By Bob Katzen
MEMO TO EDITORS: The following may be useful to you if you want additional information on local representatives’ 2015 per diems that are included in this week’s report. Per diems are paid by the state to legislators for mileage, meals and lodging.
The amount of the per diem for representative varies and is based on the city or town in which the representative resides and its distance from the Statehouse. To find the amount allowed based on specific cities and towns, refer to paragraphs 2, 3 and 4 at the following Massachusetts General Laws link: https://malegislature.gov/Laws/GeneralLaws/PartI/TitleI/Chapter3/Section9B
This week’s report includes the total, from January 1, 2015 through September 1, 2015, of per diems filed by representatives with the state treasurer’s office.
If you would like to receive a breakdown that shows how many days a representative who filed for per diems certified that he or she was at the Statehouse each week during 2015, you should file a Freedom of Information Act request by sending an e-mail to Mary Wilkins at the state treasurer’s office: email@example.com
The e-mail should include your name, mailing address, e-mail address and telephone number. Also, specify that you want the weekly per diem information for 2015 and be sure to list the specific representative(s) that you want to include. You can also request information from any prior year.
Keep in mind that the information will only indicate the total number of days the legislator certified he or she was at the Statehouse each week during 2015. Legislators are not required to list the specific days they were at the Statehouse.
If you have any questions about the process, contact Mary Wilkins at 617-367-3900, x621.
This week’s report follows:
THE HOUSE AND SENATE. There were no roll calls in the House or Senate last week. Beacon Hill Roll Call has obtained the 2015 official list from the state treasurer’s office of the “per diem” travel, meals and lodging reimbursements collected by the Legislature’s 160 state representatives from January 1, 2015 through September 1, 2015. The list reveals that representatives collected a total of $134,944. Combined with the $$27,751 that the state’s 39 senators collected as reported in last week’s Beacon Hill Roll Call, the grand total for both branches is $162,695
Under state law, per diems are paid by the state to representatives “for each day for travel from his place of residence to the Statehouse and return therefrom, while in the performance of his official duties, upon certification to the state treasurer that he was present at the Statehouse.” These reimbursements are given to representatives above and beyond their regular salaries.
The amount of the per diem varies and is based on the city or town in which a representative resides and its distance from the Statehouse. The Legislature in 2000 approved a law doubling these per diems to the current amounts. The payments range from $10 per day for legislators who reside in the Greater Boston area to $90 per day for some Western Massachusetts lawmakers and $100 per day for those in Nantucket. Representatives who are from areas that are a long distance from Boston’s Statehouse most often collect the highest total of annual per diems.
Some supporters of the per diems say the system is fair and note the rising costs of travel, food and lodging. They argue many legislators spend a lot of money on travel to the Statehouse and some spend the night in Boston following late sessions. Others say that some legislators accept the per diem but use all of the revenue they receive to support local nonprofit causes. They say that not taking the per diem would leave that money in the state’s General Fund to be spent on who knows what.
Some opponents argue most private sector and state workers are not paid additional money for commuting. They say the very idea of paying any per diem is outrageous when thousands of workers have lost their jobs and homes, and funding for important programs has been cut. Others say the per diem is especially inappropriate given the 3-cent-per-gallon hike in the state’s gas tax that the Legislature approved in July 2013.
The 2015 statistics indicate that 58 of the state’s 160 representatives have received reimbursements ranging from $252 to $5,624, while 102 have so far chosen not to apply for any money. State law does not establish a deadline that representatives must meet in order to collect the per diems.
The representative who received the most per diem money in 2015 is Sarah Peake (D-Provincetown) who received $5,624.
The other four representatives who received the most are Reps. Patricia Farley-Bouvier (D-Pittsfield), $5,040; William “Smitty” Pignatelli (D-Lenox), $4,860; Paul Mark (D-Peru), $4,320; and Michael Finn (D-West Springfield), $3,960.
REPRESENTATIVES’ 2015 PER DIEMS
The dollar figure next to the representative’s name represents the total amount of per diem money the state paid him or her in 2015. The number in parentheses represents the number of days the representative certified he or she was at the Statehouse during that same period. Representatives who have not requested any per diems have “0 days” listed. That is not meant to imply that these representatives didn’t attend any sessions but rather that they chose not to request any per diems.
Rep. Christine Barber $0 (0 days) Rep. Denise Provost $950 (95 days) Rep. Timothy Toomey $0 (0
ALSSO UP ON BEACON HILL
ALLOW SOME STORES TO OPEN ON THANKSGIVING AND CHRISTMAS (H 146) – The House gave initial approval to a bill 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 said that some people from many cultures do not celebrate these holidays and their ethnic stores should be allowed to open. They noted that when some of these cultures do celebrate Thanksgiving, their tradition is to have the freshest food possible which is usually purchased the day of the holiday.
