Beacon Hill Roll Call Volume 40 -Report No. 15 April 13-17, 2015

By Bob Katzen

THE HOUSE AND SENATE: Beacon Hill Roll Call records the votes of local representatives on four roll calls and local senators on one from the week of April 13-17.

House 120-35, voted strictly along party lines and approved a set of Democratic leadership-sponsored rules to be followed when the House considers the fiscal 2016 state budget beginning on April 27. Provisions include requiring all amendments to be filed online, any proposed tax hikes or reductions to be considered early in the process and amendments to be filed within two days.

Supporters said that these rules are fair and responsible and will help make the budget debate go smoothly.

Opponents said the rules include several provisions that are anti-democratic and weaken the input of individual members.

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

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

House 35-120, voted strictly along party lines and rejected a Republican-sponsored rule requiring a two-thirds vote to ship proposed amendments off to a study committee unless the sponsor of the original amendment agrees with conducting a study.

The rule is designed to stop what Republicans describe as successful attempts by Speaker Robert DeLeo and his Democratic leadership team to prevent Democratic members from having to vote directly against many GOP proposals including ones to reduce taxes.

Here’s an example of how the GOP says it works: The Republicans offer a proposal to reduce the income tax from 5.3 percent back to 5 percent. If the Democratic leadership does nothing, there would be a roll call vote directly on the tax reduction. Most Democrats would vote against the reduction and then would be open to charges of being against tax relief.

Instead, a Democratic member offers a “delaying” amendment that would prohibit the tax reduction from taking effect until the Department of Revenue studies its economic impact.

Under House rules, the amendment to study and delay the tax cut is voted upon first. If it passes, which it always does, no other amendments can be introduced and the original proposal that would simply cut the tax is dead without ever having a direct vote on it. Republicans say the studies are a sham because they are never done.

They say this is all pre-planned by the Democratic leadership, that the Speaker at the podium calls upon a representative who is loyal to him and the member proposes the delay and study. Even if a Republican member is waving his or her hand and shouting to be recognized, he or she will not be called upon because he or she would not propose the delay and study.

Some Democrats say the study is often a legitimate option to examine the impact of the tax reduction. Other Democrats acknowledge that the study is proposed to prevent a direct vote on the tax reduction.

Supporters of the Republican-proposed rule said this Democratic ploy is used to confuse the voters. They argued that the new rule would at least give supporters of tax reduction amendments a better opportunity to successfully force a vote directly on the tax cuts.

Opponents of the rule said the current system has worked fine. They argued raising the bar to a two-thirds majority is a slippery slope that will lead to proposals to require a two-thirds vote for all kinds of legislation.

(A “Yes” vote is for the rule requiring a two-thirds vote. A “No” vote is against the rule.)

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

House 35-120, voted strictly along party lines and rejected a Republican-sponsored amendment that would give members seven days instead of three days to file amendments to the $38 billion state budget.

Supporters of the new rule said the budget is a massive document that members must have time to read and understand before proposing amendments.

Opponents said the three-day window has worked well and should not be changed. They noted that the Ways and Means Committee needs the early deadline so it can properly prepare the amendments for debate.

(A “Yes” vote is for allowing more time to file amendments. A “No” vote is against allowing it.)

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


House 35-120, rejected a GOP-sponsored amendment banning consolidated amendments from being proposed and considered during budget debate. Consolidated amendments are created when individual representatives file dozens of amendments on the same general subject like local aid, social services and public safety. They are then invited to “subject meetings” at which they pitch their amendments to Democratic leaders, who draft “consolidated amendments” that include some of the individual representatives’ amendments while excluding others. The House can only vote for or against a consolidated amendment once it reaches the floor. A member is permitted to remove his or her amendment from the consolidated package and have it debated and voted upon by itself.

Supporters of the ban said it is undemocratic and unfair to force legislators to vote dozens of amendments in one package up or down.

Opponents said the process is fair and has worked well. They noted that considering only one amendment at a time would be time-consuming and delay the budget.

(A “Yes” vote is for banning consolidated amendment. A “No” vote is against the ban.)

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

Senate 39-0, approved a measure that would require the Rules Committee to look into ways the Senate could establish its own committees independent of the House. Currently, there are 27 joint committees. The order was filed in response to an ongoing dispute between the House and Senate. In January, the Senate 37-0, approved a joint rule that would allow bills filed by senators that are heard by joint committees to be reported on and sent to the Senate for a vote if the Senate members of the committee vote to do so. The same rule would apply to bills filed by House members. Current rules require a vote of both House and Senate members of the joint committee. The House leadership is opposed to this new rule.

Senate leaders say this change would help make the operation of committees more efficient and help stop bills from being tied up in committee. They noted that the House has more members on each joint committee and as a result has more say over the fate of bills. Senate President Stan Rosenberg said, “The experience that chairs are reporting these days is very uneven. Some senators say their [House] co-chair couldn’t be more cooperative and more helpful and they have no problem reaching agreement and most of the bills move out when they need to move out — quickly, well, to the right branch. Other members who are chairing committees report the opposite experience.”

