Beacon Hill Roll Call Volume 39 – Report No. 2 January 10, 2014

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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
representatives’ 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 representatives varies and is based on the city or town in which the representative 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 to December 30, 2013, of per diems filed by representatives with the state treasurer’s office.

If you would like to receive a breakdown that shows how many days a representative 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 representative(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:

THE HOUSE AND SENATE. There were no roll call votes 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 158 current state representatives from January 1, 2013 to December 30, 2013. The list reveals that representatives collected a total of $230,977. Beacon Hill Roll Call recently reported that state senators in 2013 collected $60,239 in per diems, making the total for both branches $291,216.

The amount of the per diem varies and is based on the city or town in which a representative 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 legislators who reside in the Greater Boston area to $90 per day for some Western Massachusetts lawmakers and $100 per day for those in Nantucket. Members 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 argue that 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.

Some opponents argue the entire concept of per diems is outrageous and noted that most private sector and state workers are not paid additional money for commuting. 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 77 current state representatives received reimbursements ranging from $52 to $8,100, while 81 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 representative who received the most money in 2013 is Rep. Timothy Madden (D-Nantucket) with $8,100.

Representatives rounding out the top five include William “Smitty” Pignatelli (D-Lenox), $7,380; Tricia Farley-Bouvier (D-Pittsfield), $7,110; Michael Finn (D-West Springfield), $7,062; and John Binienda (D-Worcester), $6,588.

REPRESENTATIVES’ PER DIEMS FOR 2013
The dollar figure next to the representative’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 representative certified he or she was at the Statehouse during that same period. Representatives 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.

Rep. Denise Provost $1,550 (155 days) Rep. Carl Sciortino $0 (0 days) Rep. Timothy Toomey $0 (0 days)

ALSO UP ON BEACON HILL

STUDY PUBLIC UTILITIES’ TREE CLEARING (H 3754) – The Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy Committee heard testimony on a bill that would establish a 14-member commission to study the issue of how public utility companies keep transmission lines free of interference, stray tree branches and overgrown vegetation in order to provide safe and reliable electricity transmission. Supporters said utility companies have recently taken a far more aggressive approach to tree clearing than in the past. They argued that this approach should not be allowed to override local concerns about property taxes, home values, safe drinking water, wildlife habitat and public safety.

FIVE SPECIAL ELECTIONS ON APRIL 1 – It’s not an April Fool’s joke. There are now an unusually high number of special elections for four vacant House seats and one Senate seat all scheduled for April 1. The primaries will be held on March 4. Talk about the domino effect. Elections include the race to succeed former Sen. Katherine Clark (D-Melrose), who moved up to the U.S. Congress when she won the special to succeed U.S. Sen. Ed Markey, who resigned his U.S. House seat after he won the special election to succeed John Kerry, who resigned to become the U.S. Secretary of State.

Others include elections to fill seats being vacated by Sen. Donald Humason (R-Westfield), whose House seat became vacant when he moved up to the Senate after winning a special election last month for the seat held by former Sen. Michael Knapik (R-Westfield), who took a position at Westfield State University; and former Reps. Martin Walsh (D-Dorchester), who is now mayor of the city of Boston, Eugene O’Flaherty (D-Chelsea), who is becoming chief legal counsel in Walsh’s administration; and Kathi Anne Reinstein (D-Revere), who is taking a job as government affairs manager for the Boston Beer Company, brewer of Samuel Adams Beer.

RESALE OF SPORTS TICKETS – The Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure Committee will hold a hearing on January 21 at 1 p.m. in Room A-2 on several proposals to change the state’s laws for the resale of tickets to sporting and entertainment events including repealing the current law that prohibits the resale of tickets for more than $2 over the face value. If the repeal is successful, Massachusetts will join 27 other states that have repealed their anti-scalping laws.

Current state law dates back to 1924 and limits the resale price companies may charge to $2 above face value plus costs incurred by the seller related to obtaining and selling the ticket, excluding the cost of the seller’s general business operation. Allowable charges include paying for messengers to stand in line to buy tickets, and postage, long distance telephone calls and credit card fees. The current law is rarely enforced.

