Posts Tagged ‘Taylor Bigler’

Local business advocates urge online sales tax

Sunday, April 10th, 2011

By Taylor Caroline Bigler

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BOSTON-It only takes a minute to point, click and enter your credit card information for the latest best-seller to arrive on your doorstep the next day or download to your Kindle. The ease of online shopping – and the absence of sales tax – makes it more appealing than ever to buy online.

But according to an estimate from the National Conference of State Legislatures that was submitted to state lawmakers on Thursday, online giants such as Amazon and Overstock could cost Massachusetts as much as $335 million next year in unrecovered sales taxes.

Advocates for local merchants came to the hearing held by the Legislature’s revenue committee to push for a bill that would make Massachusetts-based affiliates who market goods on behalf of online retailers subject to the same 6.25-percent sales tax as brick-and-mortar shops. If passed and signed by Gov. Deval Patrick, Massachusetts would be the fifth state to adopt such a law.

“This is a fairness issue, plain and simple,” said Thomas DeSimone, an executive at WS Development in Chestnut Hill.

DeSimone, whose firm built Derby Street Shoppes in Hingham, said shops within communities have a competitive disadvantage when they are facing online-only retailers that don’t have to collect the sales tax.

“Last time I checked, the state was looking for a few bucks. This is $250 million we are talking about,” DeSimone said.

DeSimone pointed out the importance of the retail industry as an employment engine; more than 300,000 people work in the retail sector in Massachusetts.

Others spoke of local stores being pushed aside by online retailers. “These jobs are diminishing,” said Rep. James Cantwell, a Democrat from Marshfield who sits on the committee and supports the bill.

Cantwell said local businesses support their communities and the sales tax goes back into the state. “Amazon does not support Marshfield Little League,” he said. “Our Main Street retailers are at a huge competitive disadvantage, because we in essence are giving tax breaks to every single online company.”

But the bill also has its critics. Eileen McAnneny, with Associated Industries of Massachusetts, said the measure could result in double taxation in some cases. “There’s a lot of overlap and a lot of confusion,” she said. “A better way to do it would be with a federal law change.”

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Quincy Police: Money for combating youth violence isn’t a luxury

Thursday, April 7th, 2011

By Taylor Caroline BiglerThe Patriot Ledger

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BOSTON- Worried about youth violence, Quincy families used to avoid Kinkaid Park and the Fenno Street basketball courts, especially in the summertime, when teens were out of school.

“The foul language alone would drive people off,” Quincy Recreation Director Barry Welch said.

Now, thanks to grants from the Charles E. Shannon Community Safety Initiative, low-key police patrols and teen basketball tournaments have changed the character of the parks, Welch said. Mothers can be seen pushing strollers through the parks as kids play on the swing sets and teenagers shoot hoops on the basketball courts.

Legislators, municipal officials, law enforcement personnel and youths gathered at the State House on Wednesday to lobby for a $2.5 million increase in funding for the grant program. The proposal is sitting on Gov. Deval Patrick’s desk.

The Charles E. Shannon Community Safety Initiative, named after its original sponsor, was enacted in 2006. It provides communities with money for combating youth violence and gang problems.

It currently supports 17 programs in 41 communities.

The fund has shrunk from more than $12 million to $4.4 million since 2009. This year, $291,000 was allocated to nine communities in the Metropolitan Mayors Coalition, which includes Quincy.

Quincy first received a Shannon grant four years ago. Since then, its recreation and police departments have worked to make the parks safer and more family-friendly.

In June and July, when youths are more likely to get into trouble, non-uniformed and unarmed Quincy police officers patrol the parks, Welch said. The recreation department organizes basketball competitions between the officers and teens.

“By controlling that group, it creates a better atmosphere for the park. Everyone benefits,” Welch said.

He said only five complaints about violence in the parks were received last summer.

Detective Lt. Patrick Glynn of the police department said the initiative is meant to break down the barriers between law enforcement and youths.

“Everybody feels free to come and speak with the police, and the youth feel free to come and play basketball in a safe environment,” Glynn said.

“People think the money is a luxury, but it’s not. We’re trying to do more with the same amount of money.”

Last week, the state Legislature approved $2.5 million for the Shannon grant program in its proposed supplemental budget for the current fiscal year. The proposal is awaiting action from the governor.

