Posts Tagged ‘Shaunna Gately’

Doctors, Pharmacists Raise Issues About New Law

Saturday, December 25th, 2010

By Shaunna Gately

Although doctors and pharmacists say a new law expanding prescription drug monitoring in Massachusetts should help cut down on abuse, they have concerns about issues ranging from privacy to angry customers at the pharmacy counter.

“We really wanted them [Department of Public Health] to undertake some activities to educate the public on this so that it wouldn’t fall solely on the backs of pharmacists to educate patients about the change in the prescription-monitoring program,” said Tom Brown, vice chair of pharmacy practice at the Massachusetts Pharmacists Association.

The new law, which expands the state’s 18 year-old program, adds scores of drugs to the surveillance list and requires pharmacists to send in reports on prescriptions each week. Patients will be required to show identification before they can pick up medicines on the list.

The goal is to cut down on patients who seek the same prescriptions from different doctors and to call attention to doctors who may be writing too many prescriptions.

But pharmacists worry they will bear the brunt of customer anger at the perceived intrusion of the new law.

Rep. Thomas Golden Jr., D-Lowell, a sponsor of the legislation, doesn’t think the new rules will present a problem.

“You have to show ID to get alcohol and for a whole host of issues, like making a purchase with credit card,” he said. “I don’t see where that is cumbersome.”

While this law attempts to collect data in a timely fashion alerting doctors to patients that are “doctor shopping” or getting prescriptions from multiple sources each week, it also attempts to look at doctors that may be over prescribing.

Brown said the pharmacists agree that the state has “a significant problem with prescriptions drug abuse” and want to do their part. But the new reporting requirements will raise their workload.

“Pharmacies are going to be impacted because they are going to have to collect the information on a lot more prescriptions,” he said.

The Massachusetts Medical Society has its concerns, ranging from patient confidentiality and costs associated with implementation to the ability of doctors to navigate a database that will grow to more than nine million prescriptions a year.

“If the physicians themselves are the only ones allowed to do it and their staff can’t do it and it takes 40 minutes to find the data then it’s not going to work,” said William Ryder, counsel for the medical society.

Another potential problem is in how law enforcement will be granted access to the database.  Ryder is concerned that doctor patient confidentiality would be violated if a police officer could access information on just about anyone.

“There has to be a balance there between looking at data and looking at individual data,” Ryder said. “I think as it stands now, that if people are acting in good faith, this should be fine.”

For treasurer: Long-time activist Grossman wants to make a difference

Monday, November 1st, 2010

By Shaunna Gately


If Steve Grossman is still casting about for the ultimate endorsement in his run for state treasurer he doesn’t need to look any further than what this woman has to say:

“He’s been 35 years running this business [Grossman Marketing] and he went to Princeton and then Harvard Business School and was a Baker Scholar, that’s the upper 2 percent of Harvard Business School. If he can’t make a difference, who could?”

Some might say that the source of this praise, his mother Shirley Grossman, is slightly biased.

But the 87-year-old matriarch of the family makes clear in follow up that she doesn’t see her son’s run for state treasurer as career advancement.

“When he said, ‘Mom, I’m going to run for treasurer,’ I said why do you want to do that?” says Grossman, who still works at the family business two days a week. “You’ve got a wonderful wife, marvelous three children, wonderful grandchildren, a wonderful business. What do you want to work like that for?”

Grossman has a quick answer for his mother and Massachusetts voters. He thinks he can make a difference.

“I did my homework and discovered that the office of treasurer was a pretty significant office to do precisely what I was trying to accomplish, which is to help create jobs and revitalize small businesses,” he said.

Grossman is not new to politics. He has been the head of the Massachusetts and national Democratic Party. This follows a long family political history that dates back to the election of Boston

Mayor John Francis “Honey” Fitzgerald in 1910 when his grandfather Maxwell Grossman joined the campaign in East Boston.

The life-long Newton resident ran for governor in 2002 but lost in a crowded Democratic primary. He worked on campaigns for both President Bill Clinton and more recently Hillary Clinton.

This year Grossman has fared better at the polls beating his Democratic opponent Boston City Councilor Stephen Murphy in the September primary.

Grossman has drawn on his political prestige in his campaign against state Rep, Karyn Polito, R-Shrewsbury. Besides his mother, he has won the endorsement of Clinton, who campaigned for Grossman in September at the Park Plaza Hotel in Boston.

