Dear Honorable Amherst State Senator Stan Rosenberg:
Western Massachusetts' probable future successor to Congressman John Olver: Stan Rosenberg - www.jonathanmelleonpolitics.blogspot.com/2007/11/stan-rosenberg.html, is holding a conference on broadband technology & access for the Berkshires & other rural areas throughout Western Massachusetts in Northampton, Massachusetts, on March 1, 2008 at 8:30 A.M. to 3:30 P.M. Please read his report on Massachusetts State Government, below.
On a separate subject...
You, Stan, are totally wrong not to criticize the paltry and insignificant "Big Dig" Settlement last month. The State spent over $15 Billion of our tax dollars on a tunnel system that will someday in the future collapse into the ocean, and you state it is "Noteworthy" that the State is recouping over $450 Million from the contractors. That is TERRIBLE! You should NOT be elected U.S. Congress after your best political friend retires sometime in the future! Please retract your statement! That "Big Dig" Settlement was insider, closed-door, top-down, corrupt,...government at its very worst! And you know it!
Jonathan A. Melle
From: "Tom Mitchell"
Subject: The Rosenberg Report - Vol. 56
Date: Fri, 22 Feb 2008 12:36 P.M.
The Rosenberg Report, Vol. LVI, February 22, 2008
On Saturday, March 1st, I, along with State Representative Steve Kulik and members of Berkshire Connect, Inc., Pioneer Valley Connect, and The John Adams Innovation Institute at the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, will host a broadband forum with FCC Commissioners Jonathan Adelstein and Robert McDowell at The Clarion Hotel and Conference Center in Northampton from 8:30 a.m to 3:30 p.m.
I am very pleased to be a part of this forum, and the timing could not be better. In the last few days the governor's $25 million broadband initiative (click here for complete text: http://www.mass.gov/legis/bills/house/185/ht04/ht04311.htm) has begun moving through the Legislature and my colleagues, many of whom can't imagine life without broadband, are hearing once again about the underserved communities throughout the state. I am committed to making broadband access available in every city and town because it will be a significant part of our future prosperity, especially here in western Massachusetts. Broadband access would help western Massachusetts businesses and entrepreneurs compete in the 21st century economy and expand job opportunities in rural areas. In addition to the economic benefits, broadband access would also have a positive environmental impact by making telecommuting possible, which of course reduces the number of cars on the highways. But broadband access is also a matter of fairness. People, especially students, in rural areas should not be deprived of the educational opportunities afforded by broadband.
Plus, just think how much faster the Rosenberg Report will download on a high-speed connection.
The forum on March 1st is free, but because lunch will be provided, pre-registration is requested. To register, please contact Adele Burnes at 508-898-3228, xt. 1608, or e-mail her at email@example.com. You can find out more by going to Berkshire Connect's website www.bconnect.org and Pioneer Valley Connect's website www.pioneervalleyconnect.org.
Hope to see you there.
Higher Education Bond Bill
On Feb. 14th, the Legislature's Joint Committee on Higher Education approved a Higher Education Bond that earmarks $321.6 million for renovations and new construction at the Greenfield Community College and UMass-Amherst campuses.
It’s been a long time, too long, since we’ve had a bond bill that invests public dollars in the capital needs at our campuses. The result has been an epidemic of deferred maintenance and an increased financial burden on students. This must change. Our goal should be a higher education system that is affordable and state-of-the-art. This bond bill is a step in that direction.
The bond package would finance renovation, modernization and new construction projects that have been approved by the Board of Higher Education or the UMass Board of Trustees. Locally, those projects include:
* $31 million for the renovation and modernization of the campus core building at GCC, as well as new construction of a maintenance building and expansion of the East Building;
* $290.6 million for UMass-Amherst, including:
$85 million for new classrooms
$100 million for new science labs
$12.6 million for repairs to Machmer Hall
$41.750 million for renovations to Lederle Research Center
$51.3 million for renovations to Morrill Science Center
The necessity for a higher education bond bill was a centerpiece of my work as co-chair of the Senate’s Task Force on Public Higher Education in 2004-05, which outlined a comprehensive plan to re-invest in the state’s public higher education system with the goal of positioning Massachusetts at the vanguard of the world’s knowledge-based economies.
Our prosperity depends on our willingness to make the investments necessary to give students of modest financial means a chance at a world-class education. I am pleased that the Legislature and the Patrick administration are staunch allies in this effort.
The bill now goes to Joint Committee on Bonding, Capital Expenditures, and State Assets.
Safer Alternatives Bill
On Tuesday, Jan. 29th, the Senate approved a bill aimed at protecting the health of all Massachusetts residents through the reduction of toxic chemicals used in common household products, from plastics and cleaning products to cosmetics.
Making the environment safer means addressing big problems, like global warming, but it also means taking care of the toxins around the house. When there are safer alternatives to the products we use everyday, we should pursue those vigorously for the health of the planet and the personal health of our friends and families.
The Safer Alternatives bill (for complete text click here: http://www.mass.gov/legis/bills/senate/185/st02/st02406.htm ) authorizes the Toxic Uses Reduction Institute (TURI) at UMASS Lowell to promote safer alternatives “in products manufactured for use and for sale in Massachusetts” through the annual assessment of existing substances in an effort to identify those that are the most toxic.
Additional steps built into the legislation allow the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to develop a Chemical Action Plan around priority toxic substances. The plan would include a determination on appropriate safer alternatives to use in place of specified toxic chemicals. Safer alternatives would be used only if they are found to be “technically or economically feasible”.
The DEP would be authorized to prohibit the sale or distribution of products from any manufacturer or distributor whose products contain a designated priority toxic substance.
Additional provisions of the bill include:
The creation of a business leaders program that uses grant incentives to reduce or eliminate the use of toxic chemicals.
The establishment of a retained revenue account, allowing the Executive Office of the Environment and Energy Affairs (EOEEA) to collect fees associated with the implementation of this legislation.
The development of curriculum and training benefits for businesses and employees as a means to promote the growth of the safer alternatives industry in Massachusetts.
The bill will now go the House of Representatives.
Big Dig Agreement
On January 23rd, Attorney General Martha Coakley announced a settlement with Big Dig management consultants and designers that requires them to pay more than $450 million to resolve all pending criminal and civil claims by the federal government and the Commonwealth relating to the July 10, 2006 ceiling collapse, defects in slurry wall construction, use of out-of-specification concrete by certain contractors, failure to disclose financial information, and various cost recovery matters for deficient work.
(Click here for complete details http://www.mass.gov/?pageID=pressreleases&agId=Cago&prModName=cagopressrelease&prFile=2008_01_23_big_dig_agreement.xml)
Unemployment Insurance Rates
On February 13th, the Senate voted to prevent a scheduled increase in the unemployment insurance rate, a move that will keep unemployment insurance rates at the same level this year as the previous four years and will save businesses $153 million dollars this year and help stimulate job growth in a slumping economy.
The Commonwealth’s unemployment insurance trust fund provides financial assistance to people who lose their jobs. The fund is supplied solely by employers who are required to pay fees to support the unemployment insurance program. The trust fund currently has a balance of $1.2 billion.
The trust fund is healthy, and we can afford to freeze the rate without hurting the unemployed. We have to take advantage of this opportunity now. Economic forecasts are gloomy, and this measure will help businesses flourish and ultimately promote job growth.
The bill now goes to the Governor for his approval.
On February 12th, the Senate voted to ensure there can be no room for interpretation of existing law that protects the right of Massachusetts employees in wage disputes.
The current employee compensation law allows workers to recover triple the amount of actual damages if a company fails to pay an employee for work performed. Certain language in the law, however, has been interpreted to make the recovery of those damages optional instead of mandatory.
Triple damages in wage disputes, known as “treble damages”, are required because of the serious financial consequences workers can face when earned pay is withheld by employers. People can be left without the ability to meet payments on their rent, mortgage, car or student loans. In some cases, people are unable to buy food or pay for heat. Multiple damages are awarded to compensate workers for these compounding costs.
The original intent of the law was to make multiple damages mandatory. This bill will make sure there is proper application of the law so that workers are protected, as well as employers.
The bill also benefits employers because it creates a level playing field for all businesses. Employers who delay, miscalculate or withhold payments from their workers can use that money to underbid competitors or lower costs. Such unfair competition can have devastating effects, especially for small businesses. By prohibiting such practices, it makes for fair competition in the marketplace.
The bill will go back to the House of Representatives for further action.
Bank Fee Exemption for Senior Citizens
On February 12th, the Senate voted to relieve certain financial burdens imposed on senior citizens applying for medical assistance. The legislation would change current law that requires seniors to pay a fee for bank records relative to their applications for MassHealth.
In order for seniors to complete applications for MassHealth benefits, they must obtain past bank statements at a cost that, by some reports, can exceed $500 to meet the MassHealth application requirements. This legislation would eliminate such fees for seniors who present a letter from MassHealth requesting bank records.
These fees are an unnecessary burden to senior citizens. Many of these seniors are living on limited incomes and these additional expenses are often too much to absorb. This legislation will relieve the unnecessary hardship and improve the quality of life for these seniors.
Another negative side-effect of the existing fees can put seniors into life-threatening situations in which they are forced to reduce or even eliminate monthly medications in an effort to remain financially stable and meet their usual expenditures for food, heat, clothing and shelter.
The bill will go back to the House of Representatives for further action.
Vermont Yankee Update
Earlier this month, Attorney General Martha Coakley called on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to address the issues raised in a recent Inspector General's report regarding licensing practices for nuclear power plants.
I am pleased to see that other high-level state officials, including Public Safety Secretary Kevin Burke and Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Ian Bowles, are joining the chorus of concern that we in the western Massachusetts legislative delegation started several months ago about the re-licensing of old nuclear power plants, Vermont Yankee in particular.
The Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) and the Council of Massachusetts United Ways (COMUW) have agreed to utilize Mass 2-1-1 as the Commonwealth’s primary telephone information call center during times of emergency. The easy to remember 2-1-1 telephone number will be utilized as a resource for human service and public safety/disaster response and planning agencies. It was designed, in part, to reduce the number of non-emergency calls made to 9-1-1.
With the change, the Secretary of State’s Citizen Information Service staff will now have the responsibility to serve as liaisons between the Mass 2-1-1 staff and the Massachusetts Emergency Management Team (MEMT) when the State Emergency Operations Center (SEOC) in Framingham is activated for an emergency situation. Mass 2-1-1 will provide the latest emergency information and response to rumors through their call center and website.
This new partnership will offer citizens the opportunity for ‘one-stop-shopping’, with access to vital updated disaster information, numerous post-disaster programs, interpreter services, and call tracking of caller locations. Mass 2-1-1 will also have the ability to act as the registration site for spontaneous volunteers and donations from the public during an emergency or crisis.
Mass 2-1-1 was created by The Council of Massachusetts United Ways on behalf of 22 local United Ways serving every community of the Commonwealth. Seven years ago, COMUW embraced the national 2-1-1 program, as established by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and initiated by the United Way of America. The 2-1-1 phone number was established by the FCC as a nationwide number to call for non-emergency information and referral services. Currently Mass 2-1-1 operates its call center Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. with the ability to activate 24-7 during times of emergency in the Commonwealth. More information is available at www.mass211.org.
The Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) is the state agency responsible for coordinating federal, state, local, voluntary and private resources during emergencies and disasters in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. MEMA provides leadership to: develop plans for effective response to all hazards, disasters or threats; train emergency personnel to protect the public; provide information to the citizenry; and assist individuals, families, businesses and communities to mitigate against, prepare for, and respond to and recover from emergencies, both natural and man made. For additional information about MEMA, go to www.mass.gov/mema.
Department of Education Grants
On Feb. 19th, state education officials on awarded 10 grants, worth $3.3 million, to spark interest in science and math fields at elementary and middle schools. The Massachusetts Board of Higher Education awarded the grants as part of its Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Pipeline Fund, designed to increase teacher preparation and student interest in STEM fields. Grants will fund engineering curriculum development, summer camps on biotechnology, and STEM teacher training. The grant winners include the University of Massachusetts.
More State Grants
Shelburne Falls Village Partnership - $20,000
Earlier this month, the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs awarded a $20,000 grant to the Shelburne Falls Village Partnership for the planning and design work for an observation area at the Glacial Potholes at the end of Deerfield Avenue in Shelburne Falls. The Partnership is composed of the Board of Selectmen of Shelburne, the Board of Selectmen of Buckland and the Board of Directors of the Shelburne Falls Area Business Association (SFABA).
The project includes a handicap accessible deck connected by walkways at the river’s edge, an educational kiosk and/or interpretive displays, bank erosion mitigation, and a trail node area that will connect to a future spur of the Mahican-Mohawk Hiking Trail. The Partnership has also been awarded a $5,000 grant from the Highland Communities Initiative (a program of the Trustees of Reservations) for much of the matching required for the EOEEA grant.
I’m pleased that the state is making another investment in Shelburne Falls, one of the great jewels of Massachusetts.
Northampton -- $10,000 from the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs for engineering work to bury utilities at the city’s Pulaski Park project, part of the larger Roundhouse Brownfields project.
WFCR Foundation (in Amherst) -- $7,000 grant from the Department of Conservation and Recreation (with a $5,950 local match) to develop a 10-part radio series on urban and community forestry in Massachusetts that would air on WFCR-FM (88.5) as part of its weekly natural history radio program, Field Notes.
Franklin Regional Housing and Redevelopment Authority -- $15,000 emergency capital improvement bond funding from the Department of Housing and Community Development for the cost of repairing boilers and valves at the Authority's 667-3 Winslow Wentworth, Turners Falls development.
South Hadley Housing Authority -- $20,000 technical assistance and emergency capital improvement bond funding to replace the roofs at the Authority's 667-3 Lathrop Village Development.
The state Department of Environmental Protection earlier this month made the following Municipal Sustainability Grant awards. These awards typically help communities with recycling projects:
Sunderland - $6,842
South Hadley - $1,801
Amherst - $252
Colrain - $454
Bernardston - 26 kitchen scrap buckets
Northampton - $4,043
Deerfield - $1,146
Greenfield - $2,296
Home Rule Petitions
On Jan. 18th, the governor signed a bill establishing a sewer system capital improvement fund for the town of Hadley. http://www.mass.gov/legis/laws/seslaw08/sl080009.htm
"Broadband firms will court towns"
By Jessica Willis, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
GREAT BARRINGTON — Will high-speed Internet access ever make it to the remotest corners of Berkshire County?
Will residents in rural areas like New Marlborough and Monterey ever be able to replace their old dial-up modems with broadband, and get in the fast lane on the information superhighway?
Richmond Networx and WiSpring, two local companies that offer high-speed Internet access for underserved and unserved communities, will be giving presentations at a Broadband Breakfast Seminar, hosted by Southern Berkshire Chamber of Commerce. The seminar will be held on Tuesday, March 11.
Of the nine towns in Southern Berkshire, only one — Great Barrington — has a consistent blanket of high-speed Internet service, and Brian Killeen, the chamber executive director, said the seminar will cover the available options.
"(Businesses) need to know there are alternatives, and there are things coming," Killeen said.
Richmond Networx, a subsidiary of Richmond Telephone, serves commercial clients like Fairview Hospital and Bard College at Simon's Rock; the seminar will be a way to familiarize people with "what exists out there," said John Dullaghan, the vice president of communications at Richmond Networx.
Using Verizon's copper wire infrastructure as transport, Richmond Networx brings high-speed DSL to residential customers in Great Barrington, Lenox, Pittsfield and Richmond, and to commercial clients all over the county.
The presentation, according to WiSpring CEO Crispin Tresp, will be a way to introduce his 18-month-old company to the chamber.
"We haven't done any advertising," he said. "It's been entirely word-of-mouth."
WiSpring offers broadband service via fixed, as opposed to mobile, wireless networks. Antennas are mounted to the exterior of customers' homes and businesses, and the antenna is wired to an inside router that transmits a signal to the user's computer. The signal is broadcast from WiSpring's tower located at the summit of Catamount, on the Egremont and New York border, and from a smaller tower, known as a mast, located in Alford. Another mast, also located in Alford, will be erected in the spring.
"When people hear 'tower,' they always think it's a cell (phone) tower," Tresp said. "But you can't see (WiSpring's) towers, they rise to just above the tree line."
For business customers, WiSpring offers three different packages that range from $79.95 to $119.95; for home service, packages start at $59.95. Both packages require either a one- or two-year commitment for $499.95 or $399.95, respectively.
If the price seems somewhat hair-raising, Tresp points out that most cable, Internet and phone packages top out at over $100 a month, and Tresp said Verizon's DSL basic service tops out at download speeds of only 760 kilobytes per second and upload speeds of 128 kilobytes per second.
According to the company's Web site, WiSpring's packages offer an average of 1.0 megabytes per second for both downloads and uploads.
Tresp says his competition, at this point, is satellite — a "weather dependent" method of Internet access.
He noted that, unlike satellite, WiSpring's signal is not routinely disabled by snow and high winds.
Currently, the company serves Alford, Egremont, Great Barrington, Sheffield, and West Stockbridge, and business clients include the Egremont Inn and Kenver Unltd.
Tresp declined to divulge how many clients are served by WiSpring, but he said the numbers are growing, and the company is in "constant communication" with the communities of New Marlborough and Monterey. Unserved residents in Northern Berkshire communities like New Ashford are also being targeted by Tresp.
"I can't wait to get to them," he said.
To reach Jessica Willis: firstname.lastname@example.org, (413) 528-3660.
"County gets linked"
By Matt Murphy, Eagle Boston Bureau
Friday, February 29, 2008
BOSTON — Verizon yesterday announced a $200 million upgrade that could finally deliver high-speed Internet service to several unserved Berkshire County communities.
In announcing plans to expand its fiber optic television and Internet network, Verizon said it would offer its DSL Internet service — which is carried over phone lines — to 23 Western Massachusetts communities, including the Berkshire towns of Becket, Sandisfield, Florida, Hancock, New Ashford, New Marlborough and Windsor.
At the same time, 24 new communities, including Otis, Stockbridge and West Stockbridge, will receive upgrades to their service, doubling the speed of data travel for many customers.
The expansion comes as Gov. Deval L. Patrick has proposed creating a $25 million broadband incentive fund to encourage Internet providers to branch out into unserved and underserved communities.
Local legislators praised the effort that they said will allow the economy to grow by making it possible for new and existing businesses to set up and expand in the region.
Although Verizon's plans are not directly related to Patrick's legislation, company officials said they look forward to working closely with the administration to expand further into untapped markets.
"This shows that the state commitment to universal access to broadband is going to spur action, both through those with whom we negotiate but also action that we can't predict from the private sector," said Sen. Benjamin B. Downing, D-Pittsfield.
"In serving these communities, Verizon will provide broadband in two-thirds of the communities identified by the state as those without broadband service," said Donna Cupelo, Verizon region president for Massachusetts and Rhode Island.
Verizon plans to apply for cable licenses to offer its FIOS TV service to 30 communities in 2008, building on the 63 cities and towns where it is available today. None of those TV communities are in Berkshire County.
There are 14 communities in Berkshire County unserved by a high-speed Internet provider, forcing government and businesses to rely on slower, less reliable dial-up connections.
"It shows a tremendous commitment by Verizon to Western Massachusetts and central Massachusetts and all of Massachusetts," said state Rep. Daniel E. Bosley, D-North Adams. "It's building a business network in Western Mass. that has been hampered by our lack of broadband access."
That lack has prevented many communities, such as Becket and New Ashford, from bringing business to the region, said Rep. Denis E. Guyer, D-Dalton.
"A lot of these towns are second-home-owner towns. Residents have told me they would love to expand their small business but can't because of no Internet access," Guyer said. "We're very appreciative of the investment."
Verizon also intends to hire about 200 new customer service employees, union jobs that will be based in Andover, Springfield, Taunton and Worcester.
February 29, 2008, "Andy" -
Since January 1, 2000, Verizon has sent 200 jobs offshore according to Public Citizen’s Congress Watch. Verizon has also eliminated hundreds of U.S. contract employees and replaced them with developers who work for computer services firms abroad, primarily in India.(Source: Wall Street Journal, March 11, 2003). In December 2005, the company froze its pension plan for 50,000 managerial workers, a move that expected to save the firm about $3 billion over the next decade.(Source: Washington Post, January 6, 2006). Pension advocates criticized the move. With Verizon, we’re talking about a company at the top of its game, said Karen Friedman, director of policy studies for the Pension Rights Center. They have a huge profit. Their CEO has given himself a huge compensation package. And then they’re saying, In order to compete, sorry, we have to freeze the pensions. If companies freeze the pensions, what are employees left with (Source: New York Times, January 15, 2006). In June 2006, Verizon agreed to pay almost $49 million to 12,326 current and former female employees as part of a landmark class-action lawsuit alleging pregnancy discrimination. The final figure makes the case the largest pregnancy discrimination settlement in the history of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. It covers women in 13 states and the District of Columbia.(Source: Washington Post, June 6, 2006). During 2003-2004, Verizon spent $404,421 on lobbying the Legislature, ranking 21st among the top 23 spenders that legislative session.(Source:Who’s buying the Legislature? Boston Phoenix, February 4, 2005). In 2007, Verizon spent $865,324 on Beacon Hill lobbying, ranking third among the top 10 lobbying groups.(Source: Cash carousel, Boston Phoenix, January 30, 2008). Verizon has a busy agenda on Beacon Hill. Last year, the telecommunications giant pushed hard for a bill that would enable companies seeking to offer cable television to get approval from the state rather than cities and towns. The legislation, which is stalled at the State House, would let new cable television providers such as Verizon to bypass the current franchising process in individual communities and apply directly to the state Department of Telecommunications and Energy for permission to enter the cable market in one or more service areas. The bill is opposed by the Massachusetts Municipal Association which says it would circumvent cities and towns, which for years have been the leading advocates for competition and affordable rates for their citizens. Joseph Zukowski, Verizon's Massachusetts lobbyist (who is a big contributor to Sen. Downing), called the town-by-town process problematic.(Source: Boston Globe, January 10, 2007). Verizon’s other big priority is killing Gov. Patrick’s proposal to revoke a personal property tax exemption on telephone poles and wires that dates back to 1918. The law was passed to encourage development of a statewide telephone system. The law saves telecoms such as AT&T, Verizon and Comcast millions in taxes every year, money that the Massachusetts Municipal Association feels should go back to cities and towns for property tax relief. In 2004, Massachusetts ranked 46th of 50 states in telecomm state and local taxes as a percentage of total operating revenue according to Federal Communication Commission (FCC) filings. Companies like Verizon paid 1.84 percent of their revenue in state and local taxes in Massachusetts, compared to a national average of 4.68 percent. Massachusetts also has the greatest differential between taxes and phone rates. We have the fourth-lowest tax rank and the fifth-highest phone rates. FCC filings show that from 2000 to 2004, Verizon’s total state and local tax bill in Massachusetts dropped more than $50 million, or 53 percent.(Source: Boston Globe, July 22, 2005).
Dear Honorable State Senator Stan Rosenberg:
You want to be Western Massachusetts next U.S. Congressman after U.S. House of Representative John W. Olver someday retires from this post more than anyone in the entire 1st Massachusetts Congressional District. In truth, you are the hand-picked successor to Olver's seat after he retires some time in the future. You are one really lucky guy to have such an advantage over so many wanna-be's.
But, the problem for you, Stan "the man", is that you are in the here and now. So let us review the following news article: "Pols' junket with lobbyists stalls vote" (Boston Herald, 8/25/2006). You and two state Senate cohorts scheduled to depart for Russia on September 4th with lobbyists while (a) funding for crucial projects will be delayed, and (b) the Massachusetts Legislative Schedule remains in chaos. The state's criminal database on the Mass Gov web-site will remain unfunded, 27 state workers have already been laid off, and several other state Information Technology Division have been cancelled due to the Legislature's incompetence. Moreover, the state is losing federal funding due to the Legislature not taking up the crucial bond bill this news article mentions.
So, Stan, on September 4th, 2006, you, 2 other state Senator cohorts, and lobbyists are all going to leave behind the people you are supposed to be representing in the great Commonwealth of Massachusetts in order to take a JUNKET to Russia in the name of tourism and "humanitarian" ideals.
Let us all mark this event on our political memories so that when Stan becomes "the man" when he eventually runs for U.S. Congress after John W. Olver retires from his seat someday in the future, we can ask us why he neglected the needs of the people of Massachusetts in order to tour Russia with corrupt state Senate cohorts and lobbyists!
What a shame, Stan Rosenberg! What a shame!
Jonathan A. Melle
Re: Open letter to State Senator Stan Rosenberg (against Bureaucrat Bosley)
April 28th, 2007
Dear Honorable State Senator Stan Rosenberg:
Re: "House defends budget" (The Berkshire Eagle Online, April 28, 2007): This news article quotes Bureaucrat Bosley: "This has been a very tough budget process. With over a billion dollar deficit, many programs were cut or not included at all in this House budget," said Rep. Daniel E. Bosley, D-North Adams.
THEN, this news article contradicts "the bureaucrat impostering a legislator" and states the following FACTS:
(a) Bureaucrat Bosley's, et al, FY2008 state budget proposal for next year will rely too heavily on state reserves to balance the budget.
(b) Bureaucrat Bosley, et al, passed a final amendment with new spending initiatives on the environment and economic development.
(c) Overall, "representatives" (bureaucrats impostering legislators) added about $175 million to its initial budget of $26.7 billion, including $26 million in new education spending, about $37.5 million for state and local economic development, and an additional $35 million in anti-gang and public safety programs. $25 million of the additional money is for pet projects in legislators' home districts.
(d) Bureaucrat Bosley, et al, are using too many one-time revenue sources to pay for its budget, a move that will only exacerbate the structural deficit in 2009.
(e) The House budget calls for $150 million of the state's $2.2 billion stabilization account to be used for the budget. House leaders also froze the annual 0.5 percent contribution to the "rainy day" fund for next year. That results in a net $656 million withdrawal from stabilization.
(f) NOTE: FROM: "House lawmakers toss Patrick's plans" (The North Adams Transcript Online, 4/12/2007): This recently past news article stated that Bureaucrat Bosley, et al, affirmed using $500 million from the Health Care Security Trust to make up part of the difference on the disputed figure for the budget deficit. Moreover, Bureaucrat Bosley, et al, affirms the fiscally irresponsible decision to not make any interest payments and a $100 million contribution to this fund.
TO SUMMARIZE the above FACTS: Bureaucrat Bosley, et al, are closing the state budget deficit by (a) transferring $500 million from the Health Care Security Trust account to the General Fund account and not making both any interest payments and a $100 million contribution to this fund --AND-- (b) withdrawing a net figure of $656 million from the commonwealth's "rainy day" fund. AFTER divesting over $1 Billion in the commonwealth's fiscal resources, Bureaucrat Bosley, et al, THEN added about $175 million in new spending to the FY2008 Massachusetts State Budget.
So, Stan Rosenberg, this fiscally irresponsible disaster of a state budget that Bureaucrat Bosley, et al, are handing off to you and your legislative hack colleagues in the State Senate gives you the opportunity to support or oppose the foolishness, special interests, closed door and secretive governance, and divestments in HEALTH CARE and other critical state and local government services.
QUESTIONS FOR STAN ROSENBERG:
Are you, STAN ROSENBERG (future candidate for John Olver's Congressional seat), going to go along with "the bureaucrat(s) impostering legislator(s)" in the state House of Representatives --OR-- are you going to find legitimate means to raise state revenues to a level that does not rely on robbing both current public services and the future fiscal resources of the commonwealth so that a few powerful state House leaders like BUREAUCRAT BOSLEY, et al, may continue to raise many thousands of lobbyists, corporate executives and other like special interests campaign dollars instead of meeting the needs and critical service of the people they are supposed to be representing?
I want to know what you think about all of this revolting CORRUPTION by Bureaucrat Bosley, et al, in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts' state government?
I WANT TO KNOW IF YOU, STAN ROSENBERG, ARE TRULY A LEADER WHO WILL STAND UP AGAINST BUREAUCRATS LIKE BOSLEY, et al, in the State House of Representatives who are selling out the common people for many thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from the special interests?
So, what is going to be, STAN: THE COMMON PEOPLE --OR-- The Special Interests?
I want a reply from you, Stan Rosenberg!
In Truth, and In the strongest of my written power of Dissent,
Jonathan A. Melle
P.S. VOTE BUREAUCRAT BOSLEY, et al, OUT OF "ELECTED" OFFICE IN 2008! GIVE OUR GOVERNMENT BACK TO THE PEOPLE!
SPECIAL NOTE to Bureaucrat Bosley: I will always speak my good conscience as long as I live! You, Dan Bosley, will be remembered as a CORRUPT BUREAUCRAT! That will be my legacy. I will hold you and all other corrupt Pols (and the insidious business people who finance your kind) ACCOUNTABLE until the day I will die! If you, Dan Bosley, had any integrity, you would resign your "elected" office NOW and then spread the common people's messages demanding good governance! I hope you are held accountable like The Boston Globe held LUCIFORO accountable in their 1-16-2007 news article exposing his like corruption in state government!
By Steve Bailey, (Boston) Globe Columnist | November 28, 2007
'Massachusetts cuts corporate tax rate."
Now there is a headline that the state's business community can embrace. And it is a tax cut the governor and the Legislature should be able to agree on in exchange for tightening the Commonwealth's leaky, antiquated tax codes.
Way back in February, in search of money to fund his ambitious agenda, new governor Deval L. Patrick proposed closing a series of so-called corporate tax loopholes and raising about $500 million in new revenue. In the budget process, Patrick's proposals were quickly shuffled off to a study commission by House Speaker Sal DiMasi, who has been saying no to anything that even smells of new taxes. But Patrick's plan to reform the tax codes - drafted by Alan LeBovidge, the tax commissioner he fired only to rehire last week to head the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority - have not been forgotten. Nor should they be.
The Patrick/LeBovidge plan is hardly radical. At the heart of Patrick's proposals is combined reporting, a change advocates see as a comprehensive approach to closing corporate tax loopholes by making it more difficult for corporations to shift profits to low-tax states like Delaware. Patrick's plan would also bar companies from claiming different corporate structures when filing federal and state returns. Together the two proposals account for about $400 million of the $500 million in proposed changes.
Sixteen states, including California and Illinois, have for decades used combined reporting, which treats a parent company and most subsidiaries as one corporation for state income tax purposes. Under this approach, a company's nationwide profits are added together and a state taxes a share of that combined income based on a formula that measures the level of activity in the state versus other states.
In 2004, Vermont became the first state in 20 years to move to combined reporting; this year West Virginia, New York, and Michigan all signed on, pushing the total number of combined reporting states to 21.
In Massachusetts, the business community has opposed combined reporting as just another way to raise taxes. But there is a deal to be made here, one based on sound conventional economics: The best tax system is one that taxes a wide base at a low rate.
The Commonwealth now has one of the highest corporate income tax rates in the country - 9.5 percent, exceeded only by Pennsylvania (9.99 percent) and Minnesota (9.8 percent) -and a porous system that allows big national companies to game the system by creatively shifting income elsewhere while smaller local corporations pay the high state rate. Too many disputes end up in court.
This stuff is incredibly complex, but in general states that have been moving to combined reporting have been pairing the change with tax concessions to lessen the bite on business. Vermont lowered its corporate income tax to make combined reporting revenue-neutral for business; New York enacted targeted tax cuts for manufacturers.
Patrick's two major tax initiatives would increase taxes on business by about $400 million at the current 9.5 percent tax rate. To make the changes revenue-neutral - a reasonable compromise - would require cutting the corporate tax rate to 7.5 percent, equal to the rate in New York and Connecticut and slightly above the national average of 6.9 percent. While it would not raise the money Patrick hoped, such a change would create a tax system that is fairer, simpler, and more competitive, all good things.
Michael Mazerov of the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities in Washington is a leader in the push for combined reporting. To quote from a white paper he wrote in April: "Even if other business tax changes are made to keep combined reporting revenue-neutral in the short run, its adoption will help to preserve the long-run revenue-generating capacity of the corporate income tax by nullifying a wide variety of corporate tax-avoidance techniques."
"Massachusetts cuts corporate tax rate" is a good headline for the state. A tax system that is simpler and fairer is good news, too.
Steve Bailey is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at email@example.com or at 617-929-2902.
A Boston Globe Editorial
Short Fuse: "Tocco: Live by the political fix, die by it"
December 3, 2007
Stephen Tocco's ouster as chairman of the UMass board of trustees should come as no surprise. Tocco, president of a lobbying firm who once headed the Massachusetts Port Authority, is a veteran of the state's political scene. Four months before leaving the governorship, Mitt Romney had moved him from the state Board of Higher Education to the UMass board. Tocco sought to maintain a hold on education policy after his patron left office, but Governor Patrick pressured Tocco to leave the chairmanship so his administration could put its stamp on policy. Tocco's successor, to be elected next month, will be Robert Manning, a Romney appointee - but an investment executive, not a political fixer.
THE BOSTON GLOBE: Op-Ed: ROBERT V. ANTONUCCI & TERRENCE A. GOMES
"Invest in education"
By Robert V. Antonucci & Terrence A. Gomes, December 26, 2007
WHEN GOVERNOR PATRICK recently filed a $2 billion capital bond bill to finance infrastructure improvements at all 29 of Massachusetts' public college and universities, he declared it to be an "emergency law," meaning that it would go into effect immediately upon passage by the Legislature and his signing.
Little did the governor or anyone else know how apropos that designation would be.
A few days after the filing, Salem State College officials made the difficult decision to close that college's library based on concerns raised over the structural soundness of the 35-year-old building.
As serious as the situation is at Salem State, this capital bill is not just about some falling bricks and cracked mortar. The reality is that our public colleges and university system are being asked to educate the talent for the emerging industries of the New Economy in laboratories and classrooms that are sometimes more than 40 years old. Advances in science and technology are rapidly outpacing the facilities and equipment on our public campuses where we are training scientists for industry and math and science teachers for our classrooms.
Investment in our public higher education system is long overdue.
Massachusetts devotes only 2.8 percent of its capital expenditures to public higher education, while other states invest 12.5 percent on average.
At the campus level this pattern of state disinvestment in its public higher education system has resulted in a backlog of more than $5.5 billion in unfunded capital projects and necessitated that campuses tap already tight operating budgets and increase student charges to pay for deferred maintenance.
At the state level, this pattern has resulted in Massachusetts falling woefully behind its chief economic competitors in supporting its public higher education system. In fiscal 2006, Connecticut invested more than four times what Massachusetts did on the capital needs of its public colleges and university system, North Carolina approximately seven times, and New York nearly eight times.
Closing this funding gap is not about matching these other states dollar-for-dollar. It is about ensuring that the Commonwealth can attract and retain high-skill and high-paying jobs, supply the talent that critical industries need if they locate or expand in Massachusetts, and provide our students with access to first-rate academic facilities.
With two-thirds of our high school graduates who attend college in Massachusetts going to a public institution - up from only 58 percent a decade ago - our economic future depends on having public colleges and a university with best-in-class labs, equipment, and technology.
Patrick's bond bill recognizes these competitive implications by emphasizing investments that contribute to the medium to long term competitiveness of our state economy.
The bill would fund new science centers at four Massachusetts state colleges where existing science facilities are 30 to 50 years old. These buildings lack the labs to conduct some of today's sophisticated experiments in chemistry and biology and the space to meet current equipment, fabrication, and technology needs in physics.
These shortcomings undermine our ability to attract top faculty and retain students interested in science, technology, engineering and math in Massachusetts. First-rate facilities will promote teaching and learning in these fields, help fill the talent pipeline needed to support regional industries and meet the demands of our public schools for the finest science and math teachers.
Similarly, a proposed Design and Media Center will help keep the Massachusetts College of Art and Design at the front ranks of design education, an increasingly important economic engine.
At the state's 15 community colleges, the bond bill will fund construction of new allied health buildings on four campuses as well as the complete modernization and rehabilitation of science and general academic buildings on most of the remaining campuses. New allied health facilities will strengthen these colleges' capacity to respond directly to changing workforce needs by enhancing the training of more nurses, medical technicians, and health care professionals - jobs that are in tremendous demand.
The effects of state disinvestment in our public colleges and university are not as visible to the public as lack of investment in our transportation networks, but they are every bit as critical to our long-term competitiveness. As the Legislature considers the bond bill, the question is not whether we can afford to pay for these investments but whether we can afford not to.
Robert V. Antonucci is president of Fitchburg State College. Terrence A. Gomes is president of Roxbury Community College.
BAY WINDOWS - New England's largest GLBT newspaper
"MassEquality celebrates marriage victory"
by Laura Kiritsy, associate editor
Thursday Dec 6, 2007
The magnitude of winning marriage equality in Massachusetts was best summed up at MassEquality’s Dec. 5 victory gala by Evan Wolfson, the eternally optimistic head of the national organization Freedom to Marry. Standing onstage in the center of the Cyclorama in the South End, Wolfson praised the work of the army of marriage equality activists that surrounded him, raised an arm in victory and proclaimed, "We are one down, forty-nine to go!"
Taken one way, Wolfson’s observation is enough to make even the most zealous marriage activist want to recycle her picket sign and take to bed for a long nap, until some GSA president somewhere finally makes it to the White House. On the other hand, if you live in the Bay State -- the "Beacon of Equality" as it’s lovingly referred to by advocates -- it’s certainly cause for a swanky victory celebration, and that’s exactly what went down at the Cyclorama, as MassEquality paid tribute to the thousands of marriage equality advocates and activists who’ve pitched over the last four years to secure marriage equality in Massachusetts.
Among the crowd of 800 or so was an impressive array of movers and shakers, from Lt. Gov. Tim Murray to Democratic fundraising powerhouse Steve Grossman and his wife Barbara (a MassEquality board member) and Mass. Bar Association President David White Jr. A handful of national LGBT activists also circulated at the gala along with Wolfson: Matt Foreman of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, Patrick Guerriero of Gill Action Fund and former MassEquality honchos Marty Rouse and Jeremy Pittman, who now run the Human Rights Campaign’s national field operation.
A crew of current and former elected officials was also on hand, including House Speaker Sal DiMasi, who made an unscheduled cameo. In brief remarks DiMasi, who played a pivotal role through the three-year battle on Beacon Hill to preserve marriage equality, credited his colleagues for helping to pull out the legislative victory. "I couldn’t have done it without the help and support of a lot of the members that I see in this hall right now," said DiMasi. "My members of the House that stood up for equality because it was the absolute right thing to do are here tonight and they took some very difficult votes. They should be applauded."
DiMasi was referring to the likes of state Reps. Geraldo Alicea, Jamie Eldridge, Paul Kujawski, Barbara L’Italien, Paul Loscocco, Liz Malia, Jim O’Day, Angelo Puppolo, Richard Ross, Byron Rushing, Steve "Stat" Smith, Jim Vallee, Brian Wallace and Marty Walsh, all of whom attended the gala. Of those, seven were members of the group of 11 lawmakers who changed from positions of supporting the anti-gay marriage amendment to voting against it between the Jan. 2 and June 14 constitutional conventions, thus ensuring its defeat (Alicea, Loscocco, Kujawski, Puppolo, Ross, Vallee and Wallace).
Other pols in the crowd included openly gay city councilors Joe DeMedeiros of New Bedford and Denise Simmons of Cambridge, state Sens. Ed Augustus, Stan Rosenberg and Dianne Wilkerson, former state senator Jarrett Barrios, who now heads the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation, and former State Rep. Mike Festa, who is now Secretary of Elder Affairs for Gov. Deval Patrick’s administration.
The celebration was free from the recent tension that marked MassEquality’s strategic planning process, which pitted those board members and LGBT leaders who argued that MassEquality should not expand its mission against those who felt that it was well-positioned after the marriage battle to put its resources to work on LGBT issues besides marriage. (See "MassEquality: Moving Forward" and "Anger Over MassEquality Vote" Nov. 8.) The only hint at the recent discord came when a state lawmaker who was active in the marriage battle quietly confessed to Bay Windows as MassEquality Campaign Director Marc Solomon delivered remarks to the crowd, "I’m trying to interpret the story in between the lines here."
Last month, the MassEquality board voted to expand its mission to partner with Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD) to work on achieving marriage equality in other New England states and to advocate in-state on a broader scope of LGBT issues in addition to marriage equality. The organization has also prioritized re-election of every pro-equality legislator in 2008.
Solomon detailed his vision for the new MassEquality during his remarks to the gala-goers. "We are ready to use our resources to assist those organizations and causes that want our help," he said. "What’s that mean? It means that our work is not done until the larger cause of full equality is realized for everyone in our community.
"Is our work done when Mitt Romney’s drastic cuts to suicide prevention programs for our youth still stand?" he asked the crowd. "Is our work done when victims of domestic violence in our community still need shelter? Is our work done when HIV and AIDS is still the number one health threat to gay men? Is our work done when transgender residents of Massachusetts can be fired from their jobs simply because of who they are? And is our work done when gay and lesbian seniors face [inequities] when they enter a nursing home -- when they’re at their most vulnerable? Of course not."
Solomon added that MassEquality would not "be out there willy nilly" advocating on every issue and cause, rather it would implement a process to make decisions regarding their advocacy "thoughtfully and strategically."
MassEquality is also excited about its partnership with GLAD, said Solomon, who explained that his organization would complement GLAD’s legal work with grassroots organizing and education around marriage equality. He also made clear that he has high hopes for the collaboration: "This is not some distant mythic quest," he said. "GLAD and we think it’s possible that we can achieve marriage equality in every New England state within the next five years."
The speaking portion of the evening concluded fairly quickly - quickly considering the speakers were politicians and activists, that is. And the crowd helped themselves to sweets from dessert stations and $8 Equalitinis - vodka martinis that came in shades of, appropriately enough, red, white or blue.
