Beacon Hill Roll Call Volume 39 – Report No. 1 January 3, 2014

20140103-005206.jpg
Copyright © 2014 Beacon Hill Roll Call. All Rights Reserved.
By Bob Katzen

MEMO TO EDITORS: The following may be useful to you if you want additional information on local senators’ 2013 per diems that are included in this
week’s report. Per diems are paid by the state to legislators for mileage, meals and lodging.

The amount of the per diem for senators varies and is based on the city or town in which the senator resides and its distance from the Statehouse. To find the amount allowed based on specific cities and towns, refer to paragraphs 2, 3 and 4 at the following Massachusetts General Laws link: http://www.state.ma.us/legis/laws/mgl/3%2D9b.htm

This week’s report includes the total, from January 1, 2013 through December 31, 2013, of per diems filed by senators with the state treasurer’s office.

If you would like to receive a breakdown that shows how many days a senator who filed for per diems certified that he or she was at the Statehouse each week during 2013, you should file a Freedom of Information Act request by sending an e-mail to Mary Wilkins at the state treasurer’s office: mwilkins@tre.state.ma.us

The e-mail should include your name, mailing address, e-mail address and telephone number. Also, specify that you want the weekly per diem information for 2013 and be sure to list the specific senator(s) that you want to include. You can also request information from any prior year.

Keep in mind that the information will only indicate the total number of days the legislator certified he or she was at the Statehouse each week during 2013. Legislators are not required to list the specific days they were at the Statehouse.

If you have any questions about the process, contact Mary Wilkins at 617-367-3900, x621.

This week’s report follows:

With today’s edition, (name of newspaper) begins coverage of the 2014 Massachusetts legislative session by our weekly Beacon Hill Roll Call report. This feature is a clear and concise compilation of the voting records of local state representatives and senators on Beacon Hill.

Beacon Hill Roll Call provides an unbiased summary of bills and amendments, arguments from floor debate on both sides of the issue and each legislator’s vote or lack of vote on the matter. This information gives readers an opportunity to monitor their elected officials’ actions on Beacon Hill. Many bills are reported on in their early stages, giving readers the opportunity to contact their legislators and express an opinion prior to the measure being brought up for final action.

The feature “Also Up on Beacon Hill” informs readers of other important matters at the Statehouse.

Beacon Hill Roll Call is written by Bob Katzen, who has covered the Legislature for nearly 40 years. He has been providing this feature to hundreds of newspapers across the state since 1975.

THE HOUSE AND SENATE. The House and Senate began the 2014 legislative session last week with its usual ceremonies, always with much pomp and circumstance. The January 2 snowstorm led to brief sessions and both branches adjourned early. There were no roll calls in the House or Senate last week.

Beacon Hill Roll Call has obtained the 2013 official list from the state treasurer’s office of the “per diem” travel, meals and lodging reimbursements collected by the Legislature’s 40 state senators from January 1, 2013 through December 31, 2013. The list reveals that senators collected a total of $60,239.

Under state law, per diems are paid by the state to senators “for each day for travel from his place of residence to the Statehouse and return therefrom, while in the performance of his official duties, upon certification to the state treasurer that he was present at the Statehouse.” These reimbursements are given to senators above and beyond their regular salaries.

The amount of the per diem varies and is based on the city or town in which a senator resides and its distance from the Statehouse. The Legislature in 2000 approved a law doubling these per diems to the current amounts. The payments range from $10 per day for senators who reside in the Greater Boston area to $90 per day for some Western Massachusetts lawmakers and $100 per day for those in Nantucket. Senators who are from areas that are a long distance from Boston’s Statehouse often collect the highest total of annual per diems.

Some supporters of the per diems say the system is fair and note the rising costs of travel, food and lodging. They note many legislators spend a lot of money on travel to Boston and some spend the night in Boston following late sessions. Others argue that some legislators accept the per diem but use all of the revenue they receive to support local nonprofit causes. They say that not taking the per diem would leave that money in the state’s General Fund to be spent on who knows what.

Some opponents argue most private sector and state workers are not paid additional money for commuting. They say the very idea of paying any per diem is outrageous when thousands of workers have lost their jobs and homes and funding for important programs has been cut. Others say the per diem is especially inappropriate given the recent 3-cent-per-gallon hike in the state’s current 21-cent-per-gallon gas tax and the creation of automatic gas tax hikes by linking the tax to the U.S. Consumer Price Index.

