Election Results:Gov Charlie Baker Re-Elected Statewide, but Chelsea Goes for Gonzalez

Election Results:Gov Charlie Baker Re-Elected Statewide, but Chelsea Goes for Gonzalez

While Gov. Charlie Baker cruised to re-election statewide with 67 percent of the vote, he barely made any traction in Chelsea this time around.

Though former City Manager Jay Ash is a key member of his cabinet once again, the Republican Baker didn’t seem to get much support in Chelsea over Democratic candidate Jay Gonzalez.

In Chelsea, 3,350 people voted for Gonzalez, while 3,115 voted for Baker – a sharp contrast to the statewide results.

During his victory party at the Hynes Convention Center in the Back Bay, he said his administration will continue to build bi-partisan relationships to tackle the tough issues.

“The people of Massachusetts elected us four years ago to bring fiscal discipline, a reform minded approach to governing, and a commitment to bipartisanship to state government,” he said. “We have done just that. Every single day. And today, the voters have spoken. They like what we are doing and they appreciate the way we work. So here’s the good news. That collaborative, purposeful and humble approach to governing is exactly what you are going to get from us and from our team for the next four years. Non-stop. Let’s rock.”

  • While governor made the headlines, the most active voting took place on the ballot questions, particularly Question 1 that focused on mandated nurse staffing ratios. The question was defeated easily statewide, and in Chelsea it was also defeated with 67 percent of the vote.

Question 2 won with 70 percent of the vote, and Question 3 to uphold the transgender rights bill passed locally with 68 percent of the vote.

  • For District Attorney, Rachael Rollins won big citywide and in Chelsea over Mike Maloney. Rollins, who has held great popularity in Chelsea, had been a controversial candidate in submitting a “list” of crimes she would decline to prosecute during the campaign last summer. That “list” had gotten a lot of attention after the September primary victory, and she has spent most of the last month explaining the plan – which would essentially divert resources from smaller, quality-of-life crimes to investigate larger crimes like homicide, rape and aggravate assaults.

In Chelsea, Rollins got 4,812 votes to Maloney’s 1,169.

On Tuesday night, Rollins’ said her election reflects a widespread demand for change in a criminal justice system that for too long has not worked fairly for everyone. Rollins has promised to bring new solutions to the office that will break down wealth and racial disparities, keep communities safe and treat all people with dignity and respect.

“I am humbled by the trust the voters have placed in me to serve as Suffolk County’s next District Attorney,” said Rollins. “I am beyond grateful for the hard work of our volunteers and the support of our community over the last nine months since we launched this campaign. Voters sent a very clear signal today that our criminal justice system is not working for too many people and it’s time for a change. We will start by creating an office that adequately reflects the communities it serves and that is engaged with every neighborhood within the county. Then together we’ll make our criminal justice system better and work to strengthen relationships between communities and law enforcement.”

  • All three of Chelsea’s state elected officials, State Rep. Dan Ryan, State Rep. RoseLee Vincent and Sen. Sal DiDomenico were unopposed, but prevailed with a good vote Tuesday.

Ryan got 3,637 votes in his unopposed race (Chelsea only), and DiDomenico (for Chelsea only) got 5,409 votes. DiDomenico also represents parts of Cambridge, Allston and all of Everett and Chelsea. Vincent, who also represents Revere, got 1,495 votes in Chelsea.

  • As a side note, City Clerk Jeannette Cintron White said that early voting was a success in Chelsea once again. She said there were 731 early ballots cast this election cycle.

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Chelsea Gets Community Compact Grant

Chelsea Gets Community Compact Grant

Governor Charlie Baker and Lt. Governor Karyn Polito today announced $3 million in technology grants to 44 cities and towns across the Commonwealth through the Community Compact Information Technology (IT) Grant Program. This week’s announcement will benefit more than 49 municipal entities and brings the total number of municipal IT grants issued over the past four years to 188, assisting 250 communities with $9 million in grant funding to modernize their technology systems and deliver service to their residents more efficiently.

