FEE OR TAX DISCUSSION OVER STORM-WATER CONTINUES IN WESTFORD

Selectmen and Finance Committee to Go on Record With Recommendations This August

The discussion about how to fund compliance costs for an EPA imposed management plan continues in earnest this month.  The Board of Selectmen have decided to delay their decision on whether to back a fee or a tax approach until their August 27, 2019 meeting.   The Finance Committee will also opine on this issue at a meeting scheduled for 7.00PM at Town Hall on Tuesday August 13th.  One issue for discussion is town counsel’s recent report, which endorsed imposition of the fee approach.  However, the report contained information that would seem to undermine town counsel’s own position.

Town Counsel revealed that the Massachusetts Department of Revenue took issue with the “fee” approach.  The Department has apparently informed the town that the proposed “fee” scheme is “a tax not a fee”.   Additionally, town counsel’s analysis of the so-called “Emerson Rule”, a rule established by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, to differentiate between fees and taxes,  offered substantial ammunition to anyone, who might seek to challenge the “fee”.   The analysis presented a three pronged test, established by the state’s highest court,  to determine the difference between fees and taxes.

One element of the test is “particularization”.  Under this element, the town must show that any fee imposed on a rate payer, goes to support a service, which exclusively benefits the rate payer, and no one else.  If it can be shown that the service offers benefits beyond the rate payer, the fee is a tax.  Considering the fact that the stated intent of the storm-water program is to ensure clean water for the entire population, not just the rate payers, it would seem that an argument could be made that a fee system would fail this test.

A second test is “voluntariness”.   The town must show that the property owners, who are assessed fees, have the opportunity to refuse the service.  This is an extremely high bar that the “fee” proponents must clear.  Town counsel has advised the Board of Selectmen, that property owners can avoid the fee by removing all impervious surfaces on their properties.   Yet, this would be cost prohibitive for many.  In order to avoid the fee, property owners would have to tear-up all their hardtop, and make significant modifications to their roofs.  On its face this would appear absurd and hardly voluntary.  The rate payers would be forced into these expensive modifications, because of a compulsion generated by state action.  If the town’s property owners did remove or mitigate their impervious surfaces, and fees were avoided, the storm-water compliance effort would collapse according to Keith Reidling, the town’s consultant.  It is obvious that the proponents of the “fee approach” are betting on this subtle, but effective element of economic coercion to fund their program.

The third test is “specific compensation”.  According to the Emerson rule all revenue generated from the storm-water fees would have to replace all the funds currently applied out of the general fund to storm-water management.  This is the lowest hurdle for storm-water fee advocates.  However, it opens some very interesting issues.  Under “specific compensation”, the money charged by the fees cannot be used to generate revenue for anything other than the service it purports to provide.  The town manager has hinted that the fee based fund would free up approximately 650K in revenue to be applied elsewhere in the town budget.   If that re-application were to occur, could the argument be made that the storm-water fee was in fact used to generate general revenue ?  Proper deference to the “Emerson Rule” would seem to require a 650K rebate back to the taxpayers.

The Board of Selectmen are getting a bit anxious over this issue.  Assurances were made to the town by  Selectmen during a Town Meeting discussion last March.  At that time the Board expressed their enthusiastic willingness to promote dialogue over this issue.  However, at a July 23rd  meeting, the Selectmen appeared all in on the fee system.   Tom Clay, Scott Hazelton, Elizabeth Almeida, and Andrea Peraner Sweet all expressed their support for the fee system over all other approaches.   Member Mark Kost was not at the meeting, but has led the effort to move the fee approach forward.   For a moment, it appeared that the Board was going to vote in support of fees, in violation of their pledge to wait until August 15th.   Finance committee members, who attended the Board of Selectmen meeting, scrambled to remind them of their commitment to wait until the following  month to render a verdict.  It was also strongly recommended that an opinion from the Finance Committee be received before the Selectmen take their final vote.   This they agreed to do.

MassGOP Chairman Jim Lyons calls on lawmakers to review analysis of new abortion legislation

July 2, 2019

BOSTON — Massachusetts Republican Party Chairman Jim Lyons is calling on lawmakers to read a detailed third-party analysis of legislation that would allow for abortions after 24 weeks.

A brief produced by the Charlotte Lozier Institute, titled Sweeping Away Commonsense Protections for Women and Children, exposes several of the latest proposal’s dangerous provisions.

The bill would repeal meaningful state protections for unborn children and pregnant women considering abortion and would eliminate explicit protections for children born alive during abortions,” writes the institute’s Mary E. Harned.

