Posts Tagged ‘Garrett Brnger’

Reps: Budget was good effort all around

Monday, May 9th, 2011

By Garrett Brnger, The Salem News

May 03, 2011

BOSTON — After weeks of debate, compromise and some sacrifice, local state representatives say they are pleased with the $30.51 billion budget the House passed Thursday.

The budget passed 157-1, with only Rep. James Lyons, R-Andover, voting in opposition.

“Of the seven budgets I’ve been involved in, this was probably the most bipartisan and the least amount of disagreement,” said Rep. John Keenan, D-Salem. “We had a few fights, but we always do. I think we all came to the table and realized we had a huge gap — about $1.9 billion — and worked toward doing that.”

Despite cuts on virtually every line item in the budget, Keenan said it was a “good, strong budget” and had reduced spending over the previous year.

Other area representatives from both parties echoed his sentiments.

“As Republicans, we were happy to see that, as an institution, we didn’t just continue to spend, spend, spend,” said Rep. Brad Hill, R-Ipswich. “We recognized we can’t continue to keep spending the way we’ve been spending, at unsustainable levels.”

The biggest story of the budget was the reform to municipal employee health care. Under the House plan, the municipalities would be able to alter copayments and fees provided they are not more expensive than the largest subscriber plan offered by the state-run Group Insurance Commission.

The budget bill gives towns the option of participating.

It also provides the municipalities the ability to make plan changes, provided the unions see a return of 10 percent of the savings into health-related programs. If negotiations are not finished within 30 days, the plan goes into effect without changes, but the employees would share 20 percent of the savings.

Although unions protested these changes, Rep. Ted Speliotis, D-Danvers, said he thought it was fair for public employees to have to deal with higher costs, too.

“If 99 percent of society is living with this, I think that 1 percent that has been exempt from those increases has to share in that,” Speliotis said.

Minority Leader Rep. Brad Jones, R-Reading, agreed, saying that savings for municipalities will help avoid layoffs of the same people who were protesting the changes.

“The reason for the vast majority of people who were supportive (of the reform) was to preserve jobs which were primarily, and in some communities exclusively, union positions,” Jones said.

The $100 million in estimated municipal savings from these new powers is meant to offset some of the damage caused by $65 million in local aid cuts.

Although all the representatives expressed regret at the cut, they pointed to a new amendment that could assist the municipalities in the coming months.

Half of any unspent state capital at the end of fiscal 2012 — known as reversions — would be put toward further aid to municipalities. The amount is capped at $65 million and would be available sometime in October, Hill said.

“Many of us, me included, feel very strongly that local aid needs to be a top priority, and with the cuts we’ve seen, we needed to address it,” he said.

Jones agreed, saying, “As revenues continue to increase, we need to recognize some of that money should go back to the taxpayers.”

Despite the cut to local aid, Chapter 70 aid for education was increased $120 million over last year’s contribution.

Speliotis and Keenan both championed $400,000 in funding for Advanced Placement Programs in schools, Keenan said.

“That is going a long way to close the achievement gap, which is certainly one of the goals of the president and the governor,” Keenan said.

Adult day programs, threatened with crippling budget cuts in the governor’s budget, released two months ago, received level funding in the House budget. Hill said it was a particularly important issue for his region because of an adult center in Beverly. Other representatives agreed.

“Those programs are really important because they allow people to stay in their homes,” said Rep. Joyce Spiliotis, D-Peabody.

Other items in the budget that energized the lawmakers included the introduction of restrictions on purchases of alcohol, tobacco and lottery tickets for electronic benefit transfer cardholders using welfare money, noted by Jones and Hill. Keenan, a former Joint Committee on Tourism, Arts and Cultural Development chairman, said he was proud of a $5 million increase for regional tourism councils from only $1 million.

Although the representatives were happy with their version of the budget, they will see a new Senate version in a few weeks, which may change the level of support.

“The Senate is going to have a process, and we’re going have to wait until it comes back,” Jones said. “It could be wildly and dramatically different when it comes back.”
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Sen. Wolf advocates for arts

Monday, May 9th, 2011

By Garrett BrngerThe Salem News

May 07, 2011
BOSTON — The picture being painted for state Sen. Daniel Wolf, D-Harwich, is not too pretty.

