Thursday, August 21, 2014

Senator Tarr’s Statement on the PAWS Act Being Signed into Law by Governor Patrick

Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester) released the following statement today regarding Governor Patrick signing S.2345, An Act protecting animal welfare and safety, AKA the PAWS Act, into law.  The bill was filed by Senator Tarr following several cases of animal abuse including the tragic death of Puppy Doe:

“The signing of the PAWS Act represents a victory for everyone who cares about animals in our state, and those who have worked tirelessly to champion this legislation. Now we have stronger penalties and a clear message that if you abuse an animal there will be serious consequences.

Puppy Doe and others have suffered from unthinkable brutality that never should have happened. Yet now, motivated by those cases, we have taken strong and continuing steps to prevent it from happening again.”

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Tarr, Colleagues Secure Passage of the PAWS Act

The House and Senate today enacted Senate Bill 2345, An Act Protecting Animal Welfare and Safety, which includes many of the provisions of the original PAWS Act filed by Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester) in October of 2013. The legislation was initially drafted last year in honor of Puppy Doe, a female pit bull who was euthanized on August 31, 2013 because of the extensive injuries she suffered from long term, irreversible damage to her body, which included a stab wound to her eye; the splitting of her tongue to look like a serpent; a dislocated shoulder, elbow, wrist, and ankle; burns; and signs of starvation.

“Animal abuse in our Commonwealth is simply unacceptable, and legislation to confront it has been a major priority in this session,” said Senator Tarr. “Now we have acted to increase penalties to send a clear and immediate message, and to create a task force that will build a foundation for further action.”

“Animals are defenseless and we must do everything within our means to protect them from senseless assault and mistreatment by some of the cruelest members of our society,” said Senator Mark Montigny (D-New Bedford), a Senate lead co-sponsor. “We must be vigilant to ensure that those serious offenders are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

Representative Louis Kafka (D-Stoughton) and Representative Bruce Ayers (D-Quincy) have also been championing legislation to strengthen the state’s animal abuse laws. A total of 76 legislators from both the House and Senate signed on to the original PAWS Act, including the entire Senate Republican Caucus.

“We’re very pleased that this crucial legislation has passed, and we extend our thanks to Senator Tarr and all of the bill’s supporters who championed these reforms,”said Kara Holmquist, director of advocacy for the MSPCA-Angell. “Animal lovers around the state can today celebrate these efforts and hopefully can find some peace knowing that from such tragic incidents, like Puppy Doe and others, awareness has been generated that will now prevent harm to other helpless animals.”

The Senate had initially approved the PAWS Act by a vote of 40-0 on July 31, the last day of formal sessions. The House subsequently adopted some minor technical amendments before passing the bill on a voice vote. The modified bill, which will give public safety officials the tools to meaningfully punish those who commit heinous acts of cruelty against animals, calls for:

  • Increasing the possible fine for committing animal abuse from $2,500 to $5,000 for a first offense, and up to $10,000 for a second and any subsequent offenses;

  • Raising the maximum time in prison from 5 years to 7 years for a first offense and up to 10 years for a second and any subsequent offenses;

  • Requiring veterinarians to report suspected animal abuse (similar to the requirement for medical staff who suspect child abuse); and

  • Creating a special task force of experts in law enforcement, animal protection, veterinary practice, legal professionals, and industry professionals to review methods to prevent animal abuse and punish those who commit animal abuse.

The bill now heads to Governor Patrick’s desk for his signature.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Animal Abuse Bill on the Move

Senate Bill 2345, An Act ProtectingAnimal Welfare and Safety, moved one step closer to final passage today, as the Senate concurred with a technical amendment the House made to the bill on the last day of formal sessions July 31st.

The latest bill reflects many of the elements contained in the original PAWS Act (Senate Bill 1914), which Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr and the Senate Republican Caucus filed in October of 2013 with the support of 75 legislative co-sponsors. Passage of this animal protection bill has been one of Senator Tarr’s top priorities for the 2013-2014 legislative session.

Like the original PAWS Act, Senate Bill 2345 provides for increased fines and jail time for individuals who maim, injure or kill an animal, and carries additional penalties for repeat offenders.  It also requires veterinarians to report suspected cases of animal cruelty, while creating a special taskforce of experts in law enforcement, animal protection, veterinary, legal professionals, and industry professionals to review methods to prevent animal abuse and punish those who commit these crimes.

