News Briefs: Jewish Federation director tapped for hate crimes task force; Bump asks municipal clerks to report early voting spending

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By Thursday, Nov 16 News
Dara Kaufman, fourth from left, with Gov. Charlie Baker, center rear, and other members of the Governor’s Task Force on Hate Crimes at the Nov. 6 swearing-in ceremony in Boston. Photo courtesy Jewish Federation of the Berkshires

Jewish Federation director tapped for task force on hate crimes

Pittsfield — Dara Kaufman, the executive director of the Jewish Federation of the Berkshires, has been tapped by Gov. Charlie Baker for the Commonwealth’s new Task Force on Hate Crimes.

Baker signed an executive order Nov. 6 re-establishing the Governor’s Task Force on Hate Crimes. The task force’s purpose is to advise the governor on issues relating to the prevalence, deterrence and prevention of hate crimes in the Commonwealth and the support of victims of hate crimes.

Members of the task force represent a group diverse in gender, race, industry, region, age and education. Secretary of Public Safety and Security Daniel Bennett and Boys and Girls Clubs of Boston CEO and president Josh Kraft will serve as co-chairs. Of the 17 appointees, Kaufman is the only task force member from Berkshire County.

Gov. Bill Weld initiated the Governor’s Task Force on Hate Crimes in 1991 and, from 1994 to 1996, the task force led the successful legislative effort to amend the Hate Crimes Penalties Act to expand its scope and increase penalties for those who commit hate crimes. The reconstitution of the task force is intended to reinvigorate the Commonwealth’s statewide commitment to fighting hate crimes and supporting victims and impacted communities.

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Auditor Bump asks municipal clerks to report early voting spending

Boston — Auditor Suzanne M. Bump is asking Massachusetts city and town clerks to provide a formal accounting of unfunded mandated costs related to early voting in the 2016 election cycle. This request is a result of recently passed legislation requiring that this information be reported to the Legislature. Town clerks received a survey from Bump’s Division of Local Mandates Wednesday.

In February, Bump determined that parts of the early voting law are an unfunded mandate on cities and towns. She pointed to the requirements that municipalities establish an early voting polling location that has sufficient staffing and privacy for voters as the factors driving this determination. Based on of an informal survey of municipalities, Bump’s office estimated cities and towns spent more than $720,000 on these unfunded, mandated expenses.

As a result of this determination, the Massachusetts legislature tasked Bump’s office with providing a formal certification of the costs to cities and towns in the 2016 election. Municipalities must respond to the survey by Wednesday, Nov. 29. This certification will help legislators allocate funds to reimburse municipalities for 2016 costs.

Under the Local Mandate Law, cities and towns can petition Bump’s office to issue a determination on whether a state law constitutes an unfunded mandate. If Bump’s office determines an unfunded mandate exists, the petitioning city or town can use the determination to seek a court-ordered exemption from compliance with the law until state funding is provided. Additionally, local governments can seek legislative changes to the law, which may involve state funding for mandated expenses, or modification of the mandate.

The early voting law, which was passed into law in 2014, requires that municipalities allow any qualified voter during biennial state elections, as well as other elections taking place at that time, to vote during a 12-day early voting period. The Massachusetts Secretary of the Commonwealth’s office reports that more than one million voters cast their ballots during this period in 2016, representing more than 22 percent of registered voters in the state.

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