Beacon Hill Roll Call Volume 40 – Report No. 10 March 9-13, 2015

By Bob Katzen

THE HOUSE AND SENATE: Beacon Hill Roll Call records the votes of local representatives on roll calls from the week of March 9-13. There were no roll calls in the Senate last week.

House 154-0, approved and sent to the Senate a $347.7 million supplemental budget to fund various state programs and agencies until fiscal year 2015 ends on June 30.

Provisions include $50 million for state costs of removing snow and ice during the severe winter; $7.6 million for the Department of Families and Children for foster care, adoption, shelter services, substance abuse and education and counseling services; $2.1 million for a prescription drug program for seniors; and $44.2 million for emergency housing services.

The bill also raises from $600 to $1,200 the threshold at which gamblers playing any machines at the state’s future casino and slot parlors must temporarily stop gambling and fill out a form informing the state that he or she has won the money. The casino would also subtract 5 percent of the winnings as a withholding tax.

Supporters said the package is a fiscally responsible one that funds necessary programs including several which are running out of money.

(A “Yes” vote is for the budget.)

Rep. Christine Barber Yes Rep. Denise Provost Yes Rep. Timothy Toomey Yes

House 8-146, rejected an amendment that would reduce from $1,200 to $600 the threshold at which gamblers playing any machines at the state’s future casino and slot parlors must temporarily stop gambling and fill out a form with the player’s name and address. The casino or slot parlor would keep 5 percent of the winner’s winnings for state withholding tax. The threshold under current law is $600. The supplemental budget raises it to $1,200. The amendment tries to get it back to $600.

Supporters of the current $600 threshold said it was approved in 2011 when casinos and slot parlors were legalized. They argued it should not be changed via a quick supplemental budget without public hearings.

Opponents argued that the $1,200 threshold makes more sense and is consistent with federal IRS regulations that have the same $1,200 threshold. They argued that every other state that allows gambling uses the $1,200 threshold and that keeping an artificially low amount will make Massachusetts casinos less competitive.

(A Yes” vote is for the $600 threshold. A “No” vote is for the $1,200.)

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

House 33-121, rejected a supplemental budget amendment that would require Suffolk Downs to continue to pay 3 percent of its simulcasting fees to the state’s horsemen as is required under current law. The supplemental budget repeals the 3 percent requirement. The amendment tries to reinstate it.

The repeal of the fee was part of the recent agreement between Suffolk Downs and the state’s horsemen for Suffolk Downs to lease the racetrack for live racing in 2015-2016. The repeal still needs to be approved by the Legislature and Gov. Baker.

Supporters of keeping the 3 percent fee said repeal will cost the horsemen $330,000 and devastate them as well as many breeding farms. They argued it is a slippery slope that could lead to other race track owners trying to get out of the 3 percent mandatory tax.

Opponents argued that retaining the 3 percent fee would jeopardize a recent agreement between Suffolk Downs and the horsemen to preserve the region’s only thoroughbred horse racing which provides hundreds of jobs and increased economic activity.

(A “Yes” vote is for the 3 percent fee. A “No” vote is against it.)

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


GOV. BAKER ESTABLISHES A TASK FORCE ON CHRONIC UNEMPLOYMENT – Gov. Charlie Baker signed an executive order establishing a task force on Economic Opportunity for Populations Facing Chronically High Rates of Unemployment. The task force would look at the reasons and solutions to high chronic unemployment rates especially among African Americans, Hispanic or Latino Americans, recently returned veterans and people with disabilities.

“These populations continue to see barriers to job growth and employment with an average annual unemployment rate of between 7 and 12 percent, despite the fact that we have an average state unemployment rate that’s under 6 percent,” said Baker. “And in many of these communities unemployment is nearly double the state average, which is unacceptable.”

STATE SENATE CONDEMNS ANTI-SEMITISM – The Senate approved a resolution condemning anti-Semitism and supporting “expanded anti-bias and Holocaust Education programs to increase awareness, counter prejudice and enhance efforts to teach the universal lessons of the Holocaust.” The resolutions condemn the rise and spread of anti-Semitism across the world.

SNOW AND ICE REMOVAL COSTS EXCEED BUDGET BY $22 MILLION – The almost record-breaking snow storms have resulted in skyrocketing costs for the state’s snow removal efforts. The current cost is $129.3 million, which is $22 million over budget. The state is also two weeks behind in paying private vendors for their services. The Legislature is working on a supplemental budget that would provide money to pay the vendors.

FORMER GOV. PATRICK LANDS $7,500 PER DAY GIG – Erin Murphy, COO of Boston 2024, the group leading the charge to bring the 2024 Olympic games to Boston, announced that former Gov. Deval Patrick has been hired as a $7,500 per day consultant to help promote the group’s efforts.

“Patrick has a passionate voice and unbridled enthusiasm for promoting Boston and Massachusetts to the world and believes the Olympic and Paralympic games can greatly benefit the Commonwealth,” said Murphy. “We are thrilled that he has agreed to help our team … He will not be a full-time salaried employee but will be compensated based on the amount of his travel and efforts.”

QUOTABLE QUOTES – Special Snow Edition

“We are out of cash to pay them.”

Frank DePaola, interim general manager of the MBTA, on why the state is two weeks behind in paying private vendors for snow removal.

“[The non-payment to private vendors is] criminal. Let’s get them paid.”

John Jenkins, chairman of the board of directors for the Massachusetts Department of Transportation.

“During severe weather, the MBTA may operate reduced service schedules.”

The understatement of the winter posted by the MBTA on its website.

“It’s been a really tough couple of months for a lot of people who really depend on the [MBTA] system to live their lives, get to work and it’s important for the Commonwealth, for the T, to acknowledge that.”

Gov. Baker on the MBTA’s plan to compensate riders for the delays and cancellations this winter. The plan allows cash-paying customers to ride free on any T vehicle on April 24 and gives a 15 percent discount on monthly T passes purchased for the month of May.

“For folks who missed out on work, folks who really don’t earn a whole lot of money, I’m not sure that’s going to go far enough. But to be honest, with the kinds of problems that the T has, I wonder if it might be better to spend it on other improvements.”

Kim Alleyne, T commuter.

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 March 9-13, the House met for a total of five hours and 35 minutes and the Senate met for a total of one hour and 57 minutes.

Mon. March 9 House 11:04 a.m. to 11:11 a.m.
Senate 11:02 a.m. to 11:04 a.m.

Tues. March 10 No House session
No Senate session

Wed. March 11 House 11:01 a.m. to 3:17 p.m.
No Senate session

Thurs. March 12 House 11:04 a.m. to 12:16 p.m.
Senate 11:04 a.m. to 12:59 p.m.

Fri. March 13 No House session
No Senate session

Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at

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