Beacon Hill Roll Call Volume 39 – Report No. 48 November 28, 2014

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By Bob Katzen

THE HOUSE AND SENATE. There were no roll calls in the House or Senate last week. In light of President Barack Obama’s recent action on immigration, this week Beacon Hill Roll Call examines the votes of local senators and representatives on immigration issues debated in the Legislature in the 2013-2014 session.

DELAY PROHIBITION OF LOWER TUITION RATES FOR ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS
The House on three separate roll calls, approved amendments delaying a proposal to prohibit illegal immigrant students from paying the preferred, lower in-state tuition rates and fees at Massachusetts universities. The amendments would replace the proposal with a study of the issue by the Higher Education Committee.

Currently, the lower tuition rate is offered to Massachusetts students who have been accepted into the federal program for those who immigrated illegally to the country as children and have a work permit.

Some supporters of the study acknowledge they oppose the ban and favor the study because it kills the ban while avoiding a direct vote on it. They said many of these students were babies when they were brought here by their parents and had no choice about entering the country illegally. They noted some hardworking students are currently required to pay out-of-state tuition rates that are significantly higher than the in-state rate.

Opponents of the study said the “study” is a blatant, age-old tactic by Democrats to kill the ban by studying it “to death” and avoiding an up or down vote on it. They noted past experience shows that none of these alleged studies are actually done. They argued that the state should not offer financial rewards to anyone who has broken the law and is in this country illegally. Some argued it is outrageous to offer low tuition rates to these students while legal citizens from outside Massachusetts, including war veterans, are required to pay higher rates if they attend a Massachusetts state school.

TUITION VOTE #1
On February 6, 2013, the House voted 123-31 for the study.

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

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

TUITION VOTE #2
On April 22, 2013, the House voted 107-46 for the study.

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

Rep. Denise Provost Yes Rep. Carl Sciortino has resigned

TUITION VOTE #3
On April 29, 2014, the House voted 103-46 for the study.

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

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

PUNISH “SANCTUARY” CITIES AND TOWNS (H 3400)
House 31-125, rejected an amendment that would withhold local aid from any cities or towns that do not enforce federal immigration laws. The withholding would also apply to communities that have established themselves as “sanctuary” cities or towns that offer protection in a variety of ways to illegal immigrants.

Amendment supporters said cities and towns that encourage law-breaking are hurting this nation. They argued the state should do everything it can to dissuade those who seek to come here illegally.

Some amendment opponents said the amendment is mean-spirited and noted that some individuals are here because of political asylum. Others said the amendment will not have any real impact, just like a municipality declaring itself a sanctuary city is nothing but symbolism.

(A “Yes” vote is for cutting off local aid to sanctuary cities and towns. A “No” vote is against cutting it off.)

Rep. Denise Provost No Rep. Carl Sciortino has resigned Rep. Timothy Toomey No

DELAY REQUIRING THAT SPONSORS MUST PAY FOR IMMIGRANTS (H 3400)
House 128-29, approved an amendment that would indefinitely delay a measure requiring sponsors of immigrants who have green cards (lawful permanent residents) to reimburse the state for any means-tested state assistance the immigrant receives. The amendment would replace the proposal with a study of the issue.

Supporters of the study said the House should get more information prior to voting on this. Others said they simply oppose the mean-spirited measure meant to hurt legal residents who through no fault of their own need some assistance. They noted that the state shouldn’t be punishing eligible individuals who have become estranged or disconnected from their sponsor.

Opponents of the study questioned why the state is providing these benefits when each green card holder is required by law to have a sponsor who has promised to be financially responsible for that person.

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

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

PROHIBIT LOWER TUITION RATES FOR ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS (H 57)
Senate 12-25, rejected an amendment that would prohibit illegal immigrant students from paying the preferred, lower in-state tuition rates and fees at Massachusetts colleges and universities.

Amendment supporters said the state should not offer rewards in the form of reduced tuition to any lawbreaker who is in this country illegally. They noted that these students are receiving better treatment than out-of-state veterans who pay the higher out-of-state rate.

Amendment opponents said that it is unfair to ask these students to pay out-of-state tuition rates that are much higher had no choice about entering the country illegally because they were babies when they were brought here by their parents.

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

Sen. Patricia Jehlen No

SHOW PROOF OF RESIDENCY TO REGISTER CAR (S 3)
Senate 13-25, rejected an amendment that would require applicants to provide specific proof of legal residence in order to register their cars. The accepted IDs include a driver’s license, Massachusetts identification card, social security number or other proof of legal residence issued by the state or the federal government.

Supporters of the bill said it would prevent illegal immigrants and people who lose their driver’s license in other states from illegally registering their cars here. They argued that the Registry of Motor Vehicles has refused to enforce the current law and is still allowing people to get their licenses by just showing a utility bill.

Opponents said allowing an illegal alien to own a vehicle in Massachusetts does not jeopardize the public’s safety. They argued the bill seems aimed at using the Registry of Motor Vehicles to identify and police undocumented people.

(A “Yes” vote is for requiring proof of legal residence. A “No” vote is against it.)

