The Senate Special Opioid Committee was convened in January 2014 to respond to a sharp rise in fatalities and overdoses. Deaths from heroin and other opioids totaled more than 1,200 in 2014, a spike of 34% over 2013 and 88 percent greater than 2012.

Components of the bill, Senate 2020, include:
• Directing the newly formed Drug Formulary Commission to publish a list of non-opiate pain management products that may be used as lower risk alternatives,
• Establishing a voluntary program for a person in recovery to record a non-opiate directive. This would allow a person to have a clear indicator in their patient record that a health care practitioner shall not administer or prescribe opiate drugs to that person,
• Limiting opioid prescriptions in an emergency department to a five-day supply;
• Establishing a Drug Stewardship program for drug manufacturers to allow patients to safely dispose of unwanted drugs,
• Creating a school-based screening and referral system,
• Ensuring patient access to pain management consultation,
• Expanding our “Good Samaritan” legal protections for first responders to possess and administer Naloxone.

Senators considered more than forty amendments during debate of the bill and adopted several sponsored or cosponsored by members of the Republican Caucus, which:
 • Lessens unused and unwanted prescriptions by requiring a practitioner to consult with a patient to determine preferences for reduces quantities and dosages of opioid medications, a so-called partial fill option,
 • Assists local police departments by providing service referral and education training for individuals seeking treatment at local police departments,
 • Makes a requirement for school districts to conduct student drug screenings to be subject to state appropriation, • Creates a special commission to examine roadside drug testing,
• Requires an assessment of the capacity for inpatient substance abuse treatment,
• Includes a module on addictive substances to be part of driver education courses for Junior Operators, • Requires that a practitioner receive informed consent from the parent or guardian of the minor prior to prescribing a controlled substance,
• Requires acute hospitals to report the number of newborns exposed to controlled substances.

Opiates are responsible for more annual deaths in Massachusetts than auto accidents and guns combined. The bill now moves to the House of Representatives.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Reforms for Department of Children and Families

Boston– Today, State Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester) issued the following statement regarding reform efforts announced by Governor Charlie Baker, Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito, Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders, Department of Children and Families Commissioner Linda Spears, and SEIU Local 509 Chapter President Peter MacKinnon:

The DCF reforms announced jointly today by the Baker Administration and SEIU Local 509 are important and productive in many ways. Acknowledging that the state’s beleaguered child welfare agency has been suffering from systemic failures is a necessary and critical first step to actually confronting those failures in a realistic and productive way, and it sets a course toward desperately needed change.

Substantially, the reforms make good and practical sense, and that is confirmed by the support of the people who are working at DCF to protect kids every day. Accessing, using and sharing information, maintaining manageable caseloads with effective supervision, and providing technical support to case workers all have tremendous potential to give DCF new strength and effectiveness.

Perhaps most importantly however, clearly establishing the mission of DCF to keeping children safe, is critical to moving the agency forward by doing everything possible to reduce the risk of harm to our state’s most vulnerable children.

DCF is in clear need of reform and support, and now there is a plan to provide them. The Legislature should do what it can and must do to help bring that plan to fruition.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Senate Republican Amendment Targets Lengthy Driver Insurance Surcharges

Secures Study to Reduce Nation’s Longest Payment Period

Boston- The Senate today adopted a Republican Caucus proposal which could lead to a reduction in the length of time that drivers are subject to the state’s insurance surcharge point system for traffic violations.

 Under existing law, auto insurance companies calculate premiums using the Safe Driver Insurance Program (SDIP) which factors in surchargable driving events on a person’s record for up to six years. Surchargable events include minor infractions such as speeding and major offenses such as at-fault accidents and driving under the influence.

“Across the nation, the average insurance surcharges period is less than two and a half years; our amendment requires the Insurance Division to evaluate our system to determine if and how we can move away from a six year system that levies a penalty on drivers far longer than in any of our neighboring states,” said Senator Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R- Gloucester).

The proposal, authored by Tarr, and offered by the Senate Republican Caucus was unanimously adopted by the Senate. It requires the state Division of Insurance to conduct a study on the feasibility of reducing the amount of time driver points remain on a drivers SDIP record. The report along with recommendations must be submitted to the legislature no later than December 31, 2015.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Reforming the MBTA

Responding to the systemic problems of the MBTA highlighted by system-wide failures that were exposed by our last winter, I worked during the Senate debate of the Fiscal Year 2016 State Budget to develop and sponsor an amendment with my colleagues in the Republican Caucus to create a Fiscal Management Control Board to begin the process of productive reform. Importantly, we worked to reach a bipartisan compromise with Senate Transportation Chair Thomas McGee (D- Lynn) and Governor Charlie Baker that was approved unanimously by the Senate, prevailed in the budget process, and became law. By clicking the links you can read the language of our amendment and its final version, Section 199, of the state budget.