Since 2002, the Massachusetts Cultural Council’s budget has fallen from $19.1 million to $6.1 million, a 68 percent decrease in funding. The House Ways and Means Committee’s budget is set to cut an additional $1.6 million for fiscal 2012.

It will be up to Wolf, the new co-chairman of the cultural caucus with state Rep. William Pignatelli, D-Lenox, to lead a strong effort against budget cuts to programs that are competing for a dwindling amount of grant money to survive.

Wolf said the cultural caucus had not met yet this session other than to elect the co-chairmen, but there’s plenty of work to do. “The next step is to pull a meeting together and talk about how we recognize, celebrate and promote the role of arts and culture in the commonwealth,” he said.

The cultural caucus is designed to work closely with the Massachusetts Cultural Council (MCC) in developing an agenda of arts and cultural initiatives. The MCC is a state agency focused on providing grants to nonprofit cultural programs. Its partnership with the cultural caucus is meant to enhance its influence.

The cultural caucus was created in January 2010 by the Joint Committee on Tourism, Arts and Cultural Development. Rep. Sarah Peake, D-Provincetown, the committee’s chairwoman, said the cultural caucus gives any concerned legislator an opportunity to work toward better funding and initiatives for the arts.

Peake, who nominated Wolf for the chairman post, said the cultural caucus has the potential to gather support for a measure very quickly — a necessity if arts programs are to survive.

“It has power in the sense that there’s strength in numbers,” she said. “I filed an amendment to increase the MCC’s budget, but rather than go and figure out who the MCC’s supporters are, I went to the list of who signed up for the caucus, and those were the first people I approached and asked, ‘Will you co-sponsor my amendment?’ Most of them did.”

Peake’s amendment would restore the MCC’s funding to the $5.4 million recommended in the governor’s budget.

The decreased funding to the MCC would affect the local cultural councils that receive state money through the state agency, Peake said. Many school-based programs such as the artists in the classroom program would also suffer or be eliminated.

Although grants are often available for educational programs, Wendy Northcross, one of Wolf’s fellow board members on the Arts Foundation of Cape Cod, said grant money does not always cover every cost.

“You can’t always get grants for day-to-day programs, to keep the lights on, keep the staff hired,” Northcross said.

Kevin Howard, executive director of the Arts Foundation of Cape Cod, said investment in the arts brings a return to the state in the form of tax dollars. “Here on the Cape, we’ve got a tourism destination; it also should be an elite cultural destination. I think we’ve got so many subregions in the Cape that are so strong in the arts. There are lots of strong venues, galleries, theaters, music; we’ve got a very strong regional symphony,” Howard said.

Wolf said he believes the future actions of the cultural caucus are crucial.

“I think it’s going to play an important role not only for the region, but for the positioning of arts and culture in the commonwealth,” he said.
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Barnstable, Falmouth win “green” awards

Monday, May 9th, 2011

By Garrett BrngerCape Cod Times

April 23, 2011

The towns of Barnstable and Falmouth received awards this week from state and federal officials for “green infrastructure” improvements at water treatment plants.

The Cape towns were among 21 communities in the state to earn accolades from the state Department of Environmental Protection and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for projects that cut costs and reduced carbon emissions.

Barnstable and Falmouth received the Clean Water State Revolving Fund Pisces Award, and Falmouth was also awarded the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund Sustainable Public Health Protection Award.

Barnstable’s winning projects were the installation of two wind turbines, 3,900 solar panels and a new system to conserve energy for pumps at the Hyannis Water Solutions Control Facility.

Senior project manager Dale Saad said the new setup at the water treatment plant uses an automated system of pumps and blowers to increase efficiency.

Falmouth was honored for instaling a wind turbine at the Blacksmith Shop Road Waste Water Treatment Facility along with solar panels at the Crooked Pond Water Filtration Facility using federal stimulus grant money.

“It has benefited the community by providing an alternative power source,” Gerald Potamis, Falmouth’s wastewater superintendent, said the renewable energy projects.
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State targets boating discharge

Monday, May 9th, 2011

By Garrett BrngerThe Salem News

April 25, 2011

Another 30-mile stretch of Cape Cod’s coastline could become a no-discharge area to stop boats from dumping waste into local waters, but some local officials wonder whether the region has the pumping stations to support it.

If approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the coast of the Outer Cape from Provincetown to Chatham would become off-limits to dumping either treated or untreated sewage into waters up to three miles from shore. The regulated area would cover 179 square miles.

