Archive for the ‘Public Safety’ Category

New bill targets underage pot smokers

Friday, October 4th, 2013

By Gina Curreri, State House correspondent, Cape Cod Times

pot

BOSTON – Anyone under 21 caught with an ounce or less of marijuana would face immediate arrest, 90-day driver’s license suspension, drug rehabilitation and probation under a proposed change in state law.

On Tuesday, sponsors of bill S923 before the Legislature told the Joint Committee on Mental Health and Substance Abuse at the Statehouse that for those under 21, smoking pot should be considered as serious as drinking alcohol.

“What we’re trying to do is create a parallel system for marijuana,” said Sen. Bruce Tarr, R-Gloucester, one of the bill’s sponsors. “We are perilously close to a situation where young folks don’t understand the adverse consequences of use of this substance.”

Rep. Randy Hunt, R-Sandwich, serves on the committee but had no questions or input at the hearing. He could not be reached by phone for comment Tuesday afternoon.

A 2008 state referendum decriminalized possession of an ounce or less of marijuana making it a civil crime with a fine of $100.

Anyone under 18 caught with a small amount of marijuana is supposed to enter a drug awareness program and do community service, but that doesn’t always happen, Walpole Deputy Police Chief John Carmichael told the committee.

“No adolescents in my history have gone through that program for drug awareness,” Carmichael said. He believes teens know they don’t have to carry identification and can lie to police about their name when receiving a citation.

Carmichael noted that a person under 21 could be arrested for possessing a single beer but would walk free with the equivalent of less than an ounce of pot in his or her pocket.

Under the proposed bill, minors would be offered pretrial diversion to mandatory substance abuse treatment, which not all courts offer, or they would be charged with a crime that will be sealed upon successful completion of probation.

“We know that initiation to substance abuse begins typically between ages 11 to 22, and the earlier the age of onset, the more likely that individual might experience drug problems later on in life,” Carmichael said.

Mary Minott, coordinator of a substance abuse prevention program in Brookline, testified that decriminalization of pot has “really taken the teeth out of any sort of diversion program,” because kids are not penalized for avoiding treatment.

Smoking marijuana under the age of 25 is problematic because the brain develops throughout adolescence and into early adulthood, said Lon Sherritt, director of data management at the Children’s Hospital Center for Adolescent Substance Abuse Research in Boston.

Sherritt explained that tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, mimics the naturally occurring neurotransmitters in the brain that affect working memory, decision-making, judgment and brain connections.

“This bill could sincerely help Massachusetts protect our most precious resource, which is, of course, our youth,” Sherritt said.

Although nobody testified against the bill on Tuesday, some urged that treatment is the better route, rather than taking teens to court.

“We’re talking about something that’s more of a medical issue, and we’re treating it with the criminal justice system. I worry about the direction we’re going with this, not the intent,” said Rep. Paul Heroux, D-Attleboro.

Beverly resident Paul Kusiak, who put two sons through drug rehabilitation, wants parents and children to be more informed.

“A lot of parents feel that drinking alcohol, smoking pot, is not a big deal and a rite of passage,” Kusiak said. “I’m here to share that not everyone gets through it. My kids certainly didn’t.”

DiNatale files bill for food labels

Tuesday, October 1st, 2013

By Carol Kozma, State House correspondent, Sentinel & Enterprise

When Sheila Lumi asked farmers what they thought of genetically modified organisms at the Fitchburg Farmers Market, she discovered that, like herself, they knew very little about the subject.

“A lot of people heard about GMOs,” said Lumi, who manages the farmers market, during a phone interview. “They know what it stands for and that, you know, the food is being genetically altered, but not enough to talk about it.”

Legislation that would require the food industry to label genetically modified products have sprouted in many states, including Massachusetts.

State Rep. Stephen DiNatale, D-Fitchburg, filed one of five bills on the issue. He said people will need to learn more on the subject before any bill passes.

“GMOs have been around for quite a while,” DiNatale said. “(But) I don’t think people know what GMOs are.”

DiNatale sees benefits in GMOs, which were developed to resolve famine issues by producing drought- or disease-resistant crops. But he is also aware of controversial studies that claim GMOs may be harmful.

His solution is to require producers to label foods that are genetically modified.

“I am not so concerned about coming down on one side or another, whether (a GMO) is beneficial or harmful,” DiNatale said. “Until the science is worked out, I think we should at the very least provide that knowledge to the consumer.”

DiNatale said the fact that he has not been contacted by any opposition means there is more work ahead. Both constituents and legislators have little understanding of what GMOs are, and he expects big corporations might oppose the bill because of the costs of labeling.

Calls to Monsanto, an international company that develops genetically modified agricultural products to support farmers, went unanswered. The company opposes GMO labeling, according to its website:

“We oppose mandatory labeling of food and ingredients developed from GM seeds in the absence of any demonstrated risks, as it could be interpreted as a warning or imply that food products containing these ingredients are somehow inferior to their conventional or organic counterpart.”

Twenty-eight other states saw a total of 95 GMO-related bills filed in 2013, said Doug Farquhar, director of the Environmental Health Program of the National Conference of State Legislatures, which provides research to legislatures around the country.

“We saw a little explosion of GMO labeling (bills),” he said.

Connecticut is the only state to have passed a labeling law; however, four other states including a bordering state must also pass a labeling law before it takes effect.

