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REPRESENTATIVE HOWITT REVIEWS LEGISLATIVE ACCOMPLISHMENT AT MID-SESSION

January 26, 2016


State Representative Steven S. Howitt (R-Seekonk), who represents Rehoboth, reflects on the first half of the 2015-2016 legislative session, a productive year marked by many significant legislative accomplishments. “There are still challenges remaining to be addressed in 2016-2017,” he said.


Nearly 6,000 bills have been filed in the House of Representatives and the Senate since the 189th General Court convened on January 7.  Although the Legislature is currently on its winter recess, there is still work ongoing at the State House. The 27 joint legislative committees, 11 House committees and 13 Senate committees continue to review, analyze and hold public hearings on these bills.  The House and Senate are also meeting in informal sessions during the recess to advance local home rule petitions and other non-controversial matters.

   “The House Republican Caucus has always placed a priority on fiscal responsibility and accountability to the state’s taxpayers, while also promoting a strong state-municipal partnership,” said Howitt, who currently serves on the Transportation Committee, Consumer Protection, as well as the Tourism Committee. “This philosophy has guided me in every vote I’ve taken as a legislator, and will continue to inform my actions on behalf of the residents of the Norton, Rehoboth, Seekonk, and Swansea.”

    Howitt noted the caucus continues to hold monthly meetings with Governor Charlie Baker and Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito to discuss policy and other issues that directly impact the residents of the Commonwealth.  He also cited some of his key priorities for the current legislative session including solar cap removal and increasing the tax credit for homeowners for their onsite septic system repairs and/or replacements.

     The Fiscal Year 2016 state budget signed on July 17 was the first in 8 years to not include a draw down from the state Stabilization Fund, which is used to mitigate cuts to essential programs during economic downturns.  The fund’s balance now stands at $1.25 billion, following the deposit of an additional $120 million into the fund through a Fall supplemental budget.  That supplemental budget also contained $113 million for debt defeasance, allowing the state to save millions in interest by paying down some of its outstanding debt earlier than scheduled.


CITIES AND TOWNS

   This year’s budget contains significant funding increases in local aid for cities and towns, including:


  1. $4.5 billion in Chapter 70 education aid, an increase of $111.2 million


  1. $979.8 million in unrestricted general government aid, an increase of $34 million


  1. $271.7 million for the special education Circuit Breaker, an increase of $18.3 million, which funds the state’s share of special education aid for local school districts at 75%


  1. $59 million for regional school transportation, an increase of $7.5 million


  1. Additional $80.5 million set aside for charter school reimbursements to cities and towns, an increase of $3.6 million.


EDUCATION

Moving forward, Howitt anticipates further discussion of a new report issued by the Foundation Budget Review Commission, which concluded that the Commonwealth needs to make an additional investment of $432 million in Chapter 70 aid to ensure that school districts can meet their financial obligations for employee health insurance and special education.  The commission has recommended that insurance costs be factored into the foundation budget formula and that the in-district and out-of-district special education rates be adjusted to reflect what school districts are actually paying for these services.

    Howitt was also actively involved in the ongoing debate over whether the state should continue to administer the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment Systems (MCAS) exam or move to the new Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career (PARCC) test as part of the national Common Core standards. He signed an October 28 letter that Representative Keiko Orrall (R-Lakeville) delivered to Education Secretary James Peyser expressing support for retaining the MCAS exam, in part to preserve the state’s autonomy and to avoid creating an unfunded mandate for communities.  A new hybrid test that incorporates aspects of both the PARCC and MCAS exams is scheduled to be administered beginning in the spring of 2017.


TRANSPORTATION

In addition to local aid increases, the Fiscal Year 2016 budget contained several key transportation reforms to put the MBTA back on a solid financial footing and to ensure proper oversight of the authority’s operations moving forward.  The budget expanded the MassDOT Board of Directors from 7 to 11 members, and created a 5-member Fiscal Management Control Board that will remain in place until June 30, 2018, with an option allowing the board to continue for another two years beyond that date if needed.

   Howitt said one of the most significant transportation reforms included in the budget is a three-year moratorium on the Pacheco Law, which will provide the MBTA with more flexibility to determine whether certain operations can be outsourced at a savings to the state’s taxpayers. A recent report issued by the Pioneer Institute estimates the MBTA has foregone nearly $500 million in savings since the late 1990s due to the restrictions imposed by this anti-privatization law.


SUBSTANCE ABUSE

With an average of four people dying from an opioid overdose in Massachusetts every day, Howitt has also been working closely with his colleagues to address the terrible scourge of substance abuse that is tearing apart families and communities across the state. Last year alone, 1,089 people died from opioid use in Massachusetts, representing a 20% increase over the previous calendar ear. Tragically, the number of people projected to die from opioid use this year is even greater.

   In response to this public health crisis, the Fiscal Year 2016 state budget included funding for:

  1. opioid prevention grants;

  2. the establishment of two new recovery high schools;

  3. new clinical stabilization beds for detox treatment; and

  4. the creation of a municipal bulk purchasing program to provide first responders with the anti-overdose drug Narcan at reduced costs


   The November supplemental budget contained nearly $30 million in additional funding for substance abuse prevention and treatment, including new treatment beds. Howitt is also backing Governor Baker’s proposed opioid bill (House Bill 3817) to put even more tools into the hands of the frontline workers who are dealing with this epidemic. The Governor’s bill – which calls for a multi-pronged approach that focuses on education, prevention, intervention, treatment and recovery – was heard by the Joint Committee on Mental Health and Substance Abuse on November 16 and has drawn the unanimous support of the House Republican Caucus.


SIGNED INTO LAW

Howitt cited other key policy and funding initiatives approved by the House of Representatives and signed into law this session.  Those initiatives include:


  1. Fentanyl trafficking – The Legislature enacted a fentanyl trafficking bill on November 18 that imposes a prison sentence of up to 20 years for manufacturing, distributing or dispensing more than 10 grams of fentanyl or any of its derivatives.  Previously, individuals could only be charged for the lesser crime of fentanyl possession, but Representative Tim Whelan (R-Brewster), a former State Police sergeant, helped raise awareness of the dangers of this synthetic painkiller, which is 50-100 times more potent than morphine and has been linked to multiple fatal overdose deaths in Massachusetts and across the country.


  1. Sex offender classification – Led by House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading), the House Republican Caucus successfully passed legislation limiting the amount of time Level 2 and Level 3 sex offenders can secure a stay of final classification pending a court appeal, and mandating an expedited hearing process whenever a stay is granted.  These changes, signed into law by Governor Baker on October 27, will help preserve the public’s ability to access information about convicted sex offenders living and working in their community who are considered to be at a high risk of re-offending.


  1. Stolen Valor Act – The Legislature recently honored our state’s veterans for their service to our county by enacting a statewide “Stolen Valor Act” to prosecute individuals who falsely claim to be a veteran or recipient of a military honor in order to obtain money, property or other tangible benefits.  Individuals who falsely claim military service credentials for personal financial gain can now be charged with a gross misdemeanor, which carries a penalty of up to one year in a house of correction, a fine of $1,000, or both a fine and imprisonment.


  1. Veterans graves protection – The Legislature passed legislation filed by Representative Paul Frost  (R-Auburn) that imposes a fine of up to $5,000 for the unauthorized sale, retention or disposal of a veteran’s grave marker, with repeat offenders subject to an additional punishment of up to 5 years in state prison or up to 2 ½ years in a house of correction.  Another bill filed by Representative Todd Smola (R-Warren) and signed into law requires vandals who desecrate a gravestone or veteran’s grave marker to pay restitution to the property owner, in addition to facing a fine of up to $5,000 and up to 5 years’ imprisonment in the state prison or up to 2 ½ years’ imprisonment in a jail or house of correction.


  1. Purple Heart fee waivers – Legislation signed by Governor Baker on November 23 allows Purple Heart recipients to visit any state park, forest recreation area and reservation without having to pay any charges or fees.  This waiver previously applied only to disabled veterans and handicapped persons.


  1. DCF reform – The Legislature has taken steps to support the Baker-Polito Administration’s efforts to implement reforms at the Department of Children and Families to ensure the protection of children entrusted to the state’s care. The Fiscal Year 2016 budget included a $35.5 million funding increase for DCF for the hiring of new social workers to help reduce the agency’s caseload.  The fall supplemental budget included an additional $2.2 million to address immediate staffing and training needs at DCF, along with a $1 million reserve to provide training and supports for foster families and adoptive families.


AWAITING FINAL ACTION

Howitt also noted that the House of Representatives passed other important policy initiatives this year which are still awaiting final action.  These include:


  1. Public records reform – This bill establishes specific timelines for municipalities and state agencies to comply with public document requests; sets limits on the extensions allowed for complying with these requests; caps the hourly rates and copying fees that can be charged for producing these documents; and allows individuals whose requests for documents are denied to seek legal relief through the superior court system, which can award “reasonable attorney fees and other litigation costs,” along with punitive damages ranging from $1,000-$5,000.  This bill – which represents the first significant updating of the state’s public records law in more than 40 years – is now before the Senate awaiting further action.


  1. Net metering cap – Before recessing for the holidays, the House also approved legislation to encourage more solar energy projects across the state by raising the private net metering cap from 4% to 6% and the public net metering cap from 5% to 7%.  Massachusetts currently offers incentives to businesses and municipalities that produce solar power by allowing them to sell this energy back to the grid at retail rates.  The House proposal calls for transitioning to a new “market net metering credit” equal to the average wholesale rate of electricity, while allowing utilities to offset the costs of maintaining their infrastructure by charging a “monthly minimum reliability contribution” to solar users.


The Senate recently passed its own solar energy bill, which also calls for a 2% increase in the net metering cap but does not provide for a monthly minimum reliability contribution and maintains solar subsidies at higher rates for an extended period of time than the House does. A six-member Conference Committee is currently working to try to reconcile the differences between the two versions of the bill.


Looking ahead to 2016, Representative Howitt noted that the House is expected to take up a more comprehensive energy bill once the second half of the legislative session gets underway, as well as Governor Baker’s municipal modernization bill to eliminate or update obsolete laws impacting cities and towns; promote local independence in areas such as the issuance of liquor licenses; streamline state oversight, particularly when it comes to local tax assessments and abatements; and provide municipalities with greater flexibility in short-term borrowing and procurement practices.


Other major policy issues likely to come up for debate next year include proposals to mandate hands-free cell phone use when driving; bring Massachusetts into compliance with the federal REAL ID Act; regulate fantasy sports and ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft; raise the charter school cap to allow for up to 12 new and/or expanded charter schools a year in districts performing in the bottom 25% of all districts statewide; consider potential MBTA fare increases; and promote economic development throughout the Commonwealth.

 
SENATOR TIMILTY SUPPORTS PAY EQUITY LEGISLATION

February 1, 2016


According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, a woman working full time in Massachusetts earns 82 cents for every dollar a man in Massachusetts earns. A report by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research projects that the gender wage gap in Massachusetts will not close on its own until 2058.