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South Shore officials testify on Beacon Hill, seek money for sea wall repairs

Wednesday, April 6th, 2011

By Taylor Caroline BiglerThe Patriot Ledger

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BOSTON- South Shore town officials gave their enthusiastic support to a series of bills filed by a Marshfield lawmaker that would help communities repair old and crumbling sea walls.

State Rep. James Cantwell, D-Marshfield, has filed four bills proposing various routes for paying for the repairs, mostly through state grant and low-interest loan programs.

Residents and local officials from Marshfield and Scituate testified Tuesday on Beacon Hill at a hearing of the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture to urge it to take up one of the measures.

Marshfield Selectmen Chairwoman Patricia Reilly told the panel it costs $2,500 to repair one foot of sea wall. Last year, the town had 515 feet of collapsed sea wall, which resulted in more than $1.4 million in damage.

“There is no way the town can manage this amount on its own,” she said.

Reilly said the town’s 2.36 miles of decades-old sea wall are in jeopardy of damage or collapse.

Scituate Town Manager Patricia Vinchesi said the instability of Scituate’s 5 miles of sea wall threatens private and public property.

“If they are not maintained, they will fail,” Vinchesi said.

Bob Shaughnessy, chairman of the Marshfield Department of Public Works, said that although his department is responsible for infrastructure in the town, it needs help to repair the walls.

“We can’t do it alone,” he said. “We need a partner in the state.”

But not everyone was in favor of Cantwell’s proposals.

Katherine Roth, associate director of the Community Preservation Coalition, “strongly opposes” one of Cantwell’s proposals to allow 10 percent of a town’s Community Preservation Act money to go toward sea wall repairs and beach restoration.

The fund is intended for preservation of historical sites and open spaces.

“We support Rep. Cantwell’s position, but we don’t feel the CPA is the right mechanism,” Roth said after the hearing.

P.J. Foley, of the AFL-CIO, said Cantwell’s proposals would provide short-term jobs repairing Great Depression-era walls – a fitting nod to the state’s history.

“We aren’t the Plains State; we’re not the Prairie State; we are the Bay State, and we want to refocus on what made us great,” Foley said.

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Mandatory life jacket bill sunk by lack of support

Wednesday, April 6th, 2011

By Taylor Caroline BiglerThe Patriot Ledger

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BOSTON- A bill requiring boaters to wear life jackets seems to have gone overboard.

The legislation filed by Rep. Vinny deMacedo, R-Plymouth, would require everyone, including adults, on board a boat under 20 feet to wear a life jacket while the boat is in operation.

At a State House hearing Tuesday, the Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security heard from legislators against deMacedo’s proposal.

Some were brief.

“Enough is enough. Adults can make decisions for themselves,” state Rep. Anne Gobi, D-Spencer, said in her short testimony. “I think it’s a ridiculous bill. Thank you.”

State law only requires that enough life jackets for everyone be on board. Only children younger than 12 are required to wear them.

State Rep. Steven Levy, R-Marlboro, echoed Gobi’s opinion. “This is an overreaching bill,” he said.

Committee Chairman Walter Timilty, D-Milton, called for anyone in favor of the bill to weigh in, but no one did.

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House shoots down proposal for independent redistricting panel

Thursday, March 3rd, 2011

By Taylor Caroline BiglerThe Patriot Ledger

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BOSTON- Advocates of allowing an independent board to take charge of redrawing the state’s legislative districts will have to wait another 10 years.

House lawmakers have voted 121-31, mostly along party lines, against a Republican-backed amendment that would have created an independent committee to draw up new congressional and legislative districts.

The states must redraw their state and congressional district boundaries every 10 years based on new U.S. Census figures. The Bay State, where the term “gerrymandering” was coined, has a history of politicizing the process.

Republican lawmakers this year favored handing the task over to an independent commission.

“We are truly concerned about the democratic process of this House. This is the way to begin to restore faith in our institution,” Rep. Daniel Webster, R-Pembroke, told House members Wednesday.

The amendment would have given the independent commission the right to inform decisions, but the Legislature would have had the final say, he said.

After the session, Rep. Vinny deMacedo, R-Plymouth, said he supported the change “because there’s a lot of people who think the time has come to take redistricting out of the Legislature’s hand.”