Laura Kiritsy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
"UMass subprecincts scrapped"
By Scott Merzbach
Staff Writer and HAYDEN MARX
Published on December 14, 2007
Low turnout and the high cost of operating polls will bring an end to voting booths at the University of Massachusetts.
The town's Select Board, acting on the request of the Student Government Association at UMass, voted unanimously this week to dissolve four subprecincts created two years ago in an effort to better serve student voters by having four polling places on campus.
Aaron Buford, president of the SGA, said that the subprecincts couldn't overcome apparent voter apathy.
Town Clerk Sandra Burgess said four elections held on campus in the past two years have all seen low turnouts, with the norm being between two and 13 voters at each polling place - or less than a 2 percent turnout.
In interviews on campus, UMass students gave various reasons for low voter turnout. One is that students may prefer to vote in their hometowns, not in Amherst.
Others say students have a hard time believing their votes matter.
David Waterman, 21, a junior and chemistry major from Northampton, said he goes home to vote.
"I think that college students don't have enough time to be informed," he said. "I do think that they care, but don't know what the issues are."
Joyce Riley, 22, a senior and communications major from Attleboro, said she is registered at home and votes by absentee ballot.
Still, she acknowledged that not all young voters believe in the political system. "I feel that there's a feeling in this generation that we really can't make a difference; even though that's not true," Riley said.
Rosie Walunas, 18, a freshman from Sunderland studying journalism, said she plans to exercise her right to vote. "I think that in the past students haven't cared. I think that some are starting to realize the importance and start paying attention to these things," she said.
Lack of motivation
Sean Smith, 24, a junior and economics major from Trinidad in the West Indies, was born in the U.S. and holds a dual citizenship. He admitted he doesn't get to the polls here.
"It's really bad because I don't vote, but I should," Smith said. "I think it's because people have the general consensus that their vote doesn't matter."
"When I'm back in the Caribbean, I always vote. With my family I couldn't get away with not doing it," Smith said.
"But here, the atmosphere is different. I asked my friend if he voted and he did not know the election was that day."
Emlyne Lorquet, 20, a junior from Randolph majoring in nursing, said some students vote, but most do not. "They're too busy with other things academics and other things."
"I don't think they care as much as they should. I think they're more focused on their education, said Justin Murphy, 19, a sophomore from Hyannis studying finance.
He said he will continue to vote by absentee ballot at home.
Buford, of the SGA, said it had become too expensive for the group to pay the $16,000 cost for annual operations, which included paying the salaries of election workers at the sites.
The town had also leased, for $56,000, the voting booths, tabulators and memory cards to the subprecincts as part of the agreement with the SGA.
Town Manager Larry Shaffer said the SGA will not be compensated for this.
Between 1997 and 2002, students voted at secondary polling places on campus in precincts 4 and 10. Following a glitch in the 2000 census count, though, the campus became a precinct unto itself, Precinct 10.
Once this glitch was corrected, UMass was divided among four existing town precincts, 2, 4, 9 and 10, and it was too late to establish a subprecinct the usual way, which was to have the Select Board approve creating one.
This meant students had to commute to the Bangs Community Center and other places to vote.
The Select Board then asked state Rep. Ellen Story and state Sen. Stan Rosenberg to seek legislative permission to create the subprecinct, at the request of the SGA, which agreed to pay the $10,000 cost of equipping a polling place at the New Africa House.
In a letter to the board, Buford and Sara Littlecrow-Russell, director of the Center for Educational Policy Advocacy, wrote: "Although the SGA remains committed to ensuring the accessibility of voting to the UMass campus population, the expense of the operation of those precincts has not been sufficiently balanced by voter turnout at these precincts."
Littlecrow-Russell said a lot of students now remain more involved in their home communities and stay registered to vote there.
"I think the trend has been much more toward absentee ballots," Littlecrow-Russell said.
Select Board Vice Chairman Rob Kusner said he hopes efforts will be made to get student voters to regular precincts in town.
The SGA, Buford said, will remain focused on registering students to vote, providing transportation to polling places and having them understand absentee ballots.
Littlecrow-Russell said there seems to be systemic problem and the presence of voting booths on campus was not addressing the root cause.
"The core issue really has to do with engagement," Littlecrow-Russell said.
Without the four subprecincts, the town will not have four additional touch-screen voting machines, though Burgess said these won't do much good for the town, which only needs one at each polling place and already has two spare machines.
The Boston Globe: Op-Ed: JAMES HANSEN
"The wrong choice for Massachusetts"
By James Hansen, January 2, 2008
THE EARTH is close to passing climate change "tipping points." Greenhouse gases released in burning fossil fuels are nearing a level that will set in motion dangerous effects, many irreversible, including extermination of countless species, ice sheet disintegration and sea-level rise, and intensified regional climate extremes.
As a society we face a stark choice. Move on to the next phase of the industrial revolution, preserving and restoring wonders of the natural world, while maintaining and expanding benefits of advanced technology. Or ignore the problem, sentencing humanity and other creatures to struggle on an increasingly desolate planet. Massachusetts is on the cusp of making this choice, and, barring citizen objections, is in danger of making the wrong choice on two counts.
Energy legislation in the state Senate would reshape rules designed to encourage renewable energies, modifying them to encourage energy generation from coal. A proposed amendment to the "Green Communities Act" - in most respects a good piece of legislation - provides incentives for coal gasification technologies without requiring carbon capture and sequestration. If passed, Massachusetts would be promoting projects that increase greenhouse gas emissions, just when we need to reduce emissions!
Meanwhile, the Department of Environmental Protection granted draft approval and is poised to grant final approval to a project extending the life of an 80-year-old coal plant with coal gasification that would not capture and sequester carbon dioxide emissions. Prolonging the life of NRG Energy's coal-fired power plant in Somerset would be a tragic mistake. This plant was scheduled to shut down in January of 2010 or to "repower" as a new cleaner plant. NRG now proposes to do neither. Instead, it wants to retain its dependence on dirty fuel, converting the plant's boiler to "plasma gasification" of coal.
NRG and state officials have resisted a comprehensive environmental review, demanded by environmental groups like the Conservation Law Foundation, which would compare the greenhouse gases that NRG's proposal is expected to emit over its extended lifetime with other scenarios, including a complete shutdown. The Somerset project should not be rushed through without full environmental review.
If the wonders of nature, our coastlines, and our social and economic well being are to be preserved, our society must begin phasing out coal use until and unless the carbon dioxide emissions are captured and stored. Continuing to build coal-fired power plants without carbon capture will lock in future climate disasters for our children and grandchildren.
The people of Massachusetts took great risk, for the sake of themselves and their progeny, when they drew a line with the British at Lexington and Concord. It is time for a line to be drawn with the powerful special interests, who reap profits from our fossil-fuel addiction.
Changing the course dictated by fossil-fuel interests will not be easy. It requires leadership to define a path with increased support for energy efficiency and clean-energy sources. But this is what citizens must demand, as they tell their government to say no to coal.
The alternative is to shrink from personal responsibility and allow the pleadings and misinformation of special interests, driven by motives of short-term profit, to determine government actions.
But is that a picture of our generation we dare leave for our children, a picture of timidity in the face of special-interest greed?
We live in a democracy. Policies represent our collective will. We cannot blame others. If we allow the planet to pass tipping points, to set in motion irreversible changes to the detriment of nature and humanity, it will be hard to explain our role to future generations.
Today, the citizens of Massachusetts have two opportunities to change this course: first, by contacting legislators and demanding rejection of attempts to subsidize coal through legislation that mistakenly treats coal gasification as a "clean energy" technology; second, by demanding that NRG Energy be held to its original commitment to shut down or repower as a truly new and clean plant.
This is an opportunity for citizens of Massachusetts to exercise leadership again, taking bold actions to oppose entrenched special interests and helping initiate change that is essential if we are to retain a hospitable climate and a prosperous future for our children.
James Hansen is director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies. This column is his personal opinion.
A Boston GLOBE EDITORIAL
"Challenge to the Legislature"
January 24, 2008
GOVERNOR PATRICK'S second budget proposal combines prudence with risk. It seeks greater efficiencies in existing state programs to fit them within the limits of slow revenue growth expected next year. At the same time, it relies on revenue estimates made before the current market downturn and urges the Legislature to adopt new revenue sources to allow for an expansion of local aid and improve early education, combat homelessness, and enhance public safety.
Patrick's budget is the first draft of the final budget plan that will control state spending for the 2009 fiscal year, which begins July 1. The House of Representatives will get an opportunity to weigh in next.
House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi and his budget lieutenant, Ways and Means Chairman Robert DeLeo, need to look again at Patrick's plan to close business tax loopholes, which DiMasi dismissed last year. It would raise $297 million, a considerable sum, but not enough to discourage any company from operating in Massachusetts.
The House leaders also need to act on the governor's plan to allow casinos in the state. Patrick may be optimistic when he thinks selling licenses for these will raise $124 million in fiscal 2009. But Patrick is right that the state needs this money. His budget aides have put the money in the local aid account and have included the amount that each city and town will receive. This move was nervy, but it does emphasize how much the revenue could accomplish.
Patrick would dip into the rainy day fund for $369 million. That's a reasonable amount given slow revenue growth, and still leaves nearly $1.9 billion in reserve. House budget writers may be tempted to take more. They should hold off in case worse times are ahead.
The governor, aware that escalation in health insurance costs poses a continuous challenge to the budget, seeks aggressive restrictions on Medicaid spending and would force 58,000 state employees to contribute more for their coverage. Both proposals need to be carefully examined by the Legislature. State employees are sure to complain about the high cost, but they should not be shielded from cost pressures that people in the private sector have been feeling for years.
The governor's policy initiatives are quite modest in comparison to the entire $28.2 billion budget. An additional $23 million would enhance learning opportunities for kindergartners and younger children. An extra $4 million will be well spent to address gang-related crime. And an $8.3 million appropriation would begin the process of encouraging homeless people to move from shelters into permanent housing.
If economic woes worsen, the House and then the Senate will have to tighten the budget further before the Legislature approves the final version in early summer. Whatever happens to the economy, the state needs new revenue sources to meet its obligations. Patrick's budget challenges lawmakers to face that reality.
"Attacks, rowdiness rattling many at UMass-Amherst"
By Peter Schworm, Boston Globe Staff, February 21, 2008
AMHERST - A raucous off-campus house party erupting into a drunken, bloody brawl. Athletes allegedly attacking other partygoers with baseball bats, lacrosse sticks, and bottles. Two students facing attempted murder charges in separate late-night dormitory confrontations that included an alleged rape and a racially charged double stabbing.
That's the grim police blotter at UMass-Amherst over just the past three weeks, a spate of violence that has deeply rattled many students and faculty and left administrators pleading for peace. Even for a campus infamous for rowdy partying and occasional outbursts of violence, the scope and severity, over such a short time frame, have stirred widespread anger and alarm.
The rash of attacks, which law enforcement and college officials describe as highly unusual for UMass, has also prompted soul-searching about the effectiveness of efforts to curb the binge drinking that is believed to be fueling violence.
"We need to shift away from looking at each individual incident, and toward looking at this as a cultural problem," said Marianne Winters, director of the campus women's center. "There's this anticipation, almost an expectation, on campus that violence is a possibility."
UMass spokesman Ed Blaguszewski said administrators are highly concerned about the violence, but that each episode involved unrelated people and circumstances. He asserted that the campus is safe overall and pointed out that alcohol-fueled fights are not uncommon on large campuses.
"These are very serious and troubling incidents," he said. "But it is not a UMass-Amherst-specific problem. This is an issue across the country, particularly at large flagships."
Of UMass-Amherst's 25,000 students, 19,000 are undergraduates. About 12,000 students live on campus, and Blaguszewski said the university is working with Amherst police to crack down on unruly off-campus parties.
In response to the recent events, the university is also increasing campus police patrols, particulary around dormitories and has urged residential staff to report suspicious behavior, he said.
Some students say altercations are inevitable on a large campus.
"It's a huge school and kind of like its own city," said freshman Nicholas Leoutsakos. "I'm not surprised if there are jackasses who want to hurt other people."
At a student forum last week to discuss the violence, many students focused on the most highly publicized of the three recent criminal incidents.
Jason Vassell, a 23-year-old student who was popular on campus, was charged with stabbing John Bowes, 20, who is not a UMass student, several times around 5 a.m. in a dormitory. Many students said they believed Vassell was defending himself in the confrontation, which police said began when Bowes shouted racial slurs at Vassell, who is black. Bowes also faces criminal charges.
Another UMass student was charged with attempting to rape and strangle a student on campus.
Those episodes, along with the off-campus brawl involving several lacrosse players, three of whom face criminal charges, occurred earlier this month. The five students who face charges in those incidents are no longer at the university, officials said.
In the latest incident, campus police found several people last weekend outside high-rise dorms with blood on them, a half-hour after Amherst police broke up an off-campus melee. Police said they are investigating but have made no arrests.
Amherst Police Chief Charles L. Scherpa said the surge of violence, while unusual, is part of a longstanding campus culture of drunken rowdiness that for many has become a rite of passage.
"Every weekend, we could make hundreds of arrests" for disorderly conduct and vandalism, he said.
University officials, however, said recent events mask overall progress in controlling troublesome students.
"In recent years, campus officials have taken a number of steps to enhance public safety at UMass-Amherst, and we believe that those efforts are bearing fruit," said Robert Connolly, a spokesman for the UMass system.
In 2006, the university and town police redoubled efforts to rein in the school's notorious party scene, boosting enforcement and giving town police the authority to respond to on-campus disruptions. The crackdown followed mounting pressure from state and university leaders who said the university's rowdy image detracted from its goal of becoming an elite public research university.
Blaguszewski said alcohol education and outreach programs have reduced binge drinking by 25 percent, according to student surveys conducted by the university. Binge drinking is defined as downing at least four drinks in one sitting three times over two weeks.
"We feel we've made progress," he said. "But still these episodes happen, here and at other campuses. We just have to remain vigilant."
University officials said that the rowdiest parties occur off-campus, where the university has little control. A town-university coalition is proposing a measure that would give local law enforcement broader authority to break up disruptive parties and hold hosts responsible for serving alcohol to minors.
UMass has a history of student outbursts. In December 2006, nearly 2,000 students rioted after the UMass football team lost the national Division 1-AA championship game, smashing windows, setting fire to trash cans, and pelting police officers with debris.
In 2003, about 1,000 students overturned cars, set fires, and threw bottles at police after a Red Sox playoff game.
Jeff Napolitano, president of the college's Graduate Student Senate, said the increasing concentration of first-year students in one section of campus has exacerbated the rowdiness. "When the university packs freshmen, who have no experience living on their own, into one area, there are bound to be problems," he said.
Freshman Elizabeth Maynard said that fights at parties are frequent and that the violence worries her. "I definitely think it makes me a little more wary" she said.
Correspondents Katie Huston and Michael King contributed to this report from Amherst.
"Tuition, fees at UMass expected to increase by $288"
The Boston Globe Online, March 5, 2008 11:55 AM
By Peter Schworm, Globe Staff
The cost of attending the University of Massachusetts is expected to climb just over 3 percent for the next academic year, a modest increase that is well below typical tuition hikes at public colleges.
The UMass Board of Trustees' finance panel today approved a 3.1 percent increase in tuition and fees, lifting the average cost for students at the system's four undergraduate universities by $288.
Under the plan, which must be voted on by the full board of trustees March 19, tuition and fees for in-state undergraduates would rise from $9,261 to $9,549. If approved, the increase would trail the regional inflation rate for the fifth consecutive year.
"Our top priority is to keep academic excellence affordable for UMass students by containing costs," UMass President Jack M. Wilson said in a statement. "We are committed to making sure that UMass students continue to have access to world-class education."
Wilson said the system would spend 20 percent of the additional revenue on assistance for students with the most financial need. UMass has increased its financial aid budget by more than $50 million over the past five years to $85 million.
With room and board, the in-state cost of attending the university’s residential campuses in 2008-2009 would be: Amherst $18,346; Dartmouth $18,286, and Lowell $16,525.
Over the past five years, the cost of attending public universities nationally has risen an average of nearly 7 percent annually, while the cost of attending UMass has risen just 3.4 percent.
Nationally, the average in-state cost at four-year public institutions is $6,185, according to the College Board. The average cost of private colleges is $32,307.
The proposal calls for tuition and fees at UMass Medical School in Worcester to rise 1.1 percent, or $151 increase.
"UMass board approves 3.1% tuition increase"
March 19, 2008, 01:34 PM
By Peter Schworm, Boston Globe Staff
The University of Massachusetts Board of Trustees today approved a 3.1 percent increase in student charges for the next academic year, raising the average cost at the system's four undergraduate universities for in-state students by $288, from $9,261 to $9,549.
The vote, taken at the board's meeting at UMass-Dartmouth, marks the fifth consecutive year the public system has held tuition-and-fee increases below the regional inflation rate. It affirms the action taken earlier this month by the board's administration and finance committee.
"For the fifth year in a row, we’ve met our goal of limiting student-charge increases to a rate lower than inflation," University of Massachusetts President Jack M. Wilson said in a statement. "These efforts, combined with our success in increasing student financial aid, continue to make academic excellence affordable for Massachusetts students and their families."
One-fifth of the increase will be directed to financial aid to offset the increase for needy students.
Over the past five years, the cost of attending public universities nationally has risen an average of nearly 7 percent annually, while the cost of attending UMass has risen just 3.4 percent annually, UMass officials said.
The vote sets tuition and fees for in-state undergraduate students at $10,232 at UMass-Amherst, $9,111 at UMass-Boston, $8,858 at UMass-Dartmouth, and $9,006 at UMass-Lowell.
With room and board, the in-state cost of attending the university's residential campuses in 2008-2009 would be: Amherst, $18,346; Dartmouth, $18,286; and Lowell, $16,525. UMass-Boston does not have campus housing for students.
Wilson also said that the system has increased its financial aid budget by more than $50 million over the past five years to $85 million.
"The Rosenberg Report"
March 24, 2008
And Happy Spring!
And springtime means it's time to remind the municipal officials out there about this year's Municipal Conference. I am pleased to have once again teamed up with the Franklin and Hampshire Councils of Governments to bring you this year's conference, which will be held on Saturday, April 5th at The Clarion Hotel and Conference Center in Northampton.
This year's event will feature an opening discussion on casinos in the Commonwealth and their potential impacts on municipalities. Although the governor's proposal to build three destination resort-style casinos in the state is most likely dead for this legislative session, the issue of the newly federally recognized Indian tribe in the southeastern part of the state and its ability to establish some sort of casino gaming is still very much alive. The question of casinos will be with us for a while yet, so I am pleased that Dan O'Connell, secretary of the Department of Housing and Community Development, Craig Stepno from State Treasurer Tim Cahill's office and John Robertson, deputy director of the Massachusetts Municipal Association, have agreed to join us to discuss how casino gaming might impact the Commonwealth. We will also have a variety of panel discussions, a sandwich buffet lunch and a keynote speech from Dr. Michael Hannahan, director of the Civic Initiative at the University of Massachusetts Donahue Institute, who will talk about an exciting new project to help Massachusetts communities increase civic engagement.
Please take a minute to review the complete line-up (see below). If you have any questions, or to RSVP, call Tom in my district office at 413-587-6289, or send him an e-mail at email@example.com.
We're looking forward to seeing you April 5th!
2008 Municipal Conference
The Clarion Hotel and Conference Center
Saturday, April 5, 2008
8:30 am — Check-In and refreshments
8:45 am — Welcoming remarks
9-10:15 am — Plenary Session: Casinos in the Commonwealth
Dan O’Connell, Secretary, Department of Housing and Community Development (Confirmed)
Craig Stepno, State Treasurer Tim Cahill’s Office (Confirmed)
John Robertson, Deputy Director, Mass. Municipal Association (Confirmed)
10:30 am — Individual Sessions
* Education: Regional School Issues *
Dr. Dana Mohler-Faria, Education Adviser to Governor Patrick (Confirmed)
Jeff Wulfson, Department of Education (Confirmed)
Representative Patricia Haddad, Chair, Education Committee (Invited)
Senator Robert Antonioni, Chair, Education Committee (Confirmed)
Robert Pura, President, Greenfield Community College (Invited)
Linda Dunlavy, Executive Director, Franklin Regional Council of Governments (Confirmed)
* Transportation & Construction: Chapter 90 *
Peter Niles, Director, MassHighway District 1 (Confirmed)
Al Stegemann, Director, MassHighway District 2 (Confirmed)
Senator Steven Baddour, Chair, Transportation Committee (Confirmed)
Representative Joe Wagner, chair, Transportation Committee (Invited)
Bernard Cohen, Secretary, Executive Office of Transportation (Confirmed)
Luisa Paiewonsky, Commissioner, MassHighway (Invited)
* Planning & Development: Growth & Revenues *
Secretary Dan O’Connell, Executive Office of Housing & Economic Development (Invited)
Alana Murphy, Policy Director, Department of Housing and Community Development (Confirmed)
Representative James Welch, Vice Chair, Community Development & Small Business Committee (invited)
Senator Brian Joyce, Chair, Community Development & Small Business Committee (Invited)
Senator John Hart, Chair, Economic Development/Emerging Technologies Committee (Invited)
Representative Dan Bosley, Chair, Economic Development/Emerging Technologies Committee (Confirmed)
Tim Brennan, Director, Pioneer Valley Planning Commission (Invited)
* Green Energy Options*
This session will present information on how local governments can save money while preserving the environment.
Speakers will include: Representatives from the Center for Ecological Technology, Cam Weimar from the Franklin Regional CoG, and Pennington Geis, Hampshire CoG Executive Director, who will discuss electricity markets.
* Dept. of Revenue Seminar: Local Budget Development *
Terry Williams, Department of Revenue, Division of Local Services (Confirmed)
Noon — Lunch
12:30 pm — Featured Speaker
Dr. Michael Hannahan, Director of the Civic Initiative, UMass Donahue Institute
Pioneer Valley Life Sciences Initiative
On March 20, I led a successful floor fight in the Senate, joined by all western Mass. Senators, to include $95 million for the construction of a life sciences center at UMass-Amherst, in the Senate's version of the Life Sciences bill. I was also successful in my effort to include in the bill $6 million for life sciences research facilities at the Pioneer Valley Life Sciences Institute in Springfield, for a total of $101 million for western Mass. The House version of the bill only includes the $95 million, so the difference will have to be worked out by a conference committee.
I have been working on this bill for almost a dozen years and I am extremely pleased that the Senate's version contains the higher figure. This shows that the Senate is standing up for UMass and believes in the critical role the university and its partners at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield will play in making life sciences research a focal point in our future economic development and in the advancement of life-saving medical treatments.
The $1 billion bill commits $500 million in capital funding for construction and improvement projects to ensure job growth within the life sciences industry. The funding authorizations would be distributed at more than $50 million per year for the next 10 years.
The bill also supports $250 million in authorized tax incentives for life sciences companies that commit to grow jobs. The bill allows life sciences companies to apply for eligibility as a “certified life sciences project” to receive one or more of eight tax incentives. A total of $25 million in incentives per year would be granted for the next 10 years.
The Senate’s legislation seeks to distribute the benefits of tax incentives more widely than other versions by favoring projects proposed for economically-distressed areas. The Senate bill also requires existing Massachusetts companies to achieve a job-growth rate of 10 percent to be eligible for incentives, compared to 25 percent in other versions of the bill.
The Senate version also includes significant changes that promote accountability and transparency in the use of taxpayer-funded capital dollars for industry projects and activities:
. Eligibility for capital grants will require certification by Executive Branch agencies and the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center.
. The use of capital authorizations for “venture capital” purposes will be prohibited.
. Reporting of results from awarded tax incentives and capital grants will be improved by requiring more details about company performance.
. The recoupment, or clawback, of grant money from certified companies that do not achieve job targets will be required. A similar clawback of tax incentives will be implemented with stronger reporting language.
. Capital grants will be awarded by Executive Branch agencies rather than the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center (a quasi-public agency), and the Center’s authority to issue bonds will be eliminated.
Other features of the bill include:
. Continued funding of the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center at $25 million per year for the next 10 years, for a total of $250 million via transfers from year-end surpluses.
. $5 million from the budget to bolster the Capital Access Program for small businesses.
$6 Million Increase for Regional Transportation Authorities
Six months of work with my colleagues, especially State Rep. Dan Bosley (D-North Adams), who co-chairs with me the Legislature's Regional Transportation Caucus, produced a $6.025 million increase for regional transportation authorities in the fiscal '08 supplemental budget. This increase will cover the operational shortfall RTAs are experiencing throughout the state. In western Mass., the Pioneer Valley Transit Authority will receive $2.4 million, more than a third of the total allocation.
This is a necessary fix and I’m pleased my colleagues who represent more urban areas understand the importance of regional transportation outside the MBTA. This will give us the breathing room we need to continue our work to improve the RTA system with a series of reforms I've put forward, especially the "forward funding" concept that would eliminate the need for borrowing, put the RTAs on firmer financial footing and lay the groundwork for expanding services.
House-Senate Pass Local Aid Resolution
The Legislature has approved a resolution to increase state aid to cities and towns in the fiscal '09 budget by $223 million, a 4.43 percent hike over last year. We hope that by deciding on a local aid figure -- $5.26 billion -- nearly four months before the start of the state's fiscal year, we will help cities and towns navigate what we know will be a challenging budget season. Local aid has been, and remains, a top priority in both houses of the Legislature and this resolution to increase it even though the state is looking at it's own significant budget shortfall, proves the point.
The resolution guarantees that cities and towns will receive $935 million in unrestricted local aid, $811 million of which is generated by the Lottery and $124 million of which is allocated from the General Fund. The resolution also maintains a commitment made by the Legislature three years ago by increasing Chapter 70 allocations by $223 million to $3.95 billion. This increase comes as part of a five-year plan to move individual school districts toward their target-aid contribution level. Under this plan, each school district will see an increase in Chapter 70 funding over last year.
Dairy Farm Revitalization Task Force Files Final Report
The Dairy Farm Revitalization Task Force, a panel I have been serving on for the past several months, has submitted to the Legislature a final report calling for an income tax credit for dairy farmers that kicks in when milk prices fall below the costs of production, along with other measures to promote the long-term viability of dairy farming in Massachusetts.
The Task Force also called for legislation to create a Massachusetts Dairy Promotion Board, an act that would redirect funds currently contributed by Massachusetts farmers to a regional board to develop promotional, research, and nutritional programs and put these funds to work for the Massachusetts dairy industry. Agricultural tourism and international trade are also identified as options worth exploring for Massachusetts dairy farmers, along with renewable energy opportunities such as anaerobic methane digesters, biocrops and biofuels, and wind energy, which would cut production costs and create new products.
The report is the product of seven public meetings held last fall. The Patrick Administration is working with legislative leaders, including legislative members of the Task Force, to draft the legislation called for by the Task Force.
The dairy industry has many benefits for the Commonwealth, from milk production and preserving open space to contributing to the health of other farms that depend on it. There’s a lot at stake here and we need to be aggressive about implementing our plans to safeguard this industry because the next economic downturn could be just around the corner.
The proposed tax credit is based on a similar provision in South Carolina , which provides relief in years when the wholesale price of milk, which is set by the federal government, is below local production costs. The Department of Agricultural Resources would be charged with developing regulations to ensure that the cost of the tax credit to the state ranged from zero in years when milk prices are sufficient to cover Massachusetts farmers’ production expenses (as they were in 2007) to no more than $4 million.
The Task Force also recommends that the Commonwealth make use of funds Massachusetts farmers are required by Federal Dairy Promotion and Research Order to contribute for national dairy promotion research activities. Dairy farmers have the option of contributing up to 10 cents of a required 15 cents per hundred pounds of milk produced to a qualified state or regional program for state or regional promotion and research. Many Massachusetts dairy farmers contribute to the New England Dairy and Food Council, which is qualified regional program. The Task Force recommends that, as a part of creating greater opportunities for Massachusetts dairy farmers, a state-qualified milk promotion and research program should be established.
In addition, the Task Force calls for the Massachusetts Division of Energy Resources, the Massachusetts Renewable Energy Trust, and other entities to increase their outreach and assistance to Massachusetts dairy and other farmers to explore ways the Commonwealth’s agricultural industry could make use of renewable energy technologies in order to reduce production costs and develop new products.
The information contained in the report has been written into a bill, which was reported favorably recently by the Committee on Natural Resources and Agriculture. It is now awaiting further action in the Senate Ways and Means Committee.
Verizon to Expand Broadband Service
On Feb. 28, Verizon announced its plan to invest $200 million to expand broadband service to 23 communities in western Massachusetts. I was, of course, pleased by this because I, and other members of the western Massachusetts delegation, had been working for months and months with local and regional officials to make this happen. It's good news for the 23 communities, but it is also a reminder that we must remain committed to making broadband access available in every city and town because it will be a significant part of our future prosperity, especially here in western Massachusetts. In addition to the economic benefits, broadband access would also have a positive environmental impact by making telecommuting possible, which of course reduces the number of cars on the highways. But broadband access is also a matter of fairness. People, especially students, in rural areas should not be deprived of the educational opportunities afforded by broadband.
Under the Broadband Expansion Project, Verizon will invest $200 million to bring its High Speed Internet services to 23 additional communities in the region.
Those communities are: Becket, Blandford, Colrain, Cummington , Florida , Goshen , Hancock, Heath, Leverett, Leyden, Middlefield, Monroe , Montgomery , New Ashford, New Marlborough, Pelham, Plainfield , Rowe, Sandisfield, Tolland, Westhampton, Windsor and Worthington.
Verizon’s plan will include deploying new digital subscriber line ( DSL ) equipment in central switching offices and using fiber-optic connections and remote electronic hubs to extend the reach of these and other DSL -capable switches to additional customers.
When the work is completed in about a year, Verizon expects High Speed Internet service will be available to an average of 70 percent of its customer lines in the 23 towns. The new broadband deployment of Verizon’s High Speed Internet network will reach two-thirds of the western Massachusetts communities identified by the state as having no high-speed broadband services.
Expanding Child Protections
On Feb. 26th, I was proud to join my colleagues in the Senate in voting to expand child protections in the state by making comprehensive changes in the Commonwealth's child service agencies. As a member of the Legislature’s Foster Kid Caucus, I believe that doing everything we can to protect and nurture our most vulnerable children is simply the right thing to do.
The legislation creates the Office of the Child Advocate, responsible for examining the quality of child services provided by state agencies and reporting directly to the Governor. In addition to an oversight and ombudsman capacity, the Child Advocate will also be charged with developing a long-term plan to further coordinate and modernize the child welfare system.
Under this legislation, the foster care system sees considerable improvements. The bill extends support for those “aging out” of the system, allowing services to continue for children-turned-adults between the ages of 18-22. Also, in addition to the tuition that is already provided, foster care children will receive fee waivers at all state universities and colleges.
Additionally, the bill establishes a foster care registry to track the success of foster parents in the state system. The system can search for relatives or other adult persons who have positively influenced a child’s life.
The bill also makes several changes and improvements within the Department of Social Services, seeking to change its name to the Department of Children and Families and targeting issues of racial inequality within the department.
Another reform includes the creation of a commission to study the status of grandparents raising their grandchildren.
The House and Senate approved different versions of this bill and I have been named to serve on the conference committee to reconcile the two.
I am also continuing to work on a major foster care reform bill that is based on legislation I wrote last year. That bill would help the Department of Social Services address many of the lapses in the care the Commonwealth currently provides.
The bill would require DSS to:
. Coordinate and assure that all children in foster care receive medical, dental and mental health services;
. Recruit more foster parents in Massachusetts ;
. Search for any relative or other adult person for a child who enters the foster care system;
. Inform the relative of the option to provide care for the child and the possibility of adopting the child;
. Find any sibling or half sibling of the child and place them together if it is appropriate;
. Report annually on residential foster care placements (including cost) in the Commonwealth;
. Pay foster care, adoptive and guardianship families a daily rate as it is set by the US Department of Agriculture, subject to appropriation;
. Report annually on the amounts expended to provide this care and the estimated cost to implement an annual adjustment to the rate set by the US Department of Agriculture;
. Work with the Executive Office of Public Safety and police departments to ensure that children whose parents are taken into custody are protected and cared for by developing polices and procedures and including these policies in all future trainings;
. Medically screen all children who enter the foster care system (includes medical, dental and mental health screening);
. Establish a medical advisory board to locate doctors who would help with this medical screening.
The bill would also allow children the right to change their birth certificates back to their biological name if their adoption from DSS is interrupted. The bill also details the guidelines DSS must follow in all end of life decisions for children in DSS custody.
Global Warming Solutions Act
On March 6th, I was pleased to have the opportunity to join my Senate colleagues in voting for comprehensive global warming prevention legislation that would put strict limits on greenhouse gas emissions and set new standards for motor vehicle fuels.
Building upon the Senate’s energy reform mandate, the Global Warming Solutions Act authorizes the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to monitor and regulate greenhouse gases with the goal of reducing carbon monoxide emissions.
This bill seeks to establish the standards necessary to preserve and protect our environment, and our economy, for future generations. We need to be competitive in the new "green" economy, which will send a message to investors, entrepreneurs and developers around the world that Massachusetts is serious about being a leader in global warming and climate change solutions.
The legislation requires DEP to establish a statewide registry of facilities that emit greenhouse gases. Additionally, the bill charges DEP with determining the level of emissions in 1990 as a benchmark to measure a 20-percent reduction by 2020 and an 80 percent reduction by 2050.
The Global Warming act also mandates the following:
. Power plants have to meet a standard of 1,100 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions per mega-watt hour for approval of construction or expansion projects;
. The DEP must adopt a Low Carbon Fuel Standard for motor vehicle fuels, in collaboration with our state partners in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, to ensure a 10 percent reduction in carbon content by 2020; and
. The Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs will conduct a climate-change impact study on the adaptation of terrestrial and marine habitats.
In January, the Senate passed energy reform legislation which promotes renewable resources and efficiency, setting a goal of 20 percent renewable power resources by 2020. That legislation also helps ease energy costs in cities and towns by allowing municipalities to build, own and operate small renewable-energy generation sources, and establishes a “least-cost-procurement” process to limit and reduce energy consumption.
The Senate in January also approved legislation to secure the Commonwealth’s current and future participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, making Massachusetts part of a nine-state coalition plan, starting in 2009, to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from larger power plants in the New England and Mid-Atlantic regions.
Health Care Reform
On March 3rd, I joined Senate President Therese Murray (D-Plymouth) and Senator Richard Moore (D-Uxbridge), Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing, and other senators, at the UMass Medical School in Worcester to announce a major new health care bill that will make Massachusetts a national leader in the statewide adoption of electronic medical records and the first in the country to impose an outright ban on pharmaceutical marketing gifts of any value.
The Senate bill, An Act to Promote Cost Containment, Transparency and Efficiency in the Delivery of Quality Health Care, also addresses the critical areas of primary care access, transparency and efficient use of resources and technology to drive down escalating costs in our health care system.
The Senate bill requires statewide adoption and compatibility of electronic medical records by 2015, backed by a public commitment of $25 million a year to accelerate the program. Physicians would have to show competency in the technology for medical board registration. The bill also sets a deadline of 2012 for statewide adoption of Computerized Physician Order Entry systems (CPOE). After this date, the use of CPOE would be required for hospital licensure.
The gift-ban measure prohibits pharmaceutical agents from offering gifts and physicians from accepting gifts of any kind. The ban extends to physicians’ staff and family members. The legislation allows distribution of drug samples to doctors for the exclusive use of their patients.
Other highlights of the bill include:
. An increase in the workforce capacity of nurses and primary care physicians through loan forgiveness programs and expanded enrollment at the state medical school. The bill also allows patients to choose nurse practitioners as their primary care providers.
. A public-hearing requirement for hospitals and insurance companies to justify consumer costs and make cost-reduction recommendations. The legislation also authorizes public review of any insurance company submitting rate increases above 7 percent.
. A statewide standard for uniform billing and coding among health care providers and insurance companies to reduce operational expenses of claims processing.
. An enhanced “determination of need” process to help maintain standards of quality and ensure the efficient and equitable deployment of health care resources across the Commonwealth, avoiding the costly duplication of services.
. A Purchasing Reform initiative to coordinate public and private “pay-for-performance” efforts to drive quality and efficiency in the market.
. Authorization of the Department of Insurance to investigate the costs of medical malpractice coverage for health care providers.
The Department of Conservation and Recreation has announced that it will be hiring a limited number of seasonal employees to assist in the operation of the Commonwealth's state parks and recreation areas. Applicants must be at least 16 years old. Job descriptions and minimum requirements can be found by clicking http://www.mass.gov/dcr/employment.htm .
For more information, and to obtain a legislative referral form, residents of my district should call my office at 413-587-6365.
Northfield Riverway Program Grant
I was pleased to join State Representative Denis Guyer (D-Dalton) in announcing that the Greater Northfield Watershed Association was among eight organizations awarded Riverway Program Grants in early March. The grants will be used to restore river habitat and flow, enhance public access, and encourage land protection along rivers from the Berkshires to the Merrimack Valley .
The Greater Northfield Watershed Association, Northfield Stream Team and River Access Project was awarded $2859 by the Department of Fish and Game’s Riverways Program. The funding will be used to develop Stream Teams for East Wait/Bennett Brook, Mill Brook, Millers/Roaring Brook and Louisiana/Pauchaug Brook in Northfield . As part of the grant, the association and Stream Teams will also refurbish fencing and benches and add an interpretive sign to the King Phillip’s Hill historic property. Another part of the project will promote the group’s anti-dumping campaign.
This grant is another indication that the state recognizes the value of protecting the natural beauty of western Massachusetts. I am very happy to offer my congratulations to the people of Northfield for their efforts to protect our natural resources.
New Salem -- Massachusetts Technology Collaborative Loan
Also in early March, State Representative Stephen Kulik (D-Worthington) and I announced that the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative (MTC) has awarded ReGen Power Systems in New Salem a $500,00 loan to develop solar thermal and biomass electricity generation technologies.
The Massachusetts Technology Collaborative administers the state’s Renewable Energy Trust, which is providing a $500,000 SEED award to support the project. The Trust has funded more than 1,500 clean energy projects across the state including wind, solar, hydroelectric and other renewable energy technologies. The clean energy cluster employs more than 14,000 people at 550 companies across Massachusetts .
It’s great to see this kind of investment being made in western Massachusetts. Innovative technology like this will help us address two of our most pressing needs – sustainable economic development and environmental preservation.
“Working closely with Senator Rosenberg and Representative Kulik, we are building a cleaner energy future for Massachusetts ,” said Massachusetts Technology Collaborative Executive Director Mitchell Adams. “Making targeted investments in companies like ReGen Power Systems will help us to develop new clean energy technologies and create new economic opportunities in Massachusetts . The Renewable Energy Trust is making grants, loans, rebates and other financial incentives available to help clean energy businesses expand operations in every region of the Commonwealth.”
ReGen is the developer of a high-efficiency stirling engine that can deliver industrial-scale power by operating on low-temperature industrial waste heat, which represents a multi-billion dollar market opportunity that is currently unaddressed by commercially available technologies. In addition, ReGen has a pilot customer in place to demonstrate its commercial scale engine system. The technology has potential applicability to solar thermal and biomass electricity generation technologies as well. Commercialization of ReGen’s modified Stirling engine technology will lead to multiple economic development, cluster development, and environmental benefits for Massachusetts .
MTC’s SEED award will be used as working capital toward the commercialization of the technology. Specifically, the company plans to complete its bench-scale model and test the commercial scale system with an identified partner in Massachusetts .
Amherst -- Massachusetts Technology Collaborative Matching Grant
The Massachusetts Technology Collaborative awarded the town of Amherst a $34,380 matching fund grant for the town's participation in the MTC's Clean Energy Choice Initiative. Amherst had requested these funds to help pay for several clean energy related projects and services planned for the community, including:
. The installation of two solar powered BigBelly trash compactors which help save money and lower associated carbon emissions by reducing collection frequency; they also educate the public regarding the use of clean energy through solar power;
. Energy saving green building renovations to a municipal building which include solar panels and solar powered parking lot lights;
. The hiring of an Energy Task Force Coordinator and support staff for fiscal years '09 and '10 to oversee Amherst's efforts to reduce energy costs and carbon emissions.
Belchertown Shares DHCD Grant
The Department of Housing and Community Development announced that the towns of Palmer, Belchertown, Brookfield, East Brookfield, Hardwick, Holland, Monson, North Brookfield, Spencer, Wales, Ware, Warren and West Brookfield will share a $500,000 grant from the Economic Development Fund to continue to expand a regional program of loans for small businesses and micro enterprises, and training for low or moderate-income entrepreneurs. The program will serve the Quabog Valley area and will be carried out by the Quabog Valley Community Development Corporation. The three main components of this award will be: recapitalization of a small business revolving loan fund enabling four new loans and creation/retention of 12 jobs; recapitalization of the micro enterprise revolving loan fund for six additional loans; and micro enterprise training for direct costs of business training programs for low or moderate-income households who are in turn offered tuition-free training.
Dear Honorable Stan Rosenberg:
Thank you for emailing me a copy of your false report on Massachusetts State Government. You have made a lot fiscal promises to your Western Massachusetts Legislative District that you know are impossible to keep. Like the provincial Massachusetts state government preceding the Revolutionary War, the Commonwealth is going bankrupt! The state's recurring billion-dollar annual budget deficits are subtracting down to INSOVENCY! You are a bald-faced liar, State Senator Stan Rosenberg, for sending out such an optimistic report in such difficult economic times. ...And you want to succeed your best buddy John Olver for U.S. Congress!
