June 17, 2016

The Berkshire Eagle

Farley-Bouvier launches re-election push, colleagues declare allegiance to 5-year state rep., By Phil Demers

PITTSFIELD >> Positioning herself as a champion of progressive causes and team player, state Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier, D-Pittsfield, formally launched her re-election bid among familiar faces — including state Attorney General Maura Healey — on Friday night.

"The message out there should be that Tricia is a person who gets things done," Healey said of Farley-Bouvier.

The candidate focused on her accomplishments and priorities in her remarks.

She touched on the pressing need to address the opioid crisis and described the state Department of Children and Families as a "broken system," that is completely overwhelmed.

Better supporting foster parents and preventing certain guns — namely the AR-15 — from ending up in the hands of gun owners also made Farley-Bouvier's list of priorities.

"Reasonable people can agree that weapons of war do not belong on our streets," she said.

Finally, Farley-Bouvier described the yeoman's work of partnering with local officials to work on issues like housing, mental health, public health, early education and more, and the need for unity and common purpose in these tasks.

"That is how we get things done," Farley-Bouvier said. "Partnerships are everything."

Preparing to face off against in a Sept. 8 primary election against Democrat Michael Bloomberg, Farley-Bouvier, who was elected to the Statehouse in 2011, touted her accessibility and visibility in the community.

"You have access to your state [representative], and you should," she said. "I want state government to be accessible to you."

Other candidates for 3rd Berkshire District House seat include independent Chris Connell and any Republican, Green/Rainbow Party or United Independent Party candidates who enter the contest. The election, between Connell and the winner of the Farley-Bouvier/Bloomberg race, will take place Nov. 8.

Dozens attended Farley-Bouvier's event Friday at the Sons of Italy ITAM Lodge, including members of the Berkshire delegation, Pittsfield city councilors and current Mayor Linda M. Tyer and former Mayor James M. Ruberto; North Adams Mayor Richard J. Alcombright and Springfield state Rep. Benjamin Swan.

Swan championed Farley-Bouvier's "bold and assertive" leadership on progressive issues like raising the minimum wage, a recently passed bill codifying transgender civil rights and in taking the initiative to force gas companies to fix leaks within five years in a second recent bill concerning energy.

"I don't know of anyone else who has gotten as much done in four years as she has," Swan said. "I don't know why someone would run against her. You've got the best representative you can have."

Farley-Bouvier's colleagues in the Berkshire delegation, state Reps. Williams "Smitty" Pignatelli, D-Lenox, and Gailanne Cariddi, D-North Adams, also spoke.

"I really want to see her back there," Cariddi said. "It's crucial that we keep her voice. I want to make sure I continue to have a good, reliable partner in the House."

Healey also praised Farley-Bouvier for her work on gas line leaks and the transgender bill, saying her personal efforts to sway colleagues changed at least a few votes.

"If you're talking about equal pay, if you're talking about earned sick time, if you're talking about fighting for fair wages, if you're talking about standing up for working families — Tricia puts her heart and soul into this effort," Healey said.

http://www.berkshireeagle.com/local/ci_30029104/farley-bouvier-launches-re-e-ection-push

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June 17, 2016

IBerkshires.com

Farley-Bouvier Kicks Off Re-Election BidBy Andy McKeever

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Being a state legislator means being part of a team for state Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier.

That was a message she delivered on Friday when she kicked off her re-election bid. In the audience were members of that team, from Mayor Linda Tyer to School Committee and City Council members to leaders in local housing, child care, and an array of other agencies.

A crowd surpassing 100 gathered at the Itam Lodge on Friday night in support of the Pittsfield Democrat's re-election bid.

"The first team that I am a part of is the local team, the home team. The job of a state rep is to work with the mayor, the City Council, the School Committee, the superintendent, with local officials on such things as housing — Brad Gordon is here — mental health, public health, early education. We work on these things together," Farley-Bouvier said. "We work together as a team to get things done."

One accomplishment stems from her role in the Gateway Cities Caucus. She worked with other legislators to craft the bill creating the Transformative Development Initiative and to fund it. She also collaborated with the city's staff in the application. Pittsfield was not only one of the 10 cities invited into the program but also received the extra support of a fellow being assigned to the city. Now, Pittsfield has a development specialist focused solely on Tyler Street and the goal is to leverage public monies to generate private investment in the area. 

"That as a competitive process we were able to do because we work as part of a team," Farley-Bouvier said.

State Rep. Ben Swan has worked on a number of pieces of legislation with Farley-Bouvier. On the progressive caucus she has taken the leadership role, he said, comes prepared and well versed in the subject, and has brought various legislators together to finely craft bills. 

"Since she came in four years ago she took off running," Swan said. "I don't know why someone would run against her. It doesn't make any sense. You already have the best legislator."

Farley-Bouvier said by teaming up in the caucus she is building the infrastructure for pull in the State House. Not only will that help pass bills of those legislators but also show leadership they can be counted on.

"Tricia has been a champion of all progressive causes," Attorney General Maura Healey said. 

Healey said a lot of Farley-Bouvier's work is "unheralded." But when it came to a recent transgender bill, Farley-Bouvier was working behind the scene to rally up the votes for the bill to pass, she said. 

"Once I got into office my team has gotten to work with her on many issues," Healey said, specifically citing a bill to force gas companies to repair the many leaks in lines throughout the state. "Tricia is somebody who gets things done."

State Rep. William "Smitty" Pignatelli said Farley-Bouvier helps with his legislation as well because Pittsfield is a piece of the Berkshires. North County state Rep. Gailanne Cariddi agrees. 

"We have different styles and interests but we make a hell of a team," Pignatelli said.

The North Adams Rep. Cariddi — the northern Berkshires also had Mayor Richard Alcombright and City Councilor Lisa Blackmer in attendance — said she'll be putting in the work to help get Farley-Bouvier re-elected because the help means so much to her district as well.

"I really want to see her back. It is crucial that we keep her voice," Cariddi said.

One of the major issues facing the county is the opioid crisis and Farley-Bouvier sat on the committee for mental health and substance abuse. 

"I'm proud to say that we did pass comprehensive legislation this past session, getting a lot of things done. We are really working with doctors on the prescribing habits because we've got to change. Prescribing got us to this point. We are working with the Department of Public Health and we should see online very, very soon in Berkshire County two new facilities, one specifically for women especially pregnant women and they can return with their babies," Farley-Bouvier said.

Further she worked on the committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities and there is more work to be done, specifically with the Department of Children and Families which Farley-Bouvier said is "completely overwhelmed."

"We're hoping to work on foster family rights, sibling family rights. What are the rights do you have if you have a sibling who is also in care? Siblings are being torn apart. What can we do to bring support to those families?" Farley-Bouvier said.

In the aftermath of the shooting in Orlando, Fla., Farley-Bouvier reiterated her belief in making it more difficult for military weapons to be sold in the state, which is legal right now. She said she will no longer sit silently while these tragic events continue to unfold in America. 

"We're not trying to change the Constitution folks. We are just trying to bring some common sense here to make our cities safer," Farley-Bouvier said. 

And overall, she reiterated her point in that being part of the local team and representing only 41,000 people, she wants to ensure she is accessible to everybody.

"You have access to your state rep and you should. That's why I have an office on the first floor, right across from city hall and I have a full time legislative aide right here in the district office. I want state government to be accessible to you," Farley-Bouvier said. 

