Income Tax Rate to Drop to 5.05 Percent Jan 1

Income Tax Rate to Drop to 5.05 Percent Jan 1

The Massachusetts Department of Revenue confirmed last week that the required revenue metrics have been met to ensure the state’s Part B income tax rate will drop on Jan. 1, 2019 from the current 5.10 percent to 5.05 percent.

“A strong economy and careful management of the Commonwealth’s finances have created the conditions for Massachusetts taxpayers to get a much-deserved break,” said Gov. Charlie Baker. “We are pleased that next year we will see taxpayers be able to keep more of their hard-earned money.”

A state law enacted in 2002 provides the statutory mechanism to lower the Part B individual income tax rate, based on certain revenue milestones. The legislation replaced a tax-rate reduction schedule that had passed by ballot initiative in November 2000.

“I was pleased to receive confirmation from the Department of Revenue that the revenue trigger had been met. This reflects steady revenue growth and a nice break for taxpayers,” said Administration and Finance Secretary Michael J. Heffernan.

The law provides that for each tax year in which certain inflation-adjusted baseline revenue growth requirements are met, the income tax rate will be reduced by increments of 0.05 percentage points until the rate reaches 5 percent.

Part B income includes wages, salary, and many other forms of income, including self-employment income; business, professional and farm income; S corporation distributions; and rental income from personal property. The rate associated with Part B income is also applied to several other income categories, including interest and dividends and most long-term capital gains.

There are five revenue tests that determine whether a rate reduction is required, beginning with growth in revenue over the previous fiscal year, and including a series of four additional growth measures. If any one of the incremental tests is not met, the rate reduction does not proceed. With DOR’s certification of the most recent revenue measure, all five tests in 2018 have now been met.

The rate reduction was last triggered on Jan. 1, 2016, when it dropped from 5.15% to 5.10%. Previous reductions included:

  • Jan. 1, 2012 (rate reduced from 5.3% to 5.25%)
  • Jan. 1, 2014 (rate reduced from 5.25% to 5.2%)
  • Jan. 1, 2015 (rate reduced from 5.2% to 5.15%)

The state budget for Fiscal 2019 accounted for the income tax rate change, which is projected to reduce tax revenue by approximately $84 million in Fiscal Year 2019 and approximately $175 million in Fiscal Year 2020.

If revenues in 2019 are sufficient to trigger a further rate reduction, the Part B income tax rate will drop to 5% for the 2020 tax year.

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Gov Baker Proposes Reforms to Protect Public from Dangerous Individuals

Gov Baker Proposes Reforms to Protect Public from Dangerous Individuals

Gov. Charlie Baker filed legislation that will provide law enforcement and prosecutors with additional tools to prosecute people who repeatedly break the law. The reforms put forth in today’s legislation include expanding the list of offenses that can provide grounds for a dangerousness hearing and closing certain loopholes at the start and end of the criminal process that currently limit or prevent effective action to address legitimate safety concerns.

“Recent tragedies have demonstrated the tremendous damage that can occur when our criminal justice system fails to identify and detain dangerous people charged with serious crimes,” said Governor Baker. “The alarming frequency of these events confirmed for us that we need to fix a broken law, so we worked closely with law enforcement, district attorneys and victims advocacy groups across the Commonwealth and consulted with the courts to develop this proposal to do a better job of protecting Massachusetts communities from dangerous defendants.”

The governor’s legislation strengthens the ability of judges to enforce the conditions of pre-trial release by empowering police to detain people who they observe violating court-ordered release conditions; current law does not allow this, and instead requires a court to first issue a warrant.

“Far too often, there are few consequences for defendants who violate the conditions of a court issued release,” said Lieutenant Governor KarynPolito. “This legislation will empower police officers with the tools they need to protect their communities and hold until trial defendants who pose a continuing danger to our communities.”

This legislation empowers judges to revoke a person’s release when the offender has violated a court-ordered condition, such as an order to stay away from a victim, or from a public playground. Current law requires an additional finding of dangerousness before release may be revoked.

“A person who is so dangerous that his or her release threatens the safety of a specific victim or of the community at large does not become safe to release merely because three or four months have passed since the time of their arrest,” said Secretary of Public Safety and Security Daniel Bennett. “This legislation would ensure that a person who a court determines is a danger or who violates his or her conditions of release is held until the time of trial or other disposition of the case, rather than being released after a defined period.”

“I’m very pleased with the governor’s proposed bail reform legislation,” said Bristol County District Attorney Thomas M. Quinn III. “This will make it more difficult for the court to release dangerous defendants.  Dangerous criminals should be held without bail until their cases are resolved. The public and law enforcement have a right to be protected from dangerous criminals. This legislation goes a long way towards doing that.  I have long advocated for changes to the bail system, and I appreciate the governor’s leadership on this very important issue.”

