State House News

Gaming panel officially awards slots machine license to Penn National for Plainville

By Max Lewontin, Sun Chronicle, Statehouse correspondent

BOSTON — State gaming officials voted unanimously to award the state’s first and only slots machine license to Penn National Gaming’s proposal for Plainridge Racecourse this morning after representatives for the company said they had no objections to the conditions cited by the panel.

“In addition to regulators, we’re partners now,” said Stephen Crosby, the state Gaming Commission chairman.

“I think Penn National is ready to get to work, they’re going to Plainville after this meeting,” Crosby said.

“The people of Plainville spoke very clearly,” he said at a press conference after the vote. “They’re accustomed to having a gaming facility, they’re used to the traffic issues and there was very little organized opposition.”

“They really voted with their feet with this one,” Crosby added

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Legislators hope to remove firearms licensing for carrying pepper spray

By Max Lewontin, Sun Chronicle, Statehouse correspondent

BOSTON – State lawmakers are hoping for action on several bills that would allow citizens to buy pepper spray and chemical Mace without going through the time and expense of getting a firearms identification card.

“We need to waive that requirement to allow women to purchase pepper spray for self-defense purposes,” said Rep. Jay Barrows, R-Mansfield, who is a co-sponsor of one of the bills.

Currently, Massachusetts residents who want to carry pepper spray must be over 18 and pay $100 for a firearms identification card. The process is the same as obtaining a firearms license, with wait times ranging from four to six months, said Jim Wallace, executive director of the Gun Owners Action League.

Wallace called the current law “ridiculous.”

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Opiate abuse hits area hard

By Jonathan Riley, Sentinel & Enterprise, Statehouse Correspondent

BOSTON — Senate President Therese Murray has called it an epidemic. A legislative committee has been formed to study it. And with opiate abuse increasing across the state and the nation, North Central Massachusetts has been one of the areas hardest hit.

“I think it’s evident how big the problem is,” said Sen. Jennifer Flanagan, D-Leominster, chairwoman of the Senate’s Special Committee on Drug Abuse and Treatment Options. “If you look at any newspaper almost any given day, you see cases of overdoses or arrests for possession.”

That media coverage got an added boost with the overdose death of actor Phillip Seymour Hoffman in New York City earlier this month.

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Lawmakers embrace task force report on gun violence

By Allison DeAngelis, Metron West Daily News, State House correspondent

Area legislators generally supported the 44 recommendations released Monday by a gun violence task force. But gun advocates, including a Northborough gun owners association, said the year-long review would do little to change the confusing language of Massachusetts gun laws.

“They ask a question on the application – “have you ever been treated for mental illness?”— and that’s about it. There’s no registry to determine if the info on the application is correct,” said state Rep. Jeffrey Roy, D-Franklin, who applied for a license to carry recently to see how the system worked.

The committee’s recommendations target inconsistencies between state and federal laws and gray areas in current law, including mandatory live-fire training, background checks for all gun purchases, and guidelines to stop the purchase of licensure of guns to unsuitable persons.

Natick Rep. David Linsky, who supported tougher gun laws after the school shooting in Newtown, Conn., praised the task force for recommending that the state comply with the National Instant Background Check system that prohibits the sale of guns to persons who are substance abusers or have a mental illness.

Currently, people who seek voluntary treatment or are involuntarily hospitalized for evaluation are not reported to the system.

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Some say Patrick’s budget plan falls short on school aid

By Daniel G. Petersen,Patriot Ledger,State House correspondent

BOSTON – Gov. Deval Patrick’s proposal to give the state’s public schools a 2.3 percent raise – bumping local education aid to $4.4 billion for the next fiscal year – has drawn a less-than-enthusiastic response from local school administrators and legislators.

Although the $99.5 million increase in Chapter 70 funding would bring school spending to record levels, critics are saying the boost won’t keep up with the needs of schools, which have been playing budget catch-up from cuts made in the past decade.