Grossman, who has a slight lead over Polito in recent polls, says he decided to run the day he heard state Treasurer Tim Cahill was leaving the Democratic Party to run for governor.

“I picked up the phone and called three of my closest friends and advisors and I said we need to have a conversation. We had a conversation the next morning at 9:30 and they all advised me that it if you want to get into this race get in immediatey,” Grossman said.

Less than two hours later Grossman had spoken with the governor, the Senate president and House speaker and began making plans to announce his run for treasurer.

His experience in running a business tops qualifications he lists for seeking office. He became the CEO of Mass Envelope in 1975 at the age of 28. He successfully transformed the company that sold envelopes into a marketing company headquartered in Somerville, Mass. with branches in five other states.

Grossman has amassed campaign contributions of more than $1.5 million for his run for treasurer’s office making a loan of $150,000 in October. He has debated, marched, advertised, shaken hands, ate breakfast, stopped for ice cream and rallied support from thousands across the state.

It is not unusual for Grossman to sleep less than 5 hours a night and multi-task the rest of the day. During a brief telephone interview, his voice vibrates with an enthusiasm for a range of interests.

“I actually read the best book I’ve read in my adult lifetime since college on the treadmill last year before I got into this race, it’s a book called “Pillars of the Earth” by Ken Follett,” said Grossman.

Those who have worked with Grossman say he has always been able to juggle several projects at once running a business while putting equal efforts towards philanthropic commitments and taking care of his family.

Stoneham resident Sheila Ryder has always been impressed with Grossman’s leadership abilities. As an account executive at Grossman Marketing for nearly 28 years Ryder has seen first hand that Grossman cares for his work and his employees.

“He’s always been passionate in never sleeping and doing more than just what his role is,” she said.

Much like Jimmy Lynch, the worker from Grossman’s campaign ads who received full pay during his battle with cancer, Ryder was given full pay when she needed take leave in order to adopt her two children. Ryder gave her notice explaining she needed a six-month leave for the adoption program and was surprised with Grossman’s reaction.

Steve Grossman’s two sisters, his mother and his two sons all work together at the company but he strives to treat everyone like family at the former Mass Envelope, which is now in its 100th year.

Those values that my father and his father and his father before that ran the business with, treating people as human beings with dignity and respect at all times,” said Steve Grossman’s 30 year-old son Ben Grossman, who is now co-president of the company with his older brother David. “That’s how we try to operate,” he said. “We will never move away from those values regardless of how big we get, those are critical to our success.”

But the younger Grossman has some regrets about his father’s run for treasurer.

“When he decided to run . . .I was excited for him, but disappointed that I wouldn’t get to see him every day.”

Lawyer, senator vie for DA

Monday, November 1st, 2010

By Shaunna GatelyThe Sun Chronicle


Norfolk position being vacated by Keating

The campaign for Norfolk County district attorney is both a study in contrast and an example of politics in 2010.

In the Democrats’ corner is state Sen. Michael Morrissey, D-Quincy, a Beacon Hill fixture with a $640,000 campaign war chest.

In the other corner is John Coffey, a private lawyer and former Suffolk County assistant district attorney running as an independent, who is relying on less expensive ads on a WBZ-FM radio sports show and the efforts of volunteers who have handed out campaign literature throughout Norfolk County.

Coffey also is relying on his 23 years of experience as lawyer in the daily grind of prosecution and defense as his pitch to voters.

“I always loved being a prosecutor,” Coffey said. “If I was ever going to run for an elected office, this is the only thing I would do. It’s the only thing I’m really trained for.”

The election marks the first time since Bill Clinton was president there has been a contest for the prosecutor’s office.

Norfolk County District Attorney William Keating is leaving the office to run for the 10th Congressional District seat that is being vacated by Democrat William Delahunt.

Morrissey, who has spent 34 years in the Legislature, is also a partner in the Boston law firm Boyle Morrissey & Campo P.C. He beat state Rep. Joseph Driscoll, D-Braintree, in the September primary for the prosecutor’s office, and has been on the campaign trail ever since.

Needham resident Coffey, is a 51-year old private attorney and said he is more qualified for the job, noting that all Eastern Massachusetts district attorneys are either former prosecutors or former criminal defense attorneys.

Morrissey, he says, has only recently started taking criminal cases.

Coffey said it just makes sense that the chief prosecutor of a county would have served as a prosecutor, himself.