Jonathan A. Melle
"Casino debate continues at counties conference"
Sunday, April 06, 2008, By STEPHANIE BARRY, firstname.lastname@example.org, The Springfield Republican Newspaper Online
NORTHAMPTON - It's not often that a moot point draws so much debate.
But, as one casino gambling expert told an audience of elected officials yesterday, the subject is nothing if not divisive.
"I find myself scribbling down 'yes' and 'no' votes," at community meetings on expanded gambling, John Robertson, deputy director of the Massachusetts Municipal Association, said during a panel discussion at the 2008 Municipal Conference for Franklin and Hampshire counties. "A lot of times I find my (tally) is right down the middle."
Even his own association has been unable to come to a consensus on casino gaming, he said.
That seemed to be no problem for the House of Representatives recently, however.
Members thumped Gov. Deval L. Patrick's casino plan with a 108-46 vote on March 20, despite promises of $400 million in annual revenues for the cash-strapped commonwealth.
"Presiding offices are very influential," state Sen. Stanley C. Rosenberg, D-Amherst, said of House Speaker Salvatore F. Dimasi's strident and successful campaign against the bill.
"There are moral questions, there are principle questions, there are values questions and operational questions," added Rosenberg, among the hosts of yesterday's conference at the Clarion Hotel, which drew about 160 elected officials - from selectmen to commission members - from 45 communities.
Patrick's plan appeared to be designed to preempt a plan by an American Indian tribe to build its own casino in Middleborough, with no input from the state.
Also on the agenda yesterday were panel discussions on education, planning, transportation, environmental and budgetary issues. The conference featured state legislative leaders and cabinet members as panelists.
Though the House vote rendered the casino argument theoretical for now, panelists yesterday predicted the debate will be revived before long.
"I'm sure this issue will rise again ... at a time when we have limited resources we can count on," said Daniel O'Connell, state secretary of housing and economic development, and the second of three on the casino panel yesterday.
O'Connell was chairman of an internal study group convened by Patrick, he said, noting that impartial studies on casinos are hard to come by since many existing ones have been financed by casino owners.
O'Connell offered a broad outline of Patrick's bill and its proposed concessions for infrastructure and social concerns triggered by resort casinos. His bill included trust funds for "community mitigation" and to handle compulsive gambling issues. He said a $50 million earmark to address gambling addiction was by far the most generous in the country.
Some audience members were not convinced by the numbers.
"I've never been able to reconcile to the fact that the government is encouraging the public to gamble ... I'm just wondering the morality of this and if you see a problem," Amherst Conservation Commission member Eleanor Manire-Gatti asked, during a question and answer session that drew a variety of responses on both sides of the issue.
Also on the panel was Craig Stepno of State Treasurer Timothy P. Cahill's office, who touted the $892 million local aid the Lottery generates. He also noted Cahill has come out in favor of casinos, even if they imperil Lottery revenues.
"Senate releases $28B state budget"
By Steve LeBlanc, Associated Press (The North Adams Transcript Online)
Thursday, May 15, 2008
BOSTON -- As Senate leaders unveiled a $28 billion budget Wednesday that relies heavily on new taxes and money from the state's "rainy day" fund, Republicans pledged to file Gov. Deval Patrick's casino bill as an amendment to the spending plan, saying the state needs new revenues.
The move, which could breathe new life into Patrick's plan, comes a week after the governor told a Brookline Chamber of Commerce audience that his legislation to legalize casino gambling in Massachusetts "may yet come back."
The House earlier this year overwhelmingly defeated the casino measure, essentially killing it for the year, but Republicans say they want to give the Senate, which has supported expanded gaming in the past, a chance to vote on the plan.
"We want to fortify the governor's efforts going forward if he intends to refile the bill in the new year," said Republican Sen. Michael Knapik, R-Westfield. "Plus, we need the money."
It's unclear what kind of reception the casino amendment would get during the Senate budget debate, scheduled for next week. Democratic Senate leaders have indicated support for Patrick's plan in the past, but not as a budget amendment.
Patrick gave no indication he would support the Republican amendment.
"It's clear from the House's vote earlier this year that there appears to be little chance of final passage for casino legislation this session," said Patrick spokeswoman Rebecca Deusser. "The governor's focus for the remainder of the session will be on his economic stimulus plan including passage of the life sciences and clean energy initiatives."
Even if the Senate adopts the amendment, it would face opposition from House lawmakers as both chambers hammer out a compromise budget.
Like the House budget, the Senate spending plan relies on hundreds of millions of dollars in new revenues from a proposed $1-a-pack cigarette tax hike and the closing of so-called business tax loopholes. It also raids the state's rainy day fund for nearly $400 million.
Senate Ways and Means Chairman Steven Panagiotakos, D-Lowell, said the budget plan was fiscally responsible.
"These recommendations are a balanced, fair approach to addressing the most pressing needs of the commonwealth while remaining mindful of the declining economy," Panagiotakos said.
Besides the $400 million from the state's rainy day fund, the budget also relies on $175 million in projected revenues from the cigarette tax, $297 in added revenues from the business loophole closings and another $157 million from tighter enforcement by the Department of Revenue.
He also said the budget includes "tens of millions" in cuts.
The Senate plan also includes $5 million for a universal pre-kindergarten program, $5 million for a new program to keep those addicted to opiates out of jail, and $25 million to help create a statewide electronic medical records system.
One of the biggest question marks in the budget is funding for the state's 2006 landmark health care law. Senate budget writers used an estimate of $869 million to cover the law's subsidized health care program known as Com-monwealth Care.
But the administration's own, more current estimates -- based on the unexpected success of the program -- have added about $200 million to the cost. That's in addition to the $200 million above original estimates for Mass Health, the state's Medicaid program.
Critics say the $400 million in higher-than-expected health care costs on top of the $400 million the plan already draws from the rainy day fund and other, smaller cost increases could force the state to draw as much as $1 billion from the rainy day fund.
"If you look at the structural balance, meaning revenues coming in and spending going out, it's about a billion dollar gap," said Michael Widmer, president of the business-backed Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation.
Panagiotakos defended using the original Commonwealth Care estimate, pointing out the same estimate was used by the House when it drafted its budget. But he also expressed concern about drawing too much from the rainy day fund, meant to help the state weather fiscal slumps.
"We are going to need that rainy day account if we get into any type of major economic downfall," he said.
Panagiotakos, who also supports casino gambling, said there's nothing stopping Republicans from offering Patrick's bill as an amendment.
He wouldn't say whether he thought the amendment would pass.
"There are going to be a lot of amendments and we are going to take them up one by one," he said.
Asked last week during a Brookline Chamber of Commerce address about whether his casino plan was dead or not, Patrick said: "It may yet come back in the Legislature. I acknowledge it's hard."
Besides pushing the casino amendment, Knapik also said he was concerned with the spiraling cost of the health care law, saying it's siphoning money away from other pressing needs.
He said the Senate should consider restricting parts of the law, designed to mandate health care to virtually all Massachusetts residents.
"We ought to have that debate," he said. "We've got to put the entire discussion of the scope of the law on the table."
A (Boston) GLOBE EDITORIAL
"Budget drip, drip, drip"
May 15, 2008
THE $28 BILLION budget approved by the Senate Ways and Means Committee is slightly smaller than the versions proposed by Governor Patrick or passed by the House. But it still contains items that reflect outdated policy decisions, special favors to legislators, or pressure from influential groups.
The Chelsea Soldiers' Home, for instance, was established in 1882 to care for Civil War veterans. It was a $26.8 million item in the budget yesterday, accompanied by a $20.3 million appropriation for the Soldiers' Home in Holyoke, established in 1952. Aid to veterans is now mainly a federal responsibility. Those already living in the homes should stay where they are, but over the long term the state doesn't need this costly real estate.
And should the state be in the zoo business, to the tune of $7.1 million? The Legislature has been trying to wean the zoos at Franklin Park and in Stoneham from the budget for years. It's hard to let go, but the state could find better use for the money.
And then there's the goody-bag tourism fund, which is $19.2 million in the Senate budget, compared with $34.2 million in the House version (with 40 senators compared to 160 representatives, fewer districts need to be satisfied). But $100,000 would go to Battleship Cove in Fall River and $50,000 to Plimoth Plantation, among others. These are prime tourist attractions, but the state doesn't have the money to prop up these and others throughout Massachusetts.
The Ways and Means budget includes $25 million to encourage the rollout of a computerized medical records system. It is important to modernize medical care, and Senate President Therese Murray deserves great credit for making sure it was included. Because the House did not provide the money, its fate will be decided in a conference committee. Special interest items should be excised to make sure this one remains.
Retired teachers visited the State House this week to encourage the committee to accept a House proposal that would raise state pensions by a modest $120 a year. But the proposal would provide another $120 increase each year on top of the first one, in perpetuity. This plan would lengthen the time it takes to fully fund the state pension system from 2023 to 2026. A thorough study is needed to determine whether the state can afford it. The proposal should not be included in this year's budget.
This budget is tight, a fact acknowledged by the Ways and Means decision to dip into the emergency stabilization fund. Ridding the budget of archaic and extraneous items would leave more money for healthcare, education, local aid, and the other essential tasks of state government.
The Boston Globe, Letters to the Editor
"BUDGET IMPLICATIONS: Don't shortchange retired teachers"
May 22, 2008
YOUR MAY 15 editorial "Budget drip, drip, drip" criticizes the House's vote to increase retired teachers' pensions by $120 per year and asks for a study of its feasibility. The proposed increase would be the first such increase in 11 years. I say it doesn't go far enough. Retirees from public service receive an average yearly pension of about $20,000, hardly a king's ransom. Given price escalation in the past decade, who can begrudge retired teachers an extra $10 per month?
The study you call for has been completed by the state's Public Employee Retirement Administration Commission. We know how much a reasonable cost-of-living allowance would require, and we know how to fund it. Now we need commitment and political will. Until those are in place, we will continue to balance the state budget by shortchanging those who have served us in the past. That's no way to say thank you or to encourage the next generation to join the ranks of educators.
Budgets are, at the end of the day, a reflection of our values. Shouldn't we be reconsidering the value of our public school teachers, past and future?
JAY R. KAUFMAN
Democrat of Lexington
The writer chairs the House Committee on Public Service.
"Senate seeks new study of casinos"
By The (Springfield) Republican Newsroom, Wednesday May 21, 2008
By DAN RING, email@example.com
BOSTON - The state Senate today voted to launch a new study of casinos in Massachusetts, after first rejecting a move for a vote on Gov. Deval L. Patrick's bill to license three casino resorts.
The Senate voted 29-9 to approve a proposal by Sen. Stanley C. Rosenberg, D-Amherst, to create a 13-member special study commission on casinos.
Rosenberg, the Senate president pro tempore, said the study would look at issues such as the rights of the state's two federally recognized Indian tribes to have casinos, the effects of expanded gambling on the state Lottery and the economic impacts. A report would be due by Feb. 15.
"There are still a lot of unanswered questions," about casinos, Rosenberg said after the vote.
The Senate vote came after House Speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi, D-Boston, said he would support a non-binding November ballot question asking voters if they support casino gambling in Massachusetts.
However, prospects for a referendum appeared dim after Patrick's point man on casinos criticized the idea of a ballot question.
"With all due respect to the speaker, we feel that a non-binding referendum may not be the best course of action at this time," said Daniel O'Connell, secretary of housing and economic development. "The House's opposition to the proposal has settled the question for this legislative session."
The House voted 106-48 on March 20 to reject Patrick's casino bill. Patrick had submitted the legislation in October, saying casinos would generate about $400 million in annual tax revenues and at least $600 million in licensing fees, create jobs and boost tourism.
DiMasi, who opposes casinos, would need to file legislation to pass a law to place a casino referendum on the ballot, but his spokesman said he had no plans to do that without first speaking to the governor and the Senate president.
David R. Guarino, spokesman for DiMasi, said the speaker was chiefly concerned that Patrick's casino bill would be included in the Senate version of the state budget, delaying approval of the budget. Guarino said the speaker was pleased the Senate turned back an attempt to include casinos in the budget.
"We want to focus on the budget .Â¤.Â¤. and keep casinos out of it," Guarino said.
A spokesman for Senate President Therese Murray, D-Plymouth, said that if the speaker filed legislation for a casino referendum, she would support a full debate by the Senate.
The Senate launched a debate on the state's $28 billion budget yesterday, taking up an amendment by Sen. Michael R. Knapik, R-Westfield, to approve Patrick's casino bill as part of the budget.
The Senate argued about casinos, but did not vote on the budget amendment by Knapik and other Senate Republicans. Rosenberg trumped the Republicans by submitting a superseding amendment for the study commission.
The commission would include five members from the House, five from the Senate and three people appointed by the governor.
Knapik was the only Western Massachusetts senator to vote against the proposed commission.
"What more can you possibly study?" Knapik asked after the vote. "What more can you possibly learn?"
The amendment to create the special commission on gaming is now in the Senate version of the budget, but it is not included in the House budget bill, approved on May 2.
Conferees from both branches will decide whether to include the commission in a final compromise state budget that would be sent to Patrick next month.
The Senate is expected to complete its debate on the budget tonight.
Leo C. Maley, of Amherst, a board member of Casino Free Mass, said he would support a study commission on casinos.
"The casino issue is not going away," he said. "It's a good idea for legislators to be studying the issue going into the next legislative session."
Guarino said he expected Patrick to file a casino bill next year.
Photo by Jim Sears / The Republican
State Sen. Stanley C. Rosenberg, state Rep. John W. Scibak, Undersecretary Sandra K. Albright of the Executive Office of Elder Affairs, Executive Director Priscilla L. Chalmers of WestMass ElderCare and U.S. Rep. Richard E. Neal look over the dining hall at the new Hubert Place housing project in South Hadley Friday, May 30, 2008.
"New housing project for senior citizens dedicated in South Hadley", by The Republican Newsroom, Saturday May 31, 2008
By SANDRA E. CONSTANTINE, firstname.lastname@example.org
SOUTH HADLEY - Seven years of effort culminated with the dedication of the $7 million Hubert Place, a congregate housing project for 44 low-income seniors on Canal Street that overlooks the Connecticut River.
About 300 people attended the grand opening and dedication Friday for the two-story building, including U.S. Rep. Richard E. Neal, D-Springfield, and a host of other local politicians and community members.
"It is the culmination of years of hard work on the part of many," Priscilla L. Chalmers, executive director of WestMass ElderCare Inc., said. "It will be a boon to hundreds in the coming decades. ... Seniors will be able to age in place uninterrupted by the need to relocate because of the supportive services."
For seniors who can live independently
The project is a venture of WestMass ElderCare Inc. and the South Hadley Housing Authority. It is designed for frail seniors who are not ready for a nursing home and who still want to live independently. Each apartment has a kitchen and seniors will also have the option of eating in a congregate dining room. The facility includes a computer room, washers and dryers on each floor, a second-floor porch and a gazebo.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development provided $6 million for the project with the rest of the funding coming from such sources as the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development and the Community Economic Development Assistance Corp.
Neal called the project an example of good government that involves the idea "that we all pull the wagon because someday we may have to sit in the wagon."
Residents may move in soon
Constance A. Clancy, president of the board of directors of ElderCare Initiatives Inc., which owns the facility, said permits should be in place this week and seniors will start moving into Hubert Place shortly later. More than 60 seniors applied for apartments the first week applications were accepted, she said.
The project has been named in memory of Clancy's late father, Roberval J. Hubert, a local architect who designed such projects as the addition to the South Hadley Public Library and St. Patrick's Social Center.
"I'm truly honored for the whole family," Clancy said of the naming. "It was a big surprise when it was suggested to our board."
"State pols reject a proposal to raise their salaries"
The Associated Press, Friday, June 20, 2008
BOSTON (AP) — Legislative leaders and Gov. Deval Patrick are rejecting recommendations from a special panel that would significantly raise their salaries.
House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi, who currently earns $93,237, said in a statement that he could not accept a pay hike at a time when many state programs are being cut or level-funded.
The Boston Globe reported that a five-member independent compensation review board would recommend today that the speaker and Senate President receive 70 percent pay raises. The plan would hike the governor's annual salary 19 percent to $175,000, and state judges would get a 25 percent increase to $160,000.
The commission was created by the Legislature last year, but DiMasi said that he, Senate President Therese Murray and the governor are in agreement that any raises would send the wrong message in the current economic climate.
Information from: The Boston Globe, www.boston.com/globe
U.S. Rep. John Olver, state Sen. Stan Rosenberg and Selectwomen Stephanie O'Keeffe and Alisa Brewer. (Photo from Mary E Carey's Blog; July 4, 2008).
Gov. Deval Patrick, left, and Lt. Gov. Tim Murray listen as members of their adminstration are introduced. Below, Amherst Finance Director John Musante speaks to Gov. Deval Patrick.
"Hail to the chief: Amherst receives Gov. Patrick"
By Scott Merzbach, Staff Writer, Published on July 25, 2008
A visit from the sitting governor to Amherst is not an every day occurrence for local officials, even if Deval Patrick did win close to 84 percent of the town's vote in the 2006 state election.
So when residents learned Patrick and his cabinet would be staging an event at the Bangs Community Center, a lot of preparation work began.
Nancy Pagano, director of the Senior Center, said she was first notified by state Rep. Ellen Story, D-Amherst, that Patrick would like to use space at the Bangs. Once the advance team looked at the large activity room and determined it was big enough for the cabinet meeting, Pagano began the process of spiffing it up, "like anyone would when someone's coming to their home," she said.
Those working at the Senior Center were advised of some of the requirements, such as ensuring that the tables at which the governor and his cabinet secretaries would sit were properly skirted. "We had to do a little finagling with the table cloths," Pagano said.
They also knew there would be an opportunity for town officials and town employees to meet briefly with Patrick in the Senior Center lounge, so several volunteers prepared homemade foods, including baklava, fruit salad and brownies.
During his brief stop in the lounge before the cabinet meeting, Patrick spoke to and posed for photos with Amherst officials and employees. Pagano said some of these are already posted on the walls.
"It was very exciting and we were so impressed with his good listening abilities," Pagano said.
Though the state police handle the security details for the governor, Amherst Police Lt. Ron Young said the local department was contacted to provide information about site security. One Amherst officer was also assigned to work with the state police detail on the governor's personal safety, while other Amherst police officers handled parking issues and crowd control.
With many protesters from the University of Massachusetts unions outside the Bangs holding up signs attached to long wooden poles, Young explained that police had to make sure these sticks were not brought inside the room, where they could potentially be used as weapons.
Young said he believes all police actions went smoothly.
"The biggest impact on the citizens of Amherst was traffic and parking," said Young, observing that parking in downtown was at a premium during the time Patrick was in Amherst.
After the cabinet meeting ended, Patrick was given gifts thanking him for his visit.
Select Board member Alisa Brewer gave Patrick an "Only the 'H' is Silent" T-shirt, which residents are selling and wearing to raise money and awareness for the town's 250th anniversary next year.
Hadley Selectmen Chairman Gerry Devine gave Patrick a dozen ears of sweet corn picked fresh from the Four Rex Farm.
In the end, those who prepared for the governor's visit were satisfied with how things went.
"It was really worth it, it was thrilling and we just loved it," Pagano said.
Across UMass-Amherst, ads like the one above trumpet survey results showing alcohol use is less pervasive than students assume. (University Health Services at University of Massachusetts at Amherst)
"UMass tackles alcohol abuse: It tries to dispel party stereotype"
By Peter Schworm, (Boston) Globe Staff, August 25, 2008
For years, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst has labored under the stereotype of a party school with a deeply entrenched drinking culture. Deserved or not, the "Zoo Mass" reputation fueled a self-perpetuating problem, administrators say: Some students drank heavily because they believed everyone else was.
But in an aggressive campaign that is winning national attention, the university is taking aim at alcohol abuse by chipping away at the stereotype. Across campus, posters and bus and newspaper advertisements with the slogan "We got the facts from you" trumpet survey results showing that alcohol use is far less pervasive than students assume.
Two years after launching the so-called social norms campaign, health officials say they are seeing striking results, with recent student surveys indicating a sharp decline in binge drinking. The university has coupled the marketing with tighter regulations and enforcement, as well as expanded prevention services.
Colleges across the country have turned to such campaigns in an attempt to dilute the drinking culture that dominates many campuses. The goal of the programs is to turn peer pressure into a positive force and convince hard-partying students that, while it might be hard to believe at a Friday night beer blast, they are the minority.
"The perception is that heavy-drinking students are the norm," said Sally Linowski, who directs UMass-Amherst's Center for Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Prevention. "So some students will drink to that expectation. Perception can become reality."
But the approach has its critics, who say these efforts are ineffective and may even backfire because they remind students that many of their peers do drink. Some of these critics prefer a strict, low-tolerance approach to underage drinking.
"At large universities, students react to what their friends and their immediate peer group do, not what the entire school does," said Henry Wechsler, a specialist on collegiate drinking at the Harvard School of Public Health and the author of "Dying to Drink: Confronting Binge Drinking on College Campuses." " 'Students drink,' that's the message that gets through."
Colleges like UMass-Amherst say marketing alone will not solve the persistent problem, and are supplementing myth-busting efforts with an array of educational programs and enforcement tactics. Some colleges have banned kegs and drinking games for the upcoming semester in hopes of curbing the tradition of wild weekend parties and benders, which are blamed for a multitude of health and safety problems.
As colleges prepare for the new school year, the long-running debate over alcohol policies has intensified, with college presidents at more than 120 schools, including Dartmouth, Tufts, and the University of Massachusetts, urging lawmakers to consider lowering the legal drinking age to 18.
Dubbed the Amethyst Initiative, the petition contends that the 21-year-old drinking age has created "a culture of dangerous, clandestine 'binge-drinking' - often conducted off-campus."
The group Mothers Against Drunk Driving says that lowering the drinking age would lead to more fatal car crashes, and many university leaders oppose the idea.
At UMass-Amherst, 68 percent of men and 58 percent of women report drinking five or more drinks in a row at least once in the past two weeks, according to the latest surveys. Both figures are well above the national average, but represent progress from years past. Since 2003, overall binge drinking has dropped 26 percent, and frequent heavy drinking - defined as binging three or more times in the past two weeks - is down 38 percent.
Such gains have garnered national recognition, including a $200,000 grant last month from the US Department of Education to expand and evaluate the campaign, potentially creating a blueprint for other colleges.
Administrators say the campaign sends a clear message to students that rampant drinking will not be tolerated.
"There's a feeling that the campus is wrestling with this issue, instead of turning a blind eye," said Martha Nelson Patrick, director of community relations at UMass-Amherst and cochairwoman of a campus-community coalition created to curb high-risk drinking.
Yet the university continues to struggle to reverse its image as a rowdy, beer-soaked campus, a perception fed by riots and violence the past few years. Many on campus believe that the university's reputation has attracted students prone to partying, and deterred those who are not.
In response, the university has implemented stricter alcohol policies and stronger penalties for violators, including a screening and intervention program that treated 1,200 students last year. The university urges incoming students to take an online alcohol education course and surveys hundreds of undergraduates about their behavior and beliefs around alcohol.
The university has also stepped up efforts with area bars and liquor stores to prevent alcohol sales to minors, and is working closely with town police departments to crack down on off-campus parties.
In and around Boston, many colleges say they have made concerted efforts to inform students about the dangers of drinking. At Northeastern University, for example, resident assistants meet with students in dormitories at the start of school to discuss alcohol policies and the health impact of excessive drinking.
"It's not 'just say no,' " said Ed Klotzbier, vice president for student affairs at Northeastern. "It's about wanting students to be safe."
A new six-year study at the University of Virginia found that college's social norms campaign substantially reduced the number of alcohol-related incidents. The university campaign stressed that students drink less than their peers expect and urged students to intervene if their friends were drinking dangerously.
The study reported that nearly 2,000 fewer university students were injured in alcohol-related events in 2006 than in 2001, and 1,511 fewer drove under the influence of alcohol.
Yet some UMass-Amherst students doubt that peer pressure plays an appreciable role in students' decision to drink.
"I generally think there is a core of people that believe work-hard, play-hard is a legitimate lifestyle," said Christopher Reeves, a sophomore from Shirley. "They definitely understand the need for a balance, but sometimes the range of the extremes is too large."
But others say the university has made solid progress in changing the college's drinking culture.
"It's not the same Zoo Mass it was before," said Kate Olesin, a senior from Princeton, Mass., and former resident assistant in a dormitory for upperclassmen.
Peter Schworm can be reached at email@example.com. Correspondent Will McGuinness contributed to this report.
"Chamber offers candidate forum"
Monday, September 29, 2008, The Springfield Republican Newspaper (Online), By DIANE LEDERMAN, firstname.lastname@example.org
AMHERST - The Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce will sponsor a candidates forum in October to question candidates for the Select Board about issues that are part of the chamber's mission.
New chamber Executive Director Tony A. Maroulis said the forum will be held at night, rather than at the chamber's regular breakfast meeting.
"We figure it's a perfect time for more of the community to be involved," he said by offering the night time forum, which will also be aired on Amherst Community Television.
The forum will be held Oct. 16 at 6 p.m. at the Amherst Regional Middle School.
Candidates vying for the seat in the Nov. 4 special town election are Calvin L. Brower, Aaron A. Hayden, David T. Keenan and Vladimir Morales. They are seeking the seat vacated by longtime board member Anne S. Awad who resigned last month. The term expires next spring.
Unlike forums sponsored by the League of Women Voters, during which questions were posed by audience members, the chamber members will ask questions, he said. Issues for the chamber include business issues but also education, recreation and other topics that speak to the chamber's charter, he said.
The mission, according to that charter, "is to create, maintain and promote a vital, thriving business climate throughout the Amherst area and to initiate and support the civic, educational, recreational and economic well being of the Amherst area."
The League of Women Voters will sponsor a forum on Oct. 29, also at the middle school. In addition to the Select Board candidates, U.S. Rep. John W. Olver, D-Amherst; Republican challenger Nathan A. Bech, of West Springfield; state Sen. Stanley C. Rosenberg, D-Amherst, and Republican cchallenger Keith C. McCormic have been invited as well.
"UMass Amherst provost to leave post"
October 2, 2008, 3:29 PM
By Peter Schworm, Boston Globe Staff
The University of Massachusetts Amherst provost, Charlena Seymour, will resign from the position at the end of the academic year.
The university plans to conduct a national search for her replacement. Seymour, who had served as provost since 2004, and interim provost for the three years prior, will consider options to continue at UMass, according to a university statement.
Seymour, a graduate of Howard University and Ohio State University, was dean of the graduate school from 1994-2001 and chairwoman of the department of communication disorders from 1984-1992. She joined the university as an assistant professor in 1971.
"Charlena's years of dedicated service to this institution are not only laudable, but they've come at a time when the university required the thoughtful leadership that has been the hallmark of her tenure as provost," Chancellor Robert C. Holub said in a statement.
"Faculty assail UMass Amherst budget cuts"
By Peter Schworm, Boston Globe Staff, October 17, 2008, 1:07 PM
Faculty at the University of Massachusetts Amherst are criticizing Chancellor Robert C. Holub's decision to freeze hiring and cut spending by $12 million in response to reduced state subsidies, contending he should instead tap reserves to offset the lost revenue.
"This proposal cuts into the heart of the academic mission of the campus, and students will be the ones who suffer as their education is undermined," said Dan Clawson, a sociology professor.
The university's main faculty union, The Massachusetts Society of Professors, said the university should use money set aside for future building projects to avoid cuts to academic departments.
"The fact that the chancellor is choosing to cut academic departments and stop hiring faculty, rather than taking money from existing reserves, shows that he is using this 'budget crisis' to implement his own agenda without consulting campus constituencies," said Max Page, union president.
Holub said the spending cuts, which represent about five percent of the campus budget, are necessary to avoid tuition increases and preserve financial aid following Governor Deval Patrick's announcement this week that he will slash the state budget by more than $1 billion.
In a letter to the university community Wednesday, Holub acknowledged that the one-time cuts will be "difficult and painful," but said current fiscal realities left no other choice.
"By taking these one-time budget actions now, we will not request mid-year fee increases, nor will we make cuts to student financial aid," Holub wrote. "But it is important to note that these are temporary measures for this fiscal year only.
"Virtually all economic indicators predict that this downturn is significant and will not be easily reversed – here in Massachusetts or around the world. Therefore, we must immediately begin discussions to deal strategically with this fiscal crisis and the base budget reductions these cuts represent in the next fiscal year’s budget."
Holub said he had asked the provost's office to develop strategies to recruit faculty that would center on proposals from current faculty.
University spokesman Ed Blaguszewski said the campus has a $1.4 billion backlog in maintenance projects and that improvements are critical to the school's success.
Robert Holub (center), chancellor of UMass-Amherst, with his wife, Sabine, and Jonathan Skolnik. (Stephen Rose for the Boston Globe)
"New chancellor, new can-do attitude: UMass leader focuses on possibilities"
By Peter Schworm, Boston Globe Staff, September 24, 2008
AMHERST - Robert C. Holub has heard the naysayers: The University of Massachusetts at Amherst is chronically underfunded, cloutless on Beacon Hill, and overshadowed by the state's wealth of world-class private institutions.
Try as it might, he heard in meetings with faculty and staff, the state flagship's campus faces steep obstacles to join the country's top research universities.
But Holub, who became UMass-Amherst's chancellor last month, has resolutely cast such doubts aside. Convinced the university has the potential to achieve national prominence, the 59-year-old German scholar has set a determined course to prove the skeptics wrong.
In his first formal address to the faculty earlier this month, Holub unveiled an ambitious blueprint to vault UMass-Amherst, ranked 102d among national universities in the latest US News & World Report rankings, into "the upper echelon of national public universities." Laying out an aggressive agenda, he urged faculty and staff to "leave the past behind" and called for renewed efforts in fund-raising, marketing, renovating substandard facilities, and attracting top graduate students.
"I believe we must make progress, sometimes substantial progress, if we are to assume our place as one of the premier public institutions of higher education in the country," he said in his convocation address.
Chancellors before him have declared similar goals, and Holub acknowledges progress will be hard-won. Universities' reputations, he observes, change slowly.
But by building on UMass-Amherst's growing reputation for research, particularly in the sciences, the university can reach new heights, Holub said.
"That's our strength, and we have to learn to play to our strengths," he said in an interview at his university office.
"We have to look at what we can do very well, areas where we can become a national leader."
Holub's optimism underscores the university's increasing success in at tracting a higher caliber of students and faculty, alumni donations, and substantial funding for research and new facilities. The upswing sharply contrasts the turbulence of last summer, when previous chancellor John V. Lombardi abruptly announced his departure for Louisiana State University.
Lombardi and Jack M. Wilson, University of Massachusetts system president, had clashed over efforts to unify the five-campus system, leading to a reorganization of campus leadership that angered faculty.
Holub's ambitious aims raise fundamental questions about whether the university has enough public support to achieve them, and whether its modest academic reputation will stymie efforts to enhance it.
Holub has made it clear that the status quo will not suffice. He has urged faculty to position themselves strategically for grants and has pledged to shake up the administrative structure and hire faculty for the most successful departments. He has called for expanded opportunities for undergraduates to conduct research with professors.
After his convocation speech, Holub hobnobbed with faculty and staff at a reception. Many went out of their way to introduce themselves and offered wide-ranging opinions on the university's priorities. Holub, wearing a wool charcoal jacket and banded straw hat, chatted easily and listened carefully.
Nigar Khan, associate dean of the graduate school, thanked Holub for recognizing the importance of a strong faculty.
"We've been waiting for this for the longest time," she said later. "Putting the faculty right out front - that's how you win hearts and minds."
Jennifer Donais, associate director of the grants and contracts office, praised Holub's "aggressive agenda."
"It's important to set the bar high," she said. "He has experience at preeminent institutions, so he knows what it takes."
Wilson and university trustees have expressed similar sentiments, and Holub said he was drawn by the challenge of taking a university to the next level. In his brief tenure, he has consistently sounded the theme that UMass-Amherst should measure itself against the nation's elite flagships, such as the universities of California at Berkeley, Virginia, and Michigan.
"I am not here as chancellor merely to sustain what has already been achieved. I believe we must challenge ourselves to do even better," he said at a recent community breakfast.
But some faculty members say that while Holub's aspirations are admirable, financial constraints create a vicious cycle that makes improvement difficult. Outdated facilities, which Holub calls "unacceptable," compromise recruiting and research, and pouring money into renovations leaves less to push promising departments to the next level.
"To build very strong departments, you have to find substantial amounts of money," said Ernest May, a music professor and secretary of the Faculty Senate.
"He doesn't have a lot of discretionary money, and reallocation is complicated."
Max Page, a member of the chancellor search committee and president of the university's faculty union, said faculty salaries must become more competitive for Holub's goals to be realistic.
"He has said very clearly that you can't have a great university without a great faculty," Page said. "If salaries continue to go down compared to other universities, there's no way he can achieve his goals."
Holub agreed that UMass faculty wages, which trail the national average, need to be higher to recruit and retain top scholars. The university needs to make significant gains in creating a "culture of philanthropy," he said.
It must continue to make inroads against an ingrained culture of heavy drinking, he added. And it cannot let increased admissions selectivity crowd out students from less advantaged backgrounds. "We have to take very good students, and we have to take students with very good potential," he said.
Holub, who grew up in New Jersey, was the first member of his family to attend college. He attended the University of Pennsylvania, where he earned a degree in natural science. He earned his doctorate in German from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1979, and he spent 27 years at the University of California at Berkeley. He came to UMass after serving for two years as the provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs at the University of Tennessee's flagship campus in Knoxville.
Holub spoke with faculty about blending more research opportunities into the classroom. "Undergraduate research is our advantage over other schools," he said to Audrey Altstadt, chairwoman of the history department. "If we can integrate undergrads into the research experience, that's something the liberal arts schools will find hard to offer."
Holub mostly chatted with faculty, but some students introduced themselves as well. Kendall Peabody, a senior from Wareham, told Holub he played tuba in the UMass Marching Band. Holub replied that he had heard them play several times, and they sounded excellent. But Peabody said they had a ways to go.
"So you haven't hit your peak yet?" Holub asked.
"Not even close," Peabody said.
Massachusetts State Senate 11/4/2008 "Election"
Hampshire & Franklin, 30% of precincts
Stan Rosenberg, D, Incumbent, 21,171, 82%
Keith McCormic, R, Challenger, 4,568, 18%
UMass President Jack Wilson
January 8, 2009
Jack Wilson, the president of the University of Massachusetts, chatted with Boston.com readers about higher education and the future of the state's university system.
Jack_Wilson: Hi, this is Jack Wilson. Happy New Year! I am looking forward to this chat.
Foodie: My daughter is a high school student, and she's really interested in UMass. I know that private colleges provide financial aid, but can you get aid at a public university like UMass?
Jack_Wilson: Yes, UMass gave out over $473 million in financial aid last year and we have increased our internal contribution to that that by over 150% over the last five years. We are proud to say that we pledge to make UMass affordable for any student who prepares himself/herself well to take advantage of the major research university education at UMass. We do this through financial aid that is provided on the basis of both need and merit.
ProudUMassAlum: Mr. President: It seems to me that people in Massachusetts under-value UMass because there are so many private institutions here. Could you comment on the impact of public universites here and around the country?
Jack_Wilson: There is probably some truth to that, but it is changing fast. Since UMass puts over 11,000 graduates into the workforce each year, there are few employers in Massachusetts who do not appreciate the UMass graduates. When Craig Mello won the Nobel prize, it drew international attention to the research going on at the University. As more and more talented students vie for the places at the University, there is growing recognition of the importance of a great public research university. Many other states are not blessed with the great private universities that we have. For them there was never any doubt about how critical the public research university is to the well being of the state. Here we do have great private universities and we are lucky to have them and need to nurture them. But the University of Massachusetts provides the scale and the focus on the needs of our students and our communities. In some ways we are very much like the privates and in others we are completely different. Viva la difference!
Jack_Wilson: I am pleased to call the President's of Harvard, MIT, Tufts, BU, Northeastern, WPI, and many others my friends. I am even more pleased that we all work together on joint research and community projects. Together we find new ways to cure diseases, use clean and renewable energy, create new nano materials, deliver better health care, share books and art, and make our region a better community. Massachusetts is recognized as the best place on the planet for higher education and particularly large prestigious research universities.
Jack_Wilson: Massachusetts is lucky to have such great universities â€“both private and public.
TommyBoy: What are you doing to drive up contributions from alumni?
Jack_Wilson: We are working hard to connect to the 300,000 UMass alumni out there. This is going very well, but we will continue to need to make the case of how their contributions can help others to have the same experience that they have had.
bmacs_2: Hi there. Not sure if all questions are supposed to be education specific but my questioin is about the contruction that's been going on at UMASS. I know that there has been lots of contruction on UMASS campuses, lots of upgrades it seems. Is that going to contiinue?
Jack_Wilson: Yes it will. When I became President, I launched a major infrastructure rebuilding program. In the last five years we have spent about a billion and a half dollars.
Jack_Wilson: Now we are working on a $2.5 billion capital plan. It is much needed, and it is making UMass a great place to work and go to school.
professor: How many employees have been laid off because of the state budget cuts? How many more will be let go?
Jack_Wilson: Sadly the economic turmoil has led the state to cut over $25 million from our budget and this has indeed led to layoffs -just as it has at other universities in the region and at so many private companies. Each campus is managing the budget cuts in the way most appropriate for their campus and protecting the student experience and financial aid is our highest priority.
joan_81: I am a UMass graduate and I really enjoy the television spots featuring prominent grads. Thanks for shining a light on the accomplishments of UMass alumni.
Jack_Wilson: Thank you! One of the things that I love the most about being President is that I meet amazing UMass Alumni almost anywhere that I go in the world. From a Pig Roast in Leominster to a ball room in the Ritz Carleton, I find UMass alums. I'm glad to put a few in our ads. Wish we could do more!
Jack_Wilson: One of my most surprising experiences came in Tokyo when I was at a conference of Asian University Presidents -representing the United States. Each of the ten countries in attendance selected one of their Presidents to speak for the country. I was delighted to speak for the U.S., and I was very pleased when I saw Tisato Kajiyama, President Of Kyushu University, representing Japan. We were joking about that coincidence when President Zhou, who is now President of Beijing University and was then President of Jilin University walked up to say hello â€“another UMass graduate. Then President Winarno of Indonesia came up to us and introduced himself as a graduate of the Food Science program at UMass Amherst. Four of the nine speakers representing their countries at this conference were from UMass. The missing speaker was from India and I later learned that he was a UMass Amherst Polymer Science Graduate who was President of the Indian Institute of Technology â€“Bombay!
horatio: With tons of new people applying to UMass, is there a danger more people who rely on state universities for education will get shut out? Or will you let acceptance rates rise so that all deserved people get in?
Jack_Wilson: There is indeed an application surge at all of the UMass campuses. Lots of talented students want to come. That's good. It means that you will have lots of talented students as your classmates if YOU come to UMass. Unfortunately, it also means that we do not have nearly enough places for all of the students who wish to come to UMass. Last year at UMass Amherst over 30,000 prospective students applied for about 4000 places.
Jack_Wilson: Luckily we have five campuses and the Commonwealth supports 29 institutions of public higher education â€“including the State Colleges and Community Colleges. Well prepared students can always find a place. Students who attend a Community College and perform very well can often transfer to UMass â€“and when they do they tend to do very well.
Jack_Wilson: Why do students want to come? Because it is a great education at a reasonable price with generous financial aid available. Our students have gone on into leadership positions in nearly every imaginable profession. There is always a place to get a less expensive education, but I don't think there is better place to get a world class education that can take you any place you want to go â€“and do it a cost that is within your reach.
Mark_K: Two questions: First, do you foresee admission standards becoming more strigent as fewer students can afford the more expensive private schools? And, what role do you see for computer-facilitated learning in the coming years -- will it become a viable and respected alternative to traditional classroom learning?
Jack_Wilson: Yes, I do think that we are seeing an increase in admission standards. That is a natural result of the increased demand for UMass.
Jack_Wilson: We already serve 37,000 enrollees through UMassOnline and I expect that to continue to grow. If the learner cannot come to the learning, then we can send the learning to the learner.
College_coming_soon_: What exactly is Commonwealth College @ Amherst and is it hard to get into? (our daughter has very good grades and we've some good stuff about Commonwealth College)
Jack_Wilson: Yes, Commonwealth College IS difficult to get into. It is specifically designed to be an experience for the high ability student that takes advantage of the incredibly rich research university environment at UMass Amherst. Sounds like your daughter may be one! Commonwealth College students benefit from accelerated courses, undergraduate research experiences, and dormitories designed to bring the students together in smaller living and learning groups. They also have advisors and mentors who understand the different needs of high ability students and know how to challenge you! The average Commonwealth College Student comes with a GPA of over 4.0 and an SAT of 1320. Frankly many of these same experiences can be available to the other students, but they have to prepare themselves to take advantage of them.
Student07: Thanks for chatting with us. Is UMass doing anything to make its campuses more eco-friendly?
Jack_Wilson: Absolutely! Every campus is part of the Presidents' Climate Commitment and is working hard in a variety of areas to meet and exceed those goals. We have even gone as far as building a new green power plant at UMass Amherst to replace an old not-very-clean plant. I just toured the new Integrated Science Building there that has everything from passive solar to energy storage systems. I could go on, but should keep it short.
Norman: Our kids aren't far away from their college years and my wife and I are wondering about UMass. Are all of the campuses pretty similar or are there differences that we should know about?
Jack_Wilson: We are proud that UMass can provide five very different experiences â€“ each one distinct, but each one outstanding. Our UMass Medical School provides graduate education in Medicine, Nursing, Public Health, and the Biomedical Sciences.