“The state can do a better job to meet the Chapter 70 needs,” Rep. Geoff Diehl, R-Whitman, said. “The percent increase seems extremely low considering the increased cost to schools.” Diehl said.

The governor proposed the highest level of education funding in state history last week as part of his fiscal year 2015 budget plan. But school officials, such as Brockton School Superintendent Kathleen Smith, say it won’t meet the increasing needs of cities and towns.

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State agency approves $39.3M for North Middlesex school project

By Jonathan Riley, Sentinel & Enterprise, State House correspondent

BOSTON — The North Middlesex Regional School District is one step closer to having a new high school in Townsend after the Massachusetts School Building Authority approved a $39.3 million grant for construction on Wednesday.

“We’re very excited that the project was approved,” said Superintendent of Schools Joan Landers. “A lot of hard work was done by the building committee, and also the MSBA.”

The next step for the plan to rebuild North Middlesex Regional High School will be special March Town Meetings in Pepperell, Ashby and Townsend, the three communities served by the school district.

North Middlesex Principal Christine Battye said she was “absolutely thrilled” that the grant was approved.

“This is truly a chance to transform our educational system and our community,” she said. “I’m thrilled to be part of it. It’s terribly exciting.”

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Attleboro residents decry abuse

By Max Lewontin,Sun Chronicle, State House correspondent

BOSTON – Responding to reports of physical and emotional abuse of elderly and disabled residents in subsidized Attleboro housing, a group of local residents joined others Tuesday in urging lawmakers to support of a bill aimed at ending the abuse across the commonwealth.

The bill, proposed by Sen. Joan Lovely, D-Salem, is modeled on similar regulations to combat bullying in schools.

It was filed on behalf of Jerry Halberstadt, 77, who lives in HUD-subsidized housing in Peabody and is an anti-abuse activist.

“The current regulatory framework is totally inadequate,” Michael Kane, executive director of the Massachusetts Association of Public Housing Tenants, told members of the Joint Committee on Housing.

“People should not have to live in a climate of fear and intimidation because they have no other place to go,” he said.

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Minimum wage hike weighed by MetroWest legislators

By Frankie Barbato, State House correspondent

Boston – The state Senate’s vote to increase Massachusetts’ minimum wage to $11 has drawn continuing debate among MetroWest’s legislative delegation, whose members have varying opinions on subjects from wage increases for waiters and waitresses to the larger impact the change will have on employers.

“I think it’s one of the reasons why the House refuses to take it up in the last moments (of the session),” state Rep. Chris Walsh, D-Framingham, said Thursday.

The state Senate voted 32-7 on Tuesday to raise the minimum wage from $8 to $11 over the next three years. The increase would be the first since 2008 and take effect on July 1.

If passed by the House, the increase would give Massachusetts the highest minimum wage in the country. In September, California lawmakers approved a $10 minimum wage, and this month New Jersey voters approved a raise to $8.50.

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

By Alexander Hyacinthe

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.

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Disappointing year for local legislators

BY Loren Savini, the Sun Chronicle

BOSTON – With the 2013 legislative session all but over, Attleboro area legislators are giving mixed reviews on the highs and lows of the year – from the passage-followed-by-repeal of the tech tax to a move toward a higher minimum wage.

But if there is one thing they all agree upon, it is that more needed to be done.

“We actually accomplished some things, but there’s a lot left on the table,” said Rep. Betty Poirier, R-North Attleboro.

The Legislature wrapped up business for the year last Wednesday.

It will return to work in January, facing the task of crafting another state budget and following up on unresolved issues, including the melding of House and Senate bills on changes in the welfare system and additional benefits for veterans.

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Commercial fisherman fight striped bass bill

By Gina Curreri, State House correspondent, Cape Cod Times

BOSTON – The continuing war over striped bass has entered a new battle on Beacon Hill with a renewed effort to eventually make the lucrative catch off limits for commercial fishermen.

