Saturday, February 28, 2015

Senator Ross: February 2015 State House Update

Senator Richard J. Ross, State House Update, February 2015
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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,

This month has been a very difficult one, especially for those who rely on the MBTA. Historic winter storms have hit our area and left many of my constituents to deal with unreliable train service on a daily basis.

Please read my newsletter to see the work the Senate Republican caucus is doing to try and solve this ongoing problem. Additionally, I hope to see all of my constituents at an open public forum at the Newton North High School cafeteria from 7:00pm-8:30pm on Monday, March 2nd as part of the Senate Commonwealth Conversations Tour.

This is a great chance to let your voice be heard, so I hope to see you all there.



In response to weeks of repeated performance failures by the MBTA and partner Keolis Commuter Services, the Senate Republican Caucus and I filed legislation that will provide several tools for the unsustainable public transportation system aimed to financially stabilize the MBTA and restore public confidence in the system.

The bipartisan measure authored by the caucus would create a fiscal recovery trust fund, require the Secretary of Administration and Finance to identify funds to assist the MBTA, and would create a new seven member MBTA finance control board that could ultimately be dissolved in favor of a receiver that would take over the board's responsibilities as a last resort if sufficient progress has not been made.

The responsibilities of the MBTA finance control board/receiver include:
  • Securing financial and performance stability of the MBTA;
  • Implementing fiscal controls;
  • Implementing uniform budget and planning guidelines and procedures for all departments;
  • Levying fines on vendors who fail to maintain on-time rates, vehicle cleanliness, fare collections, station maintenance, and staff training;
  • 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
  • Requiring the filing of a quarterly report to the House and Senate Committees on Ways and Means detailing how any expended loan funds were used in the past quarter.
My constituents have dealt with the impact of delays, cancellations, and limited service for weeks now and it is unacceptable. This legislation would take much needed action to resolve a clear mismanagement of funds and direction within the MBTA and provide residents with a public transportation system they can depend on.

Forty years ago, Ms. Pamela Johnson's second grade class at the Kennedy School in Franklin was learning about local government and the legislative process when they decided that Massachusetts needed a state bug. Ms. Johnson's class worked very hard and with the help of their State Representative took the necessary steps and advocacy efforts to Beacon Hill that ultimately lead to passage of a bill making the Ladybug the official Bug of the Commonwealth.

On Tuesday, February 10, 2015, Representative Jeffrey N. Roy, Senator Karen E. Spilka, and I hosted a ceremony delivering the Franklin delegation's ladybug to town officials and commemorating the 40th anniversary of the class project that made the Ladybug the official bug of the Commonwealth.

We truly live in a remarkable state when citizens, no matter what age, have the ability to impact the legislative process. Forty years later, this testament remains true, and it was a privilege to recognize the success of the Kennedy School with this ladybug, a shining example of civic engagement, that will reside in Franklin Town Hall for generations to come.

The METCO program is such a vital educational program in my district, offering countless opportunities to so many young students.

On Tuesday, February 24th I attended a METCO legislative breakfast with my colleagues, superintendents, and students from across the state. It was especially great to speak with Needham Superintendent Daniel Gutekanst, Needham School Committee Chair Michael Greis, Wayland Superintendent Paul Stein, and Wayland METCO Director Mabel Reid-Wallace.

I also had the opportunity to chat with some great students from Wayland, Alex Chused, Tachianna Griffiths, and Dominique Griffith, about the positive impact METCO has had on their lives. Their stories reiterated how important this funding is for not only them, but for our school districts as well.

This has been a tough time for everyone with the recent  budget shortfall, but as the 189th legislative continues and FY16 budget discussions begin, I look forward to continuing this important conversation.
Since Boston was chosen as the United States bid to host the 2024 Olympics, I have co-sponsored three pieces of legislation to further study and investigate the possible impact hosting the Olympic Games will have on the Commonwealth.

A bill filed by Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester), An Act relative to the commonwealth of Massachusetts hosting an Olympic Games, would ensure that at least one public hearing be conducted by the House and Senate Ways and Means committees, and a special act passed before any Commonwealth funds are spent on the games.

An Act to establish a special joint committee to study the Olympic Games in the Commonwealth, filed by Representative Paul Frost (R-Auburn), would establish a committee of the General Court to determine the costs, benefits, and feasibility of hosting the Summer Olympics in Massachusetts. Additionally, I co-sponsored An Act promoting transparency and accountability for hosting the 2024 summer games, filed by Rep. Michael Moran (D-Brighton), which would create a seven member commission tasked with additional analyses and oversight.

Before such an undertaking as the Olympics, we must include legislators to ensure that our constituents are not bearing the burden of added costs and that vital town projects are not neglected.

Working in a bipartisan effort with Senate colleagues before and during the Senate joint rules debate, the Senate Republican Caucus and I secured additional transparency and accountability measures that could ultimately govern the current legislative session.

I secured passage of an amendment filed that would require all standing committees to provide committee members a minimum of 4 hours to review polls prior to submitting their vote, which may be suspended by a majority vote by the members of the committee.

Ensuring that the state legislature is working in the most transparent and effective manner should be our top priority, and I believe some of the measures included do just that. I am pleased that my colleagues supported my amendment, which serves to give legislators the time they need to carefully consider the legislation before them.

The debate was constructive and will only help to increase oversight and transparency in state government. It is my hope that this, as well as the other provisions secured by the Senate Republicans, will also be adopted later on in the process.