Opponents said this is a solution in search of a problem. In a Boston Globe editorial, House Speaker Robert DeLeo said, “The current system results in better representation on Beacon Hill for the people of Massachusetts. Of our two legislative branches, the House is, by design, the most representative of the people and structured to be the most responsive.” DeLeo continued, “This is why, as is true in many states and in Congress, senators cannot propose tax bills, and why the state constitution gives more power to House members when voting on constitutional amendments and ballot initiatives.”

(A “Yes” vote is for the measure.)

Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes


FISCAL 2016 STATE BUDGET – The House Ways and Means Committee approved and sent to the House its version of a nearly $38 million fiscal 2016 budget bill. “It is a 2.8 percent increase above last year’s budget,” said House Ways and Means Chair Brian Dempsey (D-Haverhill). The House begins debate on the proposal on Monday, April 27.

EARLY RETIREMENT (S 44) – The Senate approved, on a voice vote without a roll call, a bill creating the Employee Retirement Incentive Program that offers early retirement to up to 4,500 state workers in the executive branch. In order to qualify, a worker must have a minimum of 20 years of service or be at least 55 years of age. The plan allows for the hiring of replacements for some of the departing workers but caps the amount the employer can spend on replacements at 20 percent of the savings resulting from the early retirements.

Employees who want to participate in the program must file an application for retirement between April 27 and May 29, 2015, and must retire no later than June 30, 2015. The measure also allows retiring employees to be rehired as consultants for up to 90 days in order to “allow for sufficient knowledge transfer from departing employees.”

The Senate approved six amendments to the package and rejected 12 others, including one to expand the program to thousands of other state workers. Like the vote on the bill itself, the votes on these amendments were voice votes without a roll call.

Supporters estimate that if 4,500 state workers take the early retirement, the estimated savings would be $171.9 million. They argued this program is the best way to trim the state’s payroll and balance the budget without massive involuntary layoffs.

Some opponents said the delivery of state services will be affected by these layoffs. Others said the retirements will add to the state’s pension liability.

The Legislature approved and former Gov. Patrick signed into law many bills at the close of the 2014 session, which ended in January 2015. It takes 90 days for most new laws to become effective. Here are several new laws that took effect in April.

EXPAND PALLIATIVE CARE (H 4520) – Establishes a State Advisory Council on Palliative Care and Quality of Life and a Palliative Care Consumer and Professional Information and Education Program.

Supporters say the law will expand awareness of palliative care services and access to this system of patient-centered, family-focused care for those fighting cancer and other deadly illnesses. They note that patients who receive palliative care live longer and more comfortable lives with reduced symptoms including less pain and nausea.

PATIENTS’ RIGHTS (H 3804) – Requires Bay State inpatient mental health facilities to provide reasonable daily access to the outdoors in a manner consistent with a patient’s clinical condition and safety as determined by the treating clinician. The Department of Mental Health would issue regulations defining what constitutes reasonable access.

Supporters said this will ensure that patients are not stuck inside. They noted that fresh air has been shown to have a therapeutic effect on patients.

MAKE MATERNITY LEAVE GENDER-NEUTRAL (S 865) – Changes the state’s female-only maternity leave law to a gender-neutral one. The law gives parents of a newborn or adopted child eight weeks off, with or without pay at the discretion of the employer, and the right to return to their job after that period.

Supporters say this would bring this law into the current century. They note it is outrageous that coverage has been reserved for women.


“You think I’m crazy? You think I just fell off the hay wagon?”

Senate President Stan Rosenberg when asked by a reporter which House committee chairmen are the most difficult to work with, according to senators.

“Would I like to be able to go out and get an ice cream cone without a [police] detail? Yeah. But that’s just part of the life I’m living now I guess.”

Gov. Charlie Baker.

“We have been talking about this a heck of a long time, haven’t we? This is the year we get something done.”

Sen. Anne Gobi (D-Spencer) on legislation mandating equal pay for women who do the same job as a man. She noted that in 1923, a panel of Massachusetts lawmakers recommended addressing this issue.

“I am excited about building a business with a social mission and to be doing so with Bain Capital, a leader in both investment innovation and philanthropic and community engagement.”

Former Gov. Deval Patrick on his new job at Bain Capital handling investments that improve overall quality of life or that create economic opportunities in distressed communities.

“According to the Washington-based Tax Foundation on state and local per capita tax burdens, ours was the fifth-highest burden in the nation (behind CT, NJ, NY, MD). We pay $5,586 for every man, woman and child in the commonwealth, 32.4 percent above the national average.”

From a press release by Citizens for Limited Taxation.

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 April 13-17, the House met for a total of five hours and 47 minutes and the Senate met for a total of three hours and 21 minutes.

Mon. April 13 House 11:05 a.m. to 11:12 a.m.
Senate 11:02 a.m. to 11:34 a.m.

Tues. April 14 No House session
No Senate session

Wed. April 15 House 11:03 a.m. to 3:56 p.m.
Senate 2:03 p.m. to 4:45 p.m.

Thurs. April 16 House 11:03 a.m. to 11:50 a.m.
Senate 11:03 a.m. to 11:10 a.m.

Fri. April 17 No House session
No Senate session

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