Much of the Cape’s waters already have the designation, including Buzzards Bay, Cape Cod and Pleasant bays and Chatham Harbor.

Massachusetts has 60 percent of its coast designated as no-discharge areas, and the Outer Cape area would bring the percentage up to 67 percent.

“I think both the state of Massachusetts as well as the EPA and other New England states have a collective goal of designating their waters as no-discharge areas,” Bruce Carlisle, acting director of the Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management, said.

Proponents of no-discharge areas say they keep water cleaner by protecting it from the high nutrient levels in sewage and the chemicals used to treat it.

This protects aquatic life and reduces the risk of human illness.

To qualify for no-discharge status, the areas must be considered important ecological and recreational areas and have enough pump-out facilities at marinas to support the local boating population.

There is some question about whether the Outer Cape has that capability.

“I think every harbor master and every shellfish officer would say, ‘Of course, we want no discharge,’ but we don’t have the resources,” Harwich Harbor Master Tom Leach said.

There are two pump-out stations on the Lower Cape: Nauset Marina East in Orleans and Round Cove in East Harwich, which has a pump-out boat that services Pleasant Bay. Although they can handle their current level of responsibility, Leach said the facilities are not equipped to handle more.

To help handle the load, an additional stationary facility is being built at Goose Hummock Marine in Orleans, with 75 percent of the cost reimbursed by the federal Clean Vessel Act Program.

There are 519 vessels in the Nauset harbor, but only 90 have a registered marine sanitation device on board. The others are mainly small skiffs used by residents, Ann Rodney, an EPA environmental specialist, said.

Rodney, who will review the application, said the area seems to have enough pump-out facilities to support a no-discharge area, since Nauset Harbor does not have much transient traffic.

“This is what I have to investigate. The state has certified this, and I will be talking to the harbor masters,” Rodney said.

Federal, state and local governments each can ticket violators up to $2,000 per infraction. The law allows the Coast Guard, the state Environmental Police, harbor masters and fish and game wardens to enforce no-discharge zones.

The rule is already strictly enforced in the harbor, but most violations are discovered only if the person is a repeat offender or someone reports another boater, Leach said.

“How do you enforce something like that? Everybody’s basically on the honor system,” Leach said.

Carlisle, however, said boaters usually self-regulate in no-discharge areas.

“Boaters recognize the value of clean water, and because we make it convenient for them to pump out it has become standard practice,” Carlisle said.

Only Nantucket Sound, Vineyard Sound and Mt. Hope Bay lack no-discharge status in the state and are getting ready to apply.

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Despite increase, road repair funds fall short

Monday, May 9th, 2011

By Garrett BrngerCape Cod Times

April 06, 2011

With the economy on the rocks, a 29 percent increase in funding for road and bridge repair for fiscal 2012 sounds good on paper.

But while they are grateful for the bump during a time of budget deficits, some local officials say the bill signed last week by Gov. Deval Patrick that allocates $200 million in Chapter 90 funds statewide is still not enough to keep all the roads in proper condition.

Sandwich Public Works Director Paul Tilton said the $794,190 the town will receive in fiscal 2012 — which is $175,613 over 2011 — is still too low. “I should be spending $900,000 to $1 million per year to maintain our roads,” Tilton said.

Tilton’s sentiment is backed by the Massachusetts Municipalities Association. Officials from the association said in a hearing on the Chapter 90 bill that a survey of municipalities found $400 million per year is needed to keep up roads and bridges. The association endorsed less than that — $300 million — as a proper amount, and the House toyed with the idea of proposing $250 million.

In the end, the funding level ended up being what Patrick proposed in his budget — $200 million, $45 million more than last year.

Still, the new level of funding means more ground can be covered. Tilton said Sandwich Public Works would be able to finally complete repairs on two miles of Quaker Meetinghouse Road.

“You do what you can each year based upon the funds that are available,” Tilton said. “Ideally, you’d like to do the road all in one summer or fall, but because of the lack of funds we’ve just been doing a third at a time.”

Other municipal officials are happy to have the extra funds but said the rising price of asphalt means the money will only help them maintain the current level of work.

Wellfleet DPW Director Mark Vincent said because he believes the prices will keep rising, his town may have to look into additional state grant programs.

He said the cost for asphalt for the town’s most recent project is about $91 a ton, a figure that has risen steadily over time.