Farley-Bouvier is being challenged for the Democratic nomination by Michael Bloomberg. The winner will face off against City Councilor Christopher Connell, who is running as an independent.

http://www.iberkshires.com/story/52173/Farley-Bouvier-Kicks-Off-Re-Election-Bid.html

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5/12/16

The Berkshire Eagle

BOSTON — State Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier is powering efforts for a more diverse and renewable fuel-based omnibus energy bill than the one being debated on Beacon Hill.

The Pittsfield Democrat has co-authored a letter signed by 56 representatives — including all four members of the Berkshire delegation — that calls for the commonwealth to emphasize, solar, wind and other green energy sources over natural gas and other fossil fuels.

"The decisions we make this spring will have a major impact on where our energy comes from for the next few decades," Farley-Bouvier said in a prepared statement. "We have the opportunity to create local jobs and create healthier communities, while reducing greenhouse gas emissions, so we are seeking the forthcoming legislation to prioritize clean energy."

The lawmakers want the House leadership to release a bill that also won't spend taxpayer dollars on natural gas pipeline projects. They instead want pipeline owners to fix the tens of thousands of leaks in their existing delivery systems, which would save consumers more than $90 million a year and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 10 percent, according to the legislators.

"We have heard loudly and clearly from our constituents on the issue of pipeline funding." Farley-Bouvier stated. "To have ratepayers pay for these infrastructure investment would be unprecedented. The investors who, in the end, will be profiting, should absolutely be the ones on the hook."

Recently, opponents of Kinder Morgan's Northeast pipeline plan to traverse the Berkshires claimed victory after the energy giant suspended work on the project. Kinder Morgan representatives said they couldn't line up enough natural gas providers to make it profitable.

The lawmakers said they want alternative energy sources that make sense economically and environmentally, such as meaningful offshore wind energy development and hydropower purchased from Canada coupled with environmentally sensitive transmission lines and related infrastructure.

"We can and we must balance the need for reliable energy at an affordable price for both our residents and our commercial customers, while be extremely mindful of the impact our energy policy has on our environment," Farley-Bouvier said.

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County Fare: State Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier honored by Children's League

The Berkshire Eagle

3/29/2016

State Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier, D-Pittsfield, and Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr, R-Gloucester, were co-honored as the "2016 Legislators of the Year" as part of the Advocacy Day 2016 event and "Superheroes 4 Kids" campaign of the Children's League of Massachusetts (CLM).

A March 22 ceremony was held at Nurses Hall at the Massachusetts State House as part of the event. The campaign and honors are designed to celebrate Children's League members of and community members who advocate for increased protections, resources and funding for children in care in the fiscal 2017 budget.

"Both Senator Tarr's and Representative Farley-Bouvier's commitment to protecting the well-being of our children is unmatched," Children's League Executive Director Erin G. Bradley said. "The most vulnerable children of our commonwealth do not have access to the corridors of power to advocate for themselves, so having eloquent and dedicated legislators who give voice to the issues of importance to children is very much appreciated. We look forward to continuing to work with both of them to further improve the safety and success of the children of Massachusetts."

Said Rep. Farley-Bouvier, "I do thank the Children's League for this great honor, but it is them and the providers who do the ever important work of advocating for children every day that deserve the accolades."

Farley-Bouvier was honored for her creation and leadership of a legislative Child Welfare Subcommittee, driven by her belief that child welfare warrants a special body of legislators who can closely examine issues affecting system-involved youth. She was also acknowledged for bringing attention to the additional burdens placed on social workers in Western Massachusetts, where long drive times and rising caseloads decrease the amount of time they can spend on any one case.

Farley-Bouvier said child welfare should be a priority for legislators and noted that, "During times like these when the heroin epidemic is running rampant in the commonwealth and income inequality continues to leave more and more families behind, it is the children that get hurt the worst."

"Protecting children should always be a priority," said Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr.

Children's League highlighted Tarr's championship in the Senate of a bill that would ban "re-homing," a process by which adoptive parents use Internet message boards to find other adults to care for adopted children when an adoption is not working. They also noted his work to pass "Jessica's Law," which created stronger protections for children from child sexual predators, as well as his work to pass legislation to raise the age of juvenile court jurisdiction from 17 to 18 years old.

Read the full article here.


Our Opinion: Immigration bill is practical, humanitarian

The Berkshire Eagle

3/20/2016

This is a bad time to be an immigrant in this nation of immigrants but a bill before the state Legislature would address legitimate concerns while making roads safer.

A bill sponsored in the House by Representative Tricia Farley-Bouvier, a Pittsfield Democrat, would allow driver's licenses to be issued to state residents who are ineligible for Social Security numbers or who do not have proof of their immigration status (Eagle, March 11). As Representative Farley-Boivier said before a meeting of the Joint Committee on Transportation, the issue is essentially one of safety as there are thousands of drivers on the road who because of the restrictive policy are not trained, licensed, insured, or all of the above. 

Beyond this practical argument for the legislation there is a humanitarian one. Those testifying in favor of the bill included asylum seekers who, while their cases wend their way slowly through the immigration bureaucracy, have difficulty getting or keeping jobs and taking their children to school or medical appointments because they cannot get driver's licenses. There is no case to be made for punishing them and their children.

Testifying against the bill, Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson indicated he is not cognizant of political realities in asserting lawmakers address the "root cause" of the issue by supporting immigration reform and efforts to secure the country's borders. Though he gets no credit for it, President Obama has dramatically tightened the southwestern border following the sieve-like years of President George W. Bush. And an immigration reform measure that would have addressed this and other issues was sabotaged by House Republicans.

Immigration reform is dead in grid-locked Washington, in part because of the poisonous hate speech of Republican presidential candidates, which means that the states must institute reform measures as best they can. The driver's license bill does exactly that, and after being buried in committee last year it should be passed this year.


Tricia Farley-Bouvier: Gender identity bill is a matter of fairness

Op-Ed by Tricia Farley-Bouvier

11/5/2015

Did you know, today, in the year 2015, there is class of people who are not protected by law as to where they can eat, sleep, shop, and even use the bathroom?

While we'd like to believe that all persons, especially here in the commonwealth of Massachusetts, are afforded such protections under the law, the truth is that in public places transgender persons are not protected under current law.

In 2011, the Massachusetts legislature passed An Act Relative to Gender Identity – which I'm proud to say was filed in the Senate by Sen. Ben Downing of Pittsfield — that allowed Massachusetts to become the 16th state to add nondiscrimination laws for gender identity in the areas of employment, housing, K-12 public education, and credit. It also ensured that Massachusetts Hate Crimes laws included gender identity — as defined in the 2011 law as "a person's gender-related identity, appearance or behavior, whether or not that gender-related identity, appearance or behavior is different from that traditionally associated with the person's physiology or assigned sex at birth.

However, protections in public accommodations was left out of the final bill. Therefore, transgender persons are still susceptible to discrimination in any place that is open to the public and provides goods and services. According to a national transgender discrimination survey, 58 percent of Massachusetts respondents "experienced verbal harassment or mistreatment in public accommodations like hotels, restaurants, buses, airports and government agencies because they were transgender."

The gap in the law boils down to this: businesses cannot discriminate in employment against transgender persons, but have the right to deny them services as customers.

It is clear that this loophole needs to be addressed, and we have an opportunity to remedy this with the proposed legislation, the Act relative to Transgender Nondiscrimination (H1577 & S735), otherwise known as the Transgender Accommodation Bill. Filed by Reps. Denise Provost (D-Somerville), Rep. Byron Rushing (D-Boston) and Sen. Chang-Diaz (D-Boston), offers transgender persons full protection under the law, allowing them to enter and use public accommodations without fear of discrimination or subjective reproach.