A bill filed by Rep. Walter Timilty, D-Milton, would limit commercial licenses to fishermen who could demonstrate they’ve caught and sold more than 1,000 pounds of striped bass annually over the last five years on record.

Fishermen who meet that standard would be allowed to keep their striped bass licenses until 2025, when commercial licenses for the fish would no longer be issued.

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Gina Curreri, State House correspondent, the Cape Cod Times

Lawmakers are looking to add arts education to the state’s STEM curriculum, arguing that artistic values and creativity also are required to excel in the innovation economy.

“I think many times art teachers feel sort of pushed aside,” said Rep. Sarah Peake, D-Provincetown, who is co-sponsoring a bill with Rep. Kay Khan, D-Newton, to add an “A” for arts to STEM — the acronym for the national imperative to prepare students with a curriculum stressing science, technology, engineering and math education.

“If art becomes part of the STEM framework, a greater priority and focus has to be put on all the creative arts across the board, whether it’s painting, theater or creative writing,” she said.

The bill would create a commission to study the possible curriculum change.

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Tourism officials on the stump

By Carol Kozma


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.

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Trust Act bill would curtail police referrals in immigration cases

By Lisa Hagen, State House correspondent

BOSTON — Two years ago, as Edgar Ucelo left his Boston church he was pulled over by police and arrested for driving without a license. The judge planned to dismiss the case with a simple fine, but his case was turned over to federal immigration officials and he served six months in Plymouth Detention Center.

After fighting his case, Ucelo, who had no prior criminal record, was able to get immigration status and avoid deportation. But for many Massachusetts immigrants, Ucelo’s case is a rare example for those fearful that contact with police would result in deportation.

“We want it to be clear that officers are there to make sure we are all safe because I think we will all be more safe when my neighbor can call the police if someone is committing a crime,” said Jose Palma, a paralegal organizer of Centro Presente, a statewide Latin American immigrant organization.

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New bill targets underage pot smokers

By Gina Curreri, State House correspondent


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.
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Who Smokes and Who Pays?

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.

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Tax Addiction-States Becoming More Dependent on Tobacco Levies

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.

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Anti-Smoking Programs Fall as Taxes Rise

By Petros Kasfikis and Mike Trinh

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source: Massachusetts Department of Public Health

Twenty years ago, supporters of a tobacco tax increase for Massachusetts had lofty goals for the money.

A voter-approved 1992 ballot initiative nearly doubled the cigarette tax from 26 cents to 51 cents a pack to fund the creation of the Massachusetts Tobacco Cessation and Prevention Program. The program used advertizing, counseling and other steps to help smokers quit.

By 1994, the program’s budget was $52.2 million – about 22 percent of the tax revenue.

But although the tax was increased three more times to the current $2.51 a pack, spending on anti-smoking programs dropped 92 percent as more and more tax revenue was used to plug gaps in the state budget.

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Taxing Tobacco Now a National Addiction

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.

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State issues marijuana guidelines

March 31, 2013

By Emily O’Donnell, The Sun Chronicle

BOSTON – The state Department of Public Health issued 45 pages of draft regulations on Friday establishing rules for the sale and use of medical marijuana, including a proposed list of maladies and a 10-ounce limit on legal possession of the drug.

The regulations would allow patients with a “debilitating medical condition” to receive a 60-day supply of marijuana, and encouraged patients to send a caregiver to pick up the supply if necessary in lieu of growing pot at home.

The list of conditions include HIV/AIDS, hepatitis C, ALS, Crohn’s disease, cancer, glaucoma, Parkinson’s disease or multiple sclerosis, but would allow for additional ailments based on input from doctors and patients.

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

Feb, 28, 2013

By Mike TrinhPatriot Ledger State House Bureau

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.

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State officials grilled

Transportation overhaul gets scrutiny at hearing

Feb 28, 2013

By Emily O’Donnell

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 plan positions MassDOT to be able to maintain its access responsibly and promptly,” Transportation Secretary Richard Davey told the panel.

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Debate rages over minimum-wage bid

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.