The 2013 statistics indicate that 15 of the state’s 40 senators have received reimbursements ranging from $410 to $11,820, while 25 senators have so far chosen not to apply for any money. State law does not establish a deadline that senators must meet in order to collect the per diems.

The senator who received the most per diem money in 2013 is Sen. Stanley Rosenberg (D-Amherst), who received $11,820.

The other four senators who received the most are Sens. Benjamin Downing (D- Pittsfield), $9,090; Michael Rodrigues (D-Westport), $5,625; James Welch (D-Springfield), $5,544; and Harriette Chandler (D-Worcester), $5,220.

SENATORS’ PER DIEMS FOR 2013
The dollar figure next to the senator’s name represents the total amount of per diem money the state paid him or her in 2013. The number in parentheses represents the number of days the senator certified he or she was at the Statehouse during that same period. Senators who have not requested any per diems have “0 days” listed. That is not meant to suggest that these senators didn’t attend any sessions but rather that they chose not to request any per diems.

Sen. Patricia Jehlen $410 (41 days)

ALSO UP ON BEACON HILL

HEATHER’S LAW (S 1950) – The House and Senate gave final approval to and sent to Gov. Deval Patrick a bill that would prohibit the next of kin charged with the murder of a spouse or other family member from claiming the body. The proposal also allows the accused murderer to appeal the denial to the Probate and Family Court and requires the court to act on the appeal within two days.

The legislation is championed by Ginny Marcheterre, whose 19-year-old daughter Heather was murdered in 2010. Funeral services for Heather were delayed for more than a month because Kyle Alleyne, her husband and alleged killer, refused to release the rights to her body. A court eventually ruled that the mother and family had legal rights to Heather’s body. In February, Alleyne was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

HELP MILK FARMERS (H 751) – Gov. Patrick signed into law a bill that would reimburse an estimated 100 small independent dairy farmers from a special insurance fund created in the 1980s to protect them when dairy processors go out of business without paying the farmer. The program is funded by the dairy farmers themselves and does not involve state money. Farmers would be reimbursed based on what they have contributed to the fund over the years. It is estimated that each of the dairy farmers would receive amounts ranging from $10,000 to $20,000.

CONCUSSION TRAINING PROGRAM (H 1887) – The House gave initial approval to a bill that would amend a current law requiring all public schools to provide an annual mandatory training program about concussions and head injuries for coaches, trainers, doctors, nurses, school marching band directors and parents of any child who participates in an extracurricular athletic activity. The bill would require the same training in all charter and private schools.

GOODBYE GED – The state announced it will no longer use the well-known General Educational Development (GED) exam as its high-school-equivalency test for adults over 18 who never graduated from high school and for 16- and 17-year-olds who dropped out of school. Beginning in a few weeks, the state will use the HiSET, an exam developed by the Educational Testing Service (ETS). The state has used the GED for the past 68 years but decided to make the switch this year.

The HiSet, like the GED, measures whether these test takers qualify for the Massachusetts High School Equivalency Certificate, a valuable tool when applying to a university or for a job. Education officials chose ETS over two other companies that applied for the three-year contract.

QUOTABLE QUOTES

“I don’t begrudge the Legislature having hearings. That’s their job. I get that. And if there is a systemic issue in this or any other case, I’m the first one who’s interested in it because it’s my job to deal with systemic issues, but I haven’t seen any evidence of that yet.”

Gov. Patrick on legislative oversight hearings into the Department of Children and Families following the tragic case of Jeremiah Oliver, the Fitchburg boy neglected by a state social worker and now missing and feared dead.

“Having served with her father in a city (Revere) whose representation we share, I had the unique opportunity to see Kathi-Anne Reinstein grow from a young high school student and mature into an outstanding legislator. (She is) a close friend. I will miss her greatly.”

House Speaker Robert DeLeo (D-Winthrop) on the resignation from the House of Rep. Reinstein to take a job as government affairs manager for the Boston Beer Company, brewer of Samuel Adams Beer.

“Let’s get a beer.”

Reinstein hugging and joking with Gov. Patrick.

If you have any questions about this week’s report, e-mail us at bob@beaconhillrollcall.com or call us at (617)720-1562.

Beacon Hill Roll Call
Volume 39 – Report No. 1
January 3, 2014
Copyright © 2014 Beacon Hill Roll Call. All Rights Reserved.
By Bob Katzen

MEMO TO EDITORS: The following may be useful to you if you want additional information on local senators’ 2013 per diems that are included in this week’s report. Per diems are paid by the state to legislators for mileage, meals and lodging.

