My schedule has been dominated by the joint Senate and House hearings for Ways & Means and the testimonies we’ve been hearing from agency after agency is a plea to level fund or restore some of the lost appropriations to the services that provide critical and in some cases, Constitutional, support to the citizens of the Commonwealth. I should be used to it by now, of course.
When I first joined the Finance Committee for my home town, we had just entered into the first year of cuts to Local Aid and local receipts were also trending downward. Whether it was animal control, the library or the regional school district, the message was always the same. Fortunately, the town of Whitman had been frugal for years and had reserves and retiring debt, along with strong leadership in all our Departments, which allowed us to backfill accounts and protect vital services.
It doesn’t look so good for the state’s budget, however. Unchecked growth of government services and agencies in good times, coupled with the mismanagement of “rainy day” funds and an unexplainable reluctance to cut services to undocumented, non-tax paying people in our state all lends itself to an FY12 budget that will strip away to the bone staff at just about all levels of government. There seem to be no sacred cows and it is, frankly, depressing to know how poorly we’re going to be able to manage the services required in Massachusetts.
It is going to take true leadership and legislative fortitude to withstand the outcry we will be hearing as the House and Senate budgets are crafted and I’m concerned that those who’ve led us into this crisis are looking beyond the state, rather than facing the music for which they’ve provided the score.
Looking back and forward to the weeks’ activities;
Monday (2/21): President’s Day. I spent it at the State House, setting up the new office and catching up on paperwork.
Tuesday (2/22): Ways & Means hearing at UMass Amherst. Heard from: Dept. of Early Education and Care, Dept. Elementary and Secondary Education, Dept. of Higher Education, Local Aid (MMA). Also held district office hours in the evening at Whitman Town Hall.
Wednesday (2/23): Ways & Means hearing at Montachusett Regional Voc-Tech in Fitchburg. Heard from: Dept. of Children and Families, Dept. of Youth Services, Dept. of Transitional Assistance, Dept. of Developmental Disabilities, Mass. Rehab Commission, Mass. Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Mass. Commission for the Blind, Office of Refugees
Thursday (2/24): Had meetings at the district office (Whitman) all day.
Friday (2/25): Ways & Means hearing at Massasoit Conf. Center, Brockton. Heard from: District Attorneys, Sheriffs, Judiciary, Committee for Public Counsel Services, Ethics, Mass. Legal Assistance Corporation, Mass. Commission Against Discrimination, Victim and Witness Assistance, Disabled Persons Protection Commission
Monday (2/28): Taking a tour of Children’s Hospital to see how 12,000 patients are taken care of annually. Will be holding district office hours at the Abington Town Hall from 5 – 6pm.
Tuesday (3/1): Will be attending the Ways & Means hearing at Berkshire Comm. College in Pittsfield. Will be hearing from: Dept. of Agriculture, Dept. of Conservation and Recreation, Dept. of Environmental Protection, Div. of Energy Resources, Dept. of Public Utilities, Dept. of Fish and Game, Mass. Dept. of Transportation, Mass. Aeronautics Commission, Registry of Motor Vehicles, Merit Rating Board
Wednesday (3/2): At the State House for a meeting of the Committee on Personnel & Administration. There will also be a formal session to vote on legislation pertaining to redistricting.
Thursday (3/3): Meeting with Superintendent of WHRSD in the AM, then going to a PCEA Legislative Conference at the Monponsett Inn in Halifax later in the afternoon.
Friday (3/4): Ways & Means hearing in the Gardner Auditorium of the State House.
As part of my ongoing pledge to review all bills I’ve filed (done last week) or co-sponsored (this week and beyond), here are the first 10 (of approx. 80) House & Senate bills I’ve signed on to and what they mean:
HD00311: An Act Relative to the Punishment of Habitual Offenders. (Rep. Bradford Hill)
1) “Melissa’s Bill” or the “Three Strikes” law.