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Three bills aim to bar ‘fracking’

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.

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Legislators react to Patrick tax plan

Feb 7, 2013

By Allison Thomasseau, The Lowell Sun

BOSTON — Gov. Deval Patrick’s ambitious plan to raise $1.9 billion in new taxes is not generating much enthusiasm among Lowell-area lawmakers who want to reform inefficient programs instead of raising taxes.

“We need to continue a discussion on reform before we have a discussion on revenue, and that’s the consensus between my constituents and colleagues,” said Rep. Tom Golden, D-Lowell.

Patrick’s plan includes raising the income tax from 5.25 percent to 6.25 percent and doubling personal-tax exemptions while cutting the sales tax from 6.25 percent to 4.5 percent.

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Brockton teens join rally for more state spending on summer jobs

Feb 22, 2013

By Mike Trinh,Enterprise State House Bureau

BOSTON —Ninety students from Greater Brockton joined more than a thousand Massachusetts teens at the Statehouse this week to rally for more state spending on summer jobs.

Students from the Brockton Mayor’s Youth Council, the Boys & Girls Club and Southeastern Regional Vocational-Technical High School in Easton helped fill Faneuil Hall, where they heard Boston Mayor Thomas Menino talk about the importance of being involved in government.

Chidera Onyeoziri, a junior at Brockton High School, said she and other students were excited to hear from the mayor.

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NMCOG, communities land state grants

Feb 17, 2013

By Allison Thomasseau, The Lowell Sun

Lowell-area towns and government groups have received more than $150,000 in community development grants to develop regional collaborations that will promote efficiency in transportation and stormwater management.

The state Executive Office of Administration and Finance‘s community innovation challenge grants provided $2.25 million to 27 regional community projects statewide. The projects, involving 162 towns, aim to combine town services, such as 911 dispatching and property assessing services, into a regional collaboration.

“Whether you’re in a small town in a rural area or a big city in a metropolitan area, there are ways to partner, and these grants build on that,” Lt. Gov. Tim Murray said at a meeting of 75 grant recipients on Tuesday.

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State budget plan analyzed in first hearing

Feb 15, 2013

By Allison Thomasseau, The Lowell Sun

BOSTON — Legislators on the House and Senate Ways and Means Committee raised concerns about transportation equity, welfare regulation and elimination of critical tax breaks at the first hearing on next year’s budget Thursday.

The hearing was the first of eight scheduled over the next several weeks. The fifth hearing, which will focus on health and human services, will be in Fitchburg on Feb. 28.

House Ways and Means Chair Brian Dempsey, D-Haverhill, said the House has begun to analyze the governor’s budget proposal. The House plans to send its amended budget to the Senate in April.

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‘Virtual schools’ earn praise from panel

Feb 10, 2013

By Allison Thomasseau, The Lowell Sun

BOSTON — Legislators and educators applauded the benefits of virtual schools at a Thursday seminar, praising the innovation that allows students to learn at their own pace and take advantage of technology in the classroom.

“Virtual learning will totally change the architecture of what is school,” Michael Horn, co-director and founder of the Innosight Institute, a think tank for the social sector, told about 50 New England educators in the seminar.

Virtual schooling ranges from online classes at home to a blended model where students do their schoolwork on computers in the school’s “learning labs” and discuss subjects with students in seminar rooms.

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Lowell’s Dukakis receives arts award

Feb 20, 2013

By Allison Thomasseau, The Lowell Sun



Actress Olympia Dukakis, center, a Lowell native, was recognized Tuesday at the Statehouse by the Massachusetts Cultural Council and state. Sen. Eileen Donoghue, right. At left is Tony Simotes, artistic director of Shakespeare & Company. Courtesy photo

Sun staff photos can be ordered by visiting our MyCapture site.


BOSTON — Lowell-born actress Olympia Dukakis received an achievement award from the Massachusetts Cultural Council on Tuesday for her contributions to the arts community.

