THE HOUSE AND SENATE: Beacon Hill Roll Call records the votes of local representatives and senators on four roll calls from the week of March 10-14.
$177 MILLION FOR MILITARY INSTALLATIONS (H 3930)
House 151-0, Senate 35-2, approved and sent to Gov. Deval Patrick a bill that would provide $177 million over the next five years to make improvements at and expand the state’s six military installations.
Supporters said this would ensure that Massachusetts provides funding for all its major federal military bases and may help persuade the federal government not to close the state’s military bases if and when another round of closings occurs. They argued these military installations contribute more than $14.2 billion to the state’s economy and support more than 46,000 jobs.
Opponents said it is questionable whether state dollars should be used for a national purpose. They argued the money would be better spent on state problems like education, construction, health care and clean energy, all of which will also help create jobs.
(A “Yes” vote is for the bill. A “No” vote is against the bill.)
Rep. Denise Provost Yes Rep. Carl Sciortino Yes Rep. Timothy Toomey Yes Sen. Patricia Jehlen No
LOCAL AID RESOLUTIONS (H 3951, S 2039)
House 152-0, Senate 38-0, adopted resolutions stating the intent of the Legislature to hike Chapter 70 school aid by $100 million and unrestricted local aid by $25 million.
Supporters said that approving the resolutions now would inform communities how much local aid to expect so that they can plan their municipal budgets without waiting for the long state budget process to end. They noted the increases will help many cities and towns that are struggling.
Although no representatives voted against the package, Republican members tried unsuccessfully to amend the resolutions and send more money to communities.
(A “Yes” vote is for the resolutions.)
Rep. Denise Provost Yes Rep. Carl Sciortino Yes Rep. Timothy Toomey Yes Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes
INCREASE LOCAL AID BY $25 MILLION INSTEAD OF $75 MILLION (H 3951)
House 123-29, approved a Democratic leadership-sponsored amendment increasing unrestricted local aid by only $25 million instead of the $75 million proposed by the Republicans.
Supporters of the $25 million said the hike is a major step forward and argued the state cannot afford the $75 million.
Supporters of the $75 million said cities and towns are struggling and need the additional $50 million.
(A “Yes” vote is for the $25 million. A “No” vote is against the $25 million and favors the $75 million.)
Rep. Denise Provost Yes Rep. Carl Sciortino Yes Rep. Timothy Toomey Yes
INCREASE EDUCATION AID BY $100 MILLION INSTEAD OF $113 MILLION (H 3951)
House 123-28, approved a Democratic leadership-sponsored amendment increasing Chapter 70 education aid by only $100 million instead of the $113 million proposed by the GOP.
Supporters of the $100 million said the additional $13 million is unaffordable. They noted the $100 million builds on $410 million in increases in the last four years.
Supporters of the $113 million said the additional $13 million is desperately needed by cities and towns and will ensure that each community receives at least $50 per pupil.
(A “Yes” vote is for the $100 million. A “No” vote is against the $100 million and favors $113 million.)
Rep. Denise Provost Yes Rep. Carl Sciortino Yes Rep. Timothy Toomey Yes
INCREASE EDUCATION AID BY $13 MILLION (H 3951)
Senate 6-32, rejected a GOP-sponsored amendment increasing Chapter 70 education aid by $13 million (from $100 million to $113 million)
Supporters of the additional $13 million said the state can afford this money, which is critical for cities and towns across the state.
Opponents of the additional $13 million said the state cannot currently afford the $13 million and argued the proposal for the additional $13 million has not been properly vetted.
(A “Yes” vote is for the $13 million. A “No” vote is against it.)
Sen. Patricia Jehlen No
USE SURPLUS FOR LOCAL AID TO CITIES AND TOWNS (S 2039)
Senate 5-33, rejected an amendment that would require one-half of any state surplus tax revenue remaining at the end of this fiscal year on June 30 to be distributed to cities and towns as additional local aid. The amendment would cap the amount at $50 million.
Amendment supporters said this would ensure that the Legislature does not squander any budget surplus. They argued that struggling cities and towns deserve this excess money.
Amendment opponents said it is irresponsible to promise any portion of this excess revenue to cities and towns without knowing what the state’s financial situation will be at that time. They argued that the amendment would tie the hands of the Legislature. (A “Yes” vote is for the amendment requiring that up to $50 million of surplus revenue go to local aid. A “No” vote is against the amendment.)
Sen. Patricia Jehlen No
ALSO UP ON BEACON HILL
HIKE REGISTRY OF MOTOR VEHICLE FEES – The Massachusetts Department of Transportation Board of Directors voted to increase annual motor vehicle inspections from $29 to $35, non-commercial auto registration fees from $50 to $60 and road test fees from $20 to $35. The fees are scheduled to increase on July 1 following public hearings on the hikes in May.
