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Shawn Dooley wins House seat

January 8, 2014 11:21 AM

House Republicans will soon add to their ranks after Shawn Dooley, the town clerk and School Committee chairman in Norfolk, cruised to victory Tuesday night over two challengers to capture the 9th Norfolk House seat vacated last year by former Rep. Daniel Winslow.

Dooley was able to hold the seat for the Republicans, defeating an independent and a Democrat, and will become the 29th member of the GOP House caucus when he is sworn in.

Dooley, 47, campaigned on small business creation, ending unfunded education mandates on cities and town, and making it easier for communities to regionalize services like public safety. He easily defeated independent Chris Timson of Walpole and Democrat Ed McCormick of Norfolk in Tuesday's special election.

The seat has been held by Republicans for two decades, including by former U.S. Sen. Scott Brown and state Sen. Richard Ross. The district includes Medfield, Millis, Norfolk, Plainville, Walpole and Wrentham.

– M. Murphy/SHNS

Nearly a dozen Massachusetts towns raise age for cigarette sales

December 26, 2013 06:43 PM

Nearly a dozen communities across the state within the past year have raised the age for tobacco sales higher than 18 years old, evidence of a slow-spreading movement that activists say will reduce cigarette use among teens.

Most states, including Massachusetts, allow 18-year-olds to buy tobacco products. Alaska, Alabama, Utah and New Jersey are the exceptions, all of which have pushed the legal age to 19.

Until last year, Needham was the only community in the United States that prohibited sales to anyone under 21 years old – a change the town made in 2005, according to D.J. Wilson, the tobacco control director at the Massachusetts Municipal Association.

Since then, a handful of other Bay State communities have followed behind. Brookline, Belmont, Sharon, Watertown, Westwood, Walpole and Sudbury have all outlawed the sale of tobacco to anyone under 21 within the past year, according to Wilson.

Canton, Ashland, Dedham and Arlington also changed their bylaws to prohibit sales of tobacco to anyone under 19, with Arlington planning to push its age restriction up to 21 years old over a three-year phase-in plan.

“In those towns we hope to see it is actually harder for kids to get their hands on tobacco products,” Wilson said, adding it is too soon to gather any data on smoking rates in those towns.

Other cities and towns across Massachusetts and the country are also looking to ban tobacco sales to young adults. This past spring, New York City became the first major U.S. city to ban the sale of tobacco to anyone under 21. In Massachusetts, the board of health in Newburyport is currently debating a measure that would outlaw sales to anyone under 21. The move faces resistance from the city mayor and some retailers.

“It is interesting in that it kind of cascaded pretty quickly,” Wilson said about the age restriction for tobacco sales.

Critics argue local officials are overstepping their authority, and anyone over 18 is an adult capable of making their own decisions about whether to smoke.

Jon Hurst, president of the Retailers Association of Massachusetts, called the moves “an overreach” by local governments. Anti-tobacco activists are attempting to take the path of least resistance by pushing age restrictions at the local level rather than face a more difficult battle to do it statewide, Hurst said.

“They try to pick off cities and towns here and there,” he said. “Local officials have to know that they are putting their own consumers and employers at a disadvantage.”

Activists credit Dr. Jonathan Winickoff, a pediatrician at Massachusetts General Hospital, and Dr. Lester Hartman, a pediatrician in Westwood, with spearheading the change one community at a time.

Winickoff said a slow, steady approach will have a major public health impact statewide.

“I think community by community is what we are going to do for a while, and that’s the way to have this move forward,” Winickoff told the News Service.

Winickoff said he thinks part of the reason the change is spreading is because local town officials have seen the data from Needham. In the eight years since the age-restriction went into effect, the smoking rate for Needham high school students dropped precipitously, according to Winickoff.

The smoking rate for adults who live in Needham is 8 percent compared to 18.1 percent statewide, according to data collected by the Tobacco Control Program at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. Deaths from lung cancer among men from Needham is 24 percent lower than the state average, while women from Needham die from lung cancer at a rate 33 percent lower than the statewide average for women, according to DPH data.

Approximately 90 percent of all smokers begin the habit before they are 21, according to Winickoff and other anti-tobacco activists.

