Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Senator Ross: December 2014 State House Update

Senator Richard J. Ross, State House Update, December 2014
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State Senator Richard J. Ross (R-Wrentham) proudly serving the Norfolk, Bristol and Middlesex District.

State House
Room 520
Boston, MA 02133

Ph: 617-722-1555
Fax: 617-722-1053

Dear Friends,

The end of this year marks my fourth year serving as your State Senator and my tenth in the Massachusetts State Legislature.

Looking back on 2014, there was so much we were able to accomplish and still more we can do. I am so grateful and honored to be able to serve the Norfolk, Bristol, and Middlesex District again and am looking forward to both the challenges and changes 2015 will bring.

Have a happy holiday season and New Year, and please let me know how I can better serve you during the next legislative session.


  • Increase opportunities for long-term substance abuse recovery
  • Empower victims of domestic violence by creating new criminal offenses and enforcing stricter penalties
  • Passing legislation to assist individuals with autism and other developmental disabilities
  • Extending benefits for veterans
  • DCF Reform that would require background checks for potential foster and adoptive homes
  • Environmental Bond bill to preserve, protect, and maintain land, parks, and clean energy initiatives
  • Economic development bill to promote job creation and initiatives that will help stimulate our economy
  • Protecting Animal Welfare and Safety (PAWS) Act
  • Removing pepper spray from list of items needing an FID card
  • Strengthening oversight of public housing authority by requiring approval of all contracts exceeding $100,000
  • Funding improvements to the state's transportation system
  • Reform of water and wastewater infrastructures
  • Racing Days bill signed into law to accommodate construction at Plainridge racecourse

This year marks the 60th anniversary of the Needham Blue Tree Lighting, a local holiday favorite. What made this year different than all of the rest, was the old sugar maple that has graced the Town Common for so long was lit up for the final time. The tree, which is now in decay, will be replaced by a new tree this coming spring.

Governor-elect, and Needham native, Charlie Baker joined hundreds of Needhamites as well as his father, Charlie Baker Sr., in giving the tree a proper send off. Retiring Needham Fire Chief Paul Buckley was the one to flip the switch as the town marveled at the tree's splendor.

I would like to thank the Needham Business Association and everyone who helped organize such a fantastic event once again. I would especially like to thank the people of Needham who come out in droves year after year, despite tumultuous weather, to keep this longstanding tradition alive. I'm so proud to be able to represent part of such a great town and am already looking forward to next year.
Having run my own funeral home in Wrentham for almost 40 years, I always take great pride when young students show an interest in entrepreneurism and operating a small business.

I had the pleasure of speaking with two students from King Philip Regional High School, Maddie Purdue and Abbey Buchanan, involved in the DECA program, about the value of entrepreneurship. I have always been a strong supporter of DECA, an organization focused on preparing young emerging leaders for strong careers in the fields related to business and finance.

Teaching our children early on about the importance of drive and dedication in life is critical. Not only are small businesses the backbone of our economy, but so are our youth. I was so happy to chat with Maddie and Abbey, two great, young women who are future leaders in the making.
Earlier this month, I participated in a community dialogue, sponsored by the Sudbury-Wayland-Lincoln Domestic Violence Forum, aimed at combating domestic violence and preventing violence in its many forms. Many local officials, community leaders, and families of victims took the time to discuss the issue at length and possible approaches moving forward.

Assault and violence is an egregious issue in the Commonwealth, and is something I have worked especially hard to deter. This past legislative session, we were able to pass a comprehensive domestic violence bill aimed at increasing penalties for perpetrators, and I was recently assigned to serve on a special commission, by Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr, to examine and explore the housing and shelter options for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.

We are taking much needed steps to make our communities safer, but there is still more we can do locally. I was glad to be a part of the forum, and am eager to take part in future discussions.

As the current Governor is set to leave office in a matter of days, the Commonwealth is dealing with a serious budget deficit. There seems to be a discrepancy as far as how much, but it is clear that no matter how you look at it, we are in the red and that must be fixed.

Governor Patrick has already made a number of significant cuts to regional school transportation, METCO, special education, as well other local initiatives. Our cities and towns are suffering because of reckless spending on Beacon Hill, and that is not fair, and will not happen.

Once the new Governor is sworn in, we are going to have to roll up our sleeves find ways to fix this budget while protecting critical services. I have full confidence in Governor Baker in accomplishing this, and my colleagues of both parties, in both chambers of the legislature, are ready and willing to help him do it. The people of Massachusetts should know that their government is working properly and is using their taxpayer dollars effectively.
In light of recent controversial comments made by Professor Jonathan Gruber, I, along with my fellow Republican Senators, submitted a letter to Governor Deval Patrick requesting he ask for Gruber's immediate resignation as a member of the Massachusetts Health Connector Board.

