Szczepaniak Calls for Budget and Rules Reform
DALTON, Mass. — Thomas Szczepaniak, candidate for state representative in the 2nd Berkshire District, is calling for reform of legislative rules and budget debate for the upcoming House session beginning in January.
“Far too much of the people’s business is done behind closed doors and out of public view on Beacon Hill,” Szczepaniak said. “Many of the biggest decisions at the State House are made in secret.”
Because the Legislature has exempted itself from the state’s open-meeting and public records laws, deliberations are often done in private and hidden from the public. Szczepaniak noted that because one of the first orders of business to be considered by the 187th General Court will be the adoption of rules governing House sessions for the 2011-2012 term, “there will be an immediate opportunity to institute some reforms for more open state government.”
Szczepaniak said he would favor open party caucuses as exist in Colorado, Montana, Vermont and other states. “Clearly, legislators gather at caucuses to discuss the public's business and when they do, the public has a right to observe these discussions and to be informed about what happens at those meetings."
Szczepaniak listed several other reforms as top priorities including:
*Requiring recorded roll call votes on any tax or fee increase.
*Ending so-called ‘consolidated amendments’ to the annual state budget which are negotiated in back rooms off the House chamber which are not accessible to the public and the media.
*Streamlining the appropriations for the state court system to allow judicial managers to allocate resources where they are most needed.
“The recent patronage scandal in the Probation Department is yet another reminder that we need to stop micro-managing the judicial branch through the budget process. We are now the only state where the Legislature uses the budget process to exert control over the judiciary. Our judiciary is a separate, independent branch of government but is treated like a legislative step-child,” Szczepaniak said.
"Each court unit (superior, district, juvenile, housing, probate and family, etc.) should be given a line-item appropriation and be allowed to allocate those resources as judicial managers see fit rather than the Legislature dictating the funding levels and staffing decisions for each court across the state. The recent Court Management Advisory Board report called our state Probation Department ‘dysfunctional’ and I favor giving power back to judges to hire and supervise key court personnel including probation officers and assistant clerks," he continued.
Szczepaniak: Bunker Hill Day Holiday Good Place to Begin Budget Cuts
Tom Szczepaniak is calling for the state House of Representatives to follow the state Senate and eliminate the Bunker Hill Day and Evacuation Day state holidays. “At a time when our communities are about to be hit with deep reductions in state aid, cuts to local libraries and the closing of state parks, lets end these holidays for a select few in one county and save the taxpayers $5 million per year,” Szczepaniak said.
Szczepaniak listed a number of other programs and line items that could be pruned from state spending in advance of the fiscal year 2012 appropriations process. “With the loss of the federal stimulus funds and the already depleted rainy day account, we need to get serious about making common sense cuts now because the budget for next year looks to be even bleaker,” he said.
“The Legislature can set an example by tightening its belt first. Why do we need a House Committee on Personnel & Administration to dole out office space and assign staffing levels when we have a House personnel office which does the very same thing?” Szczepaniak asked. “With the federal stimulus program sun-setting, let’s get rid of the Joint Committee on Federal Stimulus Oversight. We can also get by with fewer court officers at the State House. These reforms would allow us to whittle down the more than $39 million for legislative operations.”
Additional budget cuts suggested by Szcepaniak:
Eliminate the Governor’s Council for an annual savings of $500,000
Cut $506,704 for the Suffolk County Social Law Library, the only free public law library which is closed to the public.
Cut $145 million for outside counsel services at state agencies.
End public subsidies for the Hynes Convention Center ($7.8 million) and Boston Convention & Exhibition Center ($10 million).
“The Governor’s Council is a colonial anachronism and I would task our state Senate with voting to confirm judicial appointments as is done at the federal level,” Szczepaniak said. “Paying for outside lawyers when each agency has their own legal counsel makes no sense either. As for the convention centers, they need to operate without taxpayer bailouts.”
