Thursday, July 31, 2014

Capital Bond Bill - $20M Ok'd To Expand UML Arena

$20M OK’d To Expand UML Arena

If governor signs off, big boost seen for downtown Lowell economic development
By Robert Mills

LOWELL — A $1.3 bil­lion bond-authorization bill sent to the governor’s desk by State­house leaders con­tains approval to borrow $20 million to expand the Tsongas Center at UMass Lowell, a move leaders say could be a big vic­tory for economic development in downtown Lowell.

The bond authoriza­tion, which allows the gov­ernor to borrow the $20 million, would enable UMass Lowell to add a practice ice rink to the arena, and the rink space would double as conven­tion space when not in use by hockey teams.

UML Chancellor Marty Meehan said the univer­sity has been plan­ning for such an expansion, which will also include practice space for basketball teams and renovated and expanded locker rooms, since the university became a Division 1 school.

Plans call for the addi­tion to add roughly 50,000 square feet to the Tsongas Center, and the practice rink could even be used for public skating at times.

“This is a major expansion of the Tsongas Center at UMass Lowell,” Meehan said. “It’s critically important because of our ascension into Division 1.”

It is the additional space for conventions and trade shows that could mean the most to the City of Lowell.

“This is great news, because one of the things we want to do is attract more conventions to the city, and with this addition, the arena would provide more space that will enable us to attract larger conventions,” said City Manager Kevin Murphy.

Murphy said an expanded arena could even create a need for a hotel near the arena.

“The larger the conventions we can attract, the more need there would be for hotel rooms,” Murphy said.

Meehan agreed, though he said any hotel project would be a private endeavor. The arena expansion would be built between the existing structure and the Merrimack River, while any privatelydeveloped hotel would be on land between the arena and the Ayotte parking garage.

“We believe this expansion will result in a midsized hotel wanting to relocate to lot B next to the Tsongas Center,” Meehan said. “It will create jobs and it will create economic development, economic activity, and spur new growth and buildings near the Tsongas Center.” Meehan said the expansion would also allow for more events at the center, because the main ice would no longer be needed for practices. He said original plans for the arena included a practice rink that was never actually built.

“The building can’t reach its full economic potential without a practice rink,” Meehan said. “You don’t want to have practices or youth hockey leagues playing in a 6,000seat arena. They need to be in a practice rink with 800 seats.”

Meehan said the expansion would make the Tsongas Center “a major center that can attract world-class trade shows and events.”

State Rep. David Nangle and State Rep. Tom Golden came up with the idea for the bond and met with House leaders and Speaker Robert DeLeo to get the authorization added to a $1.3 billion bond bill that gained final passage from the Legislature on Wednesday.

They said they got the idea from another recent bond authorization aimed at expanding and improving the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center. Golden and Nangle said Meehan joined them for a meeting with DeLeo to push the bond authorization several weeks ago.

Passage of the bond authorization does not guarantee that the project will move forward, though.

Whether the money is actually borrowed is up to Gov. Deval Patrick, or his successor if Patrick leaves office before the money is borrowed. Many of the projects authorized by the bill passed Wednesday will either never be funded or will be funded by whomever replaces Patrick.

Nangle and Golden, both Democrats, said they will work with the city and UMass Lowell now to lobby Patrick to borrow the money before the end of his term. If that doesn’t happen, they will lobby Patrick’s replacement.

There is no deadline to get the money borrowed, though. Once approved by the Legislature, the bond authorization remains in effect forever unless another bill deauthorizes it.

“The governor is always interested in a track record of success, and I think the City of Lowell and UMass Lowell have that track record,” Nangle said. “The biggest question will be whether (Patrick) can do it by the end of the year.”

Meehan said the speed at which the authorization was passed is a testament to Lowell’s Statehouse delegation.

“We are very grateful and impressed with the work of the Lowell delegation on this,” Meehan said.

Other authorizations in the overall bill are $20 million each for House and Senate chamber renovations and repairs, $378 million for state facility improvements, and $312 million for health and human-services facility projects. Not all of the projects authorized by the bill will actually be built. The state is limited in the amount of money it can borrow from year to year and the menu of authorized projects has traditionally been much longer than the list of projects that actually take shape.