The overwhelming number of Democrats, who control the redistricting process, gave the amendment little chance to pass.

Chairman of the redistricting committee, Rep. Michael Moran, D-Boston, promised the new legislative redistricting, which will take place later this year, would be “comprehensive, transparent, and of the likes we’ve never seen.” Moran said his committee will hold public hearings on the process, as well as create a website providing information on case law, history and progress on redistricting.

After the amendment was struck down, the House voted in favor of a redistricting committee.

Twenty-one other states rely on a commission to draw congressional-district boundaries or advise their legislatures on how to do it, according to National Conference on State Legislatures.

Read more: House shoots down proposal for independent redistricting panel – Quincy, MA – The Patriot Ledger

Elder care providers issue warning

Thursday, February 17th, 2011

By Taylor Caroline BiglerThe Patriot Ledger

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BOSTON- Providers of elder care are warning that cuts in protection programs for the elderly are being proposed at a time when the state is seeing a “quiet pandemic” of abuse cases.

“The amount of cases continues to increase in our area,” said Edward Flynn, executive director of South Shore Elder Services in Braintree.

Flynn’s comments echo concerns that were aired Wednesday during a State House forum. Legislators heard from state officials and home care providers who projected that nearly 20,000 cases of elder abuse will be reported in Massachusetts by year’s end.

Al Norman, executive director of Mass Home Care, a consortium of elder care organizations, said many cases go unreported because they involve family and the elderly fear being taken out of their homes.

“This is a quiet pandemic,” Norman said. “We believe this is just scratching the surface of what’s actually out there.”

Self-neglect cases are the most common type, but spousal neglect, physical abuse and financial exploitation are also common.

Sen. Katherine Clark, D-Melrose, and Rep. Paul Brodeur, D-Melrose, hosted the State House forum, hoping to increase awareness of the issue and drum up support for additional state help.

Clark cited estimates that 54 cases of elder abuse are reported each day in Massachusetts. Many more go unreported, she said.

“Abuse thrives in secrecy,” Clark said.

The state’s $16.2 million budget for protection services was cut by $1.5 million, or 9 percent, this fiscal year.

Norman said protection programs generally run a $3 million deficit, and that social workers earn meager pay while working on tough cases.

“You could say it’s a form of abuse that this program hasn’t been adequately funded,” he said.

Middlesex County District Attorney Gerry Leone said his office would have fewer cases of elder abuse to investigate if there were more resources for intervention and prevention.

“If we can intervene and prevent before the abuse occurs or before it becomes tragic, that’s really what I want to focus on,” Leone said.

Officials said much elder abuse is committed by adult children who live with their aging parents. Only 1 percent of abusers are strangers.

Last year a Hanover man pleaded guilty to abusing his 93-year-old father. John T. Hallihan was convicted of leaving his emaciated father duct taped to a chair when he went to work. Hallihan spent one month in the Plymouth County jail.

Flynn said nine case workers handle about 100 cases a month on the South Shore.

While South Shore Elder Services is stable now, there have been two layoffs in the past year, Flynn said.

“We don’t know what next year will bring,” he said.

Local officials plead for early state-aid figures

Wednesday, February 9th, 2011

By Taylor Caroline BiglerThe Patriot Ledger

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BOSTON — Local officials have renewed their annual plea to Beacon Hill:

Make a quick decision about local aid so we can complete our budgets for the coming fiscal year.

“We are hoping to have the plan in place by April so we can fully understand how much we are going to get,” Braintree Mayor Joseph Sullivan said after he and 32 other members of a local government advisory commission met Tuesday with Lt. Gov. Tim Murray and other administration officials.

Under Gov. Deval Patrick’s budget plan, Braintree would face cuts of about $300,000 from the municipal budget.

The commission, a subgroup of the Massachusetts Municipal Association, advocates for towns and cities across the state. The commission meets about eight a year with the governor or lieutenant governor.

“I hope you see me and the secretariat as your advocate,” Lt. Gov. Timothy Murray said after the annual swearing-in of commission members in the governor’s office on Tuesday.

The commission heard from Jay Gonzlez, secretary of the state’s Administration and Finance Office, who outlined the major issues for cities and towns: the fiscal 2012 budget and local aid, the new pension plan and municipal health-care reform.

