SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Local News

May 22, 2014

Pols load budget with pet projects, policy changes

(Continued)

In July 2010, Lawrence police lost 40 police to layoffs and deep local budget cuts. The city received $750,000 through the state grant program in 2011 and was able to rehire about a dozen officers, who it’s kept on the rolls through successive grants.

Once the Senate approves its version of Gov. Deval Patrick’s budget, a panel of House and Senate lawmakers will meet to hammer out their differences.

Both houses are calling for increased funding for the embattled Department of Children and Families to reduce the caseload carried by social workers. The House budget includes a mandate that social workers be licensed within a year.

The deaths of three children have led to heightened scrutiny of the agency, and Patrick recently accepted the resignation of former commissioner Olga Roche.

Tarr has filed several amendments to improve oversight of DCF. They include fingerprinting and national background checks for adoptive parents, as well as a requirement that the agency file quarterly reports on the number of children under its care who are missing.

Good government groups say the Legislature shouldn’t be using the budget process to get bills approved.

“By tacking it onto the budget, you’re bypassing the traditional process where bills are brought up for a hearing, where they’re debated and have to go through a series of votes,” said Deirdre Cummings, legislative affairs director for the Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group. “Using the budget to pass these unrelated items just shouldn’t be allowed.”

Christian M. Wade covers the Massachusetts Statehouse for The Salem News. He can be reached at cwade@cnhi.com. Follow him on Twitter: @cmwade1969.

 

 

 

 

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