Tami Gouveia, executive director of Tobacco Free Massachusetts, said she is not sure if age-restrictions will continue to catch on in other cities and towns as a way of reducing young people’s access to tobacco. “It is really at the beginning stages of folks starting to take a hard look at this,” she said.

Gouveia compared it to when the legal drinking age was raised from 18 to 21.

Newburyport Mayor Donna Holaday said she thinks increasing the legal age to buy tobacco is unnecessary and an inappropriate issue for the board of health to focus on.

“The legal age is 18. It is the age when you are an adult. You can fight in our wars. You have the right to vote. You can marry. And now we are going to tell you, ‘You can’t buy a pack of cigarettes if you want one,’” Holaday said.

Holaday said she will not dedicate any police resources to enforcing an age restriction on tobacco sales in Newburyport, leaving the question of how effective it might be in that city.

Increasing the legal age for cigarette sales will only hurt local retailers and send consumers to convenience stores in neighboring communities, Holaday said.

Hurst, from the Retailers Association, agreed. If cigarette sales are banned to anyone under 21 in one town, but legal in the next town, residents will buy them in the neighboring community, Hurst said. Secondly, he said, different rules on consumer products in the 351 cities and towns around the state will cause problems.

“I think our local officials have to be willing to stand up to these advocates who are pushing these agendas and tell them, ‘Go hop in your car and go to Boston to push a statewide agenda.’ It has no business being considered at the local level,” Hurst said.

Raw milk dairies in Foxborough and elsewhere at center of regulation debate

December 5, 2013 11:35 AM

An agricultural group is sticking up for state regulation of raw milk dairies, as the town of Foxborough weighs local oversight.

"Massachusetts sets tough standards for its dairy farmers and every day our farmers rise to meet those challenges and produce the best raw milk available anywhere,” said Winton Pitcoff, coordinator of the Northeast Organic Farming Association/Mass Raw Milk Network, in a statement.

Unpasteurized milk has a following around the country as gastrophiles seek out the unadulterated flavors of the beverage, according to news stories over recent years. There is also a patchwork of regulation in different states, with 33 states allowing raw milk sales, and opposition to its sale by the Food and Drug Administration.

“Milk and milk products provide a wealth of nutrition benefits. But raw milk can harbor dangerous microorganisms that can pose serious health risks to you and your family,” the FDA said on a webpage. The FDA said between 1993 and 2006, 1,500 people in the country were sickened from raw milk or cheese and raw milk is 150 times more likely to cause illness than pasteurized dairy products.

State regulations allow dairies to sell raw milk as long as it is cooled soon after it is milked, it has low levels of bacteria, the milk bottle is dated and permitted for sale for five days after bottling, and it contains a warning label. According to NOFA, the Department of Agricultural Resources has a “stellar” record of ensuring product safety, with no illnesses attributable to raw milk in two decades under the current regulatory structure.

“The state regulations attempt to ensure that the production of milk is done using healthy animals, that the activity is conducted in such a way as to prevent the introduction of contaminants, that the product is handled appropriately to inhibit spoilage in an effort to mitigate the risk of any consumer being exposed to harmful pathogens,” state Energy and Environmental Affairs spokeswoman Krista Selmi told the News Service, saying 28 farms sell raw milk retail. According to the Boston Globe, Lawton’s Family Farm’s owner has said the proposed raw milk rules in Foxborough could put the farm out of business.

- A. Metzger/SHNS

Survey seeks opinions on Norfolk County judges

October 21, 2013 10:00 AM

DEDHAM, Mass. (AP) — The state’s highest court is sending questionnaires to attorneys and court employees in Norfolk County, seeking input on 35 judges as part of an ongoing program to evaluate judicial performance.

The Supreme Judicial Court’s survey covers several categories including a judge’s knowledge of the law, fairness and impartiality, temperament on the bench and treatment of litigants, witnesses, jurors and attorneys.

Lawyers who have appeared in court in the county over the last two years will receive questionnaires.

All questionnaires are confidential and do not ask for the names of the respondents. The resulting reports also will be confidential and are given only to the judge being evaluated and to the chief justices of their courts.

Questionnaires will be accepted by the SJC through mid-December.