Supporters say the hikes will raise $55 million to $63 million in fiscal year 2015 and will support road and bridge projects and improved customer service.
Opponents say the fees are nothing more than an unnecessary tax hike.
BREAST CANCER DETECTION (H 3733) – The House approved and sent to the Senate a measure requiring hospitals and doctors to inform patients when their mammograms reveal dense breast tissue. Other information that must be provided includes telling the patient that dense breast tissue is common and not abnormal but may increase the risk of breast cancer by making it more difficult to find cancer on a mammogram and that sometimes additional testing is needed; and that the patient has the right to discuss the results of the mammogram with the physician and radiologist.
PET EVACUATION (S 1172) – The House gave final approval to legislation that would require cities’ and towns’ emergency evacuation plans during a disaster or emergency to include household pets and service animals. Only final Senate approval is needed prior to the measure going to the governor.
Supporters said pets left behind often meet with tragic consequences including death. They noted that many pet owners refuse to evacuate without their pets and as a result put themselves and first responders in danger. They argued these owners should not have to suffer the additional emotional stress of having to abandon their household pets during a disaster.
Some animal advocates question why there is no provision for the evacuation of animals that are being bred for sale and technically are not household pets.
CAMPAIGN FINANCE VIOLATIONS BY LOCAL OFFICIALS (H 3760) – The Senate approved a bill imposing the same penalties on candidates for local office who violate campaign finance laws that are currently imposed on those for state and county office. The measure would prohibit a municipal candidate from appearing on the ballot if civil proceedings for failure to file his or her campaign finance reports on time have been initiated.
Supporters said it is time to treat all candidates the same. They urged the Senate to get rid of this giant loophole that favors municipal candidates.
The House has approved a different version of the measure. The Senate version now goes to the House for consideration.
PATIENT LIMITS AND CEO SALARIES – The Health Care Financing Committee will hold a hearing on March 14 at 11 a.m. in the Gardner Auditorium at the Statehouse on two citizen-generated initiative petitions. One would limit the number of patients a nurse can care for at one time (H 3843). The other one would penalize and fine hospitals that receive any state funds, if they post profits and/or pay their CEOs above certain limits (H 3844). The second measure also requires these hospitals to disclose to the Center for Health Information and Analysis all financial assets, including assets held in offshore accounts.
If the Legislature does not approve the measures by May 6, proponents of each bill must gather another 11,485 signatures by July 2 in order for their question to appear on the 2014 ballot.
AVIATION AWARENESS MONTH (H 2822) – The House gave initial approval to a bill proclaiming May as “Aviation Awareness Month” to increase public awareness of the economic, transportation, medical, public safety and recreational benefits of general aviation to the citizens of the commonwealth. The measure also requires the governor to “recommend that the day be observed in an appropriate manner by the people.”
“It is a careful balancing act and one that involves improving conditions for workers at the bottom of our wage scale while creating a climate that permits businesses to create jobs.”
House Speaker Robert DeLeo on his proposal to raise the minimum wage from $8 per hour to $10.50 per hour and reform the state’s unemployment insurance system.
“(It)would force employers to fire many of their low-wage workers or to expand more slowly than they had planned. A vote to raise the minimum wage is a vote for inflation, pure and simple.”
Paul Craney, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance, on the proposed minimum wage hike.
“World-class cities offer late-night public transit to support the workforce and a vibrant nightlife. Boston is a world-class city.”
Gov. Deval Patrick announcing that on March 28 the MBTA will implement a new Late Night Pilot Program in which subways and buses will run service 90 minutes longer on Friday and Saturday nights.
“The fees collected will support road and bridge projects, improved customer service and allow the state’s Department of Transportation to properly fund its operating expenses.”
Registrar of Motor Vehicles Celia J. Blue on new hikes in three Registry of Motor Vehicles fees.
“Article 23 of the Massachusetts Constitution reads: ‘No subsidy, charge, tax, impost, or duties, ought to be established, fixed, laid, or levied, under any pretext whatsoever, without the consent of the people, or their representatives in the Legislature.’ What part of ‘under any pretext whatsoever’ does the Registry of Motor Vehicles not understand?”
Chip Ford, Director of Operations, Citizens for Limited Taxation.
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 10-14, the House met for a total of 13 hours and 58 minutes and the Senate met for a total of two hours and 18 minutes.
Mon. March 10 House 11:01 a.m. to 3:07 p.m.
Senate 11:02 a.m. to 11:20 a.m.
Tues. March 11 No House session
No Senate session.
Wed. March 12 House 11:04 a.m. to 4:55 p.m.
Senate 1:02 p.m. to 1:03 p.m.
Thurs. March 13 House 11:01 a.m. to 3:02 p.m.
Senate 1:00 p.m. to 2:59 p.m.
Fri. March 14 No House session
No Senate session
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