Sen. Patricia Jehlen No

MUST PROVIDE SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER FOR PUBLIC HOUSING (S 3)
Senate 11-27, rejected an amendment prohibiting potential tenants who cannot provide a social security number from being placed in a public housing unit prior to any applicant who can do so.

Amendment supporters said this would ensure that illegal immigrants who are breaking the law are not given priority over citizens and others who abide by the nation’s laws. They argued it is outrageous that illegal immigrants should be considered for scarce public housing units prior to legal residents of the community.

Amendment opponents said the amendment is mean-spirited, goes too far and will remove any flexibility.

(A “Yes” vote is for requiring a social security number. A “No” vote is against requiring it.)

Sen. Patricia Jehlen No

DELAY FOLLOWING OF FEDERAL STANDARDS (S 1835)
Senate 31-7, approved an amendment that would require the state to study and determine the costs and benefits of limiting eligibility for state-assisted public housing to individuals who qualify under federal guidelines. The amendment would replace a proposal that would require applicants to qualify under federal guidelines. Federal eligibility standards and proof of identity for housing assistance are stricter than state standards and include requiring a social security number.

Supporters of the study said requiring applicants to meet federal guidelines is unconstitutional and would take housing away from immigrants including people who were granted temporary status from Haiti, Sudan and Syria, and domestic violence, torture and crime survivors.

Opponents of the study said it is outrageous that currently people can get subsidized housing ahead of verified citizens without producing a social security number. They noted the federal guidelines offer exemptions for many of the categories mentioned by supporters of the study.

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

Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes

COST OF TRANSPORTING TO HANSCOM (H 4217)
Senate 9-29, rejected an amendment requiring the state to submit a report on the details of and the cost to the state of the transport of illegal immigrants to the Hanscom Air Force Base and Logan Airport by Federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The amendment was proposed to a bill that would fund the state temporarily until the Legislature approves a fiscal 2015 budget.

Amendment supporters said taxpayers have a right to know the details and cost, including whether any detainees were released from federal custody into the state and whether the state has provided any detainees with state benefits.

Amendment opponents said they weren’t necessarily opposed to the idea but noted that the passage of this temporary budget cannot be delayed or the state will run out of operating money.

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

Sen. Patricia Jehlen No

ALSO UP ON BEACON HILL

REPORT DRIVERS WITH SUSPENDED LICENSES (H 4521) – The House approved and sent to the Senate a bill requiring the Registry of Motor Vehicles to notify the local police department when the driver’s license of a local resident is suspended or revoked. The notification is only required when the offense is a specific crime committed by the offender including vehicular homicide and drunken driving, and if the person is a habitual traffic offender or poses an immediate threat to public safety. Included in the notification would be the offender’s name, address, license plate number, type of car and driving record.

Supporters said this would enable local police to spot and track drivers who are driving without a license. They noted this could prevent injuries and even save lives.

REGULATE PORTABLE ROCK CLIMBING WALLS (S 2253) – A new law requiring companies that set up portable rock climbing walls higher than 12 feet to be equipped with an inflatable protective base and guardrail surrounding the base of the wall is in effect as of November 28. The measure also requires that all climbers use a safety harness and a helmet.

Supporters say this popular but potentially dangerous industry should be regulated in order to prevent injuries and save lives.

Opponents say this unwarranted government intrusion would hurt many companies by not allowing them to use their existing walls and requiring them to purchase expensive new equipment.

NATIONAL GUARD (H 4109) – December 4 is the day a new law making changes in the state’s National Guard system takes effect. 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 say the laws governing the Guard’s operation have not been updated since 1954. They noted this law will bring the guard into the 21st century in many areas.

POET LAUREATE (H 2999) – The House gave initial approval to a bill that would create the position of Poet Laureate of the Commonwealth. The Poet Laureate would serve a two-year term and would act as a public emissary and advocate for poetry in the state and “seek to raise the consciousness of all Commonwealth residents, especially schoolchildren, to a greater appreciation of the reading and writing of poetry.” The unpaid position would be filled by gubernatorial appointment. The House gave initial approval to a similar bill in 2012 but it died in a House committee.

QUOTABLE QUOTES – By the numbers

“$400,000.”

The cost of the application fee for companies applying for the third and final casino license in the state.

“$329 million.”

The projected shortfall in the state’s $36.5 billion state budget that runs through July 30, 2015, according to the Patrick Administration.

“40,165.”

The official number of votes by which Governor-elect Charlie Baker defeated Martha Coakley. It was the closest gubernatorial race in 50 years.

“2,186,789.”

The official number of voters who voted in the November election. The turnout was a little more than 50 percent of the state’s 4,301,118 registered voters.

“49.”

Following a recount, the number of votes by which GOP Representative-elect David DeCoste ousted incumbent Rhonda Nyman (D-Hanover).

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 November 24-28, the House met for a total of 22 minutes while the Senate met for a total of 17 minutes.

Mon. November 24 House 11:04 a.m. to 11:21 a.m.
Senate 11:10 a.m. to 11:19 a.m.

Tues. November 25 No House session
No Senate session

Wed. November 26 House 11:01 a.m. to 11:06 a.m.
Senate 11:05 a.m. to 11:13 a.m.

Thurs. November 27 No House session
No Senate session

Fri. November 28 No House session
No Senate session

Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at bob@beaconhillrollcall.com

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