Beacon Hill Roll Call Volume 40 – Report No. 28 July 13-17, 2015

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

THE HOUSE AND SENATE: There were no roll calls in the House or Senate last week.

The controversial subject of sanctuary cities and towns is back in the news following the recent murder of 32-year-old Kate Steinle, allegedly killed by illegal immigrant Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, while walking on the street with her father in San Francisco, a sanctuary city. Lopez-Sanchez, a Mexican national, had been deported five times for multiple felonies.

Fox News host Bill O’Reilly is leading the charge for passage of Kate’s Law, a federal law that would provide that if an illegal immigrant who was already deported is re-arrested in a sanctuary city or elsewhere, local law enforcement would be required to immediately notify U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and to hold the illegal alien until ICE picks them up. The illegal immigrant would then face trial. If convicted, he or she would be imprisoned for a mandatory sentence of five years on his/her first conviction. A second conviction would carry with it a 10-year mandatory prison sentence and a third conviction would result in a 20-year sentence. The bill wouldn’t give judges discretion on sentencing.

According to Aspen Law Offices, a New York City-based law firm that specializes in immigration issues, “Sanctuary city is a name given to a city in the United States that follows certain procedures that shelter illegal immigrants. The term most commonly is used for cities that do not permit municipal funds or resources to be applied in furtherance of enforcement of federal immigration laws. These cities normally do not permit police or municipal employees to inquire about one’s immigration status.”

Aspen also notes that Massachusetts currently has five sanctuary cities and towns: Cambridge, Chelsea, Northampton, Orleans and Somerville.

In 2013, the Massachusetts House 31-125, voted against a budget amendment that would withhold local aid from any cities or towns that do not enforce federal immigration laws. The vote was almost strictly along party lines. All Republicans voted for the amendment joined by only two Democrats, Reps. Colleen Garry (D-Dracut) and James Miceli (D-Wilmington).

At that time, amendment supporters said cities and towns that encourage law-breaking are hurting this nation. They pointed to other attacks and argued the state should do everything it can to dissuade those who seek to come here illegally.

Some amendment opponents said they support sanctuary cities and noted that some individuals are here because of political asylum. Others said they oppose sanctuary cities but do not support cutting off local aid as punishment.

Rep. Shaunna O’Connor (R-Taunton), a co-sponsor of the amendment, said last week that “we are a nation of laws.” O’Connell continued, “If communities are determined to make their own set of laws, then that community should be responsible for paying for it, not the law-abiding citizens of Massachusetts. Furthermore, after the recent murders, it is clear that we should be discouraging sanctuary cities.”

Some opponents of the amendment express their outright support for sanctuary cities. Others, like Rep. David Linsky (D-Natick), opposed the amendment but also opposed sanctuary cities. “While I do not support the concept of sanctuary cities, denying local aid funds would prevent these cities and towns from hiring teachers, firefighters and police officers as well as withholding infrastructure funds that would go to fix our roads,” he told Beacon Hill Roll Call last week. “Passage of the amendment would have endangered public safety and would have taken away public education funding necessary to educate our children.”

Here is the 31-125 vote on which the House defeated an amendment that would withhold local aid from any cities or towns that do not enforce federal immigration laws.

(A “Yes” vote is for the amendment that withholds the funds. A “No” vote is against the amendment.)

Rep. Christine Barber Was not yet elected Rep. Denise Provost No Rep. Timothy Toomey No


POSSIBLE 2016 BALLOT QUESTION BANNING TAXPAYER FUNDING OF 2024 OLYMPICS – Citizens for a Say and Tank Taxes for Olympics, the two groups that are working toward placing a ballot question prohibiting taxpayer dollars from being used for the possible Boston 2024 Olympics, have filed the language of their proposed ballot question with Attorney General Maura Healey’s office. The question asks if voters support prohibiting any state official, state agency or other state entity from directly or indirectly spending any state taxpayer funds on the games. The specific language prohibits the state from “issuing any bonds, entering into any guarantees, issuing any tax credits or tax incentives, incurring any liability, indebtedness or obligation or taking any private property by eminent domain to procure, aid or remediate the effects of the 2024 Olympics.” The language does allow public spending on the state’s transportation system “even if such actions may facilitate procuring, aiding or remediating the effects of the 2024 Olympics.”

If the Attorney General rules the question is constitutional, supporters will have to collect 64,750 voter signatures by November 18 2015. The proposal would then be sent to the Legislature and if not approved by May 3, 2016, proponents must gather another 10,792 signatures by July 6, 2016, in order for the question to appear on the 2016 ballot.

Citizens for a Say is headed by former 2014 gubernatorial candidate Evan Falchuk. Marty Lamb, Steve Aylward and Rep. Shaunna O’Connell (R-Taunton) are co-chairs of Tank Taxes for Olympics.

NO HIGH-LEVEL SEX OFFENDERS IN PUBLIC HOUSING (H 1117) – The Housing Committee held a hearing on a bill that would prohibit Level 2 and Level 3 sex offenders from living in any state-subsidized public housing building.