“The budget stands on its own,” Gonzalez said. “It reflects that we need to change the way government does business.”

The governor has proposed cutting local aid for the fourth year in a row, this time by 7 percent, or $65 million.

Most commission members lauded the administration for advocating for local government, specifically a proposal for $200 million for municipal highway construction and repair.

However, commission members expressed concern about the uncertainty of local aid. They asked Gonzalez when they could expect final local-aid figures.

The state budget generally goes through several changes before the Legislature ratifies it, often late in June.

Cities and towns must have balanced budgets in place when fiscal 2012 begins, on July 1.

Gonzalez said the administration is on the side of the local officials.

“We are very supportive of prompt legislation,” he said.

Rep. Bradley’s wife under fire for political donations

Monday, January 31st, 2011

By Taylor Caroline BiglerThe Patriot Ledger

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BOSTON- Heather Marie Stone Bradley took a beating at a State House hearing, facing questions about whether her nomination to the bench was fueled by nearly $40,000 in recent political donations.

Bradley, the wife of state Rep. Garrett Bradley, is Gov. Deval Patrick’s pick to fill a vacant Plymouth District Court judgeship.

The salary for her current job in the Plymouth County district attorney’s office is $47,502. If promoted to judge, her salary will nearly triple, to $130,000.

On Wednesday, the eight-member Governor’s Council, which has the final say on Patrick’s judicial nominations, focused  more on Rep. Bradley’s long record of political donations than his wife’s legal experience.

“You have thrown monies at politicians as if they were confetti,” Councilor Charles Cipollini told Heather Bradley during Wednesday’s hearing.

Cipollini said if Heather Bradley’s nomination is approved, he plans to file a complaint with the state Ethics Commission. Reading from a letter he had already drafted, Cipollini accused Heather Bradley of violating an executive order that judicial nominees may not make political contributions once they have submitted their applications.

Cipollini and other members said they considered donations made by Bradley’s husband to have been made by both of them, as a couple.

Heather Bradley first applied for a judgeship in East Boston in 2008. She applied for the current Plymouth County position in May 2009.

Since that first application three years ago, Rep. Bradley, D-Hingham, and his campaign have made $39,775 in political donations. More than half of the total – $20,575 – went to Patrick, Lt. Gov. Timothy Murray and the state Democratic Party.

The donations include $100 given in September to Governor’s Council member Kelly Timilty of Milton and donations to her cousin, state Rep. Walter Timilty of Milton.

Heather Bradley donated $500 to both her boss, District Attorney Timothy Cruz, a Republican, and $150 to Middlesex County District Attorney Gerard Leone, according to records on file with the state Office of Campaign and Political Finance.

Heather Bradley told the council her husband’s record shouldn’t matter.

“My husband is a politician. These are his donations, his business,” she said.

Councilor Jennie Caissie said she was concerned about the donations.

“Pay to play in government is historical, systemic,” she said, “but it will weigh in my decision.”

Not every councilor agreed.

“There is nothing wrong with wealthy people making political contributions,” Councilor Christopher Iannella said.

Heather Bradley urged council members to focus on her record as a prosecutor in the Plymouth County district attorney’s office for the past 15 years, but she also heard challenges to that experience.

Bradley recently worked on the murder trials of the parents of 4-year-old Rebecca Riley. She also heads the office’s forfeiture unit, a job that doesn’t put her in the courtroom often.

Councilors Marilyn Devaney and Mary-Ellen Manning questioned her lack of lead prosecution experience and her knowledge about sentencing data.

Devaney focused on statistics, citing race and gender as factors in judicial decisions and punishments, which Bradley was not aware of.

“I really don’t think you know what you’re talking about,” Manning said, “I don’t think I’ve said that to anyone in my 10 years here.”

Heather Bradley’s nomination was backed by Cruz; Assistant District Attorney Frank Middleton; Norwell lawyer Steven Jones; Hingham District Court Judge Patrick Hurley; and Hingham Police Chief Taylor Mills.

All noted Bradley’s temperament, professionalism and fairness as qualities for the judgeship.

“She defines honor and integrity,” Jones said.

Her husband, parents and three children attended the hearing.

A decision on Bradley’s appointment is due Wednesday from the Governor’s Council.