The Sun Chronicle: State lawmaker wants to up fines for jaywalkers; Norfolk rep says should be left up to communities

By Jim Hand

The Legislature has been trying to deal with weighty issues, such as getting the MBTA to run on time,

Now, another issue has surfaced — jaywalking.

State Sen. Harriette Chandler, D-Worcester, has filed a bill to greatly increase fines for crossing a street outside of crosswalks.

The fine is currently $1 for the first offense and $2 for subsequent offenses.

Chandler said that isn’t enough of a deterrent.

She testified at a recent Joint Transportation Committee hearing that elderly residents in her district have been killed trying to crossing the street.

The senator also said 80 percent of pedestrian fatalities come while the victim is jaywalking.

The violation is commonplace, and something should be done, she said.

Offenders will keep jaywalking if the fine is only $1, she said.

Chandler would increase the fine for a first offense to $25, second offense to $50, and third and subsequent violations to $75.

Not everyone is convinced, however.

State Rep. Shawn Dooley, R-Norfolk, said the issue should be left to cities and towns.

He said traffic situations can vary greatly in places like Boston, for example, compared with Wrentham.

“I’m not a fan of the jaywalking bill because I believe that should be a town-by-town decision,” he said.

“I might be biased, but I honestly feel that the people who live in each town are the best-suited to determine if a fine needs to be increased because there is an actual problem that needs to be addressed.”

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The Sun Chronicle: Dooley appointed in Plainville

The Plainville Fire Department held a swearing-in and badge-pinning ceremony for new firefighters and rank advancements Monday night. The ceremony was held at An Unlikely Story bookstore on South Street (Route 1A).

Above: State Rep. Shawn Dooley, R-Norfolk, gets his badge pinned by his wife Cici Van Tine. Dooley was sworn in as a call firefighter. Below: Plainville Town Clerk Ellen Robertson swears in new Fire Superintendent Edwin Harrop, Jr. Harrop also received his 35-year pin. At left is Plainville Frie Chief Justin Alexander.

 

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The Sun Chronicle: Area lawmakers on losing side of requiring constitutional amendment to use state’s stabilization fund

By Jim Hand

Every area legislator supported a proposed constitutional amendment Wednesday that would have required a two-thirds vote to dip into the state stabilization fund, but it still lost by a wide margin.

The 43-109 vote was mostly along party lines, but state Sen. James Timility, D-Walpole, and Rep. Paul Heroux, D-Attleboro, sided with Republicans on the losing side.

Heroux said he voted in favor because it would give bond-rating services the impression the Legislature was being more fiscally responsible. The services have expressed some concern about the state’s use of the reserve money to balance its budget.

The money would still be available in a pinch, Heroux said, because the Democratic majority in the Legislature never seems to have trouble getting a two-thirds vote on items such as overriding a gubernatorial veto.

State Rep. Shawn Dooley, R-Norfolk, said the two-thirds requirement would put the Legislature under the same constraints it imposes on cities and towns.

“I was surprised that this failed, especially after our bond ratings outlook was downgraded to negative last fall because the Legislature has been raiding the emergency fund and depleting it for the past few years,” Dooley said.

“I really believe that in order to take taxpayer money out of the emergency fund should be more than a simple majority and should truly be an emergency, not to just fund earmarks and special interests,” he said.

State Rep. Jay Barrows, R-Mansfield, took a similar position.

“Most of our towns require two-thirds on money articles. The state should follow the same standard. It’s the people’s money. Careful attention should be used when we vote to spend our savings,” he said.

State Reps. Betty Poirier, R-North Attleboro, and Steven Howitt, R-Seekonk, and state Sen. Richard Ross, R-Wrentham, also voted in favor of the failed amendment.

The vote came during a joint session of the House and Senate to consider proposed amendments to the state Constitution.

The session recessed until April, however, before most of the items could be debated, including one calling for a tax on millionaires to fund education and transportation.

Poirier said there was no explanation for the recess, but she suspects legislative leaders do not want to deal with the millionaire tax.

On the bright side, she said, this was the first time since 2007 the leaders allowed any votes in the joint session.

“Usually it’s gavel in, gavel out,” she said.

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The Sun Chronicle: Commuter rail meetings scheduled in Norfolk, Mansfield

By Stephen Peterson

Public forums are scheduled this week in Norfolk and Mansfield to discuss the MBTA’s commuter rail service.

A public forum is scheduled Thursday in Norfolk to discuss the Franklin line of the MBTA Commuter Rail.

The session is scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. at the Norfolk Public Library.

The Franklin line passes through town where there is a train stop and was affected by last winter’s snowy and frigid weather, as was the Providence line, which includes stops in Attleboro and Mansfield.

Last year’s harsh winter led to multiple train cancellations.

Representatives of Keolis, the company that runs the commuter rail, are scheduled to explain steps taken to improve upon last winter’s service and other plans, address lingering concerns and present solutions.

