Beacon Hill Roll Call Volume 40 – Report No. 32 August 14, 2015


By Bob Katzen 
   THE HOUSE AND SENATE: Beacon Hill Roll Call records the votes of local representatives and senators on roll calls from prior legislative sessions before the summer recess. All roll calls are on Gov. Charlie Baker’s vetoes of funding in the $38.1 billion fiscal 2016 budget.

   House 120-34, Senate 37-0, overrode Gov. Charlie Baker’s $190,504 veto reduction (from $1,374,683 to $1,184,179) in funding for Prisoners’ Legal Services, a program that provides legal representation for indigent and disadvantaged residents. 
   Supporters of the $190,504 said these services ensure equal access to the justice system for thousands of below-poverty level Massachusetts residents including accused criminals, the poor, the elderly, battered women, tenants and Medicaid recipients. They argued that the program actually saves the state money because it helps many people secure various federal benefits.
   Opponents of the $190,504 said the program often wastes money by representing people who bring frivolous lawsuits against the state.  
   In his veto message, the governor said he reduced the funding to the amount projected to be necessary.
   (A “Yes” vote is for the $190,504. A “No” vote is against the $190,504.)

 Rep. Christine Barber Yes Rep. Denise Provost Yes Rep. Timothy Toomey Yes Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes                                     
$500,000 FOR STROKE PROGRAMS (H 3650)

   House 154-1, Senate 36-1, overrode Gov. Baker’s veto of the entire $500,000 for stroke treatment and prevention programs including $200,000 to provide educational programming on the signs and symptoms of stroke with a focus on communities that have the highest incidence of stroke. Another provision provides $200,000 to require all primary stroke service hospitals and emergency medical services’ agencies to report data consistent with nationally recognized guidelines on the treatment of individuals with strokes.
   Supporters of the $500,000 said this program can help prevent strokes and save lives.
   Opponents offered no arguments.
   In his veto message, Baker said he eliminated the entire $500,000 because it was not consistent with his original budget. 
   (A “Yes” vote is for the $500,000. A “No” vote is against the $500,000.)

 Rep. Christine Barber Yes Rep. Denise Provost Yes Rep. Timothy Toomey Yes Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes                                     

   House 129-27, Senate 37-1, overrode Gov. Baker’s $600,000 veto reduction (from $5.6 million to $5 million) for comprehensive family planning services including reproductive health services, counseling, education, testing, diagnosis, treatment of STDs, access to free contraceptives and a birth defects monitoring program. The governor’s veto also eliminated $100,000 for a congenital heart defects screening program.
   Supporters of the $600,000 said this funding is essential for these important health programs that help thousands of low-income women, adolescents and babies across the state.
   Some opponents said they oppose the $600,000 because some of these programs are pro-abortion, encourage emergency contraception and distribute condoms.
   In his veto message, Baker said he believes funding should be reduced to an amount consistent with his original budget and noted he struck language that earmarks funding for a congenital heart defects screening program that was not recommended. 

   (A “Yes” vote is for the $600,000. A “No” vote is against the $600,000.)

 Rep. Christine Barber Yes Rep. Denise Provost Yes Rep. Timothy Toomey Yes Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes                                     

   House 132-23, Senate 32-5, overrode Gov. Baker’s $500,000 veto reduction (from $1.5 million to $1 million) in funding for a compulsive gamblers’ treatment program. The program is funded by money from unclaimed Lottery prizes.
   Supporters of the $500,000 said this program is important and argued that the state should take responsibility for the damage caused by state-sponsored legalized gambling.
   Some opponents of the $500,000 questioned how many people are actually served and helped by these treatment programs and noted that the anonymous component of these programs makes it difficult to determine if they are effective or are even being used by a lot of people.
   In his veto message, Baker said he reduced funding to an amount consistent with his original budget.
   (A “Yes” vote is for the $500,000. A “No” vote is against it.)

 Rep. Christine Barber Yes Rep. Denise Provost Yes Rep. Timothy Toomey Yes Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes                                     

   More than seven months into the 2015 legislative session, only 67 bills have been approved and signed into law by Gov. Baker. Only 11 of those have dealt with substantive matters while the other 56 have dealt with local issues or establishing sick leave banks for some state employees. A sick leave bank allows state workers to donate their unused sick, vacation or personal days to other state employees who have used up all their sick days but are still recovering from an illness and are unable to work. 

