Tax relief extension for small businesses

The Legislature and Gov. Baker have jointly agreed to a further extension for regular sales tax, meals tax, and room occupancy taxes for most small businesses due from March 2020 through April 2021, so that they will instead be due in May 2021.

Businesses that collected less than $150,000 in regular sales plus meals taxes in the twelve month period ending February 29, 2020 will be eligible for relief for sales and meals taxes, and businesses that collected less than $150,000 in room occupancy taxes in the twelve month period ending February 29, 2020 will be eligible for relief with respect to room occupancy taxes. For these small businesses, no penalties or interest will accrue during this extension period.

For businesses with meals tax and room occupancy tax obligations that do not otherwise qualify for this relief, late-file and late-pay penalties will be waived during this period. 

The Department of Revenue will issue emergency regulations and a Technical Information Release to implement these administrative relief measures.

Resolution in honor of Ed Thorne

Sen. Susan Moran and I were pleased to host a brief ceremony today outside Pembroke Town Hall to formally recognize Mr. Ed Thorne for his dedicated service to our community. Ed served in municipal government for more than 40 years, including more than 20 years in Pembroke, retiring this spring. He was Pembroke’s first Town Administrator starting in 1998 and then later our first Town Manager in 2019.

We presented Ed with a formal Resolution passed by both the Mass. House and Senate to recognize his service. Thank you to Selectboard Chairman Dan Trabucco for joining us along with a number of past and present town employees, and some of Ed’s colleagues in other communities. The town is planning an additional event in the future.

Here is the text of the Resolution which was read into the permanent record of the Massachusetts General Court.

A JOINT RESOLUTION THANKING EDWIN J. THORNE FOR HIS SERVICE TO THE TOWN OF PEMBROKE

WHEREAS, MR. EDWIN J. THORNE HAS SERVED IN MUNICIPAL GOVERNMENT WITH DEDICATION, DISTINCTION AND PROFESSIONALISM FOR MORE THAN 40 YEARS, INCLUDING TIME IN NORTH CAROLINA AND WEST VIRGINIA, AS WELL AS MASSACHUSETTS WHERE HE SERVED AS THE TOWN OF PEMBROKE’S FIRST TOWN ADMINISTRATOR STARTING IN 1998, AND THE FIRST TOWN MANAGER STARTING IN 2019;

AND WHEREAS, MR. THORNE WORKED TIRELESSLY TO PROTECT THE NATURAL BEAUTY OF THE TOWN OF PEMBROKE AND ENSURE THAT RESOURCES WERE DIRECTED TO CLEAN UP AND PROTECT OUR MANY PONDS, STREAMS, PARKS AND TRAILS;

AND WHEREAS, MR. THORNE WENT WELL ABOVE AND BEYOND THE JOB OF BEING A TOWN ADMINISTRATOR AND TRULY EMBRACED HIS ROLE AS A COMMUNITY LEADER, GENEROUSLY SPENDING TIME ON ALL MANNER OF CHARITABLE CAUSES, ATTENDING LOCAL EVENTS ON THE WEEKEND AND DIVING INTO HIS ROLE WITH ENTHUSIASM AND GOOD CHEER;

ANDWHEREAS, MR. THORNE DEVOTED COUNTLESS HOURS ON BEHALF OF THE YOUTH OF PEMBROKE, INCLUDING MAKING IMPROVEMENTS TO TOWN BALLFIELDS, PARTICIPATING IN SCHOOL READING PROGRAMS AND CHAMPIONING EFFORTS FOR A NEW PLAYGROUND AT THE TOWN LANDING, NOW KNOWN AS THE “ED THORNE MUNICIPAL PLAYGROUND;

ANDWHEREAS, MR. THORNE OVERSAW THE TOWN’S GROWTH AND PROGRESS OVER MORE THAN TWO DECADES, PRESIDING OVER THE TOWN’S DESIGNATION AS A GREEN COMMUNITY, HELPING THE TOWN RECEIVE NUMEROUS STATE AND FEDERAL GRANTS, AND UNDERTAKING A COMPREHENSIVE TOWN REVIEW TO STUDY WAYS TO IMPROVE THE FUNCTIONS OF MUNICIPAL GOVERNMENT;

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, THAT THE MASSACHUSETTS LEGISLATURE THANKS MR. EDWIN J. THORNE FOR HIS YEARS OF LOYAL AND DISTINGUISHED SERVICE IN MUNICIPAL GOVERNMENT AND HIS DEDICATION TO THE TOWN OF PEMBROKE.