Chelsea received $50,000 for implementation of a comprehensive communication and project management package that will improve service, documentation and knowledge sharing.

Lt. Governor Polito made the announcement.

“Community Compact IT grants are a valuable way for the Community Compact program to provide access to resources for major technological projects that might otherwise be unaffordable,” said Lt. Governor Polito, Chair of the Community Compact Cabinet. “A great example is Cohasset’s plan to upgrade its Student Information System for greater productivity and the sophisticated tools that a school district requires to help meet its administrative obligations and its students’ educational needs.”

Cities and towns have used the IT grant funding to upgrade their websites, implement new systems that allow residents to apply for permits and licenses online, improve the security and capacity of municipal IT systems, digitize records and develop other solutions to costly technological challenges.

In addition to the IT grants, the Baker-Polito Administration has awarded $7.3 million in technical assistance grants and $4 million in efficiency and regionalization grants since starting the Community Compact Program in 2015.

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BHCC Receives $2.4M in Private Grant Funding

BHCC Receives $2.4M in Private Grant Funding

The Richard and Susan Smith Family Foundation awarded $2.4 million to Bunker Hill Community College (BHCC) to establish the Early College program at BHCC, marking the largest private grant awarded in the College’s history.

The announcement was made in Chelsea Wednesday afternoon at an event celebrating the early college designation to Chelsea High School’s Early College program by the Baker-Polito Administration. Board Members from the Richard and Susan Smith Family Foundation joined Governor Charlie Baker to see firsthand the impact of Early College. At the event, Governor Baker and the legislators in attendance heard from four Chelsea High School students who shared how their experiences in the program influenced their decision to pursue a college-level program.

  • Transformation to a Consolidated Early College Model

The funding from the Richard and Susan Smith Family Foundation allows BHCC to consolidate its Early College efforts into a core model that anticipates growth in scale and performance, as well as distillation and dissemination of its promising practices to the field. The $2.4 million grant covers a three-year project horizon, and will serve more than 500 high school students, coming from a portfolio of partnerships with high school and community-based organizations in Greater Boston.

“We are so thankful to the Richard and Susan Smith Family Foundation for this extraordinary grant. It allows us to consolidate and scale our early work, to gather data and evidence of success and to make a strong case to the leaders of the Commonwealth that Early College is a viable and scalable solution to talent and economic development,” said BHCC President Pam Eddinger.

An early adopter of Early College, BHCC currently collaborates with seven high schools and community-based organizations, serving nearly 500 early college students in addition to almost 400 participants in dual enrollment. Increasing demand and initial successes with traditionally underserved students and the potential for greater educational equity and student achievement pressed the College to consolidate the Early College efforts into a core model and make it central to the College’s Mission. The grant supports the Early College effort exactly at this important inflection point and gives the College the financial and structural lift to reach the next level of success.

“The Foundation’s Board of Trustees is pleased to be partnering with one of the Commonwealth’s leading community colleges to bring a transformative model proven in other states to Greater Boston. By bridging high school and college experiences, Early College will help many students graduate from high school ready to succeed in college and enjoy the benefits of the Commonwealth’s strong economy,” said Lynne Doblin, Executive Director of The Richard and Susan Smith Family Foundation.

  • Early College: A Cross-Segment Convergence in Education Strategy

This important work signals a convergence of new thinking from education leaders and policymakers around the State.

“An important goal of the Early College program is exposing students to college-level work while they are still in high school so they can envision themselves on a track toward a college degree,” said Governor Baker at Wednesday’s event. “The college-level experience, combined with the credits they earn in the courses, sets many students up for success by the time they arrive on a campus.”