Jack_Wilson: Amherst, Boston, Dartmouth, and Lowell provide both graduate and undergraduate programs in a wide array of areas.
Jack_Wilson: Our flagship campus at UMass Amherst is the largest and offers the most programs at both the graduate and undergraduate level. It is also part of the Five College system which allows students to also take part in programs at Amherst College, Smith College, Mt Holyoke, and Hampshire College. UMass Amherst is home to Commonwealth College â€“ a special "College within a College" for especially talented students.
Jack_Wilson: For the student that wants an urban experience, UMass Boston offers programs that are linked to the vibrant city of Boston from its perch on the beautiful peninsula in Boston Harbor that it shares with the John F. Kennedy Library.
Jack_Wilson: UMass Dartmouth is a little jewel on the South Coast that is known for its Art and Design Programs and for its world class education and research in the Marine Sciences.
Jack_Wilson: UMass Lowell benefits from a location on the I495 corridor not far from the Rt 128 Corridor. It is long known for its links to industries in the region from the high tech computer and communication industries to the emerging nano-technology and clean energy sectors. All of our campuses have outstanding social science and humanities programs as well as health science and education â€“and these programs also have distinctive characteristics. dave: Will I get my money's worth if I go to UMass?
Jack_Wilson: Smart Money magazine certainly thinks so. They rated UMass Amherst as number 18 in the nation in value! The 300,000 alumni of UMass can testify to the worth of a UMass degree. In the eastern part of Massachusetts alone there are over 1500 UMass alums with the title on Vice President or President! Of course we have also provided the CEO's of General Electric, General Motors, Monsanto, Waters Corporation, Nabor's Industries, Joseph Abboud Clothing, Citizens Energy, and countless others.
Jack_Wilson: Of course not everyone aspires to be a CEO. Other alumni have won the Nobel Prize, the Pulitzer Prize, and many others. Tom Menino became Mayor of Boston. Bill Cosby a comedian. Nathalie Cole a musician. Bill Pullman and Richard Gere became actors. And Julius (Dr. J) Erving is one of the greatest basketball players of all time. Throw in a lot of doctors, lawyers, and even an astronaut, and it is hard to imagine any field without a great UMass alum.
data_girl_01: If the state cuts your budget, won't you have to admit fewer students?
Jack_Wilson: Many states (including California) are threatening to do this if the states cut their budget this year. We will NOT do this.
DrewH: What?s it like being president of UMass? Do you enjoy it?
Jack_Wilson: I love it. And every time I speak to a student who is really taking advantage of what we offer, I love it more. Ditto for alumni. It is one of the most rewarding jobs I can imagine. The University makes a huge difference in so many people's lives. It creates a future for students and for our communities. What's not to like about that?
mdigiano: I've heard there are a lot more students applying to Umass Amherst, what kind of numbers are we talking about?
Jack_Wilson: There are indeed many students applying to UMass Amherst. Last year was a record setting number of applicants â€“over 30,000! These for only 4000 places. We also set a record the year before and we expect that this year there will be even more â€“setting another record. Andâ€¦ these are very good students!
AnnG:Now that some private universities are charging more than $50,000 a year, how is it that UMass is able to charge less than half of that?
Jack_Wilson: UMass serves over 60,000 traditional students and another 37,000 students through UMass Online. Each year we graduate 11 or 12 thousand students into the workforce. With a budget of $2.5 billion each year, we receive about $450 million in support from the state. Essentially all of that state support goes to provide our undergraduate education. We have strong support from industry and growing support from our alumni who want to help deserving students to have the same opportunity that they had.
Jack_Wilson: We fold much of the $35 million in revenues from UMass Online back into our educational programs, but we also benefit from being one of the nation's top 15 universities in revenues from the commercialization of intellectual property. When it comes right down to it, our faculty and staff might just work harder! And we thank them for that.
College_coming_soon_: Thanks for answering my ? about getting into Commonwealth College, but what exactly is it? Is it a separate College (physically) from the UMASS campus or is it integrated with the regular UMASS?
Jack_Wilson: No it is not physically separate, although the students may live in group areas in the dorms. It is organized as a collection of special experiences within the university. CommColl students may also take advantage of any of the other programs available to any student.
UMB_grad: I've read about new chancellors being appointed at several UMass campuses recently. Who are they, and what do they do?
Jack_Wilson: We have a terrific team of leaders as the Chancellors. Robert Holub at UMass Amherst is the newest and he comes to us after a distinguished career as a teacher, scholar, and administrator at UC Berkeley (Some think they are the best public university on the planet. I think they are second best.) and a successful term as Provost at the University of Tennessee.
Jack_Wilson: Jean MacCormack is the longest serving at UMass Dartmouth. They say that you cannot have a community meeting in Southeast Massachusetts without Jean there! She is a graduate of UMass Amherst and served for many years at UMass Boston.
Jack_Wilson: Marty Meehan is doing a terrific job at UMass Lowell. He and his wife are both distinguished graduates of UMass Lowell and passionate advocates for the students. Marty practiced for the job by serving as a prominent member of the United State Congress.
Jack_Wilson: Keith Motley is hard to miss as the UMass Boston Chancellor at 6' 8" and a former college basketball star who is also a passionate advocate for access to education as the gateway to opportunity for all. Keith is on so many boards and committees in Boston that only the Mayor (an alum) is seen at more events! Keith had a long career in student affairs and students love him just as much as he loves them.
Jack_Wilson: Michael Collins preceded Keith as Chancellor at UMass Boston and now serves as Chancellor of the Medical School and Senior Vice President for the Health Sciences for the UMass system. He had a distinguished career culminating in his service as CEO of the Caritas Health Care System. In only a year and a half he has inspired the community with his vision for the Health Sciences in what he likes to call this Life Science moment.
Jack_Wilson: The Chancellors are the persons who lead each of the campuses to their rightful place among the great universities. The President's Council of Chancellors is a team of leaders that is charged with making the overall management decisions for the University under the Governance of our Board of Trustees.
Greenliner: Where do you see UMass going over the next five or 10 years?
Jack_Wilson: I see UMass going great places with great students. The numbers and abilities of the students will both increase. We will complete the $2.9 billion building program and will have one of the top faculties in the nation. Our research will grow and we will make a particularly strong mark in the life sciences and in clean and renewable energy. However, we will also write some of the best books, create some of the most interesting art, and help our nation and state develop the policies and leaders needed for success.
Jack_Wilson: I like to say that the path to economic and social development in Massachusetts goes through the University of Massachusetts. Our students come from Massachusetts and they stay in Massachusetts. We are creating a great future for the students and they are creating a great future for our region and the world. I feel good about that. raiders: Where does the med school in Worcester rank among the nation?
Jack_Wilson: At the very top. In primary care, the Medical School is ranked in the top ten in the nation. Of course, Craig Mello won the Nobel Prize a couple of years ago and Victor Ambros won the Lasker Award (known as the American Nobel!) last year. Two terrfic members of our terrific faculty.
Jack_Wilson: I want to thank all of you for participating. Our time is up, but the questions keep pouring in. If I did not get to your question, I apologize for that.
Jack_Wilson: Thank you all for your interest in and support of the University of Massachusetts.
"UMass-Amherst anticipates $45M shortfall next year"
Boston.com, January 14, 2009
AMHERST, Mass. --The University of Massachusetts flagship campus in Amherst has projected a $45 million budget shortfall for next year.
University spokesman Ed Blaguszewski told the Daily Hampshire Gazette that the projected gap jumped by $7 million following news that the state is anticipating another $1.1 billion shortfall.
The campus has an $824.4 million operating budget this year, about a quarter of which comes from the state. UMass will not know how much money it will get from the state in next fiscal year until the summer.
UMass has made faculty cuts and plans to cut administrative support services, capital spending and travel. It also will increase student fees and even lower thermostats.
UMass also is considering reorganizing its nine colleges to save on administrative costs.
"State's public colleges, universities stand to lose in budget plan"
By Peter Schworm, Boston Globe Staff, January 29, 2009
Massachusetts public colleges and universities will lose more than $100 million in state subsidies next year under Governor Deval Patrick's proposed budget, a financial blow that coincides with a sharp rise in student interest in public schools.
The spending blueprint, announced today, reduces aid to community colleges, state colleges, and the University of Massachusetts by 11.6 percent. The lost revenue could force college leaders to increase student fees when a growing number of families are struggling financially.
"This is obviously a spectacularly bad time to be doing that," said Timothy Flanagan, president of Framingham State College. "Given families' situations, we'll be trying to keep fee increases as low as possible."
Under Patrick's budget, the five-campus University of Massachusetts system would receive $416 million next fiscal year, down from $470 million. The nine state colleges would receive $185 million, a $25 million drop, and the 15 community colleges would receive $204 million, a $27 million decline.
A spokesman for the University of Massachusetts system said the cuts would force fee hikes. The university has kept tuition and fee increases below the rate of inflation the past five years.
"The reductions clearly make an increase of some magnitude inevitable," said Robert Connolly, the spokesman.
Patrick's budget did not specify how much individual schools would receive. Education officials said the reductions would vary. College officials said that not knowing their allocation hampers their budget planning.
The proposal needs legislative approval and will be debated in the coming months.
The state's $96 million financial aid budget, which ranks among the country's least generous, held steady.
Richard Freeland, the state's commissioner of higher education, said the cuts would place pressure on state and community colleges at a time of heightened demand. For a state heavily reliant on an educated workforce, Massachusetts has long trailed other states in supporting public colleges.
"This is about years, if not generations, of not funding public higher education in a fully competitive way," Freeland said.
Peter Schworm can be reached at email@example.com.
"UMass tuition steady; far more costly fees may rise: State aid cut portends steep boost in bills"
By Peter Schworm, Boston Globe Staff, February 7, 2009
Massachusetts education officials will hold in-state tuition rates steady at public colleges and universities for the next school year, although individual schools are likely to raise student fees sharply to offset reduced state aid.
The Board of Higher Education voted Thursday to leave annual tuition unchanged. At seven state colleges, tuition for Massachusetts residents will stay at either $910 or $970 and will remain between $720 and $780 at the 15 community colleges.
Tuition will be $1,714 at the UMass campuses in Amherst and Boston and $1,454 at UMass-Lowell and Dartmouth.
However, state-mandated tuition rates represent a small fraction of the overall cost of attending college, so students should still expect steeper overall bills, state education officials have said. For example, students at Worcester State College pay $970 in annual tuition, but $4,894 in fees. While tuition payments flow to the state, fees support the campuses' budgets.
Trustees at the University of Massachusetts are expected to vote on next year's fees next week.
Richard Freeland, the commissioner of higher education, said yesterday that it was important to "hold the line on tuition" in trying economic times. The $96 million the state is currently spending on financial aid is also slated to remain constant despite falling state revenues, he added.
The full cost of attending UMass-Amherst this school year for full-time, in-state students - including tuition, fees, and room and board - was $18,346.
The tuition decision was made a week after public colleges and universities learned they would lose more than $100 million in state subsidies next year under Governor Deval Patrick's proposed budget.
Patrick's proposal reduces aid to community colleges, state colleges, and the University of Massachusetts by 11.6 percent and raises the prospect of sharp fee increases.
Under Patrick's budget, the five-campus University of Massachusetts system would receive $416 million next fiscal year, down from $470 million. The nine state colleges would receive $185 million, a $25 million drop, and the 15 community colleges would receive $204 million, a $27 million decline.
On Thursday, the board also called on state universities and colleges to urge all their applicants to complete the federal financial aid form, making more eligible for government grants and loans. Studies have shown that many students who probably meet income requirements for assistance do not apply.
A state study has shown that an additional 16,000 students would qualify for $59 million in public support if they completed the form.
The move makes Massachusetts the first state in the country to adopt a system-wide recommendation of this kind, the board said.
"These challenging economic times underscore the need for students to seek every possible form of financial assistance," Freeland said.
The Boston Globe, Op-Ed, STAN ROSENBERG AND DANIEL BOSLEY
"A case for regional transit funds"
By Stan Rosenberg and Daniel Bosley, February 7, 2009
"REMEMBER the Regional Transportation Authorities!" Admittedly, as rallying cries go, that one is somewhat less inspiring than, say, "Remember the Alamo" or "Remember the Maine." But as Beacon Hill begins to address the needs of the transportation system, the members of the Legislature's Regional Transportation Caucus will be sounding that message relentlessly.
And why the concern? There are 15 regional transportation authorities in the state. They serve 231 of the state's 351 communities, and they provide approximately 25 million rides a year. Yet as various ideas about reorganizing the state's transportation systems and addressing transportation needs have been floated, there has been little talk about the authorities. There's been talk of increasing some tolls and raising the gas tax, but that's been done only in the context of how it might benefit the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority, the Big Dig, and other transportation needs of the urban center inside I-95.
That's fine. No one is disputing the importance of the MBTA, an organization that received $768 million in taxpayer support last year, compared with the $58 million for RTAs, or the need to finish paying off the Big Dig. Those issues must be addressed, but so must the public transportation needs of areas outside of metropolitan Boston.
The state needs a comprehensive plan that not only helps urban professionals get to their jobs in Boston, but also helps elderly rural residents get to their medical appointments. It's no exaggeration to say that the lives and livelihoods of a lot of people, especially in rural and suburban areas, depend on safe, reliable public transportation, the very service that regional transportation authorities provide.
The Regional Transportation Caucus will propose doubling operating funding for the authorities over a five- to seven-year period in order to expand services, improve reliability, and create more flexibility in routes. In addition, it will call for increased capital funding to modernize fleets and facilities, and insist on management reforms to improve the administration of the 15 authorities.
The inclusion of these elements in a comprehensive transportation plan would build on the success of the Regional Transportation Caucus last year when the Patrick administration moved aggressively on a proposal in the Transportation Bond Bill to place regional transportation authorities on a "forward funding" system. Forward funding eliminates the borrowing required by the "lag funding" system and will save state taxpayers $2 million to $5 million in interest payments each year.
The issue of transportation policy is likely to take center stage in Washington and in state houses across the country as tens of billions of dollars may be earmarked for transportation infrastructure nationwide as part of the economic stimulus package. What will make the coming discussions especially important is the fact that transportation policies will have direct impacts on the economy and the environment. All the more reason to remember the regional transportation authorities.
For example, a car is often a necessity in rural areas. And although gasoline prices are currently at a five-year low, it is unreasonable to believe they will stay that way as oil reserves dwindle. Moreover, it seems to make good sense to give rural residents public transportation options so that they can leave their cars at home whenever possible, thereby saving money and gas and protecting the environment. Again, adequately funded regional transportation authorities can play a key role in this dynamic by providing quality mass transit services now and by helping to lay the groundwork for more commuter rail systems in the future, a development that would have enormous economic impact outside Greater Boston.
We need to rethink the ways we get around. We need new ideas and a comprehensive plan that includes everyone in this state, from the daily MBTA rider to the person who has never been to Boston and relies on a bus in Fall River or Chatham.
We need to remember the regional transportation authorities.
State Senator Stan Rosenberg, president pro tem of the Massachusetts Senate, and state Representative Daniel Bosley, chair of the Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies, co-chair the Legislature's Regional Transportation Caucus.
"UMass employees top list of highest-paid state workers: Patrick ranked 1,076th in tally"
By Andrea Estes, Boston Globe Staff, February 11, 2009
More than 175 state employees were paid $200,000 or more last year, including more than 150 University of Massachusetts administrators and professors, 13 of whom made $400,000 or more, according to a payroll report released yesterday.
The state's top earner was Derek Lovley, associate dean of UMass-Amherst's College of Natural Resources and the Environment.
Lovley, a specialist on biofuels, made $613,000, according to data made public yesterday by the state's Office of the Comptroller. He was followed by UMass Medical School Chancellor Michael F. Collins, who made $609,000.
Five other UMass administrators were paid between $459,000 and $549,000, followed by UMass president Jack Wilson, who received $436,000. Also among the top earners was James Julian, UMass executive vice president and former chief of staff to former Senate president William M. Bulger. Julian joined Bulger when Bulger became the school's president in early 1996.
Also among the state's highest moneymakers were the head basketball coach at UMass, Derek Kellogg, who made $260,000, and the school's head football coach, Donald A. Brown, who made $233,000. Brown left to take a coaching job with the University of Maryland. The university's athletic director, Dana Skinner, made $192,000, while the men's head ice hockey coach, Blaise MacDonald, was paid $178,000.
The payroll - which totaled more than $5 billion - included only salaries paid to employees of regular state agencies. It did not tally the pay of employees of authorities or commissions such as the MBTA, the Massachusetts Port Authority, the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, or the Pension Reserves Investment Management Board, which have traditionally paid some of state government's highest salaries.
At $140,534, Governor Deval Patrick was 1,076th on the list. Supreme Judicial Court justices earned slightly more - $146,000, with the chief justice making $151,000.
Robert Connolly, UMass spokesman, who was paid $163,000 last year, wrote in an e-mail that the system pays its employees in a "competitive range" with other state universities around the country.
"The University of Massachusetts sets salaries for faculty, staff, and administrators in relation to what peers are paid at comparable universities. Benchmarking salaries at market rates allows UMass to attract and retain the faculty who bring outstanding teaching to the classroom and the staff and administrators who make the University of Massachusetts an efficient and well-run institution," he wrote.
Connolly said many top-earning UMass employees are paid through research grants.
Presidents of the public colleges - including Middlesex Community College, Northern Essex Community College, Mt. Wachusett Community College, Holyoke Community College, Fitchburg State, Salem State, Worcester State, and Westfield State - all were paid more than $200,000 last year, according to the records.
Other top earners were the state's acting chief medical examiner, Henry Nields, who was paid $250,000. Dana Mohler-Faria, the president of Bridgewater State College, made $236,000, and Joseph Carter, adjutant general of the Massachusetts National Guard, made $200,000.
Members of the State Police also earned big money, in many cases doubling their regular salaries with overtime. Mark Delaney, State Police superintendent, made $210,000. Nearly three dozen troopers received $170,000 or more, including five who more than doubled their $70,000-a-year base pay rate. One trooper, Kathleen Carney, saw her earnings soar from $70,000 to $184,000, according to the records.
Among the lowest paid employees were mental health, social, and other human service workers, many of whom made $36,000 or less.
Michael Widmer, president of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, said that even though many of the highest-ranking officials deserve to be well paid, they should consider a temporary pay cut.
"You clearly need to have competitive pay for management positions," said Widmer, "but given the severity of the state's fiscal crisis, it may well be appropriate for individuals above a certain level to take a temporary pay cut just as is happening in the private sector. At these salary levels, most of these individuals can afford a temporary salary cut, which would set a strong example for the rest of state government."
Mayor Thomas M. Menino and his top aides have volunteered to take a 3 percent pay cut starting next week.
Patrick yesterday praised the mayor, saying that he and his staff have forgone pay raises for the past two years.
Even with the pay cut, Patrick pointed out, Menino's $169,750 salary will still be significantly greater than his own.
A BOSTON GLOBE EDITORIAL
"Middle-class blues at UMass"
February 12, 2009
A PROPOSED fee hike at the University of Massachusetts is needed to maintain academic quality across the five-campus system. But it falls too heavily on middle-class families struggling to educate their children during the economic downturn.
UMass trustees are expected to vote today on a proposal that would raise college fees by $1,500 on 52,000 full-time students. If it passes, the university could offset some of next year's $102 million budget shortfall and provide about $20 million more in financial aid to low-income students. The proposal is progressive - a point in its favor, because the fee hike would be offset by more aid for students whose families earn less than the state median income of $78,500.
Yet 45 percent of undergraduates would be assessed the entire fee. And in today's weakened economy, many of these families also face hardships. (And news that UMass administrators topped the list of the state's best-paid employees doesn't make those hardships go down easier.)
UMass remains a good deal. Federal contribution guidelines for families and university grants mean that most students pay considerably less than the $18,346 sticker price for tuition, fees, and room and board. A family earning $40,000 pays less than $3,000, or about 7 percent of its income. A family earning just north of $100,000 pays $15,008, or 15 percent. Progessivity in tax codes is one thing. But it's stretching the point to ask those earning narrowly more than the state median income to absorb $1,500 fee increases, while others earning narrowly less are held harmless or can even expect UMass to meet 100 percent of their tuition and fees through new grants.
Private colleges, commendably, have been reaching out to less well-off students. But with price tags above $40,000, the schools are driving many middle-class families from the field. UMass should be wary of moving in that direction.
Wisely, university president Jack Wilson says he would be open to refunding all or part of the fee hike if significant new funds flow to UMass from the federal stimulus bill. But the trustees should also protect the college's public mission by asking more families to absorb at least part of the fee hike. A sliding scale that begins with families earning above $40,000 is less jarring than a stiff fee that kicks in around $78,500.
State lawmakers also need to address, once and for all, the hazy financial picture at UMass, especially the strange mixture of tuition and fee categories that confound families. Much of the "tuition" charged at UMass - about $46 million this year - is sent directly to the state's general fund, while fees can be retained on campus. Like other state universities, UMass should be allowed to retain its full tuition income without subtracting the sum from its line item in the state budget. And everyone on campus, within economic reason, should share the burden of the current economic crisis.
The Boston Globe, Op-Ed, JACK M. WILSON
"Keeping UMass affordable"
By Jack M. Wilson, February 12, 2009
STUDENTS and families in Massachusetts are anxious about the cost and availability of higher education. These concerns will only intensify in the coming months, as acceptance letters land in thousands of mailboxes and families grapple with decisions that will shape a young person's life and will also have a major impact on household finances.
Affordability is now the critical question for many students and families making decisions about college. Discussions that just last year might have centered on where to attend are now just as likely to be conversations about whether it is even possible to attend.
Interest in a University of Massachusetts education is at an all-time high and applications for enrollment are up at every campus. When families see that they can have access to a world-class education for only $20,000 for tuition, fees, and room and board, they are interested. When they realize that over half of UMass students receive financial aid and pay far less than that, they are impressed.
Still, there is a lot of worry. Families are not sure how much aid they will receive. They worry that students might be saddled with large loans. They also know that UMass is facing a significant decrease in state funding.
A major funding reduction could jeopardize access and affordability, but fortunately a decision made six years ago to increase the university's commitment to financial aid puts it in a position to respond aggressively to this challenge. In 2003, the university's direct spending on financial aid was $36.5 million. Thanks to the dedication and commitment of UMass chancellors, spending has increased by 165 percent to $94.2 million.
UMass is now poised to meet 100 percent of tuition and mandatory fees with grants and scholarships - after the expected family contribution required under federal guidelines - for students from families with annual incomes up to $78,500. UMass wants families to recognize that high-quality higher education may be more affordable than they imagined.
For example, a family with an annual income of under $30,000 pays only $1,704 on average for tuition, fees, and room and board at UMass-Amherst this year. For families with incomes up to $50,000, it is $3,982, and families earning up to $75,000 pay an average of $7,787. Even families with no federally determined need pay $20,000 for tuition, fees, and room and board, and many of those students receive non-need-based aid. When parents compare that to the alternatives, they see a world-class education at an affordable price.
To help close a projected $102 million budget gap for the upcoming year and to provide additional financial aid, UMass is proposing to increase the total student fees by $1,500. While some object to any fee increase, it would be irresponsible to simply cut $102 million from the current budget, as that would compromise quality. Cutting $102 million from the budget would require extensive layoffs of faculty and staff, and would mean that student enrollment would have to decrease. It would be equally irresponsible to make up for the loss of $102 million simply on the revenue side, as that would require a $3,100 fee increase that would unduly burden students and families.
The UMass approach is to address the shortfall half through spending reductions and half through an increase in fees. This is a responsible, balanced, pragmatic path, one that - taken in tandem with the new commitment on financial aid - will allow the university to protect the twin pillars of quality and affordability.
In so many homes and at so many dinner tables right now, the question is: Is a college education, the undeniable ticket to the America Dream, still within our reach?
The University of Massachusetts is dedicated to ensuring that answer remains a definitive yes.
Jack M. Wilson is president of the University of Massachusetts.
"UMass fee increase and the powers that be"
Boston Independent Examiner, by Keith Raboin, February 25, 7:11 PM
I can't even begin to paint the full picture of what is happening within the UMass system right now. Let us start with a statement about UMass Boston: "The University of Massachusetts Boston was established in 1964 to provide the opportunity for superior education at moderate cost to the people of greater Boston"
Moderate cost. That would be the key term. However, as UMB's state funding is on the decline, the burden is clearly falling more and more on students. The latest quick fix? A $1500 fee increase across the entire UMass system. Amherst, Dartmouth, Lowell, Boston, all campuses, regardless of current fees, are going up a flat rate .
The UMass Board of Trustees is putting in the final vote this Friday at UMass Dartmouth. The decision has been rushed and clouded with misinformation. The clear majority of students speaks: we do not want the fee increase. We understand that the money has to come from somewhere. We know that everyone is in a tough time. There is hope on the horizon, however. The stimulus bill. Governor Deval Patrick has appropriate funding for public higher ed. $120 million, to be exact. The only catch? He has the choice of giving it to operating budgets (which are in DESPERATE need,) capitol budgets (fancy buildings,) or just letting it pass onto state legislature (God help us all.)
The language of the bill clearly states that funding should be restored to before emergency cuts in public campuses. That would take us back BEFORE the devastating 9C cuts, back to FY08 levels. This would eliminate the need for this large increase, most of all. The only message passing the fee increase sends is: "Don't worry, Deval, spend that money. The students will take it on." This is clearly the wrong time for that, if there ever is a good one.
There is a lot happening on student and faculty fronts to combat this. Organizations such as PHENOM and Massachusetts Students Uniting are collaborating to get the message to the governor and legislation that public higher education should be a top priority for Massachusetts. A call-in day is being organized on public campuses around the state tomorrow (Feb 26th) to get the word out: We need help. In addition, multiple campuses are sending students down to UMass Dartmouth to let ourselves be heard at this important decision. The effects of this fee increase could lead to dropouts and a shift of the typical UMass student demographic.
One thing is for sure, we cannot take this lying down. Education is critical to the Massachusetts economy, and it cannot be forgotten. Deval Patrick has said this in his 2005 policy statement. He should not be so quick to forget it. I urge the people of Massachusetts to see the big picture, and do what's best in the long term.
Governor Deval Patrick can be reached at (888)-870-7770. Supporters of public higher ed, please voice your concern.
Keith Raboin informs and engages people in politics. A university student, he is involved in local education advocacy groups and student government, and seeks to reveal what’s behind the smoke and mirrors of today's two-party system.
Related link: www.phenomonline.org
"UMass fee hike clears final hurdle"
By Peter Schworm, Boston Globe Staff, February 27, 2009, 3:03 P.M.
Trustees at the University of Massachusetts gave final approval today to a $1,500 increase in student fees amid calls to defer the hike until state officials allocate hundreds of millions in federal stimulus money earmarked for education.
The 15 percent increase, the largest in several years, brings annual tuition costs for in-state undergraduates to an average of $11,000 for the next academic year, not including room and board.
But officials said they would provide rebates for some or all of the increase if the university receives federal money, and Umass president Jack Wilson said officials are aggressively lobbying for the funds.
“We view the federal stimulus process with great anticipation and hope that we will be able to replace student dollars with federal dollars,” said Wilson, who described the increase as a “responsible, balanced step” in response to reduced financial support from the commonwealth.
University officials say the fee hike is necessary to help cover a projected $100 million budget deficit across the five-campus system. The university also plans to reduce spending by $50 million, and substantially boost financial aid.
Trustees approved the controversial measure by a 12 to 4 margin. More than 100 students attended the meeting, held at UMass Dartmouth, to register their opposition to the hike.
Critics say the increase will price out financially struggling families who are turning to the public system in strong numbers for its lower cost.
Ferd Wulkan, coordinator for the Public Higher Education Network of Massachusetts, an advocacy group, criticized the fee increase as “premature and excessive.” He called upon state leaders to subsidize the university more generously to make it more affordable for families.
“This should be a time to invest in public education,” he said.
Paul Reville, the state’s education secretary and a UMass trustee, supported the increase, calling it “a tough action, but the right thing to do” given the university’s budget gap.
Reville said he is confident higher education will receive some support from the federal stimulus package but said it would take likely several months to determine how much.
“It’s unclear when the aid will be available and how much it will be,” he said in an interview after the vote.
The bolstered aid, along with increases in federal grants for low-income students, would allow the university to cover the full cost of tuition and fees for most families who make less than the state median income of $78,500.
UMass students who received aid this year paid an average net cost -- for tuition, fees, and room and board -- of $13,293.
"Higher Ed: UMass students to see significant fee increase"
By Tony Dobrowolski, Berkshire Eagle Staff, Sunday, March 01, 2009
Students attending the University of Massachusetts could see a significant fee increase next year.
Referring to the need to close a potential $102 million state funding gap, the UMass Board of Trustees on Friday voted to approve a $1,500 fee increase for the 2009-2010 academic year.
It's possible that some or all of the fee increase would be rebated to students and their families if UMass receives federal stimulus funds, the board said.
UMass President Jack Wilson said the university is making "the strongest possible case" for infusion of federal stimulus funds.
"We view the federal stimulus process with great anticipation and hope that we will be able to replace student dollars with federal dollars," Wilson said in a statement.
If the $1,500 fee increase remains in place, families with incomes at or below the state median of $78,500 would have the effects of the increase offset by additional grant aid.
UMass currently meets 91 percent of its students' demonstrated financial need, the highest level of any of New England's public institutions, according to university officials.
UMass has campuses in Amherst, Boston, Dartmouth, Lowell, and Worcester in addition to an online branch.
Under the plan approved by the trustees on Friday, tuition and fees for instate undergraduates will increase from $9,548 this year to $11,048 in 2009-2010. The trustees, who voted 12-4 in favor of the proposal, approved specific language authorizing a fee rebate based on the amount of federal funding that UMass receives. The board also voted to freeze most mandatory fees at 2008-09 levels.
The total cost to attend UMass this year is $18,346, including tuition, fees, room and board.
That sum is the fourth highest among the six New England public flagship universities, and less than half the cost of attending a private institution, according to UMass officials.
"We understand that students and families are looking to UMass and are recognizing that the University of Massachusetts provides an education that equals or surpasses private institutions that cost more than twice the price," Wilson said.
Because of the budget cuts being felt by all state programs and institutions, the University of Massachusetts could see funding decrease by $102 million from fiscal 2009 to fiscal 2010 when appropriation reduction and the loss of state-funded employee fringe benefits are calculated.
The state budget cuts could reduce the university's 2009-2010 funding to the level it was 11 years ago.
The board's finance committee last week rejected a proposal to close all of the state's funding gap by raising fees by $3,100.
"The University of Massachusetts could offset the impending loss of state funds by cutting more than $100 million in personnel and programs or by doubling its fee increase," Wilson said. "Instead, we have chosen the moderate path of a $1,500 increase believing this to be the balanced pragmatic course."
Robert C. Holub, left, chancellor of the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, Henry M. Thomas III, a member of the UMass board of trustees, and Gordon N. Oaks Jr., a member of the UMass Foundation, talk Monday in the garage area of the new University Transit Center and Regional Traveler Information Center.
Paul W. Shuldiner, left, principal investigator for the Regional Traveler Information Center, and John Collura, professor of civil engineering and director of the University Transit Center, tour the facility Monday on the campus of the University of Massachusetts in Amherst.
Note: Photos by Dave Roback / The Republican
"U Mass Amherst opens new $5 million traveler information center"
By The Republican Newsroom, JIM KINNEY, firstname.lastname@example.org,, Monday March 09, 2009, 7:51 P.M.
AMHERST - University and government officials gathered Monday in a new and very clean bus-washing bay to dedicate a $5 million, 16,000-square-foot University Transit Center and Regional Traveler Information Center.
The center at 255 Governors Drive, near the Mullins Center on the western edge of campus, was paid for with nearly $3.9 million in funding from the Federal Transportation Administration secured by U.S. Rep. John W. Olver, D-Amherst, and $1.1 million from the university.
Besides providing space to wash and store buses, parts and train drivers for buses that serve the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and the region through the Pioneer Valley Transit Authority, the center also gives the University's Regional Traveler Information Center a new home.
Oversized computer screens on the walls of the Information Center show images from the center's nine traffic cameras mounted in and around Amherst, Northampton, Hadley, Deerfield, Sunderland, Athol and Orange.
Those pictures can be a powerful tool for drivers, said James F. Schleicher, the Regional Traveler Information Center technician.
"I live on the other side of the river," Schleicher said. "So I can look and see that traffic is backed up on the Calvin Coolidge Memorial Bridge. Then I'll keep working for 20 minutes until traffic clears, and I'll zip right through. It makes me more productive."
The pictures, along with estimated speeds on Route 9, are available to the public at www.masstraveler.com.
In a year to 16 months, PVTA drivers all across the system will have access to information from the Traveler Center, and the Traveler Center will know the location of every PVTA bus, said Mary L. MacInnes, the authority's administrator. It's called Automatic Vehicle Locating or AVL.
Passengers will be able to track buses, and bus drivers will be able to avoid wrecks and tie-ups, MacInnes said. The project will cost $3.1 million, including $2.48 million from the federal government and $620,000 from the state.
MacInnes said the Automatic Vehicle Locating system wouldn't work if the Traveler Information Center didn't have the space afforded by the new building.
"We were in a corner of the driver's lounge in the other building where people would be eating and watching TV," Schleicher said. "Now we have room to work."
Springfield resident and UMass trustee Henry M. Thomas III said the Transit Center and Regional Transportation Center is a great example of how UMass benefits the region as a whole.
"This is going to strengthen the Springfield-UMass connection," he said.
Allan E. Byam, assistant director of campus and transportation services, said the department runs not only the UMass campus loop, but provides PVTA service in eight Hampshire County communities and links five colleges. It has 200 employees. Of those, 180 are students who do everything from drive buses to light maintenance and cleaning.
Robert C. Holub, chancellor of the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. (Republican file photo).
"UMass-Amherst chancellor announces reorganization details"
By The Republican Newsroom, Thursday March 12, 2009
By DIANE LEDERMAN
AMHERST - The chancellor of the University of Massachusetts said Thursday that he will merge a number of departments into a newly created college of natural sciences in the fall to help cope with a $46 million state cut in revenues.
Chancellor Robert C. Holub proposed reorganizing as a way to save more than $1 million in administrative costs. Student fee hikes will provide about $20 million toward that cut.
According to the merger announced by Holub, the new college will include the environmental sciences; food science; microbiology; natural resources, conservation; plant, soil and insect sciences; the Stockbridge School of Agriculture; veterinary and animal sciences; psychology; astronomy; biochemistry and molecular biology; biology; chemistry; computer science; geosciences; mathematics and statistics; physics; and polymer science and engineering.
Holub in his memo stated that his plan helps the campus bring "together most of the life sciences under one administrative structure." He said the moves help the university "to compete nationally and internationally," and "enhances our ability to attract and retain the best faculty and facilities research collaboration across the science disciplines."
The chancellor earlier had been looking at creating a college of humanities, arts and social sciences by merging the college of Humanities and Fine Arts and the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences. He stated that he recognizes that several issues must be addressed and he has asked for further study before proceeding there.
Under the original plan, the College of Humanities and Fine Arts, the College of Natural Resources and the Environment, the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, and the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences would be eliminated and the departments placed under a new humanities college and natural sciences college.
In his memo, Holub stated that reorganizing is necessary "to be more efficient, to reduce administration costs and to avoid the more deleterious option of slashing programs and departments."
Since December, the university has sent layoff notices to about 91 faculty members.
"Senator Pacheco joins regional transportation caucus"
southcoasttoday.com - March 12, 2009, 10:40 A.M.
BOSTON — Sen. Marc R. Pacheco (D-Taunton) has joined the Regional Transportation Authority Caucus, a legislative group co-founded by state Sen. Stan Rosenberg (D-Amherst), Senate president pro tem, and state Rep. Daniel Bosley (D-North Adams), chair of the Economic Development and Emerging Technologies Committee last year.
"It's no exaggeration to say that the lives and livelihoods of a lot of people, especially in rural areas, depend on safe, reliable public transportation," said Senator Pacheco, whose distruct includes Middleboro. "Roughly two-thirds of all Massachusetts communities are served by RTAs (regional transportation authorities), adding up to about 25 million rides a year. This is an important service that simply cannot be taken for granted."
"I appreciate Senator Pacheco's willingness to join this effort," Sen. Rosenberg said. "There are 27 senators and 81 representatives with RTAs in their districts. Together, we can focus our energies and do some good work for our constituents."
According to Rep. Bosley, "it is my hope that the caucus can continue to assist Regional Transportation Authorities. As the state's transportation administration undergoes restructuring, it is imperative that RTAs remain a factor in consideration of the new plan."
Some accomplishments of the caucus last year include: securing $6.2 million in a supplemental budget, reinstituting the ability of RTAs to borrow under the full faith and credit of the Commonwealth, which has lowered the interest rate from 4% to about 2%, and establishing a forward funding mechanism instead of the current retroactive funding.
Moving forward, the caucus plans to focus its immediate attention on Senator Rosenberg's bill, which, among other things, would create two new funds that RTAs could utilize to bolster funding. There are also efforts to examine and establish parity throughout all 15 RTAs as well as secure enough funding for the next fiscal year so that a supplemental budget is not necessary.
Administration officials said the governor's plan will substantially reduce a proposed increase in fees for students at University of Massachusetts in Amherst and other campuses of the system. (File/ The Boston Globe)
"Deval Patrick looks to slash UMass fee increase with stimulus money"
By Matt Viser and Peter Schworm, Boston Globe Staff, March 24, 2009
University of Massachusetts students would avoid most of a planned $1,500 fee hike under a proposal Governor Deval Patrick is expected to unveil today to distribute $162 million in federal stimulus money among the state's public colleges and universities, two administration officials said.
The measure would provide partial relief for middle-class families and working students at a time when, because of the national recession, they are flocking to public institutions because of lower costs.
About half of the money, $82 million, would go to the University of Massachusetts system and allow officials to soften the fee hikes that were set to go into effect in the next academic year. Instead of $1,500, they might rise by as little as $380, a UMass official said.
The money will also help prevent some faculty layoffs and program cuts, returning state colleges and universities to the same level of funding they had at the beginning of this fiscal year, before the governor made several rounds of budget cuts.
"This is a financial shot in the arm for institutions that have been reeling since the cuts were announced," said one of the administration officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity since the governor has yet to announce the plan.
The education spending included in the federal stimulus package is targeted at protecting current services, not stimulating the economy through construction and tax breaks. But education advocates and administration officials say the money could also help the economy because it will prevent layoffs and put more money in the hands of families and students, who could spend that money in other areas. Overall, Massachusetts is expected to receive up to $9 billion in spending and tax cuts from the federal government.
Patrick is scheduled to make the announcement today at the UMass-Boston campus.
Patrick is also planning to unveil that federal stimulus money would help increase funding for Pell Grants and work-study programs. The federal legislation raises the maximum amount for Pell Grants from $4,731 to $5,350 and increases eligibility so an additional 85,000 low-income students can pay for college, according to an administration estimate. The state will have another $9 million in additional funding for work-study programs.
The governor's budget proposal, unveiled in January, included a 16.5 percent cut to the $965.9 million allocated this year for the state's 24 state and community colleges as well as the University of Massachusetts.
The proposal to use federal stimulus funds will make up for most of that cut, meaning the state's higher education system will get about the same amount as it did this year. Patrick has the power to allocate the federal stimulus money, but because the Legislature must approve the budget, he must work with top lawmakers to gather support for his plan.
The 15 percent fee increase, adopted last month by university trustees, would be the largest in several years. It would raise annual tuition costs for in-state undergraduates to an average of $11,000, not including room and board. Fees make up the vast majority of the total; tuition is $1,714 at the Amherst and Boston campuses and $1,454 at UMass-Lowell and UMass-Dartmouth.
Officials at several colleges said they were thrilled by the news of a federal stimulus boost but said it was too early to pinpoint the final relief for students. University officials said yesterday that there would probably still be increases in student fees, but the increase would be much smaller than originally anticipated and would most likely just cover the cost of inflation, which has typically translated to 4 percent in annual fee hikes.
"It should be enough to substantially reduce the fee increase," a University of Massachusetts official said. The money should also allow the university, which has shed about 250 positions to offset sharp cuts in state support this academic year, to avoid more layoffs, the official said.
But the official cautioned against seeing the influx as a panacea.
"It's only in this context that level-funding sounds good," the official said. "It still puts us in a precarious financial situation."
Officials at other state and community colleges not in the UMass system have said that increasing student fees was likely, but none have so far.
Dale Hamel, vice president of administration and finance at Framingham State College, said the school plans to raise fees 6.5 percent this week, or about $335 per student, as part of a four-year budget that assumes state support will eventually fall sharply once the stimulus money dries up. Without the federal money, the college would have been forced to raise fees much higher, he said.
Patrick said last week that he wanted to allocate $168 million to local school districts that would otherwise fall below state-mandated funding levels. All told, the state is expecting to receive $819 million in federal money to spend on public education over the next 27 months.
Matt Viser can be reached at email@example.com. Peter Schworm can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
"State jobless rate may pass 1992's: UMass forecasts more cuts before the recession finds bottom, possibly this year"
By Robert Gavin, Boston Globe Staff, March 27, 2009
Unemployment in Massachusetts is rising so quickly that the jobless rate could soon surpass the level reached during the recession of the early 1990s, the University of Massachusetts forecast yesterday.
The state's unemployment rate has jumped 1.4 points since the end of last year to 7.8 percent, the highest rate since March 1993. If the current pace continues, the rate will top the 9.1 percent reached in 1991 and 1992, said Alan Clayton-Matthews, an economic analyst and professor at UMass-Boston.
