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Date: 7/2/2016 10:10 AM EDT

Wishing you all a safe, happy, and free Independence Day weekend!

U.S. National Archives and Records Administration

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.--Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.
He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.
In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.
Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.
We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

The 56 signatures on the Declaration appear in the positions indicated:
Column 1
   Button Gwinnett
   Lyman Hall
   George Walton
Column 2
North Carolina:
   William Hooper
   Joseph Hewes
   John Penn
South Carolina:
   Edward Rutledge
   Thomas Heyward, Jr.
   Thomas Lynch, Jr.
   Arthur Middleton
Column 3
John Hancock
Samuel Chase
William Paca
Thomas Stone
Charles Carroll of Carrollton
George Wythe
Richard Henry Lee
Thomas Jefferson
Benjamin Harrison
Thomas Nelson, Jr.
Francis Lightfoot Lee
Carter Braxton
Column 4
   Robert Morris
   Benjamin Rush
   Benjamin Franklin
   John Morton
   George Clymer
   James Smith
   George Taylor
   James Wilson
   George Ross
   Caesar Rodney
   George Read
   Thomas McKean
Column 5
New York:
   William Floyd
   Philip Livingston
   Francis Lewis
   Lewis Morris
New Jersey:
   Richard Stockton
   John Witherspoon
   Francis Hopkinson
   John Hart
   Abraham Clark
Column 6
New Hampshire:
   Josiah Bartlett
   William Whipple
   Samuel Adams
   John Adams
   Robert Treat Paine
   Elbridge Gerry
Rhode Island:
   Stephen Hopkins
   William Ellery
   Roger Sherman
   Samuel Huntington
   William Williams
   Oliver Wolcott
New Hampshire:
   Matthew Thornton

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Date: 6/30/2016 9:57 AM EDT

Just one day before the start of the new fiscal year, the Massachusetts Legislature is set to vote on a compromise budget released last night by the Joint Ways & Means Conference Committee.  The House and Senate budgets contained significant differences in both funding levels and policy areas that had to be worked out.  The measure makes modest cuts and banks on several assumptions related to revenues.  It introduces no new taxes or fees and introduces some increases in human services areas such as education and child protection services.

The measure will go to Governor Baker's desk, and he will have 10 days to veto any items with which he disagrees.  The Legislature will remain in formal sessions through the end of July, and they can override vetoes with a 2/3 vote in each chamber.

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Date: 6/16/2016 11:53 AM EDT

Budget, interrupted

It seems that revenues are less robust than budget writers and conferees thought at the outset of the budget process.  Speaker DeLeo has called for a "pause" as state leaders ponder how to close a gap that may be as large as $750M.  This comes as a select group of House and Senate members were beginning negotiations to reconcile differences between House and Senate versions of the budget for Fiscal Year 2017, which begins July 1st, two short weeks from now.

Credit: Boston Herald

Working the weekends

The end of formal sessions arrives on July 31st, even though many lawmakers will be attending their respective national conventions and so will be away for several days.  As a result, we can expect weekend sessions to help legislators get through some of the issues still awaiting action.  Weekend sessions are a rarity, but the clock is ticking.

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Date: 6/3/2016 11:58 AM EDT

Conference Committee named for FY17 Budget

The House and Senate have named conferees to settle differences between their respective versions of the FY17 budget.  On the House side, they are Ways & Means Chairman Brian Dempsey, Vice Chair Stephen Kulik, and Representative Todd Smola.  The Senate will be represented by Ways & Means Chair Karen Spilka, Vice Chair Sal DiDomenico, and Representative Vinny deMacedo.

Once the Conference Committee arrives at an agreement on the differences between the two budgets, their report incorporating those items will be presented for a vote by the House and Senate for a straight up or down vote.

Public Records Access in Massachusetts

Legislation to reform access to public records has been signed by Governor Baker.  The updated law will allow parties that sue and prevail after being denied access to public records to seek attorneys' fees.  Previously, the cost for such fees would be borne by the aggrieved party even when the case was decided in their favor.