On Oct. 6, the Joint Committee on the Judiciary listened to testimony from individuals and families who shared their experiences of discrimination. The legislation is now under review and there are several more steps before the full legislature will have an opportunity to vote on it.

I am hopeful that this legislation will move forward to provide a full measure of protection to those vulnerable to discrimination, and as a member of the Democratic caucus, I am especially proud to note the staunch advocacy efforts of so many of my colleagues toward this effort.

At the core of this legislation is basic civil rights under the law. However, I am cognizant that the subject of transgender persons — those with either assistance from medical intervention or by visible presentation who transition to a different gender — is a provocative issue and something new for a lot of people. There are a lot of people who don't understand, and I am admit, I don't understand everything about the subject.

What I am crystal clear is this: I believe you don't have to understand everyone's perspective, or agree with it, to realize that every person deserves equal protection under the law.

The proposed legislation is good news for individuals like Ella DeGiorgis, a transgender woman who was a guest on my public television show, Berkshires to Beacon Hill, earlier this month.

DeGiorgis, who said she considers herself an activist, described her concerns including worrying about if the restaurant she frequents will allow her to use the bathroom or if a gym membership will allow her access to appropriate changing facilities. "It makes it hard to enjoy a full life," she said.

You can't get any more basic than having the right to use a restroom. Interestingly enough, there actually is no law that specifies males and females must use their gender-assigned restroom, noted Representative Provost, who was also a guest on my show; rather, enforcement is something that occurs through social custom.

And while these are basic rights, opponents of the legislation view it much differently. Dubbed "the bathroom bill," opponents believe the legislation legalizes predators to go into girls' bathrooms and carry out assaults. This couldn't be farther from the truth. Current data simply does not point to incidents of transgender individuals using gender identity to harm people. The proposed law does not sanction criminal activity – it has always been illegal for anyone to enter a restroom to either harm or sexually harass another individual.

Another important area to note is that this bill would not place any mandates on the school systems across the commonwealth to change their policies. Since 2011, school districts have been, and continue to, make arrangements, as they best determine, to accommodate needs of transgender students.

As stated before, I understand that this is an issue that will generate spirited discussion, and that's always a good thing. But it is my hope that in the midst of the conversation, we don't lose sight of the fact that a lack of understanding of individual perspectives should never impede basic rights under the law.


Our right to know what's in our food

Op-Ed by Tricia Farley-Bouvier

9/24/2015

Growing up, I looked forward to the end of August as it meant a visit to my grandfather’s garden in Richmond. Rows of fresh, unadulterated, sweet corn were ripe for the picking, and that’s exactly what we did. The taste was unforgettable.

But as I reflect on this experience, my thoughts shift to the concerning state of our food today. The food we consume today is not the food we served up when we were kids, and in the last ten years the changes have come at an increasingly rapid rate.  This is due in part to genetically modified organisms (GMOs), whose genetic material has been artificially manipulated due to genetic engineering. Our food has been changed at the cellular level by Big Agriculture companies like Monsanto in order to be weed resistant.  In the U.S., GMOs are in as much as 80 percent of conventional processed food, according to the NonGMO Project, a non-profit organization, which provides third party verification and labeling for non-GMO food and products in the U.S. The fact there is no scientific consensus on the safety of genetically engineered foods, is all the more unnerving.

However, consumers are denied the opportunity to make informed choices about their food selections because of the widespread inclusion of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) into the food stream. Considering that some of the most common GMO foods include soy, cotton, canola, corn, sugar beets, yellow squash, and zucchini, it’s becoming hard to know what to avoid.

We all have a basic right to know what’s in our food, and it starts with H3242, an Act establishing the genetic engineering transparency food and seed labeling, filed by Representatives Ellen Story and Todd Smola, Senators Joan Lovely and Bruce Tarr. I fully support this bipartisan legislation, and it clearly struck a chord among members of both the House and Senate – 153 of my colleagues – including the entire Berkshire delegation– have signed on as co-sponsors.   That breadth of support is rare in the Massachusetts legislature and it is due to the groundswell of individuals who have contacted their own elected leaders demanding to know what they are eating and serving their families. This is further support of the growing national outcry toward transparency when it comes to GMOs. A 2013 New York Times poll reflected that 93 percent of respondents supported labeling food that has been genetically modified or engineered.

H 3242, modeled after similar legislation in Vt., Conn., and Maine, will require all food offered for retail sale in Massachusetts that is entirely or partially produced with genetic engineering to be labeled clearly and conspicuously with the following: “produced or partially produced with genetic engineering.” If the product is not individually packaged, this label will be put on the bin or shelf where it is sold. Food produced with genetic engineering shall not be labeled as “natural,” “naturally grown,” “all natural,” “naturally made” or anything similar that would tend to mislead a consumer.

The public will have an opportunity to share their thoughts on this legislation before the MA Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture on September 22. If passed, GMO labeling will equip Massachusetts residents with similar rights that already exists in 64 countries where GMO food has either been banned or requires labeling.

Food labeling is not a new concept, and the steps we have taken in past years have empowered consumers to make informed decisions. The Nutrition Labeling and Education Act of 1990 revealed per-serving nutritional information and the Food Allergy Labeling and Consumer Protection Act has helped vulnerable individuals avoid life-threatening ingredients. Labeling has proven successful, and GMO labeling is simply another step to maintain transparency to the American food system and to ensure consumer confidence.

The well-funded opposition will argue that this measure will increase grocery costs for families.  That is completely false.  Food products often have different labels depending on region of sale. For example some of the same products that we have here in the US are sold in Europe under labels clearly indicating the GMO ingredients. 

Big Agri also wants you to believe that what they are doing now is no different than developing hybrid fruits and vegetables.  Another falsehood.  There is a clear line of demarcation between hybrids and GMOs. While the creation of hybrids create a bigger variety – think Honeycrisp apples and even grapefruits, a mix between a pomelo and a  sweet orange – GMO produce does not increase variety, but exist to have a higher  tolerance to herbicides. Therein lies the difference, and it’s an important one to understand in the midst of persuasive arguments toward GMOs.

The data clearly shows that when people know more about GMOs, their demand for transparency increases. Here in the Commonwealth, we are listening and this legislation will help to create a food system that we can all feel confident about.  Information is truly power when it comes to knowing what’s in our food, and I encourage you to learn more. The Massachusetts Right to Know GMOs, a statewide network of safe food advocates, is leading the effort to pass the GMO labeling in the Commonwealth. To learn more, please visit marighttoknow.com

State Rep. Tricia Farley Bouvier


Mass. Supports New High School In Pittsfield With Grant

By Jim Levulis, WAMC News

6/4/2015

The Massachusetts School Building Authority approved $74 million for the construction of a new Taconic High School in Pittsfield at its monthly meeting Wednesday. The project has been 10 years in the making.

The state’s $74.2 million reimbursement award comes less than two months after the Pittsfield City Council unanimously approved borrowing up to $120.8 million to build the new three-story high school on Valentine Rd. It would replace the current Taconic High School, built in 1969, which has suffered from leaky roofs and poor heating and cooling. Pittsfield Mayor Dan Bianchi has long advocated for the new vocationally-focused school.

“This new comprehensive high school will prepare children for an advanced education at any number of institutions of higher learning,” Bianchi said prior to the city council vote in April. “But it will also prepare future generations of young Pittsfield students to engage in vocational programs that will offer them a brighter future today. It will be the best pathway to the middle class for many of the children who come from our economically-challenged families. It will also be one of the best economic initiatives that a community can ever engage in.”