The amount of the per diem for senators varies and is based on the city or town in which the senator resides and its distance from the Statehouse. To find the amount allowed based on specific cities and towns, refer to paragraphs 2, 3 and 4 at the following Massachusetts General Laws link: http://www.state.ma.us/legis/laws/mgl/3%2D9b.htm

This week’s report includes the total, from January 1, 2013 through December 31, 2013, of per diems filed by senators with the state treasurer’s office.

If you would like to receive a breakdown that shows how many days a senator who filed for per diems certified that he or she was at the Statehouse each week during 2013, you should file a Freedom of Information Act request by sending an e-mail to Mary Wilkins at the state treasurer’s office: mwilkins@tre.state.ma.us

The e-mail should include your name, mailing address, e-mail address and telephone number. Also, specify that you want the weekly per diem information for 2013 and be sure to list the specific senator(s) that you want to include. You can also request information from any prior year.

Keep in mind that the information will only indicate the total number of days the legislator certified he or she was at the Statehouse each week during 2013. Legislators are not required to list the specific days they were at the Statehouse.

If you have any questions about the process, contact Mary Wilkins at 617-367-3900, x621.

This week’s report follows:

With today’s edition, (name of newspaper) begins coverage of the 2014 Massachusetts legislative session by our weekly Beacon Hill Roll Call report. This feature is a clear and concise compilation of the voting records of local state representatives and senators on Beacon Hill.

Beacon Hill Roll Call provides an unbiased summary of bills and amendments, arguments from floor debate on both sides of the issue and each legislator’s vote or lack of vote on the matter. This information gives readers an opportunity to monitor their elected officials’ actions on Beacon Hill. Many bills are reported on in their early stages, giving readers the opportunity to contact their legislators and express an opinion prior to the measure being brought up for final action.

The feature “Also Up on Beacon Hill” informs readers of other important matters at the Statehouse.

Beacon Hill Roll Call is written by Bob Katzen, who has covered the Legislature for nearly 40 years. He has been providing this feature to hundreds of newspapers across the state since 1975.

THE HOUSE AND SENATE. The House and Senate began the 2014 legislative session last week with its usual ceremonies, always with much pomp and circumstance. The January 2 snowstorm led to brief sessions and both branches adjourned early. There were no roll calls in the House or Senate last week.

Beacon Hill Roll Call has obtained the 2013 official list from the state treasurer’s office of the “per diem” travel, meals and lodging reimbursements collected by the Legislature’s 40 state senators from January 1, 2013 through December 31, 2013. The list reveals that senators collected a total of $60,239.

Under state law, per diems are paid by the state to senators “for each day for travel from his place of residence to the Statehouse and return therefrom, while in the performance of his official duties, upon certification to the state treasurer that he was present at the Statehouse.” These reimbursements are given to senators above and beyond their regular salaries.

The amount of the per diem varies and is based on the city or town in which a senator resides and its distance from the Statehouse. The Legislature in 2000 approved a law doubling these per diems to the current amounts. The payments range from $10 per day for senators who reside in the Greater Boston area to $90 per day for some Western Massachusetts lawmakers and $100 per day for those in Nantucket. Senators who are from areas that are a long distance from Boston’s Statehouse often collect the highest total of annual per diems.

Some supporters of the per diems say the system is fair and note the rising costs of travel, food and lodging. They note many legislators spend a lot of money on travel to Boston and some spend the night in Boston following late sessions. Others argue that some legislators accept the per diem but use all of the revenue they receive to support local nonprofit causes. They say that not taking the per diem would leave that money in the state’s General Fund to be spent on who knows what.

Some opponents argue most private sector and state workers are not paid additional money for commuting. They say the very idea of paying any per diem is outrageous when thousands of workers have lost their jobs and homes and funding for important programs has been cut. Others say the per diem is especially inappropriate given the recent 3-cent-per-gallon hike in the state’s current 21-cent-per-gallon gas tax and the creation of automatic gas tax hikes by linking the tax to the U.S. Consumer Price Index.

The 2013 statistics indicate that 15 of the state’s 40 senators have received reimbursements ranging from $410 to $11,820, while 25 senators have so far chosen not to apply for any money. State law does not establish a deadline that senators must meet in order to collect the per diems.

The senator who received the most per diem money in 2013 is Sen. Stanley Rosenberg (D-Amherst), who received $11,820.

The other four senators who received the most are Sens. Benjamin Downing (D- Pittsfield), $9,090; Michael Rodrigues (D-Westport), $5,625; James Welch (D-Springfield), $5,544; and Harriette Chandler (D-Worcester), $5,220.