The analysis breaks down piece-by-piece the specifics of what the proposal, HB 3320 in the Houseand S 1209 in the Senate, would do to current state law.

“Every member of the state Legislature needs to read this analysis,” Lyons said. “Every member of the state Legislature should know the facts before even considering voting in support of this dangerous proposal.”

During the bill’s formal hearing last month, the vice president of the Massachusetts Medical Society was apparently unaware that Section 12P would be removed from current state law regulating abortion. Specifically, 12P requires doctors to “take all reasonable steps” to “preserve the life and health of the aborted child” in the event of a failed abortion.

“That was a dangerous example of ignorance,” Lyons said. “The fact that the Massachusetts Medical Society was somehow unaware of the most radical provision tucked inside of this bill underscores the need for this in-depth analysis.”

Democrats scheming to alter Massachusetts Constitution in bid to raise taxes

BOSTON — Massachusetts Republican Party Chairman Jim Lyons is sounding the alarm on the Democrats’ newest scheme to unleash a graduated income tax system on the commonwealth, a proposal voters have previously rejected and the high court ruled was unconstitutional.

On Wednesday, Democrats are slated to advance the surtax proposal, a process that requires amending the Massachusetts Constitution.

Supporters of the measure claim it’s restricted to forcing the wealthy — who already pay the most in taxes — to fork over “their fair share.”

A closer look reveals Democrats want more. Three Democrats — Wellesley state Rep. Alice Peisch, Gloucester state Rep. Ann-Margaret Ferrante, and North Andover state Sen. Barry Finegold — want to dump the state’s constitutionally-protected flat tax system altogether.

Their amendment would abolish the “uniform rate,” meaning the Democrats would then be free to raise taxes on everyone.

“The same party that voted to give themselves a huge pay raise wants more of your money,” Lyons said. “This is a blatant cash grab masquerading as class warfare.”

A constitutional amendment is needed because the Massachusetts Constitution forbids a graduated tax system. Democrats say they want to earmark revenue generated by the new tax for transportation and education projects.

“We need to address spending first,” Lyons said. “For example, it costs Massachusetts seven times more than it does New Hampshire to build the same mile of roadway.”

The Democrats need yes votes from at least half of the state Legislature in successive sessions in order for the proposal to land on the November 2022 ballot. This week’s vote marks the first step. Another constitutional convention vote during the 2021-2022 legislative session will determine whether the proposal goes before voters.

“The tax is simply a bad idea,” Lyons said. “Massachusetts doesn’t have a revenue problem.

“It has a spending problem.”

Be Republican, Don’t Be Intimidated

Being silent is the route to social, political oblivion

WE REPUBLICANS in Massachusetts often feel the brunt of intimidation from our neighbors, co-workers, and sometimes even family members.Kangas-Jeanne-GOP-620x410-1

 The listener hears us speak approvingly of the Republican Party, of conservatives, or of FOX news; and if we speak of our frustration with the mainstream media or criticize it for being biased and broadcasting its own political views and spinning false news, the listener hears “right wing,” “narrow minded,” or downright “stupid.”

Eyebrows raise, usually before voices, to tell us we’ve uttered a forbidden phrase, committed a social gaff. It’s not unnatural to feel “whoops, I goofed,” that we’ve offended the listener, that we erred. Often that’s enough to quiet us. If we persist, we feel, it could get worse, even heated. So we shut up. We’ve been intimidated and silenced.

Social pressure is omnipresent and daunting to overcome. I’ve met many newcomers to Massachusetts who were registered Republicans in their state of origin, but once here register unenrolled. They accepted the gossip that Massachusetts is a Democrat state (not a democratic one, as that would require transparency—and Massachusetts has earned the title of the least transparent state in the union), and that there are virtually no Republicans here.

The newcomer, like many Massachusetts voters, wants to fit in, to be accepted. The newcomer is intimidated, and doesn’t register as Republican.

Fearing to be socially ostracized, we keep silent. We all want to be accepted, to be popular. However to remain silent is the route to social and political oblivion. So, what to do?

Be Republican. Don’t be intimidated.

Let the listener know that your views are as important to you as theirs may be to them, and that respecting differences is the foundation of free speech and of our democratic Republic.

After all, the Democrats allege that they respect differences, right? Well, you have differences – different views from theirs, and you are glad to share them.

Being a Republican means standing up for your views, your candidates and elected officials, and your party. Most people will respect you for standing up, when you do that respectfully and patiently, even though they disagree. And when you run into someone who is espousing very liberal or far-left views, simply let them know that you disagree but are listening. Then, firmly insist on reciprocity — that the other person listen to you in return. Don’t be intimidated — be Republican. Spread the word.