School and city leaders expect the new Taconic to develop more partnerships with area companies on internships and career development paths. The 246,500-square foot L-shaped building will feature classroom clusters, flex space and vocational shops. Carl Franceschi, president of DRA Architects, is leading the project’s design.

“Another goal of the educational plan was to have built in flexibility,” Franceschi said. “Because we know the school’s going to be here for 40 to 50 years. It’s going evolve over time. We want to have a building as flexible as possible.”

Work and debate on a new high school began about a decade ago. An idea was kicked around to combine Taconic and Pittsfield High School on one campus. Renovation of Taconic was estimated at $36 million with little expected state reimbursement. The current path was chosen because it was considered the most cost effective for the city while providing the best product. In recent months in particular, city residents have questioned why Pittsfield is building a new school while enrollment has dropped by 700 students over the past decade, to about 5,800 district-wide. State Representative Tricia Farley Bouvier, a former Pittsfield city councilor, has stood by the investment.

“I went to Pittsfield High School that was built in the middle of the Depression by my grandparents and great-grandparents when times were way harder than they are right now,” Farley-Bouvier said. “They invested in me and I’m going to invest in my grandchildren.

Taconic currently has 760 students. Pittsfield Public Schools superintendent Jason McCandless says about 150 vocational students from Pittsfield High School could switch to Taconic while the new school will also have room for 100 to 200 choice-in students from other districts.

One of the next steps is for Pittsfield Public Schools and the MSBA to enter into a project funding agreement, which will further detail the project’s scope and budget, along with the conditions under which the city will receive its MSBA grant.

Construction is expected to start next spring with the opening slated for the 2018-2019 school year. The new Taconic will go up across the driveway from the current one, which will be razed.


New Bill Could Change Hourly Wage for Tipped Workers in Massachusetts

By Justine Hofherr, Boston.com Staff

3/13/2015

In January, standard minimum wage in Massachusetts was raised to $9, while tipped workers saw their wage floor increase to $3 as part of the state’s two-tier wage system.

Restaurant worker advocates say the system prevents many tipped workers from making at least the standard hourly minimum wage. They want to see change, and in the next couple of years, they might.

A proposed law would gradually eliminate the subminimum wage for tipped workers, mandating that after 2022, tipped employees would have the same hourly minimum wage as workers in all other industries in Massachusetts.

The bill, presented by Representative Tricia Farley-Bouvier of Berkshire County, would act as an addendum to the current minimum wage bill, which saw tipped workers wage floor increase from $2.63 to $3.75 per hour by 2017. The new bill would instead give gradual increases to tipped workers past 2017, with the two-tier system being abolished in 2022.

Under current state law, tipped employees (those who receive more than $20 a month in tips) must be paid a minimum of $3 per hour, provided that, with tips, they make $9 per hour – the standard minimum wage in the state. If the total hourly rate for the employee, including tips, does not equal $9, then the employer must make up the difference.

But some restaurant worker advocates say that many employers skirt the law, neglecting to make up the difference on slow days when employees aren’t making the standard minimum wage with tips.

“In the instances when the worker is in a restaurant where their tips do not bring them to rate of $9, often the difference is not made up by the business,” said Alex Galimberti, a lead organizer for the Restaurant Opportunities Center (ROC) of Boston.

At $3, Massachusetts tipped minimum wage is the second lowest in New England, with Rhode Island tipped workersearning the lowest at $2.89 per hour.

In restaurants where workers are averaging more than $9 in tips alone, Galimberti said workers sometimes see the restaurant neglect to pay the hourly rate to employees, “especially if the workforces are immigrant and undocumented workers who feel intimidated and afraid to demand their rights,” he added.

ROC is supporting the bill through their “One Fair Wage” campaign, Galimberti said, saying the law would prevent “lax and disorganized” employers from neglecting to top off employees – a form of wage theft.

Wage theft – defined as employers neglecting to pay employees their rightfully earned minimum wage or overtime pay – is a hard thing to monitor since it often goes unreported, but a recent study by the Economic Policy Institute estimatesthat U.S. workers are cheated out of roughly $50 billion per year.

Some labor experts say there’s more at stake than just fair wages, citing gender inequality and sexual harassment as larger themes that emerge in the restaurant industry.

Dr. Eve Weinbaum, director of The Labor Center at UMass Amherst, called the bill “a great idea,” saying tipped workers in the restaurant industry face sexual harassment more often than workers in other fields because they’re paid primarily by their customer, not their employer.

“Unlike other sectors where employees wouldn’t take it, tipped workers feel they have to put up with it,” Weinbaum said.
In October 2014, the ROC and another group released a reportbased on interviews with 700 former and current restaurant workers in New York and other major cities, as well as an analysis of census data and statistics from the U.S. Labor Department and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and found that 78 percent of women (and 55 percent of men) reported being sexually harassed by customers.

Women account for about 72 percent of all workers in predominantly tipped occupations like restaurant servers, bartenders, and hair stylists, according to the National Economic Council.

Tipped workers are also about twice as likely as other workers to experience poverty, and servers are roughly three times as likely to live in poverty.

“I really think the tipped minimum wage is completely outdated,” Weinbaum said. “There’s almost no compliance with the law. Employers and workers don’t keep track of the tips, so some restaurant workers make far above minimum wage, and in other restaurants, workers make far from the minimum wage.”

But some restaurant owners maintain that the current wage system for tipped workers is ideal for employees, restaurants, and consumers. The group argues that abolishing the two-tiered wage system would hamper job creation.

Stephen Clark, director of government affairs for the Massachusetts Restaurant Association, said he opposes the bill. If enacted, Clark said tipped employees would “lose thousands” per year because customers wouldn’t feel compelled to tip as much.

“Massachusetts tipped employees are among the highest compensated in the country, with the average tipped employee making $13 an hour,” Clark said. “And in reality, most are earning between $25 and $30 an hour.” His data is based on statistics from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The current system also allows employers to keep their menu prices down, attracting customers and building future business, Clark added.

But restaurant advocates like Galimberti argue that in states like California and Nevada that have abolished the two-tier system, employees haven’t seen a decrease in tips, and restaurants haven’t had to drastically raise menu prices. In fact, the seven states that have abolished a subminimum tipped wage have seen above average employment growth, he said, and the restaurant industry projects their employment growth by 10.5 percent over the next decade.

There’s no current timetable for the legislation in Massachusetts, but Weinbaum expects a fierce debate when it comes to a legislative vote.

“I think the restaurant industry association is incredibly powerful and they will fight this with everything they have, but I really hope our legislators will see it through and decide to stick up for people with less power,” Weinbaum said.
 


Berkshire representatives in favor of pending state campaign finance bill

By Jim Therrien, Berkshire Eagle Staff

7/7/2014

PITTSFIELD -- Local state representatives believe pending campaign finance legislation could have an immediate positive impact on the fall elections.

The bill, which requires disclosure of the top donors to a political action committee sponsoring political advertisements, has cleared the House and is now before the Senate. The bill also requires declaring campaign expenditures by corporations, labor unions and other groups and their funding sources during the campaign, rather than afterward.

State Representative Tricia Farley-Bouvier, D-Pittsfield, one of the sponsors of the House version, said that "while it won't stop the super PACs from contributing to campaigns, at least they will have to declare who the top five donors are."

That provision of the bill would take effect this year, she said, and will require PACs to list the top donors in their ads.

The legislation is seen as something that could be done at the state level to counter the effects of the Citizens United U.S. Supreme Court decision of 2010, which shot down campaign donation limits on corporations, labor unions or associations. The state bill seeks to address through transparency the effects of so-called "dark money" on campaigns, contributed by groups from within or outside the commonwealth.