The Secretary of Education, the Board of Higher Education and the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education all support the effort to recognize Early College work by awarding designations to strong partnerships around the Commonwealth, with the promise of sustainable funding in the near future. These designations, of which BHCC is a part, will stimulate experimentation, document effective practice and demonstrate impact.

The standard-setting work of BHCC’s Early College will be a powerful proof point, and the data to be gathered over the next three years will provide strong evidence as to the efficacy of Early College as a way to increase high school graduation and college completion and broaden career exploration.

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Feeling the Pain:After 11 Weeks of Lock-Out, National Grid Gas Ready to Continue the Fight

Feeling the Pain:After 11 Weeks of Lock-Out, National Grid Gas Ready to Continue the Fight

Down in the Back Bay’s Park Plaza, hundreds of National Grid gas workers – now locked out of work for 11 weeks – took center stage on what many said was the truest example of what Labor Day should actually mean.

The politics of the matter shone through clearly on Monday morning during the rally in the street with the state’s political elite, but another piece of the puzzle is the day-to-day reality of having lost health insurance, paychecks and having to stage labor’s most ardent fight of the past decade.

For Everett’s Rocky Leo, who appeared with about a dozen locked-out Chelsea workers recently at a Chelsea City Council meeting, the lockout has a human angle – and standing tall in the Back Bay on Monday, he said that is exactly what the company is trying to exploit.

“They’re banking on us not getting by – we workers going under and losing our health care and defaulting on our mortgages so we have to get in,” he said. “It’s a struggle. It’s been 11 weeks since we were locked out. It’s really hard on many of us and that’s their strategy. They figure we’ll give in.

“Five days in they took our health care away,” he continued. “We had a guy who had just had his leg amputated, and people with diabetes who needed care and children who are being treated for cancer. That’s what we have here.”

The lock out started earlier this summer during contract negotiations with two unions in the National Grid gas operations division. The unions are represented by the United Steelworkers and talks have been ongoing, but nothing has been fruitful and labor leaders seemingly – on Labor Day – had seen enough.

“This is unacceptable on Labor Day and any day,” said state AFL-CIO President Steve Tolman. “The fight you’ve been waging the last three months is the most important fight you’ll ever have. Brothers and sisters, you are standing up to a corporate environment that has been scraping away for the last 20 years at our health care and pensions. Where are the elected officials asking National Grid to step up to the table and negotiate and get an agreement? Public safety should be first.”

Joe Buonopane, a president of one of the locked out unions, said on Monday that he wanted Governor Baker to stand up for the workers.

“Gov. Baker hasn’t said a word about National Grid workers being locked out for 11 weeks,” he said. “National Grid is a foreign company, based in the United Kingdom. We are Massachusetts workers locked out of our jobs and Gov. Baker hasn’t said (anything) about it. That shouldn’t happen in Massachusetts.”

On Sept. 4, National Grid and the two unions were to come back to the bargaining table. The results of those meetings were not reported by press time, but National Grid said they wanted to resolve the lock out.

“To end the lockout, which is a goal we share with our union employees, we need to have serious, productive conversations about reaching an agreement,” read a statement by National Grid sent to the Independent on Tuesday, Sept. 4. “Since June 25, National Grid has communicated to the unions that we remain willing to meet seven days a week to reach an agreement on all outstanding issues. Through a federal mediator, they have so far provided eight dates for meetings that have occurred and we are meeting with them again today, September 4.”

National Grid said they wanted to have a fair contract, but that also meant being responsible to the ratepayers. They said what the union characterize as a drive for company profits at employee expense is actually an effort to preserve reasonable rates for customers in Chelsea and beyond.

National Grid said the major sticking point is the company’s proposed benefit package that includes a new defined contribution 401(k) retirement plan. That new plan would apply only to new employees hired on or after June 25, 2018.

National Grid said they had negotiated away from pension plans to 401(k) plans with at least 16 other unions representing 84 percent of the company’s employees. National Grid also said the package is consistent with proposals that the Steelworkers have accepted in Massachusetts with all other public utilities.