Other economists agree. Moody's Economy.com of West Chester, Pa., forecasts the Massachusetts unemployment rate will peak at 9.3 percent in the spring of next year. The Lexington research firm IHS Global Insight expects the rate to rise slightly more, to about 9.5 percent, in early 2010.
"In recent months, the state's economy has declined at a rapid rate," Clayton-Matthews said. "Measures of unemployment have been rising at a dizzying pace."
The rapid deterioration of the Massachusetts job market was among the factors that led UMass yesterday to downgrade an earlier estimate of the state's economic performance at the end of last year.
Annual revisions to state employment data by the US Labor Department showed Massachusetts losing about 17,000 more jobs last year than first estimated, for a total of about 60,000.
In particular, the pace of job loss accelerated rapidly at the end of 2008, with employers slashing 46,700 jobs in November and December, the biggest two-month loss since early 1991.
The Massachusetts economy shrank at a 4.7 percent annual rate in the fourth quarter of 2008, compared to an initial estimate of 3.5 percent, UMass said. The national economy contracted at a 6.3 percent annual rate in the same period, the Commerce Department reported yesterday.
UMass estimates the Massachusetts economy will also shrink at a 4.7 percent annual rate in the first three months of this year. The decline will slow in the second three months, to a 3.9 percent pace, suggesting the economy could hit bottom by the end of this year, according to UMass.
"The glimmer of hope," Clayton-Matthews said, "is the rate of decline is lessening."
The recession of the 1990s is considered the state's worst since the end of World War II. Massachusetts lost about 12 percent of its jobs.
Clayton-Matthews said he doesn't expect that degree of job loss in this recession, which so far has cost the state about 3 percent of employment. But the unemployment rate should rise above the 1990s level because more people are staying in the labor force and looking for work, he said.
With retirement accounts taking a beating, older workers who might have retired after layoffs in past recessions are still trying to find jobs, adding to the rolls of the unemployed, Clayton-Matthews said.
In addition, jobless residents who were able to leave the state in the early '90s to find work in other parts of the country are now without that option, as the current recession has spared few places.
"A greater share of people are staying," Clayton-Matthews said. "Back in the '90s, people could move, and they did."
Robert Gavin can be reached at email@example.com.
"Representative Murphy criticizes UMass leadership"
By Matt Murphy, Berkshire Eagle Boston Bureau, Thursday, April 23, 2009
BOSTON — State Rep. Kevin Murphy may no longer be the chairman of the higher education committee, but he has not let up on his criticism of the University of Massachusetts administration.
Murphy, a Lowell Democrat, filed an amendment to the House budget scheduled for debate next week that would have eliminated the UMass president's office and given individual chancellors more control over their respective campuses.
The change would have cut $38 million in salaries and administrative costs at the president's office by reducing funding to UMass from $411. 5 million to $373. 5 million.
The cut, however, could have jeopardized up to $162 million in federal stimulus dollars, $82 million of which was headed to UMass. The federal stimulus bill requires the state to spend up to fiscal 2006 levels on higher education to qualify for the funding, and trimming the UMass budget would have threatened that source.
"I still think it's a good idea, but why cut off your nose to spite your face," Murphy said late yesterday afternoon when he called The Eagle to say he intended to pull the amendment off the floor after researching the impact on the stimulus funding.
Officials at the university also suggested such a move could cost the university's five campuses an estimated $20 million to duplicate the services provided by the central administration, including payroll, legal services and intellectual property rights.
"The UMass system office, through the creation of shared services, has been able to reduce the cost to students and we're proud of what we've been able to do in that regard," said UMass spokesman Robert Connolly.
Connolly said the president's office has an annual budget of $2. 1 million and central administration services has a budget of $54 million. The $38 million cut proposed by Murphy refers to a survey done several years ago about campus contributions to the central administration.
Connolly also suggested that Murphy's proposal would undermine the intent of the 1991 law that created the five-campus system to strengthen UMass by combining resources.
Murphy, however, said he still believes the UMass president's office has become too bureaucratic, and will find another way to pursue his objective of eliminating waste.
"It's really more than it was ever intended to be. It's now an $38 million enterprise and a chancellor can't get anything done without getting (the president's) approval," Murphy said.
He said he is studying on his own to determine how much it would cost on the five campuses to replace the services provided by the president's office.
"Obviously if we would lose stimulus money it doesn't make sense, but that doesn't mean the issue doesn't still exist and I'm glad I brought it to the forefront. I'm doing my research," Murphy said.
Though Murphy insists his amendment is not a personal attack on current UMass President Jack Wilson, the two men have grown accustomed to public feuds over how the UMass system should be run.
Murphy and UMass President Jack Wilson quarreled most recently over emergency budget cuts made by Gov. Deval Patrick that hit higher education particularly hard. The cuts prompted a vote from the UMass Board of Trustees to raise student fees by $1,500, a hike that could shrink thanks to federal stimulus money headed back to Massachusetts for higher education.
Murphy accused Wilson of not pushing back hard enough against the governor and being an effective advocate for the university after Wilson said he could "live with" the cuts made by Patrick.
This time around, however, Murphy's fight is not with Wilson, but the president's office itself.
"It's not the individual. It's the office. We now have a secretary of education who can handle coordination between the campuses. Just look at the salaries they have over there. It's ridiculous," Murphy said.
Employees at the University of Massachusetts routinely top the list of the highest paid public employees in the state, including 13 who earn over $400,000 a year.
Wilson takes home a $436,000 annual salary, while other executives in his office earn high, six-figure salaries.
For example, James Julian, an executive vice president at UMass whose job description includes acting as a legislative liason, earned $318,502 in 2008. Julian once served as chief of staff to former Senate President William Bulger, and later followed Bulger to UMass when he became president.
UMass Lowell Chancellor Marty Meehan said Wilson's office has taken many steps to initiate savings, including salary freezes, furloughs and the relocation of offices, and said the president's office is key to maintaining UMass's identity as a single system.
"The idea of not having a president's office would make it very difficult for UMass Lowell to compete with Amherst and other campuses," Meehan said.
He also said it would be very painful to find an additional $4 million to make up the difference in lost services.
The amendment, filed last Friday, bears the names of all three Lowell representatives, a tradition of the delegation despite the proposal being Murphy's idea.
The Boston Globe, Op-Ed
DREW GILPIN FAUST AND JACK M. WILSON
"Keeping Massachusetts an innovation leader"
By Drew Gilpin Faust and Jack M. Wilson, May 9, 2009
PRESIDENT Barack Obama recently enunciated a grand new vision for the role of science by pledging to devote more than 3 percent of the Gross Domestic Product to research and development and to exceed the levels of investment last achieved at the height of the space race. In doing so, he rejected the argument that investment in science is a luxury to be discarded in difficult times.
Achieving the president's goals - and expanding the local, regional, and national economies - will require greater, more innovative collaboration than ever before, particularly at this moment of economic and social uncertainty. It will also depend on active cooperation among scientists at research institutions like Harvard and the University of Massachusetts. Fortunately, universities throughout the state are already taking up that challenge.
For example, we recently launched the Commonwealth's newest initiative to transform scientific research into economic vitality. The new Venture Development Center at UMass-Boston will serve as a transfer station for exciting concepts born of collaborations between faculty and students, often at different institutions, enticing investment and incubating what might be the next "big idea." Simultaneously, this research and development facility will help train tomorrow's innovators.
The center is a tangible example of the powerful ecosystem of renewal and discovery at the foundation of our regional success and international standing. It also symbolizes what we already know: Massachusetts is well positioned to be a leading force in this new national vision for science, something that will benefit every citizen in the state.
Private higher education alone employs more than double the entire biotechnology sector in Massachusetts. There are 90,000 people in the Boston metropolitan area employed at private colleges and universities. When public institutions are added, that number swells to 104,000. That represents more employees than all the region's computer hardware, software, and services business (81,000), or the banking, securities and investment industries combined (86,000).
The power of those numbers explains why, despite the grim economy, the education and health services sectors have continued to be a stabilizing economic influence. In every recession of the past three decades, these sectors have made the downturn lighter and shorter than in other regions more dependent on automobiles or agriculture than on ideas.
We are in this enviable position because our institutions continually produce the fuel - the scientists, physicians, and engineers, the thinkers and ideas - that spur the new products, new jobs, and new companies that will help renew the economy and power the nation's recovery. Our standing in this regard is evidenced by the fully 10 percent of all National Institutes of Health biomedical research funding awarded to researchers in Massachusetts. Think about that: one in every 10 dollars that leaves Washington to fund scientific discovery arrives here, into this single state.
As the region's institutions of higher learning tackle the nation's biggest challenges, they simultaneously guarantee the region's primacy in the global economy. There are already hundreds of collaborative projects in the pipeline. For instance, with $10 million in funding from the Massachusetts Life Sciences Initiative, researchers from Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, UMass-Boston, and Harvard Medical School are developing a center for personalized cancer therapy that will be housed in the new Venture Development Center.
In another example of building on the strengths of the Commonwealth's leading research universities, we are working with MIT to explore the potential of developing a world-class, green, high-performance computing center for the research community of Massachusetts. Although MIT President Hockfield and her team developed the initial idea, they had the vision to involve other research universities, state officials, and industry leaders in a project that could be much larger and more ambitious than any of us could manage alone.
If our institutions are to continue to benefit mankind, we must continually explore and develop the types of collaborations that a green computing center would represent.
Our greatest strength lies in the collaborations that create our "idea factories." We share our findings broadly in order that others can build on our work and we translate the products of these efforts so that the public can benefit.
By collaborating to pursue new knowledge and train the next generation of inventors, institutions like Harvard and the University of Massachusetts will drive the scientific and business innovation that will lead Massachusetts to a bright economic future.
Drew Gilpin Faust is president of Harvard University. Jack M. Wilson is president of the University of Massachusetts.
"User fee hikes urged to aid towns and cities: Legislative panel to present plan today"
By Matt Viser, Boston Globe Staff, May 7, 2009
Dining out at restaurants, registering your car, and even watching satellite television would get more expensive under a plan that will be recommended today by a special legislative panel hunting for new revenue to aid cities and towns.
The commission's report contains a potentially big money maker for municipalities. It says local officials should have the option of raising meal taxes by 2 percentage points and increasing taxes on hotel rooms by 4 percentage points.
The increases, along with a variety of other taxes and fees, would raise at least $409 million to benefit municipalities as state lawmakers are reducing local aid payments. It would be a crucial boost for struggling cities and towns, panel members and city leaders said.
"It's the first light we've seen in a dark tunnel," Mayor Thomas M. Menino of Boston said in an interview yesterday. "It seems positive to me. We've been advocating for local options for several years, and if this says cities can have their own local option, it's a good beginning."
The report recommends raising the state's $29 car registration fee by $6, which would raise $27 million annually for community policing and State Police training.
It would add a 5 percent tax on satellite dish services like DirectTV, raising an estimated $25 million, which would probably be collected through viewers' monthly bills, the report said. Such taxes are already imposed on cable users. The money would go to the state, but it would be set aside to benefit municipalities under the plan.
Cities and towns would also be able to directly impose their own taxes on telecommunications companies for telephone poles and wires.
"We're still facing a lot of shortages at the local level," said Representative Paul Donato, a Medford Democrat and cochairman of the Special Commission on Municipal Relief, a panel of lawmakers that has been studying tax codes for nine months. "What we're attempting to do is provide some revenue opportunities."
The fate of the report and of the accompanying 48-page proposed bill is uncertain. They arrive a little more than a week after House lawmakers voted to raise the state's 5 percent sales tax to 6.25 percent.
As another politically difficult proposal, the local taxes legislation is expected to encounter resistance, and it will pit municipal officials against business groups that say residents are unable to pay higher taxes and fees during the recession.
Many of the proposals mirror ideas that have been pushed by Governor Deval Patrick since he took office in 2007.
Patrick administration officials declined to comment last night, because they were still reviewing the recommendations.
"We'll need to look at all options, and we're taking this report very seriously," Senate President Therese Murray said in a statement.
House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo did not comment directly on whether he supports the recommendations, but said through spokesman Seth Gitell that he congratulates "the members of the commission for their hard work and is supportive of finding additional tools to help cities and towns during this fiscal crisis."
The recommendations were made by a 14-member, bipartisan commission made up of House and Senate lawmakers. Members include the chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means, Representative Charles Murphy, a Burlington Democrat, and Senator Steven Panagiotakos, a Lowell Democrat.
The report calls for action "in short order," and hearings are slated to begin next week.
The report includes dozens of detailed proposals to increase local revenue, from stronger collection efforts for boat taxes to more efficient billing methods for local taxes.
But the ones that will probably spur the most debate are around meals and hotels. The current hotel-motel tax is 4 percent in most communities, levied on top of a 5.7-percent statewide tax. The commission recommends allowing communities to double that local portion, to 8 percent. It would also broaden the definition of what can be taxed to include vacation rentals and time-shares.
All told, that increase could raise $80 million statewide, all of which would go back to the communities where they were raised.
The state currently assesses a 5 percent tax on meals, which is the same percentage as the statewide sales tax. The legislation being filed by House and Senate lawmakers would give local communities the ability to raise that tax by 2 percentage points. If all communities voted to levy the tax, it would raise about $250 million. The communities would get to keep most of the money, although about $15 million would be placed into an account used to promote regionalization.
"We're trying to encourage regionalization of municipal services, everything from public safety to public health, from education to libraries and road maintenance," said Senator Stanley Rosenberg, a Northampton Democrat and cochairman of the Special Commission on Municipal Relief. "We have 351 cities and towns, and most of them are well under 30,000 people."
The commission also makes several complex changes in healthcare payments for municipal employees, which local officials are planning to oppose.
"The health insurance piece is worse than doing nothing; it would be a major step backward," said Geoff Beckwith, executive director of the Massachusetts Municipal Association. "We've told the commission we respect very much their efforts, but we feel the plan they've developed on health insurance would actually be a step back, not a step forward."
Matt Viser can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
"Senate budget plan would slash local aid: Proposal does not include tax raises"
By Matt Viser, Boston Globe Staff, May 13, 2009
If Massachusetts cities and towns have trouble paying their bills now, it would be much worse next fiscal year under a new state budget that Senate lawmakers will propose today.
The Senate's fiscal 2010 budget would slash local aid by another $356 million, further drain the state's reserve account, and cut nearly every area of state government, from homeless shelters to Boys and Girls Clubs.
The cut to noneducation local aid would represent a 30 percent reduction, following a trend of the state passing on its fiscal pain to local communities in the past year. The move would force cities and towns to lay off more police and firefighters and add more fees for such basic services as trash collection. Education funding, called Chapter 70, would be at the same levels as this fiscal year, according to two sources briefed on the budget. The fiscal year begins July 1.
The budget contains no new tax revenues, but it is sure to fuel demands by human service advocates and unions for tax increases along the lines of a House-approved sales tax increase from 5 percent to 6.25 percent.
"It's not a pretty picture," Senator Steven C. Panagiotakos, chairman of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means, said in an interview. The full Senate will debate the budget next week.
"There is going to be, in every area, people concerned about the level of funding in these areas," he said. "But given the amount of money we had to work with, it is an accurate assessment of the dismal revenue picture."
The $26.7 billion budget proposal is $1.3 billion less than the budget proposal the House approved less than two weeks ago and about $1.4 billion less than the budget lawmakers initially agreed to for this fiscal year.
General local aid was funded at $1.3 billion at the beginning of this fiscal year, but Governor Deval Patrick cut $128 million from the account in January. The final House budget approved earlier this month funded local aid at about $1.1 billion. The Senate proposal being outlined today would fund local aid at about $830 million.
Panagiotakos also said there would be serious cuts to healthcare spending, although he would not say whether they would jeopardize the state's landmark commitment to extending coverage to all state residents. About $47 million in costs that the state currently pays for childhood vaccines would instead be passed on to healthcare providers under the budget proposal, he said.
"I'm speaking at an event [tonight] for Boys and Girls Clubs, and they took out the funding," Senate President Therese Murray said in a brief interview. "There's mental health, there's developmental disability. You name it, there isn't a place in there that's good."
When asked whether there would be any new taxes, Murray said, "I have heard no clamoring."
Murray can expect to hear clamoring from many quarters in coming days. Seventy-seven line items have been completely eliminated, and there are no earmarks in the budget. There are about $2.4 billion in cuts as measured by what it would cost to maintain current services.
The Senate plan would eliminate funding for the Quinn Bill, a controversial program that protects pay bonuses for police officers who hold college degrees. The House also initially eliminated funding but later voted to restore about $25 million, about half of what is being spent on the program this year.
The budget proposal would cut funding used to update election equipment and pay for historic preservation projects, which would place the state below federally-mandated levels and limit the amount of federal funds. The Senate plan would also cut in half the $2 million that had been dedicated to helping the state maximize its population count as part of next year's US Census.
"I'm disturbed about the money, but I understand it," said Secretary of State William F. Galvin. "I'm more puzzled about the choice of cuts because they seem to be in areas that are going to jeopardize federal funds and our federal congressional representation."
The Senate budget would use another $299 million from a state reserve account, which would reduce it to about $500 million. It would rely on another $1.1 billion in federal stimulus money to restore balance.
As in the House, legislators in the Senate did not embrace or reject tax increases while the budget proposal was produced. In the end, House leaders approved the sales tax increase with a veto-proof 108 votes. The House originally proposed a $27.4 billion budget but later added about $600 million using money anticipated from a sales tax increase.
Senators have been divided over whether to follow the House proposal to raise the state sales tax to 6.25 percent or to take a different approach. House lawmakers have estimated that raising the sales tax would bring in as much as $900 million, with about $275 million dedicated to transportation needs.
Other options discussed by senators have included raising the state's gas tax by 5 cents per gallon or eliminating the sales tax exemption on gasoline and dedicating the proceeds to transportation needs.
Top Senate lawmakers have opposed any income tax increase and have said the governor's proposals to increase taxes on alcohol and candy would not raise enough money.
An informal Globe poll this week of the 40 senators indicated that few are willing to take a strong stand for or against new taxes to repair the recession-ravaged budget. The Globe asked all senators to respond to an informal survey on whether they would support raising taxes at all and which specific ones they would support.
Few responded at all, and several senators, who are known to discuss issues for hours on end, hedged in interviews.
"I'm not going to give you a specific answer," said Senator Marc R. Pacheco, a Taunton Democrat.
"We need to do something, but I don't know that there's a consensus at this moment," said Senator Stanley C. Rosenberg, a Northampton Democrat. "Some people are saying we should only do income. Some say gas, no tolls. Some say sales, no income. It's a mixed bag."
Matt Viser can be reached at email@example.com.
"After Senate budget release, talk turns to tax increases"
By Matt Viser, Boston Globe Staff, May 13, 2009
It took only minutes after the Senate budget was formally released today for talk to turn to raising new taxes to offset the deep cuts in the grim spending plan.
Senator Steven C. Panagiotakos, the chairman of the influential Senate Ways and Means Committee, said the only tax hike he would support is increasing the state’s 5 percent sales tax to about 6.25 percent.
“I would rather do the sales tax than any of those other taxes, especially the gas tax,” he told reporters this morning.
When asked whether he would support increasing the sales tax to 6.25 percent, as House lawmakers voted for two weeks ago, he said, “Somewhere near that level. I don’t think I would go higher.”
Senator James Eldridge, an Acton Democrat, said there is an effort underway to increase various taxes to the tune of $2.4 billion – a massive amount that would bring the Senate budget to the same revenue level as the House budget. He said one option could be to freeze a planned decrease in the corporate tax rate.
Governor Deval Patrick has proposed raising a series of taxes on purchases such as alcohol, candy, and soda, as well as hotel rooms and meals at restaurants. He has also proposed increasing the state's gas tax by 19 cents per gallon and dedicating the revenue to transportation needs, but the Legislature has been cool to that idea.
Top Senate lawmakers, including Senate President Therese Murray, have been coy about what tax increases they would support raising. The only tax Murray has said she would not support raising is the income tax, and when asked yesterday whether there would be any new taxes, she said, "I have heard no clamoring."
The $26.7 billion budget proposed today by Senate leaders includes steep cuts throughout state government for next fiscal year, which begins July 1.
It would slash general local aid by $356 million, and would also for the first time in recent memory cut state education funding to cities and towns. The so-called Chapter 70 funding would be reduced by $79 million.
The move would force cities and towns to lay off more police and firefighters and add more fees for such basic services as trash collection.
“Communities will be cutting, cutting, and cutting,” said Geoff Beckwith, executive director of the Massachusetts Municipal Association. Beckwith said his organization supports raising the sales tax up to 7 percent.
Grim-faced members of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, which voted unanimously to approve the budget proposal, characterized the problem as the result of the global economic meltdown.
“We’ve been dealt a hand we did not ask for,” said Senator Stephen Brewer, a Democrat from Barre.
“There are no rabbits to be pulled out of the hat,” said Senator Harriette Chandler, a Democrat from Worcester. “We are not magicians.”
Seventy-seven line items have been completely eliminated, and there are no earmarks in the budget. There are about $2.4 billion in cuts as measured by what it would cost to maintain current services. Funding for the Quinn Bill, a police benefit fiercely protected by the unions, would be eliminated under the Senate plan.
The full Senate will debate the budget next week, but attention will increasingly turn to whether senators will opt to raise new taxes.
“Senators are all over the board, just like the general public,” Panagiotakos said. “Some won’t vote for any taxes, some will vote for certain ones to a certain level, others would vote for just about every tax. The question will be whether there’s a majority that can come together on a revenue stream.”
Matt Viser can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
"Sales tax hike gaining steam"
By Steve LeBlanc, Associated Press, Thursday, May 14, 2009
BOSTON — The chairman of the Senate's budget writing committee said Wednesday he'd support a hike in the sales tax as a way to ease some of the harshest cuts to state services.
Senate Ways and Means Chairman Steven Panagiotakos said that while senators still are "all over the board" on the issue of raising taxes, he favors a sales tax increase similar to one in a plan approved in the House.
That plan would raise the sales tax from 5 percent to 6.25 percent.
Gov. Deval L. Patrick has proposed a series of targeted tax increases, including hiking the gas tax by 19 cents per gallon, allowing cities and towns to increase taxes on meals and hotel rooms, and raising taxes on soda, candy and alcohol.
"I would rather do a sales tax than all of those other taxes, especially the gas tax," Panagiotakos told reporters, acknowledging Senate leaders have yet to gauge support among members for new taxes.
Patrick has vowed to veto a sales tax hike unless lawmakers deliver pension, transportation and ethics reform bills to his desk first — but said Wednesday he would sign a sales tax increase if significant reforms are approved.
Panagiotakos made his comments just after unveiling a stripped down $26.7 billion state budget proposal for the fiscal year that begins July 1.
The Senate spending plan is based on a revenue estimate for the new fiscal year that's $1.5 billion lower than an earlier estimate used by Patrick and the House. It would eliminate 77 line items and bar spending for lawmakers' pet projects known as "earmarks," Panagiotakos said.
Aid to cities and towns would be cut by 30 percent under the Senate plan. School aid would be cut by 2 percent. There also would be reductions for health care, public safety, human services, sheriff and district attorney offices, the Legislature and the governor's office.
The Senate's proposed budget also would eliminate a program that provides extra pay for police officers with advanced degrees.
"As a state, we have to balance our budget," Panagiotakos said. "We cannot print money."
To help balance spending, the Senate plan relies on $1.1 billion in one-time federal economic stimulus funds and $299 million from the state's rapidly shrinking "rainy day" savings fund. The fund, which began the fiscal year with more than $2 billion, will enter the new year with less than $800 million.
The Senate budget also would impose a new $47 million assessment on health care insurers to pay for universal childhood immunizations.
Republican Sen. Michael Knapik, one of just five GOP members in the Senate, said he expects Republicans to lead the opposition to a tax increase.
"Absent some dramatic reform initiative changes I think we'd be hard pressed to support a 25 percent increase in the sales tax," Knapik said.
The Senate budget would create fiscal chaos for local communities, said Geoff Beckwith, executive director of the Massachusetts Municipal Association.
"That means thousands of layoffs of police officers, firefighters, teachers, public works employees, diminished services, increased reliance on the property tax," he said. "This is not just a bad news budget for cities and towns, this budget would really be a disaster."
Sen. Harriette Chandler, D-Worcester, a member of the Ways and Means Committee, said there are few good options given the national recession that has gutted state tax collections.
"There are no rabbits to be pulled out of hats. We are not magicians," Chandler said. "We are trying to play the hand that has been dealt to us, and we are doing it in a realistic fashion."
House leaders, faced with Patrick's threat to quash a sales tax hike, managed to round up enough votes to overturn a veto.
It's too early to say what the Senate will do, Panagiotakos said.
"Senate's sobering budget"
The Berkshire Eagle, Editorial, Thursday, May 14, 2009
The fiscal 2010 budget offered by state Senate leadership this week clearly lays out the cruel realities Massachusetts faces in a struggling economy. Unlike the House, it does not call for a tax increase, and if the Senate budget prevails, there could be unprecedented cuts that will come most deeply at the local level.
The Senate Ways and Means Committee budget calls for a 30 percent reduction in non-education local aid, which for Berkshire County communities could, if enacted, result in layoffs of police and firefighters and hikes in fees for basic services. State funding for programs once thought sacrosanct, such as Boys and Girls Clubs and homeless shelters, take big hits in this budget proposal.
While the Senate bill cuts funding for the Quinn Bill, which provides education bonuses for police officers, the House did so as well before evidently succumbing to pressure and restoring $25 million, about half the 2009 funding, to a program that can't be justified. Cutting funding for historic preservation and the U.S. Census count is perplexing because both would result in a loss of federal funds.
The House proposes to raise $900 million to fund some local aid and programs by increasing the state sales tax from 5 to 6.25 percent. Tax hikes are not popular, but cuts of the magnitude of those offered by the Senate won't be either. Without additional revenue, not many in the state will go unscathed by reductions.
"Dental care cuts are inhumane"
The Berkshire Eagle, Letters, Friday, May 15, 2009
We can not just grin and bear it! Cuts in the budget by the Senate Ways and Means Committee to adult dental programs will cause needless pain and suffering to thousands of Massachusetts residents.
The Senate proposed this week to eliminate dental benefits for 600,000 low income Massachusetts residents. These benefits are essential and cost-effective. We know that good oral health is a part of overall health and preventive care now will avoid costly treatment later.
In 2002, the administration eliminated comprehensive dental benefits for adults. It was restored in 2006. It has taken until now, three years later, for thousands of people to heal from the years of lack of care. Now some of those same people are facing the possibility of losing their dental coverage again!
We think this is inhumane treatment of some of the most vulnerable populations among us and implore the legislature to restore funding for MassHealth adult dental.
AMY WHITCOMB SLEMMER
The writer is executive director, Health Care For All.
May 15, 2009
Re: Why the Pols don't want us to have teeth?!
So goes one's mouth or oral health, so goes one's general health. Cutting dental care is myopic and penny wise but pound foolish. Maybe the Pols don't want us poor people to have teeth so it will feel better for them when they tell us to get on our knees prior to telling us to grab out ankles while stealing more of our hard-earned money in the process. I say "lead from the front lines" like a true leader/soldier. If I am a General, I am going to lead from the front lines in battle. If I am a Pol, I am going to lead from the front line in dental care by foregoing my benefits, too. However, the Pols are more like President Bill Clinton with a wet cigar and we the people are more like Monica Lewinsky without a stained dress to fight back.
- Jonathan Melle
"Don't eliminate adult dental benefits"
The Berkshire Eagle, Letters, Wednesday, May 20, 2009
As the state faces challenging economic times, the Massachusetts Senate Ways and Means Committee has proposed removing adult dental benefits from Commonwealth Care and MassHealth. These programs provide access to vital dental services including exams, cleanings, fillings, and root canals to about one-tenth of Massachusetts' population. This includes more than 120,000 low-income seniors and 180,000 disabled individuals.
Oral health is a critical part of health care. What is not commonly recognized is that poor oral health is associated with chronic ailments such as heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. Significantly, pregnant women with periodontal (gum) disease have seven times the risk of delivering premature low birth weight infants than those with healthy teeth and gums.
It is also important to realize that dental disease also impacts labor productivity — 164 million hours of work are lost in the United States due to dental disease, or an average of 148 hours per 100 employed persons.
The Senate budget will probably be voted on this week. Please contact your state senator today and ask that adult dental benefits be maintained in MassHealth and Commonwealth Care. Our low-income elders, the disabled, and thousands of others need your support.
North Adams, Massachusetts
The writer is executive director of Ecu-Health Care.
Marie Crowell checks out a customer on Tuesday at Carr Hardware in Pittsfield. With the state Senate weighing a 1.25 percent statewide sales tax hike -- an amendment backed by state Sen. Benjamin B. Downing, D-Pittsfield -- reactions have been split throughout Berkshire County. (Ben Garver / Berkshire Eagle Staff)
"Sales tax hike OK'd"
By David Pepose, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
PITTSFIELD — It may be just over 1 percentage point, but to some, it could be the straw that breaks the camel's back.
The state Senate Tuesday night approved a 25 percent statewide sales tax increase — from 5 percent to 6.25 percent — an amendment sponsored by state Sen. Benjamin B. Downing, D-Pittsfield — reactions have been split throughout Berkshire County.
"We're in danger of not providing some of the core social services that people need right now," said Downing, referring to nearly $5 billion in "gigantic holes we have in our safety net and government."
The increase, which passed by a large enough margin to override a veto threatened by Gov. Deval L. Patrick, could raise up to $900 million for the state. House lawmakers passed the measure last month, also by a veto-proof majority.
The Senate has already struck down a 0.6 percent income tax increase, as well as a 19-cent-per-gallon gasoline tax. Currently in discussion is a plan to allow cities and towns to raise local meal and hotel taxes.
For Marshall Raser, owner of Carr Hardware in Pittsfield, the tax increase is more bad news in an already bad economy. He said he expects it will hurt his business, particularly big-ticket items.
"The best example I can give is when they announced the no-sales-tax day during the summer, sales went sky-high. When people hear no sales tax, psychologically ... they spend," he said.
Still, he said, the negative effect could wear off: "At the outset, (the increase) will impact larger ticket items, but as time goes on, like gasoline, people will settle in."
Steven Valenti, who owns a men's clothing shop in Pittsfield, said he would largely be spared the effects of the increase, as Massachusetts only taxes clothing worth more than $175.
"The only taxable items are suits and sport coats, and the only other item we have taxes on is men's fragrance," Valenti said. Indeed, he felt that despite an increase, customers from New York and Connecticut — people who travel across state lines to escape their larger sales tax — would still come.
Downing said his proposal was the "least bad" of all options. "I understand the concerns that people have concerns about it, but I also have concerns about us not being able to put cops and firefighters on the streets; I have concerns about seniors not being able to afford their medication; I'm concerned about people on the streets being turned away from shelters and food pantries."
Many local politicians agreed with Downing's assessment.
"If it isn't passed, it's going to spell doom for cities and towns throughout Massachusetts," said Pittsfield Mayor James M. Ruberto. "If (the increase) isn't passed, revenues will need to be raised in some other fashion."
North Adams Mayor John Barrett III said the increase could potentially halt $1 million in state cuts to North Adams and $2 million cut from Pittsfield.
But Barrett said he couldn't judge the merits of a sales tax hike as opposed to some other increase.
"I think most of the mayors think three-tenths of 1 percent on the income tax could have generated anywhere from a billion to a billion and a half in revenue, and then it could be removed. The sales tax, that'll probably never go away," he said.
Meanwhile, Michael Supranowicz of the Berkshire Chamber of Commerce said the increase could put a brake on the economy.
"I think that we're still in a fragile marketplace with people that are unsure of their jobs," Supranowicz said. "I think that an increase in the sales tax right now can just have an impact on the amount of dollars people are willing to spend."
Jon Hurst, president of the Retailers Association of Massachusetts, said he felt the proposal was detrimental to local employers.
"Strike one has been around for a long time — New Hampshire. The Internet is strike two; a 25-percent sales tax increase in Massachusetts is strike three," Hurst said. "In a recession, when 75 percent of the economy is consumer spending, this is the wrong direction. ... This is the wrong time and the wrong tax to hit."
"Any taxes, in my book, in this state are out of line," said Peter Giftos, director of the Berkshire County Republican Association. "We have so much money being blown in Boston for all sorts of crazy things there's no reason to increase the sales tax."
Giftos said that he was increasingly frustrated by the state's pension system, as well as recent instances of officials giving comfortable, high-salaried positions to former state legislators.
"So obviously, if we're going to be blowing money needlessly, why do we want to be raising taxes?" he said. "The answer is easy: It's so they can take care of their buddies and bleed the people."
A BOSTON GLOBE EDITORIAL
"Toward a saner state tax policy"
May 21, 2009
IT NEVER made any sense that drinkers at Massachusetts restaurants pay a 5 percent tax on their beer and wine while someone buying a six-pack or a fine Pinot Noir at a package store does not. The state Senate is to be commended for subjecting retail alcohol purchases to the new 6.25 percent sales tax it adopted Tuesday. Better yet is the decision to target the roughly $80 million the tax is expected to raise to desperately needed substance abuse and court interdiction programs that have been sorely neglected.
The Senate still has a ways to go to complete work on a $26.6 billion budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1. But the new revenue will help close a yawning budget gap and save services that are essential to needy families. The Senate budget restores $50.7 million for day services for developmentally disabled adults, for example, and $3.5 million for emergency food assistance.
Also laudable is the Senate's adoption of local option taxes for hard-pressed cities and towns. This would allow localities to raise the 5 percent meals tax to 7 percent, with half the added revenue going back to the Legislature to redistribute to communities without commercial restaurants or hotels. Communities have been under the thumb of Beacon Hill for too long, and need the tools to master their own fates.
Governor Patrick's threat to veto the sales tax hike if it doesn't come with significant reforms in state pension, ethics, and transportation policy may be moot, since both branches passed the tax hike by a veto-proof margin. But unless the Legislature beefs up its anemic reform proposals, Patrick ought to make the gesture anyway. We support additional revenues to help vulnerable citizens. But Beacon Hill can still do more to save money and restore the public trust.
"Sales tax going up"
The Berkshire Eagle, Editorial, Thursday, May 21, 2009
With both branches of the state Legislature having approved an increase in the sales tax from 5 percent to 6.25 percent by a veto-proof majority, the tax hike is all but a reality. Voters, however, should still expect the transportation, pension and ethics reforms that Governor Patrick insists accompany revenue hikes.
The cruel realities of the House and Senate budgets, arrived at without tax hikes, made them inevitable. The cuts in social programs benefiting the poor, sick and elderly simply could not stand, and cuts in local aid could have, to paraphrase Pittsfield Mayor James Ruberto, spelled doom for communities in the state trying to protect teachers, police officers and firefighters. The Legislature had no stomach for a hike in the income tax, arguably the most equitable way of raising revenue, or an increase in the state's modest gas tax, as Governor Patrick sought. That left the sales tax as the remaining option.
While generating $633 million in needed revenue, the increase in the sales tax is not dramatic enough to send residents scurrying en masse to the Internet, or as is always threatened, New Hampshire, to make purchases. New Hampshire, with its live free or die no-tax policies that have hamstrung its schools, is not a state Massachusetts should seek to emulate. The Senate plank allowing the state's cities and towns to raise meals and hotel taxes is years overdue for the Berkshire tourist towns that can use this revenue and avoid property tax increases in the process.
Reform measures, such as curbing the pension abuses exploited by state employees, including legislators, and merging the Turnpike Authority with the Highway Department, will not raise $633 million, but whatever money they do save is valuable, as is the symbolic value of righting wrongs and ending of bureaucratic inefficiencies that anger voters. "Reform before revenue" has become a popular mantra in Massachusetts this budget season, and with new revenue coming in the form of a sales tax hike, significant reform must come as well.
A GLOBE EDITORIAL: Short Fuse - May 24, 2009
"Education: Only a partial reprieve"
Massachusetts leads the nation in the move to expand school learning time, something the Obama administration sees as an education priority. So it was a blow when the state Senate's initial budget slashed $3.3 million from the initiative, even though Governor Patrick and House members had deemed it important enough to propose maintaining funding at the current $17.4 million level. Level funding wouldn't allow the 30 additional schools hoping to lengthen their days to do so, but it would at least preserve longer days for the 13,500 students at the 26 schools already participating. After the Senate adopted a 6.25 percent sales tax and its attendant revenues, it was able to return $1.7 million of the cut - about half a loaf. That still leaves nearly 6,800 small victims of the state's hard times.
"State cuts put $11M in fed funds at risk"
By Laura Crimaldi, Sunday, June 7, 2009, www.bostonherald.com - Local Coverage
A nonprofit agency that administers the AmeriCorps volunteer program in the Bay State is fighting back against $750,000 in legislative penny-pinching that could cost the state $11 million.
“We have a really strong presence in the AmeriCorps world and we can’t jeopardize it. Not when we’re trying to grow and not at a time when the services that these people do is so critically needed,” said Emily Haber, chief executive of the Massachusetts Service Alliance.
The state Senate budget passed last month did not fund the portion of MSA’s budget that goes toward administering federal AmeriCorps funds. The $750,000 line item is funded in budgets from the House and Gov. Deval Patrick.
This year, the feds sent about $8 million to the Bay State to pay for 1,088 AmeriCorps members. That figure is expected to jump to $11 million next year because of stimulus funds.
If the MSA’s administrative costs are not included in the state budget, Massachusetts will not be able to tap into those federal funds, Haber said.
The Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act, which was signed into law in April, will expand the number of AmeriCorps volunteers from 75,000 to 250,000 nationwide.
"Senator's candid remarks described as 'courageous'"
By DIANE LEDERMAN - email@example.com - The Springfield Republican - Tuesday, July 7, 2009
AMHERST - Longtime state Sen. Stanley C. Rosenberg, D-Amherst, described himself as a gay man in a column about liberty published July 4, a move described as courageous by an expert in politics.
"I rarely discuss these facets of my character because I don't practice identity politics. I practice policy politics," Rosenberg wrote.
"And I firmly believe that we will never fulfill our potential as a just society until we embrace the principle of equality for all and adhere to it as fundamental immutable policy."
In a Daily Hampshire Gazette column about the state's road to freedom, Rosenberg describes himself "as a foster child who grew up as a ward of the state, as a gay man, as a Jew, I understand what it's like to be cast as 'the other.'"
The senator declined further comment.
John S. Baick, a history professor at Western New England College, said a politician who makes such statements, while showing "personal and political courage," risks being denied higher office.
"He could become a lightning rod for conservatives," said Baick, who specializes in modern American politics and culture. He said he was speaking generically, and not about Rosenberg specifically.
At the same time, U.S Rep. Barney Frank, D-Newton, was able to rise to prominent position and become the most famous gay man in national politics, he said.
Rosenberg has been in the Legislature since 1987 when he was in the house. He became a state senator in 1991, taking the over the seat after U.S. Rep. John W. Olver, D-Amherst, left for the U.S. Senate.
Rosenberg, 59, is president pro tempore. He was a supporter of gay marriage and in his column wrote that five years ago the state "stood alone as the birthplace of marriage equality in America. Today, five states have joined us in providing full marriage equality."
The gay marriage debate in 2004 spurred state Rep. Cheryl A. Coakley-Rivera, D-Springfield, to become public about being a gay person.
Rosenberg represents 24 communities in Hampshire and Franklin counties.
"Mass. Senator Comes Out in Op-Ed"
advocate.com - The Award-Winning LGBT News Site - By William McGuinness, July 7, 2009
Massachusetts state senator Stan Rosenberg, a Democrat representing Amherst, came out to his constituents in a recent Independence Day editorial, saying, “I firmly believe that we will never fulfill our potential as a just society until we embrace the principle of equality for all and adhere to it as fundamental immutable policy.”
While an ardent supporter of marriage equality, Rosenberg said he rarely addresses his sexual orientation publicly, choosing policy over identity politics.
President pro tem of the state senate since 2003, Rosenberg takes his place among the ranks of powerful out Massachusetts lawmakers, led by U.S. congressman and chair of the House Financial Services Committee Barney Frank -- often viewed as the most prominent gay politician in the country.
"Massachusetts activists face ballot signature hurdle"
southcoasttoday.com - The Associated Press - August 10, 2009
BOSTON — Activists hoping to get their questions on next year's ballot are turning to the Internet, paid help and networks of volunteers to collect the tens of thousands of voter signatures needed to make the cut.
By law, activists must gather signatures equal to 3 percent of the total of all votes cast for governor during the last state election.
For the 2010 ballot, that means at least 66,593 signatures.
Max Strahan is backing a question designed to protect endangered whales and sea turtles in part by barring the use of drift nets. The Cambridge resident and chief science officer of the group Whale-Safe USA said he'll rely on both volunteer and paid signature gatherers, if needed.
"If you are going to change public policy, you've got to do what you need to do, it's not wishful thinking," he said.
The attorney general's office must decide if questions can be allowed on the ballot before activists begin the signature gathering process.
Randall Castonguay is pushing a ballot question that would legalize, regulate and tax Internet poker in Massachusetts.
Castonguay, the state director for the advocacy group Poker Players Alliance, said he'll rely mainly on volunteers to collect signatures. He said his group has 35,000-40,000 members in Massachusetts.
"We're kind of waiting to see to make sure the language is OK from the attorney general," said the 41-year-old Springfield resident.
Although the legal threshold is 66,593 signatures, supporters typically try to collect several thousand additional signatures to withstand challenges from opponents hoping to block them from the ballot.
The law also requires that no more than one-quarter of the signatures come from any one county.
Even after they collect the first round of signatures by a Dec. 2 deadline, activists' work may not be done.
