Beacon Hill Roll Call Volume 39 – Report No. 52 December 24, 2014

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By Bob Katzen

THE HOUSE AND SENATE: There were no roll calls in the House or Senate last week.

This week, with the end of the 2013-2014 session approaching, Beacon Hill Roll Call continues its series that takes a look at some of the bills approved by the Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Deval Patrick in the 2013-2014 session.

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT (H 4377)
House 144-9, Senate 40-0, approved an economic development package that included a summer 2014 sales tax holiday allowing consumers to buy most products that cost under $2,500 on Saturday, August 16, and Sunday, August 17, without paying the state’s 6.25 percent sales tax.

Other provisions include $2.5 million for loan guarantees to small businesses; $10 million for brownfields redevelopment; $2 million in the Talent Pipeline initiative that encourages students and young innovators to get a head start on their futures by matching stipends for interns at innovation startups; $1.5 million for MassVentures to fund early-stage, high-growth startups in Massachusetts as they move from concept to commercialization; creation of a program to increase consumer demand and preference for local seafood products; and requiring a study of the possibility of Massachusetts hosting a major NASCAR event.

Supporters said the package bolsters the economy and creates jobs. They noted it encourages private sector investment, supports the manufacturing sector and expands economic opportunity beyond I-495.

Opponents said that government cannot fix the economy by throwing money at it. They said they favored proposals that would reduce taxes, cut regulations and create greater predictability for the business community.

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

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

$1.9 BILLION ENVIRONMENTAL BOND BILL (H 4375)
House 151-2, Senate 39-0, approved a $1.9 billion environmental bond package allowing the state to borrow funds to finance various environmental projects including $75.7 million for water and air quality protection; $48.8 million for the design, construction and repair or removal of municipally-owned dams and $20 million for state-owned dams; $30 million for the dredging of coastal public harbors; $20 million for the acquisition of open space, recreation and conservation land; $255.4 million for the construction and improvement of reservations, forests, parks, harbor islands and other recreational facilities; and $312 million to improve the energy efficiency of state-owned facilities.

The package includes dozens of earmarks costing hundreds of millions of dollars proposed by individual legislators and designed to fund projects in their districts. The projects are actually more of a “wish list”: The Patrick administration is required to adhere to the state’s annual bond borrowing cap and ultimately decides which projects are affordable and actually get funded.

Supporters said this landmark environmental package is a fiscally responsible one that helps the state and local communities improve the environment. They argued it is fair and balanced and provides for important projects in all parts of the state.

Opponents said the package is loaded with unnecessary spending. They said the state already has the highest debt per capita in the nation and argued more borrowing will devastate our children’s already debt-ridden future.

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

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

SUBSTANCE ABUSE (S 2142)
House 149-0, Senate 40-0, approved a law designed to remove barriers to treatment for individuals battling addiction. Provisions include removing prior-authorization requirements for outpatient substance abuse treatment and providing for coverage of up to 14 days in an inpatient setting; giving the Department of Public Health (DPH) new authority to reduce abuse of opioids and emergency scheduling powers to temporarily ban dangerous substances like bath salts; and requiring coroners to report overdose deaths to DPH and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Supporters said this groundbreaking law increases addicts’ access to treatment and offers appropriate and effective treatment to patients at all levels of care. They pointed to the rising epidemic of substance abuse and addiction, which often leads to death.

(A “Yes” vote is for the bill.)

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

INFO TECHNOLOGY (H 4355)
House 147-4, Senate 40-0, approved a $929 million technology bond package including $50 million to increase broadband service to homes and businesses in underserved areas in central and western Massachusetts; $38 million for a matching grant program to help public schools improve student instruction through the use of information technology; $65 million for technology improvements at the State Lottery; $68.2 million to upgrade the State Police communications network; and $5 million to improve wireless internet accessibility at the Statehouse.

Supporters said this helps bring the state’s technology into the 21st century and makes state government a digital business. They argued the measure institutes reforms that will help protect taxpayers against expensive and broken IT projects and ensure that public schools implement technology upgrades to improve the state’s education system.

Opponents said this additional spending is excessive and noted they have little confidence in the Patrick administration to appropriately manage IT projects in light of the $600 million it has spent on the flawed Health Connector.

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

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

AUTISM (H 4047)
House 151-0, Senate 39-0, approved a law to expand treatment and support for individuals with autism or a developmental disability. Provisions include creation of a tax-free savings account for autism and disability care that will allow all families of individuals with disabilities to save in a 529-style plan for expenses including education, housing and other services; giving public school special education teachers the option to attain an Autism Endorsement certification, a concentration in autism coursework and training that will prepare them to be leaders in their schools; expanded coverage for MassHealth recipients to help persons with autism spectrum disorders receive medically necessary treatments; requiring programs that provide residential or day care services and treatment for persons with a developmental disability to obtain a license from Department of Developmental Services (DDS); and requiring DDS to provide transportation for education, day care or treatment.