National Grid said it doesn’t believe customers should have to pay for outdated benefits when most of those customers don’t enjoy such benefits themselves.

Leo said the idea is to preserve what they have and have had for years. He stressed that the workers only want the same thing they’ve always had.

“It’s frustrating because we’re not asking for everything and anything,” he said. “We just want what we have. We have completed more work than we have been asked to do and they’re profits are up. We exceeded 20 to 50 percent of our work in all categories. We’re doing more than what we are asked and they are profiting, so it’s hard to see why we have to make concessions. There’s no bargaining or discussion. It’s concession or nothing. It’s like talking to a 4-year-old and when they ask why, you only get ‘because.’”

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Massport CEO Thomas Glynn Announces Intention to Step Down

Massport CEO Thomas Glynn Announces Intention to Step Down

After six years as head of Massport, CEO Thomas Glynn announced last week that he would step down from the post

After six years on the job, Massport CEO Thomas Glynn has resigned and will leave his post in November.

in November, a year earlier than his contract.

Glynn said his last days at Massport will be in November even though his contract will expire in 2019.

“This is a great job, but after six years and at the age of 72, I feel it is a good time to pass the baton to the next leader who will have the chance to lead a great team,” said Glynn.

Glynn took over the reins at Massport in September 2012 and was picked from a field of over 40 candidates. The Board confirmed him unanimously that year, noting his vast senior leadership experience and his commitment to public service.

Leo Robinson, longtime Chelsea city councillor-at-large, thanked Glynn for his work at Massport and his responsiveness to issues raised by the city’s residents.

“Mr. Glynn has had an outstanding tenure at Massport,” said Robinson. “He did some very good things for our city. I feel our relationship with Massport improved during his time as CEO and I hope we continue to have a continuing strong connection with his successor.”

According to state leaders Glynn’s tenure as Executive Director and CEO at Massport will be remembered for the growth of international flights at Logan Airport; revitalization of the Working Port of Boston and Worcester Regional Airport; and the Omni Hotel diversity initiative.

“Throughout his tenure leading Massport, Tom Glynn has been a tireless advocate for furthering the Commonwealth’s reputation as an international destination,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “Tom’s hard work to expand service at Logan and the Commonwealth’s other transportation hubs has driven economic activity across Massachusetts, and I thank him for his years of dedication and service.”

“Tom Glynn has guided Massport through an historic era of airport expansion, continuing the unfortunate trends of previous Massport CEO’s,” said East Boston organization AirInc. in a statement, the neighborhood’s Massport environmental mitigation watchdog group. “Since 2012, when Mr. Glynn accepted the appointment to lead the Massachusetts Port Authority, airport passenger activity at Boston’s landlocked airport has increased 37 percent according to their own reports.  Along with this growth, has come additional beneficial economic activity, which the Port Authority is quick to point out.  If Mr. Glynn’s success is to be measured by the growth of airport operations, his tenure at the helm of Boston Logan has been a wild success. However, the expansions Mr. Glynn has set in place are unsustainable.  At its current rate of 5 percent annual growth, Logan will surpass 90 million passengers by 2035.  Nighttime operations, traffic, and noise will more than double.  And emissions will increase by 174 percent.”

AirInc. hopes the next CEO of Massport will make significant adjustments without pushing expansion further.

However, some like Massport Board member and Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack argued that Glynn made relationships building with the Authority’s neighborhood communities a top priority.

“Tom Glynn has done an exceptional job leading Massport, ensuring that Logan Airport is a good neighbor while at the same time growing the number of passengers and domestic and international destinations served,” said Pollack.

Massport’s CFO John Pranckevicius will serve as acting CEO beginning November 17, 2018.

Massport Board member and East Boston resident John Nucci said the Board will begin a search process that may extend beyond Glynn’s departure date.

