THE HOUSE AND SENATE: Beacon Hill Roll Call records the votes of local representatives on one roll call and local senators on four from the week of March 3-7.
$1.12 BILLION CAPITAL PROJECTS (H 3920)
House 148-2, approved and sent to the Senate a $1.12 billion capital spending bill that includes $354 million for the acquisition of state property, $50 million for the Massachusetts Cultural Fund, $60 million for State Police cruisers and $150 million for library projects. During debate, nine amendments were withdrawn, 15 were adopted and three were rejected. There was little debate on the bill and the amendments.
Hundreds of millions of dollars of earmarks to fund projects proposed by individual legislators for their districts were also included in the package. In reality, the projects are actually more of a “wish list.” The Patrick administration is required to adhere to the state’s annual bond borrowing cap and ultimately decides which projects are affordable and actually get funded.
Supporters said the bill is a fiscally responsible one that will fund important projects while maintaining the state’s excellent bond rating.
Opponents urged the House to rein in spending and said the state’s debt is one of the highest in the nation and will be a huge burden to our children.
(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
$13.1 BILLION TRANSPORTATION BOND PACKAGE (S 2023)
Senate 38-0, approved a $13.1 billion transportation borrowing bill that includes $1.5 billion over the next five years for local road and bridge projects. The project with the highest price tag is the $2.3 billion for the South Coast Rail Project that would extend commuter rail service to New Bedford and Fall River. A section supported by former Gov. William Weld would rename Boston’s South Station The Governor Michael S. Dukakis Transportation Center at South Station.
Dozens of amendments costing hundreds of millions of dollars were also included in the package. These earmarks were proposed by individual senators and were designed to fund projects in their districts. The projects are actually more of a “wish list.” The Patrick administration is required to adhere to the state’s annual bond borrowing cap and ultimately decides which projects are affordable and actually get funded.
Supporters said this will give communities funding for local road and bridge projects they are anxiously waiting to receive. They noted the package also includes billions of dollars for state roads, public transportation and other important transportation projects.
The House has approved a different version of the bill and a conference committee will likely hammer out a compromise version.
(A “Yes” vote is for the bill.)
Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes
REAL ID (S 2023)
Senate 12-26, rejected an amendment that would require the Registry of Motor Vehicles and Gov. Deval Patrick’s Department of Transportation to submit a report to the Legislature detailing the state’s progress in complying with the federal REAL ID Act, along with recommendations for any legislative action that may be needed to achieve full compliance. The REAL ID Act establishes federal standards for state-issued driver’s licenses and identification cards so that they may be used to board commercial airline flights and to enter federal buildings and nuclear power plants.
Amendment supporters said Massachusetts is not in compliance with the federal law and has until April 20 to do so. They argued it is time to force the state to act on this.
Amendment opponents said the Registry is currently in discussions with the Department of Homeland Security. They said that another problem is that this is an unfunded federal mandate that will cost states $3.9 billion.
(A “Yes” vote is for the amendment. A “No” vote is against it.)
Sen. Patricia Jehlen No
RULING OF CHAIR ON REPEAL OF PRIVATIZATION LAW (S 2023)
Senate 34-4, supported the ruling of the senate president that refused to allow the Senate to consider an amendment repealing the 1993 so-called “Pacheco Law” that regulates the privatization of state services which cost more than $200,000. The law includes several requirements including mandating that a state agency compare the cost of using a private company to the cost of the services if the current state employees were to work in the most cost-efficient manner rather than to the actual current cost. The state auditor also has the final say and can reject a contract that he determines has not met all of the requirements or is “not in the public interest.”
Supporters of the ruling said that the amendment is beyond the scope of this transportation bill because the amendment would affect all contracts in the executive branch, not just transportation ones.
Opponents of the ruling said the chair is being inconsistent since an existing provision in the bill provides $170,000 to remove asbestos and does not relate to transportation funding.
Supporters of repealing the “Pacheco Law” say that it is so restrictive that it has virtually stopped the privatization of state services. They argue that private companies can often provide services at a lower cost than the state and noted that repeal of the law would allow more privatization of state services and save millions of dollars that could be used to fund important programs.
Supporters of repealing the “Pacheco Law” say that prior to passage of the law former Gov. William Weld’s administration implemented extensive privatization of state services without any oversight or regulation of the process. They argue that the law has worked well and is designed to ensure that the quality of privately delivered services is equal to services that would be delivered by the state.
(A “Yes” vote is for the senate president’s ruling. A “No” vote is against it.)
Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes
BAN “UPSKIRT” PHOTOS (H 3934)
Senate 39-0, approved and sent to Gov. Patrick a bill banning the covert photographing, videotaping or electronic surveillance of someone’s sexual or intimate parts, regardless of whether those parts are naked or covered by clothing or undergarments. The House approved the proposal on a voice vote without a roll call vote.