Curt Schilling selling off memorabilia at his Medfield home Saturday

October 7, 2013 04:37 PM

Curt Schilling, the former famed Red Sox pitcher and failed video-game business owner, is selling off items from his Medfield home this Saturday.

The sale will be short on sports memorabilia, aside from some bobbleheads, baseballs, and a Schilling bathrobe, but offer the more mundane items of Schilling’s domestic life, including candlesticks and couches, a microwave and vacuum cleaner, and even artificial potted plants.

Schilling has sold his assets, including items from his celebrated baseball career, to satisfy creditors since his video game company, 38 Studios, collapsed into bankruptcy in the spring of 2012. The bloody sock worn by Schilling when he pitched for the Boston Red Sox in the 2004 World Series auctioned for more than $92,000 earlier this year.

Schilling has sold his assets, including items from his celebrated baseball career, to satisfy creditors since his video game company, 38 Studios, collapsed into bankruptcy in the spring of 2012. The bloody sock worn by Schilling when he pitched for the Boston Red Sox in the 2004 World Series auctioned for more than $92,000 earlier this year.

Saturday’s estate sale will be held from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m in Medfield, , according to the company managing it, Consignworks, Inc. of Dudley.

When Schilling’s Providence -based video-game company went bankrupt, it defaulted on loan payments to the state of Rhode Island. To lure 38 Studios from Massachusetts, Rhode Island’s economic development agency had approved a $75 million in loans.

The agency is now suing Schilling and others arguing that it was misled. Neither Schilling nor his representatives could be immediately reached for comment.

Deirdre Fernandes can be reached at deirdre.fernandes@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @fernandesglobe.

Race to replace state Rep. Dan Winslow in Legislature begins

October 4, 2013 03:05 PM

The race to replace former State Representative Dan Winslow is on, with Winslow’s former campaign manager already an announced candidate for the Republican nomination and at least two Democrats considering a run for the seat.

Shawn Dooley – former campaign manager for Winslow and Norfolk’s town clerk – announced last month that he would run for the 9th Norfolk representative’s seat.

Stanley Nacewicz, Winslow’s Democratic opponent in 2010, said he is weighing a run. Edward J. McCormick III, a lawyer from Norfolk who ran for Congress as a Republican in 1992 against Barney Frank but is now a Democrat, also said he is considering running for the seat.

Potential candidates have until Oct. 29cq to submit nomination papers for the special election. Party primaries will be held on Dec. 10, with the general election on Jan. 7. The seat will be open again next fall. The district includes all of Norfolk, Plainville, and Wrentham, and parts of Walpole, Millis, and Medfield.

Winslow, who last spring ran unsuccessfully for the Republican nomination for the US Senate seat vacated by Secretary of State John Kerry, resigned last month to take a job in the private sector

Special election to replace Dan Winslow in House set for January

September 30, 2013 01:25 PM

A special election to replace former Rep. Daniel Winslow in the 9th Norfolk House district will be held on Jan. 7, 2014, the House ordered on Monday.

Less than half way through his second two-year term, Winslow resigned over the weekend, leaving his former House district unrepresented to take a position as vice president and general counsel at Rimini Street, a Las-Vegas-based global provider of "enterprise software support services."

The Norfolk Republican delivered his farewell address to colleagues last week during his final session as a member of the House. During that session, he cast a vote to repeal the sales tax on software design services.

After the House adopted the special election order, Secretary of State William Galvin announced primaries in the special election will be held on Dec.10 and that potential candidates will have until Oct. 29 to submit at least 150 nomination signatures to local officials for certification.

The district includes Norfolk, Plainville, Wrentham, one precinct in Walpole, one precinct in Millis, and two precincts in Medfield.

M. Murphy, M. Norton/SHNS

Rep. Dan Winslow to resign to work for software services firm

September 16, 2013 05:17 PM

Once considered to have a promising future in Bay State Republican politics, Rep. Daniel Winslow said Monday morning he plans to resign from the House later this month to pursue a private sector job in software services.

Winslow announced that he has accepted a position as vice president and general counsel at Rimini Street, a Las-Vegas-based global provider of “enterprise software support services.”