“Tom’s departure is a major loss for Massport and for the affected communities,” said Nucci. “He knew how to listen to neighbors and put a premium on giving back to those neighborhoods that had to live with Logan’s impacts. As a board, we have a major challenge ahead of us finding someone to fill his shoes. As we search for a successor to Tom, I hope the board will be looking for someone with demonstrated public sector experience. The secret to Tom’s success was his ability to navigate the halls of government  with great skill.”

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Large Crowds Enjoy Live Racing, Food Trucks at Suffolk Downs

Large Crowds Enjoy Live Racing, Food Trucks at Suffolk Downs

More than 13,000 people came to Suffolk Downs this weekend to enjoy live thoroughbred racing and a food truck festival.

And what a show it was. There was a carnival-like atmosphere on two hot summer days at the popular East Boston racetrack.

Longtime horseracing fans stood trackside next to some some young families who were getting their first, up-close look at what was once one of the most popular sports in the United States. The Kentucky Derby, for example, is still often called “most exciting two minutes in all of sports.”

Chief of Operations Chip Tuttle, a giant in the industry of horse racing, was very pleased with the large turnout on both days. He said the food trucks are always a nice draw that gives people variety over the standard racetrack faire.

There had been some concern at mid-week that the weekend of racing might not materialize after the State Legislature failed to vote on the measure during the last day (July 31) of its legislative session. But the legislature met informally Thursday to reinstate the law and Gov. Charlie Baker signed it, thus allowing for simulcasting and live racing to resume.

“Thankfully it was taken care of quickly and we appreciate the work of the House leadership, and the Senate, and the governor to get it remedied in less than 48 years hours,” said Tuttle. “We thank Speaker DeLeo for his efforts especially.”

Tuttle said that Suffolk has a request before the Massachusetts Gaming Commission to add another weekend of live racing on Sept. 15-16. “It’s on the Commission’s agenda for their meeting on Aug. 14,” said Tuttle. “We’d really like to run one more weekend. There’s certainly funding to do it in the Racehorse Development Fund and it helps the local horsemen, the Massachusetts breeders. They don’t have as many opportunities to run for purse money as they like and we’re doing our best to accommodate them.”

Tuttle said that Suffolk Downs will be open through the end of the year (2018) for simulcasting.

“And we’re already in discussions with both the horsemen and HYM [the real estate company that will be redeveloping the Suffolk property] about dates for the first half of 2019,” he added.

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Frustrated House Waited for Horse Racing/Simulcast Bill All Night

Frustrated House Waited for Horse Racing/Simulcast Bill All Night

Live horse racing and simulcasting took a topsy-turvy ride over a period of 48 hours last week, when the Sport of Kings became illegal in the Commonwealth for the first time in generations.

All of it came as a result of the State Legislature’s run up to the end of its two-year Legislative session on Tuesday and into Wednesday (July 31 and Aug. 1) night Ð and it was a frustrating end for Speaker Bob DeLeo, who said they waited all night for the Senate to send back an approved Racing Bill.

It was considered a non-controversial, annual renewal, but it was a wait that proved fruitless and frustrating for the Speaker.

When the bell sounded to end the session, racing hadn’t been done, and that technically made it illegal Ð something with dire consequences for Suffolk Downs and Plainridge Race Course, both of which had major racing events last week.

“We were waiting for it to come back from the Senate so we could vote on it,” DeLeo said this week. “It never made it back to the House for a final vote so that there would be no disruption in racingÉI have to say, it was very frustrating to be waiting all night for the legislation to come back and it never did. I know that things get lost. I appreciate that, but we’re talking about people’s livelihoods and people who rely on that paycheck. I thought it was important that got done and that’s why we moved so quickly to get it straightened out the next day on the governor’s desk to sign by mid-day.”

Indeed, by Thursday afternoon, racing had been restored, and DeLeo said that was because he and his team moved immediately all night long to make sure it passed.