Yesterday that Fiscal Management Control Board proved how important it is to address issues in mass transportation by issuing its first report on many dimensions of the MBTA. It contains information critical to understanding the situation we face, and points in the direction of necessary actions to confront problems, capture savings and efficiencies, and restoring reliability and fiscal soundness to a system that so many riders and our economy and quality of life depend on. You can read the entire report by clicking this link. or the image below.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

State Budget Reflects Senate Republican Caucus Policy Initiatives

MBTA Reform, Olympic Games Spending Freeze & Insurance Surcharge Boston- Key policy reforms initiated by the Senate Republican Caucus are contained in the Fiscal Year 2016 annual state budget now moving to Governor Charlie Baker’s desk. Major reform elements included in the final version of the budget are expected to produce a sweeping overhaul of the troubled MBTA. In February, as winter storms continued to expose management and maintenance gaps, members of the Senate Republican caucus filed legislation to move the failing agency under the auspices of a Fiscal Control and Management Board, a change which would create a stronger line of accountability to Governor Charlie Baker. The Senate, in May, ultimately unanimously approved the reform plan proposed by Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester). Bi-partisan support, following collaboration with Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Tom McGee, grew into a unanimous vote of the Senate. “For far too long, the management at the T allowed the system to fail, a grave disservice to their riders, taxpayers, and our economy. By adopting the amendment with bi-partisan support, the Senate created momentum to the idea of giving Governor Baker the tools he needs to begin to end the hardship that the T has generated, pursue greater efficiencies, and restore faith with those who pay the bills,” said Senator Tarr. Vinny deMacedo (R-Plymouth), the Senate Republican member of the budget negotiating committee added, “We were honored to share what we believe is a common sense approach to governing. We lived within our fiscal means, we tackled challenging issues by giving the Administration the tools necessary to govern effectively and we address the most significant challenges that we as a Commonwealth face.” Components of the MBTA control board include: • Securing financial and performance stability of the MBTA; • Implementing uniform budget and planning guidelines and procedures for all departments; • MBTA fare protections for riders; • Inspector General required to review service and procurement contracts; • Executing capital budgets and borrowing authorizations to finance or refinance any debt; • Maintaining authority to appoint, remove, supervise, and control all MBTA employees and personnel matters; • Developing a long range plan for MBTA financial and structural sustainability; and • Accountability measures including requiring the filing of a quarterly report to the House and Senate Committees on Ways and Means detailing revenues and expenses. In addition to the control board, the final budget includes targeted relief from an anti-privatization law that has obstructed savings and reform. A temporary suspension of the so-called Pacheco law is expected to provide the MBTA with project and maintenance savings and greater program efficiencies otherwise not available. Independent budget and policy experts have suggested that the Pacheco law has resulted in added costs of hundreds of millions of dollars. “I am happy to see that the Conference Committee included the significant MBTA reform advocated for by Senate Republican Caucus in our final budget proposal. The eleven cities and towns I represent in the 2nd Hampden and Hampshire District will benefit greatly from the establishment of the control board and contract oversight by the Inspector General,” said Donald Humason (R-Westfield). “Assuring that cost reducing measures and contract evaluations are performed will help to put an end to what has been years of wasteful spending that impacts residents across the Commonwealth—including Western Massachusetts.” Senate Minority Leader Tarr also successfully advocated for the inclusion of legislation he authored to assure that no state agency or department spends any state funds connected to the 2024 Olympic Games in Boston unless a special act of the Legislature is signed into law by Governor Baker. “Inclusion of our amendment ensures that the Legislature and Governor, as responsible stewards of the Commonwealth’s resources, are putting taxpayer’s interests and needs first,” said Tarr. The conference committee included the legislation, which received support from a bi-partisan group of Senate co-sponsors, to provide greater oversight on the use of state money as the International Olympic Committee considers which city will be awarded the games. Under the plan, money can only be spent for due diligence and analysis of Boston 2024 organizer’s plans. “This final budget represents a victory for not only Senate Republicans and the Baker Administration; it is a victory for the people of Massachusetts. Major reforms and taxpayer protections, from the Pacheco law freeze at the MBTA to the continuance of the income tax reduction to 5%, were included as well as my local priorities for the towns I represent. I’m proud to vote for the budget,” said Ryan Fattman, (R Webster). Tarr also received support by the committee when it accepted his plan to shield motorists from costly insurance surcharges for failing to use headlights when foul weather requires they turn their windshield wipers on. Under the Tarr proposal, the $5 moving violation will no longer trigger a six year auto insurance surcharge currently included in state law. “Our goal is to enhance public safety. We shouldn’t be penalizing drivers by spiking their car insurance bill year after year,” said Tarr. “The Senate Republican Caucus took action in the Senate version of the budget to strike the new law and restore commons sense; the motoring public needs to know that our members are on their side.” “The budget proposal put forward here today is reflective of not just the priorities of the Senate, but the priorities of the people of the Commonwealth,” said Senator Ross (R-Wrentham). “I am proud of the hard work of this body in crafting a budget that implements necessary reforms, invests in essential programs, and puts our hardworking taxpayers first.” The conference committee did not include the Senate backed freeze of the Income Tax rate nor a tax increase on flavored tobacco. Following expected approval by the full House and Senate, the budget will next go to the desk of Governor Charlie Baker for his approval. ###