2) All you want (and NEED) to know is here: http://3strikeslaw.blogspot.com/
HD00436: An Act Providing for Interstate Criminal Offender Records be Made Available to Certain Persons and Agencies. (Rep. Elizabeth Poirier )
1) Any person, an employee or volunteer or who contracts with any agency or department within the realm of health and human services or has contact with any children shall have his interstate criminal offender record information made available to his employer or the agency or department who has made a contract or the person, agency or department to which he has volunteered his services
HD00446: An Act Relative to Sales and Excise Tax Exemptions for Disabled Veterans. (Rep. Elizabeth Poirier)
1) To allow disabled veterans access to sales and excise tax exemptions.
(GD Note: They’ve given everything for our country and state – let’s give something back!)
HD00455: An Act Requiring Parental Consent on Sex Education in Public Schools. (Rep. Elizabeth Poirier)
1) Any city, town or school district maintaining or implementing any curriculum, unit of study, school-sanctioned program or activity which involves sex education shall offer it only on an elective basis.
2) Given five school days notice, prior review of said materials, as well as the questioning of teachers and administrators involved, will be extended to parents, guardians and/or their legal representatives.
3) Written parent or guardian permission will be required for student participation.
4) No public school teacher or employee who feels that such curriculum or activity violates his or her religious beliefs shall be required to participate in any way.
HD00488: An Act Establishing a Permanent Annual Sales Tax Holiday. (Rep. James J. Dwyer)
1) Directs the Department of Revenue to establish a permanent, annual sales tax holiday on a two day weekend in August.
HD00491: An Act Relative to a Woman’s Right to Know. (Rep. Elizabeth Poirier)
1) To ensure that women seeking abortions are provided a fully informed choice and a sufficient period of time to reflect on the information provided.
2) To reduce the risk that a woman may elect an abortion, only to discover later, with devastating psychological consequences, that her decision was not fully informed.
3) To ensure that a pregnant woman has the right upon her request to view a live ultrasound and hear the heartbeat of her unborn child before an abortion.
4) A provision is included in the legislation requesting that this bill be titled, “Laura’s Law”.
HD00492: An Act Relative to Parole Board Membership and Reporting. (Rep. James J. Dwyer)
1) Prohibits members of the Parole Board to maintain any outside employment, including private employment, while serving as a member of the Parole Board (currently only prohibits public employment).
2) If there is an absence of the Chairman, the most senior member will serve as the acting Chairman (currently allows the Governor to appoint interim Chairman).
3) Requires that secondary addresses and addresses of places of employment be made available to local law enforcement officials of the community in which the parolee is released to (currently only requires primary address).
HD00493: An Act Relative to Parole Board Procedures. (Rep. James J. Dwyer)
1) If a Parole Board member is unable to attend a hearing, the Parole Board member in absent cannot vote in the matter of said Parole Board hearing (currently, Parole Board members are allowed to vote without being present at a hearing, as long as they review the parolee’s hearing footage and case file).
2) All votes of the Parole Board must have 5 of the 7 Parole board members voting to parole the prisoner. (currently only requires simple majority of 4 votes)
3) All votes of the Parole Board must be made public (currently anonymous)
4) Parole Board must receive a confirmation from the District Attorney that the District Attorney’s office is in receipt of the parole hearing notification before the said hearing can take place (currently allows for hearing to take place without response from District Attorney’s office)
HD00495: An Act Relative to Repeat Domestic Violence Offenders. (Rep. James J. Dwyer)
1) Clarifies definitions and factors of married relationships, long-term relationships, and engagement relations relative to cases of domestic violations.
2) Institutes stronger penalties for repeat or habitual offenders of domestic violence starting with the second conviction
HD00648: RESOLUTION in support of a two minute moment of silence honoring those who have served in the U.S. Armed Services. (Rep. Alice Hanlon Peisch)
1) An annual voluntary moment of silence to honor veterans of the armed services on November 11th.
2) The resolution was prompted by two interns of Rep. Peisch, Michael D. Bendetson and Daniel Bendetson, who are promoting a national moment of silence based on their experience with a similar observance on a recent trip to Israel.
As previously notes, this is just 10 of the 80 bills I support from other State Representatives – both Republican and Democrat. A good idea that works for the people is all that matters!
Thank you, as always, for your interest in my weekly comings and goings and I welcome your feedback whenever you want to provide it: Geoff@GeoffDiehl.com