   The Massachusetts Senate passed legislation last week to strengthen the Massachusetts Equal Pay Act to further close the wage gap between male and female workers in the Commonwealth.

   The bill, S2107, sponsored by Senator Pat Jehlen (D-Somerville) and Senator Karen Spilka (D-Ashland), seeks to bridge the wage gap by ensuring equal pay for comparable work, establishing pay transparency and requiring fairness in hiring practices.

    “It is great that the Senate came together today to support fairness in the workplace and address the disparities that exist,” said Senator James E. Timilty (D-Walpole) who represented the Bristol and Norfolk districts including Rehoboth.

    “Massachusetts was the first state to pass a pay equity law over seventy years ago, yet women in the Commonwealth still make only 82 cents for every dollar earned by a man,” said Senator Karen Spilka (D-Ashland), Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “Women working hard to support their families deserve fair pay, and this bill is an important step to close this unacceptable gap and ensure equal pay for equal work.”

     The bill strengthens current law by defining the term “comparable work” within the Massachusetts Equal Pay Act to ensure comparable work is truly comparable in pay. Variations in pay may exist for comparable work if the difference is based on a bona fide merit system, a system that measures earnings based on production or sales, differences based on geographic location or education, training or experience reasonably related to the particular job.

    The bill also prohibits an employer from reducing the pay of any employee in order to comply with the Massachusetts Equal Pay Act.

       “I am glad to see the Senate take this important step to remove barriers, often inadvertent, that contribute to the wage gap,” said Senator Pat Jehlen (D-Somerville). “If we don’t take action, my granddaughters’ granddaughters will be in the first generation of women entering a work force free of a gender wage gap. Waiting that long to close the gap is unacceptable.”

     The bill encourages pay transparency, while ensuring that salary history is not used against employees when negotiating for a new job. The bill prohibits employers from banning employees from discussing or disclosing information about their own wages or other employees’ wages.

       “Pay disparity is an incredibly important issue and it is our moral obligation to address the long-standing gaps in wages and earning power of women in the workforce,” said Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr. “I wholeheartedly support this Senate bill to make pay more equitable and hope that the House will also act quickly to adopt it.”

    The bill also prohibits employers from screening prospective employees based on previous wages or salary history or requesting this information in the interview process.

     The bill prohibits retaliation against an employee who opposes any act in violation of the Massachusetts Equal Pay Act, files a complaint or participates in an investigation or discusses wages with another employee.

     “I’m proud that today the Senate addressed a chronic pay inequality based on gender,” said Senator Dan Wolf (D-Harwich), Chair of the Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development. “It is my hope that the Legislature will continue to act in eliminating the wage gap. Thank you to the leadership of  Senate President Rosenberg and Chairwoman Spilka for making this bill a priority and major achievement, and to Senator Jehlen for her leadership in filing this bill. Many thanks to the various advocates and stakeholders who met with the Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development, all of whom helped inspire and improve the legislation.”

   In addition, the bill includes several updates to the way a pay equity claim may be filed to make it easier for individuals to make timely claims and ease administrative barriers to filing a pay equity claim.

    “When President Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act of 1963, women earned 59 cents on the dollar. It’s been 53 years, and we’ve closed the gap to 82 cents on the dollar in Massachusetts. We cannot – we will not – wait another half century to finally achieve equal pay for equal work,” said Senate President Stan Rosenberg (D-Amherst). “I look forward to working together with the Governor and Speaker to pass this critical piece of legislation.”

     The bill now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.

 

PROPOSED D-R SCHOOL DISTRICT CHANGES

February 4, 2016


The Dighton-Rehoboth Regional School District’s Regional Agreement Amendment Committee (RAAC) was formed in late 2014 to examine the districts current regional agreement last amended almost thirty years ago.  Members of the committee include four school committee members, a selectman and finance committee member from each town, and two citizens without affiliation with any related committees.


In April 2015, RAAC held informational sessions in both Dighton and Rehoboth to gather public input.  The committee released a review that can be found on the 2015 Archived Features page dated April 1.


RAAC will present their findings and recommendations in a twenty-minute PowerPoint presentation to the Rehoboth Board of Selectmen and Finance Committee on Tuesday, February 16 at the Senior Center, scheduled to begin at 7:15 during a regular session of the BOS meeting. RAAC has already presented this information at a meeting of the Dighton BOS.


The entire proposed new regional agreement in draft form can be located online here.  A summary of the proposed new agreement can also be found online here.


   Some of the most notable changes to the existing regional agreement include the following proposed recommendations:

    RAAC recommends changes to the “powers, duties and composition” of the regional district school committee “to meet the requirement of proportional representation” of each town.  They propose the votes of each of the ten school committee members be weighted according to the relative populations of the towns based on official state census figures.

    A quorum at school committee members will be met with seven of ten members present with six affirmative weighted votes required to pass any motion or act on business. Voting on the school budget will require a two-thirds vote (minimum of 6.67 weighted votes) with a minimum of two individual members from each town voting in the affirmative to pass any motion.

   It is proposed the school district include all grades pre-kindergarten through grade 12 along with the right to establish and maintain “any and all required or authorized educational programs or offerings including, but not limited to, vocational programs.”  Other programs would include special education programs as well as adult evening education courses.

    Significant changes are proposed for rules governing the capital costs and operating budget of the regional school district, and each town’s portion of the budget.

    It is proposed that “for the second fiscal year following the passage of the amended agreement” that operating costs (pre-K through grade 12) be based on the Statutory Assessment Method defined by state law.

   In terms of assessing each town’s share of operational and capital assessments, a multi-step process is proposed.  Each town’s minimum required local contribution will be determined by the Commissioner of Education according to Chapter 70.  Any additional share by a town, exceeding the minimum required contribution, will be apportioned based on percentages of a three-year rolling enrollment average between the towns.  Each member town will continue to provide their own transportation costs based on enrollment.

    A significant proposed amendment is the admission of new member towns to the D-R district.

   Another major amendment relates to “withdrawal of grades pre-K through grade eight” from the district. If approved, a town may vote at annual or special town meeting to assume jurisdiction over the education of elementary and middle school students; establish a local school committee; and be responsible for the financial responsibilities and capital costs of educating students based Chapter 70 minimum required local contributions. The Statutory Assessment Method, defined by state regulations and laws, will be used to determine the school budget.

   The regional district will continue to operated the regional high school for grades 9 through 12 exclusively.

   If approved the new arrangement will require both Dighton and Rehoboth to appoint a interim town school committee to oversee the transition from regional school district to local school district. The interim committee will consist of a currently seated regional school committee member and two townspeople appointed by the respective board of selectmen. 

    Local town school committees will eventually consist of three members elected each year to serve staggered terms. One member for one year; a second member for two years, and a third member for a three-year term.

REHOBOTH ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT COMMITTEE SHARES RESULTS FROM PUBLIC OPINION SURVEY

Keep Rehoboth rural, but find new sources of revenue for the town via business development.

February 19, 2016


When you can’t make ends meet, what do you do?  What do business managers do when they’re losing money?  What does a town do when incoming revenue barely meets current needs and crumbling infrastructure demands attention?  The answer is never easy and rarely are these situations solved without some stress. 

   Increasing revenue and/or cutting costs are the most common answers - whether it’s a family, a business, or public entity. Each situation has unique solutions. You might try to find a higher paying job to fix family finances.  A business may eliminate positions to cut costs.  A town might eliminate services.  Everything comes down to finding a better balance between what is coming in and what is going out.

   In Rehoboth, we have a tax base almost entirely comprised of residential taxpayers. The largest portion of our tax revenue funds the schools. Town services and the municipal capital improvement budget are already lean, yet we have a difficult time balancing our budget each year. In short, we need to increase revenue, decrease expenses, or both.

   The Rehoboth Economic Development Committee (EDC) was appointed for the purpose of finding new sources of revenue for the town. There is a strong desire, within the group, to preserve our beautiful rural atmosphere while developing business as a means of generating tax revenue, creating jobs and providing local services.  In late 2015, the EDC conducted an online survey of town residents related to economic development. Complete survey results are available on the Town of Rehoboth website. Click here.

   Opinions differ on many topics, but there are some definite trends.  Most important to survey takers’ quality of life is our rural, small town atmosphere.  Education is next with government services ranking least important. When it comes to growth, protecting scenery and natural resources is the most consistent concern.  Improvements in education, business development, and providing adequate town services are also key needs in the minds of many respondents.

   While government services are low in terms of contributing to quality of life, they are seen as needing attention in the eyes of many residents, with town building maintenance or replacement a big concern as well. 

   In terms of business development, more farms would be welcomed readily.  A drug store, supermarket, small retail and restaurants are also strong desires.  Major retail is a clear loser in Rehoboth, but so is manufacturing/warehousing.  A new gas station is lowest in popularity.

   While almost 17% of town residents want no business growth, modest business growth is desired by 73.9% of residents.  The number one benefit of business growth cited in the survey is boosting our property tax base.  Specific comments on business growth demonstrate some very deep-seated beliefs.

   Senior housing/assisted living tops opinion on most desirable type of housing development.  Apartment buildings are seen as least desirable. 

   What can we conclude from the survey?  The Town of Rehoboth has a beautiful rural atmosphere, which is treasured by most residents.  At the same time, there is recognition we need to increase revenue.  Business development is seen as a viable method of doing that by a majority of residents.  Gas stations, manufacturers and big box retailers would not be warmly welcomed, but there are many acceptable business options in the minds of most residents.

   Business comes in many forms.  Rehoboth actually has about 500 businesses, most of them home-based.  Most residents are not bothered by these businesses and these businesses help many residents pay taxes. 

   The task for the EDC is to identify opportunities for enhancing tax revenue as a means of retaining a reasonable residential tax rate and adequate town services.  Our approach to business development should be what is desirable to residents. Part of this is easy because what many people fear will happen is extremely unlikely, if not impossible. Big box retailers are in no way interested in Rehoboth because we don’t offer the required demographics or proximity to major highways. We also have issues with water availability that pose great limitations for many types of business.

   There were 186 survey responses, less than hoped for, but a similar number to voters attend our town meetings. Citizen participation is essential to our efforts.  To those who didn’t participate in our survey, we welcome your input in future surveys and hope you’ll let you voices be heard at town meeting.  The EDC committee welcomes public input and town residents can attend any of our meetings.


Submitted by the Rehoboth Economic Development Committee

REHOBOTH HOMEOWNERS GOING SOLAR

February 26, 2016


It’s happening very quickly.  Drive around Rehoboth and you’ll see more and more homes with solar panels on the roof or ground arrays on their property.  Together with large-scale, utility solar arrays already in operation or in planning stages, Rehoboth has obviously embraced alternative energy using the power of the sun.

    In late December 2015, MA Clean Energy Center (CEC) and the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER) announced the launch of a $30 million residential solar loan program, supported by Massachusetts banks, to provide loans, from $3000 up to $60,000, with low fixed interest rates or even no interest rates.

   The increase of direct solar electric ownership provides economic benefit to the Commonwealth, and the Mass Solar Loan program is expected to deliver approximately $100 million in savings for Massachusetts residents that take advantage of the program.