“Probably two years ago we were paying somewhere around $72 to $73 a ton,” Vincent said. “As much as seven or eight years ago we were paying $32 a ton.”

Several towns have had to settle for patches on their roads in recent years because the funds have not been available to do a full tear-up and repaving.

Raymond Jack, Falmouth’s public works director, said the quick fixes only get you so far.

“Unfortunately I think during the lean years, many towns went with soft overlays, which were basically thin coats, about one inch,” Jack said. “That buys you only a few years. It’s been a few years now so we have an inordinate number of roads that fit that bill and are failing.”

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Rep. Keenan talks about nuclear power, Salem coal plant

Monday, May 9th, 2011

By Garrett BrngerThe Salem News

April 18, 2011

SALEM — Salem Rep. John Keenan is the new chairman for the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy, a job that has taken on greater significance with the nuclear disaster in Japan.

The Salem Democrat shared his thoughts this week on nuclear power in Massachusetts.

Your committee is probably getting a lot more work right now after the incident in Japan.

Absolutely. I have to say, I was named chairman of this committee a few weeks before this incident happened. I would imagine, much like the legislators in our committee here in Massachusetts, many of the legislators in the 31 states that have nuclear reactors have probably responded thoroughly, in that they wanted to hold hearings and make sure communities prepare in the event that we have some sort of disaster, natural or other, that causes a problem.

This was not an issue that I felt was going to be a first issue to have for my committee, but it just so happens that was the case.

How safe should state residents feel with three nuclear power plants within or just outside our borders?

I think that was part of our goal for having the hearing last week at the Statehouse — to bring in the two companies, Entergy, who owns both Pilgrim and Yankee Vermont, and then NextEra, which owns Seabrook. …

I was certainly comfortable with their responses and their talking about their preparedness for any sort of natural disaster or sabotage or those sorts of things, and talking about their backup systems. …

So I just hope we did reveal that Massachusetts and Massachusetts Emergency Management (MEMA) is prepared in the event something like that does happen, but we also asked some important questions about how the communities communicate with each other.

I think overall the citizens can feel safe. Nuclear power plays a very important role in the region. I think it accounts for almost 30 percent of the baseload here in the New England ISO (independent system operator) region.

What steps are the utilities taking to make sure there won’t be a repeat of the catastrophe in Japan?

I don’t think you can ever say anything is 100 percent fail-proof, but having two or three systems ready to go and kept in working fashion is critical to the folks who live in the emergency evacuation zone. …

As a result of the failed effort on behalf of the federal government to build the depository at Yucca Mountain, both companies have explained to us the process and capital planning they’re doing to build dry storage facilities on-site. … But we are encouraging, as did the governor, that the federal government either move forward with that project or another project.

They collected over $25 billion from ratepayers in nuclear power companies over the last several decades to build this thing, and they haven’t done it. So they need to do that, or send the money back to the various facilities so they can build appropriate dry storage on site.

The cost of electricity in Massachusetts is among the highest in the country. Why?

I think one of the reasons is we’re sort of at the end of the energy line, if you will. We don’t necessarily have natural resources here.

Most of our electricity is generated from fossil fuels, whether gas or coal that’s brought into the area. It is getting a little better; the cost of natural gas is starting to go down a little bit and level out over the last year or so. The discovery of shale gas in Pennsylvania, I think, is going to provide ample gas going forward.

Nuclear power plants are very expensive to build, but they are … a critical component. So I don’t know how we could think about replacing the 650 megawatts at Pilgrim and another 650 megawatts at Vermont Yankee. It’s a huge part of our energy here in New England.

What are you hearing about the future of the coal-burning plant, Salem Harbor Station?

I asked a sort of similar question because our power plant also has the capacity of about 750 megawatts, which is sort of equal to that of Pilgrim or Vermont Yankee, and has been critical to the reliability of this area for a long, long time.

There are no new plants that I’m aware of, of that magnitude, being planned or being built. The only thing that ISO has talked about is transmission into the region. But that is perhaps more costly than the improvements that need to be done at Salem Harbor, and quite some time before you actually get some study up in terms of transmission lines.

I am hopeful and confident that ISO will determine in May that the plant is still needed for reliability in the grid. In Massachusetts, coal follows nuclear as the biggest baseload. So it’s an important piece.

