Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Longtime state Rep. Vinny deMacedo says he’s made a point of not changing

Monday, November 25th, 2013

By Alexander Hyacinthe, Patriot Ledger State House Bureau

BOSTON — UMass-Boston linguistics professor Donaldo Macedo is as liberal as they come. Born in Cape Verde, Macedo immigrated with his family to Dorchester in the 1960s, coming of age during the height of the civil rights movement, Vietnam War protests and his native country’s battle for independence from Portugal.

A linguist, he has penned books with famed lefties Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn. So it is a surprise when he praises a Republican state representative who opposed gay marriage and abortion.

It is more of a surprise that the politician is his brother Vinny deMacedo, R-Plymouth. Donaldo has dropped the prefix that was accidentally added to his surname when he immigrated. His brother has kept it – another difference between them.

But political philosophy aside, Macedo believes in his brother.

“I think Vinny represents what a politician ought to be. At the end of the day, it’s not what you believe, it’s how you are in the world,” Macedo said.

Vinny deMacedo is an eight-term legislator and one of only 30 Republicans in the 160-member House. He is also a businessman who can be seen pumping gas or behind the counter at the gas station he owns in Plymouth.

His background, his family and his beliefs have made deMacedo a respected member of the House, known for his ability to work across the aisles, colleagues say.

“It gives him balance, and it gives him someone in the family to listen to on some issues,” said Sen. Marc Pacheco, D-Taunton, chairman of the Massachusetts Portuguese-American Caucus.

DeMacedo says it is family that has helped him stay grounded and open.

“Family is our bedrock. That’s what defines us,” deMacedo said. “My parents sacrificed everything on our behalf. I’m incredibly grateful for that.”

DeMacedo was born in Cape Verde but moved with his family to Kingston before he was a year old. His experience growing up in Massachusetts was different from that of his oldest brother, who was a teenager when his family moved to the U.S.

“Kingston was a community of about 5,000 people, when my parents moved there,” Donaldo Macedo said. “Vinny’s friends came from homes that were conservative. You didn’t get the immigrant experience that you would in Brockton, for example.”

As a child, Vinny deMacedo attended Sunday Catholic Mass with his mother. Later, he and another older brother, Olly deMacedo, joined a born-again Baptist church. Religions come with rules, but those rules never hampered deMacedo’s ability to understand the shades of gray.

“His posture, his moderance, his coherence will not allow him to be blindly locked into group-think that leaves him without independence of thought,” Macedo said.

Vinny DeMacedo, now a member of the Massachusetts Portuguese-American Caucus, made it a point as an adult to expose himself to the culture that he had left behind when his family came to the U.S.

Sen. Michael Rodrigues, D-Westport, also a member of the caucus, remembered traveling with deMacedo to Cape Verde to visit deMacedo’s family home.

“To see how proud and humbled he was to see the home. To see where his family came from,” Rodrigues said. “His family (history) tells a good story about what we’re about in America.”

Asked how he and his brother get along so well, Vinny deMacedo laughs.

“The reason that we have such a tight family is because we don’t talk politics at the table,” he said.

DeMacedo has voted against same-sex civil unions and has consistently opposed measures to increase taxes and governmental power.

Still, deMacedo says he sees himself in his liberal brother.

“I look at my brother, the things that he’s been able to accomplish,” deMacedo said, sitting in his office, which features a prominent portrait of him sitting with his wife and three children. “He’s got such a heart for people. I think in many ways I have the same attitude, but just from a different perspective. It’s a different philosophy, but the heart is the same.”

Family also led deMacedo into a business that has kept him accessible to his constituents. After graduating from New York’s King’s College in 1987 with a degree in business administration, he helped brother Olly run his car dealerships before buying a gas station from him in 1991. It was from here that he laid the foundation for his future political career.

“It was a full-service station, so I was outside talking to people and building relationships. When I first got elected, I received 70 percent of the vote in my part of town. I don’t think people were looking at me as a Republican or a Democrat. I was Vinny, the local guy at the gas station who was one of us,” deMacedo said.

DeMacedo has worked hard to maintain that reputation.

“I remember one person saying that they worried I would go (to the State House) and change. I hope that looking back 15 years later, people can say that I didn’t change,” deMacedo said.

Rodrigues said that in politics, as in business, it is all about relationships.

“It’s a level of trust and comfort doing business with people. Vinny knows that,” Rodrigues said.

That interpersonal skill allows deMacedo to advocate for his party and constituents.

“People know where I’m coming from as a member of the minority party,” said deMacedo. “But I don’t diminish the importance of my job as a legislator representing my town.”

Crossing traditional party lines is an unavoidable part of that job in Massachusetts. He feels that he is seen as a moderate Republican, nothing like the far-right politicians that have dominated national headlines.

“I represent everyone, if you are Republican or Democrat. That doesn’t matter to me,” said deMacedo. “My job is working with constituents to help them through the maze of state government.”

The ability to see shades of gray instead of black and white is why his brother believes in him in spite of their political differences.