    Residents choosing to purchase their own solar power systems can take advantage of federal and state incentives and low interest loans. Additionally, homeowners who don’t have the greatest sun exposure for a roof array, may to able to utilize a sunny place on their property for a ground array. The leasing companies usually offer only roof arrays.

   According to Ron Bennett of Seekonk-based Got Sun Go Solar, the Commonwealth’s new program is “phenomenal.”  Bennett’s company is recognized by the state as an expedited dealer. Installers must be affiliated and authorized by state to administer the program. Criteria includes length of service, state rating, recognized by program as quality provider.

     We’ve been waiting for this,” said Bennett with enthusiasm.  “This particular loan allows homeowners to finance solar arrays at low interest rates, from zero to 3.25% for up to twenty years,” said Bennett.

    In addition, this program has flexible underwriting guidelines to make it accessible to many individuals. “It’s affordable to everyone,” explained Bennett, including older people with fixed incomes, and those with low incomes. “The state is supplementing part of the finance charges,” he added.

    Direct solar ownership of solar electricity keeps more energy dollars in Massachusetts, while keeping energy generation local, and helping to achieve the Commonwealth’s goal of 1,600 megawatts of solar four years from now in 2020.

    There is a one-time federal tax rebate offered to home owners who purchase a solar system. The IRS will rebate 30% of the total cost of a solar energy installation as a direct refund. Massachusetts offers a $1000 tax rebate.

   “One more exciting incentive to solar owners is generating revenue as well as power,” said Bennett. Solar Renewable Energy Certificates (SRECs) are quarterly payouts for a period of ten years. Homeowners can earn anywhere from $2000 to $3000 dollars per year.

   Combine that with a low-interest loan and state tax incentives, and going solar becomes a possibility for more and more people. Bennett explained the break even point is typically 4 to 5 years for most homeowners who take advantage of the low-interest loan, federal rebate and state tax incentive. 

       “Some people decide to take a ten-year, low-interest loan to cover the total system cost and then use the federal refund to pay down the loan.” He added, “or they can pay down the loan first with the federal refund, then refinance at lower interest or for a longer period, up to twenty years.”

     According to Matthew Beaton, Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs, “Helping residents own their own solar generation will expand the Massachusetts solar industry and help local lenders grow their business while moving Massachusetts closer to its statewide energy and environmental goals.”

    Mass Solar Loan is a program run in partnership by the Department of Energy Resources (DOER) and the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC). Mass Solar Loan is available for solar installations on single-family homes and residential buildings up to three units.

So what’s the difference between leasing your roof or investing in your own solar energy system? 

    Leasing can be enticing for those who are not quite ready to commit to purchasing their own system, or for those plan to sell their home in the near future.

   Many homeowners choose to lease their roofs for a period of time (typically twenty years) to one of the many solar companies currently marketing their services in area communities. Consumers report it’s an easy way to decrease their power bill every month.  Typical savings is an average of $50 per month off their average power bill.

      For homeowners who plan on selling within a couple years, leasing may be a better option.  But for those who anticipate remaining in their home for the next seven years or more, purchasing a system outright has long term advantages.  The greatest benefit according to Bennett is, “nearly, if not completely, eliminating their electric bill while earning SREC income.”  He added, “These systems pay for themselves, and then some.”

   While Got Sun Go Solar does offer a leasing program, Bennett believes the loan program overcomes any lease program.  “I feel like I’m taking advantage of people with the leasing program.”  He added, “They think saving $50 bucks a month off their power bill is a great deal for leasing their roof, but owning the system eventually means free power, after five years, for many.” 

    Bennett, a resident of Seekonk and member of that town’s planning board, has been in the renewable energy sector since 2008.  With an office headquartered on Route 44 in Seekonk, Got Sun Go Solar offers custom designed installations based on homeowner needs, from simple to elaborate.

    “We provide a complete service,” said Bennett, “from soup to nuts” starting with the design of a customized system and engineering. Got Sun Go Solar manages the process of submitting applications to the MA CEC to meet criteria for low interest financing, work with selected banks to apply for loans, provide instruction and assistance with the federal solar rebate program and state tax incentives, and work with municipalities to obtain appropriate permitting. 

    Following completion of the system and turn on, Got Sun Go Solar continues to monitor and manage the system remotely via the internet. Homeowners can use an easy-to-use app to monitor energy production in real time.

    In 2014, Massachusetts was ranked No. 4 in the U.S. for solar megawatts installed. These projects will continue to add to the growth of solar electricity in Massachusetts as residential projects are typically under 10 kilowatts, and will therefore not be affected by net metering caps.

    “By making solar more affordable to more people, this program gives new options to residents looking to transition to clean energy, which is a vibrant Massachusetts industry that employs 98,895 workers –16,000 in solar jobs alone,” said MassCEC Interim CEO Stephen Pike.

   Other efforts introduced by the Baker-Polito Administration to  reduce the cost of energy for ratepayers while strengthening the clean energy economy in Massachusetts and meeting greenhouse gas emissions reduction requirements set forth under the Global Warming Solutions Act (GWSA) include the filing of hydropower and solar legislation.

    “The Mass Solar Loan program is a win for Massachusetts homeowners and lenders,” said Dan Forte, President and CEO of the Massachusetts Bankers Association. “Loans made by our member banks through the program will help homeowners increase their efficiency and reduce their energy bills.”

    Residents can visit Mass Solar Loan or call 617-712-1121 for more information. Or visit local approved installer GotSun-GoSolar.com or call 774-229-2986.

 

Photo credit: Got Sun Go Solar

Photo credit: Got Sun Go Solar

Photo credit: Got Sun Go Solar

Photo credit: Got Sun Go Solar

Photo credit: RehobothNow

REPRESENTATIVE HOWITT SUPPORTS

BILL TO CURB OPIOID ABUSE

March 16, 2016


State Representative Steven S. Howitt, R-Seekonk, joined with his colleagues on March 9 to unanimously approve legislation targeting the state’s opioid abuse crisis.

    House Bill 4056, An Act relative to substance use, treatment, education and prevention, passed the House on a vote of 153-0.  The final bill reflects a compromise reached by a six-member conference committee, which spent the past seven weeks working to resolve the differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill that passed earlier this year.

    “The Baker-Polito Administration and the Legislature have made a commitment to ending the menace of opioid abuse which has already claimed the lives of far too many people in the Commonwealth,” said Representative Howitt.  “This bill represents a very positive step forward in our efforts to expand drug treatment and prevention in Massachusetts. That said, there is still more work to be done to address this public health crisis.”

   An average of four people die from an opioid overdose every single day in Massachusetts, and the Department of Public Health (DPH) has reported that 3 out of every 4 communities in the Commonwealth experienced at least one opioid-related overdose death between 2012 and 2014.

    The conference committee report retains several key provisions that were included in the original House opioid bill that passed on January 13. These provisions include: limits on the amount of opioids that can be prescribed for acute care patients; expanded use of the state’s Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP); and a requirement that hospitals conduct a substance abuse evaluation within the first 24 hours of an individual being brought to the emergency room after suffering an overdose.

    In an attempt to curb prescription drug abuse, the opioid bill requires the PMP to be utilized each time a Schedule II or Schedule III narcotic drug prescription is issued.  According to the Baker-Polito Administration, 4.4 million prescriptions were written and 240 million Schedule II and Schedule III pills were disbursed in the Commonwealth in 2014 alone. That same year, Massachusetts recorded nearly 1,300 opioid-related deaths.

   Following a final vote on enactment in both branches, the opioid bill will be sent to Governor Charlie Baker for his signature.

 

The opioid bill also:


  1. -imposes a 7-day supply limit for adult patients who are prescribed an opiate for the first time and caps all opiate prescriptions for minors at a 7-day supply;


  1. -gives patients the option of requesting a partial-fill prescription or requesting in writing that they not be prescribed any opioid medications;


  1. -requires the Drug Formulary Commission to identify and publish a list of FDA-approved non-opioid drug products that provide an effective alternative for pain management and to distribute this list to all prescribers and dispensers;


  1. -requires medical practitioners to receive training in effective pain management and the risks of abuse and addiction associated with opioid medication before obtaining or renewing their license;


  1. -mandates that pharmaceutical companies operating in Massachusetts maintain or participate in a drug stewardship program to collect and safely dispose of unwanted drugs; and


  1. -allows schools to utilize a confidential verbal screening tool to screen students for substance abuse disorders from which students can opt out if their parents provide the school with prior written notification.

OVER 600 ATTEND STATEWIDE BEST BUDDIES PROM AT DIGHTON-REHOBOTH

by Contributing Writer

Cecelia Little, D-R Junior, Leadership Team Member Best Buddies


(April 5, 2016) The statewide Best Buddies Prom was held at Dighton Rehoboth Regional High School on Saturday, April 2 with over 600 students, teachers, parents, and volunteers who filled the venue with laughter, singing, entertainment, and lively dancing.

   “Bright Lights in the Big City” was the theme for the evening with features including a red carpet photo op, photo booth, karaoke, game room, fortune telling and magician, sketch artistry, dinner, desserts, and amazing hip hop dance performances by DR’s Jason Berube and The Crew.

     The dance floor was illuminated with colorful lights beneath a bright Hollywood sign, and nonstop music was provided by DJ Nick Veltri of Cranston (nveltri11@gmail.com) who was named the “best DJ ever” by both students and adults in attendance.

    “Last night was an event of love,” said a beaming Doug Kelley, DRRHS Dean of Students, “a beautiful event with perfect execution on so many levels.”

      The prom, supported by donations raised on the GoFundMe website, took enormous planning.  “Staff, students, parents, and volunteers made this a night no one in attendance will forget,” said Assistant Principal Marie-Juanita DiGioia.  “DRRHS was the place to be on Saturday night!”

     Best Buddies, a non-profit international organization with almost 1,900 chapters worldwide, provides opportunities for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) to form meaningful friendships with peers and feel valued within the school environment.  

    The D-R chapter was formed several years ago, drawing in students for one-on-one friendships as well as events held throughout the school year. This was the first year DRRHS hosted the statewide prom.

    “The special night was filled with friendship among the students,” said Eri Frangiadakis, Senior Program Manager of Best Buddies MA, “from Attleboro, Bedford, Braintree, Carver, Framingham, Henderson, Holliston, Littleton, Lunenburg, Lynnfield, Marblehead, Milton, Monomoy, Nauset, Needham, Oliver Ames, Peabody, Plymouth North, Sandwich, Silver Lake, Somerville, Wakefield, Woburn, and Dighton-Rehoboth.”

        A tremendous amount of effort and planning went into the successful event.  DiGioia recognized the Best Buddy faculty advisors, Tim Tichacek, William Garcia, and Hilary Burnham, and the Student Leadership Team including seniors Ashley Szczoczarz and Jasmine Veilleux, and juniors Cecelia Little and Sydney Flanagan.

   “The Best Buddies Prom hosted by DR was an absolutely incredible night,” said DiGioia, “by far the best prom I have ever attended!”

