Beacon Hill Roll Call – Regular weekly report – Nov. 22, 2013


Beacon Hill Roll Call
Volume 38 – Report No. 47
November 18-22, 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 and senators on five roll calls from the week of November 18-22.

House 142-10, approved and sent to the Senate a bill that allows Bay State voters to vote up to two weeks before a presidential primary or election. Another key provision allows people to register to vote online.

Supporters said it is time for Massachusetts to join the 19 states that allow online registration and the 32 that allow early voting. They argued both changes will increase voter turnout.

Some opponents said they are
concerned that the online registration will open the door to more election fraud. Others said they voted against the bill because it did not include an amendment requiring voters to show a photo ID at the polls.

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

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

House 27-128, rejected an amendment that would strike the section of the bill that allows people to register to vote online.

Amendment supporters said this idea has not been fully vetted and argued it could cost millions of dollars and lead to fraud.

Amendment opponents said there will be adequate safeguards in this new process. They argued online registration will increase voter participation.

(A “Yes” vote is against online registration. A “No” vote is for online registration.)

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

House 117-36, approved a Democratic leadership-sponsored amendment that would indefinitely delay a proposal requiring all early voters to show a picture identification in order to be allowed to vote. The Registry of Motor Vehicles would be required to provide free picture IDs to voters who cannot afford it. The amendment prohibits the proposal from taking effect until Secretary of State William Galvin and Gov. Deval Patrick’s Administration study its potential impact on the economy of the state.

Republicans said this “study” is the way Speaker Robert DeLeo and his Democratic leadership team prevent Democratic members from having to vote directly against GOP proposals that might be popular with voters. Under House rules, the amendment to study and delay a proposal is voted upon first. If it passes, which it always does, no other amendments can be introduced and the proposal dies without ever having a direct vote on it. Republicans say studies are a sham because they are never done.

Supporters of the study said the amendment would disenfranchise thousands of voters who do not have a current address because they are in a homeless shelter or domestic violence facility. They argued there have been no widespread reports of voter fraud in Massachusetts.

Opponents of the study said it is illogical that all voters are not required to show identification prior to voting and noted 24 other states have laws requiring IDs. They argued people cannot cash a check, rent a car, rent a DVD or even enter some government buildings without showing an ID. They said the cost of the state providing free IDs would be minimal.

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

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

House 153-0, approved and sent to the Senate legislation that would increase the current $1,000 fine to up to $250,000 for the crime of “manslaughter by a corporation” under which a corporation could be convicted and punished for culpable conduct that leads to a person’s death.

House 152-0, approved and sent to the Senate a bill that would reimburse small independent dairy farmers from a special insurance fund created in the 1980s to protect farmers when dairy processors go out of business without paying the farmer. The program is funded by the dairy farmers themselves and has been used in the past but has been mostly stagnant for years.

Supporters said farmers would be reimbursed based on what they have contributed to the fund over the years and noted the bill does not cost the state any money. They estimated that the state’s 100 or so dairy farmers would receive amounts ranging from $10,000 to $20,000.

(A “Yes” vote is for the bill.)

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

Senate 32-7, approved and sent to the House a bill hiking the current $8 per hour minimum wage by $3 over the next three years, beginning on July 1, 2014, to $11 per hour. Future wages would be automatically raised to reflect increases in the consumer price index. The measure also guarantees that the state’s minimum wage always be at least 50 cents above the federal wage, which is currently $7.25.

Supporters said this pro-worker bill would ensure economic justice and help thousands of families that are living near the poverty level despite the fact that the breadwinner works in excess of 40 hours weekly. They argued that a minimum wage hike is one of the best anti-poverty programs available.

Opponents said the hike is unfair to businesses that are already faced with skyrocketing health care and energy costs and would also hurt consumers by forcing businesses to raise prices. Some said they supported a milder increase to $9.50.

(A “Yes” vote is for the minimum wage hike. A “No” vote is against it.)

Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes

Senate 8-30, rejected an amendment that would hike the minimum wage to $9.50 per hour over the next two years. The amendment also deletes the section providing that future wages would be automatically raised to reflect increases in the consumer price index. It replaces that section with a requirement that the governor’s administration hold hearings every two years and then recommend to the Legislature whether the minimum wage should be increased.

Amendment supporters said this is a more reasonable hike that is fair to workers and employers. They noted it also allows the legislature, and not some faceless index, to make the decision about any future raises.

Amendment opponents said $9.50 is not sufficient. They argued tying future increases to the consumer price index is an important part of the bill.

(A “Yes” vote is for the hike to $9.50. A “No” vote is against it.)

Sen. Patricia Jehlen No

Senate 31-7, approved an amendment that would raise the hourly minimum wage for waiters, waitresses and other tipped employees from the current $2.63 per hour to an amount equal to 50 percent of the regular minimum wage. If the minimum wage jumps to $11 per hour, the $2.63 would jump to $5.50.