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Give Your Input on the State's Transportation Capital Improvement Plan

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) is offering a prime opportunity for people to comment on how state funds should be spent on transportation at 10 hearings being held across the Commonwealth in the month of June.

The hearings focus on the Capital Improvement Plan, which directs spending on infrastructure projects for the Fiscal year 2016, that will begin on June 15. Examples of these types of projects include: road reconstruction, bridge repair and reconstruction, and improvements to the MBTA transit system. The announcement of the hearings from MassDOT is posted below.

Please don’t hesitate to contact my office with any questions about them or transportation issues in general.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Senate Republican Caucus Urges Gov. Baker to Take Public Transportation Action

Today the Senate Republican Caucus distributed the following press release regarding a letter the caucus sent to Governor Baker urging him to take action on the issues currently hampering the state’s public transportation system:

Senate Republican Caucus Urges Gov. Baker to Take Public Transportation Action

Caucus Stands with the Administration in Seeking Solutions

Boston- Expressing concern of the current state of the Commonwealth’s public transportation system, the Senate Republican Caucus sent a letter to Governor Charlie Baker today to urge him to take the necessary steps in improving Massachusetts’ public transportation system.

“These past few weeks of arctic cold temperatures coupled with abnormal amounts of precipitation have stressed the need for further action to prevent the type of commuter gridlock that has prevented so many from receiving a timely commute to work, home, and other important destinations,” wrote the caucus.

Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester), Assistant Minority Leader Robert Hedlund (R-Weymouth), Assistant Minority Leader Richard Ross (R-Wrentham), Senate Minority Whip Donald Humason (R-Westfield), Assistant Minority Whip Ryan Fattman (R-Webster) and Vinny deMacedo (R-Plymouth) the Ranking Republican on the Senate Committee on Ways and Means, highlighted several issues currently plaguing the public transportation system within their letter. Those issues include:

  • A lack of timely communications to inform passengers of delays, cancellations, and diversions;

  • A failure of Keolis to fulfill a lengthy list of promised service improvements, e.g., on time performance, equipment performance, safety, customer service, customer satisfaction, ridership growth, etc.;

  • The failure of a strong working relationship between Keolis and the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA); and

  • The purchase of different types of equipment (locomotives, coaches, and control cars) throughout the years from different manufacturers, preventing the formation of a fleet of standardized equipment, which now requires additional training, maintenance and inventory issues and challenges.
“With ridership currently falling over the past decade, an aging infrastructure that has been pieced together through the years, and costs continuing to skyrocket to operate the nation’s oldest public transportation system, we stand with you in exploring methods to ensure the types of adverse issues that have prohibited timely commutes are stymied,” wrote Senate Republicans.

The senators are optimistic that Governor Baker and the legislature can work cooperatively to bring a cost effective, world class transportation system that commuters can depend on through reforms to address their concerns.

“We urge you to take all necessary action in improving Massachusetts’ public transportation system.  The Commonwealth depends on a system that delivers a world class service to commuters, and we are dedicated in working with you to ensure the people of this state receive such a system,” wrote the caucus.


* Posted below is the letter sent today by the Senate Republican Caucus to Governor Charlie Baker.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Remembering An Extraordinary Man

Martin Luther King, Jr. photographed by Marion S. Trikosko, 1964. LC-DIG-ppmsc-01269 Source: Library of Congress - See more at:

“He gave people an ethical and moral way to engage in activities designed to perfect social change without bloodshed and violence.” – excerpt from Dr. Benjamin Mays eulogy for Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. at Morehouse College on April 9, 1968.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s life and legacy embodies the essence of freedom and equality for all, and on this day I hope we all take a few moments to reflect on the accomplishments of this extraordinary man.  His message of peace through nonviolent protests to ignite a cultural change within American society is a message that still reverberates today.