 

    Chef Lisa Maiden and the DRRHS culinary studentsbaked brownies, cookies, and individual cheesecakes for the event. Beautiful Red Carpet Images by Christina Kimmell Photography are available via Facebook at Dighton Rehoboth Best Buddies. Additional images are on the Dighton Rehoboth Regional High School Facebook page and on Twitter at #bbmaprom2016.

    Dighton Rehoboth Regional High School Best Buddies want to thank all of the visiting schools, staff, students, volunteers, and parents for making Best Buddies Prom 2016 an unforgettable evening of fun and friendship!

KENNEDY, LANCE INTRO BILL TO PROTECT CONSUMER REVIEWS

Legislation would bar companies from attempts to silence consumer opinions

April 29, 2016


Congressman Joe Kennedy III (D-MA) today joined Congressman Leonard Lance (R-NJ) in introducing the Consumer Review Fairness Act, legislation that will ensure American consumers can post honest business reviews and feedback online without fear of retribution.

    The legislation is in response to reports of companies using secretive “non-disparagement” clauses in their terms of service to try to bar customers from posting negative reviews of a product, service or experience. Along with Kennedy and Lance, the bill is co-sponsored by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA), who have led legislative efforts on this issue in the past.  It is backed by online review platforms like TripAdvisor, which is based in Congressman Kennedy’s district.

    “Consumers have an undeniable right to voice their concerns with a business, product or service when their experience fails to meet expectations,” said Congressman Kennedy. “By eliminating secretive non-disparagement clauses, the Consumer Review Fairness Act would ensure companies can never retaliate against customers for simply expressing an opinion. I thank Congressmen Lance, Swalwell and Issa for their partnership in addressing this issue and strengthening protections for consumers.”

    “Consumers in the 21st century economy should be able to post, comment and tweet their honest and accurate feedback without fear of retribution.  Too many companies are burying non-disparagement clauses in fine print and going after consumers when they post negative feedback online.  In 2016 online platforms are where consumers turn to praise or criticize their shopping, eating or traveling experiences.  They should be able to do so without harassment from companies eager to protect an image,” said Congressman Lance.

     The Consumer Review Fairness Act would void any non-disparagement clauses in consumer contracts if they restrict consumers from publicly reviewing products or businesses accurately and would authorize the Federal Trade Commission to take action against businesses that insert these provisions into their contracts.  It also would ensure companies still are able to take action against individuals who post false and defamatory reviews.

    The legislation is supported by online review platforms like TripAdvisor, Yelp and Glassdoor as well as the National Retail Federation, the Retail Industry Leaders Association, the Internet Association, Demand Progress, Engine, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Fight for the Future, the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, Public Knowledge, and the Public Participation Project.

    "TripAdvisor whole-heartedly supports the introduction of the Consumer Review Fairness Act by Representatives Lance and Kennedy,” said Adam Medros, Senior Vice President of Global Product at TripAdvisor. “Consumer reviews have become an integral part of many Americans’ purchasing decisions.  In the same way that you can tell your friends and family about a good or bad experience you had with a company or product, you also have a fundamental right to share that experience online.  While most businesses understand that such reviews offer businesses and consumers alike the ability to learn and benefit from others’ experiences, a number of unscrupulous businesses have attempted to bully or intimidate their customers from sharing their negative experiences. We strongly believe that every American has ‘the right to write’ and these attempts to stifle free speech are against everything we stand for at TripAdvisor."

    Congressmen Kennedy and Lance are both members of the House Energy & Commerce Committee; Lance serves as Vice-Chair of the Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade subcommittee, to which this legislation will be referred.

 

STUDY SHOWS SCOUTS TEACH LIFE LESSONS

May 3, 2016


Not so long ago, Rehoboth had a thriving community of Boy Scout troops including many Cub Scout troops as well as older scouts.  The number has dwindled down significantly.  This editorial is from Dennis Dion, Vice President of Membership of the Narragansett Council, Boy Scouts of America. He is also Senior Vice President of Operations at E. A. Dion, Inc. located in Attleboro. 


The Boy Scouts of America recently celebrated its 100th Anniversary, marking a century of teaching values and life lessons.  The timelessness of the organization is reflected in its lasting effects on generations of Scouts.  Anyone who was a Scout, raised a Scout, or knew a Scout can tell you about the positive impact of the program.

   The benefits of Scouting are highlighted in a recent study by Tufts University.  The study shows that boys who are Scouts show a significant growth in certain positive attributes during developmental years compared to their peers.

    The study compared Scouts with non-Scouts ages 6 to 12 over a period of three years who were not significantly different from each other in other aspects.  Using qualitative data, the study aimed to track the character development of youth.  Based on responses to interviews and surveys, the researchers focused on six key characteristics:  hopefulness, helpfulness, obedience, cheerfulness, kindness, and trustworthiness.

    Boys in the Scout program reported that they felt they grew significantly in all six categories over a period of three years.  Conversely, non-Scouts did not report an increase in any of the categories.  In fact, many non-Scouts reported that they felt less cheerful and helpful, two of the 12 points in the Scout law, than when the study began. 

    Over the period of the study, the Scouts saw a steady increase in learning, while also exhibiting positive social skills.  An important part of this study is the first-hand information that it relies upon.  The youth are self-reporting, which means we get the boys’ inside view.  The Scouts’ significant progress in character reporting shows that they feel like they have improved.  This is important, but so is the fact that these Scouts feel like they are more capable and have better social characteristics than when they first began in Scouting. 

    When asked what was “most important” to them, Scouts were more likely to choose “helping others” or “doing the right thing” over “being smart,” “being the best,” or “playing sports.”  Non-Scouts, on the other hand, chose answers that reflected more “inward” looking values.  The Scout program places importance on “other-oriented” values, like the ones observed by the Scouts in the study.  This illuminates the impact that Scouting has on the development of young Scouts.

    To further explore the impact of the Scout program, youth in sports, youth in Scouts, and youth in both were compared on how they felt regarding “other-oriented” values.  Sports teams generally aim to instill leadership and teamwork qualities in youth, just as the Scouts do.  However, youth in the Scouts program scored higher than those involved in both, or only in sports.  The data shows that the Scouts program is unique in supporting the development of “other-oriented” values.

    Additionally, the amount of involvement the Scouts had in the organization made a difference.  Those who participated more regularly and for a continuous period of time showed better outcomes in character development.  This is to be expected, but even those who sometimes or rarely attended meetings saw growth in attributes like trustworthiness, helpfulness, kindness, and thriftiness.       

    This second dynamic within the study provides further evidence that the Boy Scouts is a positive and effective program.  Those who have the time and resources to participate regularly excel, but even those who are less involved show a greater development of positive characteristics than those who are not part of the Scouts. 

    Becoming a Scout is one of the best ways to teach developing youth positive, lasting social values.  With 100 years of experience in helping youth reach their full potential, the Boy Scouts is a great way to teach core values that help youth succeed for years to come.  The Tufts study shows what every person involved in the Scout program can tell you:  being a Boy Scout makes a positive impact on youth that will stay with them for the rest of their lives.

CONGRESSMAN JOE KENNEDY CO-SPONSORS “DO NO HARM ACT” LEGISLATION

(May 19, 2016)  Joined by leaders from the civil rights, social justice and faith communities, Congressman Joe Kennedy III (MA-04) and Congressman Bobby Scott (VA-03), Ranking Member of the Committee on Education and the Workforce, yesterday introduced legislation to amend the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).    

    The Do No Harm Act would clarify that no one can seek religious exemption from laws guaranteeing fundamental civil and legal rights. It comes in response to continued efforts across the country to cite religious belief as grounds to undermine Civil Rights Act protections, limit access to healthcare, and refuse service to minority populations. Specifically, the Do No Harm Act would limit the use of RFRA in cases involving discrimination, child labor and abuse, wages and collective bargaining, access to health care, public accommodations, and social services provided through government contract.

    The right of Americans to freely and fully express our faith is sacred in this country,” said Congressman Joe Kennedy III. “But in order to guarantee that liberty for every citizen, our system must ensure that my religious freedom does not infringe on yours or do you harm. While not its original intent, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act has become a vehicle for those seeking to impose their beliefs on others or claim that the tenants of their faith justify discrimination. The Do No Harm Act will restore the balance between our right to religious freedom and our promise of equal protection under law.”

   “When Congress passed RFRA in 1993, the goal was to protect religious freedom for minority groups by requiring the government to demonstrate a compelling interest and to use a policy that was the least restrictive means,” said Congressman Bobby Scott. “Since then, the law has been misconstrued as allowing the sincerely-held religious beliefs of one person to trump the civil rights of others. Civil rights are a compelling government interest, and we cannot allow so-called ‘religious freedom,’ ‘religious liberty’ or ‘faith-based initiatives’ to invalidate the very laws designed to correct the generations of injustices inflicted on minorities. The Do No Harm Act restores the original intent of RFRA.”

    "I am delighted to offer my strong support for the Do No Harm Act," said Congressman David N. Cicilline (RI-1), Co-Chair of the Equality Caucus. "No religious tradition has as a central tenet or core belief that you should deny services to someone because of their gender identity or sexual orientation. The Do No Harm Act makes clear that religion can never be used as a legal justification for discrimination against LGBT individuals." The House of Representative LGBT Equality Caucus has endorsed the Do No Harm Act.

    The legislation has received support from the following advocacy and expert organizations: AFL-CIO, American Civil Liberties Union, Anti-Defamation League, Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, Bend the Arc, Catholics for Choice, Center for American Progress, Center for Reproductive Rights, Congressional Equality Caucus, Disciples Justice Action Network, Equal Partners in Faith, Equality Federation, Family Equality Council, Friends Committee on National Legislation, GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders, Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, Guttmacher Institute, Hindu American Foundation, Human Rights Campaign, In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda, Interfaith Alliance, Lambda Legal, Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Leadership Conference for Civil and Human Rights, NAACP, NARAL, National Abortion Federation, National Center for Lesbian Rights, National Center for Transgender Equality, National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, National LGBTQ Task Force, National Partnership for Women and Families, National Women’s Law Center, Parents and Families of Lesbians and Gays, Planned Parenthood, Reproductive Health Technologies Project, Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders, Sexuality Information and Education Council of the US, Trevor Project, and Unitarian Universalist Association.

 

For a full list of quotes from each supporting organization, please click here.

For full text of the Do No Harm Act, please click here.

REHOBOTH GARDEN CLUB RECOGNIZED PAST

PRESIDENTS WITH SPECIAL DEDICATION IN

CARPENTER MUSEUM HERB GARDEN

Article submitted by Rehoboth Garden Club, Linda McHugh


(May 27, 2016) The Rehoboth Garden Club hosted a very special event on May 2 at the Carpenter Museum herb garden. Two past club presidents, Gertrude Gorab Grimley and Kathryn Blake were memorialized in a ceremony that dedicated garden stones in their honor.