He said he would support the death penalty if modeled after federal policy which prohibits sentencing of the mentally challenged and those younger than 18 years old.

He is not in favor of the decriminalization of marijuana and would like to devote more resources to combating the OxyContin prescription drug epidemic in Massachusetts that he says is behind other crimes like gun violence, robberies and further drug crimes.

He sees split sentences for drug offenders as a way to cut the $48,000 annual cost to jail someone. He would rather sentence offenders to a drug treatment facility costing $18,000 per year, a step he says that would allow an inmate to regain control of a problem and eliminate future offenses.

Morrissey was not available for comment despite repeated requests for an interview. Campaign manager Brian Palmucci said Morrissey would prosecute all cases according to Massachusetts law.

There has been no substantial public debate between the two candidates. But, Morrissey has come under attack in the comment sections of competitive news sites over the fact he would be eligible for a significant pension increase if elected.

Palmucci said Morrissey has pledged not to take the increased pension benefit. Palmucci also contends that Coffey is the only one benefiting from that position, and by having served seven years as an assistant district attorney, Coffey’s role as Norfolk District Attorney would make him eligible for a state pension that he has taken no such pledge against.

Selling the sales tax cut

Monday, October 18th, 2010

Businesses, analysts differ on Question 3 rollback

By Shaunna GatelyThe Sun Chronicle


Robert Gaudette is tired of watching customers shop for wedding dresses at his South Attleboro store then drive across the border to Rhode Island to save the 6.25 percent in Massachusetts sales tax.

For a $15,000 dress, the tax savings would be $937.

“The shops in Rhode Island who sell the same dress that we do, don’t have to charge any sales tax,” said Gaudette. “They use that as a selling point.”

So it’s no surprise Gaudette supports Question 3, the voter referendum on the November ballot that would cut the state sales tax to 3 percent from the 6.25 percent levy the Legislature raised it to in August 2009.

But others, from state politicians to policy analysts warn that cutting the sales tax by more than half would add $2.5 billion to the state’s looming $2 billion budget deficit.

Michael Widmer, president of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, an independent non-profit organization, said he hasn’t found anyone to tell him where cuts from state spending could be realistically made.

Widmer sees the legal obligation of the state to pay for Medicaid and education – which makes up half of state spending – as a case in point why a tax cut would inevitably be passed down to cuts from local aid.

He said that if Question 3 passes, one of the first duties of the governor in January would be to sit down and make nearly a billion in cuts to programs and services already halfway through the 2011 fiscal year.

It will become a harsh reality to many in favor of the cuts if this vote goes through, Widmer said.

“I don’t think the proponents will ever learn,” said Widmer. “The voters are going to pay the price.”

Carla Howell from the Alliance to Roll Back Taxes said that any kind of broad-based tax cut stimulates the economy. She said last year’s increase of the sales tax added incentive to proponents of the ballot question.

Howell has previous experience in campaigning for ballot questions. She supported a 1998 initiative to reduce the tax on interest and dividends and another in 2000 to reduce income tax rates.

“A ballot initiative is a very powerful tool for voters, and it’s also a tool for legislatures who want to cut government waste. It’s very difficult to do it any other way,” she said.

Howell cites red-ink budgets and expanding pension costs as reason for reining in government costs. She calls the ballot issue a modest proposal because she believes the proposed cut would amount to a 5 percent decrease in total state spending.

“Every job created with bailouts and earmarks and patronage by politicians throws two workers out of a job in the private sector,” said Howell, who claims that by eliminating the higher cost of government jobs, the tax savings could help create 33,000 jobs in the private sector.

But Michael Mazeroff, a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities in Washington D.C., says claims of job creation flowing from tax cuts is unwarranted. He said the thousands of jobs lost in the public sector would negate any economic benefit from a tax cut.

“In general states cannot create jobs by cutting taxes,” said Mazeroff. “The state has less to spend, that dollar loss translates to fewer jobs to people that provide jobs to state and local services.”

Toby McGrath, campaign manager for the Massachusetts Coalition for Our Communities, believes a sales tax cut could reduce local aid by 12 percent – costing many municipal jobs.

“The reality is that since 2008 we have seen a 28 percent reduction to local aid to communities,” McGrath said.

“I understand people are frustrated and angry and want to send a message, but it’s a very costly message to our community,” McGrath said.