"This is absolutely going to affect the campaign," Farley-Bouvier said, adding, "It will still be up to the voters to pay attention [to the source of contributions]."

Sen. Ben Downing, D-Pittsfield, said Thursday he believes the Senate will pass the bill and it will be sent to the governor's office before the end of the session.

"I think it makes a great deal of sense in the post-Citizens United world," Downing said. "It is the one thing that we can and need to do."

The provision regarding PAC contributions will bring immediate transparency, he said, adding, "This is a good first step, but I hope it is not the last step" toward campaign finance reform.

Downing said he would like to see a broad discussion with all reform options on the table, including public financing of elections.

The state bill also would increase from $500 to $1,000 the amount an individual can make to a state, county or local campaign, although that provision won't take effect until next year.

Some critics of the bill say it fails to eliminate a loophole in current state law that allows a union to contribute more to elections than individuals. Downing said he would favor "a level playing field" in the amounts each can contribute.

The 2014 governor's race is likely to be the one in Massachusetts most affected by the proposed financing legislation, becauzse of expected super PAC contributions including those originating out of state.


Farley-Bouvier Calling for DCF Changes In Wake of Oliver Case

By Andy McKeever, iBerkshires Staff

2/9/2014

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — It isn't enough for the Legislature to take action only in the wake of crisis, says State Representative Tricia Farley-Bouvier.

The Pittsfield representative sits on the House oversight panel formed to review the Department of Children and Families in the aftermath of the high-profile Jeremiah Oliver case.

The 5-year-old Fitchburg boy has been missing since September and is feared dead. Three DCF workers were fired for mishandling the boy's case.

From her seat on the panel, Farley-Bouvier is calling for regular oversight meetings from now on so the state knows what is going on in the department and what policies need to be in place to fix issues. She is also looking to reduce caseloads for each worker and improved technology.

"The Legislature only seems to pay attention after some high-profile case. Every four or five years there is a high-profile case and we sweep in with oversight hearings. I think we should be having regular oversight hearings of the department and done in such a way, similar to how they have audits on the municipal level," Farley-Bouvier said on last week. "I don't think it is OK to just wait for the next crisis before you pay attention to the department, not this department. This department is way too important."

The Oliver case led Speaker of the House Robert DeLeo to call for an investigation, which is being held by the House members of the Joint Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disability, of which Farley-Bouvier is a member, and the House Committee on Post Audit and Oversight. Meanwhile, Gov. Deval Patrick has called in the Child Welfare League of America to review DCF.

The House panel will review the Child Welfare League of America's information, focused on national practices and interviews and investigation into the department. The House is supplementing that information with its own research and talking to other organizations that would be affected by Legislative changes.

Farley-Bouvier said two bills filed more than a year ago, well before the Oliver case, called for a commission to oversee the DCF regularly. But Farley-Bouvier believes the Legislature should be doing the oversight, not a new commission.

"I think there are a lot more voices we need to hear. I think we need to hear from parents," Farley-Bouvier said. "I think we need to hear from the social workers themselves. I think we need to hear from alumni of the DCF system. I think we need to hear from teachers, superintendents and people in the medical community. There is a lot of voices left to hear. All of those perspectives are important in putting together a picture of it."

Already jumping out to Farley-Bouvier as the panel scrambles to enact legislation by the end of July, is the caseload numbers. The department has already reached an agreement limiting the number of cases a single worker has to 15 families, 28 children not more than 10 in placement. But "we're not even close to that," Farley-Bouvier says.

"I would expect that in the spring we'd have some legislation to change policy and I think in the budget process, there will be a lot of discussion around the department, advocating for funding," she said.

In the Berkshires, caseloads are on par with the rest of the state. But, the rest of the state does not have the transportation challenges, meaning the social workers here are spending extra time driving. Farley-Bouvier says when considering policies, she will advocate to make sure those setting policy keep the difference between rural and urban issues in mind.

"An additional issue for our caseworkers is when they have to do a home visit, they could be driving to North Adams and that just adds minutes to the day. It is not realistic to get all of these things done in a day," she said, telling the story of one local caseworker who had to drive to four distinct parts of the county for a single visit with all involved. "I've asked that when they consider caseloads, they should be considering the difference between a rural area and an urban area."

She also has concern that the caseload numbers are growing right now because of the Oliver case. She says now every report of neglect or abuse on a child under the age of 5 is being screened for a full investigation, adding to the overall number of cases.

"Because of the spotlight on the department, basically any report of neglect or abuse for a child 5 or under is basically being screened in for an investigation," she said. "My concern right now when I hear all this is the caseloads which we are already concerned about are going to be going up significantly. You can't have more and more investigations without impacting caseloads."

Farley-Bouvier said that since 2008, DCF has lost $100 million in funding and she will be advocating to boost the state's investment in the department. However, she is calling for specific conditions with money going to hire additional caseworkers and to upgrade the department's technology.

"In my mind, we want to support social workers so they can support families and the children are protected," she said. "You don't lose $100 million in funding without it impacting your ability to do your job."

Meanwhile the computer systems are "antiquated and cumbersome" and improved hardware and software would go a long way in helping the social workers do their job better.

For example, social workers often spend hours in court waiting, so improving mobile access to information will help them keep a closer eye on their clients. Case works should have tablets that can be taken on home visits, where they check in on a GPS system and document seamlessly.

"If we're making the investment, we'll have a say in how its spent," she said.

While the "crisis" originated out of Fitchburg, Farley-Bouvier says her panel will be implementing policy for the entire state, meaning the Berkshires will also be affected. Those policy decisions are urgent, she said, and the panel is hammering through its study in the coming month.

She says changes to DCF are particularly needed "because there is no room for error."


Let's Not Wait for Next Tragedy

By Peter Gelzinis, Boston Herald Columnist

1/24/2014

David Linsky should have grilled DCF Commissioner Olga Roche six months ago.

It’s a shame the Natick rep didn’t ask this embattled bureaucrat back then the question he fired at her yesterday:

“Can you give me and the other 6 million people of the commonwealth the assurance that you know that every one of those 36,000 children in your care today are present, alive and healthy?”

If Linsky, the chairman of the House Post Audit and Oversight Committee, had put that question to the head of the Department of Children and Families back in, say, July or August, there probably wouldn’t have been any need for him to hit Roche with the other half of his question:

“Can you give me that assurance that there are no other Jeremiah Olivers out there?”

Yesterday, a chastened Roche told Linsky her department knew of no other children who had vanished in their care. Jeremiah Oliver was the only one.

I will say this about Olga Roche’s performance yesterday. Someone gave her pointers in how to smother the pols in mind-numbing waves of empty rhetoric.

She never answered a direct question in a sentence of less than 500 or 600 words. The proof was there on a big screen upon which a stenographer valiantly posted Olga’s run-on sentences almost as fast as she spit them out. Clearly, the strategy here was for Olga to bury the pols under tons of words about protocols and procedures, spiced with just a hint of appropriate outrage pointed at those three DCF workers she fired for losing track of Jeremiah Oliver.

The only pol who cut through this fog was Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier of Pittsfield.

She made the point of saying that pressing for a mea culpa or working up a reflex head of outrage after this latest high-profile DCF fiasco was little more than an empty gesture.

“I think we can, and should, do something legislatively to come up with a structure whereby there is a regular review of the (DCF),” Farley-Bouvier told me during a break in yesterday’s hearing. “There should be reviews of the department on a regular basis, not just when another high-profile case explodes into the public’s view.

