Beacon Hill Roll Call Volume 39 – Report No. 27 June 30-July 4, 2014

By Bob Katzen

THE HOUSE AND SENATE: Beacon Hill Roll Call records the votes of local representatives on three roll calls and local senators on seven roll calls from the week of June 30-July 4.

House 144-7, Senate 38-1, approved and sent to Gov. Deval Patrick a $36.5 billion fiscal 2015 budget that increases spending by 5.5 percent.

Supporters said the budget is a fiscally responsible and balanced one that makes vital investments in the state while continuing fiscal responsibility. They noted it makes important investments in local aid, education and human services including substance abuse treatment and prevention and mental health care.

Opponents said the budget is excessive and does not include sufficient reforms. They noted that since Gov. Patrick took office in 2007, state spending has risen 25 percent and the state payroll has expanded by 10,000 employees.

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

Rep. Denise Provost Yes Rep. Carl Sciortino has resigned Rep. Timothy Toomey Yes Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes

House 151-0, Senate 39-0, approved and sent to the governor a bill that would increase the state’s oversight and regulation of compounding pharmacies that create a specific product to fit the unique needs of a patient.

The bill comes more than a year after the State Board of Pharmacy voted to permanently revoke the license of the New England Compounding Center in Framingham, the pharmacy at the center of the 2012 spread of fungal meningitis that infected hundreds of people across the nation and killed 64.

A key section creates four new specialty licenses including a retail sterile compounding specialty license; a retail non-sterile compounding specialty license; an institutional pharmacy license for hospitals; and an out-of-state pharmacy license for non-Massachusetts pharmacies conducting business in the Bay State.

Other provisions include mandating unannounced, detailed inspections of all sterile compounding pharmacies and requiring board inspectors to be trained in both sterile and non-sterile compounding practices.

Supporters said the bill will save lives by setting many new standards and requiring more transparency from compounding pharmacies. They argued it will hold pharmacies to high standards in quality control and sterilization.

(A “Yes” vote is for the bill.)

Rep. Denise Provost Yes Rep. Carl Sciortino has resigned Rep. Timothy Toomey Yes Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes

House 151-0, approved a bill making changes in the state’s welfare system including increasing penalties for store owners who knowingly allow the purchase of prohibited products or services with an EBT card. The measure also mandates that applicants search for a job prior to receiving cash assistance. Current law gives recipients a 60-day window after they start receiving benefits before they are required to look for employment.

Other provisions change the exemption from the work requirement for women in the last four months of pregnancy to the last month of pregnancy unless there is a documented medical issue; reduce the period for an extension of benefits beyond the 24-month period from six months to three months; create a job diversion program to connect able-bodied individuals with full-time jobs before they start receiving benefits; and change the school attendance requirement from age 14 to age 16 and allows participation in an alternative education program or education development program to also meet the school attendance requirement.

Supporters say this long overdue reform of the welfare system is tough but fair and will crack down on welfare abuse while offering many poor people a road to economic independence.

(A “Yes” vote is for the bill.)

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

Senate 4-35, rejected an amendment that would provide an additional tax credit to companies for increased research and development done within the state.

Amendment supporters said the credit will spur economic growth and create jobs. They argued that some of the lost revenue would be made up by other revenues that are generated as a result of the credit.

Amendment opponents said this would result in a revenue loss of more than $50 million that the state cannot afford. They argued an increased credit may be a good idea but now is not the time to do it.

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

Sen. Patricia Jehlen No

Senate 31-8, approved an amendment allowing consumers to buy most products that cost under $2,500 on Saturday, August 9, and Sunday, August 10, without paying the state’s 6.25 percent sales tax. The Senate had defeated the same holiday on May 21 by a 7-32 vote.

Supporters of the bill said that the holiday would boost retail sales and noted that consumers over the past several years have saved millions of dollars during similar tax-free holidays. They argued that the state’s sales tax revenue loss would be offset by increased revenue from the meals and gas tax revenue generated by shoppers on those two days.

Some opponents of the bill said the state cannot afford the up to $25 million revenue loss and argued every study shows the holiday actually generates little additional revenue for stores because consumers shift their spending rather than increase it. They said that the Legislature should be looking at broader, deeper tax relief for individuals and businesses and not a tiny tax-free holiday. Others said that legislators should not vote for this tax holiday when they have not yet restored all the local aid, education and other program cuts made over the past few years.

(Both roll calls are listed. The first is from May and the second is from last week. A “Yes” vote is for the tax-free holiday. A “No” vote is against it.)

Sen. Patricia Jehlen No/No

Senate 9-29, rejected an amendment waiving the state’s minimum $456 annual corporate excise tax for the first three years that a corporation is in business but does not make a profit. Under current law, the tax must be paid annually even if the corporation does not make a profit.

Amendment supporters said this temporary tax reduction does not apply to large corporations that are making huge profits but rather is designed to provide relief to many small, struggling start-up businesses that often have only one employee. They argued the waiver would pay off down the road when these small businesses thrive, create jobs and pay more taxes.

Amendment opponents said that the waiver would cost the state millions in lost revenue that it cannot afford to absorb. They argued that the $456 per year is not going to make or break a business and noted that waiving the tax would not affect a person’s decision on whether or not to start a business. Some said that the waiver should be considered in the context of a broader tax bill that would be the subject of a public hearing.

(A “Yes” vote is for the amendment waiving the $456 tax. A “No” vote is against the waiver.)