Supporters say these high-level sex offenders are often likely to reoffend and should not be in public housing where they are subsidized by the state. They noted that when any sex offender is allowed in public housing, it means a more upstanding person is on a waiting list.

Opponents say that once these offenders serve their sentences, they should be treated like every other person. They note that this is a slippery slope that could result in banning even more groups of people from public housing.

OTHER HOUSING BILLS – Other bills on the Housing Committee’s agenda included a pilot program to assist local housing authorities to help lower-income residents’ credit records by reporting their on-time rent payments to credit bureaus (S 697); creating a special commission to study and report back to the Legislature on the prevalence and impact of the bullying of tenants in public housing, with a focus on elderly and disabled tenants (S 709); and excluding veterans benefits and not counting them as income when veterans apply to live in public housing (H 1125).

SALES TAX HOLIDAY (H 3659) – It looks like a 2015 sales tax holiday on Saturday, August 15, and Sunday, August 16, might be in store for shoppers. The Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies has given a favorable report to a bill allowing consumers to buy most products that cost under $2,500 on those two days without paying the state’s 6.25 percent sales tax.

Supporters of the bill say that the holiday would boost retail sales and noted that consumers over the past several years have saved millions of dollars during similar tax-free holidays. They argue that the state’s sales tax revenue loss would be offset by increased meals and gas tax revenue generated by shoppers on those two days.

Some opponents of the bill say the state cannot afford the up to $40 million revenue loss and argued the holiday actually generates little additional revenue for stores because consumers would buy the products even without the tax-free days. They argue that the Legislature should be looking at broader, deeper tax relief for individuals and businesses and not a tiny tax-free holiday. Others say that legislators should not vote for this tax holiday when they have not yet restored all the local aid, education and other program cuts made over the past few years.

REPLACE “HANDICAPPED PERSONS” WITH “PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES” (H 121) – The Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities Committee heard testimony on a measure that would strike all references in the state’s General Laws to “handicapped persons” and replace them with “people with disabilities.” The measure also rewrites what supporters call old references that do not comply with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act.

Supporters said the word handicapped is offensive to many. They noted this is another step forward following action several years ago when the Legislature renamed the Department of Mental Retardation the Department of Development Services and struck all references in the General Laws to “mental retardation,” replacing it with “intellectual disabilities or disability.”

SMOKING – The Public Health Committee held a hearing on several bills including one prohibiting local boards of health from banning the sale of legal tobacco products by retailers legally allowed to sell tobacco unless the ban also receives the approval of town meeting or city council (H 1951). The proposal was prompted by a recent effort by the Board of Health in the town of Westminster, Massachusetts, to become the first town in the nation to ban the sale of all tobacco products and e-cigarettes. The board eventually voted 2-1 to drop the idea amid protests by many in the town.

Other proposals on the committee’s agenda include prohibiting the sale of electronic cigarettes to minors under 18 (H 3466); banning the sale of any tobacco product in hospitals and pharmacies (H 1954); and prohibiting smoking in cars in which there is a child who is required to be in a child passenger restraint. Under Massachusetts law, children must use a restraint until they are at least eight years old or at least 57 inches tall (H 1976).


“Thanks to an extraordinary outpouring of generosity, I am proud that we, as a community, fulfilled Mayor Menino’s vision to provide meaningful support to those most affected. Although this fund forever changed the model for how to efficiently collect and quickly distribute resources to those in need, we hope that we will never have to create something similar again.”

James Gallagher, president of the One Fund Boston, which has completed its mission to help victims of the Boston Marathon tragedy and will dissolve after raising close to $80 million to help victims of the bombing.

“We need a binding question that will protect the taxpayers. We will end the Beacon Hill and Boston 2024 double talk.”

Marty Lamb, co-chair of Tank Taxes for Olympics, on the proposed ballot question that would ban public funding of the 2024 Olympics.

“While it’s certainly no substitute for the lasting relief of a reduction in the sales tax rate, an annual sales tax holiday is an important way to help parents fit school clothes and other supplies into tight household budgets, while encouraging others to make larger purchases locally that might otherwise happen out of state and without any benefit to local retailers.”

GOP Minority Leader Sen. Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester) on his legislation to make Saturday, August 15, 2015, and Sunday August 16, 2015, a sales tax holiday on which consumers can buy most products that cost under $2,500 without paying the state’s 6.25 percent sales tax.

“The bill could truly make a life-and-death difference for young passengers and the families who care for them.”

AAA Northeast Legislative Affairs Director Mary Maguire on the bill that would require drivers to seat children under the age of 13 in the back of the car “whenever possible.”

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 July 13-17, the House met for a total of 11 minutes and the Senate met for a total of 26 minutes.

Mon. July 13 House 11:02 a.m. to 11:06 a.m.
Senate 11:06 a.m. to 11:23 a.m.

Tues. July 14 No House session
No Senate session

Wed. July 15 No House session
No Senate session

Thurs. July 16 House 11:00 a.m. to 11:07 a.m.
Senate 11:07 a.m. to 11:16 a.m.

Fri. July 17 No House session
No Senate session

Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at

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