Officials Seek Tornado Damage Assistance

By Sarah Birnbaum

June 6, 2011

BOSTON — This week, Bay State officials continue to help steer recovery efforts in the tornado-ravaged areas of Western Massachusetts. The defense begins its case in the public corruption trial of former speaker of the House Sal DiMasi and the state Senate takes up a bill aimed at cutting down on government waste.  

As residents of Western Massachusetts whose lives were upended by last week's tornadoes try to set things right, state officials are looking for help from Washington. Damage-assessment teams will be out all this week, tabulating the cost of cleanup and reconstruction. Governor Deval Patrick plans to ask President Barack Obama to issue a major federal disaster declaration for the area, freeing up federal funds to help pay for the effort. The Patrick administration has also announced the opening of storm assistance centers in Palmer, Springfield and Sturbridge to provide residents with services and counseling.

Meanwhile, the prosecution has rested and the defense is prepared to make its case in the federal corruption trial of ex-House Speaker Sal DiMasi. He is charged in a scheme to rig lucrative state contracts for the software company Cognos in exchange for kickbacks. The defense is expected to argue that DiMasi never broke the letter of the law, and was merely conducting business as usual on Beacon Hill. Current Speaker Robert Deleo and Senate President Therese Murray may be called as witnesses. 

Murray also has a big bill coming up in the Senate this week. She wants to require state agencies to undergo regular performance reviews for the first time. The evaluations could determine whether the agencies get continued funding. The Senate is slated to take up the measure on Thursday.

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