Again, I think we have to diversify. I think nuclear is a part of the solution. Clean coal is perhaps part of the solution. Renewable, I certainly support its development in Massachusetts. So we have to continue to look at all facets, and I think the Salem power plant does play a role.

What steps could the state take to mitigate the tax loss to the city if the plant closes?

Sen. Berry (Fred Berry, D-Peabody) and I took some steps a few years ago in the Green Communities Act, and put a sort of backstop in there in terms of taxes, which is still in effect through Dec. 31. In the event that the tax proceeds go down from the power plant to the city of Salem, the funds from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative auction would fill out that gap.

Right now, we receive about $4.75 million in taxes from the plant. … Sen. Berry and I have also filed legislation this term to extend that protection. We’re hopeful we can move that along.

Is there anything else you’d like to add about the work you and the Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy Committee are doing right now?

We try to be prepared in the very unfortunate instance that something like this (Japan) were to happen. It made for a very interesting beginning of my tenure as chairman of this committee.

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Lawmakers mull new rules for personal watercraft

Monday, May 9th, 2011

By Garrett BrngerCape Cod Times

April 06, 2011

BOSTON — Summery thoughts of boating sparked heated debate at a Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security hearing Tuesday on proposed regulations for small watercraft and mandatory use of life jackets.

A bill that would allow municipalities to set restrictions for powered personal watercraft on bodies of water smaller than 750 acres in their jurisdiction dominated the hearing.

Representatives of the marine manufacturing industry opposed the bill filed by Rep. James O’Day, D-West Boylston, saying it singled out the small boats known as personal watercraft.

“A PWC is a boat, just a smaller version, and they should be treated equitably and held to the same regulations as other recreational boats,” said Nicole Vasilaros, the state government relations manager for the National Marine Manufacturers Association.

Environmental groups and lakefront residents supported the legislation.

Sierra Club representatives Phillip Sego and James McCaffrey told lawmakers that the small boats pollute the water, harass wildlife and disrupt ecosystems.

“Studies have shown birds stand in six inches of water where they normally eat and can’t even see their prey,” said James McCaffrey, the Sierra Club’s Massachusetts chapter director.

Bridgewater resident Bernice Morrissey came prepared to Tuesday’s hearing, with a six-inch stack of records from the past nine years that document personal watercraft activity on Lake Nippenicket, where she lives.

“They are overbearing, they are unsafe on the waterways, they are built by design to go full throttle … and they do it,” Morrissey said.

Morrissey helped institute a 6 p.m. curfew for use of personal watercraft on Lake Nippenicket in 2009, but she said it is no longer being enforced. The state environmental police refused to enforce the local bylaw, and the local police told Morrissey the lake is not in their jurisdiction, she said.

Other proposals reviewed at Tuesday’s hearing included legislation to require all boaters in vessels under 20 feet in length to wear life jackets and requiring mandatory boater education.

Although the marine industry representatives gave their full support to the mandatory education, the mandatory life jacket bill received no supporting testimony and three lawmaker were openly critical.

“At some point, enough is enough, and we allow adults to make some decisions,” Rep. Anne Gobi, D-Spencer, said.

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Programs for elderly, disabled adults on Cape Cod catch break

Monday, May 9th, 2011

March 22, 2011

Service providers and clients of programs for the elderly and developmentally disabled are grateful for a reprieve but still concerned about the future after the governor suspended $10 million in MassHealth cuts that were to take effect this week.

“I was relieved, and I’m hopeful that they won’t do the cuts at all,” said Daniel Sprout, program director of the Kennedy Donovan Center in South Yarmouth, which offers adult foster care to around 40 people on the Cape.

Areas threatened by the budget axe are adult day health, which provides care to elderly patients to keep them out of institutions; day habilitation programs, which provide clinical care and occupational therapy for the developmentally disabled; and adult foster care, which provides 24-hour service to the elderly and developmentally disabled adults.

The cuts affected by the 11th-hour postponement March 14 are for the remainder of the fiscal year. Adult day habilitation providers would have lost 4.1 percent in rate reimbursements, roughly $5.2 million annually; adult day health providers would have seen their rate reimbursements fall 7.8 percent, a $3.3 million annual cut; and $4 million in annual cuts to foster care would have taken 6.2 percent of the program’s budget.

The cuts could still be enacted for the remainder of the year and are still on the budget for fiscal 2012.

