Beacon Hill Roll Call Volume 39 – Report No. 35 August 29, 2014

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Copyright © 2014 Beacon Hill Roll Call. All Rights Reserved.
By Bob Katzen

MEMO TO BHRC SUBSCRIBERS: This week’s report is on the 2014 roll call attendance record of your local senators through August 31. Some senators may have poor attendance records for a variety of reasons, including health problems or military service. We do not ask each senator
why he or she missed roll call votes, but it is something you may want to check out with any of your local legislators who have missed roll call votes. If we can be of further assistance, please feel free to contact us.

This week’s report follows:

THE HOUSE AND SENATE. There were no roll call votes in the House or Senate last week. This week, Beacon Hill Roll Call reports local senators’ roll call attendance records for the 2014 session through August 31.

The Senate has held 260 roll call votes. Beacon Hill Roll Call tabulates the number of roll calls on which each senator was present and voting and then calculates that number as a percentage of the total roll call votes held. That percentage is the number referred to as the roll call attendance record.

Only 16 of the Senate’s 40 members have 100 percent roll call attendance records.

Some senators may have poor attendance records because of a variety of reasons including health problems or military service. Beacon Hill Roll Call does not ask each individual senator why he or she missed roll call votes.

The senator who missed the most roll calls is Sen. Thomas McGee (D-Lynn), who missed 23 roll calls (91.1 percent attendance).

Rounding out the top five worst are Sens. Michael Rush (D-Boston), missed 15 roll calls (94.2 percent attendance); Gale Candaras (D-Wilbraham), missed 14 roll calls (94.6 percent attendance); James Eldridge (D-Acton), missed 13 roll calls (95.0 percent attendance); and James Timilty (D-Walpole), missed ten roll calls (96.1 percent attendance).

SENATORS’ 2014 ROLL CALL ATTENDANCE RECORDS THROUGH AUGUST 31
The percentage listed next to the senator’s name is the percentage of roll call votes for which the senator was present and voting. The number in parentheses represents the number of roll calls that the senator missed.

Sen. Patricia Jehlen 99.6 percent (1)

ALSO UP ON BEACON HILL

STATE DIVESTMENT FROM FOSSIL FUELS (H 4354) – The House approved and sent to the Senate a bill creating an 11-member special commission to investigate the prospect of requiring the state’s pension funds to divest themselves of all fossil fuel companies including coal, oil and gas. The commission would evaluate the positive impact that divestment may have upon the environment weighed against the potential risk to the state’s pension funds and retirees. It would send its findings to the Legislature by February 15, 2015.

LOWER STATE SHARE OF RACING REVENUE (H 4365) – The House and Senate both accepted Gov. Deval Patrick’s amendment deleting a provision that would have reduced the state’s piece of the action on out-of-state greyhound races that are shown live at Raynham Park.

In his veto message, Patrick said that the bill does not provide any replacement for that lost revenue and “would leave the Racing Division nearly $600,000 short of its operating budget this year, and would create an annually recurring shortfall of approximately the same amount.”

Supporters of the reduction said it would bring the state’s take on greyhound simulcast races to the same percentage the state receives from simulcast horse racing.

TAX AMNESTY FROM SEPTEMBER 1 TO OCTOBER 31 – The Department of Revenue (DOR) announced the details of the tax amnesty program recently approved by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Patrick. If you owe the state back taxes, are issued a “Tax Amnesty Notice” from DOR and pay the full amount of tax and interest due by October 31, 2014, DOR will waive all penalties already incurred. For more details, go to mass.gov/dor/amnesty

INTERIOR DESIGNERS (H 4303) – Gov. Patrick signed into law a bill that establishes the right of interior designers to bid directly on state contracts. Currently, designers are prohibited from doing so and are only allowed to subcontract their services with architectural firms that are bidding on projects.

Supporters say that current law is unfair and puts interior designers at a disadvantage. They noted allowing direct bidding would create competition, reduce costs and save taxpayers’ money.

NATIONAL GUARD (H 4109) – The Senate approved and sent to Gov. Patrick legislation originally filed by the governor, making changes in the state’s National Guard system. The measure gives the Guard the authority to address homeland security threats. Other provisions add new protections against discrimination on the basis of religion or sexual orientation; increase the penalty for obstructing an enlisted person while on duty; and prohibit students from being penalized academically if they have to take a break to serve in the Guard. Students would have the option to complete the course at a later date without penalty or withdraw from the course with a full refund of fees and tuition.

Supporters said the laws governing the Guard’s operation have not been updated since 1954. They noted this bill will bring the guard into the 21st century in many areas.

THEFT FROM RETAIL STORES (S 2346) – The governor sent to the Legislature an amendment to a bill creating new crimes relating to theft from retail stores. The new crimes include using coated bags, duct tape or other devices that block sensors designed to set off an alarm if not removed by the cashier; forging a bogus sales receipt or UPC code; and working in an organized retail theft ring.

Supporters said that these theft rings are estimated to cost Massachusetts retailers more than $160 million annually.

Gov. Patrick amended the bill to allow prosecutors the discretion to bring anyone accused of the crime a second time to seek a lesser House of Corrections imprisonment rather than a state prison one. The Legislature will agree to the governor’s amendment, according to Sen. William Brownsberger (D-Belmont), the Senate chairman of the Judiciary Committee, who was instrumental in the bill’s passage.

QUOTABLE QUOTES

“Most people in Massachusetts do the right thing and pay their taxes to support critical government services. This amnesty program provides those who are delinquent on their taxes the opportunity to pay their share without additional penalties.”

Department of Revenue Commissioner Amy Pitter on the state’s tax amnesty program giving some delinquent taxpayers two months to pay their taxes without paying any penalty.

“As we move our operations to a new Boston neighborhood next month, we are offering the public the opportunity to attend the plate drawing and get a sneak peek at our new branch in Haymarket Center.”

Registrar of Motor Vehicles Celia Blue on the low license plate lottery to be held on September 10 at Boston’s new RMV adjacent to the MBTA’s Haymarket Station. This year’s batch includes 160 low number license plates.

“Market Basket is a major employer in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, and an important local resource for the communities the company serves. We are delighted that the parties have reached agreement on terms of sale and resolution of operating authority, so that employees can return to work and customers will once again be able to rely on these stores to meet their needs.”

From a joint statement by Gov. Patrick and New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan.

“Well, of course, I mean, yeah, that’s human nature … But, in general, I’m pretty satisfied with my decision.”

Congressman Michael Capuano (D-Somerville) when asked about whether he had any regrets about his decision last year not to run for governor but to run for re-election to Congress instead.

“State regulators welcome innovations that lead to greater choice and lower costs, but we also want to understand any consumer and marketplace risks as we evaluate the overall benefits of virtual currencies.”

Massachusetts Commissioner of Banks and Chair of the national Emerging Payments Task Force on the task force’s study of Bitcoin, a controversial, peer-to-peer digital currency.

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 August 25-29, the House met for a total of 34 minutes while the Senate met for a total of 42 minutes.

Mon. August 25 House 11:06 a.m. to 11:15 a.m.
Senate 11:02 a.m. to 11:07 a.m.

Tues. August 26 No House session
No Senate session

Wed. August 27 No House session
No Senate session

Thurs. August 28 House 11:01 a.m. to 11:26 a.m.
Senate 11:04 a.m. to 11:41 a.m.

Fri. August 29 No House session
No Senate session

Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at bob@beaconhillrollcall.com

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