Beacon Hill Roll Call Volume 39 – Report No. 38 September 19, 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’ 2014 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, 2014 to September 1, 2014, 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 2014, 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 2014 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 2014. 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 2014 official list from the state treasurer’s office of the “per diem” travel, meals and lodging reimbursements collected by the Legislature’s 152 current state representatives from January 1, 2014 to September 1, 2014. The list reveals that representatives collected a total of $121,176. Beacon Hill Roll Call recently reported that state senators in 2014 collected $55,891 in per diems, making the total for both branches $177,067.

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 2014 statistics indicate that 65 current state representatives received reimbursements ranging from $104 to $4,680, while 87 have so far chosen not to apply for any money. State law does not establish a deadline that representatives must meet in order to collect the per diems.

The representative who has received the most money in 2014 is Rep. Michael Finn (D-West Springfield), who has collected $5,148.

Representatives rounding out the top five include Reps. Joseph Wagner (D-Chicopee) and Tricia Farley-Bouvier (D-Pittsfield), who both received $4,680; Sarah Peake (D-Provincetown), $4,366; and John Scibak (D-Hadley), $3,600.

REPRESENTATIVES’ 2014 PER DIEMS
The dollar figure next to the representative’s name represents the total amount of per diem money the state paid him or her in 2014. 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 imply that these representatives didn’t attend any sessions but rather that they chose not to request any per diems.

Rep. Denise Provost $680 (68 days) Rep. Carl Sciortino has resigned Rep. Timothy Toomey $0 (0 days)

ALSO UP ON BEACON HILL

Several bills that were signed into law by Gov. Deval Patrick in June will take effect over the next several months including:

GAS LEAKS (H 4164) – Effective October 1, 2014: Requires gas leaks to be repaired by the gas company in a time frame based on a three-tier classification system of dangerousness. Grade One leaks are most likely to cause an explosion and would have to be repaired immediately. Grade Two leaks are expected to create a hazard in the future and would have to be fixed within 15 months, while Grade Three leaks are non-hazardous and would have to be reevaluated every six months. Other provisions align civil penalties for pipeline facility and gas transportation safety violations with federal law and require gas leaks that are identified within a school zone to be prioritized.

Supporters say the state’s gas delivery system is the second oldest in the nation and has 5,700 miles of leak-prone distribution pipe and 20,000 known leaks. They noted the bill will help prevent gas leak tragedies, save lives and have a positive impact on the environment by reducing methane gas.

MINIMUM WAGE HIKE (S 2195) – Effective January 1, 2015: Hikes the current $8 hourly minimum wage to $9 and for tipped employees from $2.63 to $3.00. Effective January 1, 2016, it hikes the minimum wage to $10 and the tipped wage to $3.35 and finally to $11 and $3.75 on January 1 2017.

Supporters say this pro-worker law ensures economic justice and helps thousands of families who are living near the poverty level despite the fact that the breadwinner works in excess of 40 hours weekly. They argue that a minimum wage hike is one of the best anti-poverty programs available.

Opponents say the hike is unfair to businesses that are already faced with skyrocketing health care and energy costs and would also hurt consumers by forcing businesses to raise prices. Some say they supported a smaller increase to $9.50 instead of $11.

BREAST CANCER DETECTION (H 3733) – Effective January 1, 2015: Requires 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.

Supporters say that this will ensure that patients are given accurate and important information on which they base their medical decisions.

PROTECT DOMESTIC WORKERS (S 2132) – Effective April 1, 2015: Establishes 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.

Other 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.

Supporters say it is long past time to ensure that these domestic workers have the same rights as all other workers across the state. They noted many are not given time off, paid appropriately or given notice before they are fired.

Some opponents say the bill gives more benefits and rights to domestic workers than those enjoyed by many other workers who work outside a home. Others say this is an example of another overreach by the government. They argue it will increase costs to hardworking families and is a slippery slope that will lead to an additional bureaucracy to oversee what goes on in individuals’ homes.

QUOTABLE QUOTES – Special “By the Numbers” Edition

“$1 billion.”

The cost of transitioning the Bay State to an Obamacare-compliant health insurance exchange over two years, according to a report by Josh Archambault, Senior Fellow, Pioneer Institute.

“‘One’ thing I won’t miss is having to answer spurious charges from the Pioneer Institute based on politics rather than fact. The truth is that Massachusetts is still successfully expanding health care and doing so within budget.”

Gov. Patrick

“Eight.”

The number of House seats that are vacant following the resignation of Rep. Michael Costello (D -Newburyport) to join Smith, Costello & Crawford. The private law firm is comprised of Costello’s former aide Jennifer Crawford and former Lynn Rep. James Smith.

“5,300.”

Number of jobs Massachusetts lost in August according to the Patrick Administration’s Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development.

“3-1.”

The vote by which the Massachusetts Gaming Commission granted the Boston area casino license to Wynn Resorts for an Everett casino rather than Mohegan Sun for a casino at Revere’s Suffolk Downs racetrack.

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 September 15-19, the House met for a total of 39 minutes and the Senate met for a total of 34 minutes.

Mon. September 15 House 11:03 a.m. to 11:29 a.m.
Senate 11:02 a.m. to 11:21 a.m.

Tues. September 16 No House session
No Senate session

Wed. September 17 No House session
No Senate session

Thurs. September 18 House 11:03 a.m. to 11:16 a.m.
Senate 11:06 a.m. to 11:21 a.m.

Fri. September 19 No House session
No Senate session

Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at bob@beaconhillrollcall.com

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