Health providers also face an additional $55 million loss for fiscal 2012 if the governor’s plan to eliminate Basic Care, the program’s most frequently used service, is approved. A rally is planned today at the Statehouse to protest that plan.

Community Connections in South Yarmouth, which provides adult day habilitation services for Southeastern Massachusetts, would have to adjust its level of clinical services and direct care, said president Donna Sabecky. Although relieved by the rate cuts’ postponement, she hesitated to call it a “suspension.”

“There is a high probability that (the rates) could go into effect at a later date,” she said.

If the cuts go through, many of the providers would be forced to decrease staff, the most expensive part of their programs. Opponents of the cuts say adult habilitation and health programs would have to lower their on-site staff, and foster care programs could have trouble attracting families to host developmentally disabled people if the money is not available.

For the Visiting Nurse Association, which runs two Cape Cod adult day health programs, it is business as usual until the future of rate reductions is determined.

Mary Devlin, the programs’ public health and wellness manager, said the VNA will continue to provide adult day health services and grow the program while the appeal continues.

“I’m grateful that our legislative bodies listened to the community and respected the need for adult day health,” Devlin said.

State Rep. Sarah Peake, D-Provincetown, said delaying the cuts is “the right thing to do.”

“These are some of our most vulnerable citizens, and these programs are essential for their quality of life,” she said.

Government officials said they had received a “significant amount” of input on the cuts from service providers, patients and legislators.

“We are still in the process of reviewing all of this feedback,” Jennifer Kritz, a spokeswoman for the Executive Office of Health and Human Services.

Darcey Adams, president of the Massachusetts Adult Day Services Association, said the savings the Patrick administration hopes to achieve with the rate reductions in adult day health may have already been reached this year because of bad weather. Adams’ program closed for three days because of snow.

“I think this delay on the rate cut is really showing they’re taking a good hard look at the information that we submitted,” Adams said.

Adams led a panel in February on adult day health services and said the proposed cuts would be devastating to the industry. If the rate reductions for next year pass in addition to the elimination of Basic Care, 20 percent of the program’s participants would be immediately forced into institutionalized care, Adams said.

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Redistricting set to alter political landscape across the state

Sunday, March 6th, 2011

By Garrett BrngerCape Cod Times

March 06, 2011

A decade ago, then-state Sen. Robert O’Leary faced a hard decision after 2000 U.S. Census figures showed there were 25,000 extra people in his Barnstable district.

His choices were to either drop Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard or shed three of Barnstable’s 12 precincts under his jurisdiction.

O’Leary, a Barnstable resident, chose to let the three Barnstable precincts go to Sen. Therese Murray, D-Plymouth, splitting up the town.

“I felt strongly that there had been a Cape and Islands connection for a long, long time. There’s a lot of synergy between the two,” O’Leary said.

The redistricting process has started again on the state and national level, as public officials await detailed population figures from the 2010 census. Massachusetts will get its numbers, split down to the census-tract level, by the end of this month.

State Sen. Stanley Rosenberg, D-Amherst, the Senate co-chairman of the committee charged with redistricting, said the Cape’s population has remained more stable in the past 10 years than between 1990 and 2000, and the region will probably not see drastic changes in state House or Senate district boundaries.

But Massachusetts’ congressional districts will see a change, with the number of U.S. representatives shrinking from 10 to nine, based on preliminary Census totals released in December.

Cutting a congressman will mean a redistribution of 60,000 to 80,000 residents in each of the remaining nine U.S. House districts. With all 10 congressmen planning to run for re-election, there will be no easy solution on whose district disappears.

U.S. Rep. William Keating, D-Mass., could be affected when the congressional districts are redrawn. But the freshman congressman said in a recent meeting with the Times that he will avoid getting caught up in any controversy about what could happen.

“The best way to approach redistricting is to do your job well,” he said.

This is not a new experience for Keating, who served as a state representative and senator for more than 20 years. In the mid-1990s, Keating waged a well-publicized battle with William Bulger for the Senate presidency, which resulted in political payback in the form of redistricting. Keating said he may have been redistricted more than anyone else in the state.

“I hate to see communities split up, for what it’s worth,” he said.

Other elected officials will see their own share of redistricting soon. After a Republican proposal to establish an independent redistricting commission was defeated 123-30 in the House on Wednesday, the redistricting will continue as it has in the past, with a joint legislative committee co-chaired by Sen. Rosenberg and Rep. Michael Moran, D-Boston.