If lawmakers opt not to place the question on the ballot at that point — and they typically don't — advocates have to go out and collect an additional 11,099 signatures by July 2010.
Spencer Kimball is hoping to use the both power of the Internet and old-fashioned organizing to collect the signatures for his proposal to end tolls in Massachusetts.
Kimball's asking people to sign up on the Web site for his group Citizens Against Road Tolls. He'll then cross-check them to see if they are a registered voter. If they are, he'll send them a petition to sign. If not, he'll direct them to information on how to register.
Kimball, a professor of public policy at Emerson College, said he's also hoping to station volunteers at rest stops along the Turnpike to collect the signatures of drivers.
"People can just jump off and we're hoping to collect a large number of signatures in a short time," said the Springfield resident.
Others say they'll use paid help.
Carla Howell, who spearheaded a failed 2008 ballot question that would have repealed the state income tax, said she'll rely in large part on paid signature gatherers to help get one or more questions on next year's ballot to roll back the state sales tax.
There are efforts underway on Beacon Hill to overhaul the ballot question process.
On Wednesday the Committee on Election Laws will hear testimony on a bill filed by Sen. Stanley Rosenberg, D-Amherst, that would create a special state commission to determine the fiscal consequences of each question on state and local governments.
The bill would also clamp down on paid signature gatherers and require stricter campaign finance reporting for those backing questions and clamp. Those restrictions include barring paid gatherers from collecting signatures for more than one question at a time.
All told, 17 groups have filed 30 petitions for proposed laws or constitutional amendments.
Anyone questioning how hard it is to gather the needed signatures need only ask backers of a question to end the Massachusetts' main affordable housing law. The group fell short in 2008 and is trying again for the 2010 ballot.
A BOSTON GLOBE EDITORIAL
"Broaden access for broadband"
August 30, 2009
MUCH AS the federal government assisted in rural electrification decades ago, lighting the way to progress, now the government must help bring broadband Internet service to Western Massachusetts. The region has lagged behind the rest of the state in this crucial component of economic development. A part of the Commonwealth that saw its infrastructure shortchanged while the state poured money into the Big Dig deserves better.
The Patrick administration is trying to rectify the lack of high-speed computer access with a bid for $100 million from the federal government’s economic stimulus package. That package includes $7.2 billion for the promotion of high-speed access nationwide. The grants require matches from the states, but Massachusetts is ready on that score: The Massachusetts Broadband Institute has bonding authority for $40 million. All that’s needed is for the Obama administration to approve the state grant in the first round of awards in November.
Providing broadband to the 43 Western Massachusetts towns that lack it entirely or in part could kickstart the economy of a region that has suffered from the decline of basic industries like paper and electrical equipment. According to federal figures, communities with broadband add a percentage point to their employment growth rate. The state estimates that extending broadband in the western counties will create 1,360 jobs in construction alone and at least 1,680 additional jobs through use of the network.
That figure could prove low. Once broadband is added to the region’s other advantages - a relaxed lifestyle and relatively low living costs - Western Massachusetts hill towns could become a magnet for self-employed consultants, Web designers, and other professionals. High tech startups that might have shunned the region because their employees in outlying towns lacked broadband service for telecommuting might give it a second look.
Rural areas in this state and elsewhere lack broadband service for the same reason they were slow to get electricity: The return on investment for private providers is slow when houses and businesses are few and far between. A private company would need 30 years just to break even on broadband investment in a rural area. The state should do whatever it can to move its western counties out of the breakdown lane of the information superhighway.
"UMass to recruit from the outside: 15% enrollment increase sought"
By Tracy Jan, Boston Globe Staff, October 11, 2009
AMHERST - Massachusetts’ financially strapped flagship university plans to aggressively recruit out-of-state students, who pay twice as much in tuition and fees as state residents, to help fund an ambitious effort to boost the college’s academic reputation and elevate its national profile.
UMass-Amherst Chancellor Robert Holub is seeking new sources of income, amid dwindling state subsidies, to increase the size and prominence of the faculty, update deteriorating postwar buildings, and invest in scientific research. To help reach that goal, he envisions increasing undergraduate enrollment by 15 percent, to 22,500 students, over the next decade by exclusively courting out-of-state students.
But Holub’s vision, coming as Bay State residents are facing stiffer competition to gain admission, is raising some concerns on a campus whose traditional mandate has been to make higher education accessible to citizens of the Commonwealth.
“We’re not abandoning our obligation to our students, but in order to provide a very good education for them, we obviously need to have real revenue sourc es. And one of them has to do with increased tuition and fees that come with a higher number of out-of-state students,’’ said Holub, who became chancellor a year ago. “It’s an important shift, one we haven’t really done in the past.’’
The number of in-state undergraduates, he said, will hold steady at approximately 16,000. The number of out-of-state students, who currently make up 20 percent of undergraduates, is expected to roughly double to 6,500 students - or nearly 30 percent of all undergraduates - by 2020.
By comparison, out-of-state students account for 35 percent of undergraduates at the University of Michigan and just 6.3 percent of undergraduates at the University of California at Berkeley, two colleges in the upper echelon of public universities nationally.
Starting next year, Holub hopes to begin enrolling an extra 300 out-of-state students a year, bringing in an estimated additional $4 million each year. Massachusetts residents pay $10,232 annually in tuition, while out-of-state students pay $21,929.
Holub said the university will assess the success of its new recruitment efforts after four years and determine how quickly the university will have to build new dorms.
To attract more out-state-students and tap critical donors, UMass-Amherst has begun mobilizing a national network of graduates, many of whom have snubbed the college’s alumni association in the past. Holub hopes alumni can help the admissions office tout the school and recruit, focusing on states bordering Massachusetts and others along the East Coast including New Jersey and the Washington, D.C., area.
The college is also doling out partial scholarships in specialty programs such as engineering and is considering other financial incentives to entice out-of-state students.
Some UMass-Amherst professors, though, expressed worries about the plan. Enrolling more out-of-state students could make it even more difficult for in-state students to take the classes they want unless the university simultaneously hires more faculty.
“We need to find funding where we can get it, but we have to do so in a way that does not compromise the quality of the education that students receive,’’ said Randall Phillis, a biology professor and president of the Massachusetts Society of Professors, UMass-Amherst’s faculty union. “Given that we are a public university, we want to assure that quality for our in-state students.’’
The recession has prompted more high-achieving Massachusetts students to take a second look at what many once considered a fallback school. This year’s freshman class boasts the highest SAT scores and grade-point averages in the college’s 142-year history. A record 29,500 students applied last year, driving the acceptance rate down to 65 percent, from about 80 percent in 2003.
While Holub and higher education officials acknowledge the campus has a long way to go before it can readily compete with the likes of California, Michigan, and North Carolina, they insist that a powerhouse public research university should play a stronger role in a state that boasts some of the nation’s most prestigious private colleges.
“There’s a level of complacency in this state, always relying on our elite private institutions such as Harvard and MIT to carry us,’’ said Richard M. Freeland, the state commissioner of higher education. “It used to be that the state could ride along based on the strength of its private institutions, but today, in an era when we need to be sending more students to college, Massachusetts isn’t going to maintain its position as the top state in the country for higher education without a strong public sector.’’
More so than most other public universities across the country, the UMass system has taken a big hit in budget cuts. State support for the Amherst campus has dropped 16 percent in the last year alone, from $218.2 million in 2009 to $187.6 million this fiscal year, said university officials, who expect the picture to worsen in coming weeks.
State Representative David Torrisi, the House chairman for the joint committee on higher education, said the recruitment of out-of-state students makes sense from a revenue perspective.
“Obviously with budget cuts in the last year and more cuts to come in the next month, they’re looking for alternate sources of revenue,’’ Torrisi said. “But myself and my colleagues do have some concerns about making sure Massachusetts students are taken care of first.’’
UMass-Amherst, a sprawling campus ringed by cow pastures, has long languished in the shadows of New England’s private research universities and liberal arts schools. But Holub says the underdog is well positioned to achieve greater prominence.
“Right now, we’re not in the echelon of the top public research universities, and that’s what we’re aiming for,’’ Holub said. “I think it’s a realistic expectation. It will get more competitive here.’’
Under the five-year tenure of its previous chancellor, John Lombardi, the school, once known as “ZooMass’’ for its raucous party scene, has tried to clean up its image. Among other steps, it enlisted campus police to help monitor dormitories for drug and alcohol violations.
Lombardi also embarked on a long-term plan to replace the university’s crumbling infrastructure, including leaky library walls and outdated science labs. This fall, Holub opened a new $114 million science building and will soon unveil a student recreational center.
Courting more out-of-state students, Holub said, is “just one piece of many pieces’’ in the decade-long plan to vault the university into the ranks of top publics.
During that time, UMass-Amherst needs to dramatically ratchet up fund-raising by an average of $60 million a year through alumni and its wider donor base.
Other revenue-generating plans include adding more summer and distance education programs, and introducing new professional degrees and master’s programs.
Those financial initiatives will help the university restore the ranks of tenured and tenure-track faculty, he said, a number that is low compared with the public research peers to which UMass aspires.
In the past two decades, the number of faculty in the tenure system has dropped 19 percent, from a high of 1,200 in 1987 to 975 in 2008 because of financial pressure, even as student enrollment has held steady. During that period, the number of temporary hires doubled to about 200.
Bolstering the faculty can help the college generate more federal research grants and more faculty awards, thereby boosting its prestige, he said.
Holub is also seeking to improve the undergraduate experience by expanding its honors program to meet increased demand.
And this fall, the university started weekly freshman seminars for students to develop relationships with star faculty, including one on Friedrich Nietzsche taught by the 60-year-old chancellor himself, a German scholar who was the first in his family to attend college. Such seminars have existed at UC-Berkeley since the early 1990s, where Holub spent nearly three decades.
On the Amherst campus, one student leader said he understands the need to look elsewhere for revenue but cautions the university against moving away from its mission.
“It’s important to remember what the school is historically and what it represents,’’ said Sam Dreyfus, a junior from Brookline who serves in student government. “It’s going to be difficult to find the right balance between remaining accessible for Massachusetts residents and bringing out-of-state students for the fees. I know a lot of out-of-state students feel like they’re being milked.’’
Tracy Jan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
"UMass pushes for law school: Debate rekindled by plan to acquire private institution"
By Tracy Jan, Boston Globe Staff, October 15, 2009
University of Massachusetts officials have revived a controversial plan to open a public law school in the southeastern corner of the state as soon as next year, in a proposal that is likely to cause a new round of sparring in the politically charged realm of higher education.
The plan, rejected four years ago by the state Board of Higher Education but pushed anew by state officials, would remove Massachusetts from the list of just six states without a public law school. It calls for UMass-Dartmouth to take over the private Southern New England School of Law in North Dartmouth.
Under the terms released yesterday, UMass would be given the campus and any cash assets free of charge, a package officials valued at approximately $22.6 million.
“Law is a missing piece of the UMass curriculum,’’ said Jean MacCormack, chancellor of UMass-Dartmouth. “This would fill in that gap and provide an affordable public law school option for students.’’
A UMass-Dartmouth law school would charge $24,000 a year in tuition, fees, and for books, far lower than the $40,000 it costs to attend Suffolk University Law School or the New England School of Law in Boston. UMass-Dartmouth would also provide 25 students a year with fellowships that would cut tuition in half if they commit to serving in public interest law for four years upon graduating, MacCormack said.
But critics of the plan say that another law school is not needed in a state that has eight other private institutions. Others point to the perilous economy and the cuts that are being made at UMass and question why the plan is being revisited now.
“I’m open-minded, but I think there are some serious questions that need to be addressed,’’ said Stephen Tocco, a trustee of the UMass board who, as chairman of the Board of Higher Education in 2005, voted against the plan.
UMass-Dartmouth officials have spent the last year studying the financial, legal, and academic feasibility of opening a public law school and say they are optimistic about enrolling its first class starting in the fall 2010. They hope to submit a proposal to state higher education officials by the end of December.
UMass president Jack Wilson, who received a letter last week from the chairwoman of the trustees of the 235-student law school offering to begin discussions leading to the donation of its assets to UMass, emphasized yesterday that a new law school is far from a done deal. He wants to ensure that UMass-Dartmouth proceeds with due diligence, especially during challenging economic times.
“It’s a reasonable thing that Massachusetts will one day want to consider having a public law school,’’ he said. “I certainly hear from students and others who feel disappointed that they don’t have the option in Massachusetts.’’
The step to acquire the 28-year-old private law school, which is not accredited by the American Bar Association, threatens to rekindle the bitter dispute of 2005. The most vocal opponents of the plan were Suffolk, New England School of Law, and Western New England School of Law in Springfield. They said at the time that the new school would cost taxpayers millions while burdening the state with more law schools and lawyers than it needs.
Officials at Suffolk and New England School of Law declined to comment yesterday. Representatives at the Springfield school could not be reached.
Richard Doherty, president and chief executive of the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities in Massachusetts, questioned the timing of refloating the idea, given the dismal state of the economy.
“I don’t know how or why anyone would want to be taking on the cost and responsibility of the creation of a public law school when we’re trying our hardest to make ends meet with the higher education systems and institutions that we currently have,’’ Doherty said. “A fair study would reveal really significant costs associated with getting a law school up and running and fully accredited.’’
MacCormack said taxpayers would not have to shoulder the cost of a public law school. UMass-Dartmouth would pay for the costs of accrediting the school by increasing enrollment to 585 students over five years. In addition to tuition revenue, it plans to use its investment of $12 million from the equity of the donated building to win accreditation, which the university would begin seeking after two academic years, she said.
Tocco said that he remains skeptical of the school’s financial feasibility and the need for another law school in the state.
“The question is, does the market need this type of profession based on where our economy is headed?’’ he said. “It’s an interesting opportunity, but one that’s complicated in many ways and needs to be completely vetted. Is the investment return worth it for the Commonwealth? I am willing to let this play out in facts and figures.’’
A spokesman for Governor Deval Patrick did not return a call seeking comment on the plan.
A key difference in the new proposal, compared with the one in 2005, is that the public law school would return a portion of tuition to the state, said John Hoey, UMass-Dartmouth spokesman. The coastal school would also add an elective curriculum that could help the state’s southern economy, creating programs in environmental and maritime law, as well as immigration and public interest law.
In her letter to Wilson, Margaret Xifaras, chairwoman of the board of trustees at Southern New England School of Law, said the body decided at its Sept. 9 meeting to donate its real estate and assets to UMass-Dartmouth after “long and detailed consideration.’’
“We agreed to take this unusual step as we are persuaded that the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth . . . has the leadership commitment and management experience, particularly in the area of accreditation, to responsibly shepherd the establishment of a public law school program.’’
Along with Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, Rhode Island, Delaware, and Alaska do not have public law schools.
Tracy Jan can be reached at email@example.com.
(Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff)
"Inside Man: An interview with Stan Rosenberg, the State House’s casino expert"
By Matt Viser, Boston Globe, January 10, 2010
Casinos in Massachusetts? There may be no more electric debate coming to Beacon Hill this year, as legislators take up an issue that polarizes the state and its leaders every time it arises.
Some covet the new jobs and tax dollars that expanded gambling could bring in; others are troubled by the prospect of adding slot machines and blackjack tables to a state already among the highest in per-capita lottery spending.
But there’s another aspect as well. If casino gambling is legalized - an idea that looks far more likely now that the state’s three top leaders agree on it - it would introduce a whole new industry to the Bay State, attracting international casino developers and demanding a new set of regulations.
Among the lawmakers who will be deciding the issue, no one knows more about this side of gambling than state Senator Stan Rosenberg. For the past two years, the Democrat from Amherst has been the Senate’s gambling guru, traveling to casinos in Nevada, Louisiana, New Jersey, Connecticut, New York, Iowa, and Canada to study the industry from the inside.
He has spent time with casino developers and money changers, walking windowless rooms full of noisy slot machines in an effort to understand what casinos would mean to Massachusetts - and how the state should handle them.
In all that time, he says, never once has he gambled.
Rosenberg spoke to Ideas by phone from his home in Amherst.
IDEAS: How many casinos have you visited?
ROSENBERG: Oh, I’m going to say on the order of 10. I’ve been visiting them to meet with management, get behind the scenes to see how they operate...I usually get a guided tour. I spend time walking through the floors, seeing the different types of gaming venues they have.
IDEAS: Do you have favorites?
ROSENBERG: Clearly the Connecticut venues were absolutely amazing. In many of the other states, most of the venues I visited, in my opinion, didn’t hold a candle to what they’ve got in Connecticut, and how they’ve blended retail and entertainment and gaming. There’s nothing like Las Vegas, that’s off the charts, but that’s in a category by itself. Then there’s a bunch of interesting venues in the other states, but they tend to be smaller, less glitzy, less inviting. I like the way the Connecticut casinos have integrated the entertainment and turned them into family venues....Once you pass by the gaming floor, you’re now in a whole other world that has nothing to do with gaming....There’s waterfalls and all kinds of things. It’s a really beautiful venue, and you don’t even realize that you’re in a casino.
IDEAS: Is it ironic to suggest that we should build casinos because they don’t feel like casinos?
ROSENBERG: They don’t see themselves exclusively in the gaming industry anymore. They see themselves in the entertainment industry, with recreational shopping and entertainment venues within.
IDEAS: Do you support plans for this kind of casino in Massachusetts?
ROSENBERG: If your objective is to maximize economic activity - that means maximize jobs and the chance to bring in out-of-state revenue - then the only way to go is resort-style casinos. All other forms will rely on your own residents and very near traffic. You’re just moving your own money around, and you’re not creating jobs.
IDEAS: Culturally, how would casinos fit here? This is the land of town meetings and church steeples, and casinos are pretty glitzy.
ROSENBERG: There may be places in the Commonwealth where you could build things in the style of a Foxwoods or Mohegan Sun that don’t look out of place because they’re off on their own. If you did a site in Boston, we know where it would likely be - where the tracks are. I’ve seen some drawings of some facilities that could fit very nicely into a place like that.
IDEAS: You’ve made the point that we’ve already got gambling here in the form of the lottery. How do you see the difference between lottery and casinos?
ROSENBERG: There’s nothing classy about playing the lottery. You’re buying a ticket. You may scratch it on the counter, in the car, at home....You’re just scratching and then you throw it away. You go into these gaming venues and you may see a show, go to a nice restaurant, you may walk around the mall and do your holiday shopping, and you may spend the night.
IDEAS: How did you become the Senate’s go-to person on casinos?
ROSENBERG: About two years ago the Senate president asked me to, in part because she had longstanding relationships with the Wampanoag [the Indian tribe attempting to develop a casino in Middleborough]....She needed to create some distance between herself and the policy issues so there could be no concerns about the objectivity. I voted against slots at the tracks, and I’m not a great fan of gambling or casinos.
IDEAS: Spending time at work by going to casinos sounds like a lot of people’s idea of vacation.
ROSENBERG: Anybody who knows me knows that I’m up and out between 5:30 and 7:30 in the morning and working until 8 or 10 at night....This is not vacation.
IDEAS: Who pays for your travel?
ROSENBERG: When I go to a state to participate in [a] national or regional meeting, I’ll extend my stay by a few days so I can do the research on the casinos. There’s no state money and no private money. It’s either out of my pocket or out of my campaign account.
IDEAS: Do you ever gamble?
ROSENBERG: Nope. Never put a coin in a slot machine. Well you don’t put coins in them anymore, you play by putting a card into the slot. I buy a lottery ticket every now and then when the jackpot gets really large, just for the fun of it. But no, I’m not a gambler.
IDEAS: Not even a nickel slot machine?
ROSENBERG: I don’t even play poker with friends. When we play card games there’s no money involved. The only game I’ve played with money is Monopoly.
IDEAS: What should we make of the fact that the Senate’s gambling guru doesn’t like to gamble?
ROSENBERG: I think it’s totally appropriate. I’m not wild about gambling, but I don’t have this self-righteous attitude about gambling. My concern is that if we’re going to do it that it be a very strongly regulated system, that we address community mitigation, economic impacts, and the addiction. I have no doubt there will be more addiction, but I also am not one of those people who believes - I mean 94 percent of people can participate in slot machines without getting themselves in trouble. It’s hard for me to justify saying to 94 percent of people you can’t do what you want to do when 6 percent of the people can’t leave the machine when they’ve lost more than they should.
IDEAS: How long can you stay in a casino before you need a breath of fresh air?
ROSENBERG: I was happy to be able to go in and visit and leave. Because I’m not a gambler, because I’m not even tempted, I don’t need to be in there that long. And I like places with windows. I like to know what time of day it is. And that constant hum in the background, which I’m convinced is intentional, drives me crazy.
IDEAS: What are the odds of casinos being approved this year?
ROSENBERG: When you have a speaker, a Senate president, and a governor, all of whom are open to expanded gaming in the Commonwealth, that sets the stage for the most serious debate we’ve had on it. The odds are in favor of it being approved, partly because of the reality that it’s happening all around us and people are going to argue that it’s time to bring the money home; partly because we desperately need jobs for low- and medium-skill workers...and we have a huge hole in our budget. The money won’t materialize fast enough to close the current hole, but that argument will be used, and it will be compelling to many people.
IDEAS: How quickly would the money materialize?
ROSENBERG: Well, there are some things we can do very quickly. Some have argued you should put slot machines at Logan Airport. Those could be up and running in no time. Those could be state-owned, and the money would be all for the state. We could also do slots at the racetracks.
IDEAS: Really? Slot machines at Logan? So you could grab a cup of coffee and sit down to play a few slots while you wait for your plane?
ROSENBERG: That’s a proposal that’s been made. You see it at Las Vegas. I haven’t seen it at any other airports, but it’s entirely possible you could set up some secure portions of the airports in certain terminals. Maybe it’s the international terminal only.
Matt Viser has covered state politics for the past two years for The Boston Globe. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
March 14, 2010
Re: Politicians like Sen. Stan Rosenberg play harball yet passed anti-bullying legislation
Dear State Senator Stan Rosenberg,
I am saddened to read that 2 western Massachusetts school children committed suicide as a result of being bullied at school. I am heartened to read that you and all of the other state Senators on Beacon Hill passed anti-bullying legislation. The only thing that bothers me is that your then legislative interns played political hardball against me as part of Andrea F. Nuciforo, Jr.'s network of politicians and bullies when I was a graduate student at U Mass Amherst where you are still a proverbial "big wheel". I understand that you are both a Jewish and Homosexual man who was bullied as an outsider or "other" during your life and I am sorry that happened to you. I have been bullied at certain times in my life, too. I am a mentally disabled man/Veteran. When "Luciforo" asked you to join him in bullying me, you said "yes" to his request. You were wrong to play political hardball against me. I have included you in my story of "Luciforo's" conspiratorial persecution of me: www.jonathanmelleonpolitics.blogspot.com/2008/05/andrea-nuciforo-jonathan-melle-month-of.html
Now, the man you once chose to help bully me is running against your closest political ally in the 2012 First Congressional District race. "Luciforo" is challenging John W. Olver for Congress 2 years from now. You interned for Mr. Olver when he was a State Representative. When Mr. Olver went on to become a State Senator, you were elected to his State Representative seat. When Mr. Olver went on to become a U.S. Representative, you were elected to his State Senate seat. To follow the line of progress, you are planning to be elected to Mr. Olver's Congressional seat when Mr. Olver retires. It must be ironic to you that I am against "Luciforo" for U.S. Congress while supporting your political network in favor of Mr. Olver. My anti-Nuciforo Blog and related Blog pages will help Mr. Olver and ultimately you when you run for his seat when he retires from U.S. Congress.
If you are sincere about anti-bullying in schools, then you will think twice before joining the political network of someone as abusive and conspiratorial as "Luciforo". You should fight the good fight and save the hard ball politics for good causes like stopping the victimization of vulnerable school children by bullies. I hope you learned your lesson in your political relationship with "Luciforo"!
"Massachusetts Senate Passes Safe School Package"
iBerkshires.com - March 12, 2010
Bills Ban Bullying, Promote Healthy Foods in Schools
BOSTON – State Senator Benjamin B. Downing (D- Pittsfield) announces action by the Massachusetts Senate today advancing measures that ban bullying and update nutritional standards in schools with a pair of bills aimed at promoting a safe, healthy and productive learning environment for all students.
The Senate’s anti-bullying legislation prohibits physical, verbal and written acts that threaten or cause harm to another student, including Internet “cyber-bullying,” while a separate school nutrition bill establishes new standards for fresh food options in school cafeterias and vending machines.
“These two bills working together will make a dramatic difference in our school environment,” said Downing. “We know there’s a strong connection between health and safety and learning. By striking out fear and improving nutrition, we’re hoping to provide students with a more valuable and rewarding educational experience.”
The anti-bullying bill requires all school districts, charter schools and non-public schools to develop prevention and intervention plans by December 31, 2010 that include procedures for investigating bullying incidents, notifying parents and determining appropriate disciplinary actions.
The bill requires school principals to notify local law enforcement of bullying incidents if there is reason to believe criminal charges may be pursued. It also allows Individualized Education Programs for children with special needs to include provisions that will help them handle and respond to incidents of bullying. The bullying ban extends to all school facilities, school-sponsored functions, school buses and bus stops.
The Senate also passed a bill establishing new nutritional standards in schools to address the problem of childhood obesity in the Commonwealth. Food and beverages in school cafeterias, vending machines and other locations in public schools separate from federal meal programs must be in compliance.
The standards, to be implemented by the 2012-13 school year, will be developed by the Department of Public Health and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and include requirements for the availability of free drinking water, fresh fruits and vegetables, and nutritional information for non-packaged foods. The use of deep fryers is banned.
The regulations do not apply to bake sales, concession stands and other school-sponsored events.
The nutrition bill also requires issues of nutrition and exercise to be included in the educational curriculum, and it establishes a commission to make recommendations related the management of childhood obesity, type 2 diabetes and eating disorders.
As a way to further promote wholesome food options and locally grown products, the bill encourages statewide adoption of the successful “Farm-to-School” program, which creates contracts between local farms and public schools to provide fresh fruits, vegetables and ingredients.
The bill also adds state colleges and universities to the requirement that state agencies or authorities give preferential treatment to local farms when purchasing agricultural products.
Finally, capitalizing on the fresh food trend, the bill requires the study of Boston’s “Chefs in Schools” program, which teaches schools to create healthy, cost-effective meals that kids like to eat, to see how it could be effectively implemented in other school districts.
Both bills now go back to the House of Representatives for further action.
"A one-of-a-kind flip-flop: Pols go all-in on gambling to save own jobs"
By Howie Carr, Columnists, bostonherald.com - April 16, 2010
The state Legislature is lucky it hasn’t been charged with impersonating John Kerry. You see, it was against the casino/slots machine bill before it was for it.
Just two years ago, 108 of the sheeple in the Mass. House voted against casinos. This week, 120 of them voted for it.
Surely the change of heart in courage was a matter of principle, reached after due deliberation. It had nothing to do with the fact that two years ago, the old House speaker was against slots, and now the new House speaker wants thousands of one-armed bandits on every street corner, or at least on every street corner with a bust-out racetrack on it.
During the debate, as it were, you might have expected some of these flip-floppers to explain why they did a 180 on slots. But no. One of the very few who did was state Rep. Ellen Story of Amherst. She flipped her vote after being “promoted” - in other words, she got a pay raise - by the new speaker, Bobby DeLeo. As she explained to the State House News Service:
“He called me and he said, ‘Ellen, how are you going to be on this bill?’ And I said, ‘I’ve always been opposed to it, but if you need my vote, I’m there.’ ”
In other words, when DeLeo said “Jump!” Ellen Story’s only question was, “How high?”
Did I mention her husband is Ronald Story, a retired history professor at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and his annual state pension since 2006 is $104,970.60?
Apparently the only other guy who even mentioned his Kerry-esque contortions on slots was state Rep. James Murphy of Weymouth, on the House floor.
“I voted against expanded gaming in the past because I felt it wasn’t the time or the place.”
In case you were wondering, the time and the place is when the speaker says it’s the time and the place. “I’m not morally opposed, it’s just at the time those proposals were made, I interpreted them as oversimplified solutions.”
In case you were wondering, the solutions are oversimplified when the speaker says they’re oversimplified.
Personally, I don’t care if they legalize slots or not. Yet once again they show that they do whatever they are told to do, period. They lamely try to rationalize their bad votes, saying it’s about the economy, and it is - their economy. They’re petrified of being stripped of their extra pay - usually $7,500 a year - for their positions in leadership, so-called.
The “leadership” says 15,000 jobs are at stake. Do the math - 3,000 slots, 15,000 jobs. Yeah, right.
Nov. 2 can’t get here soon enough.
"State Senate OK’s bill to help manage municipal spending"
By State House News Service, May 14, 2010
The Senate unanimously approved legislation yesterday offering new tools for municipal government leaders to manage spending as they absorb additional local aid cuts.
The bill allows cities and towns to defer unfunded pension liabilities and establish early retirement programs and encourages regionalization of government services provided at the local level.
Even supporters of the bill said it would not offset the local aid cuts, but lawmakers said it represented an effort to be helpful in the face of tough economic times.
Former Senate budget chief Mark C. Montigny, Democrat of New Bedford, predicted “tougher and tougher’’ economic times.
Senate minority leader Richard Tisei of Wakefield said the bill would have been stronger if it included ways for cities and towns to address a primary cost driver, health insurance.
The Senate opted yesterday to give unions and municipal government leaders more time to negotiate a compromise on the so-called plan design reform.
As debate wound down, it turned to a familiar topic: the economy, with some senators warning that dark clouds continue to hang over it and others rehashing news reports of positive economic developments.
The House and Senate now need to reconcile their differing versions of so-called municipal relief legislation.
The Senate also unanimously approved a bill yesterday designed to protect the jobs of victims of domestic violence, stalking, or sexual assault, but delayed action on a second bill aimed at bolstering victims’ housing rights.
The approved bill would require businesses to give employees who are victims of domestic violence up to 15 days off work, paid or unpaid, if they are trying to get out of a violent situation or seeking medical or legal help.
Workers would have to first use up all their sick and vacation days.
The bill would require victims to offer some kind of proof of their status, such as a restraining order, police report, or medical documentation.
Employers would have to keep that information private. The bill would exempt smaller businesses with fewer than 50 workers.
The bill passed on a 36-0 vote and now heads to the House.
Fear of losing a job is a barrier to escaping violence, especially for mothers who need to support themselves and their young children, said Maureen Gallagher, policy director for Jane Doe Inc., a domestic violence advocacy group.
“It’s often an issue for victims if they need to go to court,’’ she said. The bill “provides for individuals to have some time off to do those things without jeopardizing their employment.’’
The Senate postponed until May 20 debate on a second bill that would allow victims of domestic violence to break a lease without facing a penalty if they need to flee an abusive household.
The bill would also prohibit landlords from ending a lease, failing to renew a lease, or refusing to enter into a new lease based solely on a person’s status as a victim of domestic violence.
Landlords would still be able to evict tenants based on other lawful grounds, such as failure to pay rent.
Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.
"$1,100 fee increase comes due for UMass students"
By Tracy Jan, Boston Globe Staff, June 2, 2010
UMass students will likely pay $1,100 more in fees next school year, under a plan approved today.
The UMass Board of Trustees' administration and finance committee voted to maintain current tuition and fee levels, which range from a total of between $10,358 at UMass Dartmouth and $11,732 at UMass Amherst for undergraduate Massachusetts residents. But folded into the sticker price is a 15 percent fee hike approved last year, most of which the state was able to refund to students using $150 million in federal stimulus money.
Of last year’s $1,500 increase, students were able to get back $1,100. That rebate is not expected to be available this year, said UMass spokesman Robert Connolly.
The finance committee’s recommendation on tuition and fees will go before the full Board of Trustees at its June 9 meeting, where it is expected to pass.
The increase would not affect all UMass students. Increased financial aid would cover the additional cost for many of them.
While Governor Deval Patrick has proposed $49.3 million in federal stimulus money for UMass in the fiscal 2011 state budget, it appears unlikely that the university would be able to afford another rebate, Connolly said.
The system is able to keep tuition and fees from climbing even higher because officials expect UMass will receive sufficient levels of state and federal stimulus funds. If the expected money does not materialize, the university may have to consider an emergency fee increase and additional cuts, said UMass President Jack Wilson.
“With this action, the University is maintaining the level of quality that our students expect and deserve, while at the same time preserving access and affordability,” Wilson said in a statement.
"Hear no evil on casinos"
The Berkshire Eagle, Editorial, June 23, 2010
The assertion by Amherst Democrat Stanley Rosenberg that a study of the social costs of gambling could not be included in the Senate report released last week because the location of each gambling venue is unknown is preposterous. A study of the two Connecticut casinos would provide plenty of information on increases in crime, gambling addiction and other social ills but legislative leaders don't want to hear about the negatives. The organization that did the report, the Innovation Group, bills itself on its website as the "premier provider of consulting and management services for the gaming, entertainment and hospitality industries," which makes it an advocate of "gaming." The fix is truly in on Beacon Hill.
"Rosenberg defends Senate casino report: Critics say social costs glossed over"
gazettenet.com - June 22, 2010
BOSTON - Massachusetts Senate leaders defended their decision not to commission a study of the social costs of casinos, saying there's no way to do so without knowing the exact location of each gambling venue.
Sen. Stanley Rosenberg, D-Amherst, responded Monday to casino critics who said an $80,000 taxpayer-funded report released by the Senate last week only focused on the economic benefit to the state and not the social costs to cities and towns, such as gambling addiction treatment, increased crime, bankruptcy, and foreclosure.
That report found the Senate's plan for three resort-style casinos would create up to 12,000 jobs and bring in up to $460 million each year, but said little about social costs.
Rosenberg said the locations of the casinos would have to be decided before a social cost analysis could be completed.
"It's totally situational," Rosenberg told reporters. "I've met with academic experts and they say there is no proven reliable methodology to predict in advance what the community impact is going to be on an economy."
Rosenberg said that under the Senate bill, casino operators seeking one of the three licenses would have to submit a cost-benefit analysis with their proposal. They would also be required to outline what steps they are taking to ease those effects on the local economy.
He also said that if opponents want a cost-benefit analysis they should pay for one on their own.
United to Stop Slots in Massachusetts said the Senate needs a fuller analysis before rushing ahead. Kathleen Conley Norbut, the group's president, said Rosenberg's contention that no social cost study could be done without knowing a casino's exact location was "absolutely false."
"It is very possible to come up with a model for a rural, for a suburban or for an urban casino," Norbut said during a Statehouse press conference following a meeting with Rosenberg.
Norbut said she helped put together a study that focused on the effects a casino would have on western Massachusetts and that casinos in Connecticut could provide a model for such an analysis.
"I think the timeline has been dictating more of the work than what is real and what could possibly be done," Norbut said, referring to the rush to pass a gambling bill before the end of the legislative session July 31.
Norbut also cited a 2008 report commissioned by the Patrick administration as an example of a report on casinos that considered social costs. However, the report produced by Spectrum Gaming Group of Linwood, N.J., did not quantify those costs and said they "typically take much longer to emerge."
Norbut said her group would not be conducting a social impact study because the state should be able to compile one.
The Senate's report doesn't quantify the social costs associated with casinos, but advises that a small percentage of gambling revenues should be devoted to offset community costs and "potential negative social impacts."
The Senate's casino report was compiled by The Innovation Group, which bills itself as the "premier provider of consulting and management services for the gaming, entertainment and hospitality industries." A spokeswoman for The Innovation Group referred all questions back to senators.
Also Monday, former Attorney General Scott Harshbarger, a casino opponent, sent a letter to Senate President Therese Murray urging the Senate to create an escrow account to pay for the social costs associated with expanded gambling.
In the Senate's current gambling proposal, 10 percent of gambling revenues the state receives will go into a special fund devoted to offsetting the impact of casinos on local communities. About 35 percent of that money would pay for services such as addiction prevention.
The Senate is to debate the bill this week.
"Shortchanging higher education"
The Berkshire Eagle, Editorial, September 13, 2010
For a state that prides itself on its historic support of higher education the numbers are a disgrace. Massachusetts is ranked 46th in the nation in per capita appropriations for public higher education. Education appropriations per student at the University of Massachusetts have declined by 13 percent during the past five years while support nationally has increased by an average of 4 percent per student in the same period. These numbers say that the high value Massachusetts places on education is just lip service.
Berkshire Community College, the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts and their sister public schools across the state have been hammered with budget cuts for years, and tough economic times are no excuse. The other 45 states ahead of Massachusetts in appropriations aren't immune to economic problems, but they know what Massachusetts doesn't -- that cutting funding for higher education costs the state money in the long run. In-state students go elsewhere, out-of-state students don't come, and the state doesn't groom its future economic, scientific, political and educational leaders.
UMass is a microcosm of these problems, as revealed in a dispiriting Boston Globe story last week. Rotting infrastructure is unappealing to in-state and out-of-state students alike. UMass' reputation as a party school hurts also, and while dumping those who are wasting classroom space would hurt financially in the short run, it would help the school in the long run. As would a budget commensurate with state universities elsewhere.
We applaud the state's higher education commissioner, Richard Freeland, for deploring these continual budget cuts. We expect Beacon Hill to listen and act accordingly in the year ahead.
"Rosenberg backs graduated income tax; legalizing marijuana for medical use"
By Richie Davis, Daily Hampshire Gazette, 1/26/2011
AMHERST - State Sen. Stanley Rosenberg wants to tax the rich more in Massachusetts.
He's proposing an amendment to the state constitution that would allow Massachusetts to have a graduated income tax.
He also plans to file legislation to legalize marijuana in the state for medical purposes, and to return the ballot initiative process to one he says would be closer to its origins "as a grassroots, volunteer-driven endeavor."
Rosenberg said replacing the state's flat income tax rate to one more like the federal approach, requiring higher income earners to pay a greater share of the burden, "is not about punishing the wealthy. This is about finding reasonable ways to finance a compassionate, civilized and just society, something I think benefits everyone."
It's been about 20 years since the flat tax, which is written into the state constitution, has come up for a vote.
Gov. Deval Patrick has said he favors a graduated income tax, and last fall, a State House New Service poll showed that about 57 percent of 400 voters surveyed favored a graduated tax, while 34 percent opposed such a system and 9 percent were undecided. The proposal was favored by 62 percent of Democrats and 57 percent of independents while being opposed by 52 percent of Republicans.
"It's time we had a serious discussion about how we pay for the education of our young people, for the care of our eldest and most vulnerable citizens, and for all the other services the citizens of our commonwealth want and are entitled to," Rosenberg said.
If a Constitutional Convention approved of an amendment in the next two consecutive sessions, Rosenberg said, voters could decide on a change as early as the 2014 ballot.
There's been an effort three or four times over the past 60 years to remove the constitutional prohibition against a graduated tax, Rosenberg said, "but each time it's failed because of an active campaign designed to scare people about losing their jobs because companies would flee Massachusetts, so you end up with people voting against their own interests."
He said the time for a graduated income tax has come.
"There's growing income inequality, and both lower-income workers and middle-income workers have seen their earning capacity and take-home pay stagnated, with a growing number of millionaires and zillionaires gaining enormous income and shares of wealth, without adding new wealth to the economy."
Rosenberg is also filing a bill, modeled after legislation approved in the past couple of years in Maine and Rhode Island, that would legalize marijuana for medical purposes.
The bill is designed to protect patients with debilitating medical conditions, as well as their designated caregivers, from arrest and prosecution, criminal and other penalties, and property forfeiture if they use medicinal marijuana. It's also designed to create "a responsible system" for providing it to patients diagnosed by a licensed physician as having such conditions as: cancer, glaucoma, AIDS, hepatitis C, post traumatic stress disorder as well as other specific debilitating conditions.
"This is an issue that requires serious, thoughtful discussion," Rosenberg said. "Marijuana has been shown to alleviate some of the worst symptoms of some of the worst diseases imaginable. I think the reasonable, compassionate thing to do is to give patients and their doctors this option."
As discussion of a bill progresses in Massachusetts, he said, legislators can apply lessons learned in neighboring Maine and Rhode Island.
Rosenberg, who has examined and proposed changes to the ballot initiative process in the past, said he's also filing two bills to correct the problem of fraudulent signature gathering and to make it less easily controlled by out-of-state interests.
"We're concerned on the one hand about fraud in the collection of signatures and in special interest groups largely from out of state paying for and driving the process in the state," he said.
One bill would prohibit paying signature gatherers based on the number of signatures collected and prohibit simultaneous circulation of petitions relating to multiple initiatives, while also requiring state registration of paid signature gatherers and restricting persons with criminal records of forgery, identity theft, election fraud and sex offenders from paid signature gathering.
Another measure would seek a constitutional change to bring the number of required signatures more in line with the requirement of other states.
"We're still way out of line with the rest of the country," said Rosenberg, because it's based on the number of participating voters, which has largely declined.
The current 1950 standard for placing a question on the ballot requires 3 percent of ballots cast in the governor's race in the previous election. For the upcoming 2012 election, only 68,640 signatures will be required.
Rosenberg's bill would create a two-tiered threshold for signatures: requiring the number of signatures equal to 7 percent of voters in the previous gubernatorial election in the case of a question to change state law, or equal to 4.5 percent in the case of ballot questions seeking the more complicated process of a change in the state constitution.
After grassroots groups had to spend about $11 million to fight 2010 questions at the polls seeking to cut taxes, Rosenberg said, they have joined a coalition seeking to raise the bar for placing initiatives on the ballot.
"Sen. Stanley Rosenberg files bill to eliminate jobs of 7 registers of deeds"
By Dan Ring, The Republican, March 04, 2011
BOSTON -- Sen. Stanley C., Rosenberg is sponsoring a bill that would eliminate the job of a possible political rival for Congress and the jobs of 6 other registers of deeds.