“Vinny still believes that you can make changes, he still believes that democracy works, he still believes in the greater good of society,” said Macedo.

Tourism officials on the stump

Thursday, October 10th, 2013

By Carol Kozma, State House correspondent







State Rep. Cory Atkins, D-Concord, chairwoman of the House Committee on Tourism, Arts and Cultural Development, looks at items with Diane Burnette, director of the Johnny Appleseed Visitor Information Center, during a coffee stop at the visitor center on Route 2 in Lancaster Friday. SENTINEL & ENTERPRISE / BRETT CRAWFORD

State lawmakers traveled through three local tourism districts Friday, meeting with business owners to learn about the tourism industry’s needs.

The Joint Committee on Tourism, Arts and Cultural Development organized the tour, “so we can see how their businesses are, what their challenges are, what is working and what is not working,” said committee chairwoman state Rep. Cory Atkins, a Democrat from Concord.

Lawmakers visited the Johnny Appleseed, Franklin County and Mohawk Trail tourism councils.

Issues ranged from a need for better water infrastructure to encourage and speed development, to a need for more marketing of tourist attractions.

“We will try to do our best to address those issues when we come back to the Statehouse,” Atkins said.


State Rep. Chris Walsh, left, talks with state Rep. Stephen DiNatale as David McKeehan, center, president of the North Central Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce, chats with Suzanne Farias, general manager of the DoubleTree Hotel in Leominster and chairman of the Johnny Appleseed Trail Association Board.

The day began with a public hearing in Turner Falls where David McKeehan, president of the North Central Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce, compared the $11 million the Massachusetts tourism office has to spend to New York’s $60 million budget. McKeehan said New Jersey spends $25 million on tourism and Connecticut budgets $27 million to fund the tourism industry.

“We have a very efficient and attractive state in terms of tourism, but we could use additional resources,” McKeehan said in a telephone interview.

McKeehan said he also hoped to connect local businesses along Route 2 with the tourism industry.

“Obviously, we have to be as effective with the dollars we get as we can be,” he said.

Although Atkins said the Massachusetts spends closer to $13 million on tourism, she agreed the state will have to increase funds to the tourism-and-arts sector — the third-largest industry in the state.

“Every dollar we invest in it, we get $40 back,” Atkins said.

Suzanne Farias, general manager of the DoubleTree Hotel in Leominster, and board chairwoman of the Johnny Appleseed Trail, said a Howard Johnson hotel along Route 2 was turned into the Johnny Appleseed Visitor Center 16 years ago, and 165,000 people come through the building every year.

“At least we have planted that seed. There is so much displayed in the visitor center, mostly produced by our area,” Farias said in a telephone interview. “What we are doing, is giving them (commuters) a reason to get off the highway.”

Farias told lawmakers she wants to market the tourism industry to traveling sports teams who spend more than one day in the area, and hopes lawmakers will think of the tourism industry when discussing the budget.

“When it comes to the budget, spending some money to make some money is very important here,” Farias said.

Al Rose who owns Red Apple Farm in Phillipston with his wife, Nancy, employing more than 100 people, said that there is a growing awareness of the region as a destination stop.

Rose said he was happy lawmakers came to support the tourism industry.

“This is a part of Massachusetts that often gets missed because of the highway and the other attractions,” Rose said in a telephone interview. “It’s comforting to know we are all in this together.”

Taxing Tobacco Now a National Addiction

Monday, August 26th, 2013

By Emily O’Donnell and Allison Thomasseau

chart 4

It seems one of the few things the Legislature and Gov. Deval Patrick could agree on in the debate over the state’s 2014 fiscal year budget was the dollar-a-pack increase in the tobacco tax – the fifth time the tax has been increased since 1992.

Beacon Hill isn’t the only place where politicians agree on tobacco levies. Forty-seven states have raised cigarette taxes a combined 105 times since 2002. Only California, Missouri and North Dakota have avoided the temptation, according to the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids.

Raising tobacco taxes is an easy political choice: there is little opposition and plenty of support. But as Massachusetts grows more dependent on tobacco revenues now approaching $1 billion a year, the use of a sin tax to balance the books raises questions about who pays, where the money goes and how long it will last.

Tax Addiction-States Becoming More Dependent on Tobacco Levies

Monday, August 26th, 2013

By Cole Chapman and Brooke Singman

chart 2

Massachusetts lawmakers’ growing reliance on tobacco taxes to help balance the state budget is part of a national trend that has grown with each flutter of the country’s economy.

“To some extent you could say states became addicted to tobacco revenue,” said Scott Harshbarger, the former Massachusetts attorney general who helped negotiate the 1998 Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement that brings Massachusetts an average $250 million until 2025.

Cigarette tax revenues, along with the settlement money, brought in about $815 million last year, according to the Department of Revenue. That figure is expected to rise another estimated $165 million – for a total of $980 million – under the dollar-per-pack increase passed in this year’s legislative session.

Who Smokes and Who Pays?

