THE HOUSE AND SENATE: Beacon Hill Roll Call records local senators’ votes on roll calls from debate on the $38.1 billion fiscal 2016 state budget. There were no roll calls in the House or Senate last week.
$6.2 MILLION FOR HOME CARE SERVICES (S 3 – Amendment #747)
Senate 39-0, approved an amendment providing $6.2 million and increasing income eligibility for the homecare program for seniors over 60. The program provides services to seniors including day care, personal care, laundry service, medication dispensing, transportation, grocery shopping and home delivered meals.
Amendment supporters said this will expand the home care program to include lower middle class seniors who currently can’t afford private care at home but exceed the income guidelines to qualify for the state’s home care program. They noted that this will add some 9,000 individuals who will be eligible for these services.
(A “Yes” vote is for the $6.2 million.)
Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes
$500,000 FOR TRAINING UNEMPLOYED (S 3 – Amendment #328)
Senate 39-0, approved an amendment increasing by $500,000 (from $945,000 to $1,445,000) funding for the Massachusetts Precision Manufacturing Pilot Program that provides training to unemployed and underemployed individuals, including veterans, to prepare them to get jobs in the precision manufacturing industry. This industry involves Massachusetts companies that provide precision mechanical components to the aerospace, defense, medical device and power generation markets.
Amendment supporters said the additional $500,000 will help train more people and lead to their filling a projected 44,000 vacancies in this advanced manufacturing industry. They noted the average salary for a job in this field is $75,000.
(A “Yes” vote is for the $500,000.)
Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes
$300,000 FOR AUTISM COMMISSION (S 3 – Amendment #933)
Senate 38-0, approved an amendment providing $300,000 for the Commission on Autism that was created by the Legislature in 2014. The commission was created to investigate the range of services necessary for individuals with autism or a developmental disability to achieve their full potential.
Amendment supporters said it is necessary to fund the commission now in order to hire an executive director and staff to implement the many policies that will help these individuals. They noted the state is making major strides to help meet the needs of this community. They said these successes will increase access for thousand across the state to education, job opportunities and developmentally appropriate programs.
(A “Yes” vote is for the $300,000.)
Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes
ALSO UP ON BEACON HILL
FORMER GOV. DEVAL PATRICK AND TRAVEL EXPENSES – The buzz on Beacon Hill last week was the Boston Herald article charging that former Gov. Patrick used quasi-public agency money to pay for his international trade travels. According to the Herald, several agencies, including the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority, contributed a total of $37.3 million to unidentified trust funds to pay for various projects. Massport and the Mass Tech Collaborative were responsible for providing $1.75 million for Patrick’s international trade missions around the world including $535,558 for hotels, $332,193 for airfare, $305,976 for limos and transportation and $175,000 in other costs.
GOP Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester) said, “An investigation should begin immediately to ascertain whether the transfer and use of these funds was as a result of improper actions or if any fraud, waste, or abuse has occurred. It appears that these transfers were made in such a manner as to elude disclosure and circumvent accountability.”
Democratic House Speaker Robert DeLeo (D-Winthrop) said that he was not aware of any of this. “I quite frankly, think it’s something that we really should take a look at in terms of how this occurred, what happened.” DeLeo said. “If I didn’t know about it, I doubt any member of the legislature would have known about it. That is disconcerting to me.”
TAX COLLEGE ENDOWMENTS (S 1482) – The Revenue Committee held a hearing on legislation that would impose an excise tax on private universities that have an endowment fund in excess of $1 billion. The tax would be 2.5 percent of the institution’s funds that exceed $1 billion. Current state law exempts nonprofit institutions, including universities, from paying property taxes.
Supporters of the tax say it is unfair that the schools are not paying taxes on these huge endowments. They estimated this could raise millions of dollars.
Opponents say that many schools already pay their host communities millions of dollars under the voluntary Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) program that encourages institutions to provide money to their host communities through a wide variety of ways ranging from outright cash payments to scholarships for local students.
OTHER TAX LEGISLATION – The Revenue Committee’s hearing also included a bill requiring for-profit corporations to pay a higher corporate tax if the compensation of the CEO is greater than 100 times that of the median worker’s compensation (S 1509); allowing businesses that incorporate in October, November or December to pay a pro-rated incorporation fee instead of the current $275 (S 1510); and giving a tax credit to businesses that create new jobs (S 1599). The credit would be equal to 50 percent of the job’s salary and each business would be limited to tax credits for 50 new jobs.