As stated in the letter, Professor Gruber knowingly admitted to acts of deceit towards the American public, claiming that the '"lack of transparency [being] a huge political advantage" during the debate and passage of the Affordable Care Act ("ACA"), and the "stupidity of the American voter…was really, really critical for the thing to pass."'

The Health Connector Board and its members have a significant impact on the Commonwealth, as they are heavily involved in all policy, regulatory, and program decisions pertaining to the health and wellness of those the Massachusetts Health Connector serves. "Professor Gruber's comments are not only in direct opposition to those of us who seek to expand public trust in government they call into question his ability to act impartially and in a manner that upholds the integrity of the Health Connector Board. Professor Gruber's advocacy for an ideology founded in deceit should have no place in our government," the Caucus wrote.

As a matter of principle, I think it is imperative that Professor Gruber go. The people of the Commonwealth expect those who make and carry out policy to do so in a transparent and ethical manner. Professor Gruber has betrayed the trust of the American people with his comments and actions. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts must cut ties with him in order to retain some sense of integrity if we are to serve the people effectively.
This year marked the 73rd anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor and I was privileged to attend several ceremonies across my district at the Morse Institute Library in Natick (left) and at the WWII Memorial Pool in North Attleboro (right).

The Senate Republican Caucus recently met with staff from Attorney General Martha Coakley's office to discuss our letter regarding the extreme rate hikes instituted by National Grid.

Her staff explained their review process, as well as the potential for change. The Attorney General's review covers National Grid's process, not the results. It is a review to ensure that the rates are competitively procured. Because that test was met, the Attorney General's office had no choice but to approve the higher rates. While we are extremely unhappy with the outcome, unfortunately, the legislature does not have the legal and constitutional authority to challenge these rates.

Moving forward, we are hoping to continue discussions on this topic to help alleviate this significant burden on our constituents. We understand this is difficult, but  if you need Homeowner Energy Saving Tips, please visit the EEA website here, or for Heating and Energy Savings Resources please click here.
Dylan Berio, honorary member of the Attleboro Police Department, led the city in the Holiday Happenings Parade (left). Had a blast at the Plainville Tree Lighting with Rep. Shawn Dooley and Robert Rose, Chairman of the Plainville Board of Selectmen (right).

This year in the legislature we tackled a number of hot-button issues. Here is a brief recap of my views on a number of critical policy areas we touched upon. Looking ahead to 2015, we must take vital steps to address these concerns and keep in mind other areas where the people of the Commonwealth need our help.
Welcomed students from St. Joseph's Elementary School in Needham to the State House with Senator Mike Rush and Rep. Denise Garlick (left). The Wellesley Middle School Band and Orchestra had a fantastic holiday performance at the State House with Secretary of the Commonwealth, William Galvin (right).

It is that time of year, and living in New England we all know too well the pressures that come with the cold weather and severe winter storms. Here are some helpful tips from the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security to ensure that you have an enjoyable holiday season, but are also prepared for those unexpected occurrences we are far too familiar with.
Great time speaking with constituents at the Natick COA Holiday Party (left) and the Lions Club Annual Senior Christmas Party at King Philip Regional High School (right).

These past few months, I have had the privilege of visiting a number of small businesses across the Norfolk, Bristol, and Middlesex District. Businesses run by families for generations with longstanding ties in the community. These folks are the ones who keep our economy running, the people who built their business from the ground up, depending on word of mouth contact and grassroots outreach. These businesses are run by our neighbors and friends, and are an essential part of our towns.

In 2015, I will be continuing my small business spotlight. If you would like your business to be a part of our Small Business Spotlight or would like to nominate a small business, email me at To see the places I have visited so far, check out my website here.
Throughout the year, I'm happy to host interns in my State House office from across the Norfolk, Bristol, and Middlesex District. For the fall semester, I was pleased to welcome Kyle Bechet of Plainville.

Kyle Bechet has lived in Plainville for most of his life. He went through the Plainville public school system and later graduated from King Philip Regional High School in Wrentham.  Kyle is also an Eagle Scout and currently attends Boston University where he is double majoring in Political Science and Economics.

Having Kyle intern with us these past few months was an absolute privilege. He was kind, diligent, and especially hardworking and I always appreciate when outstanding students from my district are able to see the work done on Beacon Hill firsthand.

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