STATE CAPITOL BRIEFS - FRIDAY, 21, 2014
STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE
PRESIDENT SIGNS FLOOD INSURANCE RELIEF BILL
People whose homes in river valleys or on the seacoast were poised for major flood insurance increases were granted a federal reprieve from the rate hikes as President Barack Obama signed legislation Friday that repeals the requirement for the premiums to be readjusted to accurately reflect the risk of flood. The new law reduces the "maximum rate at which insurance premiums may be increased each year." Residents of Scituate and elsewhere have reacted with shock over new premiums that had shot up under the Biggert-Waters Act of 2012, which sought to give the National Flood Insurance Program more solvency by more accurately measuring risk. The new law requires NFIP to "impose an annual surcharge on all newly issued or renewed flood insurance policies," according to the White House. "This will bring much needed relief to communities, homeowners and businesses at a pivotal point in our economic recovery," said Attorney General Martha Coakley in a statement. "We have long advocated for relief for communities in flood zones by filing legislation on the state level and by working with our congressional representatives to push for these federal changes. I again thank the Massachusetts congressional delegation for ensuring that our voices were heard in both the Senate and House."
AFTER CRITICISM, PACHECO ASKS PIONEER FOR STUDY'S FUNDERS
Sen. Marc Pacheco, whose Senate floor remarks about a conservative-leaning think tank inspired a testy response, sent his own reply Thursday, countering that the Pioneer Institute was "reckless" in its letter. "Unfortunately, it does not surprise me that an organization that appears to enjoy relationships with conservative-leaning, pro-privatization public figures would publish a policy brief such as 'The MBTA's Out-of-Control Bus Maintenance Costs'," and still advertise it as independent and nonpartisan," the Taunton Democrat wrote. The dispute stems from Pacheco's defense of a 1993 law which requires state agencies to weigh the cost of a proposed privatization against the cost of public employees operating at the most efficient level. Pioneer Executive Director Jim Stergios, who believes the Pacheco Law has hamstrung government from finding efficiency through privatization, accused Pacheco of lying for telling his Senate colleagues Pioneer "puts these reports out, doesn't want to list their funders." Pioneer publishes the names of donors bracketed into various amounts, which it is not legally required to do, Stergios said. Pacheco agrees and wants more information. In his letter, Pacheco asked Pioneer to report "the exact donation" and "which research projects those contributions funded." The 1993 privatization law is held up by Pacheco as protecting tax dollars by demanding demonstrable cost-savings before a service is privatized, and derided by others for giving an advantage to public employees when an agency considers privatization. "Instead of complaining about the Taxpayer Protection Act, I recommend the Pioneer Institute urge the administration to pursue cost savings by adhering to the law, which serves as a privatization guardrail - not a road block - in the public interest," Pacheco wrote, citing privatization of the UMass Dartmouth campus bookstore, Soldiers' Home in Holyoke's privatized pharmacy and the Wood's Hole, Martha's Vineyard and the Nantucket Steamship Authority's privatization of ferry services. In 2004 the auditor approved privatization of the route between New Bedford and Martha's Vineyard.