“It is encouraging to see that the call for action to keep dangerous and repeat criminals off the streets that began as a result of Sgt. Gannon’s murder is being taken seriously,” said Yarmouth Police Chief Frank Frederickson. “In July the Governor signed the MPTC Training Bill and now the announcement of this proposal is another significant move that will provide needed protection for our citizens from violent criminals.”

“Regardless of whether their cases can be prosecuted, survivors of sexual violence who are respected and believed throughout the process have better health and wellness outcomes,” said Katia Santiago-Taylor, advocacy and legislative affairs manager at the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center. “The first and most powerful way to do this is to ensure that survivors are informed about what is happening with their case, including timely notification when an offender is released from custody.”

The legislation expands the list of offenses which can provide grounds for a dangerousness hearing and follows the long-standing federal model in including a defendant’s history of serious criminal convictions as grounds that may warrant a dangerousness hearing. Current law requires courts to focus only on the crime charged and ignore a defendant’s criminal history when determining whether the defendant may be the subject of this sort of hearing.

Additional provisions of this legislation:

  • Improves the system for notifying victims of crimes of abuse and other dangerous crimes when a defendant is going to be released by creating clear lines of responsibility among police, prosecutors and corrections personnel to notify victims about an offender’s imminent release from custody, and create a six-hour window for authorities to inform a victim before an offender is allowed to be released.
  • Creates a new felony offense for cutting off a court-ordered GPS device.
  • Requires that the courts develop a text message service to remind defendants of upcoming court dates, reducing the chance they will forget and have a warrant issued for their arrest.
  • Allows dangerousness hearings at any point during a criminal proceeding, rather than requiring a prosecutor to either seek a hearing immediately or forfeit that ability entirely, even if circumstances later arise indicating that the defendant poses a serious risk to the community.
  • Requires that the probation department, bail commissioners and bail magistrates notify authorities who can take remedial action when a person who is on pre-trial release commits a new offense anywhere in the Commonwealth or elsewhere.
  • Creates a level playing field for appeals of district court release decisions to the superior court by allowing appeals by prosecutors, in addition to defendants, and giving more deference to determinations made in the first instance by our district court judges.
  • Creates a task force to recommend adding information to criminal records so that prosecutors and judges can make more informed recommendations and decisions about conditions of release and possible detention on grounds of dangerousness.

The legislation also closes loopholes at the start and end of the criminal process that currently limit or prevent effective action to address legitimate safety concerns. It extends the requirement that police take the fingerprints of people arrested for felonies to all people arrested, regardless of the charge, to ensure that decisions about release can be made with knowledge of a person’s true identity and full criminal history. It also allows, for the first time, bail commissioners and bail magistrates to consider dangerousness in deciding whether to release an arrestee from a police station when court is out of session.

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DiDomenico’s Legislation Included as Key Component of Youth Tobacco Bill

DiDomenico’s Legislation Included as Key Component of Youth Tobacco Bill

Last week, Sen. Sal DiDomenico (D-Everett) and his colleagues in the Massachusetts Senate passed comprehensive legislation to reduce youth access to tobacco and nicotine products. The bill raises the minimum legal sales age for all tobacco products to age 21 and adds vaping products to the smoke free workplace law.

Also included in the omnibus bill is language from Sen. DiDomenico’s bill to prohibit the sale of tobacco and nicotine delivery products in pharmacies and other health-care institutions. In 2014, CVS Pharmacy announced that it would stop tobacco based sales in their local pharmacies, and at least 160 Massachusetts communities have also banned tobacco sales in their local pharmacies. This legislation would require all other pharmacies to follow suit.

“It’s no secret that tobacco and nicotine use remains one of the leading causes of preventable illness and death across our nation, so it only makes sense that our health care institutions and pharmacies end the practice of carrying these harmful products,” said Senator DiDomenico, Assistant Majority Leader of the Massachusetts Senate. “I would like to thank Public Health Committee Chairman Jason Lewis for making this a top priority and including this as a key provision of this critical piece of legislation.”

Tobacco use and nicotine addiction remains the leading cause of preventable illness and premature death in Massachusetts, responsible for more than $4 billion in annual health care costs to the Commonwealth. Youth are particularly susceptible to nicotine addiction, with 9 in 10 cigarette smokers begin using before age 18.

While youth smoking has declined considerably in the last two decades, youth use of other addictive tobacco products like e-cigarettes is increasing sharply. While nicotine delivery products like e-cigarettes may sometimes help some nicotine-addicted adults to stop smoking traditional cigarettes, they present a significant new threat to the health and wellbeing of young people who have not previously used tobacco products.