Although earlier polling had shown support for the ballot question, a poll taken last week by Suffolk University and 7NEWS showed that sentiment is shifting. The survey of 500 Massachusetts voters found that 49 percent opposed cutting the sales tax. Another 44 percent supported the rollback and 6 percent were undecided.

Two sides to 40B fence

Monday, October 11th, 2010

By Shaunna GatelyThe Sun Chronicle

Affordable housing law repeal on ballot

Michelle Byrnes has been living in her Norton home that was built in 2003 under the affordable housing statute Chapter 40B. She purchased the two-bedroom home in Woodland Green for just under $140,000; similar homes in the 44-unit development sold for over $330,000.

“If there wasn’t a 40B, there’s no way I would have been able to afford it,” said Byrnes, a 36-year-old, self-employed single mother. “It was the best thing that ever happened to me.”

In the 41 years since it was passed, Chapter 40B has fostered 1,000 housing projects throughout the state that created some 58,000 homes – about 30,000 of which have gone to families who earned less than 80 percent of the median income standard set by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The 40B statute allows developers to apply for a single comprehensive permit exempt from many of the municipal zoning and planning by-laws that would have prevented many housing developments from ever being built. A developer can only apply for a 40B permit if less than 10 percent of housing in that city or town is deemed affordable.

Now Massachusetts voters are being asked whether they want to keep the law in place. A ballot initiative, Question 2, would repeal Chapter 40B.

Northeastern University’s Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy will release its annual Greater Boston Report Card this week that shows over 50 cities and towns out of the 351 in Massachusetts now meet the 10 percent affordable housing threshold, with another 185 approved 40B projects in the pipeline.

This number is up from 2008 when 33 cities and towns in Massachusetts contained 10 percent affordable housing.

Barry Bluestone, director of the Dukakis Center, said the study shows that another 117 municipalities need less than 100 units of affordable housing to reach the 10 percent margin. But Bluestone said housing problems remain in Massachusetts, with younger families priced out of the market.

“It’s really zoning laws that make it impossible to build housing and affordable housing,” he said.

Francy Ronayne, spokeswoman for the Campaign to Protect the Affordable Housing Law, said 40B is the single most effective tool for creating affordable housing. She cited a University of Massachusetts Donahue Institute study that found during the past 10 years, 40B helped create some $9.25 billion in economic activity and 50,000 jobs.

She said that’s the reason all four gubernatorial candidates are against repeal. She criticized backers of the initiative for not offering an alternative to 40B.

“They don’t propose anything in its place, so the creation of affordable housing would basically come to a halt January 1, 2011,” she said.

“All of the jobs and economic activity that go along with housing creation would be gone.”

Those in favor of the 40B repeal say the law is no longer suited to meet needs of the state’s municipalities. They say because a majority of usable land is now occupied, many projects are too large and are being built in inappropriate places.

John Belskis, chairman of the Coalition for the Repeal of 40B, said his opposition to the law started 10 years ago after a 40B project was proposed for a site in Arlington on top of a covered landfill containing hazardous materials.

“It bothered me that there was a law on the books where a developer could come in and override all the town ordinances,” said Belskis.

Others have pointed to problems with administration of the law. Although developers are supposed to give profits over 20 percent of the costs to municipalities, a review of 40B projects by state Inspector General Gregory Sullivan found some developers misstated those profits to keep more of their money. In 2006, new regulations calling for independent audits and town reviews were instated to prevent future profit manipulation.

Robert Kimball, chairman of Norton’s board of selectmen, has mixed feelings about the law. He considers it wrong to let developers circumvent the town’s building regulations. He said the town has had to pay large legal fees resulting from problems with 40B projects, including faulty septic systems, roads not built to code and the failure of one contractor to set up a condo association.

Some 7 percent of Norton homes are deemed affordable.

Kimball thinks the Legislature needs to create a new law that makes more sense.

“My recommendation would be to repeal it at this point,” he said. “I believe the law is antiquated. We have no other say.”

Kimball worked with state Rep. Betty Poirier, R-North Attleboro, to file legislation in 2006 that would allow towns to count mobile homes, Section 8 subsidized housing, and recovery homes as part of the 10 percent affordable housing. No action was taken and the bill died in two separate sessions.

“It puts a town in a very difficult situation,” said Poirier.

With all of the local aid that has been cut from the budget, Poirier said towns have no means to find alternatives to the 40B law.