The Norfolk session is one of two local public meetings scheduled this week to discuss changes to local rail schedules.

A second forum is scheduled from 6 to 8 p.m Wednesday at Mansfield High School concerning changes to the Providence line which includes stations in Attleboro and Mansfield.

The Norfolk meeting will be hosted by state Rep. Shawn Dooley, R-Norfolk, state Sen. Richard Ross, R-Wrentham, and state Rep. Jeffrey Roy, D-Franklin.

Dooley will present the MBTA’s schedule changes, as well as the proposed fare increases, and take public comment on both of those issues.

More than 2,000 riders use the Franklin line.

“The commuter rail is a vital resource for our residents and we are working hard to make sure every effort is taken to increase reliability while expanding service for our towns,” Dooley said. “We are thrilled that they listened to our suggestions of expanding lines, as well as creating an express train, and I am sure these changes will pay huge dividends to the commuters.”

The commuter rail has already started experiencing delays in what so far has been a mild winter, and the Franklin line is only running on schedule 86 percent of the time, Dooley said.

“For those who rely on the commuter rail on a daily basis, this meeting will be a great opportunity to ask questions and hear directly from Keolis officials regarding service improvements and preparations during the winter season,” Ross said.

“I encourage all of my constituents interested to stop by and lend their voice to this important discussion.”

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The Milford Daily News: Roy, Dooley to host MBTA forum

State Rep. Shawn Dooley, R-Norfolk, Sen. Richard Ross, R-Wrentham, and Rep. Jeff Roy, D-Franklin, will host a community meeting to discuss the Franklin Line of the MBTA commuter rail.

Last year’s harsh winter saw multiple cancellations, which affected the area significantly. Many residents travel to and from Boston every day for work, so a lack of public transportation can cause lasting damage to people’s individual finances as well as the Massachusetts economy as a whole. The commuter rail has experienced delays this year and the Franklin line is only running on schedule 86 percent of the time.

On Thursday, Feb. 4, the area delegation will host this public forum to discuss this year’s winter preparation, what changes have been made to improve the commuter rail, and what future changes to the commuter rail might be. Dooley will also be presenting the MBTA’s schedule changes as well as the proposed fare increases and take public comment on both of these issues. The meeting will be held at the Norfolk Public Library at 6:30 p.m. and will have officials from Keolis, the company responsible for running the commuter rail, on hand to explain the various winter preparations and steps they have taken to improve upon last year’s performance.

After a short presentation from Keolis and Dooley, the meeting will open up for any questions the community may still have. Please contact the Dooley’s office of with any questions or concerns at 617-722-2810 or Shawn.dooley@mahouse.gov.

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The Sun Chronicle: Attleboro area activists on the road, stumping for presidential candidates

By Jim Hand

ATTLEBORO – Ellen Parker of Attleboro wants Hillary Clinton to win the presidency so much that she was willing to drive 2,600 miles round trip to Iowa to walk through mud and snow to campaign for the Democratic frontrunner.

When Parker finally gets home, she intends to rest up a bit and then head out to New Hampshire for more campaigning.

“I have been waiting for Hillary to get elected for eight years,” she said, explaining her passion for the campaign.

“I really, really believe she has to be our next president.”

Parker is one of scores of local activists who every four years hit the road to help their favorite presidential candidate.

Most, however, spend a day or two in nearby New Hampshire.

U.S. Rep. Joseph Kennedy III has organized trips to New Hampshire with a number of volunteers eager to work for Clinton.

State Rep. Shawn Dooley, R-Norfolk, attended a couple of events for Republican candidate Marco Rubio, a senator from Florida.

And then there is Patrick Reynolds, 20, a selectman in North Attleboro. He said he went to the Granite State with other college Republicans to work for Rubio for a weekend.

He said he knocked on doors, made phone calls and attended town meeting events.

Reynolds said it was a great opportunity to see the democratic process up close. New Hampshire and Iowa are unique, he said, because the candidates do the type of retail campaigning that allows voters to actually meet them.

But, Parker and companion Bill Bowles took their devotion to another level, driving for two days to get to Iowa.

Parker said most of the trip was along Interstate 80, a popular route for truckers that is lined with fast food joints.

When they arrived, they spent their time walking down muddy dirt roads in the rural areas of Ames, knocking on doors at family farms, trying to convince Democrats to attend the local caucus and vote for Clinton.

The Iowans have been extremely friendly and anxious to talk, even the ones who support other candidates.

One man she met spent a half hour telling her the only reason he was voting for Republican Donald Trump is he thinks the New York real estate mogul is funny.

A Democrat told Parker she likes Clinton, and believes she would do a good job, but her heart tells her to vote for Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Besides her loyalty to Clinton, Parker said another motivation for going to the Hawk Eye State was to observe its caucus system.

Rather than casting votes at the polls, as primary states do, Iowans gather in groups called caucuses that then divide into smaller groups supporting various candidates.

“I’ve always wanted to see the Iowa caucuses unfold,” she said.

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