Amendment supporters said $2.63 is too low and has not been changed since 1999. They argued this hike will help hardworking employees and make them less dependent on tips.

Amendment opponents said these employees make a lot of money on their tips and that raising their minimum wage will only hurt the employer’s bottom line when many restaurants are struggling to stay alive. Some supported a more modest hike of 35 percent.

(A “Yes” vote is for the hike to 50 percent. A “No” vote is against it.)

Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes

Senate 3-35, rejected an amendment allowing employers to pay workers under 18 years old 20 percent less than the minimum wage. The reduction would apply to the teen’s first 400 hours or his or her first 90 days of employment, whichever comes first.

Amendment supporters said the hike would discourage employers from hiring inexperienced teens under 18 to train. They said the amendment would give businesses more flexibility to hire those teens.

Amendment opponents said this is a bad idea. They argued that unscrupulous employers might just continue hiring teens under 18 for 90 days, pay them the lower wage and then let them go.

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

Sen. Patricia Jehlen No

Senate 10-28, rejected an amendment to delete the section that ties future hikes in the minimum wage to increases in the consumer price index.

Amendment supporters said that any future hikes should be decided by legislators and not by a faceless, flawed index.

Amendment opponents argued that tying the hike to the index will ensure the minimum wage continues to rise in an appropriate manner, which will help thousands of hardworking people support their families.

(A “Yes” vote is for the amendment deleting the section raising future wages based on the consumer price index. A “No” vote is against the deletion and favors the tie to the consumer price index.)

Senator Pat Jehlen No

Also up at Beacon Hill

POSSIBLE 2014 BALLOT QUESTIONS – Sponsors of possible ballot questions in the November 2014 election had until last Wednesday, November 20, to complete the next step and collect 69,911 signatures as part of the long process to get their proposed law on the ballot. If the signatures are certified by local election officials and the secretary of state, the question would then be sent to the Legislature and if not approved by May 6, 2014, proponents must gather another 11,485 signatures by July 2, 2014, in order for the question to appear on the 2014 ballot. The signatures must first be validated.

Supporters of repealing the indexing of the gas tax to inflation say they have collected more than 100,000 signatures. The indexing ties future increases in the gas tax to the Consumer Price Index, ensuring future gas tax hikes without the need for lawmakers to vote on them. This inflation rider was part of a recent 3-cent-per-gallon hike in the state’s current 21-cent-per-gallon gas tax.

Supporters of the inflation index say it is fair and will raise revenue to repair the state’s transportation infrastructure.

Opponents of the inflation index say it makes a bad tax even worse and will hurt the struggling economy and families and businesses that are already paying some of the highest gas taxes in the nation.

Sponsors of proposals of other ballot questions have also expressed confidence they have reached the signature goal. The proposed questions include expanding the state’s existing beer and soda bottle bill law to require a deposit on bottles of most other carbonated and non-carbonated beverages, making casino gambling illegal, hiking the minimum wage and requiring employers to give sick days to employees.

FIRE-RELATED BILLS – The Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee held a hearing on several bills including requiring local fire departments to conduct an annual inspection of automatic smoke and heat detectors in condominiums (H 2164); requiring the installation of sprinkler systems in new or substantially rehabilitated construction of single- and two-family homes (H 2121); requiring a minimum of ten years experience for a firefighter to become chief of a fire department (H 2176); and requiring carbon monoxide alarms in all government and commercial structures in addition to the current law that requires detectors in all residential homes (H 2124).

HAVE YOUR EYES EXAMINED (H 1921) – The Public Health Committee’s hearing agenda on December 3 in Room A-1 of the Statehouse includes a bill that would require reading glasses sold “over-the-counter” to contain a notice encouraging purchasers to have eye examinations.

MAYOR-ELECT WALSH GIVES FAREWELL SPEECH – Current Dorchester Rep. and Boston’s Mayor-Elect Marty Walsh gave his farewell speech in the House last week. Walsh plans to remain a member of the House for the rest of 2013 and then will resign to succeed current Mayor Thomas Menino.

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 18-22. The House met for a total of 20 hours and 23 minutes while the Senate met for a total of 15 hours and 24 minutes.

Mon. November 18 House 11:05 a.m. to 3:44 p.m.
Senate 11:02 a.m. to 11:31 a.m.

Tues. November 19 House 11:05 a.m. to 3:15 p.m.
Senate 1:13 p.m. to 6:04 p.m.

Wed. November 20 House 11:07 a.m. to 10:11 p.m.
Senate 1:02 p.m. to 10:26 p.m.

Thurs. November 21 House 11:08 a.m. to 11:38 a.m.
Senate 11:00 a.m. to 11:40 a.m.

Fri. November 22 No House session
No Senate session

Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at

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