Lumi, the Fitchburg market manager, said although she does not necessarily oppose GMOs, she prefers natural foods until she understands how GMOs might affect people.

“I don’t want to feel like I am part of a science experiment,” she said. “It’s like, let’s eat and see what happens 10 years from now.”

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.
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House plans hearings on DPH role in drug lab scandal

Monday, November 5th, 2012

By Chelsea Sheasley, Metro West Daily News

BOSTON – House lawmakers have scheduled three public hearings to examine the Department of Public Health’s role in the state drug lab scandal that corrupted thousands of criminal drug cases and a breakdown at a Framingham compounding pharmacy that resulted in 28 meningitis deaths across the country.

“There has been a failure of government that has endangered both the public health and public safety of not only the citizens of Massachusetts, but citizens throughout the United States of America,” said state Rep. David Linksy, D-Natick, at a State House news conference Thursday.

Linsky, who chairs the House Committee on Post Audit and Oversight, was joined by Reps. Jeffrey Sánchez, D-Jamaica Plain, and Harold Naughton, D-Clinton, chairmen of public health and public safety committees.
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Suffolk University panel: Fight against gangs requires more than police

Thursday, October 4th, 2012

By Edward Donga, Patriot Ledger

BOSTON – Public safety experts say the fight against gang activity needs to go beyond police action to include a variety of tools, from tracking education and health care for at-risk youths to family counseling and street intervention.

“What we know from research and from practice is that making decisions based on data and attacking issues like this through a multidisciplinary approach works best,” Suffolk University professor Brenda Bond said at a seminar attended by police, politicians, and academics on Tuesday.

Bond led the discussion along with Erika Gebo her co-author of “Looking Beyond Suppression: Community Strategies to Reduce Gang Violence,” a book chronicling the success of Massachusetts communities using a Shannon Community Safety Initiative grant to combat local gang violence.
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Patrick stands his ground vs. proposed bill

Sunday, April 15th, 2012

By Neal J. Riley, The Lowell Sun

BOSTON — In the wake of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin’s shooting death by a neighborhood watch volunteer in Florida, Gov. Deval Patrick said yesterday he would oppose a bill similar to that state’s much-scrutinized “Stand Your Ground” law.

“Well, I don’t think that bill is going to move, and if it were to move, it’s not going to get past my desk,” Patrick told in a radio interview on WTKK-FM. “We don’t need a ‘Stand Your Ground’ bill, and I don’t entirely understand what the argument was for it in Florida.”

Filed for the past five years by state Sen. Stephen Brewer, D-Barre, on behalf of the Gun Owners Action League, the legislation would protect individuals who use deadly force against another person if they fear they are about to be severely injured or killed “in any place that they have a right to be.”
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Bill aims to keep power lines clear

Sunday, April 15th, 2012

By Neal J. Riley, The Lowell Sun

BOSTON — Public outcry over lengthy power outages after last October’s snowstorm and Tropical Storm Irene last August has prompted a state lawmaker to encourage cities and towns to fine utility companies that do not keep wires along public streets and highways free of overgrown tree limbs.

“If you want to use our land to run your wires, you’ve got to keep them free of tree branches,” Rep. Dan Winslow, R-Norfolk, said in an interview.

Winslow has sent model bylaws to cities and towns that, if adopted, would require utilities to keep wires over public land clear of branches and brush. Once notified by a municipality that a utility is violating the law, the utility would have 60 days to trim the tree or face a $100 fine per day for each tree.
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State Senate passes emergency response bill

Thursday, April 5th, 2012

By Rick SobeyMilford Daily News

BOSTON – Driven by residents’ frustration over extended power failures following Tropical Storm Irene and the October snowstorm, lawmakers are supporting legislation that would push utilities to improve service and communication during storms and their aftermath.

The bill, which has passed the Senate and is now before the House, would require twice-daily public announcements by power companies on estimates of when power will be restored. It will also require that utilities establish a state call center with sufficient staffing to handle increased calls.

The measure would upgrade the rules on the way utilities communicate with customers by requiring telephone and website access.
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State Senate passes storm response bill

Thursday, April 5th, 2012

By Rick SobeyMilford Daily News

BOSTON – Driven by residents’ frustration over extended power failures following Tropical Storm Irene and the October snowstorm, lawmakers are supporting legislation that would push utilities to improve service and communication during storms and their aftermath.

The bill, which has passed the Senate and is now before the House, would require twice-daily public announcements by power companies on estimates of when power will be restored. It will also require that utilities establish a state call center with sufficient staffing to handle increased calls.

The measure would upgrade the rules on the way utilities communicate with customers by requiring telephone and website access.
(more…)

Area chiefs oppose legalizing of fireworks

Thursday, April 5th, 2012

By Rick SobeyMilford Daily News

Some local legislators say it would create jobs and generate revenue, but area fire chiefs oppose a proposal to allow communities to legalize fireworks.

“The costs from legalizing fireworks would far outweigh the benefits,” said Aaron Goodale, Upton’s fire and EMS chief. “We all enjoy a good fireworks show, and I understand the jobs and revenue that fireworks would bring, but fireworks are just too dangerous and shouldn’t be legalized here.”

A state legislator wants Massachusetts’ communities to have the right to decide whether fireworks are OK.
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