    Since the garden club was organized in 1934, Since then 46 women have served as president. Grimley joined the club in 1954 and served as president from 1957-1959. Blake became a member in 1956 and presided over the club from 1961-1963.

   Both women carried on the goals of their predecessors including leading their club to do good works of civic beautification, to foster an appreciation for the wondrous connections between plants, insects, animals and humans, and to encourage and educate others about gardening.

   In 1983 the club designed and created a colonial herb garden on the Carpenter Museum property in Rehoboth, Massachusetts. By 2006, the garden was in need of renovation, replanting and repair. Thanks to the generous bequests of Gertrude and Kathryn, the improvements were completed in 2007. 

Honoring Gertrude Gorab Grimley were her daughter Katharine Gorab Conaty, granddaughter Noelle Conaty, granddaughter Cassandra Conaty Giovagnoli, daughter-in-law Michele Gorab and daughter Gail Gorab Clegg.

Kathryn Blake's family included her daughter Molly Blake Hardy Romer, son-in-law William Romer and granddaughter Laura Hardy Sitrin.

   Today the beautiful herb garden is a living tribute. Current members of the garden club lovingly tend to it every spring, summer and fall. Every year all third grade students in Rehoboth visit the herb garden. Members of the Rehoboth Antiquarian Society teach the children the history, uses and importance of the herbs grown there. Countless residents and Carpenter Museum visitors enjoy its purpose and beauty.

   The dedication ceremony was attended by the family members and friends. Blake’s daughter, Molly Blake Hardy Romer, son-in-law William Romer and granddaughter Laura Hardy Sitrin were in attendance. Molly reminisced about her mother.

   Grimley’s family included her daughter Katherine Gorab from Florida, daughter Gail Gorab Clegg from Bangladesh, daughter-in-law Michelle Gorab from Hingham Massachusetts, granddaughter Cassandra Conaty Giovagnoli from San Francisco California and granddaughter Noelle Conaty from Norwich Vermont. Gail spoke about her mother and read a touching letter from Gertrude's grandson, who was not able to attend.

   Guests also included family friend and Carpenter Museum groundskeeper Bob Johnson, his wife Phyllis and grandson Taylor Johnson. Bob shared many memories of both Gertrude and Kathryn.

   Barbara Spencer, the Director of the Carpenter Museum, and Rebecca Smith, President of the Rehoboth Antiquarian Society were also in attendance. Following the dedication, the families and guests joined the garden club members for a delicious picnic lunch.

   It was a memorable day for all. Many thanks to those garden club members who made this event possible, including Susan Gerbi McIlwain, Elaine DiChiara, Lise Sossabee, Diane Wald, Marjorie Johnston, Helen Davis, Pat Knowles and her hospitality team.

   For more info about becoming a member of the Rehoboth Garden Club, please contact Dianne Burns at 508-336-9933 or dburns54@comcast.net.

REHOBOTH MAN ADVOCATES FOR MUSIC EDUCATION

ON TRIP TO WASHINGTON, DC


(June 3, 2016) Local Rehoboth businessman Scott Abrahamson of Rick’s Musical Instruments, Inc. joined music industry leaders and artists in a delegation of advocates during the National Association of Music Merchants’ (NAMM) Music Education Advocacy D.C. Fly-In in late May.

    With the recent passage of the federal education law, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the delegation met with their members of congress in support of the passage of the bill and to reinforce the importance of music being listed as part of a well-rounded education for all children at the State-level.

   "I have worked as a classroom music educator, performer, and now music industry member,” said Abrahamson. “Regardless of role, I have learned that we are all connected in music, mutually dependent upon each other, and charged with the awesome responsibility of ensuring that future generations have access to the joy of learning and making music.”

     Abrahamson met with Massachusetts legislators including Congressman Joe Kennedy, III and Mike Capuano, as well as Senator Elizabeth Warren and staffers for Senator Edward Markey.  He spoke about the importance of music education and support needed to ensure each student has the opportunity to learn music in school.

    Abrahamson prepared for his efforts on Capitol Hill by participating in advocacy training at Nelson Mullins. He and fellow music industry leaders were apprised of current issues facing public school music programs and briefed on ESSA and the current political climate. He was also trained on developing state-level advocacy efforts for music and arts education to put into practice here in Massachusetts.

   He also took part in a special welcoming committee for Turnaround Arts, a program under the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities.

    At a reception held on Tuesday, May 24, Abrahamson honored a variety of artists, including Tim Robbins, Alfre Woodard, John Lloyd Young, Carla Dirlikov, Keb’ Mo’, among others, for their work in arts education advocacy.

   This is the third time Abrahamson has participated in the D.C. Fly-in.

    “I feel that sense of 'good tired' that comes from working so hard to accomplish something so great,” he said. “I am honored to have been joined by wonderful, fellow NAMM members to continue providing a voice to ensure that all of America's school children have access to a quality music education."

   The National Association of Music Merchants is the not-for-profit association with a mission to strengthen the $17 billion music products industry. NAMM is comprised of approximately 10,300 member companies located in 102 countries. NAMM events and members fund efforts to promote the pleasures and benefits of music, and advance active participation in music making across the lifespan.

    Rick’s Musical Instruments, Inc. is based in Cumberland, RI with a second location in Rehoboth under the name Bravo Musical Instruments on Route 44. 

DRRHS HOLDS ANNUAL CELEBRATION OF EXCELLENCE FOR CLASS OF 2016

(June 3, 2016)  Dighton Rehoboth Regional High School held the school’s annual Celebration of Excellence on Tuesday May 31 when awards and over 80 scholarships were presented to members of the Class of 2016.

    The top top students in the graduating class are Valedictorian Sara Enos and Salutatorian Antonia Scott. 

    Holly Wentworth received the school’s Beatrice Kammerer Award, presented to a senior who best exemplifies honesty, humility, responsibility and consideration of others.   

     Victoria Scott and Tyler Doane received the Principal’s Award in recognition for outstanding contributions to the school.  Joseph Rogers and Emma Masse received the President’s Award for showing tremendous growth and commitment to academic excellence. The Robert T. Roy Medal was awarded to Patrick Newman, the most outstanding member of the senior class.

   The following students were named Academic Medalists, recognizing their achievements in specific educational disciplines.  Their names will be added to the school’s academic Hall of Fame:

Hannah Saleeba with the Art Medal; Erin Kelley wtih the Helena M. Kennedy Medal for Business; Greg Fine with the Science Medal; Brittany Sousa with the William Grover Medal for Social Studies; Sara Enos with the Elinor Smith Mathematics Medal; Caroline DeCoste with the Music Medal; Tyler Jacob with the Margaret Kammerer Halliwell Medal for Foreign Language; Antonia Scott with the English Medal; Thomas Ranley and Kylie Furtado with Physical Education Medals; Nicole Pimental with the Phoenix Award for Guidance; and Evan Kearns for the Marcille Medal for Industrial Arts.

    The John A. Berger Award, given to a senior in the Career and Technical Education program who has shown the most improvement, was awarded to Joshua Holme. The Massachusetts Association of Vocational Administrators Award was given to David Simpson who also received the Nathan Lawrence Medal, given to the most outstanding student in the CTE program. Nathan Bradley was awarded the Architectural Drawing Award.  The Robotics Award went to Chris Garceau.

   Outstanding Performance Awards were presented to the following students in vocational pathways: Tyler Williams for Automotive; Roberto Salvador for Carpetry; David Simpson for Drafting; Kacie DeSousa for Early Childhood Education; Taylor Sisson for Marketing; Evan Dwyer for Marine Technology, and Trenton Saleeba for TV Production.

   The James Frates Medal, awarded to a senior member of the National Honor Society member, was given to Matthew Andrade for scholarship, leadership, service, and character.

  All members of the National Honor Society will be designated at graduation by wearing the ceremonial white cord and tassel. Along with  excellence in academics, each was recognized for outstanding leadership skills, service to others, and outstanding character. These graduating seniors include: Jacquelyn  Amaral, Matthew Andrade, Gregory Boudreau-Fine, Anna Brodeur, Justin Cadima, Kasey Charette, Noah Chartier, Rachel Chrystie, Caylie Cross, Caroline DeCoste, Kacie DeSousa, Tyler Doane, Andrea Duncan, Rachel Dziedzic, Sara Enos, Isaiah Ferreira, Jordan Flanagan, Jamison Freedman, Alexandra Froment, Kylie Furtado, Julia Gervais, Elizabeth Griffin, Amanda Grossi, Kelsey Hastings, Yendee Ho-Rath, Surrey Houlker, Erin Kelley,

Nicholas Koneski, Emma Masse, Matthew McEathron, Caitlin McNaughton, William Newman, Nathan Oliver, Kaitlin Palmer, Victoria Proulx, Thomas Ranley, Joseph Rogers, Hannah Saleeba, Antonia Scott,

Victoria Scott, David Simpson, Brittany Sousa, Liza Sousa, Raquel Sousa, Bobby Mae Stebbings, Sarah Steenhuysen, Ashley Szczoczarz, Emily Tibbels, Jonathan Ursillo, Holly Wentworth, and Brandon Witter.

   The DRRHS graduation will be held on Saturday, June 4 at 4:30 PM outside on the football field. In the event of inclement weather, the ceremony will be held indoors with seating limited to two guests per graduate.

LOCAL, STATE AND FEDERAL AGENCIES WORK TOGETHER TO PROTECT REHOBOTH’S PALMER RIVER AND ASSIST LOCAL AGRI-BUSINESS

(June 30, 2016)  What is more honorable than a group of determined individuals, with expertise in multiple disciplines, working together to save something precious and irreplaceable?

   For the last four years, experts representing local, state and federal agencies have been working to help save two of Rehoboth’s most unique characteristics - the Palmer River Watershed and a progressive modern farming community with a 374-year-old history.

   Earlier this month, several vehicles with government license plates, pulled into Noons Harvest Market on Route 6.  A group of fifteen agriculture and environmental professionals working together to protect the Palmer River and local agri-business gathered for lunch -- the first time they had all been together in person -- before a scheduled tour of Ferry Farm on Wheaton Avenue to see the fruits of their labors.

    Rachel Smith, Chairman of the Rehoboth Agricultural Commission, greeted the entourage including USDA official Gail Berry, Regional Conservationist, Northeast who had just flown in from Washington, DC. The local agricultural commission has played an integral part in the environmental protection initiatives.

    The group of visiting officials group included State Conservationist Christine Clark of Massachusetts Natural Resources Conservation Service who had chosen the Palmer River Watershed as a participating site for the National Water Quality Initiative (NWQI). Others included Jane Pierce of the MA DEP; Ian Ward of the Massachusetts Association of Conservation Districts (MACD); Maya Halter from the Wareham Field Office of the MA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS); and Diane Baedeker Petit, Public Affairs Officer from the USDA, NRCS office in Amherst, MA.

     The Palmer River subwatershed, within the Narragansett Bay watershed, exists almost entirely within the town limits of Rehoboth, with a southern portion in Swansea, extending into Warren, Rhode Island. Protecting the watershed is crucial to Rehoboth’s current and future water supply.  Rehoboth also contributes to Narragansett Bay and conservation measures are also beneficial to our neighboring state.

