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Patrick to propose extending Springfield payback


Patrick to propose extending Springfield payback

SPRINGFIELD — Gov. Deval Patrick is proposing legislation to give Springfield more time to pay back a $52 million state loan and improve the city’s financial management.

Leslie A. Kirwan, Patrick’s secretary of administration and finance, told The Republican newspaper of Springfield that the bill introduced last Thursday will help the city avoid the fiscal troubles that led it to seek state aid four years ago.

Patrick plans next year to disband the state control board that has overseen the city’s finances since 2004.

The bill would extend the payback from five to 12 years. Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno has said that’s important for balancing the city’s $532 million budget for the upcoming fiscal year.

The bill also proposes a binding referendum to allow Springfield voters to double the mayor’s term to four years, and creates new city financial management positions.

“The City of Springfield has made great progress toward fiscal recovery since the Commonwealth extended a $52 million state loan and established a Financial Control Board in 2004,” Patrick said in a release. “As the city begins to repay that loan and the Board begins to cease its operations, it is appropriate to propose changes to ensure that this progress continues.”

Under the proposal, created by Sarno and members of the city’s legislative delegation in conjunction with the Patrick administration, Springfield must make its first payment in the current fiscal year, 2008, and would have until fiscal year 2019 to fully repay the debt.

Banks expand participation in New England mortgage relief

The number of New England banks participating in a $125 million fund to refinance troubled mortgages has grown from an initial five to more than 50.

Joining the list of five original banks are dozens of other mostly small banks affiliated with the Massachusetts Bankers Association.

Last week’s expansion announcement came as the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston acknowledged that its program has struggled in its initial five months because of declining home prices.

Boston Fed spokesman Tom Lavelle said the program has received more than 1,300 consumer inquiries since it was launched in late December. Those inquiries have led to 67 applications for refinancing, and just 16 loans closed to date.

Lavelle says falling home prices have eroded homeowners’ equity, causing some borrowers’ homes to be worth less than the amount they owe. That has left banks reluctant to refinance the loans.

R.I. governor names panel to monitor order on illegal immigrants

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Gov. Don Carcieri has appointed 27 people to sit on an advisory panel that will monitor the effects of his executive order cracking down on illegal immigrants.

The members announced last Friday include members of the clergy, representatives of community service agencies, government groups, law enforcement and business leaders.

Carcieri agreed to create the advisory group after the Roman Catholic bishop of Providence and other members of the clergy warned Carcieri that his order was scaring immigrants and could lead to racial profiling.

The governor’s order requires state agencies and firms doing business with the state to use a federal database to verify the immigration state of new hires. It also requires state police and prison officials to identify illegal immigrants for possible deportation.

Ex-U.S. solicitor general hired in R.I. Indian land dispute

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Former U.S. Solicitor General Theodore Olson will join the state’s legal team in a case over American Indian tribal land that has reached the U.S. Supreme Court.

A spokesman for Gov. Don Carcieri says Olson will be paid $200,000 from the governor’s contingency account.

The court fight concerns the federal government’s ability to take land into trust for American Indian tribes. That largely removes it from state and local control.

At issue is a 31-acre lot in Charlestown purchased by the Narragansett Indian Tribe.

The Narragansetts believe the parcel should be subject to tribal and federal control. The state has argued that federal law prevents the U.S. government from taking land into trust for tribes recognized after the 1934 Indian Reorganization Act.

Domestic violence a “public health crisis,” Patrick says

Gov. Deval Patrick says the steady increase in the number of domestic violence-related killings in Massachusetts is a public health emergency.

Patrick issued a public health advisory last Thursday to police, hospitals and health care providers alerting them of the increase. The advisories are used to communicate information on critical health issues facing the community.

The number of domestic violence homicides more than doubled from 15 in 2005 to 42 in 2007. There have been 19 killings so far this year.

Patrick also signed a bill last week requiring health care providers to link victims of violence to social services.

“Healing from violence means more than bandaging physical wounds,” said state Rep. Byron Rushing, the bill’s lead sponsor. “It means helping individuals and families meet basic social needs to move on to live safe and constructive lives. This law recognizes that health care workers can and should be a vital line of support when it matters most in this healing.”

(Associated Press)