Rosenberg said his bill is intended to save money by creating only one elected register of deeds for each of the state's 14 counties.. He said $600,000 a year could be saved by eliminating elected registers in counties that currently have more than one including Berkshire and Bristol, which each have three, and Essex, Middlesex, Worcester, which each have two.
Rosenberg said his bill has absolutely nothing to do with his possible campaign for the 1st congressional seat in Washington if U.S. Rep. John W. Olver, D-Amherst, decides against running for re-election. Rosenberg said he is keeping his options open, but that he expects Olver to seek re-election and that he will be supporting Olver.
Andrea F. Nuciforo of Pittsfield, the current register for the Berkshire Middle District, said he will definitely run for Congress next year. Nuciforo, a Democrat and former state senator, could square off against Rosenberg depending on the results of redistricting of congressional seats and Olver's decision. Olver has said he will run for re-election.
Rosenberg said he submitted the bill in reaction to an undercover report by WFXT-TV Channel 25. Robert F. Kelley, the Northern Essex Register of Deeds, usually worked at the Lawrence-based registry for just an hour or two a day during the eight days he was watched by the station over three months, the station reported.
Nuciforo said Rosenberg's bill is a great idea. "We're at a point in government where we have to try to find savings wherever we can find it," said Nuciforo, who makes $90,000 a year as register.
Registries of deeds maintain real-estate records and make them available to the public.
Nuciforo served in the state Senate with Rosenberg for 10 years. Nuciforo said Rosenberg is attempting to save money. He said he has no reason to believe that Rosenberg is taking a swipe at him because the two might square off in a congressional contest.
Rosenberg is the Senate chair of a redistricting committee. The state lost a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in this year's census and will need to consolidate the current 10 seats into nine for the 2012 election.
If his bill is approved, Rosenberg said, it would take effect for the 2012 election and would begin saving money in 2013. Rosenberg's bill would not close district buildings where registry records are kept and business is conducted. Berkshire, for example, has offices in Adams, Great Barrington and Pittsfield and one elected register for each office. Hampden has offices in Springfield and Westfield, but only one register.
“The present system is simply inefficient and duplicative,” Rosenberg said. “There is no reason to have a separate registrar for each office. In Hampden County, for example, we have one registrar overseeing two offices, so we know it can be done."
Northampton, 10/20/11, Staff Photo by David Molnar -- Massachusetts State Senator Stephen Brewer, top, left, Massachusetts State Senator Stanley C. Rosenberg, center, and Massachusetts State Treasurer Steve Grossman at Rosenberg's 25th Anniversary of Service event at the Clarion Hotel. The event was also a fund-raiser for the Western Massachusetts Food Bank. Friends gather for Massachusetts State Sen. Stanley C. Rosenberg's 25th Anniversary of Service event in Northampton.
"Hundreds celebrate Massachusetts State Sen. Stanley Rosenberg of Amherst"
By Diane Lederman, The Republican, October 20, 2011
NORTHAMPTON - With about 500 guests in attendance, the question Thursday night was who wasn’t celebrating state Sen. Stanley C. Rosenberg’s 25 years of elected service.
The Clarion Hotel ballroom was packed with guests reflecting various years of the Amherst Democrat’s service and life.
Former Gov. Michael Dukakis served as the emcee with speakers paying tribute including Lt. Gov. Timothy Murray, Senate President Therese Murray, U.S. Rep. John W. Olver, D-Amherst, and Northeastern District Attorney David E. Sullivan.
State Auditor Suzanne Bump and Treasurer Steven Grossman also were present along with local officials and constituents and many from the University of Massachusetts.
Hampshire County Sheriff Richard Garvey, while mingling with guests, said that Rosenberg “has been a very good friend. He’s done a fabulous job.”
Nancy Maglione, former Amherst finance director, said that Rosenberg responds “to every request, he’s done so much. If every politician was like Stan the country would be in (in a better state.)”
Timothy Murray said, “Stan is the go-to guy.” He praised Rosenberg’s “work ethic and his institutional knowledge.”
He said he’s “got a track record on policy. We want him back, there’s more work to do.”
Rosenberg, who’s 61, said he hopes to serve for another decade.
Therese Murray echoed that sentiment. “He’s my go-to guy. I know he’s trustworthy.”
Rosenberg said he wanted a party to celebrate some of the highlights of his tenure along with releasing a video a day of his time in the Legislature.
He said he had no idea so many people would attend. About 250 had registered and hundreds more came in.
“It’s kind of overwhelming,” said Rosenberg in between greeting friends. He said he was seeing people he hadn’t seen in years as well as some young Democrats, some from UMass and others from the Pioneer Valley Young Democrats.
The O-Tones performed along with the UMass Saxophone Quartet among others. The event featured a raffle and a fund-raising auction with all proceeds to be donated to the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts in Hatfield.
Rosenberg won his first election in 1986, succeeding the then Rep. James G. Collins, who did not seek re-election. In 1991 he ran successfully for the Senate seat that was held by Olver, who was elected to Congress.
Amidst the planning for the celebration, Rosenberg learned he has a treatable form of skin cancer and began treatment recently.
"Stanley Rosenberg plays central role as he marks 25 years in Legislature"
By Ben Storrow - Gazettenet.com - 10/20/2011
AMHERST - Roughly five weeks after being diagnosed with a common form of skin cancer, state Sen. Stanley C. Rosenberg sat in the meeting room at the Amherst Police Station last Friday morning to reflect on his 25 years in the Legislature.
He was clearly fatigued. Rosenberg, 61, arrived at the station after undergoing one of the daily radiation treatments he has been receiving for the squamous cell carcinoma. The treatments have not kept him from maintaining his busy public schedule.
He spoke slowly and deliberately about his time in office.
"I love the constant stimulation from having many, many balls in the air, all at the same time," said Rosenberg, a Democrat who lives in Amherst. "Working with individual constituents on individual problems or on trying to create new policy, you are constantly meeting new people, you are constantly being challenged by old issues in new ways."
Today, Rosenberg marks his 25 years in the Legislature with a party at 5:30 p.m. at the Clarion Hotel in Northampton. The gathering comes during one of the most important times in Rosenberg's quarter century in public service.
On Oct. 13, the Senate passed a bill that would legalize casino gaming in Massachusetts. Rosenberg, who has been the Senate's point person on casino gaming since the legislation was introduced three years ago, became one of the measure's champions, though reluctantly. He helped steer the bill through the Legislature, arguing that the state needed to create a framework to regulate the industry or risk seeing the Mashpee Wampanoag build a slot parlor with no oversight from the commonwealth. The tribe received federal recognition in 2007.
The bill calls for establishing three resort casinos and one slot parlor statewide. A conference committee must resolve differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill, which then goes to Gov. Deval Patrick.
And on Tuesday, a committee Rosenberg co-chairs released a new map of the state's state House and Senate districts, as a part of the decennial redistricting process. In coming weeks, the same committee will release a new map of the state's congressional districts which will change the political landscape in Massachusetts. The state will lose one of its 10 congressional seats.
That Rosenberg finds himself at the center of two critical issues facing the state is not an accident. First elected to the Legislature as a state representative in 1986, Rosenberg is president pro tempore of the Senate, the third-ranking Democrat.
"I think it is unusual for people in western Massachusetts to gain the kind of political responsibility that Stan has built up over 25 years," said state Rep. Stephen Kulik, a Worthington Democrat who represents many of the same towns in Franklin and Hampshire County as Rosenberg.
"There is a higher concentration of population and therefore political power in eastern Massachusetts," Kulik said. "Those of us in western Massachusetts, and Stan is a good example, we have to work smarter and more aggressively to put our regional perspective forward."
But while Rosenberg remains a popular figure in the Pioneer Valley - in the five elections since 2002 he has never failed to win less than 75 percent of the vote and was unopposed twice - he is regarded with some skepticism in other parts of the state.
Relationship with John Olver
The Boston Globe reported this month that Rosenberg might have a conflict of interest in overseeing redistricting, a process he also co-chaired in 2001, because of his relationship with U.S. Rep. John W. Olver of Amherst.
The Globe reported that Rosenberg and Olver co-own a Beacon Hill condominium at 33 Myrtle St. in Boston. The two lawmakers split the condo, with Rosenberg using one half and Olver renting out the other.
Olver, 75, despite his announced intention to seek re-election, is one of the congressmen thought most likely to have his district eliminated due to its slow population growth. The 1st Congressional District is the state's largest geographically, covering all of Berkshire and Franklin counties and parts of Hampden, Hampshire, Middlesex and Worcester counties.
The Globe also reported that there is speculation Olver may consider retiring once the redistricting process in completed, and that Rosenberg would then run for the seat, again succeeding his former boss. Rosenberg began working in Olver's office when the latter was a state senator in the 1970s. When Olver won the special election in the 1st District following the death of Silvio O. Conte in 1991, Rosenberg in turn was elected to the state Senate seat vacated by Olver.
While Rosenberg remains open to a possible run for Congress, he is "not champing at the bit."
"I hear it all the time from people on the streets - they tell me someday 'we want to vote for you for Congress,'" said Rosenberg. "I say thank you very much and I keep my options open."
Fred Bayles, director of the Boston University Statehouse Program in journalism, said the concern about a potential conflict of interest for Rosenberg is one of appearances, which could result in heightened public cynicism about the political process.
"While I am sure Sen. Rosenberg can remain objective, he does have a long relationship with Congressman Olver who was his mentor and the first person to give him a political job," Bayles said. "Again, the question is how does that appear, that they've had a long working relationship with each other ... Anyone can understand that when you have a long-term relationship with somebody, it raises questions about their objectivity."
Pam Wilmot, executive director of Common Cause Massachusetts, based in Boston, said Rosenberg's ties to Olver speaks to the need for an independent redistricting panel in Massachusetts.
"To a great or lesser extent, all politicians have a certain level of conflict of interest when they are drawing the lines," Wilmot said. "Part of politics is helping your friends or your base or whatever your political interests may be ... That's one reason for an independent redistricting commission because it reduces the potential for conflict of interest."
Rosenberg, who disclosed ownership of the condominium to the State Ethics Commission, said that the two legislators bought the property in the late 1980s when they were both traveling between Amherst and Boston and needed a place to stay. Neither could have predicted that Rosenberg would one day chair the state's redistricting committee, he said.
Olver "is as ethical a person as you are going to find. I am as ethical a person as you are going to find," Rosenberg said. "There is no conflict of interest. If there is a conflict of interest, it's that he gave me my first job in politics. If there is a conflict of interest it's that we've been friends and colleagues for 25 years. It's that we've worked on more issues together than any other member of Congress.
"If you want to talk about conflict of interest, that's what conflict of interest would be, but who in their right mind would define that as a conflict of interest?" Rosenberg added. "We're both doing our jobs on behalf of our constituents. You have to be stretching or digging pretty far to have some basis that I would give preferential treatment to John Olver."
And Rosenberg noted that he has been forced to defend himself from rumors that he planned to draw a map that would help his political future. In 2001, there were rumors that he would move Northampton, Hadley and South Hadley into the 1st Congressional District, Rosenberg said.
Today those communities remain in the 2nd Congressional District.
"Did that happen?" Rosenberg asked. "I could have done that with a snap of the finger, as chair of the committee. And the Boston Globe was reporting repeatedly that because I had an interest in running for Congress, I was going to move those communities."
Hunter Ridgeway, Olver's chief of staff, said in an email to the Gazette that the congressman has stated his intention to run for re-election repeatedly since his initial announcement last December. Nothing has changed, Ridgeway wrote.
"The condo mentioned in the Boston Globe article was purchased many years ago," Ridgeway wrote. "While congressional redistricting admittedly greatly affects members of Congress, the process is, in its entirety, a state government process ... John believes that the Special Joint Committee on Redistricting will do a good job in completing its task."
Path to public service
Rosenberg's upbringing helped shape his devotion to public service. Born in Revere and raised in a foster home, Rosenberg was educated at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and got his first job in its Division of Continuing Education.
He describes his childhood as "not totally pleasant." At the age of 18 he was on his own. A few years later he was out of contact with his foster family.
"When you grow up a ward of the state, you go to public schools, you get your degree from a public college, you are a beneficiary of other people, you learn to understand the meaning of commonwealth," Rosenberg said.
His success, he says, can be credited to his teachers and a group at his synagogue that provided support at a young age. Among the things they noticed was a talent for organization, Rosenberg said.
He recalled that as a Revere High School student, he and two friends helped transform a rag-tag high school band into one that was putting on elaborate shows at football games and attracting large numbers of students.
The trio planned the half-time shows during Friday evening dinners at a Chinese restaurant in Revere. Rosenberg prodded slacking band members to practice and come prepared for Saturday morning rehearsals.
Around the same time, he became president of a New England Jewish youth group, winning what would be his first election after being called on to give an impromptu speech at a meeting. Rosenberg recalled that he outlined a vision for what he wanted to do, while his opponent stumbled.
After graduating from UMass in 1977, he continued his work in the Division of Continuing Education, establishing the arts extension service at UMass. That led to positions on the Amherst Youth Commission and the Amherst Democratic Town Committee.
His real start in politics came in 1979 when Olver, then a state senator, asked him to support a drive to draft U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy to run against President Jimmy Carter for the Democratic nomination. Eventually Rosenberg took a job as an aide to Olver, overseeing economic development and media relations.
Rosenberg was elected to the 3rd Hampshire House seat vacated in 1986 by James G. Collins, another Amherst Democrat who resigned that summer to serve briefly as chancellor of higher education.
Five years later Rosenberg trounced then-Northampton Mayor David B. Musante Jr. in a special election to succeed Olver in the Senate. Rosenberg's better than two-to-one margin of victory surprised political observers in the region who had expected a closer contest.
That is not the only time Rosenberg has surprised political pundits. In 1996, he became chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, one of the most powerful positions in the Legislature, where he helped craft the state's budget.
The appointment was unexpected by political observers, and the Globe at the time called Rosenberg "a relative unknown."
"When I read it, I laughed. In fact, I didn't laugh, I howled," Rosenberg told the Gazette shortly after being named to that post. "In a business that is driven by egos, you can imagine it's the worst insult."
Yet Rosenberg's rise to power at the state level has not diminished his connection to his district.
Donald Robinson, emeritus professor of government at Smith College and an Ashfield selectman when the town was in Rosenberg's district, said the senator "cared as much as anyone could" about local issues.
"He really did know the details, the personalities and the people," Robinson said. "He is completely devoted to public service. He is idealistic and progressive, but also realistic and practical ... I know few people in public life that I admire as much as Stan Rosenberg."
That assessment is shared by Kulik, who said that even "as (Rosenberg) has risen to power and responsibility at the Statehouse, he keeps his feet at home back in the district. He's always ready to get involved in the nitty-gritty details."
Rosenberg said that he would like to continue in public service for another 10 to 12 years and, if the opportunity arises, is open to serving as Senate president or in Congress.
For now, though, Rosenberg said he is focused on his current job. He has completed one-third of his cancer treatments, and while he has reduced his trips to Boston, he maintains a busy schedule.
"The most important thing I can do each week is go home to my district," Rosenberg said, "to work with people there to find ways we can have an impact and make important changes."
(Mark Wilson/Globe Staff)
"Key senator in hospital for casino vote"
By Mark Arsenault, Boston Globe Staff, November 16, 2011
After leading the state Senate’s legislative efforts on the year’s two thorniest issues - casino gambling and redistricting - Stanley C. Rosenberg should have been in position yesterday for a State House victory lap.
The casino bill the state senator from Amherst researched and helped craft moved toward approval, as did a congressional redistricting map he helped draw.
But the unassuming Amherst Democrat was not in Boston yesterday. His office said he is convalescing in Cooley Dickinson Hospital in Northampton after experiencing severe dehydration, a complication of his cancer treatment.
Rosenberg has been the Senate’s point man in the development of casino legislation. He served on the six-member conference committee that in recent weeks smoothed out differences between Senate and House versions of the casino bill.
In an equally difficult task, Rosenberg also cochaired the legislature’s Special Joint Committee on Redistricting, which had the tricky job of redrawing the congressional districts to eliminate one of the state’s 10 US House seats and redrawing state district lines. Last evening, the Legislature debated the map the committee produced.
“I just can’t see that this all would have been done without his leadership,’’ said Senator Jennifer L. Flanagan, Democrat of Leominster.
She served with Rosenberg on the conference committee that reconciled House and Senate casino bills. She presented the compromise to colleagues yesterday, saying that Rosenberg’s absence from the proceedings should not diminish what he meant to the process.
Senator Stephen M. Brewer, a Barre Democrat, said the vote on the casino bill was “bittersweet’’ without Rosenberg.
Rosenberg’s effort to shepherd redistricting and the casino bill to the brink of passage while being treated for cancer was “a pretty extraordinary lift on his part,’’ Brewer said.
He said he was unsure how the Senate could have finished the casino legislation without Rosenberg’s guidance.
Earlier this month, Rosenberg was seen hustling between the Senate floor, where he was managing a floor debate on redistricting, to a conference committee meeting where Senate and House members were reconciling two versions of casino legislation.
Last Wednesday morning, “after four difficult days,’’ Rosenberg was admitted to the hospital through its emergency room, his office said.
Rosenberg was diagnosed in September with squamous cell carcinoma, a curable form of skin cancer. He has completed five weeks of radiation treatment and two weeks of chemotherapy, his office said.
His absence this week caused some confusion because his signature was necessary on the conference committee report.
Ultimately, Rosenberg signed a release stating that he supported the compromise bill and authorizing Rosalie Adams, his chief of staff, to sign for him, she said.
Rosenberg has spent the past quarter-century in state politics. He won a seat in the state House of Representatives in 1986, representing Amherst and Pelham. In 1991, he won a special election for the Senate seat vacated by John Olver, elected that year to Congress.
Rosenberg is known for his command of policy details and his understated leadership style.
“It’s not about being flashy or grabbing headlines for him,’’ said Flanagan. “It’s really about the nuts and bolts issues ahead of him. He’s very quiet, thorough, and very direct.’’
Senate President Therese Murray said Rosenberg “loves the big issues and the complex policy matters that drive so much of what we do.
“The sacrifices he has made and his determination and work ethic are truly inspiring,’’ Murray said in a prepared statement. “With redistricting and gaming, the two biggest issues we will face this session, he has led the way and gone above and beyond the call even as he deals with illness.’’
Mark Arsenault can be reached at email@example.com
"Stanley Rosenberg of Amherst becomes dean of the Senate"
By REBECCA EVERETT Staff Writer gazettenet.com - January 2, 2013
BOSTON — Twenty-one years ago, during the first Senate session of 1992, Sen. Stanley C. Rosenberg was sworn in as a novice senator from Amherst.
On Wednesday, Rosenberg again headed to the Statehouse for the swearing-in ceremony, but this time he was granted a new title as part of the ceremony — dean of the Senate. The honorary title is bestowed on the longest continually serving state senator.
“It means I’m old,” Rosenberg said with a laugh via telephone from his Boston office Wednesday night.
Although he jokingly acknowledged that the designation does not mean a raise or a better parking space, the 63-year-old Amherst resident said it did make him reflect on his more than two decades in the Senate.
“It’s hard to believe I’ve been here as long as I’ve been here. Life moves very quickly in the Legislature,” he said. “You’re on the go all the time, you completely lose track of the time, and then one day, 22 years later, you wake up and realize you’re the longest-serving senator. It’s a sobering moment.”
Rosenberg takes over the title from former Sen. Frederick Berry, D-Peabody, who served from 1983 to 2012.
Sen. Gale D. Candaras, D-Wilbraham, said in a statement that she was “thrilled” that a western Massachusetts legislator is the Senate’s new dean.
“The trust and respect that we, as colleagues, have for Sen. Stanley C. Rosenberg is inestimable and speaks not only to his tenure, but to his intellect and acumen as well,” she said.
Dean of the Senate is more than just an honorary title; in his first day as dean Rosenberg was tasked with conducting the beginning of the first Senate session until Senate President Therese Murray was re-elected.
“I’ve attended the first session 11 times, but it was quite different,” he said. “You have control.”
This is the second title Rosenberg has earned in the Senate. In 2003, he was the first senator to be named president pro tempore of the Senate.
He served as the state representative for the Amherst area from 1986 until winning election to the state Senate in September 1991. Serving on two redistricting committees and as chairman of the Ways and Means Committee were highlights of his Senate career, he said.
“For a policy wonk like me, it was an extraordinary experience,” he said of the Ways and Means Committee role. “It was learning every part of the state budget.”
Rosenberg, who is openly gay, said his work on same-sex marriage was also a source of pride.
“The state broke new ground on the legalization of same-sex marriage, and it turned out to be a trendsetter for other states,” he said. “Just going through that 3½ years of constitutional conventions debating every part of the issue would be a highlight of any political career because it was a big social change.”
Rosenberg said it is common for junior legislators to seek advice and guidance from more experienced senators like himself.
“As president pro tempore, that was the case, and as dean, I think it will continue to be the case,” he said. “I’ve been around the track on most issues once or twice.”
Among the issues he is looking forward to tackling in the new year are public safety, including the issue of sexual predators and, in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting, gun control.
Senate President Murray named transportation as an issue the Senate will take up as it faces a deficit in the coming years. “As the chair of the Regional Transportation Authority Caucus, I’m interested in seeing that happen and playing a role in it,” Rosenberg said.
He also echoed Murray’s statement that the Legislature would review and possibly revise the state’s welfare system. “The system was trendsetting in the 1990s, but those policies are 20 years old now,” he said.
Rosenberg said his predecessor as dean, former Senator Berry, left big shoes to fill.
“He is a most unusual person,” he said. “He has muscular dystrophy, he was born with this physical challenge and lived his entire life with it, and yet never shirked a duty or shrunk from any challenge.”
Rebecca Everett can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Massachusetts State Sen. Stan Rosenberg, D-Amherst, poses inside the Senate Reading Room at the Statehouse in Boston, Monday, April 2, 2012.
"Rosenberg says he has backing to succeed Murray as Senate prez"
By Matt Stout, The Boston Herald, Local Politics, July 31, 2013
Senate Majority Leader Stanley C. Rosenberg said today he is poised to replace Senate President Therese Murray when she leaves the upper chamber’s top post, creating a succession plan more than a year in advance of any potential move.
Citing the “overwhelming support” of the Senate’s Democratic caucus, the veteran Amherst legislator said in a statement he has positioned himself to succeed Murray, who hits her term limit as president in March 2015.
But the Plymouth Democrat has said she is still undecided whether to run for re-election in 2014, a decision that could determine whether Rosenberg moves into the Senate’s top seat earlier.
“When I leave here, he’ll be a terrific Senate president,” Murray said in a brief interview before stepping into the Senate chambers this morning. “He’s been my friend for many, many years.”
Murray added later in a statement that Rosenberg has “led the way” twice on redistricting in the Senate and spearheaded its casino debate.
As for herself, she said she still has a “very ambitious agenda.”
“My focus is on addressing these priorities and it is my intention to serve out my term,” she said.
Rosenberg was jockeying for support against Senate Ways and Means Chairman Stephen Brewer, who Rosenberg said he counts “as a personal friend.”
“I think it is important that we have resolved this question quickly and amicably so that we can proceed with the business of the Senate,” Rosenberg said.
Rosenberg, who would be the Senate’s first openly gay president, was first elected to the House in 1986 before moving to the Senate in 1990.
"Senate succession clear"
The Boston Herald, Editorial, August 2, 2013
Yes, the matter of who becomes the next president of the Massachusetts Senate is an insiders’ game. But the fact that line of succession is now clear, well, does have broader implications.
Sen. Stanley Rosenberg (D-Amherst) counted noses in the Democratic caucus and declared he has more noses than his only apparent rival, Senate Ways and Means Chair Steven Brewer (D-Barre). So when Senate President Therese Murray’s term expires in March 2015 (unless she decides not to seek re-election and departs at the end of 2014), Rosenberg, now majority leader, will step up.
This will surely spare the Senate the drama and occasional bouts of dysfunction the House experienced when now Speaker Robert DeLeo and Rep. John Rogers were angling to succeed then Speaker Sal DiMasi. But then the 40-member Senate has always been a more collegial body.
Now we’d be the first to admit that on issues of tax policy and spending the idea of the irreparably liberal Rosenberg unleashed to pursue his own policy agenda is a little scary. However, Rosenberg also earned our respect — and obviously that of his colleagues — for his adept handling of two of the most thankless jobs any Senate leader has ever had to tackle — redistricting and casino gaming.
Redistricting of congressional and legislative districts is so fraught with potential political and legal pitfalls that to actually accomplish such a plan without aggrieved parties heading either before the TV cameras or into court is something of a minor miracle. Rosenberg’s ability to do that and do it well bodes well for a peaceful interim period looking toward that eventual transfer of power.
Plus Rosenberg is quite simply a nice and a decent guy who can be trusted to respect the institution that is the Massachusetts Senate and to preserve its independence in the continuing tug and pull that makes life on Beacon Hill so interesting.
August 4, 2013
Re: Stan Rosenberg's done deal politics
State Senator Stan Rosenberg has already secured his position as the next President of the Massachusetts State Senate. He would take over this position in 2015. The problem I have is that it is 2013. With nearly one and a half years to go, and Stan Rosenberg's new position is a done deal. What happened to the democratic process? What if there are new State Senators in 2015? Are incumbents so powerful that they are all guaranteed their seats after the 2014 state government election? I come from the human rights platform of politics. I am happy that Stan Rosenberg is openly gay and a Jewish man who was a foster care child. More power to him. But I don't believe that Stan Rosenberg is respecting democracy! He is so powerful that he is guaranteed re-election to his State Senate seat in 2014, and he is already the State Senate President-elect in 2015 before there is an election for that position. For these aforementioned reasons, I do not believe that Stan Rosenberg is a good leader. I understand that George Washington could have done away with the democratic process and became the new American royalty if he chose to, but George Washington chose democracy instead and became our nation's first Constitutional U.S. President for two terms. Unlike Stan Rosenberg, George Washington was a good leader!
- Jonathan Melle
"State Senator Stan Rosenberg backs Steve Grossman for governor"
By Joshua Miller, Boston Globe Staff, January 23, 2014
State Senator Stanley C. Rosenberg today endorsed treasurer Steven Grossman in his bid to become Massachusetts’ next governor.
The nod from Rosenberg, an Amherst Democrat who has claimed sufficient votes in the state Senate to become its next president, is significant because of his expected leadership position and resulting influence over other state senators.
“We have a talented field of candidates, but what distinguishes Steve is his lifetime of leadership fighting for the values of economic fairness and equality of opportunity,” Stan Rosenberg said in a post on Steve Grossman’s website.
“When Steve speaks about his goals for the Commonwealth, he can proudly cite his proven record of turning vision into reality,” he continued.
A Rosenberg aide confirmed the endorsement.
Although endorsement season has not begun in earnest among the five Democrats hoping to succeed Governor Deval Patrick, at least one has been announced: US Representative Katherine Clark endorsed Attorney General Martha Coakley’s bid for governor earlier this month.
The state senate’s current president, Therese Murray, has not endorsed in the gubernatorial race, but backed Coakley in her 2010 bid for US Senate.
The other Democrats currently running are former Obama administration health care official Donald M. Berwick; Juliette Kayyem, a former state and federal homeland security official; and Joe Avellone, an executive at a bio-pharmaceutical research firm.
Republican Charlie Baker, his party’s 2010 nominee for governor, faces tea-party aligned Shrewsbury resident Mark R. Fisher in the GOP primary.
Two independent candidates have also launched bids for governor: Evan Falchuk, an attorney and former business executive; and evangelical christian pastor Scott Lively.
Venture capital investor Jeffrey S. McCormick, an independent, is seriously considering a run as well.
Joshua Miller can be reached at email@example.com.
"State Senate President Therese Murray will not seek re-election"
By Joshua Miller and Dan Adams, Boston Globe Staff and Globe Correspondent, February 8, 2014
State Senate President Therese Murray, the chamber’s first woman president, said today she will not run for re-election.
“I have reached the decision that I will not be a candidate for re-election to the state Senate. It has been the greatest honor to serve the Commonwealth and I am forever thankful to the people of the Plymouth and Barnstable District for electing me to this seat time and time again,” the Plymouth Democrat said in a statement this morning.
Had Murray run for re-election and won, she could have only served as the chamber’s leader through March 2015 because of Senate rules limiting its top official’s tenure. Murray became president in March 2007.
State Senator Stanley C. Rosenberg, an Amherst Democrat, has claimed sufficient votes among his colleagues to become the chamber’s next president.
Murray was first elected to the Senate in 1992.
In the statement, she referred to some of her accomplishments during her more than two decades serving in the Senate.
“From protecting children and families to reforming our health care system to supporting economic growth and development, it has always been my top priority to find the best solutions for my constituents,” she said.
Murray said she would serve through the remainder of her term and looked forward “to working on the issues that I am most passionate about for many years to come.”
She did not say what she would do after leaving office in the statement. A spokeswoman for Murray said she was not available for further comment this weekend. Murray first announced her decision in the Old Colony Memorial, a newspaper in her hometown of Plymouth.
In an interview, Stan Rosenberg said he enjoyed working with Murray, and praised her as both a knowledgeable policy “wonk” and an effective, practical political operator.
“Some people are really great at the policy, some are really great at the politics. She has really been able to balance both,” he said.
The announcement was a not a surprise, said Stan Rosenberg, calling it a confirmation of earlier reports and statements by Murray to her colleagues that she would finish out her term. However, asked if the resolution of a question that had spawned rumors and uncertainty would be helpful to the Senate, Stan Rosenberg replied, “yes.”
Stan Rosenberg insisted he still has the votes to take over as Senate President, but said it was “way too early” to say what his legislative priorities would be.
“My focus now is exclusively on serving effectively as majority leader and helping achieve the agenda that has been laid out for the rest of this year,” he said.
Stan Rosenberg likes Democrats’ chances in elections this fall, he said, despite a handful of scandals dogging the Patrick administration.
“We have a very deep bench in terms of municipal officials and people in communities all across the Commonwealth who are engaging as activists,” he said. “I’m pretty optimistic about our ability to see a strong majority.”
"Stanley Rosenberg top taker of travel $$"
By Matt Stout, Boston Herald, February 24, 2014
Senate President-in-waiting Stanley Rosenberg is months away from ascending to his presumptive perch in the upper chamber, but he’s donned a new crown in the meantime: Per diem king, according to a Herald review of state records that show the Amherst Democrat took in nearly $13,000 in travel stipends last year.
Rosenberg said his whopping $12,840 bill — the highest travel expenses filed by a legislator thus far for 2013 — even shocked him, prompting him to consider leasing a car through his campaign account in lieu of taking the oft-criticized perk when he is expected to succeed Therese Murray as Senate president next year.
Murray has steered clear of taking per diems, and instead covers a $682.65 monthly lease to get to Beacon Hill with campaign contributions, according to finance records.
“This is absolutely the highest ever (for me) and I was really surprised when I saw it,” said Rosenberg, who last year staked claim to having the votes to replace Murray atop the Senate. “You’re just powering through and going day by day and week by week and before you know it, the year is over and you say, ‘Wow.’”
At $60 a trip, Rosenberg put in for 214 days of travel to and from the State House last year, the most filed by any legislator in the House or Senate through Feb. 7, the most recent data available.
Among the weeks he filed for was a six-day work week spanning the end of July and beginning of August, a total he admitted last week was a mistake.
Rosenberg said a staffer filling out his expense form accidentally counted the first day of August — which fell on a Thursday — toward his July total that week, and then counted it again when filing his expenses for the month of August.
“We have to go back and fix that,” Rosenberg said after a Herald reporter pointed out the irregularity. He chalked up his heavy travel to his work as majority leader, a role he took on in January 2013. “I am spending more days in Boston and more days traveling around the state visiting the districts of my colleagues at their requests. So, unfortunately, it means less time in my own district.”
So far, lawmakers have amassed a $347,000 travel bill for 2013, though under state rules, they have until the end of this year to file, meaning the tab could grow. The stipends range from $10 to $100, depending on where lawmakers rest their head.
But it’s likely Rosenberg could keep his top spot. The highest total from each of the past two years belonged to Sen. Ben Downing (D-Pittsfield), who at $90 a day, filed for $9,090 this year, down from $9,630 in 2012 and 2011.
On the House side, Nantucket state Rep. Timothy Madden leads the way with $8,100, trailing Worcester state Rep. John Binienda’s $8,604 and North Adams Rep. Gailanne Cariddi’s $8,460 from 2012.
Binienda, who has announced he isn’t running for re-election as he battles diabetes, filed for 194 days and $6,984 this year, a drop he attributed to undergoing dialysis, which he said “knocks me out sometimes.” Cariddi hadn’t filed for 2013 as of earlier this month.
State Rep. Paul Donato put in 205 days, the most in the House, and a number he attributed to regularly presiding over the House’s informal sessions in place of Speaker Robert DeLeo. “I’m there, and certainly the $10 (daily stipend) isn’t going to make me rich,” the Medford Democrat said.
State Rep. Geoff Diehl, a Whitman Republican who is among those who don’t take the stipend, is also among those pushing a ballot initiative to repeal last year’s law tying the gas tax to inflation.
“Despite the fact that it’s available, it’s not something taxpayers should be on the hook for,” he said of the perk.
"Attorney general hopeful Maura Healey lands endorsements from Senators Stan Rosenberg, Dan Wolf, Jamie Eldridge"
By Robert Rizzuto, The (Springfield) Republican, March 4, 2014
A day after Democratic candidate for attorney general Warren Tolman announced the endorsement of four prior office holders, his competitor is rolling out a trio of her own endorsements.
The campaign of Maura Healey, the former bureau chief in Attorney General Martha Coakely's office, revealed Tuesday that state Senators Stan Rosenberg, D-Amherst; Dan Wolf, D-Harwich; and Jamie Eldridge, D-Acton, were endorsing her candidacy.
“I am proud to endorse Maura Healey because of her innovative vision for the Attorney General's Office,” Rosenberg said in a statement. “After years of building winning teams and arguing groundbreaking and nation-leading cases, Maura will bring unmatched experience as a litigator and an advocate to the tough fights ahead for Massachusetts."
Eldridge, who recently endorsed Democrat Don Berwick's campaign for governor, cited Healey's advocacy for the state's residents in throwing his support behind her.
"Maura understands that the Attorney General is there to serve all of us, including the most vulnerable in our state,” Eldridge said. “I saw that up close and personal, over the past year when we served together on the Foreclosure Impacts Task Force. Maura is an exceptional progressive leader who has led the fight for full access to women's health care and expanded civil rights, while taking on the big banks and protecting consumers. I'm proud to endorse Maura Healey for Attorney General and join her team."
Wolf, who ended his campaign earlier this year, said Healey's work on cases including the attorney general's efforts to combat illegal foreclosures helped sway his decision.
"Our next Attorney General must be a creative, pro-active champion for middle class and working class people, using the many powers of that office to hold public utilities accountable, protect homeowners from unfair debt, reduce student loan burdens, control health care costs, and safeguard our environment," Wolf said. "That's a tall order, but the great news is that Maura has proven she not only understands that challenge --- she's up to it. She's part of a new generation of leaders for our Commonwealth, an inspiring combination of idealism and experience."
All three senators vowed to hit the campaign trail along with Healey in the coming weeks. The race to become the next attorney general of Massachusetts is down to Tolman and Healey, as State Rep. Hank Naughton previously left the race to seek re-election in his district. No Republicans have entered the race at this time.
Coakley, the current attorney general, is seeking to become the first elected female governor of Massachusetts.
"Few challengers for Massachusetts Legislature"
By Associated Press via The Boston Herald (online), May 29, 2014
Boston -- Candidates for nearly half of the seats in the 200-member Massachusetts Legislature are facing no opposition in this year's election.
In the 40-member Senate, 20 incumbent lawmakers -- the vast majority of them Democrats -- have no challengers in both the primary and general elections. There are currently 4 Republicans in the Senate.
Among those Senators facing no competition is Amherst Democrat Stanley Rosenberg, who is expected to replace Therese Murray as Senate President. Murray is not seeking re-election. Republican Senate leader Bruce Tarr of Gloucester is also running unopposed.
In the 160-member House more than 70 candidates, most of them incumbent Democrats, are also facing no opposition in the primary of general elections, according to the state secretary's office.
Many more incumbents in both chambers face no challengers in the Democratic and Republican primaries in September, giving them a clear path to the November general election.
House Speaker Robert DeLeo, for example, is unopposed in the Democratic primary, but the Winthrop native will face Republican challenger -- former Winthrop Town Meeting Member Paul Caruccio -- in November.
Democrats already hold overwhelming majorities in the House and Senate. Republicans have been trying to chip away at those totals for years.
The lack of competition hasn't slowed the flow of fundraising dollars.
Some of those lawmakers running unopposed, like Stan Rosenberg, are also among those who collected the most in campaign donations from lobbyists this year, according to a recent Associated Press review of lobbyist donations.
Eight of the state's 11 district attorneys are also running unopposed this year, including Suffolk District Attorney Daniel Conley.
Among those district attorneys facing opposition is Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan, who was appointed to the post last year, filling the seat left vacant by the resignation of former Middlesex District Attorney Gerald Leone.
The Belmont resident will face off against fellow Democrat Michael Sullivan, who currently serves as Clerk of Courts of Middlesex Superior Court. Sullivan also served 14 years as a Cambridge city councilor.
Ryan has come under criticism recently for her office's handling of the domestic violence investigation in the Jared Remy case. A report requested by Ryan found prosecutors poorly handled the assault allegations against Remy, including failing to adequately consider his history of domestic violence.
Remy was arrested Aug. 13 after he allegedly pushed girlfriend Jennifer Martel into a mirror. He was released on his own recognizance Aug. 14 and stabbed her to death at their apartment the next day. He pleaded guilty Tuesday to first-degree murder.
Cape and Islands District Attorney Michael O'Keefe, a Republican, is facing a challenge from former Barnstable Town Councilor Richard Barr, a Democrat.
And there are four Democratic candidates hoping to fill the seat currently held by Hampden District Attorney Mark Mastroianni, who is not seeking re-election. No Republicans are running for the office.
Senator Stanley Rosenberg’s close ties to a public affairs firm, through his partner, Bryon Hefner (right), add a layer of complexity to his attendance at events held by Regan Communications or any of its clients. AP/File (left)
"Partner’s role complicates Rosenberg’s dealings"
By Jim O’Sullivan and Frank Phillips, Boston Globe Staff, December 20, 2014
In October, five months after his domestic partner started working at a Boston public relations powerhouse, the presumptive next president of the state Senate journeyed far outside his district to visit one of his partner’s clients, promoting the visit on social media.
Earlier this month, two days after reassuring his colleagues that he had imposed a “firewall” between his personal life and the business of the Senate, Stanley C. Rosenberg led a group of five lawmakers to a state government conference at a luxury beachfront hotel on St. Thomas. And his partner, Bryon Hefner, accompanied him.
The two instances illustrate the difficulty Rosenberg faces in keeping separate the Senate presidency he is poised to assume next month and his relationship with Hefner, who angered senators earlier this year by apparently taunting outgoing Senate President Therese Murray on Twitter and boasting of his influence over legislative affairs.
Heightening the complexity is the fact that Hefner, 27, was in the employ of the Regan Communications public affairs firm — which markets its ability to “help clients build stronger relationships with key lawmakers on the local, state and federal levels through successful lobbying efforts” — while he was discussing with senators their potential committee assignments under a Rosenberg presidency, and his potential influence over them, according to Senate insiders.
Rosenberg, 65, has sought to reassure colleagues that Hefner’s meddlesome behavior has come to an end. But, even in St. Thomas at the Frenchman’s Reef & Morning Star resort, the tension over that and other issues flared up during a tense confrontation between Hefner and another senator over internal Senate politics.
The incoming state Senate president’s partner allegedly mocked Therese Murray on Twitter and boasted about his influence.
Hefner and Senator Jennifer L. Flanagan, a Leominster Democrat who attended the conference with her boyfriend, sparred over Hefner’s past activities at a dinner that Rosenberg and another senator, Democrat Marc Pacheco of Taunton, attended, according to people familiar with the exchange. Various accounts have emerged, but the Globe has been told by a person with knowledge of the event that it got so heated that Hefner abruptly left the conversation.
It is common for significant others and lobbyists to attend legislative conferences, but Hefner’s dual role is unusual.
Rosenberg’s chief of staff, Natasha Perez, contested the Globe’s reporting about the incident.
“I have spoken with both Senator Pacheco and Senator Flanagan who confirm that no Senate business was discussed,” Perez said in an e-mail. “Any claim to the contrary is not true.”
Pacheco, who had not responded to requests for comment until prompted by Rosenberg aides, said he was not party to the exchange between Flanagan and Hefner. Pacheco said he was engaged in another conversation with Rosenberg at the time, but saw Hefner leave the table.
“They were having a conversation going back and forth,” Pacheco said in a phone interview. “I wasn’t paying attention.”
Hefner paid for his own airfare to the conference and a share of his lodging, Perez said.
Another incident, involving a visit by Rosenberg, also involves ties to Hefner’s employer.
The October visit to Randolph Engineering, a sunglasses manufacturer, put Rosenberg in the Senate district of Senator Brian A. Joyce, a Milton Democrat and someone who backed Rosenberg last year as he worked to cobble together the votes to secure the presidency. From his Twitter account, Rosenberg celebrated a “great time” at the facility and a chance “to learn about the needs of mid-sized businesses!”
More than a year earlier, in June 2013, Randolph Engineering, which received funds from the state in 2012 and 2013, had announced that it had hired Regan Communications to handle its PR work. Regan hired Hefner, who had previously worked as chairman of Rosenberg’s political committee, in May of this year.
