Beacon Hill Roll Call Volume 40 – Report No. 26 July 2, 2015

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Copyright © 2015 Beacon Hill Roll Call. All Rights Reserved.
By Bob Katzen

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.

STREAMLINE BUSINESS REGISTRATION PROCESS (S 3 – Amendment #363)
Senate 38-1, approved an amendment creating a special commission to study the feasibility of simplifying the process under which new businesses register with the state. The study would focus on improving state agency information sharing capabilities to facilitate the registration process.

Amendment supporters said the study would be the first step toward making Massachusetts more business-friendly and making it easier for businesses to start up in the Bay State.

The lone opponent said he voted against the amendment because it was “duplicative with ongoing regulatory review.”

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

Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes

$1 MILLION FOR REGIONAL TOURIST COUNCILS (S 3 – Amendment #414)
Senate 39-0, approved an amendment increasing by $1 million (from $5 million to $6 million) funding for regional tourist councils. The Office of Travel and Tourism markets the state as a whole while the regional councils focus on promoting their specific area of the state.

Amendment supporters said the additional $1 million will generate much more than $1 million in private revenue for businesses and tax revenue. They noted that tourism is the third largest industry in the state in terms of employment.

(A “Yes” vote is for the $1 million increase.)

Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes

MASSACHUSETTS EMERGENCY FOOD ASSISTANCE PROGRAM (S 3 – Amendment #227)
Senate 39-0, approved an amendment increasing by $1 million (from $16 million to $17 million) funding for the state’s Massachusetts Emergency Food Assistance Program. The program, established in 1995, works with food banks across the state to provide food to many citizens who need assistance.

Amendment supporters said this program supplements the other means-tested food assistance programs available in Massachusetts. They argued it will help many residents who fall between the cracks of eligibility of other programs, to obtain a healthy and nutritious meal and ensure their kids do not go to bed hungry.

(A “Yes” vote is for the $1 million increase.)

Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes

ALSO UP ON BEACON HILL

MASSHEALTH MUST COVER PSYCHOLOGISTS (H 1784) – The Committee on Mental Health and Substance Abuse held a hearing on a bill that would require MassHealth to cover the full range of services provided by psychologists just as commercial insurers do. Current law currently limits MassHealth recipients to coverage for only diagnostic testing services performed by a psychologist. MassHealth is the state’s Medicaid program that provides health care for qualified low-income and disabled persons.

Supporters said it is unfair not to provide this important service to the many people on MassHealth.

HOME SELLERS MUST PROVIDE ENERGY AUDIT BEFORE SALE (S 1761) – The Committee on Telecommunications and Energy heard testimony on a proposal that would require a seller or his real estate agent to complete and provide potential buyers with an energy assessment audit by the non-profit group Mass Save prior to listing the home for sale. The requirement would apply to condominiums and single-family or multi-family residential houses with fewer than five units.

Supporters said that sellers and buyers should have as much information about a home’s energy efficiency or lack of as possible. They noted that Mass Save currently offers free energy efficiency audits but most people don’t take advantage of them.

MANDATE ENERGY EFFICIENT HOMES AND BUSINESSES (S 1771) – The Committee on Telecommunications and Energy also took testimony on a measure that would require the state to establish definitions of very energy-efficient residential buildings by January 1, 2017, and commercial buildings by January 1, 2018. The state would then develop a zero net-energy standard that must be met for new residences beginning in January 2020 and for new commercial buildings in January 2030.

Supporters said 90 percent of all our energy still comes from dirty, dangerous and harmful sources and that our buildings use 54 percent of the energy we consume. They argued this bill would help the environment by cleaning up our air, lowering costs for consumers and reducing our dependence on foreign oil.

USE RENT PAYMENTS TO ESTABLISH CREDIT (S 697) – The Committee on Housing will hold a hearing on July 14 at 10 a.m. in room B-1 at the Statehouse to hear testimony on legislation that would create a pilot program for affordable housing tenants that allows them to use their monthly rent payments as a way to build their credit.

Supporters say this simple policy will help these tenants build up good credit even though they don’t own a home.

LEARN HOW TO PREVENT CHILDREN FROM FALLING FROM WINDOWS (H 1132) – The Housing Committee hearing on July 14 at 10 a.m. in room B-1 will also include a bill that would create a Window Falls Prevention Program.

The program would educate the public about the danger to children, age six years and younger, of falling from windows and the importance of installing window guards in all public housing with children six and under. The Department of Housing and Community Development would also conduct a census to determine the number and location of children under six in public housing and, working with community partners, could provide bars or screens to those units.

Supporters say that this would help prevent these horrible accidents where a child falls out the window and is hurt or even dies.

REBATES FOR BUYING ELECTRIC VEHICLES (H 2884) – The Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy held a hearing on legislation that would establish a program providing rebates of up to $2,500 to consumers who purchase or lease a qualifying electric vehicle.

Supporters said zero-emission electric vehicles reduce oil consumption and improve air quality. They noted the production of electric vehicles and their recharging infrastructure would create thousands of local jobs and stimulate the local and state economy.

QUOTABLE QUOTES

“It is more important than ever that we break down the barriers to patients seeking access to mental health care and substance abuse treatment. In 2015, we should be treating access to mental and behavioral health the same as we treat access to treatment for a heart condition or diabetes.”

Attorney General Maura Healey on her report, showing that health care benefits are categorized as either “behavioral health” or “medical,” a distinction that she says complicates efforts to better coordinate overall patient needs.

“Studies show that young people who have any amount of money saved in a 529 plan for a higher education are six to seven times more likely to attend a four-year college than those with no savings at all.”

Richard Doherty, president of the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities in Massachusetts, urging the Legislature to adopt a tax incentive to promote contributions to a 529 College Savings Plan.

“Though long overdue, it is wonderful that the citizens of Massachusetts will finally get to vote on ending prohibition.”

Bay State Repeal member Terry Franklin on his group’s work on a 2016 possible ballot question in favor of making recreational marijuana legal.

“Terrifying. I was sure all the representatives would be smarter than I.”

Retiring reference librarian Pam Schofield of the state library asked by the State House News Service about her first day on the job 32 years ago.

“We’re not going to arrest our way out of the heroin-opiate problem.”

State Police Superintendent Tim Alben on the need for drug rehabilitation as part of a multi-prong approach to tackling the heroin-opiate crisis.

Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at bob@beaconhillrollcall.com

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