Material from the State House News Service was used in this report.
© 2014 lowell sun 07/31/2014

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Press Release - House Passes Legislation to Combat Substance Abuse Epidemic

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                    
July 2, 2014                                                                                                          

House Passes Legislation to Combat Substance Abuse Epidemic
Includes Several Measures to Curb Prescription Drug Abuse and Save Lives

(BOSTON) – State Representative Thomas Golden joined his colleagues in the House of Representatives in voting unanimously to pass a bill that will increase access to substance abuse treatment as well as create several measures to combat the current epidemic.

The bill aims to increase access to treatment by requiring all insurance plans in the Commonwealth to cover acute treatment services, clinical stabilization, and medical detox for at least ten days.  Patients will be able to access treatment without first having to obtain prior authorization.  Additionally, licensed drug and alcohol counselors will be added to the list of covered specialists to allow providers to bill insurers for their services. 

“This legislation is the first step in quelling the rise in substance addiction that is devastating the lives of people across the Commonwealth,” House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo said. “The bill provides the foundation for sustainable improvement by increasing access to care and changing the way we monitor and respond to unprecedented public health crises like the one we’re currently confronting.”

The bill creates several measures to combat abuse, including a provision to ensure access and utilization of abuse-deterrent pain medications.  These medications are specially engineered to be more difficult to abuse.  The bill expands the Drug Formulary Commission and requires them to recommend a list of abuse-deterrent, chemically-equivalent substitutions for opiates.

“Prescription drug abuse has reached epidemic proportions in our communities and we need to do more to battle this,” said Rep. Golden.  “This bill will make it more difficult for those to abuse medications and will also prevent drugs from being altered for use other than prescribed.  Technologies and products are on the market today that prevent someone from crushing, cutting, grinding, or abusing opiates.  The DEA and others in law enforcement will attest that medications with abuse-deterrent properties are making a difference in helping combat abuse.  This bill would ensure that they are accessible and utilized.  It will save lives in our communities and our state.”

The bill also authorizes the Department of Public Health (DPH) to create a list of prescription drop boxes and other safe locations where people can dispose of excess prescription drugs.

“Education about prescription abuse is critical,” Rep. Golden added.  “People need to know how important it is to take their medications as directed, store them securely, and properly dispose of them when no longer needed.”

Finally, the bill authorizes DPH to temporarily categorize a substance as “schedule I” on an emergency basis to avoid imminent hazard to public safety or to preserve public health.   

Press Release - House Establishes Framework for Paroling Juvenile Murderers

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                    
June 19, 2014                                                                                                                                 
House Establishes Framework for Paroling Juvenile Murderers

(BOSTON) – State Representative Thomas Golden joined his colleagues in the Massachusetts House of Representatives in passing legislation that creates a framework for determining parole eligibility for juveniles who have been convicted of first degree murder.

This legislation is in response to recent federal and state court rulings that declared life sentences without parole for juveniles to be unconstitutional.

The legislation applies to 14-18 year olds and creates two categories.  The first category applies to those who have committed felony murders.  These individuals would be eligible for parole in 20-25 years.  The second category concerns those convicted of first degree murder who showed “deliberate premeditation with malice aforethought.”  These individuals would be eligible for parole in 25-30 years.

The bill also protects the families of victims from having to testify excessively when a prisoner shows no signs of rehabilitation.  The parole board may use a 10-year setback period to extend the period of time before a prisoner may next present themselves before a parole board.

Rep. Golden said, “In light of recent judicial decisions, this bill aims to protect the citizens of our Commonwealth while staying within the confines of the Constitution.”

Finally, the legislation changes the terms of violating parole for juvenile murders from committing a crime to committing a violent offense.  This change safeguards juvenile offenders who are released on parole from violating their parole because of minor criminal behavior, such as operating an uninsured vehicle.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Market Basket Rally - 7-25-2014

Representative Thomas A. Golden, Jr., Senator Eileen Donoghue, Sal Pilla (94 yrs old, works 7 days a week at Market Basket) and Representative David Nangle