Rosenberg aides said the senator was invited to visit the company by Joyce. They said Rosenberg did not know that Hefner was part of the Regan Communications team working on the Randolph Engineering account.
The event was not listed on Rosenberg’s official public schedule.
Also in October, Rosenberg attended a Boston Harbor cruise, sponsored by Regan Communications, aboard the Elite II. In a photo printed in the December edition of Coastal Angler magazine, a fishing publication, Rosenberg is shown smiling in a photo with George Regan, owner of the public relations firm, his arm around Rosenberg’s shoulder. Regan is also publisher of the magazine’s Boston edition.
Like the Randolph visit, the cruise was not listed on the senator’s schedule.
The presence of a politician, particularly one as prominent and evidently ascendant as Rosenberg, at a business-related event can add buzz and help depict the business as politically connected. Such appearances are not unusual for politicians to make.
But Rosenberg’s close ties to Regan, through Hefner, add a layer of complexity to his attendance at events sponsored by the firm or with any of Regan’s clients. Especially when that attendance is then broadcast in a publication that advertises Regan’s influence.
In an e-mailed statement, Perez said that Rosenberg “certainly has not referred anyone” to Regan or “any other firm.”
The Amherst Democrat attended the cruise because it was a social event to which partners were invited, she said.
State law prohibits public officials from acting in a way that would “cause a reasonable person” to conclude that “kinship, rank, position, or undue influence of any party or person” could improperly influence their official actions.
Rosenberg has so far withstood the political turmoil that enveloped him after the revelations about Hefner’s interference. Several senators have spoken out publicly in support of Rosenberg, reaffirming their intention to vote for him when the Senate leadership vote takes place in January.
Neither Regan nor anyone at his firm has been registered as a lobbyist in Massachusetts since 2010, according to state records, despite the company’s marketing of its “lobbying efforts.” Therefore, interactions between Regan and Rosenberg would not be subject to special laws passed to curb the influence of lobbyists and special interests on Beacon Hill.
A Regan spokeswoman said the agency does not directly lobby. If a client requires lobbying, Regan outsources the work, said the spokeswoman, Mariellen Burns.
“We have the highest ethical standards, and this is not a problem,” Burns said.
After the Globe reported earlier this month that Hefner had boasted of his influence over key Senate personnel decisions, Rosenberg sent a Dec. 3 letter to other senators assuring them that he had “enforced a firewall” between his job and his personal life.
He and Hefner left for St. Thomas on Dec. 5, according to people with knowledge of the trip.
Rosenberg told the Globe last month that his relationship with Hefner helped him publicly disclose his sexual orientation. The two also share a bond related to their shared background as foster children, and Hefner helped Rosenberg battle and recover from cancer.
"Company reassigns partner of legislator"
By Derek J. Anderson, Boston Globe Correspondent, December 21, 2014
After weeks of scrutiny on the relationship between presumptive state Senate president Stanley C. Rosenberg and his domestic partner, who works for the prominent Boston public relations firm Regan Communications Group, Bryon Hefner has been reassigned to the company’s Florida office, according to a statement Saturday from the firm.
Rosenberg, 65, has attempted to put out numerous fires that have been sparked in the past several weeks by blurred lines between the professional and personal lives of the senator and Hefner, 27.
Regan Communications markets its ability to “help clients build stronger relationships with key lawmakers on the local, state, and federal levels through successful lobbying efforts.”
A spokeswoman at Regan Communications said in a brief e-mailed statement that Hefner will be working with clients in Florida but gave no details. “We have reassigned Bryon Hefner; he will be relocating to our Florida office and working on our clients in that region,” said Mariellen Burns.
When asked for clarification about the reassignment, Burns replied by e-mail Saturday night that Hefner’s move is a lateral one and that his workload will be similar.
According to the Regan website, the Florida branch is in the town of Jupiter.
Rosenberg and Hefner could not be reached for comment Saturday evening.
Hefner, who began working for Regan in May, has angered state senators with apparent boasts about his influence in legislative matters and taunts to outgoing Senate President Therese Murray through social media.
Hefner and Rosenberg’s relationship has been highly criticized despite the lawmaker’s repeated comments that Hefner’s inappropriate behavior and actions had been ended.
Earlier this month, Rosenberg said he had “enforced a firewall” between his business life and personal life.
After the Globe reported the accusations of Hefner’s social media mockery of Murray, Rosenberg sent a letter to the other 33 Democratic state senators to assure them of the separation of work and personal life. Rosenberg, a Democrat from Amherst, retained support from some lawmakers after the letters went out.
Rosenberg and Hefner have lived together since 2009, and the senator previously said “we are in a deeply committed relationship.”
On Saturday, the Globe reported that Rosenberg went on a trip early this month to a state government conference with five other lawmakers at a luxury beachfront hotel on St. Thomas. Hefner also attended, even after the senator had assured co-workers that he was keeping his relationship and work separate two days prior.
Rosenberg’s chief of staff, Natasha Perez, said in that report that “no Senate business was discussed” during the trip to St. Thomas. “Any claim to the contrary is not true,” she told the Globe in an e-mail.
However, accounts of an argument in the resort at St. Thomas between Hefner and another senator over internal Senate politics were reported in that story.
Rosenberg’s close ties to Regan, through Hefner, add a layer of complexity to his attendance at firm-sponsored events or events with any of Regan’s clients.
But Perez said in the Saturday story that the senator “certainly has not referred anyone” to Regan or “any other firm.”
Regan Communications Group does not directly lobby, according to Burns, who said in the Saturday story that if a client needs lobbying, Regan will outsource the work. “We have the highest ethical standards, and this is not a problem,” Burns said.
Amidst the criticism, Rosenberg told the Globe last month that Hefner had helped him through his recovery from cancer. Their relationship also helped Rosenberg come out to the public about his sexual orientation.
December 21, 2014
Re: Stan Rosenberg's private life v. insider politics
The Boston Globe Editorial Idiots and their news reporters have been publishing daily stories about State Senator Stan Rosenberg's homosexual relationship with a man 38 years younger than him, whose name is Bryon Hefner. Both Stan Rosenberg and his partner are both homosexual and former foster care children who have bonded in a relationship since 2009. Stan Rosenberg is also a Jewish man and a cancer survivor.
Next month, Stan Rosenberg has anointed himself to be the next President of the Massachusetts State Senate. But his partner Bryon Hefner, who work at a public relations firm, posted controversial political statements against outgoing State Senate President Therese Murray, which upset the political establishment on Beacon Hill. Stan Rosenberg said he would separate his private life with Bryon Hefner from his public life in Massachusetts politics. Thus far, it has proven difficult for Stan Rosenberg to not allow his private life to impact his public life.
I find the Boston Globe's news reports on Stan Rosenberg to be overdone and calling into question Stan Rosenberg's ability to lead. The Globe wants there to be a conflict of interest claim, and for Stan Rosenberg to be replaced by a new candidate for State Senate President. I believe the Globe is off base. Stan Rosenberg's private life has no impact on his public life. Stan Rosenberg has done nothing wrong and he has not broken any laws.
I don't believe that Stan Rosenberg or anyone else should be anointed to any political office because we live in a democracy. He said he was going to be the next President of the State Senate in 2013. He ran unopposed for State Senator in 2014. There is no regard for the democratic process in Massachusetts politics!
I have criticisms of Stan Rosenberg's public record, including him being the point man for casino gambling in Massachusetts. The people should know that gambling is a form of regressive taxation. Gambling redistributes money from the working class to the wealthy. The people who gamble are least able to afford to buy lottery tickets, play slot machines, or table games. Stan Rosenberg says he is a progressive liberal politician, yet he is financially screwing the working class.
Stan Rosenberg opposes referenda. He wants people like himself, who run unopposed for re-election and anoint themselves to "leadership" positions two years prior to the selection, to make all the policy decisions in state government. It is true that when a referendum ballot initiative is put before voters, there is a lot of special interest money spent by each side to sway voters. But the same is true for unopposed candidates incumbents running for re-election.
Stan Rosenberg is a career politician who has served nearly 30 years on Beacon Hill's State House and Senate. He is an institution now. Why would anyone make such a long career in state government politics? Why not allow new blood and fresh voices and viewpoints? Stan Rosenberg may be a case for term limits.
During Stan Rosenber's tenure in the Massachusetts Legislature, there has been drastic cuts in state aid to cities and towns, the "Big Dig" is the single most expensive public works project in U.S. History, and Massachusetts is the number one per capita debtor state government in the nation.
I don't believe Stan Rosenberg is a good leader. I wouldn't vote for him. I wouldn't support him to be the next President of the Massachusetts State Senate. But, it isn't because of his private life. It is because he is part of the problem on Beacon Hill's State House and Senate!
- Jonathan Melle
"Rosenberg’s partner quits job at communications firm"
By Frank PhillipsGlobe Staff December 22, 2014
In a sudden shift from an announcement over the weekend that he would remain on the job, the domestic partner of presumptive Senate President Stanley C. Rosenberg abruptly resigned Monday from his position at a politically connected Boston communications firm.
Bryon Hefner, in an email statement to the Globe, blamed the newspaper for driving him out of his job working as a public relations executive for Regan Communications.
Late Saturday, the Regan firm, which lures clients with promises to build relationships for them with Beacon Hill lawmakers and help them with lobbying, had said it was reassigning Hefner from its Boston headquarters to its Florida office.
“The Boston Globe has rejected my transfer to Florida, identifying it as ‘not being far enough away’ if I am still in a relationship with my partner of over six years,’’ Hefner wrote. “The Boston Globe has forced me, just days before Christmas, to choose between my personal and professional life.’’
It was not immediately clear what Hefner was referring to when he wrote that the newspaper had “rejected” the Florida move.
Hefner’s decision follows several stories in which the Globe detailed how Hefner, using his close relationship with Rosenberg, involved himself in internal Senate business and politics. His activities included talking with senators about key committee assignments and leadership jobs. He also taunted outgoing Senate President Therese Murray through social media.
Earlier this month, when asked about the blurred lines, Rosenberg told the newspaper that he had built a “firewall” between Hefner and Senate business. He defended Hefner, saying their relationship meant a great deal to him and that the 27-year old had persuaded him to publicly declare his sexual orientation.
“The Boston Globe may have stalled my career, but they have failed to break apart our family,’’ Hefner said in his statement.
Hefner also praises the Regan firm, saying its “loyalty throughout this unprecedented ordeal has been unwavering.”
George Regan, the firm’s chairman and CEO, said he would have no comment on Hefner’s resignation or the potential conflict issues that his employment at the firm raised.
"New Senate leader would roll up firsts"
The Berkshire Eagle, Editorial, 1/4/2015
If the vote goes as expected, Stanley Rosenberg, a Democrat from Amherst, will become the new president of the Massachusetts Senate this week. That would constitute a variety of firsts.
Mr. Rosenberg would be the first openly gay leader of a branch of the state legislature as well as the first Jewish one. Those are no less dramatic firsts than his being the first leader to come from Western Massachusetts. Senate presidents and House speakers traditionally come from Boston or communities surrounding the city.
Mr. Rosenberg is poised to succeed the retiring Therese Murray, who was seen in the Berkshires during her tenure about as often as penguins are. Her predecessor, Thomas Birmingham, was a regular visitor to the county — in part because he and his family were avid skiers. With his western roots, Mr. Rosenberg should be expected to take a more active interest in the county than his predecessor.
It appears that Mr. Rosenberg has successfully deflated a potential scandal that erupted last month. Bryon Hefner, Mr. Rosenberg's domestic partner, posted tweets mocking Ms. Murray, and more significantly, had boasted about his influence on legislative actions and appointments, according to a report in The Boston Globe. Mr. Rosenberg responded with a letter to lawmakers asserting that there was a "firewall" between his private and public lives.
Mr. Hefner's employer, the politically influential Boston public relations firm Regan Communications, subsequently transferred Mr. Hefner to its Florida branch. Mr. Hefner then resigned from the firm, blaming the Boston Globe for the controversy.
Mr. Rosenberg will soon choose his leadership team, and ideally state Senator Benjamin Downing of Pittsfield, who has emerged as a prominent Senate member, will play a significant role in the new Senate. Eastern leaders are loyal to their colleagues and it should be no different with a Western leader in charge.
"Senate prez blasts Deval Patrick on pay raises"
By Matt Stout, The Boston Herald, January 9, 2015
Ex-Gov. Deval Patrick’s parting decision to freeze legislative salaries had Senate President Stanley Rosenberg steaming yesterday and raised the potential that lawmakers could try to push a still-undetermined package aimed at state official salaries.
Rosenberg said he “vehemently” disagreed with Patrick’s decision, after a special commission’s recent recommendation of a new method it said would have scored the Legislature its first raise in six years.
“I’m extremely disappointed with that decision,” Rosenberg said. “We have a commission that he helped name that contained economists, academic economists, a former head of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, and they looked to identify a fair way of determining what the increase or decrease in median family income was. They came up with an answer, and it was ignored.
“So when a new idea comes to the table and it conflicts with the old idea, that means you dismiss it?” he said. “I don’t understand that thinking. ... I disagree vehemently with his decision.”
Lawmakers haven’t received a raise since 2009, and Patrick ordered cuts of one-half percent and 1.8 percent the last two legislative cycles. Patrick said he made his decision with “regret” and said he did not want to change the biennial adjustment process without the Legislature approving the newly recommended methodology.
House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo said it was Patrick’s “prerogative,” but added compensation is “going to be one of the topics that members are going to talk about.” DeLeo said he is concerned about losing talented lawmakers.
Gov. Charlie Baker, Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senate President Stan Rosenberg speak to the press after their first meeting since Baker took office on Jan. 12, 2015. (Shira Schoenberg/The [Springfield] Republican)
January 12, 2015
Re: Stan Rosenberg said: "All options are on the table"
I went to my gym in Nashua, NH, this evening to exercise, and on one of the televisions was Senate President Stan Rosenberg saying that "all options are on the table" to close an approximately one-half billion dollar budget deficit. I find his leadership to be unconscionable and the opposite of what I would do if I were a Beacon Hill powerbroker. Since the late-1990's, politicians like Stan Rosenberg have made drastic cuts to local aid by about 40 percent! The state government in Massachusetts is balancing its financial books off of the backs of their municipalities. What is most striking is that a majority of western Massachusetts communities, which is where Stan Rosenberg comes from, depend on local aid to fund its basic public services. Stan Rosenberg also made an indirect swipe at former Governor Deval Patrick because Gov. Patrick didn't have a positive relationship with the Legislature. I say: Good for Governor Deval Patrick! If I was Governor of Massachusetts, I would spend my days telling the Legislature that they are a bunch of insider, corrupt powerbrokers! The Boston Herald recently reported that Stan Rosenberg was upset with Governor Deval Patrick because Gov. Patrick didn't give the Legislature/powerbrokers a pay raise. Again, I say good for Governor Deval Patrick! If I was Governor of Massachusetts, I would never give the Legislature a pay raise. But, I would cut their pay every year to send them a message that they are a bunch of insider, corrupt powerbrokers! I wish powerbrokers like Stan Rosenberg took a long look in the proverbial mirror when looking at the approximately one-half billion dollar budget deficit they created. Stan Rosenberg has been in the Legislature for nearly 3 decades, and the state government he managed is in a financial mess!
- Jonathan Melle
Senate President Stanley Rosenberg, center, and House Speaker Robert DeLeo, right, spoke to reporters with Governor Charlie Baker (left). Steven Senne/Associated Press.
"Another Beacon Hill pay raise deal goes nowhere"
By Frank Phillips, The Boston Globe, February 26, 2015
On Beacon Hill, everything almost inevitably comes back to pay hikes. And, just as often, some hard feelings.
The latest episode involved a move to raise the pay for some House committee leaders. The plan blew up when Senate president Stan Rosenberg found out he wasn’t getting House Speaker Robert DeLeo’s support for his proposal to give the Senate more power to determine the fate of its bills.
The issues collided when DeLeo wanted Rosenberg’s commitment to approve legislation to double — to $15,000 — the extra pay given to the chairmen of three committees: Judiciary, Education, and Transportation. The plan also called for $7,500 stipends for a handful of committee vice chairs.
DeLeo’s argument was that the workload for those three committees was far too much to attract lawmakers to want to chair them with just the current $7,500 in extra pay added to their $61,133 annual base salary. Rosenberg, just a month into office, was not about to ask his colleagues to take a vote on a legislative pay hikes.
“No one is willing to take that fight on,’’ said one top Democratic lawmaker.
DeLeo insists he never linked the pay issue to the Senate rules changes. He says he opposes Rosenberg’s proposal because it requires hiring scores of new staff for the new Senate committees that Rosenberg wants to create.
“Speaker DeLeo never raised, nor would he consider, a proposal linking salary increases to the Senate plan on joint committees or any other legislative action,’’ said DeLeo spokesman Seth Gitell. “The Senate proposal on joint committees is completely unacceptable.”
The grappling left some hard feelings between the two branches and the leadership. Rosenberg’s decision to suddenly turn and walk away left his House counterparts flummoxed, an inauspicious beginning for a relationship that is traditionally fraught with tension and ruptures. The kerfuffle delayed DeLeo’s release of his committee assignments in order to avoid the conflict of interest law that would, according to some legal experts, have prohibited any incumbent chairman or vice chair from taking a raise in their extra pay during this newly convened two-year legislative session.
“There was some bad communication; it was mishandled,’’ said the legislator.
March 20, 2015
Re: Massachusetts municipal conference this Saturday morning, March 21st 
The Massachusetts state government is facing a recurring billion dollar plus budget deficit next fiscal year, beginning on July 1, 2015. State Senate President Stan Rosenberg is hosting a municipal conference in Northampton this Saturday, March 21st, 2015 with remarks by the new Attorney General Maura Healey and the new Lt. Governor Karyn Polito.
I hope these state government officials do not tell their local government counterparts that they are going to fully fund state aid to cities and towns when they won't be able to do so. Beacon Hill won't raise state government taxes, which will force the hand of municipalities to make up the difference by recurring regressive local tax hikes.
- Jonathan Melle
"Stanley Rosenberg to host municipal conference in Northampton featuring Attorney General Maura Healey and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito"
By The Daily Hampshire Gazette Staff, March 20, 2015
NORTHAMPTON — The annual Hampshire & Franklin Municipal Conference hosted by state Senate President Stanley Rosenberg of Amherst on Saturday will include remarks by Attorney General Maura Healey and Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito.
The conference will be held from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at the Clarion Hotel and Conference Center at 1 Atwood Drive in Northampton and will include sessions on broadband, transportation financing, emergency management and local budgeting.
Healey will discuss the state Open Meeting Law at 9 a.m. and Polito will deliver the keynote address at 12:15 p.m. Those remarks will be broadcast live on the Frontier Community Access Television website at www.fcat.tv. Northampton Community Television and Greenfield Community Television will have a live stream available on their websites at www.northamptontv.org and www.gctv.org, respectively.
The conference is also hosted by the Hampshire Council of Governments and the Franklin Regional Council of Governments.
Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito will officiate the wedding of state Senate President Stanley Rosenberg (right). AP/File
"Karyn Polito to officiate Senate president’s wedding"
By Frank Phillips, Boston Globe Staff, March 31, 2015
Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito, who a decade ago was one of the leading Republican lawmakers seeking to ban gay marriage, will officiate at state Senate President Stanley Rosenberg’s wedding to his domestic partner, according to people with knowledge of her decision.
Rosenberg, a liberal Democrat, is scheduled to marry Bryon Hefner, his longtime partner, at a ceremony in Amherst on April 19 , according to an online wedding registry.
Polito’s role in the ceremony marks a further statement by her that she has cut her ties to the socially conservative wing of the Republican Party, a base she used to win elections as a state representative from her Shrewsbury-area district and for her campaign for state treasurer in 2010.
As recently as several years ago, she allied herself with anti-gay activist Brian Camenker and spoke glowingly of former congressman Allen West, another strong opponent of gay marriage. When the Supreme Judicial Court legalized gay marriage in 2003, Polito consistently voted in the Legislature for constitutional bans that would have overruled the justices’ decisions.
Her conversion seems to have come in 2013 when Charlie Baker, then the leading candidate for the GOP nomination for governor, asked her to join him on his ticket. One of the conditions imposed by Baker, a strong proponent of gay marriage, was that she soften her stance on her opposition to same-sex unions.
The lieutenant governor was once a reliable, even enthusiastic, opponent of same-sex marriage — then she joined the Baker ticket.
Polito declined to comment Tuesday, referring questions about her role in the Rosenberg-Hefner marriage to the Senate president. Rosenberg’s press aide Pete Wilson could not immediately confirm the date of the wedding or Polito’s involvement.
Hefner’s relationship with Rosenberg has been controversial. Hefner was accused of meddling in the affairs of the Senate, according Globe stories late last fall. At the same time, he was employed by a Boston public affairs firm, Regan Communications public affairs Associates, which markets its ability “help clients build strong relationships with key lawmakers.”
Hefner blamed the publicity for his decision to resign his position.
Frank Phillips can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stanley Rosenberg says Bryon Hefner (right) helped him fight cancer. AP/File (left)
"EITC helps the working middle class"
By Stanley C. Rosenberg, Op-Ed, The Boston Globe, July 13, 2015
The state Legislature last week took an important step toward reducing income inequality by voting to increase the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit — a tax benefit for those making $50,000 or less — for the first time since the credit was created 18 years ago.
As an original coauthor of the EITC back in 1997, I had a personal interest in seeing the 415,000 EITC recipients finally get an even larger reward for working hard to keep their families afloat. And with Governor Baker embracing the idea during last fall’s campaign, it seems that we can make this a law.
The long overdue increase has taken on new urgency, given the growing levels of inequality, especially in Massachusetts. In one recent report, Boston had the third highest rate of income inequality among the nation’s 50 biggest cities. Several other studies have ranked our state among the top 10 in income inequality.
The paychecks of too many Massachusetts workers have fallen behind. This erodes the foundation of a strong economy, a healthy middle class, and it saps the belief that our state is a place where hard work and persistence can lead to a better life.
Increasing the EITC fosters the strength of hard-working families. According to the Massachusetts Center for Budget and Policy, the federal EITC and the federal Child Tax Credit combined to lift 9.4 million Americans out of poverty in 2013, five million of them children. In Massachusetts, these two federal tax credits — even without figuring in the state’s separate EITC — combined to help keep roughly 74,000 Massachusetts children out of poverty.
Researchers have also found other benefits. EITC participation improved the health of children and boosted educational performance, which in turn, helped these kids earn more as adults, save more for retirement, and increase their social security benefits.
Our plan doubles down on those positive social outcomes by increasing the state’s version of the EITC by more than 50 percent. With our legislation, a family that qualifies for the maximum EITC will get a tax break of more than $1,400 — not a small amount for those at or near the poverty line.
By rewarding people for work, we’re helping lower income residents advance in a broad array of social areas. This important policy balance is why liberals, conservatives, and moderates can all get behind this goal — it achieves both progressive tax ideals and meets important conservative principles, such as moving the poor off public assistance.
And most can get behind the responsible and equitable way we found the money to finance this increase: by closing a corporate tax loophole that would have cost the taxpayers $535 million over a seven-year period. Tax breaks for investment in Massachusetts often make sense, but this particular break allowed a handful of big companies to reduce the taxes on their profits – and with no guarantee that these savings would be put back into our Commonwealth.
With this EITC increase, the Legislature has taken an important step to reduce income inequality and reward those who doing their best to get ahead. We hope the governor signs the legislation. If he does, the winners will be not just those in lower income brackets. We will all profit from living in a state in which hard work is rewarded, taxes are more equitable, the working middle class gets a break, and our entire economy benefits.
Stanley C. Rosenberg is president of the Massachusetts Senate.
"Stanley Rosenberg can’t get no respect – but your money? Sure!"
By Howie Carr, Op-Ed, The Boston Herald, July 16, 2015
Senate President Stanley C. Rosenberg says he and his cronies at the State House are not getting enough “respect.”
What does he want — an extra $90 for every day he shows up on Beacon Hill? A $311-a-day write-off on his federal income taxes for every day the Senate is “in session?” And behind that, an 80 percent defined-benefit pension plan that people with real jobs in the Dreaded Private Sector can only dream of?
Oh, that’s right, Rosenberg’s already got all of the above, or soon will have. But apparently all that is not enough. He wants respect.
“We really don’t do a very good job of respecting public service in this state,” Rosenberg was saying Monday, talking about the proposed pay hike for the Governor’s Council.
“The bigger issue is, when people commit themselves to public service, should they be paid a reasonable wage? ... I think it’s fair game for us to debate.”
What exactly is “reasonable”? Rosenberg’s base pay is $102,279 a year.
Then there’s the “per diem” — his daily draw for driving to work, from Amherst, his legal domicile, even though he also owns a place in Boston. He gets about $90 for each day he files for it, and yes, it’s all on the honor system, wink wink nudge nudge.
Here is how much Rosenberg has collected in per diems over the past few years — in 2014 he got $6,420; in 2013, $12,840; in 2012, $7,620; in 2011, $7,380; and in 2010, $6,120.
That’s some commitment to public service.
Next we have the federal income tax write-off available to all legislators, state or federal, who live more than 50 miles from their capitals. This means you, Stanley. Are you taking the $311-a-day write-off for every day the Senate is in “session?”
Yes, he is. His spokesman confirmed it Tuesday.
So … if you don’t pay taxes, or only minimal taxes, on $102,000 in income, it’s more like … $150,000, pre-tax. Plus the per diems. What a burden Rosenberg bears!
Remember how more than a quarter-century ago, the Legislature raised state income taxes from 5 percent to 6.25 percent to deal with the Dukakis disaster.
As soon as the “emer-gency” was over, the rate was supposed to go back down to 5 percent — pinky promise!
That was 1989. Now it’s 2015, and the rate still isn’t 5 percent. It’s supposed to finally return to the old rate next year, due to a complex formula. But Rosenberg’s Senate last spring tried to stop the income tax rate from being cut to 5 percent. They wanted to keep grabbing the money that you worked for, to hand over to people who didn’t work for it. More welfare, in other words.
In the budget deliberations, the House and the governor won out over the Senate, and the income-tax rate will be coming down. But no thanks to Stan Rosenberg, who lusts to raise your taxes while paying practically none himself.
And he wonders why he gets no respect.
"Pay hike a sham"
The Boston Herald, Letters, July 17, 2015
It was very sneaky of the Legislature to slip into the budget a nearly 40 percent pay hike for the unnecessary Governor’s Council (“Pay hike discord arises,” July 14). Now state Senate President Stanley Rosenberg wants to use that raise to justify raises for himself and his fellow legislators, “given the level of responsibility” they have.
You certainly can fool some of the people all of the time. Unfortunately, a disproportionate amount of them live here in Massachusetts.
— Don Laffey, Brighton
"Pay hike for Governor's Council approved by Gov. Baker"
By Matt Stout, The Boston Herald, July 17, 2015
Gov. Charlie Baker opted to keep proposed $10,000 pay raises for the state's little-known governor's council, arguing that the pay hikes were "worth signing" as part of the $38.1 billion budget he inked today for this fiscal year.
But Baker -- who has for months signaled he was against salary hikes for himself or legislators -- said the decision isn't a sign he's softening on that stance despite a renewed push from Senate President Stanley Rosenberg that lawmakers also deserve a boost.
"I said I didn't support those and that continues to be my position," Baker said at a press conference unveiling his final budget decisions, which featured $162 million in vetoes, including $38 million aimed at legislative earmarks. "I do think the fact that the governor's council hasn't had a significant adjustment since 2000 ... that was 15 years ago. On some level, that seemed more reasonable."
The pay raises, which will bring the councilors' pay to $36,025 by Jan. 1, 2016, sparked cries from critics of the council, who say the Colonial-era vestige shouldn't only not get them but be disbanded as well. Its primary duties include vetting, and approving, judicial and other board nominees -- putting Baker in a position of deciding the pay of those who would determine his pick for crucial bench spots.
Baker said earlier this week that any decision would be made on its "merits," not appeasing his judicial gatekeepers.
The eight-person council last received a raise of $1,025 in 2006. Before that, its pay rose from $15,600 to $25,000 in 2000.
It handled a flurry of appointments in the waning months of former Gov. Deval Patrick's term, during which it approved nearly 60 judges and other positions in 2014 alone.
The council usually meets once weekly, but councilors say they often put in as many as 30 hours a week in vetting candidates, making phone calls and preparing for their public interviews of the nominees.
The pay raise measure was quietly slipped into the budget accord lawmakers approved last week.
As a whole, the budget Baker signed during a ceremony inside his office today is geared toward closing a $1.8 billion budget gap and putting in place many of his reforms to right the beleaguered MBTA.
Baker, along with Rosenberg and Speaker of the House Robert DeLeo, also announced a change in how they're paying for an increase to the earned income tax credit. Instead of axing a corporate tax deduction -- which has never been implemented but whose outright elimination sparked protests from business groups -- officials will now delay its implementation for five years.
“UMass HQ over the top”
Boston Herald, Letters, December 7, 2015
I am confused by the University of Massachusetts headquarters move to One Beacon Street in Boston (Nov. 27). The UMass system has buildings and campuses all over the state. There has to be some empty space at one of those locations. Why is it that companies (and our military) can squeeze in and make do with existing properties, but Marty Meehan & His Court need to be in imperial quarters?
Why not use the $3.15 million annual cost of rent to build a permanent UMass headquarters?
Beyond that, who makes these outrageous deals that give state school presidents all those perks and goodies?
— Malcolm C. King, Stoughton
Mass. State Senate President Stanley Rosenberg accepts the award for "Irish Person of the Year" Friday at the 15th annual Robert "Bees" Predergast St. Patrick's Reception hosted by Hillcrest Educational Centers at the Country Club of Pittsfield. (Stephanie Zollshan — The Berkshire Eagle | photos.berkshireeagle.com)
“Massachusetts Senate President Rosenberg named Irish Person of the Year”
By Jim Therrien, The Berkshire Eagle, March 18, 2016
PITTSFIELD - "I've been called a lot of things," quipped state Senate President Stanley Rosenberg, "but never Irish Person of the Year."
The Amherst Democrat, who is Jewish, was in Pittsfield on Friday to receive that honor during the 15th Robert "Bees" Prendergast St. Patrick's Reception — a major annual fundraising event for Hillcrest Education Centers programs.
Also honored was UNICO of Pittsfield, with the 2016 Judge John A. Barry Community Service Award.
A large crowd that filled to overflowing the main dining area at Country Club of Pittsfield also heard from a student in Hillcrest educational programs and his stepfather.
Introducing Rosenberg, Hillcrest Centers CEO Gerald Burke noted that the veteran lawmaker, like many children in the organization's programs, grew up in foster homes. But he overcame a difficult early life to be elected to the State House in 1986 and to the Senate in 1991.
As Rosenberg met with Hillcrest students before the event, Burke said he saw the young people "take a step back" upon realizing "that there was a man who could work his way through a system and work so hard that he becomes an incredible political advocate for kids and their rights. It's just an amazing story all the way around."
Burke praised Rosenberg's efforts on behalf of education and children, citing in particular his role in promoting the Kids First initiative, which seeks to identify innovative strategies for further investing in Massachusetts children.
Speaking of the initiative, Rosenberg said, "It is something that I wanted the people in the Berkshires to know we are embarking upon."
Noting that he had heard students in Hillcrest programs described as "resilient," Rosenberg added, "We want to raise resilient children who become productive adults."
He said Kids First seeks to replace a series of short-term programs for youth with a comprehensive approach from that "takes a long view" of what children need from prenatal care through the fourth grade in school.
It is important to understand that "those first eight years of the development of a child will determine the success of the rest of their lives," he said.
"Another thing I can tell you is that we will, eventually, get over being mad at Ben Downing," Rosenberg said, referring to the Pittsfield Democrat's decision not to seek another term in the Senate after five terms
"He is an amazing individual with extraordinary talents," Rosenberg said, "and he has contributed so much to this commonwealth in such a short period of time ... I want to tell you we will really, really miss him."
Downing also is a past recipient of the Irish Person of the Year Award.
Rosenberg said he was accepting the honor on behalf of the Legislature for every lawmaker's efforts in the face difficult challenges. "We take our responsibilities very seriously," he said, "and when you choose to honor any one of thus, you are honoring the [Legislature] as a whole, and the members therein."
He also asked those present to continue working cooperatively with lawmakers to allow them "to do the very best we can."
Accepting the Barry Community Service Aware on behalf of UNICO, Francis Marinaro, register of Berkshire Probate and Family Court, said he was honored in part because he knew Judge Barry and remembers he "had a presence second to none" while serving on the bench.
Marinaro added that members of UNICO, Hillcrest and other organizations "don't do the things we do because we want to be noticed. We do them because it is the right thing to do, because people in our community are struggling."
Mister Shaw, a student at Hillcrest, said he lost relatives in a fire as a child and had other experiences "that I couldn't let go of," which led to him continually acting out in school or in residential program placements. Eventually, he said, the people in his life that he cared about began to stay away "because of my actions."
Finally, he said, "I woke up one morning and said to myself that I wanted to be the best I can for myself and for others, and to show people I can really change," he said.
Shaw said he determine to change and found support from the staff, teachers, board members and others at Hillcrest, and from his stepfather Christopher Farmer, "to show people I could really change."
Farmer said he was immediately impressed upon seeing a video of Shaw in a promotion for foster parenting, and after learning more about the boy, he started visiting Hillcrest Centers last summer on a regular basis. Farmer said "the common theme" with all the children he met in the educational programs "was they were resilient, courageous and driven."
He also recognized several other boys in attendance who are students on the Hillcrest campus.
The Irish Person of the Year Award is named for the late Robert "Bees" Prendergast, a founding board member of Hillcrest Educational Centers.
Contact Jim Therrien at 413-496-6247. email@example.com @BE_therrien on Twitter.
“Senate ethics committee vows to release findings of Stan Rosenberg probe”
By Matt Stout, The Boston Herald, December 5, 2017
State senators on the chamber's ethics committee are now vowing to release a report on its investigation into Stanley Rosenberg, which could have an outside investigator hired within two weeks to dig into sexual misconduct allegations leveled against the embattled Democrat's husband.
The promise, delivered in a late-afternoon statement, came after committee chair, Sen. Michael Rodrigues, repeatedly declined to address whether an investigation report would be made public. The committee had hours earlier officially launched an investigation, a day after Stan Rosenberg took a leave of absence from his Senate President post.
"We unanimously agree that it is the intention of this committee to release the report of the independent investigator," the committee's statement read, with senators noting they intend to "maintain the confidential identity" of any who speaks to the investigators.
The six-member committee added that it intends to select the investigator "within the next two weeks."
The process' transparency has been in question, with Gov. Charlie Baker saying earlier this afternoon that a "general sense of the findings" should at least be released. He also said he hoped Senators would have an investigator in place by this week.
Sen. Bruce Tarr, a committee member and the GOP's minority leader, had pushed for the report's release during a rare public setting of the committee.
"I believe other members of the committee, if not the entire committee would support this," Tarr said.
Rodrigues, the committee's chair, said he's mindful that the senators must earn the public's trust, but he did not address whether he supports releasing the investigator's findings. He also did not answer a reporter's question about his position after senators voted to close the meeting to the public after about nine minutes. A court officer then removed the gathered press from the fourth-floor conference room.
"I will, with the full support of the entire ethics committee, update the public on relevant and important actions," Rodrigues, reading from a statement, said before closing the meeting. "But (I will) not issue any comments once the investigator is retained.
"Once the investigation is completed, it will be the responsibility of this committee to take appropriate action," he added.
Sen. William Brownsberger, calling this a "rather unique" probe given its focus on Stan Rosenberg, urged victims to feel free to come forward to the investigator without fear of retaliation.
"To the extent there's conflict between the issue of transparency and the confidentiality needs of a victim, that's going to be resolved in favor of the confidentiality needs of the victim," he said.
The probe will hone in on whether Stan Rosenberg violated any Senate rules in the wake of the allegations that Stan Rosenberg's husband, Bryon Hefner, sexually assaulted or harassed four men while boasting of his influence inside Rosenberg's powerful office.
Stan Rosenberg has said he had placed a "firewall" between Hefner and the Senate after his husband had previously bragged about the sway he held over the body's business through Stan Rosenberg, stoking concerns among members.
The sexual misconduct allegations, detailed in a Boston Globe report last week, cast doubt on that assertion, as all four men either worked in Beacon Hill circles or had business before the chamber.
Questions of the probe's transparency -- and impartiality -- has circulated through the State House since the Senate indicated last week it would launch an internal investigation. Stan Rosenberg himself appointed Rodrigues to his post atop the ethics committee, a body that has historically shielded its inner-workings.
Acting Senate President Harriette Chandler told reporters last night she will "absolutely" push for the report to be public. "It is subject to the Senate ethics committee," she told reporters of the decision, "but I would hope that they -- and perhaps with your help -- will make it public."
Sen. Jason Lewis, a Winchester Democrat, said today he also believes it will be public, but said that decision will "rightly be made" by the committee members.
"I think this process should be as transparent as possible," Lewis said. "I think the public can absolutely trust the process."
The Senate has not detailed how much it's prepared to spend on the investigation or how long it will take.
Stan Rosenberg said he was stepping away from his post for the duration of the probe, leaving open the possibility of him returning to the perch. The Senate last night voted to name Chandler, the majority leader and Stan Rosenberg's top deputy, as his replacement.
Stan Rosenberg’s “ethics” episode concerning his young husband’s alleged sexual misconduct relating to State Senate influence is, indeed, a political matter. I have read many editorial essays stating there will be no retribution against the alleged victims who complain to investigators. I totally disagree!
Politics is only about power (and money). Whenever I complained or spoke out about politics over the years, someone always retaliated against me. Politicians want two things: Power and Money! If someone stands in their way, then watch out! You will lose your job. You will be subject to vicious rumors. You will be blacklisted. You may even have to move out of town.
Massachusetts does not have a real democracy! A great majority of state and local politicians are incumbents. Stan Rosenberg has been a Beacon Hill political hack for over 3 decades. When there is an “election”, it is non-competitive. Political hacks like “Smitty” Pignatelli have decades long job security as long as they follow orders like bureaucrats.
Stan Rosenberg is facing an “ethics” investigation. If it is really about justice, then I expect there will be retaliations and retributions against those who fight the good fight. However, I predict it will be a “show trial” where Stan Rosenberg will come out smelling like a rose! What a joke!
- Jonathan Melle
I published the following letter to the editor of The Boston Herald today.
“Mass. a one-party state”
Letter to the Editor of The Boston Herald, December 19, 2017
The ethics investigation concerning Senate President Stan Rosenberg’s husband and his alleged sexual misconduct is, indeed, about power and State House influence (“Scandal goes further than sex,” Dec. 2). The deeper problem is that Massachusetts does not have a real democracy. Most politicians running for re-election are incumbents. Rosenberg has been a Beacon Hill hack for three decades. Too many elections are noncompetitive.
— Jonathan A. Melle, Amherst, N.H.
“Mr. Rosenberg, it's time to step down”
The Lowell Sun, Editorial, 1/15/2018
Former Massachusetts Senate President Stanley Rosenberg isn't doing himself, citizens or the Legislature any favors. The Amherst Democrat is creating the impression that he can simply walk back into his leadership role once an Ethics Commission investigation is concluded and he is absolved of any wrongdoing.
The ethics panel is looking into accusations against Rosenberg's husband, Bryon Hefner, who allegedly sexually harassed, kissed and groped four men with business before the Legislature and boasted to them that he had influence over Senate policy decisions.
Rosenberg has denied any knowledge of Hefner's influence-peddling actions and that they impacted his legislative decisions.
Fine. We hope that's true.
But it doesn't absolve Rosenberg from an overall lack of good judgment and the damage it has caused the Senate.
Rosenberg stepped down from his leadership role when it became clear the ethics probe was necessary. But only on an interim basis. He is serving as a rank-and-file senator until the ethics panel concludes its business.
Democrat Harriette Chandler, 80, is now acting Senate President. She has stated publicly that she has no interest in holding the post permanently.
And every day that goes by without the Senate's 33 Democrats and seven Republicans casting a vote on the Chamber's future, it appears more likely that Rosenberg might return to power. It's as if nothing has changed. Yet a lot has changed -- and none of it good.
The Senate is in chaos, with two major investigations now under way. In addition to the Hefner probe, the U.S. Attorney's Office has indicted former Senator Brian Joyce on 133 counts of bribery, kickbacks, and money-laundering while he served in the Legislature.
If Rosenberg himself doesn't realize that the Senate needs a new leader and direction, it proves his lack of judgment; he is willing to condemn the body to a sullied standard. It's business as usual, for real.
Last week, Rosenberg announced his separation from his husband who is in a substance abuse treatment center. It's a personal decision, for sure, but it doesn't distance Rosenberg from what he should have known about Hefner's alleged misconduct and thirst for political intrigue. After The Boston Globe raised concerns about Hefner's antics nearly three years ago, Rosenberg promised a "firewall" between the Senate and Hefner before he assumed the presidency in 2015. Apparently, It didn't work -- or Rosenberg refused to acknowledge the rumors circulating at the State House about Hefner's sordid behavior.
It's an illusion that Rosenberg can return to his Senate President's post. He might eventually be cleared of any wrongdoing, but he's up to his ears in the taint from his husband's scandal. The very thought that Rosenberg can return to his leadership role in the future places a chilling effect on individuals yet to speak to investigators and any other victims who might be out there. Why would they talk openly if they know they could face possible retaliation on Rosenberg's return to power?
If Stanley Rosenberg truly cares about all parties involved -- and his esteemed Senate -- he would do the right thing immediately: announce unequivocally that he is giving up his president's post and calling for a new leader to be elected.