Sermon after sermon, speech after speech, Dr. King delivered a message of peace, hope, and faith. Because of his actions, and his ability to deliver such messages, this country made major strides towards eliminating racial injustice. During a time of severe strife, Dr. King taught people tolerance and brotherhood.  During a time of segregation and hate, Dr. King taught love and friendship.

Dr. King will forever be remembered for his contributions, and will continue to inspire people for generations to come.  Posted below is his 1963 public speech “I Have a Dream”, which was delivered in front of a crowd of approximately 200,000 civil rights supporters during a rally in Washington D.C. in front of the Lincoln Memorial.

Full text to the "I Have a Dream" speech:

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. So we have come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

In a sense we have come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked "insufficient funds." But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check -- a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quick sands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.

We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. They have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.

As we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, "When will you be satisfied?" We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied, as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating "For Whites Only". We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.

Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.

I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal."

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with a new meaning, "My country, 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim's pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring."

And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York.

Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania! Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California!

But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Senator Tarr’s Statement on a Baker-Polito Three-Month Regulatory Pause

Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester) released the following statement this week after Governor Charlie Baker and Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito announced a 90-day pause on all new regulations:

“The delays and costs of complying with overly burdensome regulations and permitting requirements represents one of the most frequently cited challenges to economic growth by those who create and maintain jobs. Halting the advancement of even more regulations so that their cost-effectiveness can be determined is an important step in developing a strategy to build a stronger, more robust economic recovery.”

Friday, January 9, 2015

Congratulations to Charlie Baker & Karyn Polito

The following statement was issued by Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr yesterday:

“Today the Commonwealth’s new Governor and Lt. Governor were sworn into office.  I would like to congratulate both Charlie Baker and Karyn Polito on this momentous occasion. Surely we will face many challenges together; however, Massachusetts is in great hands for the next four years, and the Senate Republican Caucus looks forward to working with the new administration in advancing an agenda that will position the state for long term success.”

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Senator Tarr Set to Lead Senate Republicans; Vows the Caucus Will Remain Engaged and Vocal

The Massachusetts State Senate Republican Caucus has announced that current Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr of Gloucester will serve as the caucus’ leader for the 189th session. With a unanimous decision made by the members, Tarr will continue to build upon the successes the caucus has secured over the previous two sessions as minority leader, and vows that the caucus will remain engaged to ensure Massachusetts moves in a direction where small businesses thrive, the economy stabilizes, and children and families succeed.

“I am truly thankful for the trust and confidence the members of the Senate Republican Caucus have placed in me today by reelecting me as their Minority Leader, and I am eager to begin the new legislative session with a renewed commitment to building a stronger and more prosperous Commonwealth for each and every one of us,” said Senator Tarr. “Our caucus will continue to bring ideas to the table and debate issues with vigor and respect. We will never lose sight of the importance of finding common ground, and we will always be mindful of the importance of our principles.”

Under Senator Tarr’s guidance, the Senate Republican Caucus has secured needed transparency within the legislature, prevented the establishment of taxes, and fought for accountability within state government. Some of those successes include:

· Requiring the Massachusetts State Senate to post all roll call votes within 48 hours;

· Leading the repeal of the devastating services tax known as the “tech tax”;

· Strengthening the Commonwealth’s antiquated animal abuse laws by championing the “PAWS Act” (An Act Protecting Animal Welfare and Safety);

· Freezing the unemployment insurance tax rates at the 2013 levels, saving businesses an estimated $500 million; and
· Working with other members of the legislature to ensure the Commonwealth’s natural gas pipes are assessed and repaired in a timely fashion before tragedy strikes.

Tarr, who was first elected to the Senate in 1994, has served in numerous leadership positions prior to his ascension as Minority Leader for the 2011-2012 legislative session. Those positions include Assistant Minority Whip, Minority Whip, and Assistant Minority Leader.  He is the current Co-Chairman of the Coastal Caucus, the Northeast Legislative Caucus, and the Fisheries Subcommittee of the Joint Committee on the Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture.

 “I am very proud to have Senator Bruce Tarr as Minority Leader,” said Senator Ross. “His vast knowledge of the issues, his work ethic and dedication, as well as his commanding oratory, uniquely qualifies him to lead the Senate Republican Caucus.”