The Senate and House package of joint rules have now headed to a conference committee.
Blue and Gold Ceremony for Franklin's Cub Scout Pack 17. Congrats to these six dedicated young men on this wonderful achievement. (left) Met with KP students Julia Reilly and Caroline Chisolm of Norfolk where they presented their project for the DECA program, entitled "Believe to Achieve." (right)
On Monday, March 2nd, I will continue a statewide tour of Senate districts, visiting businesses, universities and local organizations to listen to the concerns of the residents of MetroWest. I will be joined by Senate President Stan Rosenberg, Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr, Senators Karen Spilka, Cynthia Stone Creem, Mike Barrett, Jamie Eldridge, and Eileen Donoghue, as well as other senators from across Massachusetts.
The MetroWest tour will begin at Plainridge Park Casino to discuss issues impacting economic development in the region and will conclude with an open public forum at the Newton North High School cafeteria from 7:00pm-8:30 pm. All members of the public are encouraged to attend. Sign-up sheets will be available for individuals who wish to testify, and speaking slots are available for two minutes per individual to accommodate all testifiers.
This is an exciting opportunity for the Senate to engage in a meaningful discourse with our constituents, local officials, and business leaders on the issues they care about. I am looking forward to touring the MetroWest region with my colleagues and encourage all of my constituents to attend the public forum and let their voice be heard.
About Commonwealth Conversations
The Commonwealth Conversations Tour is a statewide tour of Senate districts led by the local senators to reach out to local residents, businesses and interest groups to listen directly to their needs and concerns with the hope that it will foster more civic engagement, while helping each senator learn more about issues outside of their own districts.
All members of the public are encouraged to participate. To read more about this effort, visit the website at and follow on Twitter at @Ma_Senate. 
Happy to host a pizza party at the Wellesley COA and chat with seniors about their priorities in their community. (left) Toured the historic Falls Fire Barn Museum in North Attleboro with Museum Director Nancy Campbell. (right)
I am pleased to announce that the 74th Citizens' Legislative Seminar (CLS) will be held this spring on Tuesday, April 28th and Wednesday, April 29th from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the State House.
The Citizens' Legislative Seminar is always a great chance for those interested in learning more about the workings of state government and the legislative process to get hands-on experience. This seminar is a fantastic opportunity and I encourage all those interested in participating to contact my office directly.
CLS is a citizen seminar that aims to better educate the public on the Commonwealth's legislative process. Established in 1976 through a collaborative effort of the Massachusetts Senate and the University of Massachusetts, this two-day seminar features presentations by Senators and staff on aspects of the day-to-day experience of legislators in the Commonwealth. Topics will include the history and process of the Legislature, the parliamentary role of the Clerk of the Senate and the future of the Legislature.
The CLS culminates with a simulated legislative hearing and Senate session where participants are invited to use what they have learned and participate as "Senators" in the Senate Chamber in order to have a first-hand experience of the legislative process.
All residents in the Norfolk, Bristol, and Middlesex District are invited to contact my office at by Tuesday, March 10th in order to be nominated.
Southeastern Massachusetts Libraries Legislative Breakfast at the Norton Public Library with dedicated student Aidan Ryan, Senator Michael Rodrigues, Rep. Steven Howitt, Senator Jim Timilty, and Rep. Betty Poirier. (left) Honored to speak at the 150th anniversary celebration of Dean College with President Dr. Paula Rooney. (right)
The Community VNA Hospice and Palliative Care will be offering a six week Grief Education Series for Adults Experiencing loss beginning on March 4, 2015 through April 8, 2015. These sessions are for any adult experiencing loss.

As the director of a funeral home, I am all too familiar with the grief many families go through when they lose someone close to them. This program  is a great opportunity for you or someone you know to have the chance to speak to a professional and use them a resource during this difficult time.

The program is free and open to the public and takes place on Wednesdays, 6:30pm-8:00pm at Community VNA, 10 Emory Street, Attleboro, MA 02703. To register call (508)222-0118 or (800)220-0110. For more information, you can also visit
Celebrating the 30th Anniversary of Louise Condon Realty in Needham. Congrats on this outstanding achievement and your continued success in the community. (left) Pleased to recognize my dear friend Carol Mollica for her retirement after 21 years serving as Wrentham Town Clerk. Thank you for everything you have done for the town. (right)
I was honored to stand with my colleagues at the annual Go Red for Women event at the State House to help raise awareness about heart disease. Thank you to the American Heart Association and the Massachusetts Caucus of Women Legislators for sponsoring such a great event.
Great turnout for the North Attleboro Senior Circuit Breaker Seminar (left) and the Plainville Senior Circuit Breaker Seminar. (right) 
In February, my legislative colleagues and I hosted informational seminars on the Senior Circuit Breaker Tax Credit across the Norfolk, Bristol, and Middlesex District. It was great to see so many of our constituents come and learn about this beneficial program.

We still have a number of seminars scheduled for March, and I encourage all those interested to attend. To see when we will be visiting your town, check out the schedule below. For more information on the Senior Circuit Breaker Tax Credit please visit my website here
Friday, March 13th
Wrentham COA, 400 Taunton Street, Wrentham

Norfolk COA, 28 Medway Branch Road, Norfolk
Wednesday, March 18th 
Needham Center at the Heights, 300 Hillside Avenue, Needham
Natick COA, 117 East Central Street, Natick
Millis Town Hall, 900 Main Street, Millis
Tuesday, March 24th
Wellesley COA, 219 Washington Street, Wellesley
Wayland COA, 41 Cochituate Road, Wayland
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