“Why should we be pushed into a corner?” she said.

Two sides to taxes

Thursday, October 7th, 2010

By Shaunna GatelyThe Sun Chronicle


Chris Gasbarro says his opposition to the state’s sales tax on alcohol isn’t solely based on the bottom line at his liquor stores. He says he’s also worried about his employees.

Gasbarro says he’s had to cut back on employee hours because sales at his stores in North Attleboro, Seekonk and Swansea are down by 15 percent since the tax went into affect in 2009. He believes much of that business went over the Rhode Island border.

“We are forcing the customer to go out of state,” he said. “We are forcing the small businessman who is barely surviving and trying to live in these communities to make decisions like me — laying off help.”

Jeremiah Falvey sees another social cost if voters approve Question 1, the November ballot initiative that would repeal the alcohol sales tax.

Falvey, the associate director of North Cottage, a Norton treatment center, fears what would happen to state funding for alcohol and drug treatment programs. The sales tax has provided tens of millions for addiction treatment.

“It depends on how the bureau decides to implement cuts,” he said. “No matter what, we would have to lay off people and close some beds.”

Question 1 has pitted consumers, alcohol distributors and many of the 1,600 package store owners across the state against social advocates seeking more funding for substance abuse treatment.

Those who support the ballot initiative argue that consumers already pay taxes on beer, wine and liquor in the form of an excise tax on alcohol. That’s the reason alcohol had been exempt from sales taxes since Prohibition.

Many like Gasbarro say the added tax has hurt sales and is unfair to business owners already struggling in a down economy. They point to a jump in sales during the tax-free weekend in August — comparing them to the volume they see on Christmas Eve.

The Department of Revenue calculated that the volume of alcohol sales based on the collection of excise tax decreased by only 1 percent at the end of the 2010 fiscal year, compared with the previous year. The sales tax on alcohol has accrued about $120 million in just over one year, agency spokesman Robert Bliss said. Michael Botticelli, director of substance abuse services at the state Department of Public Health, said that for the 2010 fiscal year, $82 million from the alcohol sales tax went to fund 388 service contracts with providers across the state.

The amount is about the same as substance abuse funding from the state in years past, but is no longer being drawn directly from the general fund.

Gasbarro, a member of the Massachusetts Package Store Association, said the recovery community’s claim to the sales tax money is weak because the tax increase has only been in place for one year. He believes the state will continue to fund treatment no matter the source of the money.

“Vote No On 1” campaign argues that a majority of the other states place a sales tax on alcohol and that the new levy helps undo some of the damage done by alcoholism in Massachusetts.

More than 140 organizations, including area hospitals, addiction treatment coalitions, teachers unions and several state lawmakers have made the message loud and clear that treatment trumps.

House Speaker Robert DeLeo is one of those supporting the tax.

Earlier this week, he told those attending the 20th annual Recovery Day celebration that the tax is estimated to produce $108 million for rehabilitation services.

“That’s $108 million to help support those struggling each and every day to defeat dependence on drugs and alcohol,” DeLeo said.

Those sales tax revenues have become even more important in light of budget cuts over the past few years that have affected treatment centers.

Many who work in alcohol and addiction treatment are concerned about the viability of their programs should the tax be repealed in January.

Paul Brown, executive director of Norcap Lodge, a treatment facility in Foxboro, said he doesn’t receive money from the sales tax on alcohol, but the facility, part of the Good Samaritan Medical Center of Brockton, faces the challenge afterward of getting a patient into long-term care, like a halfway home.

Many such facilities rely on state funding to remain operational — and beds are scarce.

“When you look at state agencies, they’re trying to make lemonade out of the reduced funds they have,” Brown said.

Brown said people unable to find after-care treatment services or who are without insurance, are the first affected by additional funding cuts and are more prone to relapse.

At first glance, the pro Question 1 side seems to have the advantage in funding. Since August of last year the Committee to Repeal the Alcohol Sales Tax has raised over a half-million dollars in campaign funding with contributions for liquor retailers and distributors such as Anheuser-Bush.

But P.J. Foster, spokeswoman for the Campaign to Repeal the Sales Tax on Alcohol, says local storeowners are contributing the majority of efforts by talking to their customers and reaching out for community support.

“This effort is far different than other larger campaign issues involving alcohol and ads in the past,” said Foster. “There is comparatively very limited funding. We are approaching it as a public education effort, a community outreach effort.”