   A handful of proposals have been approved by only one branch and are either awaiting further approval in the same branch or approval in the other branch. Here are some of those bills which supporters plan to push for passage in the coming weeks.
   NEWSPAPERS MUST PUBLISH PUBLIC NOTICES ONLINE (H 1566) – House approved and sent to the Senate a bill that would require newspapers that are paid to publish official state and local public notices in the paper’s print edition to also include them on the paper’s website at no additional cost. The measure also requires the papers to include the notices, at no extra charge, on a new statewide website, created and operated by a joint venture of Massachusetts newspapers. 
   Supporters said that readership of print copies of newspapers is way down and public notices in these papers are never seen by the majority of people. 
   JURY LAWS (H 1354 ) – House approved and sent to the Senate a bill that would strike from the law books several sections of current jury duty laws that have simply been unenforced and/or have changed. The bill also consolidates the two chapters in current state law dealing with jury duty into one.
   Supporters said having these “non-laws” on the books is confusing to potential jurors who do not know that these laws are no longer enforced and/or have been replaced.
   CLIMATE CHANGE ADAPTATION (S 1973) – Senate approved and sent to the House a bill requiring the state to study, create and implement a comprehensive plan to ensure the preservation, protection and restoration of the state’s “built and natural environment” from the risks of climate change. 
   Supporters pointed to the flooding and massive damage caused by Hurricane Sandy and other disasters and argued the state must prepare in advance and be proactive and not just reactive to similar threats and disasters.
  WARNING SYSTEM AT BEACHES – CALEIGH’S LAW (S 1956) – Senate approved and sent to the House a bill creating a program that uses different colored flags to advise beachgoers of the safety conditions at their beach. This uniform warning system would be required at all public beaches maintained by the Department of Conservation and Recreation. Cities and towns would have the option of using the flags for their local beaches.
   The bill was filed at the urging of Anthony Harrison, the father of Caleigh Harrison, the 2-year-old girl who went missing while at the beach in 2012 and is believed to have been swept out to sea.
    Supporters said the flag system might have saved Caleigh’s life and should become law in order to save the lives of others.
   The Senate approved the bill in the 2013-2014 session but it died in the House Ways and Means Committee and never reached the House floor.
  YOUNG REFEREES (H 1690) – The House gave initial approval to a bill allowing boys and girls between the ages of 11-13, with their parents’ permission, to be employed in any city or town as a youth athletic program referee or umpire, or official for children up to age 13, providing there is an adult connected with the athletic program present.
   PROPERTY TAX EXEMPTION (H 2583) – The House gave initial approval to a bill providing up to a $2,500 property tax exemption for taxpayers who serve as volunteer call or auxiliary firefighters and emergency medical technicians. The exemption would be available only in cities and towns that adopt this local option law.
    QUOTABLE QUOTES – Special Ice Bucket Edition
   Last week Gov. Baker and an estimated 300 others took part in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge on the steps of the Statehouse. They doused themselves with ice cold water and ice and then made contributions to ALS and challenged their family and friends to do the same. Pete Frates, a former Boston College baseball player with ALS, created the campaign last year and was applauded. ALS stands for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease and causes nerve cells to die, leading to muscle weakness and paralysis. Thousands of events held last year raised $220 million.
   “Last summer, Pete Frates inspired millions of people around the country and the world, including (my wife) Lauren and I, to participate in the Ice Bucket Challenge to raise awareness and critical ALS research funding. It is our pleasure to host Pete and his family at the State House — as we continue to fight for a cure.”
   Gov. Baker.

   “Game-changer … tipping point in the trajectory of this disease.”
   Nancy Frates, mother of Ice Bucket Challenge creator Pete Frates on what the fundraising from these events has done. 
   “Cold as Ice,” “Ice, Ice Baby.”
Two of the songs played during the event.

   “Free Tom Brady.”
   Chant of the crowd in response to Gov. Baker’s wearing of a “Free Brady” t-shirt.

   “(Some) people wore suits and ties. I guess they didn’t get the memo.”
Gov. Baker

  “We are going to do it again because the idea is to keep knowledge going. It’s actually a wonderful feeling.”
   State Treasurer Deborah Goldberg, a participant in the event, announcing her own Ice Bucket Challenge for treasurer’s office employees.
   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 August 10-14, the House met for a total of 33 minutes while the Senate met for a total of 20 minutes.
Mon. August 10 House 11:01 a.m. to 11:21 a.m.

                    Senate 11:05 a.m. to 11:12 a.m.
Tues. August 11 No House session

                    No Senate session
Wed. August 12 No House session

                    No Senate session
Thurs. August 13 House 11:04 a.m. to 11:17 a.m

                    Senate 11:07 a.m. to 11:20 a.m.
Fri. August 14 No House session

                    No Senate session
Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at

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