Beacon Hill Roll Call



Volume 38 – Report No. 45
November 4-8, 2013
Copyright © 2013 Beacon Hill Roll Call. All Rights Reserved.
By Bob Katzen

THE HOUSE AND SENATE: Beacon Hill Roll Call records the votes of local representatives on six roll calls and local senators on one from the week of November 4-8.


House 151-0, Senate 39-0, gave final approval to a bill allowing the administration to borrow $1.4 billion over five years for public and affordable housing. Provisions include $500 million to renovate and modernize many of the state’s 45,000 public housing units; $55 million in loan guarantees to assist homeowners with blindness or severe disabilities to make their homes accessible; and $45 million for loans for the development of community-based housing for individuals with mental illness and intellectual disabilities.

Supporters said this package will help thousands of people remain in their homes or find new affordable housing in the state.

(A “Yes” vote is for the bill.)

Rep. Denise Provost Yes Rep. Carl Sciortino Yes Rep. Timothy Toomey Yes Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes

House 152-0, approved a bill making changes to the Bay State’s welfare system. A key provision mandates that applicants search for a job prior to receiving cash assistance. Current law gives recipients a 60-day window after they start receiving benefits before they are required to look for employment. Other provisions include allowing public and private education to be used to satisfy the welfare system’s work requirement; requiring welfare recipients to satisfy more stringent rules to prove they are seeking work; capping benefit balances for families on welfare; prohibiting the transfer of cash benefits to family overseas; and prohibiting anyone who is ineligible for federal-assisted housing to be given priority over applicants who are eligible under both state and federal guidelines. Federal eligibility standards for welfare are stricter than state ones.

Supporters said this long overdue overhaul of the welfare system is firm, fair and honest, and will crack down on welfare abuse while offering many poor people a road to economic independence. They noted the bill makes investments in people who cannot find work so they will have the chance to develop the skills they need to compete in the marketplace. The Senate has approved a different version of the measure and a conference committee will likely hammer out a compromise version.

(A “Yes” vote is for the bill.)

Rep. Denise Provost Yes Rep. Carl Sciortino Yes Rep. Timothy Toomey Yes

House 42-109, rejected an amendment that would require the Department of Transitional Assistance (Welfare Department) to establish programs of financial education for people receiving welfare benefits, including advice on personal budgeting, credit card debt, retirement planning, and the rights and responsibilities of renters and homeowners.

Amendment supporters urged the state to give welfare recipients better tools to manage their money more effectively, citing the number of personal bankruptcies in the state and the amount of credit card debt carried by those receiving assistance.

Amendment opponents said the amendment is too broad an expansion of the more focused financial responsibility measures already in the bill. They raised concerns about the cost to develop and implement such a program and train case workers properly in a wide range of personal financial topics

(A “Yes” vote is for the amendment requiring financial education. A “No” vote is against it.)

Rep. Denise Provost No Rep. Carl Sciortino No Rep. Timothy Toomey No

House 29-123, rejected an amendment that would require the Welfare Department to report the number of people who have had green cards (lawful permanent residents) for less than five years and are receiving welfare or food stamps.

Amendment supporters said this is simply a call for more transparency and is not meant to embarrass or take benefits away from anyone. They questioned why the state is providing these benefits when each green card holder is required by law to have a sponsor who has promised to be financially responsible for that person.

Amendment opponents said the requirement is mean-spirited and meant to embarrass legal residents who through no fault of their own need some assistance. They noted that the state shouldn’t be punishing eligible individuals who have become estranged or disconnected from their sponsor.

(A ‘Yes” vote is for the reporting requirement. A “No” vote is against it.)

Rep. Denise Provost No Rep. Carl Sciortino No Rep. Timothy Toomey No

House 37-115, rejected an amendment prohibiting the use of Electronic Bank Transfer (EBT) cards in any state other than Massachusetts and its border states.

Amendment supporters said reports have shown that $2.3 million was used on EBT cards in Florida and substantial amounts in California and St. Thomas. They said it seems that some people might be vacationing on taxpayer dollars.

Amendment opponents said less than one percent of EBT dollars is spent out of state. They noted this “over the top” amendment would prevent someone from using money even to attend a family member’s funeral out of state.

(A “Yes” vote is for the amendment. A “No” vote is against it.)

Rep. Denise Provost No Rep. Carl Sciortino No Rep. Timothy Toomey No

House 37-115, rejected an amendment to a section of the bill that requires welfare recipients to provide evidence of their job searches by returning to the Welfare Department a list of the employers contacted, the date of contact and the name and telephone number of the person with whom the applicant spoke, “to the extent feasible.” The information would be signed by the applicant under the penalties of perjury. The amendment would strike the language “to the extent feasible” and also require that the applicant provide copies of each job application.

Amendment supporters said that the current arrangement is too loose and works on the honor system. They argued that the language “to the extent feasible” creates a giant loophole for fraud and abuse.

Amendment opponents said the amendment goes too far and is another example of welfare opponents assuming every applicant is trying to commit fraud. They argued that it is more than sufficient and fair to require the applicant to sign, under the penalties of perjury, a list of the potential employers, the date of contact and the name and telephone number of the person with whom the applicant spoke. Some noted that oftentimes an applicant applies over the phone or online and never even fills out an application.