BILLBOARDS (H 3508) – The Revenue Committee will hold a hearing on September 22 at 10 a.m. in Room A-1 at the Statehouse. One bill on the agenda would require the MBTA to be subject to the same local zoning process as small business owners who are seeking to erect an outdoor sign at their place of business. The measure also gives businesses that remove billboards tax credits of 75 per cent of the costs of removing the billboard, and up to 50 per cent of the estimated net earnings lost due to the removal of the billboard. The maximum on each of these would be $50,000 per business in any one fiscal year.
Supporters say both these provisions are designed to reduce the number of billboards, which are often an eyesore in a city or town. They note that the MBTA as a state agency is currently not subject to local zoning laws and can basically erect billboards wherever it wants. This legislation would change that. They also argue that the tax credits would be an incentive for billboard companies to take down some of their billboards permanently.
REQUIRE A FULL-TIME NURSE IN EVERY SCHOOL (S 282) – The Education Committee held a hearing on a proposal that would require every school with more than 500 students to have a full-time nurse on staff. The measure also requires that each facility be equipped with the proper tools necessary for school physicians and nurses to treat students.
Supporters said it is essential that each school have a full-time nurse in order to ensure proper care of students. They noted school nurses not only deal with colds, flu and playground injuries but with complex medical problems (such as asthma, allergies and diabetes) and mental health issues (such as ADHD, anxiety and depression).
POSTING GAS PRICES (H 203) – The Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure Committee will hold a hearing on September 22 at 1 p.m. in Room A-1 at the Statehouse on a bill that would require gas stations which post large street signs with the price of gasoline to include both the price if paid by credit card and the price if paid by cash. The prices must be the same size.
Supporters said some stations are very misleading because they post only the cash price. They note it’s not until consumers pull onto the property and up to the pump that they see two sets of pricing per gallon – based on paying with cash or credit card, with up to a 10-cent-per-gallon differential.
MAKE CITY CHARTER GENDER NEUTRAL (S 1985) – At the end of August, the House and Senate approved and sent to Gov. Charlie Baker a home rule bill, sponsored by the City of Newton, that changes the name of the governing body of the city of Newton from Board of Alderman to City Council and substitutes gender-neutral for all gender-specific words.
Gov. Baker supports the bill but indicated that the version sent to him inadvertently omits some changes requested by Newton in the documents. He proposed some amendments that must be approved by the House and Senate for action before the bill goes back to the governor for his signature.
“I lost weight, feel better than I’ve ever felt, and feel I’m at the top of my game.”
House Speaker Robert DeLeo (D-Winthrop) responding to the State House News Service’s question about how he felt after shedding 42 pounds as a result of weight loss surgery on August 3.
“I am proud that Boston is committed to providing protection from discrimination in public places, regardless of gender identity … Our diverse and inclusive community is what makes Boston so strong. I call on the Legislature to pass this bill so we can do more to provide tangible protections to all of our Commonwealth’s residents and visitors.”
Boston Mayor Marty Walsh on his support for the bill that would add gender identity as a class protected from discrimination in public accommodations.
“President Obama’s Labor Day breakfast appearance reminds us how strong labor has come to the fore in recent months. The president has helped raise the bar by pushing for a $10.10 minimum wage and expanding overtime pay for everyone.”
Roxana Rivera, Union Vice-President of 32BJ SEIU, the largest union of property service workers in the nation.
“There’s not an option not to build … This is not the Big Dig, folks. This is very different.”
Former Gov. Michael Dukakis announcing his support for an MBTA underground rail link between North and South Stations.
“This is a lot of money, taxpayer money, and a lot of people call me skeptical when I get into these conversations. I’m not being skeptical. I’m being cautious. There’s a difference.”
Gov. Charlie Baker on the proposed MBTA link between North and South Stations.
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 September 7-11, the House met for a total of 24 minutes while the Senate met for a total of 20 minutes.
Mon. September 7 No House session
No Senate session
Tues. September 8 House 11:02 a.m. to 11:09 a.m.
Senate 11:04 a.m. to 11:13 a.m.
Wed. September 9 No House session
No Senate session
Thurs. September 10 House 11:05 a.m. to 11:22 a.m.
Senate 11:06 a.m. to 11:17 a.m.
Fri. September 11 No House session
No Senate session
Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org