Beacon Hill Roll Call Volume 40 – Report No. 7

By Bob Katzen

THE HOUSE AND SENATE: Beacon Hill Roll Call records local representatives’ votes on roll calls from prior sessions on the debate on House operating rules for 2015-2016. There were no roll calls in the House or Senate last week.

House 34-120, voted strictly along party lines and rejected a proposed Republican rule taking away some of the preferential treatment that legislators receive at public committee hearings. The rule would designate a 30-minute period during which legislators are allowed to testify on legislation. Legislators who want to testify before or after that period would be treated by the committee chair the same way that other people who testify are treated.

Supporters said that currently legislators are often allowed to testify shortly after they arrive at a hearing — ahead of citizens who may have taken the day off from work to testify and have been waiting for hours.

Opponents said the rule creates more bureaucracy and argued that committee chairs should have the power to adapt to individual circumstances and not have their hands tied. They noted that legislators are often going from hearing to hearing to testify on several bills and cannot wait for hours at each hearing.

(A “Yes” vote is for the rule designating a 30-minute period. A “No” vote is against the rule.)

Rep. Christine Barber No Rep. Denise Provost No Rep. Timothy Toomey No

House 34-121, voted strictly along party lines and rejected a GOP-sponsored rule increasing from three to five the number of days representatives have to file amendments to the state budget once it is released.

Supporters said it is not unreasonable to give members five days to read the hundreds of pages in a budget that is in excess of $36 billion and then to draft amendments.

Opponents said the 3-day period has worked well over the years and is sufficient.

(A “Yes” vote is for the increase to five days. A “No” vote is against it.)

Rep. Christine Barber No Rep. Denise Provost No Rep. Timothy Toomey No

House 34-121, voted strictly along party lines and rejected a proposed GOP rule to reduce the scheduling conflicts between formal House sessions and committee hearings. Formal sessions are ones at which important legislation is often considered by the full House and sometimes includes roll call votes.

Current rules prohibit committee hearings “insofar as practical” from being scheduled at the same time as formal sessions of the House. The proposed rule would prohibit committee hearings from being scheduled at the same time as formal sessions unless there is an emergency and the chair of the committee submits to the House a written description of the emergency.

Supporters said the current rule is weak and vague. They argued that legislators should not have to choose between attending an important committee hearing and a key meeting of the full House.

Opponents said committee hearings are scheduled well in advance in order to give citizens adequate notice to arrange their schedules to be there. They noted that if this proposed rule is implemented, the House will inconvenience the public when it reschedules a committee hearing to another day. They argued that current rules already allow some flexibility and have been working well.

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

Rep. Christine Barber No Rep. Denise Provost No Rep. Timothy Toomey No


BAKER SIGNS ORDER TO INCREASE DIVERSITY – Gov. Charlie Baker signed an executive order elevating the Office of Access and Opportunity (OAO) from the Executive Office of Administration and Finance directly to the governor’s office. The order also creates a position of Deputy Chief of Staff for Access and Opportunity to lead the office.

While this all sounds very technical, it is designed to reinforce the Baker Administration’s commitment to coordinate and increase diversity and inclusion within state government. The goal is to foster non-discrimination and equal opportunity regardless of race, color, age, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, creed, ancestry, national origin, disability, veteran’s status or socioeconomic background.

2024 OLYMPICS HEARINGS – Boston 2024, the group spearheading the effort to bring the Olympics to Boston in 2024, will hold a series of 20 statewide community meetings over 20 weeks to give the public an opportunity to have input. The first six communities to hold hearings will be Boston, Springfield, Lowell, Cambridge, Malden and a city to be designated along the South Coast. More details and the location of other hearings will be posted as they become available at

IRANIAN STUDENTS AT UMASS – The University of Massachusetts on February 12 announced that it was obligated to follow federal law and as a result would prohibit Iranian students from participating in graduate science and engineering programs at the school. UMass officials cited the Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act of 2012 that requires the U.S. Department of State to deny visas to Iranian college students wishing to take courses in fields of study related to the energy sector, nuclear science, nuclear engineering or a related field. The Act ia an expansion of U.S. sanctions against Iran and Syria

After backlash from students, UMass officials last week consulted with the State Department and reached a new decision. The university reversed its decision and said it will comply with the law by developing individualized study plans in these fields based on a student’s projected coursework and research. “We have always believed that excluding students from admission conflicts with our institutional values and principles,” said Michael Malone, Vice Chancellor for Research and Engagement. “It is now clear, after further consultation and deliberation, that we can adopt a less restrictive policy.”

STATEWIDE CANDIDATES SPENT $33.1 MILLION ON 2014 ELECTION – The Massachusetts Office of Campaign and Political Finance revealed that statewide candidates spent $33.1 million on the 2014 election. This is an increase of nine percent from the 2010 election. The candidates for governor topped the list by spending $20.2 million. Gov. Baker led all gubernatorial candidates with $5.6 million — $1.1 million more than he spent on his unsuccessful 2010 campaign for governor. Baker was followed by Martha Coakley with $3.9 million. The complete list can be found at

QUOTABLE QUOTES – Special MBTA Snow Edition

“For years I have been calling on the MBTA to fund necessary maintenance over costly expansion. The consequences of their decisions and fiscal mismanagement have been on full display. It is time for a new direction.”

Assistant Minority Leader Sen. Robert Hedlund (R-Weymouth) on a package of reforms proposed by Senate Republicans.

“I can’t give you the final answer on that.”

MBTA General Manager Beverly Scott, who has resigned effective April 11, on whether MBTA commuters would receive any kind of refund because of the problems caused by the snowstorms.

“The thing I find so disappointing about this is everybody just says, ‘We should raise taxes’ … This notion that we should just automatically push that button first before we’ve done any of the analysis on how we got here, or why we’re here, or how we get out, just strikes me as odd.”

Gov. Baker

“48 percent and 48 percent.”

According to a MassINC poll, it’s a tie: the percentage of voters inside the 128 belt who support and oppose raising taxes to fix the MBTA.

“The MBTA doesn’t need more cowbell or theatrical press conferences from their outgoing general manager. Rather, the MBTA needs to focus on gaining the public’s trust and performing basic services like ensuring the trains run on time … A clear path toward these remedies would be through receivership.”

Paul Craney, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance, endorsing the Pioneer Institute’s call for placing the MBTA in receivership.

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 February 16-20, the House met for a total of one hour and 36 minutes and the Senate met for a total of 15 minutes.

Mon. February 16 No House session
No Senate session

Tues. February 17 House 11:03 a.m. to 11:19 a.m.
Senate 11:03 a.m. to 11:12 a.m.

Wed. February 18 No House session
No Senate session

Thurs. February 19 House 11:05 a.m. to 12:25 p.m.
Senate 11:04 a.m. to 11:10 a.m.

Fri. February 20 No House session
No Senate session

Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at

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