Rep. Cutler amendment funds Hanson police radios

During our state budget debate I drafted and filed an amendment to provide an additional $25,000 for the Hanson Police & Fire Departments to purchase new mobile communications gear. My amendment was adopted and, with support from Sen. Brady in the Senate, made its way to the governor’s desk and was eventually signed into law. With the funds the town was able to purchase these Motorola APX portable radios for use by Hanson Police, as well as multiban mobile radios for Hanson Fire and Highway Departments to allow interoperability among the three agencies. The radios are now in and in use. This comes in handy on days like yesterday when we have major roadwork going on at the same time as multiple emergency calls. Thank you to my colleagues for supporting this amendment. Grateful to see the local results of our work on Beacon Hill!

Sales tax free weekend

This weekend is our Sales Tax Holiday. This a great time to support our small businesses, get those back to school supplies (sorry kids!) or other household items you’ve been looking for. Here are the basics:

• No sales tax (6.25%) for most retail items under $2,500 on Saturday & Sunday. Some stores offer additional savings on top of this so it pays to check around.

• If your purchase requires home delivery you can still get tax break as long as you pay for it this weekend.

• If you purchase multiples items that add up to more than $2,500 you still get the tax break for each item as long as no single item was over $2,500.

• Online shoppers can still save if purchase made during designated time period.

• Does not apply to tobacco, alcohol or marijuana, motorboats or vehicles.

• If you have more detailed questions about the sales tax holiday please see this helpful page: https://www.mass.gov/info-details/sales-tax-holiday-frequently-asked-questions

Legislature commits to Local Aid for towns and schools

State Representative Josh Cutler is pleased to announce an important commitment for local aid funding to help our cities and towns during this challenging budget year.

This commitment will result in an increase in Chapter 70 education funding and an assurance to maintain existing levels of unrestricted local aid. The agreement came about through cooperative discussions between the administration and the House and Senate. For FY21, the agreement commits to providing no less than the FY20 level of funding for unrestricted general government aid (UGGA, in the past called Lottery aid) and Chapter 70 education aid. 

Additionally, it commits to Chapter 70 increases for inflation and enrollment increases with an additional $107 million in aid over FY20. Additional school aid noted below is allocated based on formula factoring in student enrollment changes.

“Given the fiscal challenges brought on by COVID19 and the uncertainty at the federal level, this budget news is quite welcome and encouraging,” said Rep. Cutler. “I am pleased to support it as a member of the House Ways & Means Committee. This will still be a very challenging budget year for everyone, but this agreement will go a long way to help our towns reduce uncertainty and maintain quality services. 

Here are the numbers for our district.”

Chapter 70 school aid 
• Pembroke Schools: $13,705,090, an increase of $96,338.
• Duxbury Schools: $5,445,397, an increase of $104,862 
• Whitman-Hanson Regional: $25,068,973, an increase of $292,273

Unrestricted General Government Aid (UGGA)
• Pembroke: $1,785,006 
• Duxbury: $941,254
• Hanson: $1,359,810

UGGA amounts are based on FY20 cherry sheets. School aid data courtesy of DESE.These amounts do not include potential additional funding from CARES program.

Bill to expand tele-health services

Tonight the Mass. House has approved a major health care bill (H. 4888) with a focus on expanding tele-health services. Under the legislation tele-health services would be accessible for primary care, behavioral health, and chronic disease management. This includes use of audio-video technology (i.e. Zoom) as well as audio-only telephone visits. Doctors would be able to prescribe medication for previously diagnosed conditions or make one-time prescriptions for acute illnesses. The legislation ensures insurance pay parity through July 31, 2021 for tele-health and makes pay parity *permanent* for all behavioral health services which is great news. Additional tele-health services will be studied for possible inclusion by the Health Policy Commission. The bill also:

• Expands scope for nurse practitioners & psychiatric nurse specialists

• Extends COVID-19 coverage for emergency, inpatient services, including diagnostics & labs

• Provides enhanced Medicaid payments to support independent community hospitals

• Eliminates MassHealth requirement for referral before accessing urgent care facility.