It didn’t stop the talk, however, about why Senate President Karen Spilka hadn’t taken up a matter so important to Speaker DeLeo’s district in a session that ended with a bit of animosity between the two bodies Ð particularly on the failure to pass an education funding and health care bill by the end of session.

Some inside sources have said that it was retribution from Spilka to DeLeo for not passing certain things that were important to her Ð essentially, they said, making racing a pawn in a larger political spat.

DeLeo played that down, however, this week, saying only, “We were just awaiting the documents from the Senate.”

Spilka told the State House News Service last week that racing was simply one of many bills that failed to pass before the session’s end.

“Just like every single year, we don’t always get to everything,” she said to State House News.

Suffolk Downs COO Chip Tuttle said he was glad to see that the matter was quickly resolved, which meant that it didn’t disrupt Suffolk’s weekend of live racing Saturday and Sunday.

“We want to thank the House, Senate and Governor for addressing this today and we’re looking forward to two great days of racing this weekend,” he said late on Thursday.

But Suffolk, Plainridge and Raynham didn’t get there without sweating it out for a period of many hours when their product has suddenly become unauthorized.

On Wednesday morning, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) put out a letter of direction to Suffolk Downs, Plainridge Park and Raynham Taunton Greyhound Park.

The letter said that the Commonwealth’s legislation for live racing and simulcasting had expired on July 31 at midnight and no action had been taken to renew or replace it.

“As of today, there is not statutory authorization for live horse racing or simulcasting in the Commonwealth,” read the letter. “Please be advised that until further notice from the Gaming Commission, simulcasting in all forms under any license at your facilities is suspended. Further, live racing at Suffolk Downs and Plainridge Park is also suspended until further notice.”

The MGC added the item as an emergency agenda item for its meeting on Aug. 2, in Springfield, but as they got to the matter, DeLeo had straightened everything out.

Getting it fixed was the main point of the matter, DeLeo said this week.

“Suffolk did have a very big live racing weekend coming up, but for meÉwe have a number of people who live and work in my district who quite frankly live paycheck to paycheck and can’t afford even one day without that paycheck,” he said. “That’s very important and that’s why the very next day we worked to get it passed on signed by the governor.”

The Racing/Simulcast legislation doesn’t sunset again until July 31, 2019.

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Charlie Baker Represents All of Us

Charlie Baker Represents All of Us

A recent news article in The Boston Globe quoted a number of reportedly important RepubIican party members who asserted that they have been disappointed in the performance of Gov. Charlie Baker because he has been “too liberal.”

They are upset with his support both for social causes they deem “liberal” and for his assent to the recently-enacted, so-called “grand bargain” that will raise the minimum wage, among other items.

However, what they really seem to be upset about is that Charlie Baker rates as the most popular governor in the country among his own constituents. They would prefer a governor who is combative, negative, and insulting — in other words, they crave a Donald Trump at the governor’s desk, who is intent only on sowing seeds of hatred and discontent.

When you think about the disaster in Washington, as well as the bitterness that exists in many states among governors and their rivals, thank goodness we have Charlie Baker at the helm of our ship of state.

Massachusetts stands out among the the states in many measurable ways (such as our public schools’ performance), but chiefly we stand out because of the respect that our state’s leaders have for each other and the manner in which they work together.

They conduct our state’s business by the twin maxims that it is possible to disagree without being disagreeable and that politics is the art of compromise.

What these so-called Republicans are ignoring about Charlie Baker are four things:

First and foremost, he is as honest and straightforward as any governor who has served us;

Second, he campaigned in support of the issues he has signed into law. In short, he has kept his promises to the people who elected him — what a novel concept for a politician!;

Third, he is a Republican in Massachusetts — a True Blue state with veto-proof majorities in the Democratic-controlled legislature. Yet, Gov. Baker and the legislature  have achieved as much for the people of our state in the past four years as ever have been accomplished by previous administrations — including Democratic ones; and

Finally, Charlie Baker has appointed people in his administration who actually know what they are doing and who are dedicated to public service, such as Jay Ash, the secretary of housing and economic development.