“Because, as I told the commissioner, there will be another high-profile case,” she said. “That’s the way it’s been for the last 30 years and many other commissioners.”

She is absolutely right. What took place in the Gardner Auditorium should — and must — take place at least twice a year. Then, perhaps, Olga Roche, or whoever the commissioner may be, would be forced to answer questions in simple sentences.

And maybe they would not have the time to lose another Jeremiah Oliver.


State auditor wants expanded oversight on DOR commercial tax credit administration

By Dick Lindsay, Berkshire Eagle Staff

11/05/2013

PITTSFIELD -- The state's public money watchdog is pushing for access to business tax returns to prevent waste, fraud or abuse of certain tax breaks for companies from the Berkshires to Cape Cod.

"The first question is, do we need an emergency shelter or not?" Mary McGinnis, the city's director of Administrative Services, asked the group of about 15 in City Council chambers.

The consensus that emerged from the human service providers, police, religious, medical and city government representatives was that 20 or more homeless people per night during wintry weather will need a place to stay overnight.

Berkshire Co-Act Executive Director Paul Deslauriers, who oversaw an emergency cot shelter last winter at the Salvation Army on West Street, said the average number staying there was 14 over the four months the shelter operated. But he added that 22 to 25 people stayed on colder nights -- including a high of 36, which required finding other locations to handle the overflow.

The Salvation Army is not available for that purpose this winter, and local officials have been scrambling to find an alternative since a proposed site on Fenn Street in a Brien Center-owned building was eliminated three weeks ago because of building code issues that would be costly or difficult to address.

Police Chief Michael J. Wynn said police "get shelter calls every night of the year."

The chief and others confirmed some of the locations where people are routinely seen attempting to camp or find shelter, including behind the Wahconah Park scoreboard, across the Housatonic River in that location, in Clapp Park and sometimes in Springside Park.

Homeless people often try to enter construction sites or vacant properties, Wynn said.

He added that last winter, with the cot shelter operating from December to April, "was the best year we've had in terms of options" for those police find sleeping outside.

Concerning long-term solutions, Jack Downing, CEO at Soldier On, and Jay Sacchetti, vice president of shelter and housing services in Berkshire County for ServiceNet, both stressed the need to have trained workers register each person seeking shelter as the first step in the process.

A chronic problem dealing with the homeless in Pittsfield, Downing said, "is we have a very fractured system," with several well-intentioned organizations working somewhat independently. Funding from the state or other sources is based on accurate statistics on homeless clients being entered properly in approved data banks, reflecting the actual need, he said.

Sacchetti, whose organization took over operation of Barton's Crossing and other longer-term Berkshire County shelters in June, said ServiceNet has a system in the Pioneer Valley that does collect data from clients and provides a level of health care and other services, all aimed at helping individuals overcome problems and acquire permanent housing.

On average, he said, "about 10 percent of the people are taking 80 percent of the services," in other words coming back repeatedly to shelters. The goal should be to help them break that cycle, he said.

Downing, whose organization cooperates with ServiceNet to deliver transportation and other services in the Pioneer Valley, said having all homeless clients register first at Barton's Crossing would allow collection of the data required to receive additional funding.

Gina Armstrong, the city's health department director, said a task force could be created to study the issue long-term, "but we also need the short-term. There is not a lot of time."

Sacchetti said Barton's Crossing could accomodate 10 more people this winter, but the staff would have to be increased. That extra staffing cost was estimated at from $80,000 to $100,000."

Downing said Soldier On would cooperate by providing transportation and taking additional homeless people that could not be housed at Barton's Crossing.

Meanwhile, Deslauriers and others have sought a building that could house another cot shelter this winter, but safety and other state code regulations have made that difficuilt. One building being considered is the former Catholic Youth Center on Melville Street, but the Rev. Quentin Chin of First Baptist Church said no word on its possible use has come back from the Catholic Diocese of Springfield.

No matter the site, state code regulations, which were tightened up further in January, could pose hurdles. "The code is pretty rigid," City Building Commissioner Gerald Garner told the group.

There are requirements for fire safety and access, and although buildings operated for primarily religious purposes can receive a temporary permit for up to 52 days, that would not cover the entire winter and fire safety alarm equipment would still be required.

Deslauriers said shelters like the one operated last year with mostly volunteer help would be much more cost-effective than other options. He said the cot shelter operated for four months at a cost of $10,000 in donated space at the Salvation Army.

State Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier, D-Pittsfield, and state Sen. Benjamin B. Downing, D-Pittsfield, also attended the meeting. They said they would explore the availability of state funding this year but added that concrete, specific proposals from the community are more likely to receive funds.


Berkshire Immigrant Center presents 9th Immigrants' Day in the Berkshires

By John Sakata, Berkshire Eagle Staff

10/20/2013

PITTSFIELD -- There was Latin dancing and multicultural music for Immigrants' Day on Saturday, a celebration of the contributions of local immigrants held at Morningside Community School.

Indian immigrant Jeswant Banga and his 4-year-old daughter, Yashtia, who was born in India and immigrated to the Berkshires a year ago, enjoyed the air conditioning at the event.

In India, the sweltering hot weather could be made even more uncomfortable because of rolling blackouts that would leave people sweating, he said.

Banga appreciates living in the U.S., and he gives back to his community -- he donated food from his North Street restaurant, House of India, to the event.

"There are more opportunities here," Banga said about why he immigrated to the U.S.

The Berkshire Immigrant Center presented the 9th annual Immigrants' Day in the Berkshires, an event that connects immigrants with resources and celebrates cultural diversity and immigrants' accomplishments. The event was canceled last year, but organizers felt it was important to bring it back to highlight the positive contributions of local immigrants.

Greene said last year the Immigrant Center assisted about 1,000 immigrants from 74 different countries. Immigrants currently make up 14.4 percent of the state's population, according to the 2010 U.S. Census.

"I think positive events like this really help shape people's opinions on comprehensive immigration reform and they're able to look at these hardworking people, who are starting businesses and paying taxes," Berkshire Immigrant Center Executive Director Hilary Greene said.

During the event, State Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier, D-Pittsfield, and Richard T. Delmasto, congressional aide to former Congressman John Olver, were awarded the Jane Addams American Spirit Award for sponsoring House Bill 3285, or The Safe Driving Bill.

The state bill being reviewed in committee would allow illegal immigrants to receive a drivers license as long they are trained and insured.

Farley-Bouvier told The Eagle the bill will help everyone because it will help people to receive training and stop people from driving illegally because of their citizenship status.

"The federal government isn't capable right now to make the comprehensive reform, so we in the commonwealth can't wait to make the roads safer," Farley-Bouvier said. "I would say it's particularly important because in Berkshire County we don't have viable public transportation options."

Earlier this week, Gov. Deval Patrick proclaimed Oct. 14 through Nov. 14 Immigrant Entrepreneurship Month.

Correction: At Berkshire Immigrant Center’s Immigrants' Day celebration, the Jane Addams American Spirit Award was awarded to co-recipients: Richard T. Delmasto, congressional aide to former Congressman John Olver, and state Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier, D-Pittsfield. They received the award for their dedication to supporting and welcoming the immigrant population in the Berkshires and to helping countless new American families navigate life in the U.S. A report in Sunday's Eagle omitted Delmasto as a recipient.