HOUSING LEGISLATION (H 1152) – The Housing Committee will hear testimony on January 8 at 10:30 a.m. in Room B2 on a proposal to create a Window Falls Prevention Program in the Department of Housing and Community Development. The program would educate the public about the danger to children six years of age and under of falling from windows and the importance of installing window guards in all state-controlled dwellings that are operated by local municipal Housing Authorities. The proposal also requires, subject to the availability of funds, the purchase of window safety guards for each of these public housing units in which a child six and under lives.

BAN SMOKING IN SENIOR HOUSING (H 1157) – The Housing Committee’s hearing will also include a bill that would designate at least one residential building within each regional and local housing authority as a smoke-free building. Any housing authority that oversees fewer than 100 units would be required to make at least 20 percent of their units smoke-free. The policies would be phased-in and current tenants would be grandfathered in and exempt from the measure.

Other bills on the agenda would grant preference to veterans in all state-aided housing projects (H 1104); deny access to state-funded public housing facilities for anyone convicted of Level 2 or Level 3 sex offenses (H 1133); and prohibit anyone who is ineligible for federal assisted housing to displace or be given priority over any applicants who are eligible under both state and federal guidelines (H 1128). Federal eligibility standards and proof of identity for housing assistance are stricter than Massachusetts standards.

QUOTABLE QUOTES

“I like the idea of raising the minimum wage … And I like the idea of updating our unemployment insurance issues. And I think there’s probably a place in between where many of the representatives of business are, and some of the representatives of labor are, or have been, that is a good compromise.”

Gov. Deval Patrick on raising the minimum wage.

“Increasing the minimum wage has the perverse effect of limiting opportunity for young and lower-skilled workers and pushing jobs out of the market. Far from helping poor people, moving the minimum wage to $11 an hour will simply ensure that people whose skills do not justify that wage will not find jobs.”

John Regan, Executive Vice President, Government Affairs of Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM), on the proposed minimum wage increase.

“When a homeowner enjoys a higher standard of notification when their neighbor down the street builds a swimming pool than when a public utility company comes on their own private property and cuts down their trees, clearly there is something out of balance.”

Rep. Josh Cutler (D-Duxbury) on his legislation to study whether utility companies are taking into consideration local concerns when they remove trees and overgrown vegetation in order to keep transmission lines free of interference.

“Without equivocation, the death penalty has no place in the fair administration of justice and makes no sense on a practical level. Regardless of how heinous the crime, we stand strong against the death penalty in federal and state cases.”

Boston Bar Association (BBA) President Paul Dacier announcing the group’s opposition to the federal death penalty following a study by its Death Penalty Working Group. The opposition is an extension of the BBA’s longstanding opposition to the state death penalty.

“I am beyond honored to receive the TRB’s 2014 Banks Award. I truly believe in the power of transportation as a force for positive change in people’s lives. Transportation is not just getting from point A to point B, it is how people are able to work, play and live their lives.”

MBTA General Manager Dr. Beverly Scott on being selected as the recipient of the Transportation Research Board (TRB)’s 2014 Sharon D. Banks Award for Humanitarian Leadership in Transportation.

“Politicians usually say opting not to run for office was a ‘hard decision’ to make. The truth is, this simply wasn’t the case for me. I’m not a professional politician and will never be a professional campaigner.”

Gabriel Gomez, 2013 candidate for U.S. Senate, announcing that he will not be a candidate for any office in 2014 but will instead return to the private sector and launch a yet-to-be-revealed new business venture.

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 January 6-10, the House met for a total of eight hours and 22 minutes and the Senate met for a total of five hours and 11 minutes.

Mon. January 6 House 11:10 a.m. to 11:15 a.m.
Senate 11:00 a.m. to 11:06 a.m.

Tues. January 7 House 11:05 a.m. to 1:59 p.m.
No Senate session

Wed. January 8 House 11:03 a.m. to 11:17 a.m.
No Senate session

Thurs. January 9 House 11:01 a.m. to 4:10 p.m.
Senate 11:02 a.m. to 4:07 p.m.

Fri. January 10 No House session
No Senate session

Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at bob@beaconhillrollcall.com

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