The bottom line is that the vast majority of the people in Massachusetts believe that our state is headed in the right direction and they attribute that to our governor,  Charlie Baker.

Apparently, there are some who don’t agree and that certainly is their right to do so.

However, we are glad that Charlie Baker has failed to heed their calls for rancor and divisiveness. Massachusetts is moving forward — and the administration of Gov. Charlie Baker undeniably has played a large role in our success in the past four years.

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Chelsea Delegation Announce Landmark Criminal Justice Reform Law

Chelsea Delegation Announce Landmark Criminal Justice Reform Law

Senator Sal DiDomenico (D-Everett) recently announced that the landmark criminal justice reform package crafted by the Massachusetts Legislature has been signed into law. The Senator had previously joined his legislative colleagues in overwhelmingly voting to pass this sweeping piece of legislation, and last week the Governor signed the bill into law. An Act relative to criminal justice reform will lead to a more equitable system by supporting our youngest and most vulnerable residents, reducing recidivism, increasing judicial discretion, and enhancing public safety.

The legislation contains provisions to provide better care for vulnerable populations in the criminal justice system, and implements policies to strengthen protections for public safety and witness protection. The Legislature also passed the accompanying Act implementing the joint recommendations of the Massachusetts Criminal Justice Review (H.4012), which is designed to complement the comprehensive criminal justice reform legislation. The CSG bill allows individuals to earn early release by participating in recidivism-reduction programs.

For the first time in the history of Massachusetts, this legislation establishes a process for expunging criminal records. Courts will now be able to expunge certain juvenile and young adult (18-21) records, and records in cases of fraud or where an offense is no longer a crime.

The Legislature has a longstanding legacy of supporting the Commonwealth’s most vulnerable children, particularly those facing trauma and adversity. Accordingly, this bill raises the minimum age of criminal responsibility from seven to twelve and decriminalizes a first offense misdemeanor if the punishment is a fine or imprisonment for not more than six months. The legislation establishes a Juvenile Justice Policy and Data Commission, which will make the state eligible for additional federal funding, and a Childhood Trauma Task Force to study and recommend gender responsive and trauma-informed approaches to treatment of youths in the juvenile justice system. The bill also extends Good Samaritan protections to alcohol incapacitation for individuals under 21.

This legislation reflects a balanced, modern approach to sentencing. It eliminates mandatory and statutory minimum sentences for many low-level, non-violent drug offenses. Additionally, it creates the nation’s strongest law for Carfentanil trafficking and strengthens the existing Fentanyl trafficking law, bolstering the Legislature’s multi-tiered approach to the opioid epidemic. The legislation also strengthens penalties for repeat offenders convicted of operating under the influence (OUI).

 The new law requires district attorneys to create pre-arraignment diversion programs for military personnel, veterans, and individuals with addiction or mental health issues in order to combat the opioid epidemic and provide healthcare parity. It also expands diversion programs to the Juvenile Court and removes the existing age restriction on diversion in the District Court.

 Following reforms in 2010 and 2012, this legislation again updates the Commonwealth’s criminal offender record information (CORI) system to help individuals secure gainful employment and housing, enacting the following policies:

  • Reduces the wait time to seal a conviction from ten years to seven years for a felony, and from five years to three years for a misdemeanor.
  • Allows a conviction for resisting arrest to be sealed.
  • Expands the ability of an applicant with a sealed record to be able to answer “no record” on housing and professional license applications.
  • Establishes protections for businesses and landlords who shall be presumed to have no notice or ability to know about criminal records that have been sealed or expunged.

 This legislation updates the Commonwealth’s bail system and enhances judicial discretion by requiring a judge to take a person’s financial resources into account when determining bail. It also raises the threshold for larceny to qualify as a felony from $250 to $1,000. It also creates the crime of solicitation that is tied to the severity of the underlying crime.