SENATORS’ PER DIEMS FOR 2013
The dollar figure next to the senator’s name represents the total amount of per diem money the state paid him or her in 2013. The number in parentheses represents the number of days the senator certified he or she was at the Statehouse during that same period. Senators who have not requested any per diems have “0 days” listed. That is not meant to suggest that these senators didn’t attend any sessions but rather that they chose not to request any per diems.

Sen. Patricia Jehlen $410 (41 days)

ALSO UP ON BEACON HILL

HEATHER’S LAW (S 1950) – The House and Senate gave final approval to and sent to Gov. Deval Patrick a bill that would prohibit the next of kin charged with the murder of a spouse or other family member from claiming the body. The proposal also allows the accused murderer to appeal the denial to the Probate and Family Court and requires the court to act on the appeal within two days.

The legislation is championed by Ginny Marcheterre, whose 19-year-old daughter Heather was murdered in 2010. Funeral services for Heather were delayed for more than a month because Kyle Alleyne, her husband and alleged killer, refused to release the rights to her body. A court eventually ruled that the mother and family had legal rights to Heather’s body. In February, Alleyne was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

HELP MILK FARMERS (H 751) – Gov. Patrick signed into law a bill that would reimburse an estimated 100 small independent dairy farmers from a special insurance fund created in the 1980s to protect them when dairy processors go out of business without paying the farmer. The program is funded by the dairy farmers themselves and does not involve state money. Farmers would be reimbursed based on what they have contributed to the fund over the years. It is estimated that each of the dairy farmers would receive amounts ranging from $10,000 to $20,000.

CONCUSSION TRAINING PROGRAM (H 1887) – The House gave initial approval to a bill that would amend a current law requiring all public schools to provide an annual mandatory training program about concussions and head injuries for coaches, trainers, doctors, nurses, school marching band directors and parents of any child who participates in an extracurricular athletic activity. The bill would require the same training in all charter and private schools.

GOODBYE GED – The state announced it will no longer use the well-known General Educational Development (GED) exam as its high-school-equivalency test for adults over 18 who never graduated from high school and for 16- and 17-year-olds who dropped out of school. Beginning in a few weeks, the state will use the HiSET, an exam developed by the Educational Testing Service (ETS). The state has used the GED for the past 68 years but decided to make the switch this year.

The HiSet, like the GED, measures whether these test takers qualify for the Massachusetts High School Equivalency Certificate, a valuable tool when applying to a university or for a job. Education officials chose ETS over two other companies that applied for the three-year contract.

QUOTABLE QUOTES

“I don’t begrudge the Legislature having hearings. That’s their job. I get that. And if there is a systemic issue in this or any other case, I’m the first one who’s interested in it because it’s my job to deal with systemic issues, but I haven’t seen any evidence of that yet.”

Gov. Patrick on legislative oversight hearings into the Department of Children and Families following the tragic case of Jeremiah Oliver, the Fitchburg boy neglected by a state social worker and now missing and feared dead.

“Having served with her father in a city (Revere) whose representation we share, I had the unique opportunity to see Kathi-Anne Reinstein grow from a young high school student and mature into an outstanding legislator. (She is) a close friend. I will miss her greatly.”

House Speaker Robert DeLeo (D-Winthrop) on the resignation from the House of Rep. Reinstein to take a job as government affairs manager for the Boston Beer Company, brewer of Samuel Adams Beer.

“Let’s get a beer.”

Reinstein hugging and joking with Gov. Patrick.

“To state the obvious, it’s snowing outside. We have a serious and significant winter storm that will affect the whole of the state.”

Gov. Patrick on the January 2 snowstorm.

“As an editor once told me, ‘It must be great to have a front row seat for one of the oldest democracies in the world.’ It sure was.”

Dan Ring, veteran Statehouse reporter for Springfield’s The Republican newspaper, announcing his retirement last week.

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 December 30-January 3, the House and Senate each met for a total of 47 minutes.

Mon. December 30 House 11:03 a.m. to 11:19 a.m.
Senate 11:05 a.m. to 11:20 a.m.

Tues. December 31 No House session
No Senate session

Wed. January 1 House 11:02 a.m. to 11:04 a.m.
Senate 11:08 a.m. to 11:11 a.m.

Thurs. January 2 House 1:09 p.m. to 1:38 p.m.
Senate 1:07 p.m. to 1:36 p.m.

Fri. January 3 No House session
No Senate session

Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at bob@beaconhillrollcall.com

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