According to an aide, Winslow intends to keep his primary residence in Norfolk, but will do some work out of the San Francisco office. Winslow has submitted his resignation letter to the House clerk, effective Sept. 29, necessitating yet another special election in the Legislature and dropping the ranks of the minority party to 29.

“My excitement in joining Rimini Street is tempered by my sadness in leaving the House. I have been thankful for every minute of my service in the Legislature, for the honor of representing the people of the 9th Norfolk towns, and for the opportunity to contribute to debate and solutions to improve our Commonwealth,” Winslow said in a statement. “I hope that my efforts have made a difference and that the ideas I have advanced can be considered in future sessions. I fully appreciate the sacrifice of public service, by our legislators and their families, and hope to remain engaged in civic life in the future.”

Hours after Attorney General Martha Coakley announced Sunday that she would run for governor in 2014, Winslow Tweeted that he would have an announcement of his own about his future Monday morning. Many assumed the former judge and general counsel to Gov. Mitt Romney would run for attorney general after talking with colleagues in recent weeks about the possibility of seeking the top prosecutor job if Coakley stepped aside.

- M. Murphy/SHNS

Recidivist Massachusetts contractor faces more than $336k in fines

September 16, 2013 10:33 AM
The following was submitted by the U.S. Department of Labor:

Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration for willful, repeat and serious violations of workplace safety standards at worksites in Plymouth and Reading, Mass. The wood framing contractor faces a combined total of $336,200 in proposed fines following inspections by OSHA’s Braintree and Andover area offices begun in March.
 
The Plymouth inspection was initiated March 15 after a worker suffer broken ribs and leg injuries when an unbraced wooden roof truss system collapsed around him at a worksite located at 1 Shinglewood. The Reading inspection was opened the same day after OSHA received a complaint about possible safety hazards at the 1 Jacobs Way jobsite.
 
At the Plymouth worksite, OSHA found that the trusses were not adequately braced during their installation, exposing employees to being struck by them. The workers were also exposed to falls of up to 12 feet during the installation of the trusses. Inspectors identified an impalement hazard from uncovered anchor bolts and additional fall and struck-by hazards from a misused ladder and uninspected and untagged rigging. These conditions resulted in OSHA issuing Twin Pines two willful, two repeat and four serious citations with $196,200 in proposed fines. The repeat violations stem from similar hazards cited by OSHA in 2009 and 2011 at jobsites in Walpole, Mass. and Portsmouth, N.H.
 
OSHA found employees at the Reading worksite working without fall protection while framing exterior walls, making final deck attachments, constructing leading edges and receiving construction building materials. This lack of fall protection exposed them to falls of from 10 to 20 feet.  As a result, OSHA issued two willful citations, with $140,000 in fines, to Twin Pines. 
 
“The large penalties proposed in these cases reflect the gravity and recurring nature of these hazards, and demonstrate this employer’s knowing, active and ongoing disregard for its workers’ safety,” said Marthe Kent, OSHA’s New England regional administrator. “Falls remain the number one killer in construction work. Employers who deliberately and repeatedly fail to supply and ensure the use of effective fall protection safeguards are repeatedly gambling with their workers’ lives.” 
 
The citations can be viewed at http://www.osha.gov/ooc/citations/TwinPines896909_09062013.pdf and http://www.osha.gov/ooc/citations/Twin_Pines_Construction_Inc_896591_09-05-13.pdf.
 
Twin Pines Construction Inc. has been placed in OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program, which mandates targeted follow-up inspections to ensure compliance with the law. OSHA's SVEP focuses on recalcitrant employers that endanger workers by committing willful, repeat or failure-to-abate violations. Under the program, OSHA may inspect any of the employer's facilities if it has reasonable grounds to believe there are similar violations. 
 
A willful violation is one committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law's requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health. A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known. A repeat violation exists when an employer previously has been cited for the same or a similar violation of a standard, regulation, rule or order at any other facility in federal enforcement states within the last five years.
 
Twin Pines Construction Inc. has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and proposed penalties to comply, meet informally with OSHA’s area director or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
 
To ask questions, obtain compliance assistance, file a complaint or report workplace hospitalizations, fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, the public should call OSHA’s toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742) or the agency’s Braintree (617-565-6924) or Andover (978-837-4460) offices.
 