Senator Tarr is a relentless advocate for the fishing industry, and has worked with federal, state, and local officials to bring fishing issues such as unfair regulations to the forefront. By establishing a “no stone left unturned” approach, Tarr sponsored and worked with several members of the legislature and secured a measure to advance the marketing of Massachusetts seafood.

“I was very honored to cast my vote for Bruce Tarr for Senate Minority Leader, and I am looking forward to working with Republican Leader Tarr in the next 2 years of our Senate Session,” said Senator Humason. “In the many years that I have worked in state government, I have been fortunate to work for and with true public servants and great leaders.”

After a vigorous and productive campaign year, the Senate Republican Caucus gained an additional two members this past election, bringing the total to six. Senator Viriato deMacedo (R-Plymouth) won the open Plymouth and Barnstable Senate district that was vacated by outgoing Senate President Therese Murray (D-Plymouth), and Senator Ryan Fattman (R-Sutton) unseated incumbent Senator Richard Moore (D-Uxbridge) in the Worcester and Norfolk Senate district.

“I was proud to cast my vote for Sen. Tarr as Minority leader,” said Senator Fattman. “Senator Tarr is truly well respected in the state senate and throughout Massachusetts, and I look forward to working with him in making Massachusetts a more affordable and accountable place to live.”

Under Tarr’s leadership, the Republican caucus will continue to play a big role in shaping legislative measures.  By working with the Senate Republican Caucus, Senator Tarr vows to continue to fight for fiscal discipline, prevent illegal immigrants from collecting state benefits, avert fraud within the state’s welfare programs, and to cut the cost of state government.

Tarr’s district includes the city of Gloucester and the towns of Boxford, Essex, Georgetown, Groveland, Hamilton, Ipswich, Manchester-by-the-Sea, Middleton, Newbury, North Reading, Rockport, Rowley, Wenham, West Newbury, Wilmington, and precincts 5, 6, 7 and 8 in the town of North Andover.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

The Start of a New Legislative Session

The 189th session of the General Court got underway today with the swearing in of the new and returning members of the Massachusetts House of Representatives and Massachusetts Senate. Pictured above are the members of the Senate Republican Caucus for 2015-2016, including (left to right) Senator Robert Hedlund, Senator Richard Ross, Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr, Senator Donald Humason, Senator Vinny deMacedo and Senator Ryan Fattman.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

A Busy Week of Events

While there is still much to do before the closure of the 188th Legislative Session, Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr and the Senate Republican Caucus would like to provide some important dates and times of upcoming events later this week. Today is the final day of the 2013-2014 legislative session, with both the House and Senate conducting informal sessions to finalize many of the remaining bills still in flux.

The Governor has until Wednesday night to sign bills into law or veto them; however, if he does not act on a particular bill, it is known as a pocket veto, and it will have to be re-filed for a chance to become law in the next legislative session.

Also on Wednesday, members of the House of Representatives and members of the Senate will be sworn into office at 11:00 AM, commencing the 189th Legislative Session. The Senate Republican Caucus will be welcoming two new members, Senator-Elect deMacedo and Senator-Elect Fattman.

Later in the day Governor Patrick will be leaving the State House for the last time as Governor. He will walk through the State House, exit out of the ceremonial doors in the front of the building, cross the street and walk into Boston Common, symbolically rejoining the Commonwealth as a private citizen. The tradition is now known as “The Lone Walk”, which first began in 1884 by then Governor Benjamin Butler.

On Thursday, at 10:30 AM, there will be an entrance ceremony on the steps of the State House for Governor-Elect Charlie Baker, and then at noon he will take the oath of office becoming the Commonwealth’s 72nd Governor. The Senate will join the House of Representatives in the House Chamber at noon for a joint session for the inauguration of Charlie Baker and Karyn Polito as Governor and Lieutenant Governor. Members of the Governor’s Council will also be sworn in during the session.

To commemorate the day, there is an inaugural celebration at 8:00 PM at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, which is open to the public with the purchase of a ticket (please click here for more information regarding the inauguration celebration). The celebration will feature a variety of talented musical performers, passionate speeches, and a festive atmosphere.

Other important dates to remember include a January 16th deadline for members to timely file bills for the 2015-2016 legislative session. A timely filed bill is a bill that is guaranteed to receive a public hearing during the upcoming session. And then on January 21st, the state’s remaining Constitutional Officers will be sworn into office. They include Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin, Attorney General Maura Healey, Treasurer Deb Goldberg, and Auditor Suzanne Bump.