“Raising the legal sales age for tobacco is an incredible public health achievement that will save lives, prevent addiction and ensure a healthier future for generations of Massachusetts youth,” said Senate President Harriette L. Chandler (D-Worcester).  “This legislation protects young adults whose minds and bodies are still developing, and is a proven strategy for nicotine addiction prevention. I am proud that the Senate has voted to approve this bill.”

“Massachusetts has long been a leader in protecting and strengthening public health,” said Senator Jason Lewis (D-Winchester), Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Public Health and the bill’s lead sponsor in the Senate. “This comprehensive legislation will once again put the Commonwealth at the forefront of preventing youth addiction to tobacco and nicotine products, in order to improve health, save lives, and reduce healthcare costs.”

To directly target youth use, this legislation increases the legal sales age for tobacco products from 18 to 21. This is a proven and effective strategy to reduce youth tobacco use because it removes legally purchased tobacco products from high school social networks. The Institute of Medicine projects that increasing the age from 18 to 21 will reduce overall tobacco use in a population by 12% – the equivalent of 150,000 Massachusetts tobacco users.

Youth use of e-cigarettes has also grown alarmingly, becoming a pervasive presence in our high schools. The provisions in this bill build upon the regulations promulgated in 2016 by Attorney General Maura Healey, and ensure that the places that are tobacco free will also be vape free, including schools, restaurants and workplaces.

Other provisions included in the bill include new authority granted to the Department of Public Health to regulate new, emerging tobacco products and language requiring the Center for Health Information and Analysis to study the current tobacco cessation benefits offered by commercial insurers, MassHealth, and the Group Insurance Commission.

Many cities and towns have enacted policies to reduce tobacco use and nicotine addiction that go beyond current state and federal laws and regulations, creating a patchwork of different laws across the commonwealth that can confound retailers, distributors, consumers and public health officials. This legislation will provide a uniform statewide set of rules that protect youth and simplify the interaction between our state and local laws.

The bill now returns to the Massachusetts House of Representatives, where the bill has formerly been engrossed, for enactment.

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DiDomenico,Colleagues Pass Bill to Improve Traffic Safety

DiDomenico,Colleagues Pass Bill to Improve Traffic Safety

Sen. Sal DiDomenico and his colleagues in the Massachusetts Senate recently voted to pass legislation that aims to create safer streets for all road users. Developed in collaboration with a coalition of bicycle, pedestrian and transportation advocates, S.2570, An Act to reduce traffic fatalities, includes several measures to improve road safety, lessen the severity of crashes, and standardize the collection and analysis of crash data.

“This bill is an important next step in our efforts to create safer streets for all road users, especially cyclists and pedestrians,” said Sen. Sal DiDomenico (D-Everett), Assistant Majority Leader of the Massachusetts Senate. “We must ensure that our roadways are safe and accessible for everyone, and I am confident that this legislation will go a long way towards achieving that goal and reducing traffic fatalities in the Commonwealth.”

“We need to keep working year after year to achieve a future in which traffic fatalities get as close as possible to zero,” said Sen. William N. Brownsberger (D-Belmont), lead sponsor of the bill in the Senate. “This bill will help us move in the right direction.”

“This legislation updates basic protections for pedestrians, cyclists and others who may be on the road, and is a common-sense policy to ensure safer roadways for pedestrians and drivers alike” said Senate President Harriette L. Chandler (D-Worcester). “I am very happy the Senate has passed this legislation.”

“This bill takes an important step in encouraging the use of multimodal transportation to relieve the congestion and reduce our state’s carbon footprint,” said Sen. Joseph A. Boncore (D-Winthrop), who serves as the Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Transportation, which advanced the legislative measure forward with a favorable recommendation earlier this year. “Ensuring that pedestrians and cyclists have more protections on shared roads is vital to that end.”

The bill classifies several groups, including pedestrians, utility workers, first responders and cyclists, as “vulnerable road users,” and requires motor vehicles to apply a “safe passing distance” of at least three feet when traveling 30 miles per hour or less with an additional foot of clearance required for every 10 miles per hour over 30 miles per hour. Current law only requires motor vehicle operators to pass at “a safe distance and at a reasonable and proper speed.” The bill would further require a vehicle that is overtaking a vulnerable road user to use all or part of the adjacent lane, crossing the center line if necessary, when it cannot pass at a safe distance in the same lane and only when it is safe to do so.

The bill would also require certain large vehicles newly purchased, leased or operated pursuant to a contract with the Commonwealth to be equipped with lateral protective devices to eliminate a vehicle’s high ground clearance and the extraordinary risk posed to vulnerable road users, who are susceptible to slipping underneath large vehicles during accidents. Such large vehicles would also be required to utilize convex and cross-over mirrors to increase a driver’s ability to see around their vehicle. These provisions would apply to vehicles purchased or leased by the Commonwealth after January 1, 2019 and to vehicles operating pursuant to leases entered into January 1, 2020.