 


 

Berkshire Delegation and Mayor Bianchi join The Brien Center in honoring Robert K. Quattrochi

By Eileen Mahoney

5/2/2013

The Berkshire Legislative Delegation, Representatives William (Smitty) Pignatelli, Tricia Farley-Bouvier, Paul Mark and Gailanne Cariddi, and Senator Ben Downing joined Pittsfield Mayor Daniel Bianchi and the Brien Center in honoring Robert K. Quattrochi with the Agency’s first Community Volunteer Award at their 3rd Annual UNICO dinner on Thursday, May 2, 2013 at the ITAM Lodge in Pittsfield. Attended by over 250 Brien Center supporters, the dinner was underwritten by Coakley, Pierpan, Dolan and Collins Insurance Agency, Inc.

Mr. Quattrochi received the award in recognition of his ongoing work on behalf of the Brien Center. He was instrumental in meeting the goal of the recently completed Capital Campaign for the renovation of the Agency's campus on Fenn Street. He has been a tireless advocate for the Brien Center in the community, not only raising funds but also raising awareness of the essential community services provided to Berkshire County residents by the Brien Center.

Representative Farley-Bouvier presented a Citation from the Legislature acknowledging Quattrochi’s contributions. “It is rare that the entire delegation is in one place at one time and we are honored to be here to acknowledge the great work of the Brien Center and Bob Quattrochi.”

Senator Ben Downing, in presenting Quattrochi with a Senate Citation, cited Quattrochi’s advocacy on behalf of the Brien Center and emphasized the commitment of the Delegation to helping the Brien Center de-stigmatize mental illness and addiction. “When health policy issues are discussed, we will make sure that mental health services are also in the mix.”

Mayor Bianchi, citing Quattrochi as an exemplary volunteer, read a City Proclamation, acknowledging Quattrochi’s hard work on behalf of the Brien Center and other non-profits in the Berkshires, including Berkshire Medical Center and Hancock Shaker Village. “Not only is Bob a wonderful volunteer but he is also a great friend to Pittsfield and to me.”

The attendees couldn’t have agreed more when Quattrochi received a standing ovation upon receipt of the plaque presented by the Brien Center’s CEO, Christine Macbeth. In presenting the award, Ms. Macbeth stated, “Bob has been a great friend to the Brien Center. People like Bob help make it possible for us to help as many Berkshire families as we do.”

Ms. Macbeth continued, “The Brien Center is committed to eliminating the stigma that surrounds treatment for mental illness and addiction. Bob has been instrumental in helping to raise awareness of the positive impact the Brien Center has on the lives of Berkshire County residents.”

Quattrochi, in his understated way, graciously accepted the award, insisting that he really had not done much. He continued, “Once I learned how important the Brien Center was to the community, I was willing to help in any way that I could.” He then advocated for more community support of the Brien Center to help complete its downtown campus.

Mr. Quattrochi was President and CEO of Pete's Motors and now serves the Berkshire community in an array of civic organizations and community projects. He currently sits on the Board of a number of nonprofit organizations.

The Brien Center provides mental health and substance abuse services to residents of Berkshire County. In 2012, the Agency served almost 11,000 individuals, 4,000 of whom were children. The Brien Center promotes the highest degree of recovery possible for every individual, providing a wide array of services to meet the needs and challenges of those they serve.


TheAtlanticCities.com offers an interesting analysis of the Vehicle Miles Traveled tax, an idea discussed by Rep. Farley-Bouvier in the Berkshire Eagle on February 5, 2013.


Bills seek equity in state transportation spending

By Josh Stilts, Berkshire Eagle Staff

02/05/2013

PITTSFIELD -- Two transportation bills proposed Monday could drastically alter the way Massachusetts residents get around.

Co-sponsored by Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier, D-Pittsfield, the "Act Relative to Transportation Investment, Regional Fairness and Countability to State Policies" and "An Act to Establish a Vehicle Miles Traveled Pilot Program" are designed to create regional equity and accountability when it comes to transportation spending.

According to Farley-Bouvier, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation can't afford its day-to-day operational costs and have been using state bonds to pay for them.

"Right now, DOT borrows money in state bonds to mow the lawn and plow the roads," she told The Eagle. "We're spending $1.75 for every $1 of operational costs because of the interest of those bonds."

The bill would also prevent the department from dipping into its capital budget and instead ensure the funds from that account were being used to improve infrastructure of all Massachusetts towns, but especially border towns, which she referred to as the 24 "gateway" cities.

"We need to invest in economically distressed neighborhoods. These gateway cities have been neglected in the past and we aren't seeing any growth," she said. "By investing in public transportation in those areas, it provides a piece of the economic puzzle. I've seen the disparity in the transportation investments in the Boston area and have learned how important it is to economic development. People need to get to work, young people want to get to their activities without having to own a car and we need to meet the transportation needs of our senior citizens."

Every year, Berkshire County sends nearly $30 million to the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority and, Farley-Bouvier said, the county isn't getting its money's worth.

The bill would also require that any transportation investment of more than $15 million has to show that it benefits creating economic development and reduces greenhouse gas emissions.

Lizzi Weyant, advocacy director for Transportation for Massachusetts, said the group strongly supports both the bills as they would create better business opportunities and a better quality of life.

"It would give cities and towns a bigger voice to speak about which projects should be completed," Weyant said. "It will also create more public transportation options across the state."

The other bill would create a voluntary pilot program to study the effectiveness and sustainability of an individual driving tax as an alternative to Gov. Deval Patrick's recent proposal of raising the gas tax to help pay for the $800 million to $1 billion transportation reform he set forth.

According to Farley-Bouvier, the pilot program would be a catalyst to for the conversations about transportation reform.

The idea is that drivers in Massachusetts would be taxed potentially on where people drive, when they drive, what they drive and how far they drive.

Using a transponder, similar to the devices used to pay for tolls along the turnpike, driver's mileage and the time at which they drive would be tracked and then transmitted to a database.

Because the program is still in the initial phase, it's unclear if people would be taxed yearly, monthly or at the gas pump, Farley-Bouvier said.

If the bill passes, anyone who signs up for the pilot program would be guaranteed not to be taxed any more than the gas tax at that time.

"We want to invest in transportation in a equitable way," she said. "We need to assure the Berkshires has a seat at the table and fair share of those investment dollars."


Our thanks to the Berkshire Eagle for making their footage of the Berkshire Delegation's meeting with Senator Elizabeth Warren freely available on YouTube.

Read the Representative's remarks at the Department of Transportation's October 3, 2012 Board Meeting in North Adams.

Click here for iBerkshires.com's 'Legislative Q&A' with Tricia in October 2012.

View Representative Farley-Bouvier's latest newsletter.


 

Officials Spotlight Elder Abuse

By Tony Dobrowolski, Berkshire Eagle Staff

6/16/2012

PITTSFIELD -- With one of the highest percentage of senior citizens in the state, Berkshire County is particularly susceptible to the growing problem of elder abuse.

On Friday, local and state officials gathered at the Ralph J. Froio Senior Center on North Street to mark the seventh annual World Elder Abuse Day by describing local efforts to combat the issue.

"For many, many years the elderly have suffered in silence," said Vincent Marinaro, the senior center’s executive director. "The good news is we’re shedding light on this issue."

The U.S. Administration on Aging believes that nearly two million Americans over the age of 60 experience some form of abuse every year, but only one in five cases is ever reported, according to the National Cen ter on Elderly Abuse.

In Massachusetts, 55 protective reports involving the elderly are filed every day, according to Mary O’Brien, the Berkshire County coordinator for Elder Protective Services, which has a satellite office in Pittsfield. There are 1,835 active cases of elder abuse that are currently being investigated across the state, including 430 that are "brand new," she said.

"So it’s not a small issue," O’Brien said.