“This is not only because she is one of the most outstanding actresses I have admired since I was a girl, but because of the role model she has played,” Sen. Eileen Donoghue, D-Lowell, said, presenting Dukakis with her award. “The double thrill is that she’s from Lowell.”

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Winslow near Senate run; Tarr considering

Feb 6, 2013

By Allison Thomasseau, The Lowell Sun, Andy Metzger, State House News Service

Daniel Winslow




State Rep. Daniel Winslow talks to reporters at the Statehouse Tuesday. The Norfolk Republican said he is “99 percent” sure he will run for the U.S. Senate seat vacated by John Kerry. AP PHOTO

Sun staff photos can be ordered by visiting our MyCapture site.

Republican state Rep. Dan Winslow, a firebrand legislator with experience in the executive and judicial branches, announced Tuesday he is forming an exploratory committee and is “99 percent” sure he will run in the special election for former U.S. Sen. John Kerry’s seat.

Hours later, Massachusetts Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr announced he is considering a run, saying his decision “absolutely” would be made by next Monday if not sooner.

Two other Republicans, businessman and former Navy SEAL Gabriel Gomez and Dorchester resident Doug Bennett, have also announced interest in running.

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Private sector drawing more from Beacon Hill

Feb 4, 2013

By Allison Thomasseau, The Lowell Sun

BOSTON — Although some turnover is expected, the recent slew of politicians and administration officials leaving office for private-sector jobs points to a possible growing trend among state officials seeking better paydays.

Sen. Jack Hart and Rep. Marty Walz, both Boston Democrats, announced last week that they would be moving on to higher-paying private-sector jobs. Hart is going to the Boston law firm Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough; Walz was hired as president and chief executive officer of Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts.

Last year, Methuen Sen. Steven Baddour, Franklin Rep. James Vallee, Holyoke Rep. Michael Kane and Worcester Rep. Vincent Pedone all left the Legislature for private-sector jobs.

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Observers say Mass. GOP must rebuild from ground up

Feb 2, 2013

By Allison Thomasseau, The Lowell Sun

BOSTON — With most eyes turned to former U.S. Sen. Scott Brown’s decision not to run in the special election to fill John Kerry’s Senate seat, some political observers are saying Massachusetts Republicans must pay more attention to rebuilding the local party rather than putting all their efforts into national races.

“They should recruit candidates to run for state Legislature, but often get sidetracked into flashy races that they almost always lose,” said Peter Ubertaccio, a political-science professor at Stonehill College in Easton

The sudden open spot for a Republican candidate created both consternation and opportunity for GOP leaders, including former Senate Minority Leader Richard Tisei, who announced Friday evening that he is considering running in the U.S. Senate election.

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Cowan’s appointment gets warm reception

Jan 31, 2013

By Cole Chapman, The MetroWest Daily NewsThe State House Program

BOSTON—Although some area lawmakers were surprised by Gov. Deval Patrick’s pick of William “Mo” Cowan as Massachusetts’ interim U.S. senator, the general consensus is he could aid the state as a knowledgeable advocate in Washington.

“I think [Cowan’s] very well prepared from the point of view of knowing what we need and will hopefully be able to translate that knowledge for advocacy for the state on a federal level,” said state Rep. Alice Peisch, D-Wellesley, Wednesday after Patrick appointed his former chief of staff to fill the vacancy left by the appointment of U.S. Sen. John Kerry to secretary of state. Kerry held the Ssenate seat for 29 years.

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Citizen’s Energy firing up fuel help

Jan 31, 2013

By Allison Thomasseau, The Lowell Sun, Statehouse Correspondent

Commercials featuring former U.S. Rep. Joseph Kennedy II urging low-income citizens to call JOE-4-OIL have been conspicuously absent from the airwaves this season.

That’s about to change.

The fuel-assistance program will resume Thursday, offering heating assistance to citizens who have used up their federal oil allotments, according to a CITGO official.

This year, Citizen’s Energy pushed the program’s start date back a month until federal fuel funds were exhausted.

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