  Clark explained that data on Rehoboth was examined before choosing the Palmer River for the national initiative.  “Pollution comes from many sources,” she said.  Along with farming, Rehoboth has a number of golf courses using water, residential wells and septic systems.

    “Those in the agricultural community are stewards of the land and must use best management practices for soil health, fertilizer use and manure storage,” she added.

    The National Water Quality Initiative (NWQI) offers financial and technical assistance to farmers and forest landowners.  The National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) helps private landowners and farmers control and trap nutrient and manure runoff. The initiative works with famers and forest landowners to improve water quality and aquatic habitats in impaired streams.

     The land within Palmer River’s subwatershed is 62 percent forested with 19 percent developed land, 10 percent agricultural and 8 percent impervious surfaces like roads and other paved surfaces and rooftops. The river also supports one of only a few small stream American shad fisheries in the state along with supporting herring, rainbow smelt and white perch populations.

    The Ferry Farm on Wheaton Avenue has been operated by the family for multiple generation with plans to pass it down and continue operation as a sustainable commercial enterprise.

     The dairy farm is an active participant in the Palmer River Watershed project and recipient of grants to help protect local water and enhance local agri-business.

     Through the Massachusetts Department of Agriculture Enhancement Program, Ferry Farm received a $15,000 grant in 2015 for manure storage, funds to construct a cow pass bridge over a portion of the Palmer River, and another grant to construct a ClearSpan tension fabric dairy barn to house and protect the farm’s herd of approximately 150 dairy cows.

    The Ferry’s new barn is massive with a new covered, wooden walkway to allow the cows to travel from the holding barn to the milking barn without going outdoors. ClearSpan structures, are engineered and constructed to provide years of service in all types of weather conditions.

    The NWQI offers assistance to farmers and land owners for erosion control. conservation tillage, pest management, buffer systems and other conservation practices through the Environmental Quality Initiatives Program. Throughout the country, landowners, farmers and ranchers are voluntarily taking action to help improve water quality.

    In Rehoboth, the MDAR’s Agricultural Environmental Enhancement Program has provided funding to farms for various projects, including the installation of automated irrigation systems and water recovery for cranberry operations, and fencing.  in 2015, Almeida Farms received $10,000 for a double-walled fuel tank, and DeSousa and Sons Dairy Farm received $15,000 for manure storage.

    This important water conservation work benefits all Rehoboth residents with preserving clean waterways, safer drinking water from our wells, and healthy habitat for fish and wildlife . . . and some very happy cows.

 

For more information on local farming aspects of the Palmer River Watershed Initiative, you can contact the Rehoboth Agricultural Commission.  Contact the NRCS Massachusetts State Office in Amherst at 413-253-4350, or the NRCS West Wareham Field Office serving Bristol County at 508-295-5151, ext. 2. Or visit state goverment website at www.ma.nrcs.usda.gov.  

PROFESSIONAL CONSERVATORS AND VOLUNTEERS RESTORE GOFF HALL’S 101-YEAR-OLD “GRAND DRAPE” FOR FUTURE GENERATIONS

(July 11, 2016)  In late June, professional conservators from Curtains Without Borders, based in Vermont, were in Rehoboth to restore a historic hand-painted stage curtain, known as the  “Grand Drape” used to open the reconstructed Goff Memorial Hall in 1915. 

    The Rehoboth Antiquarian Society, the non-profit organization that owns and operates Goff Hall and the Blanding Library, received a $7,125 grant from the Bristol County Savings Bank Charitable Foundation to restore the drape.

   Painted drapes were commonplace 100 years ago in villages and towns throughout New England. Most depicted the cultural life of a community and the Goff Hall drape is no exception. The drape contains various images including a rendering of the Goff Inn, circa 1750, as well as graphic elements including fantastic stylized peacocks around the edges.

     A faint artist’s signature was discovered during the restoration process, that of Percy Albee, a Providence-based artist born in 1883.  At the time Albee painted the Goff Hall drape, he was at the Rhode Island School of Design where he accepted numerous public and private mural and decoration commissions.  A beautiful wooden roller was also made to store the drape when not in use.   

    Curtains Without Borders was established in 1996 by the Vermont Museum & Gallery Alliance to clean, mend and in-paint Vermont’s collection of historic drapes and state backdrops. By 2014, every curtain had been restored and the group gained national recognition from the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Over the years, the group branched out to restore curtains throughout New England and beyond.

    Project Director Christine Hadsel and Paper Conservator Mary Jo Davis traveled from Vermont to spend several days in Rehoboth to direct a group of local volunteers including Michelle Drummey, Noah Gross, Emily Parker, Derek DeMello, Kelsey Dickison, and Sharon Beskid.  Laura Napolitano, Curator of the Carpenter Museum, acting the as project coordinator.

    The drape was rolled out on an array of tables set up in Goff Hall.  When complete, the drape was first flipped over, and then rolled, and wrapped in protective packaging for storage.

   The heavy drape was carried out of Goff Hall by a team who then walked down Bay State Road to the Carpenter Museum’s climate-controlled E. Otis Dyer, Sr. Barn for safe storage. The volunteer team included Napolitano, E. Otis Dyer Jr., Rachel Smith, James Carswell, Kathy Knight, and Sharon Beskid.      

    “It was a great opportunity to learn the conservation methods, to get a little dusty, and to help bring back to life an integral part of Goff Hall's wonderful interior,” said Napolitano.  While the drape is currently in storage, the Rehoboth Antiquarian Society may display the drape for a special occasion in the future.

Photos by Rehoboth Now

REPRESENTATIVE HOWITT SUPPORTS PASSAGE OF HOMES ACT TO BENEFIT MASSACHUSETTS VETERANS AND SERVICE MEMBERS

(July 20, 2016)  State Representative Steven Howitt (R-Seekonk) who represents Rehoboth recently voted for legislation to benefit Massachusetts veterans with expanded employment protections, enhanced housing opportunities, and additional tax abatements.

   On July 7, the House and Senate unanimously enacted An Act relative to Housing, Operations, Military Service and Enrichment, also known as the HOME Act.  The bill is currently on Governor Baker’s desk awaiting his signature.

    “I cannot think of a group of people that is more deserving of the Legislature’s support and respect than our service men and women,” said Representative Howitt.  “The HOME Act recognizes the many sacrifices our veterans have made by providing them with access to a wide range of state services.”

   The HOME Act establishes a new Office of State Veterans’ Homes and Housing within the Department of Veterans’ Services.  This office will advise the Secretary on matters related to veterans’ housing and long-term care, and will file an annual report with the Legislature.

    The HOME Act also includes a provision championed by Assistant Minority Leader Brad Hill (R-Ipswich) to give veterans statewide preference for public housing.  Veterans currently receive preference in public housing, but this generally applies only to housing units within the community in which the veteran actually resides.

    The bill retains language inserted by Representative Donald Wong (R-Saugus) giving cities and towns the option of establishing a fund to assist local veterans and their spouses with their food, transportation and heating expenses, using money raised through a voluntary check-off box on municipal property and excise tax bills.  It also contains a provision, sponsored by House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading), to allow the next of kin of soldiers who were killed in action, and who possess a US Department of Defense-issued Gold Star Lapel Button and letter of approval, to obtain a Gold Star Family license plate.

   

The HOME Act also:


  1. Makes veterans a protected class for hiring purposes;

  2. Prohibits housing authorities from counting as income any veterans benefits for service-connected disabilities in excess of $1,800 when calculating rent;

  3. Reconfigures the Massachusetts Post-Deployment Commission, which will study the barriers facing military personnel returning to civilian life and identify ways to better assist these veterans with accessing education, employment, healthcare, housing and other services;

  4. Expands property tax abatements for surviving spouses of service members to include those who have died from injuries or diseases sustained during active service, even if those injuries were not sustained in a combat zone;

  5. Offers full property tax abatements for the permanent residence of any veteran with a 100% disability rating for service-connected blindness;

  6. Extends eligibility for the Public Service Scholarship Program to include the children and spouses of Prisoners of War (POWs) who served after Vietnam;

  7. Provides an excise tax exemption for veterans while deployed;

  8. Exempts Silver Star recipients from the Civil Service exam;

  9. Extends assistance from the Military Relief Fund to the National Guard;

  10. Prohibits municipalities from transferring the right to receive debt payments if the municipality receives notice that the debtor is a veteran;

  11. Requires businesses with 50 or more employees to grant veterans a paid leave of absence on Veterans Day;

  12. Provides for state employees who are in the reserves and ordered to active duty for more than 30 days to continue receiving their full state salary, minus their reserve pay;

  13. Requires the new Office of State Veterans’ Homes and Housing, in consultation with the Department of Revenue, to study the feasibility of offering a tax rebate to landlords who lease a dwelling unit to a veteran;

  14. Directs the Department of Veterans’ Services, in consultation with the Department of Revenue, to study the feasibility of implementing a sliding scale property tax abatement for veterans and their spouses;

  15. Designates Bicentennial Park in Fall River as the Gold Star Families Memorial Monument of the Commonwealth; and

  16. Allows local Veterans’ Agents to be appointed to three-year terms, rather than on an annual basis.

 

CELEBRATE ART, REHOBOTH!

Local Cultural Council Deems First-ever Exhibit of Local Professional and Student Artists a Successful Endeavor

(August 2, 2016)  From the grand opening on June 26 through July 24, over 225 visitors attended Celebrate Art, Rehoboth! featuring 27 professional artists who live in Rehoboth and 37 student artists

    During the month-long exhibit, more than 350 visitors came to the Carpenter Museum to see the first-ever local art show sponsored by the Rehoboth Cultural Council. The work of the professional artists was displayed in the Otis Dyer, Sr. Barn and the student work was shown in the downstairs Tilton Room of the museum.

   RCC Chair Maureen Whittemore coordinated the effort along with barn exhibit curator Sheila Oliveira and Melissa Treichler, who curated the student portion of the show.  The Rehoboth Antiquarian Society, the non-profit organization that owns and operates the museum, as well as the Blanding Library and Goff Hall, graciously hosted the art show.

   RCC members staffed the exhibit during opening hours on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays during the month of July.  Appointed members of the RCC include Gloria Lagasse, Susan Robert, Melissa Treichler, Catherine Allen, Desire Palmer, Sandra Delany, and Connie Wenzel-Jordan.

    Celebrate Art, Rehoboth! featured the work of the following professional artists who live in town: Richard Benjamin, Judith Bertozzi, Erik Brisson, Harriet Brisson, David Brisson, Renee Moore Brooks, George Delany, Sandra Delany, Earle Dias, Mary Dondero, Carol Georgia, Michael Glancy, Connie Grab, Sherrill Hunnibell, David Kendrick, Debra Maher, Tracey Reath Manzella, Robert Materne, Sheila Oliveira, Robert O’Neal, Michele Poirier-Mozzone, B. Turek Robinson, Melissa Treichler, and Valerie Albert Weingard, along with the posthumous work Charles Ballard, Charles Waddington and Joe Carpenter.