Public Accommodations Rights for Transgender People

Now that both the House and the Senate have approved a version of legislation to extend public accommodation rights to transgender individuals, many are hoping that a final bill can make its way to Governor Baker's desk soon.  The legislation is aimed at preventing discrimination against transgender people in public places, and includes allowing them to use facilities that correspond with their gender identity, even if it differs from their biological gender.

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Date: 5/23/2016 5:15 PM EDT

Lots of proposed changes to consider

The Massachusetts Senate begins debate this week on the 1167 amendments proposed to the Fiscal Year 2017 budget released last week by the Senate Ways & Means Committee.

Many will seek increases in appropriations or new spending.  Some will propose policy changes covering a wide array of topics.

photo credit: malegislature.gov

Once the Senate completes its deliberations and releases an updated budget document, a Conference Committee will be appointed to work out the differences.

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Date: 5/15/2016 10:20 AM EDT

Senate budget to be released this week

The Senate budget is set to be released a day earlier than usual, on Tuesday.  This is their version of the FY17 budget passed a few weeks earlier by the House of Representatives.  The budget contains all major operational spending by the state for the upcoming fiscal year, but can be used as a vehicle to introduce or change policy as well.  We'll see what the Senate proposes this week.

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Date: 4/20/2016 5:30 PM EDT

The FY2017 House budget is coming up for debate

Next week, the House of Representatives will debate the FY2017 budget released by the Committee on Ways & Means.  They'll consider what to do with the 1,307 amendments that propose to change, in ways large and small, how the state will manage its purse this coming year. 

The Massachusetts fiscal year runs July 1 to June 30.  The House of Representatives will complete its work in April, the Senate will repeat the process with its version of the budget in May, and the idea is to have a single, final budget approved by both bodies and signed by the Governor in time for July, 1, 2016.

credit: malegislature.gov

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Date: 4/15/2016 9:30 AM EDT

One Boston Day

Today marks the third anniversary of the Boston Marathon Bombings, in which our community suffered the loss of four lives, and countless injuries and traumas. Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh recently declared that April 15 will be permanently designated One Boston Day, a day of kindness, community, and peace. Community events and random acts of kindness will be happening all over the city today.  Learn more at onebostonday.org.

House Ways & Means FY2017 Budget Released

On Wednesday, April 13, the Massachusetts House of Representatives Ways  released its FY2017 budget.  House lawmakers will review the document and file amendments, with debate scheduled to begin on Monday, April 25.

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Date: 3/22/2016 5:47 AM EDT

There Oughta Be A Law (or several hundred of them)

Joint Rule 10 Day (the deadline for bills to be reported out of committee) has come and gone, but bills are still being filed on various topics.  Some bills are time-sensitive special legislation that cannot abide by the calendar; others are on topics such as license plates, schools and roads.  Ours is an active State House and a busy Legislature.

More Thought Leaders Oppose Recreational Marijuana Industry Creation

You may have read that Sen. Jason Lewis, who chaired the Special Senate Committee on Marijuana, recently took a position in opposition to legalization of recreational marijuana.  He joins Governor Baker, Mayor Walsh, Sheriffs, DAs, and a host of others who have expressed serious concerns about the impacts of full legalization. Sen. Lewis had remained publicly neutral on the issue while the committee completed its work in anticipation of a potential ballot initiative this November. "I am opposed to the likely ballot question because this is the wrong time for Massachusetts to go down this road, and a commercial, profit-driven market is the wrong approach to take," he said. The Boston Globe has the story.  If you want to see the full report of the Special Committee, you can find it here.

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Date: 3/15/2016 12:18 PM EDT

The pace is quickening on Beacon Hill these days.  Governor Baker signed sweeping legislation aimed at helping the fight against opioid addiction in Massachusetts.  The bill is a compromise hammered out between the House and the Senate and enjoys broad support.  Some notable allies are Boston Mayor Marty Walsh,  Attorney General Maura Healey, Speaker Robert DeLeo, and Senate President Stan Rosenberg.

March 16th was the deadline (known as Joint Rule 10 Day) for most legislative committees (Health Care Financing is the exception) to report out their bills, making this a busy week at the State House.

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