Opponents of the question have relied more on rallies and news conferences.

Earlier this month, the campaign featured an event by a group of Boston-based comedians opposed to repealing the alcohol tax.

So far, polls indicate the pro-tax side is winning. A Statehouse News Service telephone poll of 400 adults in early September found 60 percent favored keeping the tax, while 38 percent supported repeal.

Hope for racinos?

Thursday, October 7th, 2010

By Shaunna GatelyThe Sun Chronicle


UNCASVILLE, Conn. – Although Massachusetts racetracks saw their hopes for slot machines dashed this year, they got plenty of encouragement at a gaming summit in Connecticut to continue the push.

Racinos – racetracks that install hundreds, even thousands of slot machines to bolster revenue – were heavily discussed during the forum.

“Without racinos, harness racing in Maine, I’m sure, would have been dead,” said Donald Marean, a lobbyist for Maine Harness Racing, which has seen business boom after state voters approved racinos in a 2003 referendum.

Marean’s comments came Tuesday during the New England Gaming Summit at Mohegan Sun Resort and Casino.

The first conference of its kind offered a forum for casino executives, government officials, analysts, regulators, tribal leaders and outside interest groups from more than 20 states and Canada to hash out some of the issues surrounding the expansion of gaming throughout New England. One of the chief discussions was the failed attempt by Massachusetts to pass a bill allowing two slot parlors to be bid among four racetracks, including Plainridge Racecourse in Plainville.

Although the House and Senate were able to reach an agreement, their compromise bill was effectively vetoed by Gov. Deval Patrick.

Chip Tuttle, chief operating officer for Suffolk Downs in East Boston, told a forum that the deadlock has made it harder to continue racing in Massachusetts.

“We are fighting in a diminishing market, we are fighting for market share,” Tuttle said. “The facility hasn’t been profitable in several years but the ownership has been willing to invest in racing and keeping our workforce going at levels that the business probably doesn’t justify.”

Both Suffolk Downs and Plainridge have lobbied heavily for expanded gaming.

“We do think there is a strong appetite to do this in Massachusetts and we’re certainly not giving up,” Tuttle said. Plainridge President and CEO Gary Piontkowski was scheduled to attend the summit and join the discussion, but canceled at the last minute, and was not available for comment.

Maine’s experience with racinos stood out as a positive story for Massachusetts racing executives.

Marean said the addition of slot machines revived the racing side of the business. The state now has more than 220 live harness racing dates per year, numbers Massachusetts has not seen in over a decade.

“We believe our success was because of our contribution to agriculture, and to open spaces and to the farms,” Marean said.

Devotion to agriculture gained support of Maine voters, Mareane said, noting that the state’s racing industry now utilizes 25 million acres of land equal to 25 percent of all tillable land in the state.

“We got tremendous support from Maine’s 26 agricultural fairs. We made sure that every single one of those fairs got money from our casino funds,” Marean said.

Marean said that the state’s racing facilities are now operating at maximum capacity because of expanded gaming.

“Right now, if you can race your horse once every other week, you’re lucky because our horse industry is just absolutely unbelievable,” Marean said.

Massachusetts race officials said the state’s two remaining horse tracks are struggling. The chief draw, they say, is the simulcasting of races from other venues.

“We look at states that Suffolk Downs competes with for horses and other racing states like West Virginia and Delaware and Pennsylvania and now New York,” Tuttle said in an interview. “Where they have the revenue from expanded gaming to augment purses, the racing industry is healthier.”

Massachusetts state Sen. Rosenberg, D-Amherst, discussed the efforts of the House and Senate to get casino legislation pushed through during a panel discussion on current legislation.

“Massachusetts players are spending in excess of a billion dollars in surrounding states on casinos and slot parlors,” Rosenberg said. “There’s a desire to bring the money home – bring the players and bring the money home.”

Tuttle said he is confident the need for jobs and new sources of revenue in Massachusetts will push people to find a solution.

“The state still clearly needs the jobs that this industry can produce, it clearly still needs the revenue not only recapturing the revenue going to neighboring states but the new revenues as well,” he said.

Texting law to shift focus

Thursday, October 7th, 2010

By Shaunna GatelyThe Sun Chronicle

e 9/20/2010

Local law enforcement officials say it will take police and motorists time to adjust to the new law banning both texting and teenage cell phone use.