• Assist nursing homes by requiring MassHealth to cover bed cost for up to 20 days if resident is being treated in a hospital for COVID-19

Among the amendments adopted is one that I filed to establish a PANDAS/PANS Advisory Council under the Department of Public Health.

The House bill now moves to the Senate and I would expect a Conference Committee to be appointed soon.

Economic Development bill approved

Tonight the House has approved a major economic development bill (H.4879) which includes the legalization of sports wagering, new restaurant relief funds, housing production and grants for cultural organizations and small businesses. There’s a lot to it and I will share a lengthier summary later, but here is a quick overview. I’m also very pleased that it includes some amendments I filed to help promote our aquaculture and cranberry industries and also assist the Talking Information Center network for visually impaired residents. Thank you to Chairwoman Ann-Margaret Ferrante and her staff for all their hard work on this issue.

Overview of policing reform bill

Today the Mass. House approved a policing reform bill (H. 4860) after three full days of spirited debate, 217 amendments and 800+ pieces of public testimony –– all of which reflect the significance of the issue at hand. I’d like to share an overview of the bill and also my own thoughts about why I supported it. Apologies in advance for the length, but there’s a lot to get to. However you feel about this issue I hope you can take a moment to read through to the end.

Forty-six states in America certify their police officers. Massachusetts is one of the four that does not. I think certification is important for all professionals. Indeed, Attorneys are licensed and have the BBO lookup system which provides information on attorneys and any disciplinary records. Doctors are licensed and utilize a Physician Profiles website which lists Board discipline, criminal convictions, hospital discipline and medical malpractice payments reported to the Board of Registration in Medicine. Even hairdressers are licensed by the Commonwealth. This certification and licensing process will make our system stronger and bias free. And it will make it a better atmosphere for those who serve proudly and honorably.

QUALIFIED IMMUNITY – REALITY V. RHETORIC. At the outset let me just briefly address the issue of Qualified Immunity since that has gotten a lot of attention. The House bill does NOT make changes in the application of Qualified Immunity, except in one narrow situation: If, following an evidentiary process and appeal, a law enforcement officer is formally decertified for misconduct then that individual would not be shielded from liability. Nothing in the bill would apply to any other public employee, nor to any law enforcement officer in any other scenario. The legal doctrine of Qualified Immunity is a complex one and legal scholars do not all agree on its application, which is part of the reason why the House bill took a narrower approach here. There is a lot of misinformation being circulated on this topic. Case in point: a law enforcement officer recently posted on social media that without the immunity, an officer who cracks a rib doing CPR can be sued. That is just plain false and this type of rhetoric is reckless.

Here are some of the other major elements that are in the bill:

INDEPENDENT COMMISSION. Creates a seven-member independent Police Standards and Training Commission (MPSTC) appointed by the governor and the attorney general. This Commission will oversee police certification, discipline and training standards and will have the authority to conduct preliminary inquiries, revocation and suspension proceedings and hearings. This Commission will include law enforcement representation, but will be primarily civilian led. The Commission will maintain a database of decertified personnel. This type of law officer certification system is sometimes referred to as POST, though the actual acronym here is different.

DIVISION OF TRAINING & CERTIFICATION. Within the Commission will be a Division of Training and Certification which will establish uniform policies for the training and certification for law enforcement. The membership will include representation from the Mass. Chiefs of Police Association, Massachusetts Police Association, Massachusetts Police Training Officers Association, two Sheriffs, the Secretary of Public Safety and State Police.

FACIAL RECOGNITION. The bill limits the use of Facial Recognition technology and sets legal standards for its use.

CHEMICAL SPRAYS. Strictly limits any use of chemical sprays, including tear gas, to cases where all other de-escalation tactics have been unsuccessful and such measures are necessary to prevent imminent harm. Also requires documentation and report to appointing authority in such cases. Please note that an amendment (which was defeated) would have banned all chemical sprays in all circumstances, including pepper spray.

DUTY TO INTERVENE. Set standards for officer to intervene if they witness another officer using excessive force.

N0-KNOCK WARRANTS. The bill puts new limits on use of “No-Knock” warrants. Must be issued by a judge upon supporting affidavit that such action is necessary to prevent endangering life of officer or others and reasonable belief that there is no child in the home.