–  Jeanne Kangas, the Vice Chairman of the MA Republican Party

Rally Held in Westford to Oppose Late-term Abortion/Infanticide Bills

More than 200 people gathered on the Westford Common Thursday, May 16th to support life and oppose proposed changes to the state’s abortion law.

House Bill 3320 and Senate Bill 1209 would expand abortions beyond 24 weeks gestation up until and even after birth. Babies born alive would be subject to legalized infanticide in the event a baby survived an abortion attempt.

Participants in the rally opposed several other provisions in the bills. The proposed bills would eliminate requirements that late-term abortions be performed in a hospital by a physician. They would expand taxpayer funding of abortion. And, the bills would eliminate the requirement that a girl age 17 or younger have the consent of a parent, guardian or judge.

The rally, organized by Westford resident and Westford Republican Town Committee Chair, Kathy Lynch, included collaboration from area churches, pro-life organizations, and civics organizations. Lynch said, “Sadly, many are unaware of the provisions in these bills or choose to turn a blind eye to them. As people learn the truth, they are horrified. This rally allowed participants to show their opposition in a peaceful manner.”

The wife of MA Republican Party Chair, Bernadette Lyons, Republican State Committeewoman, Debbie Dugan, and  C. J. Williams of Massachusetts Citizens for Life were among the speakers. Republicans came out in high numbers. People of all faiths, color, creed and political persuasion were invited to attend. C.J. Williams urged the crowd to contact their State Senators and Representatives to vote against these “anti-woman, anti-girl” bills. Westford State Representative, Jim Arciero, is a co-sponsor of House Bill 3320.

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Pro-life sidewalk counselor, Bernadette Lyons, speaks to crowd of 200+ people.

The rule of law returns to Massachusetts

BOSTON — Include Massachusetts Republican Party Chairman Jim Lyons as among those who cheered the decision by U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling to charge a local judge with obstruction and perjury after she allegedly helped a criminal illegal alien avoid a third deportation.

“Finally, we have someone committed to putting the safety of our citizens ahead of identity politics,” Lyons said about Lelling.

In his announcement Thursday, Lelling said Newton District Court Judge Shelley Joseph’s indictment “is about the rule of law.”

“The allegations in today’s indictment involve obstruction by a sitting judge, that is intentional interference with the enforcement of federal law, and that is a crime,” Lelling said. “We cannot pick and choose the federal laws we follow, or use our personal views to justify violating the law.”

Democrats, including Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, appeared shaken by Lelling’s comments.

“Today’s indictment is a radical and politically-motivated attack on our state and the independence of our courts,” Healey said in a statement.

Lyons offered a simple question for Healey.

“A Democrat judge gets caught red-handed aiding and abetting an illegal immigrant who is already in court to face drug-dealing charges, perjures herself, and Democrat Maura Healey’s first reaction is to call it a politically-motivated attack,” Lyons said. “Who does the attorney general honestly think she works for?

“Does the state’s top prosecutor think she answers to the Democratic Party or to the law-abiding taxpayers she is assigned to protect?”

Healey was not the only Democrat to pile on Lelling for following the letter of the law.

U.S. Rep. Joseph Kennedy III said Lelling’s decision “threatens the safety of our community” while a spokesman for U.S. Sen. Ed Markey called it “an unwarranted intrusion by the Trump Justice Department into Massachusetts state affairs.”

Their comments did not surprise Lyons.

“It’s finally time for people in positions of power to recognize there are not two sets of laws,” Lyons said. “U.S. District Attorney Lelling understands this, and it is time for the Radical Democrats to understand the rule of law matters.

“The Unsafe Communities Act” Commentary on sanctuary state legislation

By Massachusetts Republican Party Chairman Jim Lyons, April 17, 2019

A bill currently before the state Legislature seeking to transform Massachusetts into a “sanctuary state” proves beyond a doubt the Radical Left’s disdain for American sovereignty, and especially the rule of law.

The misnamed “Safe Communities Act” is about neither safety nor community.

A more truthful name for this bill is “The Unsafe Communities Act.”

Why is that?

Here’s why: The Unsafe Communities Act would protect those who have already broken the law by crossing our borders illegally. They already have a sense that they can get away with defying the same laws American citizens must obey.

If you’re a citizen traveling abroad, just try to get back into this country without your passport or papers.

No matter what you say, you will not be permitted to simply waltz across the border.

Even as an American citizen, you’ll be detained until absolute proof of your identity is established.

So why do leftist Democrats want to grant special rights for foreign citizens who refuse to follow rules that every American must follow?