OSHA has created a Stop Falls Web page at http://www.osha.gov/stopfalls with detailed information in English and Spanish on fall protection standards. The page offers fact sheets, posters and videos that vividly illustrate various fall hazards and appropriate preventive measures.
 
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to ensure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit http://www.osha.gov. 

US Representative Stephen F. Lynch answers questions on Syria at Quincy town meeting

September 13, 2013 11:29 AM

US Representative Stephen F. Lynch, who opposes US military intervention in Syria, was in good company at town hall in Quincy Thursday.

The South Boston Democrat spent nearly two hours taking questions from a polite crowd, whose inquiries revealed a deep vein of doubt that military action would achieve positive results for the country and thanks that Lynch held that view.

“I really appreciate your commitment to voting against another war in the Middle East,” said Dorchester resident Jeff Klein, 67, echoing the sentiment of the majority of questioners in the Quincy High School auditorium.

The crowd of about 100 people, which was split between men and woman, skewed older and included a number of military veterans. Many asked questions of fact -- how can we know that the chemical weapons were used by Assad’s regime? -- while others just wanted to have their voice heard in opposition to striking Syria.

Lynch gave detailed, often nuanced, answers to every question he was asked, often peppering his responses with anecdotes from his many visits over the years to Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and other countries in the region.

He said that the high volume of constituent calls and emails about the potential intervention in Syria -- more than five to one against -- prompted him to hold the event.

On Aug. 31, President Obama said in an address he believed the US should take military action against Syria after the reported use of chemical weapons by the forces of Syrian leader Bashar Assad. But, he said, he would first ask Congress for its green light.

In the subsequent days, public opinion and the opinion of many members of Congress, both Democratic and Republican, appeared to be strongly opposed to authorizing Obama to strike Syria. Many in the all-Democratic Massachusetts congressional delegation, Lynch among them, expressed deep skepticism about military action in the civil war-torn Middle Eastern country.

But after a potential diplomatic settlement in which Syria would give up its chemical weapons began to gain traction, Obama announced Tuesday he had asked Congress postpone a vote on the authorization of force.

Before Lynch took questions Thursday evening, he spoke about what informed his opposition to authorizing the use of force and was repeatedly interrupted by applause from the audience.

He said there were two main reasons he was currently against intervention.

The first, he said, is that there is a “fundamental flaw in the foreign policy of the United States to unilaterally attack Syria without meaningful international support.”

The second was that “the course of military action that has been chosen, as described Secretary [of State John F.] Kerry has I think a pretty unlikely probability of success in terms achieving what we would hope for in Syria.”

Lynch’s position puts him at odds with Obama, an issue he addressed early in the forum.

“I love my President, but, based on my own reading of this -- and this is where democracy with a small d comes into play -- I think that’s the wrong the decision,” Lynch said.

Lynch staffers provided copies of the authorization resolution, which many in the audience flipped through over the course of the event.

Heba Eid, 28, was one of the only questioners who expressed support of US military action in Syria.

“I don’t think Bashar al-Assad is going to agree to any kind of diplomacy unless there is military pressure on him,” Eid said. “I think that the House should vote for military action.” She said that doing nothing in the face of the alleged chemical weapons use would send the wrong message to Assad.

Lynch, engaged in a lengthy but respectful back and forth with her, replied that “There are a lot of options between bombing and doing nothing.”

In the televised primetime address on Tuesday, Obama also said that taking action in Syria did not mean the US would get involved in every humanitarian crisis across the world.

“America is not the world’s policeman. Terrible things happen across the globe, and it is beyond our means to right every wrong. But when, with modest effort and risk, we can stop children from being gassed to death...I believe we should act,” the President said.

But that message had not resonated among the people in the auditorium Thursday night.

Quincy resident Russell Erikson, 91, served as a pilot in World War II and was the first member of the public to arrive at the town hall. He said he was opposed to a military intervention in Syria, not wanting to see any young American men or women die in that conflict.

“We can’t police the whole world,” he said.

Joshua Miller can be reached at joshua.miller@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jm_bos. A version of this post appeared on the Political Intelligence blog.

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