NO MORE PENSION FUND INVESTMENT IN FOSSIL FUEL (S 1350) – The Public Service Committee held a hearing on a proposal that would require the $50 billion plus state pension fund to divest its holdings in companies in the fossil fuel industry including coal, oil and natural gas.
Supporters testified that the state is immorally making profits from these companies that contribute to climate change.
Opponents said the Legislature should not be micromanaging the pension fund and noted this divestiture will come at the expense of retirees who depend on the many fossil fuel investments by the pension fund.
ALLOW SOME STORES TO OPEN ON THANKSGIVING AND CHRISTMAS (H 146) – The Committee on Community Development and Small Businesses held a hearing on several bills including one allowing retail shops that sell foods and goods labeled in a foreign language, which make up more than 50 per cent of the shop’s items, to be open on Christmas Day and Thanksgiving Day. The store would have to receive permission from the municipal licensing board where it is located.
Supporters say the measure is aimed at allowing stores like Super 88 that serve the Asian community to be open on these holidays. They said many Asians do not celebrate these two holidays and should be allowed to shop at their supermarkets on those days.
UNEMPLOYED MUST PERFORM COMMUNITY SERVICE (H 1743) – The Labor and Workforce Development Committee’s hearing agenda included a bill requiring anyone who has received unemployment insurance benefits for more than 180 consecutive days in any 365-day period to perform six hours weekly of public community service under the supervision of the Executive Office of Environmental Affairs as a condition of continuing to receive the benefits. A recipient who has collected benefits for more than 365 days in any 730-day period would be required to perform 12 hours of the same community work.
PROUDLY MADE IN MASSACHUSETTS (H 3387) – The Economic Development and Emerging Technologies Committee held a hearing on a measure that would require each movie made in the Bay State to include the credit “Proudly Made in Massachusetts” and a logo stating that the movie was filmed in the Bay State. Failure to do so would disqualify the filmmakers from receiving the tax credits and other incentives offered to movie production companies that make films on location in Massachusetts.
MORATORIUM ON STANDARDIZED TESTS (H 340) – The Higher Education Committee held a well-attended hearing on a bill requiring a three-year moratorium on the use of standardized testing as a graduation requirement. The bill would prohibit the use of the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment Systems (MCAS) test and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for Colleges and Careers (PARCC) test, a national exam designed to test the Common Core Standards adopted by the state in 2011.
Supporters of the moratorium said they want to put an end to this “testing culture” that creates pressure for students and reaps minimal rewards.
Some opponents of the moratorium said it would be a step backwards and could cost the state up to $200 million in federal funds. Others said these tests have been beneficial to many students by teaching them perseverance and how to handle challenges.
“As a small business owner, I know that local businesses aren’t setting up foreign subsidiaries to skirt tax codes, they’re paying their fair share for the services we all benefit from. We think it’s time to level the playing field and help our Bay State businesses.”
Rep. Josh Cutler (D-Duxbury) on his bill that he says would close a corporate tax loophole which allows multinational companies to hide profits in offshore tax havens.
“We should invest in clean energy, not incarceration. Creating green jobs in low- and moderate-income communities will reduce burdens on taxpayers, cut utility bills and help our state meet its commitment to fight climate change.”
Joel Wool of Dorchester, an organizer with Clean Water Action, on legislation to end sentencing policies like mandatory minimums and felony charges for low-level drug offenses.
“This past winter revealed extraordinary weaknesses in the MBTA’s ability to perform, and major changes are necessary to improve service and ensure the kind of accountability to riders and taxpayers that is necessary. The Massachusetts Municipal Association (MMA) is calling for passage of the governor’s reform bill because tinkering around the edges will not be enough.”
MMA Executive Director Geoff Beckwith.
“Once I had children, the urgency of this issue hit me like a brick.”
Rep. Marjorie Decker (D-Cambridge) on her bill that would require the state pension fund to divest its holdings in companies in the fossil fuel industry because she says fossil fuels contribute to climate change
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 June 8-12, the House met for a total of 28 minutes and the Senate met for a total of 14 minutes.
Mon. June 8 House 11:00 a.m. to 11:08 a.m.
Senate 11:03 a.m. to 11:06 a.m.
Tues. June 9 No House session
No Senate session
Wed. June 10 No House session
No Senate session
Thurs. June 11 House 11:02 a.m. to 11:22 a.m.
Senate 11:03 a.m. to 11:14 a.m.
Fri. June 12 No House session
No Senate session
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