     Student art was chosen by the art teachers at Rehoboth’s public schools, Acacia Beaulieu at Palmer River Elementary, Jennifer Faletra at D. L. Beckwith Middle, and Ms. Rutkowski, Mr. Schifone, and Ms. Tache at DRRHS. 

    The participating students included: K - Evelyn Cooper; Grade 1 - Avaree Caron;  Grade 2 - Lindsay Daniel; Grade 3 - Kamil Kabli; Grade 4 - Kelsey Bain, Avery Bothelo, Corinne Braga, Caraline Corvi, Conor Pacheco,  Sarah Rodrigues, Ella Slater, Ezra Young; Grade 5 - J. Boivin, S. DaSilva, U. Soliday; Grade 6 - J. Ferrara, S. Fiora, E. Gesner; Grade 7 - N. Howard, A. Marciello,  M. Morganweck, A. Willis; Grade 8 - Jason DeRosa, J. Garabedian, H. Sidall; Grade 9 - Abby Behm, Jasmin Dickson, Caroline Enos, Isabella Ferreira, Chelsea Treichler; Grade 10 - Adrianna Groom, Peyton Marricone; Grade 11 - Gregory Bent, Elijah Houghton; Grade 12 - Kylie Furtado, Wendy Emma Masse, and Kimberly Reilly.


You can still view the Celebrate Art, Rehoboth! show online along with photos of the opening reception, plus information on all the participating artistis. 

Just visit CelebrateArtRehoboth.com.  You can also visit learn more about the local affiliate of the Massachusetts Cultural Council by visiting RehobothCulturalCouncil.com

Photos courtesy of the Carpenter Museum

STATE REPRESENTATIVE STEVEN HOWITT SUPPORTS LEGISLATION TO FUND LOCAL BRIDGES AND ROADS, ALSO NEW BILL TO SUPPORT ENERGY DIVERSITY

(August 5, 2016)  State Representative Steven S. Howitt, R-Seekonk, recently joined with his colleagues to support legislation that will help cities and towns address critical infrastructure needs through an $800 million bond appropriation.

    House Bill 4557, An Act providing for the financing of certain improvements to municipal roads and bridges, was approved unanimously by the House of Representatives on July 30 by a vote of 158-0. The bill will be reviewed and signed by Governor Charlie Baker.

   “I’m proud to support this bill, which provides a significant investment of state resources that will enable cities and towns across the Commonwealth to carry out critical road and bridge repairs,” said Howitt.

   Most of the borrowing authorized in the bill – $750 million – will be allocated to new highway spending and to help leverage additional federal dollars.  The remaining $50 million will fund a new Small Bridge Program to help communities repair and replace structurally-deficient bridges located on municipal roadways that span no more than 20 feet in length and do not qualify for federal funding assistance.

   To ensure that as many communities as possible can access assistance through the Small Bridge Program, the bill prohibits the allocation of more than 20% of funding to any one highway district.  Approximately 1,300 bridges statewide currently meet the eligibility criteria for funding.

    The bill also modifies the Complete Streets Program, changing it from a certificate program to a grant program to encourage more communities to apply for funding assistance for local road projects.  The money available through this program can be used for a variety of municipal roadway improvements, including new crosswalks, enhanced street lighting, timing changes to traffic signals and the creation of designated bike lanes.


House Bill 4568, An Act to promote energy diversity

Howitt is also supporting omnibus legislation to diversify the Commonwealth’s renewable energy portfolio through the expanded procurement of offshore wind and hydroelectric power. The bill represents a compromise between differing versions of the energy bill that were previously approved by the House and Senate.

    If signed by Governor Charlie Baker, the state would be required to enter into long-term contracts for the procurement of a combined 2,800 megawatts of offshore wind power and hydroelectric power over the next 15-20 years.

   “The passage of this legislation marks an important step forward in the state’s ongoing efforts to invest in more clean and renewable energy resources,” said Howitt.  “The provisions contained in this bill will lead to a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and the Commonwealth’s reliance on fossil fuels.”

   House Bill 4568 requires each distribution company to jointly conduct competitive proposals for offshore wind generation and to procure 1,600 megawatts by June 30, 2027.  The first solicitation must be for a minimum of 400 megawatts and occur no later than June 30, 2017.

    The bill also requires each distribution company to solicit proposals for hydroelectricity through a staggered procurement process that will yield 9,450,000 megawatt-hours of clean energy by December 31, 2022 – the equivalent of 1,200 megawatts.

   The Department of Energy Resources will review both the offshore wind and hydroelectricity proposals to ensure that the energy generating resources are reliable, contribute to reducing winter electricity price spikes, are cost-effective for the state’s ratepayers, and take into account the potential economic and environmental benefits for ratepayers.

    The proposed legislation, if passed, will direct the Department of Public Utilities and the Department of Environmental Protection to investigate and establish criteria for identifying and repairing Grade 3 gas leaks.

 

REPRESENTATIVE HOWITT SUPPORTS LEGISLATION TO HELP TOWNS

LIKE REHOBOTH MODERNIZE FINANCES AND OPERATIONS

(August 23, 2016)  State Representative Steven Howitt (R-Seekonk), who represents Rehoboth in the 4th Bristol District, has endorsed comprehensive legislation that will help streamline municipal operations and provide greater financial flexibility to cities and towns.

   On the last day of formal legislative sessions, the House of Representatives voted 158-0 to pass House Bill 4565, An Act to modernize municipal finance and government.  The bill represents a compromise reached by a six-member Conference Committee that was appointed on July 18 to work out the differences between previously approved House and Senate versions of the bill.

   “The municipal modernization bill contains many important provisions that will help to improve the delivery of essential services at the local level,” said Representative Howitt.  “Municipal officials from across the state had identified this bill as a top priority, and I’m proud to support its passage on behalf of the communities in my district.”

   House Bill 4565 provides cities and towns with the option of creating special reserve funds to pay for unanticipated costs associated with special education, out-of-school-district tuition or transportation.  The balance of such funds would be capped at 2% of the annual net school spending of the school district.

   The bill also increases the amount that cities may appropriate for a reserve fund from 3% to 5% of the tax levy for the preceding fiscal year.  In addition to allowing end-of-fiscal-year transfers from health insurance, debt service or other unclassified or non-departmental line items, the bill eliminates the 3% cap on the amount of funding that may be transferred from any department.

   Another provision included in the municipal modernization bill allows appropriations for local stabilization funds to be made by a majority vote and permits communities to dedicate all or a portion of particular revenue streams to the fund, without appropriation.  A 2/3 vote would be required to make appropriations from the fund.

 
  1. authorizes land being used primarily for agriculture or horticulture to be used as a site for a renewable energy generating source, provided that the site produce energy exclusively for the use of the land and farm upon it, and that it not produce more than 125% of the annual energy needs of the land and farm


  1. expands the roll-back taxes exemption for land used or converted to a renewable energy generating source, land subject to a permanent wetland reserve easement through the agricultural conservation easement program, and land subject to other federal conservation programs


  1. gives communities the option of using electronic poll books for elections


  1. amends the municipal procurement laws by increasing the dollar threshold for horizontal construction projects requiring less-than-full competitive bidding from $10,000 to $50,000, and adds a “middle tier” of contracts valued at between $10,000 and $50,000 for which public entities may either give public notification of the contract or use the Operational Services Division’s (OSD) statewide contracts or other “blanket” contracts to solicit a minimum of three bids


  1. empowers the chief administrative officer to authorize deficit spending for snow and ice removal

  1. lifts the cap on investments in certificates of deposit from 1 year to 3 years to enable communities to secure better rates on short-term investments


  1. authorizes 10-year bond anticipation notes to provide more flexibility in structuring debt


  1. increases to $50,000 the amount of surplus bond proceeds that can be applied to debt service


  1. allows for automatic approval of payment for liabilities incurred as a result of emergencies and disasters when the Governor declares a state of emergency


  1. increases from $20,000 to $150,000 the amount that municipalities may spend without appropriation from insurance or restitution proceeds to restore or replace damaged property


  1. authorizes the chief executive entity of any city, town or government unit to enter into a joint powers agreement with another governmental unit for the joint exercise of any of their common powers and duties within a designated region


  1. allows municipalities to deny local licenses and permits to delinquent taxpayers who have not filed a good faith application for abatement

House Bill 4565, now waiting for Governor Baker’s review and signature includes the following provisions designed to help towns like Rehoboth:

HERE SHE COMES . . . REHOBOTH WOMAN TO COMPETE IN MISS AMERICA COMPETITION

(August 26, 2016)  Alissa Musto, a twenty-one-year-old resident of Rehoboth, will travel to Atlantic City, NJ to represent Massachusetts at the 96th annual Miss America Pageant on Sunday, September 11.

    The daughter of Billy and Janine Musto of Rehoboth, she competed as Miss Cambridge in the state competition in July and won the title of Miss Massachusetts and was awarded a $12,000 scholarship. 

   A recent cum laude graduate of Harvard University, Musto earned a Bachelor of Liberal Arts degree in Government in three years and spoke at her graduation. While at Harvard, she was the Chief of Staff for the Harvard Government/Legal Studies Club and a Harvard Reading Buddies Volunteer.  She is a House of Blues Alumni Advisory Board member, a Boston Symphony Orchestra Collegiate Ambassador, and the volunteer Music Director at Dorchester Collegiate Academy. 

    Her musical accomplishments include being in the Top 10 out of 45,000 in KidzStarUSA Talent Search, performing on national TV at the age of nine, and releasing a CD of original music. She won the Justine Magazine Talent Search Winner; the Music & Arts national Find Your Voice winner; and the Wonderworld TV Piano Act of the Year. She has performed at the House of Blues, the Hard Rock Café, the Massachusetts State House and Foxwoods. 

   A 2013 graduate of the Providence Country Day School, she will perform a piano piece in the talent competition at Miss America.  During her year of service, she is highlighting her personal platform, Changing Keys: Connecting Kids with Keyboards, as well as promoting The Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, the national platform of the Miss America Organization.

    As for her participation in The Miss America Organization, Musto stated that “the pageant is an opportunity for me to demonstrate several disciplines that I strive to succeed in while simultaneously advocating for music education. Contestants need to be scholars, performers, businesswomen and humanitarians. Considering these expectations, the Miss America Organization will challenge me to perform at a level of utmost excellence in all of my endeavors.”  Her scholastic and career ambition is to obtain a Juris Doctor degree and become an entertainment attorney.

   From August 29 through September 11, 52 national contestants will be welcomed to Atlantic City for two weeks of press events, rehearsals, and community appearances leading up to the selection of Miss America 2017.  Betty Cantrell of Georgia the reigning Miss America, will be crowning her successor live on the ABC television network at 9:00 PM EST on Sunday evening, September 11.

   The Miss America Organization, a 501(c) 4 non-profit corporation, awards millions of dollars in annual college scholarship assistance making it the largest scholarship program for women in the United States. MAO is comprised of 52 licensed organizations which include all 50 states, Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico. MAO contestants contribute over 500,000 hours of community service annually and have raised over $14 million for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals since 2007.