Sen. Patricia Jehlen No

Senate 32-7, approved an amendment that would restrict and regulate the use of non-compete employment agreements. These are agreements that prevent workers from competing with their ex-employer for a certain period of time after leaving the company.

Two key provisions include prohibiting non-competes for hourly employees and from lasting longer than six months without a good justification. Other provisions allow non-competes to apply only to a geographic area in which the employee provided services in the prior two years unless there is a good justification and require the proposed papers be presented to the employee at least five days before he or she begins work.

Supporters said this compromise version does not ban these contracts but more strictly regulates them so that it is fair to both sides. They noted cases in which employers signed very broad agreements and ended up not being able to take a job in their field again for years.

Some opponents defended the contract clauses as important tools to protect a company’s trade secrets and sensitive information. Others said they prefer banning non-compete contracts outright.

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

Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes

Senate 19-20, rejected an amendment that would allow managers and shift supervisors at fast food restaurants to share in the tips received by the other employees. Current law does not allow them to share the tips. The measure also removes restaurant workers from a current state law that allows workers to receive triple damages if they are successful in wage lawsuits.

Amendment supporters said managers and shift supervisors spend a lot of time serving customers directly and should be allowed to share in the tips. They argued that several managers have brought lawsuits against restaurants that led to many restaurant owners prohibiting use of a tip jar out of fear they will be sued. They noted this hurts the workers who depend on tips.

Amendment opponents said the amendment would reduce the share of tips received by current tipped employees. They argued that the sharing would also remove the incentive for restaurants to pay their shift supervisors and managers more.

(A “Yes” vote is for allowing managers to share in the tips. A “No” vote is against allowing it.)

Sen. Patricia Jehlen No


FOUR QUESTIONS ON NOVEMBER 4 BALLOT – Secretary of State William Galvin announced the numbers that were assigned to the four questions that will be on the November 4 ballot for voters to decide.

Question 1: Repealing the 2013 law that creates automatic gas tax hikes by linking the tax to the U.S. Consumer Price Index.

Question 2: Expanding the state’s existing beer and soda bottle deposit law to require a deposit on bottles of most other carbonated and non-carbonated beverages.

Question 3: Repealing the 2011 law that legalizes casino gambling.

Question 4: Requiring employers to give sick days to employees.

How is the order of the questions determined? Although many people think that there is a random drawing held, Brain McNiff, communications director for Galvin told Beacon Hill Roll Call, “The secretary determined the numbering of the questions with a major consideration being the layout of the ballot, given that the summaries of the questions widely vary in length.”

FEE HIKES FOR RMV – Three Registry of Motor Vehicle fees increased on July 1. Passenger vehicle registration fees increased from $25 to $30 for one year and from $50 to $60 for two years. The annual state car inspection fee jumped from $29 to $35 and road test fees jumped from $20 to $35.

PROTECT DOMESTIC WORKERS (S 2132) – Gov. Patrick signed into law a measure establishing a bill of rights for domestic workers in households. These include employees who perform housekeeping, house cleaning, nanny services, caretaking of sick or elderly individuals, laundering and cooking.

Provisions include requiring that a worker who puts in more than 40 hours per week be given a period of rest of at least 24 consecutive hours each week; mandating that all meal periods, rest periods and sleeping periods count as working time; ensuring that workers have a right to privacy; and requiring that female full-time workers receive at least eight weeks’ maternity leave.

Gov. Patrick signed into law a bill that would establish nurse staffing ratios in intensive care units of hospitals. The measure would limit the ratio to one nurse for one patient or one nurse to two patients in special circumstances as assessed by the nurses on that unit. Supporters say this will protect and even save the lives of critically ill patients. Some noted this is the first step toward the goal of having staffing ratios in every unit in every hospital.

“In the World Cup of legislation, our elected officials let this goal go right through their legs. We did our best to work through Beacon Hill, now it’s up to the voters.”

Janet Domenitz, executive director of MASSPIRG, on the Legislature’s refusal to act on a proposed expanded bottle deposit law that will now be a question on the November 2014 ballot,

“This is a landmark victory for patient safety.”

Donna Kelly-Williams, RN, president of the Massachusetts Nurses Association, on the new law that would establish nurse staffing ratios in intensive care units of hospitals.

“Domestic workers often are poorly paid and vulnerable to discrimination and poor working conditions. This bill ensures they have, at the very least, basic workplace rights.”

Labor and Workforce Secretary Rachel Kaprielian on the new law establishing a bill of rights for domestic workers in households.

“There is a misconception the people in Massachusetts — and especially legislators — don’t care about our 2nd Amendment civil rights. GOAL (Gun Owners’ Action League) and its members are proving that theory wrong.”

Jim Wallace, Executive Director of Gun Owners’ Action League, on a recent trip to Statehouse to lobby for gun owners.

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 June 30-July 4, the House met for a total of six hours and 49 minutes and the Senate met for a total of 11 hours and 38 minutes.

Mon. June 30 House 11:00 a.m. to 5:23 p.m.
Senate 1:03 p.m. to 5:35 p.m.

Tues. July 1 No House session
Senate 1:00 p.m. to 7:50 p.m.

Wed. July 2 No House session
No Senate session

Thurs. July 3 House 11:02 a.m. to 11:28 a.m.
Senate 11:00 a.m. to 11:16 a.m.

Fri. July 4 No House session
No Senate session

Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at

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