Supporters said this landmark legislation makes major strides to help meet the needs of the autism and developmental disabilities community. They said it increases access for thousands to education, job opportunities and developmentally appropriate programs.

(A “Yes” vote is for the bill.)

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

ALSO UP ON BEACON HILL

MINIMUM WAGE INCREASES TO $9 PER HOUR ON JANUARY 1 – The state’s current $8 per hour minimum wage increases to $9 on January 1. The wage will then go to $10 in 2016 and to $11 in 2017. The new law also raises the minimum hourly wage for tipped employees from $2.62 to $3 on January 1, $3.35 in 2016 and $3.75 in 2017.

HEADLIGHTS (H 4567) – The House approved and sent to the Senate legislation requiring drivers to turn on their headlights when visibility is less than 500 feet or when the use of windshield wipers is necessary. These requirements would be added to the current law that mandates the use of headlights during the period from a half-hour after sunset to a half-hour before sunrise.

Supporters said the bill will prevent accidents and even save lives. They noted that studies show collisions in Canada have decreased since that nation required more frequent use of headlights.

CONCUSSION TRAINING PROGRAM (H 4563) – The House approved and sent to the Senate a proposal that would amend a current law requiring all public schools and private schools subject to the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association rules to provide an annual mandatory training program about concussions and head injuries. The bill would require the same training in all charter and private schools.

The program would be mandatory for coaches, trainers, doctors, nurses, school marching band directors and parents of any child who participates in an extracurricular athletic activity.

CULTURALLY SENSITIVE HOME VISITING PROGRAMS (H 4556) – The House gave initial approval to a bill that would create home visiting programs that provide “culturally sensitive services” to parents, infants and children. The measure does not provide a definition of “culturally sensitive.” Home visiting programs are a voluntary home-based service for families with children up to age five years that provides visits by trained workers to promote positive parenting practices and build healthy child and parent relationships.

TOWN MEETINGS (S 2121) – The House approved a bill that would allow town moderators, after consultation with local public safety officials and local selectmen, to recess and continue a town meeting to a future time, date and place because of a weather-related or public safety emergency. The bill also repeals the current law that requires the moderator to be present at the physical location of the town meeting in order to declare the recess.

Supporters cited the example of the town of Georgetown, which had to postpone its town meeting during Hurricane Sunday but could only legally do so if the moderator actually braved the hurricane and went to the location of the meeting. They said this is unnecessary and dangerous.

CANCER VICTIMS AND DRIVER’S LICENSES (S 2417) – The Senate approved and sent to the House a bill giving cancer patients who have lost their hair as a result of treatment a one-year extension on having a new photo taken for their driver’s license. A Massachusetts driver’s license photo must be updated every ten years.

Supporters said it is unfair that cancer patients who have lost their hair are required to take a new photo while they are bald. They noted a picture of a bald cancer patient can be psychologically harmful because it is a constant reminder of their illness. They argued this compassionate bill would give them time to grow back their hair before taking a new photo.

DOMESTIC WORKERS’ DAY (H 4559) – The House gave initial approval to a bill making every June 16 Domestic Workers’ Rights Day, to honor all domestic workers who work in private homes and in recognition of Massachusetts’ historic enactment of basic labor standards in the Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights.

QUOTABLE QUOTES – “By the Numbers” Edition

$190,000

The projected amount of annual savings from the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation’s plan to replace one-third of its current streetlight fixtures across Massachusetts with efficient LED lighting.

21

The number of states, including Massachusetts, that will have their minimum wages increase on January 1.

18

The number of months the Bay State has been without a lieutenant governor since Tim Murray resigned in June 2013.

220

The age in years of the 1795 time capsule unearthed at the Statehouse in November and scheduled to be opened on January 6 at the Museum of Fine Arts.

71

The number of governors who served Massachusetts before Governor-elect Charlie Baker assumes office on January 8.

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 December 22-26, the House met for a total of 42 minutes while the Senate met for a total of 40 minutes.

Mon. December 22 House 11:05 a.m. to 11:25 a.m.
Senate 11:02 a.m. to 11:15 a.m.

Tues. December 23 No House session
No Senate session

Wed. December 24 House 11:02 a.m. to 11:24 a.m.
Senate 11:04 a.m. to 11:31 a.m.

Thurs. December 25 No House session
No Senate session

Fri. December 26 No House session
No Senate session

Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at bob@beaconhillrollcall.com

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