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Deadline nears in Mass. for anti-bullying plans

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Deadline nears in Mass. for anti-bullying plans

Only a handful of school districts in Massachusetts have filed plans to deal with bullying.

Under a law signed by Gov. Deval Patrick in May, schools face a Dec. 31 deadline for filing comprehensive bullying prevention and intervention plans.

State education officials tell the Boston Herald that only three or four of the state’s 393 school districts have done so.

Spokeswoman Heidi Guarino says the Education Department has been assisting schools and districts on their plans since June, although it was two months late formally reporting that to the Legislature. She says the state is working to help local educators meet the year-end deadline.

Lawmakers approved the anti-bullying bill after several incidents including the death of 15-year-old Phoebe Prince, who took her life in February after allegedly being tormented by several South Hadley High School classmates.

Inquiry into Mass. probation agency given to SJC

The state’s highest court is reviewing the findings of a probe into allegations of widespread patronage in the Massachusetts Probation Department.

Independent counsel Paul Ware, who conducted the inquiry, submitted the report to the Supreme Judicial Court last Tuesday. The court ordered the report not be made public until the justices review it.

Probation Commissioner John O’Brien was suspended in May following a series of articles in The Boston Globe alleging that the department had become a patronage haven for lawmakers.

Among those subpoenaed to appear before Ware was state Rep. Thomas Petrolati, a top deputy to House Speaker Robert DeLeo. The Globe reported that the Ludlow Democrat’s wife, a former aide and financial supporters had received jobs in the department.

Report: Mass. falling short helping smokers quit

Anti-smoking advocates say Massachusetts could be doing more to help smokers quit.

A new report by the American Lung Association credits Massachusetts for being one of six states to provide MassHealth recipients access to a range of anti-smoking services, from nicotine patches to individual and group counseling.

The group said the same benefit is not guaranteed for low-income residents insured under Commonwealth Care health plans or state employees through state health plans.

The association said Massachusetts should join eight states that have laws or insurance regulations requiring smoking cessation coverage in some or all private insurance plans.

Advocates said the steps Massachusetts has already taken has led to dramatic reductions in smoking.

Springfield mayor taps Latino to head elections

Springfield mayor Domenic Sarno has announced that he has appointed the first Latino to serve as the western Massachusetts city’s election commissioner.

The appointment of Gladys Oyola was announced last week and comes a year after Springfield voters elected a number of Latinos to city offices following years of lawsuits and protests.

As election commissioner, Oyola will be responsible for registering voters and preparing the city’s annual census.

Oyola replaces former election commissioner Kathleen Fleury and previously served as the city’s bilingual education program coordinator.

In 2009, the city ushered in a new city council system that included five at-large seats and eight  “ward” seats, won by candidates from certain neighborhoods by votes from that neighborhood. Advocates said it gave voters in minority neighborhoods more of a voice.

Harvard fellows honor Somali reporter

Harvard University’s Nieman Foundation for Journalism has honored an Associated Press reporter in Somalia with its award that recognizes those who display conscience and integrity in communications.

Mohamed Olad Hassan has endured repeated death threats, intimidation and a shrapnel wound from a mortar explosion near his home in the Somali capital of Mogadishu in 2007. In December 2009, he narrowly escaped with his life when a bomb exploded at a graduation ceremony he was covering, killing two dozen people.

Harvard announced Friday that Nieman Fellows in the class of 2011 selected Hassan as the 2010 winner of the Louis M. Lyons Award for Conscience and Integrity in Journalism.

The fellows said they “admire his intrepid reporting in the face of mortal danger.”

Hassan, who previously also worked for the BBC, will receive the award Nov. 18 at Harvard.

Gov. Patrick returns to work after weeklong break

Gov. Deval Patrick is heading back to work.

After winning a hard fought re-election campaign, Patrick left the state for a weeklong vacation in California.

He returned to the Statehouse Monday to begin focusing on his second term. Among his goals are plans to rein in the soaring cost of health care coverage.

Patrick’s first scheduled event was a press conference with Boston Mayor Thomas Menino to make an economic development announcement.

Patrick’s first term was marked by early political gaffes and plummeting state revenues. He responded with a mix of budget cuts and tax increases.

That pain could continue as the state faces another possible $2 billion budget gap next year.

Patrick has already pledged not to run for a third term.

Gov. Patrick looking for substance abuse funding

Gov. Deval Patrick is looking for ways to keep paying for the state’s substance abuse treatment programs after voters decided to repeal the sales tax on alcohol, which has supported the initiatives.

Patrick all but rejected one idea floated by substance abuse advocates, who have suggested delaying the start of the sales tax cut from January until the beginning of the new fiscal year on July 1.

Patrick told reporters that Beacon Hill leaders want to respect the will of voters.

Patrick refused to reject a second idea to increase the alcohol excise tax, which hasn’t been changed in decades.

Patrick said the idea isn’t being actively discussed, however.

The excise tax on a gallon of beer in Massachusetts is 11 cents compared 30 cents in New Hampshire.

No trash talk: Boston moves on illegal dumping

Boston is moving against landlords accused of illegal dumping.

The city has issued tickets for 48,000 violations and collected fines of more than $379,000, double from last year. Nearly $5 million in fines still remains to be paid.

The city also has identified 280 deadbeat property owners who will have liens placed on their properties in January.

The Inspectional Services Department says some of the biggest offenders are banks. Wells Fargo owes $60,000 in fines on foreclosed properties. In Boston, the bank owns more than 100 properties that have been cited for violations including graffiti and improper trash storage.

A spokesman says Wells Fargo will meet all its obligations and that in some cases property records may not reflect current ownership.

Associated Press