Rather than increasing respect for our laws, the Unsafe Act will diminish any sense that newcomers must obey our legal system.

The same policies promoted at the state level by leftist Democrats under the Unsafe Communities Act have already affected a least one victim: a disabled, elderly woman. According to reports, the wheelchair-bound victim in was viciously attacked in October 2017 as part of a $2,000 strong-arm robbery captured on video in Boston — which claimed “sanctuary city” status in 2014 — at the Charles River Plaza Bank of America kiosk.

Who attacked this innocent person?

An illegal immigrant who would be granted additional protections through the Unsafe Communities Act.

In this case, the state Supreme Judicial Court allowed Sreynuon Lunn, an illegal immigrant from Cambodia who had been arraigned a year prior on a previous robbery charge, to remain free in Massachusetts.

The SJC handed down that ruling in July 2017. Their reasoning?

“Massachusetts law provides no authority for Massachusetts court officers to arrest and hold an individual solely on the basis of a Federal civil immigration detainer, beyond the time that the individual would otherwise be entitled to be released from State custody.”

The state’s previous charges against Lunn stem from his alleged October 2017 robbery of another homeless man on Boston’s Canal Street. Following the SJC ruling, federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials were subsequently barred from working with local law enforcement, and Lunn was allowed to walk.

Fast-forward just three months and Lunn, who should have been sent back home to his native Cambodia, is emboldened and back at it again.

This time, his target was an elderly woman.

I don’t know about the liberal Democrats, but I do know that Republicans want to make our communities safer for people like her.

We want safe communities for those who respect and follow our laws.

The Unsafe Communities Act protects the wrong people. It will grant additional rights to lawbreakers like Lunn, who first defy laws regulating entry into the United States — and then prey upon innocent victims.

Let’s make it clear to the far-left that we’re above their virtue signaling and angling for cheap political points.

Let’s make it clear that we all must play by the same rules.

Nobody is above the law.

CONTACT: Evan Lips, communications director, 617-523-5005 ext. 245

Robert Mueller: No Russian collusion, no Trump obstruction

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 24, 2019

CONTACT: Evan Lips, 617-523-5005 ext. 245

BOSTON – The U.S. Department of Justice has announced that following an exhaustive probe spanning two years, Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his team of investigators have found no evidence of collusion between President Donald Trump’s winning 2016 campaign and Russia.

Mueller also confirmed he found no evidence of justice obstruction committed by President Trump.

Massachusetts Republican Party Chairman Jim Lyons:

“This two-year investigation has cost taxpayers $25 million, and the result is that there was no collusion or obstruction going on at all. Maybe it’s time to investigate those responsible for ginning up hysteria, and those responsible for triggering this witch hunt.”

Read more at https://mailchi.mp/massgop/massgop-chairman-lyons-president-trump-vindicated?e=60c468578c

Article VIII:  A Backdoor Override

Article VIII, on this year’s annual town meeting warrant, proposes that an “enterprise account” be established to fund new federal and state mandates related to storm water management. Proponents say the fund will support needed infrastructure improvements, that if ignored could invoke the wrath of some formidable federal and state agencies.  However, things appear to have been satisfactory to date.  No specific actions against the town are pending or anticipated.  Efforts are also being made on Beacon Hill to obtain funding for cities and towns to meet the cost of these upgrades through state tax revenues.

More significantly, Article VIIl raises questions about taxation without representation.  The measure would delegate, to the Board of Selectmen, the right to determine one of two methods for sustaining the fund.  One method would levy a fee on all property owners, charging them for the total square footage of any roofs or hardtop on their property.  A minimum unit value has been developed, along with a three tiered fee system, to be allocated based upon the amount of impervious surface at a particular property. The other method would be a property tax override, which would levy the amount needed through a broad based property tax increase.  What’s the difference?

This is a classic example of a distinction without a difference.  Do not be fooled by the term “fee”.  The fee is compulsory, hence it is a tax.  Everyone needs a roof.  Because it is based on property, the town should follow the law.  Town meeting and the voters should approve tax policy, not the Board of Selectmen.  Article VIII would change this.  By approving the enterprise fund, the Board of Selectmen would be authorized to decide whether funding should come through a fee, or an override.  If they were to adopt the fee, they would have sole authority to set the rates.  This would give them administrative tax authority, a significant deviation from the principle that such authority rests solely with the people.

Money taken in by fees, could also free revenue encumbered by the town’s current commitment to storm-water upgrades and maintenance for allocation to other budget accounts.   This would be, in effect, a backdoor override. Vote no on Article VIII.  Let the proponents come back with a front door override proposal, and let the voters decide.

– Dennis Galvin