CHOKEHOLDS. States that a law enforcement officer shall not use a chokehold, defined as a lateral vascular neck restraint to limit breathing or blood flow with the result of bodily injury, unconsciousness or death. Gives the new police training and certification committee authority to promulgate rules for the administration and enforcement of this.

SPECIAL COMMISSIONS. Creates several legislative commissions to further study issues of inequality and racism in Correctional Facilities, Parole Process and Probation Services.

CIVIL SERVICE REVIEW. Sets up review of existing civil service system. Commission will study and examine the civil service law, personnel administration rules, hiring procedures and bylaws for municipalities not subject to the civil service law, and the state police hiring practices.

SCHOOL RESOURCE OFFICERS. The bill tasks the training division with development of an in-service program for school resource officers and issue a specialized certification. It also calls for establishment of a model school resource officer memorandum of understanding.

AUTISM/IDD TRAINING. Includes developing a curriculum for basic and in-service training for officers on dealing with individuals with autism and other intellectual or developmental disabilities. This was added via an amendment filed by Rep. Paul Tucker (retired police chief) which I was pleased to co-sponsor. Another amendment of my own which was adopted creates a permanent commission on the status of persons with disabilities to look at these issues in a broader and holistic way.

DUE PROCESS ADDITIONS. When the legislation was first released there were some aspects of the bill which I felt did not provide requisite due process safeguards. I worked with a number of my colleagues to address that and I appreciate that leadership listened to our concerns and made some changes. One such change entitles an officer to a hearing within 15 days if there is a disciplinary action and makes sure his or her bargaining unit is also notified. Another adds a two-pronged approach for investigation, with an initial preponderance of evidence standard to start the investigation, but a higher “clear and convincing” evidence standard to de-certify. Given the seriousness of such an action I believe that is warranted. Another amendment preserves the ability of our District Attorneys to be included in the review process for officer involved incidents. An amendment I filed provides a clearer and defined time frame for police chiefs in which to notify the Commission of a complaint. This was a request from the Mass. Chiefs of Police and I was pleased to work to ensure it was adopted.

PROCESS FOR MINOR COMPLAINTS. Another significant amendment that I filed which was adopted (#64) had to do with setting a process for vetting minor complaints. The original bill mandated that every single complaint be submitted to the Commission and go through the same formal intake process. My amendment provided some appropriate flexibility for the Commission to streamline the handling of minor complaints if they don’t include the use of force or allegations of biased behavior. This improves due process and will avoid bogging down our system unnecessarily.

MY THOUGHTS. People of good faith can certainly have differing views on various aspects of this legislation, but I believe overall the bill makes important reforms that will strengthen our law enforcement system in Massachusetts, ensure that we are rewarding the many honorable men and woman of law enforcement by weeding out the few bad actors who should not be in the same line of work, and by making an important statement that we take seriously the principles of justice, equity and accountability.


During the bill review process and up through our debate and the final vote I heard from dozens and dozens of local residents, including many law enforcement officers, and I’ve been in regular contact with our local police chiefs and other stakeholders to hear their feedback. As you might expect there were lots of concerns, suggestions and viewpoints, both pro and con, on nearly every aspect of the bill. As a result of this feedback, I filed a number of amendments to the bill to work to strengthen it in various ways. Some of those amendments I described above. I appreciate everyone who took the time to reach out.

I do not agree with all that is in the bill (rare is the bill for which that can’t be said!) Some of the definitions, such as for the use of force, could benefit from more clarity to avoid unintended outcomes. It is not always easy to strike the proper balance between accountability and due process concerns and I will continue to work to ensure that we do. I do believe the House bill includes a number of needed measures and improves upon the legislation previously passed.

This bill will certainly not solve the issues of structural racism in our Commonwealth and I think it would be a mistake to pretend otherwise. Nor do I think it is fair to label this legislation a knee-jerk reaction to events in Minnesota. The death of George Floyd was certainly a catalyst for change, but many of the reforms included here were already needed. Some are in place today in other states.


WHAT HAPPENS NOW? The Senate passed their bill last week (S. 2800). The House bill approved today is H.4860. Because there are significant differences between the two bills the branches will have to negotiate a consensus bill. This will either happen via a formal Conference Committee or via an amendment process between House and Senate. Once this is done and enacted, the bill will go to Gov. Baker’s desk. He can then sign it, send it back with amendments or veto it, in part, or in whole.