In Berkshire County, 530 incidents of elder abuse have been reported over the last eight months. Of that number, 379 have been "screened in," which means there is reason to believe that Elder Protective Services needs toassess the situation. The local caseload has in creased slightly over the previous reporting period, she said.

O’Brien said those reports include several cases of self-neglect and financial exploitation, and "lots of consultations with the District Attorney’s office." Elder Protective Ser vices also receives reports of physical, emotional, sexual and caregiver abuse involving the elderly, and notifies the Berk shire District Attorney’s office if there is reason to believe a crime has been committed.

She said Berkshire County residents need to "get the word out" by reporting "any observation or conversation that alarms you" to Berkshire Elder Protective Services. The organization can be reached by calling (855) 874-3242 during normal business hours, and (800) 922-2275 on evenings, weekends and holidays.

State Sen. Benjamin B. Downing, State Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouver, Pittsfield Mayor Daniel L. Bianchi, and Maureen Tuggey of the Pittsfield Council on Aging also spoke at Friday’s news conference.

"I think elder abuse is very similar to child abuse," Farley-Bouvier said. "It’s been going on for years and years and people are ashamed to talk about it."

Referring to Pittsfield-based Elder Services of Berkshire County, and the city’s Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP), Bianchi said Pittsfield has several resources that senior citizens can utilize.

"This wasn’t even part of our lexicon," several years ago, said Bianchi, referring to elder abuse. "Unfortunately, it’s part of our world today."


State Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier runs unopposed in 3rd Berkshire District

By Ned Oliver, Berkshire Eagle Staff

5/30/2012

PITTSFIELD - State Rep. Tricia Farley- Bouvier has a clear path back to Beacon Hill this November.

The Democrat will be running unopposed in the 3rd Berkshire District, following Green-Rainbow candidate Mark Miller's confirmation that he won't make a third attempt for the seat, which includes most of Pittsfield, this fall. Tuesday was the deadline to file nomination papers for the office.

Miller lost to Farley-Bouvier by 192 votes in the special election last October to fill the seat, which was vacated mid-term by former Rep. Christopher Speranzo, who defeated Miller in the 2010 general election.

Miller had taken out nomination papers to run again, but he said he ultimately decided he needs to focus on other aspects of his life that get pushed to the wayside during campaigns.

"I essentially took two years out of my life to run those two times, and there's just a lot of digging out that I have to do to put my life back together," said Miller.

Also a factor in Miller's decision is that this is a presidential election year, which, combined with the intense fight between the likely Democratic nominee for Senate, Elizabeth Warren, and incumbent Republican Sen. Scott Brown, will lead to heavy Democratic voter turnout.

Many of those voters, he said, will reflexively vote the Democratic ticket, making his chances of winning as a Green-Rainbow candidate unlikely.

Miller, however, said he hasn't ruled out a future run. He said he'll consider launching another campaign in the 3rd Berkshire District in two years. In the meantime, Miller plans to stay active in local, state and federal politics. Miller said he's looking forward to working with Democratic congressional- hopeful Bill Shein's run against U.S. Rep. Richard Neal and Middle Berkshire Register of Deeds Andrea Nuciforo.

Miller said he plans to be more active as a member of the city's Green Commission, which is tasked with, among other things, increasing energy efficiency in the city and encouraging the utilization of renewable resources.


Farley-Bouvier Wins It!

By Dick Lindsay, Berkshire Eagle Staff

9/21/2011

PITTSFIELD — Tricia Farley- Bouvier has advanced to next month’s special election to fill the vacancy in the city’s 3rd Berkshire District state representative seat.

The former aide to Mayor James M. Ruberto received 1,430 votes to win Tuesday’s Democratic primary, defeating city Councilor Peter T. White, who received 1,234 votes, and law student Ryan Scago, who garnered 1,082 votes. City Clerk Linda M. Tyre reported that 4,190 votes were cast out of 24,614 registered voters — a 17 percent turnout.

Farley-Bouvier moves on to a four-way contest in October against Republican Mark Jester, Green-Rainbow Party candidate Mark C. Miller, and independent candidate Patricia “Pam” Malumphy. Jester qualified for the Oct. 18 ballot by getting 202 write-in votes in the Republican primary.

The winner of the special election will succeed Christopher Speranzo, who resigned as Pittsfield’s state representative July 13 to become the new clerk magistrate of Central Berkshire District Court.

The 3rd Berkshire District encompasses all but two of Pittsfield’s 14 precincts: Ward 1B and Ward 5B.

The 350- vote differential between the three Democrats was closer than expected for Farley-Bouvier, who felt she out-hustled her opponents for voter support.

“I knocked on every door and worked the phones [on Tuesday] to get out the vote,” she said.

Farley-Bouvier plans to expand on that campaign strategy leading up to the Oct. 18 special election.

“I will focus on the issues important to voters and have one-on-one conversations with them,” she said. “They like that.”

White praised Scago, the lesser known of the three candidates, for mounting a “heck of a campaign” that made for an outcome that was closer than he expected. He also urged his supporters to back Farley-Bouvier in next month’s runoff.

“She has the core values of working class families and will represent Pittsfield well in Boston,” he said.

Meanwhile, White told The Eagle he plans to mount a writein campaign in the November city election to keep his Ward 2 council seat. The one- term councilor will battle Kevin J. Morandi, whom he beat in the 2009 campaign. Morandi is the only Ward 2 candidate listed on the Nov. 8 ballot.

White said joining the Ward 2 race was not his “Plan B,” if he lost the primary.

“I’m not done serving the city of Pittsfield,” he proclaimed. “If the residents of Ward 2 will still have me, I want to give them the same level of service in my next term.”

Jester, the only declared Republican candidate in the 3rd Berkshire District contest, had to secure the GOP nomination by running as a write-in candidate in Tuesday’s primary. He received 202 votes to meet the 150 minimum required to qualify for the Oct. 18 ballot. The local real estate agent was unable to take out Republican nomination papers because he needed to be registered as a Republican by May 1, city election officials had said. Jester changed his party affiliation in June — short of the 90-day requirement before a state election.

Miller was unopposed in the Green-Rainbow party primary. As an independent candidate, Malumphy had qualified for next month’s ballot directly and bypassed any primary contest, according to state election officials.


Three Democratic State Representative Candidates Issue Joint Statement
 Supporting Striking Verizon Workers

8/16/2011

PITTSFIELD – In an early demonstration of unity, the three Democratic candidates for State Representative for the 3rd Berkshire District, Peter White, Ryan Scago and Tricia Farley-Bouvier today joined striking Verizon workers on the picket line and issued the following statement:


"We support without reservation the members of the Communications Workers of America and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers who are now on strike at Verizon Communications in Pittsfield and throughout the Commonwealth.

 We are troubled by the attack on middle-class workers as exemplified by Verizon’s demands for a pension freeze, fewer sick days, and far higher employee health contributions. Meanwhile, Verizon is making unprecedented profits with its CEO, Ivan Seidenberg, earning more than $18 million in total compensation in 2010 – roughly $49,000 every day. Sound economic policy requires us to stabilize our economy and one factor in that is greater pay equity between workers and executives.

The Verizon workers have not asked for increases in their wages and benefits in their contract negotiations, they simply do not want their benefits slashed and their job security put in jeopardy. We appreciate that the company returned to the table and we request that the corporate executives bargain in good faith for a fair contract for working families.

It is our hope that a united front based on the values of the democratic party will bring much needed awareness from the community to the struggle of these workers for a fair contract."

Signed,

Tricia Farley-Bouvier, Ryan Scago and Peter White

Democratic Candidates for State Representative, 3rd Berkshire District

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