Teens will have to get used to staying off the phone while they drive. Some texting addicts will learn the hard way that such behavior is now illegal. And police will have to be a bit more vigilant about where drivers are focusing their attention as they drive.

“Is he or she looking straight ahead or are they looking down at their lap,” Plainville Police Chief James Alfred said of the challenges law enforcement faces.

The law, which takes effect at the end of the month, prohibits drivers from using cell phones or PDAs to send or receive text, e-mail or browse the Web.

In addition, drivers under 18 are barred from using cell phones for making or receiving calls. Massachusetts becomes the 29th state to enact a driving-while-texting law.

“It is going to be a difficult law to impose, but I think it’s going to be an obvious thing,” Attleboro Police Chief Richard Pierce said. “If the officers are out there and they see somebody driving around texting or on the cell phone, and they appear to under the age of 18, that’s going to give the officers cause or reason to stop that vehicle to find out what it is they are doing.”

Wrentham Police Chief James Anderson says there will be a slight learning curve as the law takes effect and drivers learn about the law.

He says his officers will have some discretion in determining if a violation was intentional or they were unaware of the new law.

“I don’t see it being a real problem,” Anderson said. “We have had a few incidents like that.”

Junior operators found in violation of the law face hefty penalties, with fines ranging from $100 to $500 dollars and license suspensions ranging from 60 days to one year. Teens younger than 18 caught using cell phones may be required to re-take a drivers education program.

Drivers over the age of 18 will pay similar fines for the civil offense, but do not risk license suspensions unless someone is injured in connection with mobile phone use.

The ban on cell phone use by teens has many junior operators feeling like they are being singled out.

“I think you should be able to make a call as long as it’s hands free,” said Matt Rogue, a 17-year-old from Mansfield.

Rogue was upset when he found out about the law because he recently paid for Bluetooth in his car, and won’t be able to use it.

“I think it’s stupid that we can’t use phones at all,” he said.

The safe driving law also requires drivers over the age of 75 to renew their licenses in person at a Registry office and pass an eye test.

The law allows the use of GPS navigation devices, but bans the use of cell phone GPS applications.

“If it is part of a cell phone and it’s determined to be a cell phone, then that would be a violation,” Pierce said.

According to the Registry, Massachusetts drivers were involved in 411 accidents in 2008 where the use of a cell phone was found to be the primary cause. Those incidents included four accidents in Attleboro, four in Mansfield, two in Seekonk and one each in Norfolk, North Attleboro and Norton.

The law is part of a national initiative by the U.S Department of Transportation to create awareness about the dangers of distracted driving and requires the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles to work with the Executive Office of Public Safety/Highway Safety Division to implement an awareness campaign by the start of next year.

Foxboro father’s devotion to cause honors son’s memory

Thursday, October 7th, 2010

By Shaunna GatelyThe Sun Chronicle


FOXBORO- Jerry Cibley says his son Jordan enjoyed one of the best nights of his life at his senior prom in 2007, the night before a tragic accident involving a cell phone took the life of his 18-year-old boy.

Jordan Cibley, hit a tree at 30 mph.

He had unbuckled his seat belt and was likely reaching down to pick up a cell phone he may have dropped.

Cibley said he was on the phone with his son when the call went dead. Twenty minutes later, police arrived at his Foxboro home to notify him of the crash.

Every parent’s worst nightmare became a reality for Cibley when he arrived at Sturdy Memorial Hospital in Attleboro to learn that his son had not survived the crash. It has been three years since then, but Cibley has since devoted his life to the cause of safe driving as a way of honoring his son’s memory.

Cibley now serves on the board of directors at the Newburyport-based nonprofit Safe Roads Alliance. He has been a supporter of the new safe driving laws and strongly believes that spreading the word about the dangers of distracted driving can shield families from suffering a loss like his.

“I’m hoping that the police will enforce this diligently,” Cibley said.

He believes that sound education and policies can be the key to making the roads safer.

“We need to start with young people,” Cibley said. “I’m hoping that in 10 or 15 years, talking or texting won’t be an issue.”

Cibley has attended numerous speaking engagements in support of his cause and appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show in January. On Sept. 21, Cibley will attend the second annual National Distracted Driving Summit in Washington, D.C., as a guest speaker. The event is sponsored by Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood to organize a national campaign combating unsafe driving, including use of mobile devices.

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