The measure was filed and taken up one day after the Supreme Judicial Court had ruled that a man who took “upskirt” cell phone photos on the MBTA did not violate state law because the women did not have a legal expectation of privacy and were not nude or partially nude.
Supporters said the Legislature is acting at lightning speed to close this giant loophole in the law before another perpetrator gets away with this outrageous activity.
(A “Yes” vote is for the bill.)
Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes
ALSO UP ON BEACON HILL
ALLOW LIQUOR STORES TO OPEN EARLIER ON SUNDAYS (H 228) – The House approved and sent to the Senate a bill that would allow liquor stores to open at 10 a.m. on Sundays. Current law prohibits stores from opening until noon.
DRIVER’S LICENSE FOR ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS (H 3285) – The Transportation Committee heard testimony from both sides of a bill that would allow the Registry of Motor Vehicles to issue driver’s licenses to immigrants who meet other criteria but do not have a social security number. The legislation would establish a special driver’s license for those who are unable to provide a social security number but take driver’s education, pass a driving test and carry insurance.
Supporters said this exemption will ensure that these immigrants have driving skills which will make the roads safer. They noted that currently they are driving without any training or insurance because they are not allowed to get a license.
Opponents said that these immigrants are illegal and should not be allowed to get a driver’s license. They argued this exemption would result in the state becoming a haven for noncitizens to obtain a license.
LOBBYISTS, SALARIES AND MORE – The Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight held a hearing on several bills including increasing from one year to three years after leaving their jobs the period that former statewide office holders, executive branch commissioners, cabinet secretaries and legislators must wait before going into the lobbying business (S 1505).
Other measures on the committee’s agenda included allowing employees of state departments and agencies to share in receiving 25 percent of any unspent funds if the department or agency spends less than 75 percent of its annual budget (H 2907); establishing a sunset commission to periodically review all government agencies and authorities and recommend to the governor and the Legislature whether each should be continued as is, reorganized or abolished (H 2849); and prohibiting employees of any state authority from earning more than the governor, whose current salary is $151,800. State authorities include the MBTA, MassPort and the Health Connector. The bill allows the hikes if the authority provides a 30-day public comment period and holds a public hearing.
REQUIRE HEALTH INSURANCE TO OFFER SEVERAL MORE BENEFITS – The Committee on Financial Services held a hearing on proposals including requiring health insurance companies to include coverage for telemedicine, the practice of physicians using telecommunication and information technologies to provide health care remotely (S 467); mastectomy and a minimum of 48 hours in-patient care following the procedure (H 931); nicotine-based and non-nicotine-based smoking cessation products (H 945); prescription eye drops (H 903); annual physicals (H 968); and eating disorders (H 937).
WAIVER FOR LANDLORDS (S 1954) – The Committee on Public Health held a hearing on legislation that would grant local boards of health or the state Department of Public Health the power to grant a waiver relieving landlords of their obligation to provide heat during unseasonably warm outdoor temperatures. Under current law, landlords are required to provide heat between September 15 and June 15.
“Toll revenue cannot be used to meet our obligation to pay for transportation staff on the operating budget. Therefore, the one revenue source we can and we will turn to is Registry fees.”
Transportation Secretary Richard Davey on his soon-to-be announced proposal to raise fees at the Registry of Motor Vehicles.
“The potential is there for significant infringement of Fourth Amendment rights and privacy rights.”
Sen. Robert Hedlund (R-Weymouth) on his proposal to regulate the use of drones by law enforcement.
“It’s probably, if it’s not customary, it’s certainly not unusual for governors to think about whether they might have something to contribute some day as president. But I have no plans and I have no plans to make plans. ”
Gov. Patrick on whether he plans to run for president.
“One recurring theme among those who spoke was: If illegals don’t follow the rules by the very fact they’re illegals, what makes anyone think the rules will be followed once they get a license to drive?”
Chip Faulkner, Associate Director, Citizens for Limited Taxation, on the hearing on a bill that would allow Registry of Motor Vehicles to issue driver’s licenses to immigrants who do not have a social security number but take driver’s education, pass a driving test and carry insurance.
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 March 3-7, the House met for a total of 12 hours and 18 minutes and the Senate met for a total of six hours and 12 minutes.
Mon. March 3 House 11:02 a.m. to 11:26 a.m.
Senate 11:03 a.m. to 11:20 a.m.
Tues. March 4 No House session
Senate 11:07 a.m. to 11:10 a.m.
Wed. March 5 House 11:05 a.m. to 4:50 p.m.
No Senate session
Thurs. March 6 House 11:04 a.m. to 5:13 p.m.
Senate 1:04 p.m. to 6:56 p.m.
Fri. March 7 No House session
No Senate session
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