The Executive Office of Public Safety and Security would be required to develop a standardized analysis tool to report crashes and incidents involving a vulnerable road user and maintain a publicly accessible database of such reports to help inform further efforts to reduce traffic fatalities.

The bill would establish a 25 mile per hour speed limit on an unposted area of state highway or parkway inside a thickly settled or business district within a city or town that has accepted the 25 mile per hour local option, as lower vehicle speeds reduce the severity of crashes. While current law requires persons riding bicycles at night to use a front white light, this bill would also require use of both a red rear light and a red rear reflector when riding at night to improve the visibility of bicyclists.

The bill now moves to the House of Representatives for further consideration

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DiDomenico Supports Animal Welfare and Safety Legislation

DiDomenico Supports Animal Welfare and Safety Legislation

Sen. Sal DiDomenico (D-Everett) and his colleagues in the Massachusetts Senate unanimously adopted a bill designed to protect the health, safety and well-being of animals. S.2332, “An Act to protect animal welfare and safety in cities and towns” (PAWS II), expands on gains first secured in the original PAWS law which was filed in response to the Puppy Doe animal abuse case of 2014.

 “I was proud to support this important piece of legislation that strengthens and adds to the animal safety and welfare protections created under the original PAWS bill,” said Sen. DiDomenico, Assistant Majority Leader of the Massachusetts Senate. “This bill sends a strong message that animal cruelty will not be tolerated, and we will continue working to ensure that all animals are treated humanely here in the Commonwealth.”

 “The Puppy Doe animal torture case inspired strong legislative action designed to increase protections for animals and prevent animal cruelty and neglect.  PAWS II builds on the foundations of our original law and will ensure that abuse is reported and enforced, that animal drownings are outlawed, and that our animal control laws reflect the seriousness of animal torture and abuse,” said Sen. Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester), Minority Leader of the Massachusetts and the original sponsor of the bill.

 “Our commitment towards ending the cruel and inhumane treatment of innocent animals is steadfast, and today we have taken significant action to protect their safety and welfare,” said Chairman Mark Montigny (D-New Bedford), a longtime champion of animal welfare legislation.  “There is zero tolerance for such despicable brutality and today’s action by the Senate sends a clear message.”

 “We do not tolerate animal cruelty in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts,” said Senate President Harriette L. Chandler (D-Worcester). “This legislation ensures that animals are treated humanely and that those who engage in animal cruelty are punished. One animal that dies of mistreatment is one animal too many.”

 PAWS II will enhance humane treatment of animals, expand the role of mandated reporters, and punish those who engage in animal cruelty. Key components of the bill include provisions to:

  • ensure abuse is reported;
  • ensure efficient enforcement of animal control laws;
  • prohibit the drowning of wild and domestic animals;
  • prohibit engaging in sexual contact with an animal;
  • remove automatic killing of animals involved in animal fighting;
  • add animal crimes to the list of offenses that serve as the basis for a request for a determination of detention and or release upon conditions;
  • prohibit discrimination against specific dog breeds; and
  • require abandoned animal checks in vacant properties.

 The bill now moves to the House of Representatives for further consideration.

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O’Flaherty Supports Bill to Increase Efficiency of Mass. Election Process

O’Flaherty Supports Bill to Increase Efficiency of Mass. Election Process

Rep. Eugene O'Flaherty

Rep. Eugene O’Flaherty

State Representative Eu­gene O’Flaherty sponsored a bill last week will establish early voting for presidential elections and provides re­sources to local officials and residents to make the voting process more efficient.

O’Flaherty and his col­leagues in the House unani­mously passed the bill.

Under the bill pushed by O’Flaherty early voting for presidential elections will be­gin in 2016. It is expected to significantly decrease wait times on Election Day and al­low more individuals to vote. The bill also creates a secure online portal through which individuals can register and view their registration status.

“No one likes long lines while voting and perhaps this bill won’t end that but it will diminish it and will also move us in the right direction when eradicating hardships associ­ated with voting” said O’Fla­herty.

Early voting will take place ten business days prior to presidential elections in ac­cordance with regular busi­ness hours of the municipal office. Following the 2016 election, a task force will issue a report including information on costs, administrative re­quirements, voter turnout and the lines at polling places.

The online portal allows new applicants to register and existing voters to change their address, look up their polling place and confirm they are registered. The system will streamline the voter registra­tion process and is expected to cut costs.

“This bill improves voting efficiency and helps give citizens across the Commonwealth a voice,” said House Speaker Robert DeLeo (D-Winthrop). “Massachusetts has a rich history of civic involvement and I believe this legislation bring us one step closer to ensuring all individuals can participate in the voting process. No one should be denied a vote because of a hardship or responsibility.”

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