Monday, August 26th, 2013

By Deedee Sun and Lindsey Reese

chart 1 recent trend

As smoking rates among Massachusetts citizens fell from 28 percent to 14 percent between 1986 to 2010, the cost of tobacco taxes has been borne more by a group least able to afford it.

According to research and polls, the poor and the less educated smoke at a higher rate than those with higher incomes and more schooling. As a result Massachusetts’ ever increasing tobacco tax has become increasingly regressive.

“You’re really asking people who are already at the lower end in terms of wealth to be shouldering an additional burden of taxes to fund projects that really should be funded by the government,” said Dr. Michael Siegel of Boston University’s School of Public Health.

A 2008 Gallup poll of more than 75,000 individuals across the nation found that smoking rates rise as income drops. Those at the bottom fifth of the income bracket are more than twice more likely to smoke than those in the top fifth.

State officials grilled-Transportation overhaul gets scrutiny at hearing

Thursday, February 28th, 2013

Feb 28, 2013 By Emily O’Donnell, The Sun Chronicle



BROCKTON – State transportation officials were on the hot seat Wednesday as members of the Legislature’s Ways and Means Committees fired questions about Gov. Deval Patrick’s 2014 fiscal year budget proposal, asking how proposed tax hikes to pay for transportation improvements would affect citizens and the state’s debt limits.

Chief among the issues during the morning budget hearing at the Massasoit Conference Center was Patrick’s plan to pay for transportation improvements and maintenance with a 1 percent increase in the state income tax.

“We can’t afford the system we have today, but our transportation                    Commuters get off a train at the downtown
plan positions MassDOT to be able to maintain its access responsibly        Attleboro commuter rail station.
and promptly,” Transportation Secretary Richard Davey told the panel.          Staff file photo by Tom Maguire

Quincy lawmaker files bill to require sex offenders to register social media names

Thursday, February 28th, 2013


Feb 28, 2013  By Mike Trinh, Patriot Ledger State House Bureau

New Quincy state Rep. Tackey Chan






Photo: Greg Derr/The Patriot Ledger


New Quincy state Rep. Tackey Chan of Quincy

BOSTON —Is that new Facebook friend or Twitter follower a sex offender? How would you know?

For the third time since 2007, a Quincy lawmaker is leading an effort to change the state’s Sex Offender Registry law to require sex offenders to register their online social media handles and email addresses with the state.

It’s an effort first championed by former state Sen. Michael Morrissey, D-Quincy, back in 2007, three years after Facebook was launched and quickly became the social media choice among college students, then high school kids and adults.

That year, the bill never made it out of the Judiciary Committee. In 2011, state Rep. Tackey Chan, D-Quincy, a former aide to Morrissey, refiled the bill with the same results.

Students urge lawmakers to expand financial aid

Wednesday, February 27th, 2013

Feb 27, 2013  By Lindsey Reese, The Gazette Contributing Writer

BOSTON — College students from across Massachusetts gathered at the Statehouse Tuesday to tell legislators their personal stories of tuition struggles, joining with Gov. Deval Patrick in support of a state budget with more financial aid.
Sponsored by the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities in Massachusetts, the event attracted 150 students from 25 to 30 colleges and universities, according to association president Richard Doherty.
“Currently financial aid in Massachusetts tracks well below the national average of state’s support for higher education,” Doherty said.

Debate rages over minimum-wage bid

Sunday, February 24th, 2013

Feb 22, 2013 By Allison Thomasseau, The Lowell Sun, Statehouse correspondent

President Barack Obama’s call to raise the federal minimum wage, combined with a proposed Massachusetts bill to raise the state minimum wage has spurred a debate among legislators and business groups over the impact of such increases.

“If you boost the income of people who are poorly paid, it will have a positive effect on the economy, because it will increase consumer purchasing power, which benefits small businesses,” Sen. Jamie Eldridge, D-Acton, said in a phone interview.

Eldridge has signed on to a bill filed by Sen. Marc Pacheco, D-Taunton, that would raise the minimum wage from $8 per hour to $11 per hour over the next three years. The last time Massachusetts raised the state minimum wage was in 2008 when it went from $7.50 per hour to $8 per hour.

Three bills aim to bar ‘fracking’

Sunday, February 24th, 2013

Feb 18, 2013 By Cole Champan, GateHouse News ServiceThe State House Program

BOSTON —Although Massachusetts is not known for petroleum exploration, two bills have been filed in the Legislature to pre-emptively ban hydraulic fracturing – a natural gas extraction process better known as “fracking.”

Rep. Denise Provost, D-Somerville, and Rep. Peter V. Kocot, D-Northampton, have co-sponsored one bill that would bar the exploitation of shale located deep beneath the ground for natural gas production.

Meanwhile, Rep. Sean Garballey, D–Arlington, has two bills filed regarding fracking. One, filed last year, would require disclosures about what chemicals are being used in the fracking process while the other is a ban similar to Provost’s.

Even though there is little interest in what geologists believe are meager pickings for petroleum in the state, and state regulation now bars the fracking process, both lawmakers are in earnest about their proposals.