Additional policy changes include: reduction of fees imposed on defendants; decriminalization of minor offenses; enhanced limits on solitary confinement; improvement of prison conditions; and release of prisoners who are permanently incapacitated and pose no safety risk.

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Soldiers’ Home Secures Federal Funding for Center

Soldiers’ Home Secures Federal Funding for Center

Gov. Charlie Baker announced last Friday that the state has secured approximately $70 million in federal funding for the new 154-bed Community Living Center at the Chelsea Soldiers’ Home – federal funding that pretty much gives the green light to proceed on the project.

State leaders have made a priority of designing and funding the $199 million project, but getting the federal funding was always a crucial piece of the puzzle that had to come through.

On Friday, the Veteran’s Administration State Home Construction Grant Program announced it would provide a 65 percent reimbursement of approved construction projects, including the Soldiers’ Home.

“Our veterans have sacrificed greatly to protect our freedoms and we are proud to see this project move forward as we continue to provide them with great care and dignity,” said Baker. “We are grateful to the VA for their support of Massachusetts’ veterans and this funding allows us to construct a state of the art facility that will be a model for future veteran homes across the country.”

The Community Living Center at the Chelsea Soldiers’ Home will provide 154 “home-like” rooms for veterans in accordance with VA standards of design, which promotes greater accessibility, mobility, and enhanced quality of life. Services will include physical and occupational therapy, recreational activities and greater access to the outdoors. The current facility, the Quigley Memorial Long Term Care Center, will continue to be fully operational during the construction process with an anticipated project completion date in 2021.

“We appreciate the Department of Veterans Affairs’ approval to replace the existing long-term care facility at the Chelsea Soldiers’ Home Campus,” said Secretary of Veterans’ Services Francisco A. Ureña. “In addition to approving our replacement project, the VA granted the Commonwealth $129 million in matching funds.”

In May 2017, the Baker-Polito Administration announced state funding for the new long-term care facility as part of the Fiscal Year 2018 capital budget plan, and in November, Governor Baker  signed legislation to fund the project.

“I am thrilled that the Chelsea Soldiers’ Home will be receiving federal funding for its new Community Living Center,” said House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo. “The House has been a longtime supporter of this project and, as a neighbor of the Soldiers’ Home, I have been proud to support the residents and their needs throughout my tenure in the House. This financing will allow the Soldiers’ Home to further improve and enhance the vital care that they provide our veterans.”

Governor Baker was joined at his 2018 State of the Commonwealth Address by U.S. Navy Veteran Tom Miller, who lives at the Chelsea Soldiers’ Home, Director of Nursing Debbie Antonelli and Superintendent Cheryl Poppe to celebrate the Administration’s commitment to this necessary funding.

“This funding will allow us to provide our veterans with a long-awaited updated home that will enhance their quality of life with increased privacy and greater access to services,” said Chelsea Soldiers’ Home Superintendent Cheryl Lussier Poppe. “Our veterans deserve the very best, and this home will complement the quality care our veterans receive here at the Soldiers’ Home. We are grateful for the support of the Baker-Polito Administration for this opportunity.”

The Soldiers’ Home in Chelsea first opened its doors to Massachusetts veterans in 1882. The first residents were Civil War veterans who were wounded or unable to care for themselves, many of whom had previously resided in the Commonwealth’s “alms houses.” Today, Chelsea carries on Massachusetts’ proud tradition of helping all veterans in need of both long term care and domiciliary / supportive services. Chelsea is surveyed annually by the Federal Department of Veterans Affairs (“VA”) and the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (“CMS”). It is also fully accredited by The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (“Joint Commission”). Chelsea has a Board of Trustees appointed by the Secretary of Health and Human Services. The trustees and DVS share responsibility for the management of the home.

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