(A “Yes” vote is for the amendment that would require the recipient to provide copies of each job application. A “No” vote is against the amendment.

Rep. Denise Provost No Rep. Carl Sciortino No Rep. Timothy Toomey No


WHAT IF A CANDIDATE DIES (H 3422) – The House gave initial approval to a bill that would allow votes for a candidate to count if he or she wins his or her party nomination in a primary, but dies before the General Election. Supporters said an old Supreme Judicial Court ruling says that votes cast for a deceased candidate do not count. That has led to the possibility that a write-in candidate who gets a handful of votes could win the election. The bill would allow the deceased candidate’s votes to count, and then the seat would be considered “vacant” and filled by a special election.

BAD DRIVER POINTS (H 897) – The Committee on Financial Services held a hearing on legislation that would reduce from five years to three years the amount of time a moving motor vehicle violation stays on a driver’s record and causes higher insurance rates.

PUBLIC HEALTH COMMITTEE – The Committee on Public Health held a hearing last week. Dozens of bills were on the agenda including the following:

INSPECT DOC’S OFFICE (H 1979) – Allows the state to inspect any doctor’s office without notice, during regular business hours, to verify that the office is clean and sanitary, has all necessary equipment and is properly maintaining patient records.

ACCESS BY DISABLED (H 2057) – Requires that medical equipment be accessible and usable by individuals with disabilities, including examination tables and chairs, weight scales, mammography equipment, x-ray machines and any other equipment commonly used for diagnostic purposes.

LEGIBLE PRESCRIPTIONS (H 2090) – Designed to avoid problems caused by the poor handwriting of some doctors, this measure prohibits pharmacies from filling any prescription unless it has been hand printed, typed or electronically generated.

VIDEOTAPE SURGERY (H 2105) – Allows any patient undergoing surgery to privately pay for a licensed medical videographer to tape the patient’s surgery. The measure is named “Leona’s Law” in memory of Leona Trabucco, who died in 2000 during hip surgery at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

LIMIT NEW DOCTORS’ HOURS OF WORK (S 1167) – Creates an advisory council to study and make recommendations about limiting the work hours of resident physicians in Massachusetts hospitals.

PROVIDE TRANSPORTATION (S 1083) – Requires hospitals and other health care facilities to provide transportation home via taxi, car or bus for all resident physicians, medical students and other health care providers who have worked for more than 16 consecutive hours and judge themselves to be too fatigued to drive safely.


“I am tired of some of my colleagues suggesting or implying that the overwhelming number of people receiving public assistance are ripping off the system … the overwhelming number of people receiving public assistance are playing by the rules … The problem is that we have tremendous poverty in this state and this country.”

Rep. Ruth Balser (D-Newton) during debate on changes to the welfare system.

“No one has implied that the overwhelming majority of people on public assistance are not following the rules … I’m sick and tired of hearing that we shouldn’t have strong and strict rules … There are some people who aren’t playing by the rule … we don’t live in the land of unicorns and cotton candy. Some people do cheat the system.”

Rep. Shauna O’Connell (R-Taunton).

“The assumption that I’ve heard and most of the amendments that have been offered imply that each of the (welfare) applicants is some kind of a thief, somebody looking to take some money from somebody. And we’ve got to have some kind of an advanced distrust of those individuals, so that they won’t rob the so-called hardworking people of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. There’s a lot of us who are hardworking taxpayers of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Some of us don’t have the same attitude toward those who are sometimes experiencing difficulties as others. I guess some of us probably have more trust in the human being.”

Rep. Benjamin Swan (D-Springfield).

“This announcement reinforces our state’s standing as a place where innovators and technology companies want to be and positions us for the further growth of our innovation economy.”

House Speaker Robert DeLeo on Facebook’s announcement that it plans to open an office in Cambridge. DeLeo has been working for two years to convince Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg to open an office in the city where Zuckerberg started the company.

HOW LONG WAS LAST WEEK’S SESSION? Beacon Hill Roll Call tracks the length of time that the House and Senate were in session each week. Many legislators say that legislative sessions are only one aspect of the Legislature’s job and that a lot of important work is done outside of the House and Senate chambers. They note that their jobs also involve committee work, research, constituent work and other matters that are important to their districts. Critics say that the Legislature does not meet regularly or long enough to debate and vote in public view on the thousands of pieces of legislation that have been filed. They note that the infrequency and brief length of sessions are misguided and lead to irresponsible late night sessions and a mad rush to act on dozens of bills in the days immediately preceding the end of an annual session.

During the week of November 4-8. The House met for a total of 12 hours and three minutes while the Senate met for a total of three hours and 45 minutes.

Mon. November 4 House 11:03 a.m. to 11:15 a.m.
Senate 11:02 a.m. to 11:10 a.m.

Tues. November 5 No House session
No Senate session

Wed. November 6 House 11:04 a.m. to 9:24 p.m.
No Senate session

Thurs. November 7 House 1:00 p.m. to 2:31 p.m.
Senate 11:02 a.m. to 2:39 p.m.

Fri. November 8 No House session
No Senate session

Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at



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