“We’re going to go at it the way the chairman laid out, and I am going to do every single thing within the purview of my office, within the rules and beyond to influence that process in the best interest of my members and in the commonwealth,” House Minority Leader Brad Jones said after the vote on Wednesday.

The real fights will start when the much-anticipated Census population numbers are released. The Senate and House co-chairmen of the redistricting committee have already met with almost every member of the Legislature to advise them on potential changes in their district based on preliminary Census projections.

By state law, a candidate for the House must live in his or her district for at least a year prior to election. This sets the deadline for the 160-district House map to be passed by the Legislature and the governor for the first Tuesday in November.

Rosenberg said he plans to have the House, Senate and Governor’s Council map finished by then, although the Senate and Governor’s Council do not need to be finished until the time of the next election. He hopes to finish the congressional map by January or February.

“I ain’t no fool. I want the House and Senate maps to be approved at the same time,” Rosenberg said.

No mapping or drafting will begin until after at least a dozen meetings are held across the state to hear citizen comments on redistricting. The hearings will end by late June at the earliest and will start once the House appoints the rest of its redistricting committee members.

Co-chairman Moran said the redistricting committee took pains to ensure nobody in the state was further than an hour drive from one of the hearing sites. As of press time, details about the hearings had not been released.

Moran said he plans to read every piece of testimony himself before the redistricting committee begins drafting a plan sometime near the end of June. “It’s part of your job of being on the committee,” Moran said.

Moran and Rosenberg have worked with non-partisan organizations such as MassVote to ensure the redistricting process is transparent, MassVote Policy Director Cheryl Crawford said. The co-chairmen met with 18 organizations on Friday morning to discuss their plans for the process. Crawford said the meeting was successful, and she praised Rosenberg and Moran for their open-door policies.

Once the redistricting committee drafts its proposed maps, they are submitted to the House and pass through the Legislature to Gov. Deval Patrick.

The lack of deadlines for the Senate, Governor’s Council and Congressional maps means it may take several months for reditricting proposals to reach the governor’s desk.

“I think it’s an inherently political process. There’s no way around it,” O’Leary said.

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Federal grant targets care for seniors

Friday, March 4th, 2011

By Garrett BrngerCape Cod Times

March 04, 2011

Proposed cuts in state funding for adult day health programs may be offset by a new federal grant designed to keep seniors out of institutional settings.

Massachusetts will receive $110 million from the five-year federal Money Follows the Person grant. The grant provides Medicaid-eligible seniors and disabled persons with money for programs to help them move out of nursing homes and into community care settings.

Gov. Deval Patrick’s administration announced the grant money Feb. 25, a day after a hearing on cuts to adult day health programs drew hundreds of senior advocates to the Statehouse. “The irony is not lost on me that the exact moment they’re receiving this money, they’re eliminating a service that’s going to have the exact opposite effect,” said Darcey Adams, president of Massachusetts Adult Day Services Association.

The federal grant, which will pay out $13.5 million in the first year, will provide money for the transition of 2,200 people from nursing homes and other institutions into community care programs. Although it is not certain who will receive the grant money, Adams believes it could be the same people who would be forced into institutions by the state cuts in adult day health funding.

The proposed rate cuts, scheduled to go into effect March 15, would cut the rest of fiscal 2011′s MassHealth funding for day health care by an average of 7.8 percent. The governor’s proposed 2012 budget would cut $55 million from the program, roughly 87 percent of total spending on adult day health care services, foes said.

While adult day health is one of many Health and Human Services programs facing state budget cuts, it is also not alone in benefiting from the federal money. Dr. Jean McGuire, state Health and Human Service’s assistant secretary for disability policy and programs, said the federal grant money will pay for other services such as adult day foster care, adult day rehabilitation and a range of other services for the elderly or disabled.

Rob Spongberg, executive director of ARC of Cape Cod, said it is too early to know how much of the federal money will come to the Cape. “It will hinge upon whether these funds simply supplant the money that was there or if they become, in fact, an addition,” he said.

Mary Devlin, the public health and wellness manager at the Visiting Nurses Association’s two Cape Cod area adult day health programs, said she is waiting to see whether the federal grant will help the programs offset the proposed state cuts. “I’m cautiously hopeful,” she said.

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