 

About Miss Massachusetts

The Miss Massachusetts Scholarship Foundation, Inc. is a non-profit charitable organization dedicated to helping young women recognize their potential. Each year, the Foundation stages the Miss Massachusetts Scholarship Pageant, a preliminary to the Miss America Program, the largest source of scholarship for young women in the country. Miss America 1954 Bess Myerson received the first scholarship award of $5,000 in 1945. Since then, the Miss America Organization has provided more than $100 million in educational grants, making it in the world's largest provider of scholarships exclusively for women in the world. Last year alone, in-kind and cash scholarships provided to contestants at all levels of competition totaled more than $30 million. For more information, go to www.missmass.org

 
OCTOBER IS DOWN SYNDROME MONTH: A PERSONAL STORY

(D. L. Beckwith Principal Joe Pirraglia shared this personal story with students and their families)


(October 21, 2016)  October is Down Syndrome Awareness month.  People with Down syndrome are born with an extra chromosome.  This can create some unique challenges.  Overcoming these challenges is what makes people with Down syndrome so special.  My sister has Down syndrome and has had a positive impact on my life.  Her ability to overcome challenges has inspired me throughout my life.  In 2007, I wrote an article about our relationship for the Down Syndrome Society’s newsletter:


Down syndrome?  Big Whoop!

My sister Jodie and I have a typical brother and sister relationship. We hang out and watch TV, and we fight over what channel we are watching. At the dinner table, Jodie is sure to fill my glass with the last of the Diet Coke. Not to be nice, but because the person who finishes the soda has to get another bottle from the basement. If I hear her singing Karaoke in her room, I will get in on the next duet despite her efforts to push me out of her room. And like normal brothers and sisters, we look out for each other.

My entire life, I have been aware that my sister is “special.” That is how my parents explained Jodie’s inability to perform tasks as quickly and efficiently as other people. “She is special because she is different,” my mom would say, “If everyone was the same, the world would be a crazy place.” Growing up with this notion, I never believed Jodie to be disabled; she always did and continues to be involved in what “typical” individuals do. Jodie did dance, she did math, she works, she likes to eat, she likes to sing, she made the honor roll, she graduated from high school, she went to her prom, she teases her brother...

When we were younger, Jodie and I would play together because we are only two years apart.  At two-years-old, I got into the fridge and started to crack some eggs on the floor. Jodie made sure to tell my mom so she could clean it up. That same year I was looking to have some chocolate cake that was left on the table. I couldn’t reach it, so Jodie got it for me saying, “He was hungry, so I fed him cake.” My mom never minded cleaning up our mess because she was used to our collaborative mischief.

As I got older, I had the opportunity to help Jodie. I was, and still am always, there to open up the door at the top of the stairs if she is going up, or change a light bulb so a light is on when she falls asleep.

I have even put one of her van drivers in her place for telling Jodie to hurry up. “Jodie goes one speed, and it isn’t fast,” I explained. “Why would you even have a job like this if you don’t get that?”

I always thought that I was over protective of Jodie because she had Down syndrome, and then I realized that I am just an over protective brother. When my other sister Julie brought home her boyfriends, I always forced a smile to hide my skeptical opinions. It’s what brothers do.

Like all brothers, I’m proud of my sisters’ accomplishments. Julie is a Special Ed teacher, and Jodie works at a store in town called Let’s Party. At the store, she cleans the shelves, vacuums, stocks, fills balloons, and helps out in the party room.

Interestingly enough, Barbara Morse Silva did a special on Channel 10 news about Jodie’s job. I still bust her up about her working being newsworthy. When she clears the table, I break the story live from the dining room. I was very proud of Julie when she graduated from college. Even though I slept in and missed most of the ceremony, but I did make the party. When Jodie graduated from high school, her graduation party was ridiculous. We had to rent a hall to accommodate all the guests. The mayor came and gave a speech and a special award. That night I realized Jodie touched the hearts of so many people. I was so proud.

Jodie, like the other members of my family, is a very important part of my life. The fact that she has Down syndrome doesn’t change that one way or the other. Having Down syndrome just makes her different, special.

   She is special because of everything she has done for me, taught me, shown me, as my older sister.  Sometimes, I don’t even tell people she has Down syndrome because it is easy to forget.  I’d rather tell them about the time we climbed up to the medicine cabinet and ate a good amount of Dimetapp chew-ables. But if I did, she would get all embarrassed and yell at me.

 

SENATE PASSES BIPARTISAN KENNEDY BILL TO PROTECT ONLINE CONSUMER REVIEWS

Legislation would bar companies from attempts to silence customer opinions online, backed by Massachusetts-based Trip Advisor and other internet review platforms


(December 1, 2016)  Congressman Joe Kennedy III this week applauded bipartisan passage of his “Consumer Review Fairness Act” by the United States Senate. Introduced with Congressman Leonard Lance (R-NJ), this legislation passed the House of Representatives earlier in September and would ensure American consumers can post honest business reviews and feedback online without fear of retribution.

    The legislation comes in response to reports of companies using secretive “non-disparagement” clauses in their terms of service to try to bar customers from posting negative reviews of a product, service or experience. Along with Kennedy and Lance, the bill is co-sponsored by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA), who have led legislative efforts on this issue in the past.  It is backed by online review platforms like TripAdvisor, which is based in Congressman Kennedy’s district.

    “Silencing consumers with secretive non-disparagement clauses denies their right to voice concerns with businesses or products that fail to meet expectations,” said Congressman Kennedy. “With the Consumer Review Fairness Act, we can ensure customers will never face the fear of unjust retaliation by companies they visit and subsequently review. I thank Congressmen Lance, Swalwell and Issa for their partnership in addressing this issue and look forward to the President signing this bill into law.”

    “Consumers in the 21st century economy should be able to post, comment and tweet their honest and accurate feedback without fear of retribution.  Too many companies are burying non-disparagement clauses in fine print and going after consumers when they post negative feedback online.  In 2016 online platforms are where consumers turn to praise or criticize their shopping, eating or traveling experiences.  They should be able to do so without harassment from companies eager to protect an image,” said Congressman Lance.

    The Consumer Review Fairness Act would void any non-disparagement clauses in consumer contracts if they restrict consumers from publicly reviewing products or businesses in a negative manner and would authorize the Federal Trade Commission to take action against businesses that insert these provisions into their contracts.  It also would ensure companies still are able to pursue legal action against individuals who post false and defamatory reviews.

    The legislation is supported by online review platforms like TripAdvisor, Yelp and Glassdoor as well as the National Retail Federation, the Retail Industry Leaders Association, the Internet Association, Demand Progress, Engine, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Fight for the Future, the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, Public Knowledge, and the Public Participation Project.  

    "TripAdvisor whole-heartedly applauds passage of the Consumer Review Fairness Act, led by Representatives Lance and Kennedy,” said Adam Medros, Senior Vice President of Global Product at TripAdvisor. “Consumer reviews have become an integral part of many Americans’ purchasing decisions.  In the same way that you can tell your friends and family about a good or bad experience you had with a company or product, you also have a fundamental right to share that experience online.  While most businesses understand that such reviews offer businesses and consumers alike the ability to learn and benefit from others’ experiences, a number of unscrupulous businesses have attempted to bully or intimidate their customers from sharing their negative experiences. We strongly believe that every American has ‘the right to write’ and these attempts to stifle free speech are against everything we stand for at TripAdvisor."

TWO REHOBOTH FARMS TO RECEIVE GRANTS FROM THE AGRICULTURAL FOOD SAFETY IMPROVEMENT PROGRAM

(December 22, 2016)  The Baker-Polito Administration recently announced $200,000 in grants to 24 Massachusetts farms, including two in Rehoboth, to install practices that improve food safety within their operations.

   The Farmer’s Garden, and Souza Family Farm in Rehoboth will each receive grants from the Agricultural Food Safety Improvement Program (AFSIP) to address food safety upgrades on their farms enabling the operations to meet buyer demands, increase consumption of local food, as well as protect public health by reducing food safety risks.

   The Farmer’s Garden was awarded $20,000 for a washing and packing facility, while the Souza Family Farm was awarded $7,522 for bins, refrigeration and shading.

     “Upgrading existing farm infrastructure is important for the Commonwealth’s agricultural businesses to maintain high quality, locally produced products in a safe, sustainable way,” said Governor Charlie Baker.  “Our administration is committed to ensuring Massachusetts famers have the tools they need to adopt the best food safety practices for the benefits of all consumers.”

     According to State Representative Steven Howitt (R-Seekonk) who represents Rehoboth, “The promotion of good food safety practices is critical for our farms in their efforts to build wholesaler and consumer confidence.” He added, “I’m grateful to the Baker-Polito Administration for their leadership in this ever-growing sector of agriculture.  MDAR’s efforts to support the development of farm food safety infrastructure allow our farms to build that confidence, access greater wholesale opportunities, and increase their farms’ viability.”

   “It’s exciting to see that Rehoboth’s Souza Family Farm and The Farmer’s Garden would be receiving this grant,” said State Senator Jim Timilty (D-Walpole). “Food Safety Operations are vital to our Commonwealth’s agricultural businesses and the growing popularity of locally grow food. I look forward to visiting these facilities in the new year to see these grants put to action.”

    By implementing eligible upgrades the farms will be able to protect public health, sustain public confidence in the food system, meet buyer requirements, and follow new regulations under the Federal Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).

    This round of grant funding has a focus on assisting commercial oyster farmers with meeting the Department of Marine Fisheries and the Department of Public Health (DPH) Vibrio Control Program.  Vibrio parahaemolyticus (Vp) is a human pathogen known to cause foodborne illnesses from the consumption of raw oysters.  In an effort to address these foodborne illnesses the Vp Control Plan requires strict harvesting controls for oysters. Examples of awards to aquaculture operations to help meet these requirements include commercial coolers, cold storage, and ice machines all working towards reducing the temperature of oysters at harvest and continued cooling of oysters thereafter.

    “Food safety practices are vital to ensuring our citizens have access to the fresh, local food that the Commonwealth’s local farmers are known for,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Matthew Beaton.  “The Baker-Polito Administration is committed to supporting our local farms through the AFSIP grant program so that they are prepared to provide products grown, harvested and processed here in Massachusetts.”

     “Assisting farmers through both grants and technical assistance will help modernize their operations and continue to strengthen our local food supply and the agricultural industry,” said Department of Agricultural Resources Commissioner John Lebeaux.  “We are committed to the goal of ensuring food safety from farm to table.”DAR’s mission is to ensure the long-term viability of agriculture in Massachusetts.

    Through its four divisions – Agricultural Conservation & Technical Assistance, Agricultural Markets, Animal Health, and Crop and Pest Services – DAR strives to support, regulate and enhance the rich diversity of the Commonwealth’s agricultural community to promote economically and environmentally sound food safety and animal health measures, and fulfill agriculture’s role in energy conservation and production. For more information, visit DAR’s website.

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