Massachusetts Motorcycle PAC Backs Szczepaniak
The Massachusetts Motorcycle Political Action Committee has endorsed Dalton Selectman Tom Szczepaniak in the race for the 2nd Berkshire District state representative seat.
"Tom's experience with transportation and improving our infrastructure at Berkshire Regional Planning Commission combined with his commitment to ensuring motorcyclists freer and safer conditions on Bay State roads and highways make him the best choice for state representative," said MMA Berkshire County representative Joe Tatro. "The MMPAC is always happy to help candidates like Tom Szczepaniak, who understand motorcyclists' issues and are concerned with their safety while using our public roads."
Szczepaniak Promises To Keep Officials Accountable
DALTON, Mass. — To prove how accessible he is to the public, Tom Szczepaniak announced his cell phone number to a crowd of about 100 people at the Dalton American Legion.
The Lanesborough native, who views himself as a "working man's candidate," officially launched his campaign to become the state representative of the 2nd Berkshire District on Wednesday night. The 43-year-old said he's ready to bring his work boots to Boston.
Szczepaniak is the owner of Variety Trucking & Demolition.
"We need a business-minded person with deep, local government experience," he said. "Not some greenhorn, and not another lawyer."
Szczepaniak will square off against fellow Democrats Paul Mark, of Hancock, and latecomer to the race Noreen Surinar of Middlefield, in the Sept. 14 primary. The victor will then take on the Republican primary winner and independent Stefan G. Racz of Buckland in November's general election.
|Tom Szczepaniak wants to get rid of Evacuation Day and Bunker Hill Day.|
Currently in his third term as a Dalton selectman and president of the Berkshire County Selectmen's Association, Szczepaniak said he'd draw on his wide-ranging experience in local government and his commitment to the people. If elected, he promised to keep legislators honest in an attempt to control spending.
To make state officials more accountable, he suggested the elimination of two Suffolk County holidays given annually to government offices.
"We need to get rid of Evacuation Day and Bunker Hill Day, and save $5 million dollars a year," he said.
He also came down on the amount of money spent on lawyers by state agencies.
"No more gold-plated handouts for outside counsel — $145 million for private lawyers and in the public defenders office, $35 million. Not happening [if I'm elected]," he said. "Why are we lavishing money on pricey law firms when each agency has its own legal staff?"
Other platforms included in his speech:
• To prevent casinos from coming to Massachusetts
• To stop micromanaging the judicial branch through the budgeting process
• To support the green energy movement
• To shift more focus on public schools and public transportation
|About 100 supporters attended Szczepaniak's campaign kick-off on Wednesday at the Dalton American Legion.|
For more information on Szczepaniak's campaign, visit his Web site here.
As chairman of the Dalton Senior Center Feasibility Committee, Szczepaniak was instrumental in securing an override for the creation of a new senior center. The groundbreaking for the new building will be on June 7.
"It's a huge accomplishment," he said. "We've been working on that for about 12 years. Our elders will finally have a place that they deserve."
The 2nd Berkshire District consists of 22 towns in Berkshire, Franklin and Hampshire counties. Denis E. Guyer, of Dalton, will not run for re-election after three terms.
Szczcepaniak Kicking Off 2nd Berkshire Campaign
Tom Szczepaniak of Dalton will formally announce his candidacy for state representative for the 2nd Berkshire District on Wednesday, May 26, at 5:30PM at the American Legion Post 155, 258 North St. (Route 9) in Dalton.
Szczepaniak, 43, is in his third term as a Dalton selectman and also serves on a number of civic and community boards. He is owner of Variety Trucking & Demolition in Lanesborough.
A Democrat, he will face off in the Sept. 14 primary against Paul Mark of Hancock; the winner will meet the Republican primary winner in November.
The 2nd Berkshire District, consisting of 22 mostly rural towns in Berkshire, Franklin and Hampshire counties, has been represented by Denis E. Guyer of Dalton. Guyer, a Democrat, has declined to stand for re-election.