If the House and Senate enact the bill on Thursday, Senate Bill 2345 could be on the Governor’s desk before the end of the week.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Media Alert: Senator Tarr On the Air with WBZ-TV’s Jon Keller Sunday Morning

Recently, Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr was interviewed by WBZ-TV’s Political Reporter Jon Keller for his Sunday segment Keller@Large Report.  Jon and I discussed various political topics regarding the Commonwealth, including the situation the nation faces with the influx of immigrant children currently crossing the border and what that potentially means for Massachusetts, and Thursday’s Probation Department trial verdicts, where three former officials were found guilty of fostering a job-rigging scheme.

Please tune in to WBZ-TV on Sunday at approximately 8:30 a.m. to watch our lively discussion.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Media Alert: Sen. Tarr on “Broadside” Tonight

Please tune in to tonight’s “Broadside” at 6:00 p.m. on New England Cable News (NECN), where Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr will be discussing with host Jim Braude and State Senator Brian Joyce the potential political consequences of yesterday’s Probation Department verdicts, Governor Patrick’s plan to house border-crossing children in Massachusetts, and the recent Market Basket dispute.

“Broadside” re-airs at 7:30 p.m., 2:30 a.m., and again at 4:00 a.m.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Senator Richard Ross Secures Multiple Amendments to Housing Authority Legislation

Senator Richard J. Ross today successfully passed three amendments to the housing authority reform bill that will increase oversight of director salaries and enhance transparency in the application process.

Senator Ross spoke in support of his amendment that will require housing authorities to consult the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Database when evaluating applications in order to protect the safety of their tenants. Ross filed the amendment in response to reports that Tamerlan Tsarnaev was listed on the terror watch list, and had been receiving public benefits. Ross was pleased to see the amendment passed.

“This is a commonsense amendment that will increase transparency within the housing authority application process, while protecting the public safety,” said Senator Ross. “We need to give housing authorities the tools they need to protect their residents. This additional information will put them in a better position when making application decisions.”

The Senate passed two additional amendments filed by Senator Ross. One amendment mandates that housing authorities give preference to residents of the town, as well as applicants who have lived in the town for at least twenty-five years, but not at the time of the application. This language was included in a further amendment, filed by Senator Robert Hedlund, to prohibit illegal immigrants from receiving priority status over legal housing authority applicants.

Another successful Ross amendment will require the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) to review any housing authority executive director’s contract that is worth more than $100,000 per year.

The bill was unanimously passed by the Senate. A conference committee will now be appointed to resolve differences between the bills that were passed by the Senate and the House of Representatives.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Nearing the End of Formal Sessions

With July 31st nearing quickly, signifying the end of formal sessions, there is a great amount of work still to be completed by the legislature. Currently, there are several bills within conference committees, which are committees of six members (three from the House and three from the Senate) that are formed after the House and Senate engross their own respective versions of a particular bill and work together to produce a final version of the legislation.  Those bills in conference committee include:

•  An Act promoting economic growth across the Commonwealth;

•  An Act relative to the reduction of gun violence;

•  An Act enhancing protection for victims of domestic violence;

•  An Act financing information technology equipment and related projects; and

•  An Act providing for the preservation and improvement of lands, parks and clean energy in the Commonwealth.

Recently, the House and Senate also passed their own versions of a capital bond bill; however, a conference committee has yet to even be appointed.  Including today, there are only 8 days left of formal sessions for the conference committees to file their reports on the various bills in order for the legislature to have the opportunity to debate and possibly enact them.

Also of concern, there are several important measures still awaiting committee action before the legislation can be brought to the floors for a vote.  Those bills include:

•  An Act relative to the penalty for killing, maiming or poisoning of animals;

•  An Act establishing a Massachusetts seafood marketing program;

•  An Act relative to the expansion of the state DNA database; and

•  An Act relative to local housing authorities.

With time running out, the legislature needs to act swiftly to ensure these matters get the attention they deserve.  Keep checking back to read updates on these measures and others as the legislature continues to progress towards the July 31st deadline.