Beacon Hill Roll CallVolume 40 – Report No. 38 September 21-25, 2015


By Bob Katzen 
   THE HOUSE AND SENATE: Beacon Hill Roll Call records local senators’ votes on roll calls from the week of September 21-25. There were no roll calls in the House last week.

   Senate 38-0, approved and sent to the House a bill that would prohibit anyone under 18 from operating or using an indoor tanning device. Current law prohibits teens age 16 and 17 from indoor tanning without parental permission and bans anyone under age 16 from tanning.
   Supporters said these booths are dangerous and increase by 75 percent a person’s chances of getting melanoma, a dangerous and sometimes fatal skin cancer. They said that while adults can make their own decisions, it is the state’s job to protect children.
   (A “Yes” vote is for the bill.)

 Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes                                     

   Senate 6-32, rejected an amendment that would allow youths under 18 to operate a tanning device. 
   Amendment supporters said that the proposed ban prohibiting anyone under 18 from operating a tanning device would decrease job opportunities for 14- to 17-year-olds, who are already facing high unemployment. They argued that there is no research concluding that people who just operate the tanning device face any danger of cancer.
   Amendment opponents said if you are not able to use a tanning device you shouldn’t be allowed to operate one. They argued that allowing 14 to 17-year-olds to operate a device could lead to them using the device themselves or bringing in underage friends to do so.
   (A “Yes” vote is for allowing youths under 18 to operate a tanning device. A “No” vote is against allowing it.)

 Sen. Patricia Jehlen No                                      

   Senate 38-0, approved and sent to the House a bill that would repeal a 1989 law that requires anyone convicted of a non-violent drug crime to have his or her license suspended, regardless of whether the crime itself involved driving a vehicle. The measure also requires the state Division of Insurance to conduct a study on the feasibility of reducing the amount of time points remain on a driver’s Safe Driver Insurance Plan (SDIP) record. These points result in higher insurance rates for the driver.
   Supporters said this law has not worked well and has actually harmed offenders when they are released from jail. They noted many ex-offenders cannot afford the $500 the state charges to reinstate a license. They noted that a driver’s license is a key component to an ex-offender re-entering society including getting a job, seeking medical care and driving their children to school.
    (A “Yes” vote is for the bill.)

 Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes                                     

   Senate 34-4, approved and sent to the House a bill making several changes in the operation of the Spinal Cord Injury Trust Fund that provides medical cure research services for individuals with spinal cord injuries. The fund is currently funded by a $50 surcharge assessed against any person who seeks reinstatement of his or her driver’s license. The bill would raise the surcharge to $100 for a second reinstatement and $150 for a third. 
   Under the bill, the surcharge for the Spinal Cord Injury Trust Fund will be in effect after three surchargeable events within a two-year period or seven surchargeable events within a three-year period. Currently, the surcharge is triggered when there are five or more surchargeable offenses within any three-year period.
   The measure requires that all revenue from the surcharge go to the fund. Under current law, the state’s General Fund receives some of the revenue. It also renames the fund the Thomas P. Kennedy Spinal Cord Injury Trust Fund, honoring the late state senator who was a quadriplegic confined to a wheelchair following an accident in 1971. He passed away in June at the age of 63.
   Supporters said the changes and hikes will result in more money going to the spinal cord fund. They noted that in fiscal 2006, the fund received $119,675 from surcharges and in fiscal 2015, it received only $23,600.
   Some opponents said Registry of Motor Vehicle fees are already too high and the bill will have the effect of raising registry fees for reinstatement of licenses for an estimated 2,000 people annually. Others argued that they did not have enough information about who would be affected most by the higher surcharges, expressing concern that it might be minorities who are more likely to be pulled over and eventually pay the surcharge.
   (A “Yes” vote is for the bill. A “No” vote is against it.)

 Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes                                     

   Senate 29-9, approved an amendment that would solely hike the surcharge against any person who seeks reinstatement of his or her driver’s license from $50 for a first offense to $100 for a second reinstatement and $150 for a third.
   Supporters said this additional revenue will generate more funds for the important research paid for by the Spinal Cord Injury Trust Fund.
   Opponents said the hikes were not necessary and would further burden drivers who are already paying registry fees that are too high.
   (A “Yes” vote is for the increased fines. A “No” vote is against the increase.)

 Sen. Patricia Jehlen No                                      

   BAN STATE PENSION FUNDS FROM SUPPORTING BOYCOTT (no number yet) – A late-filed bill by Rep. Steve Howitt (R-Seekonk) would require the $50 billion plus state pension fund to divest all holdings from companies that engage in boycotts or other economic sanctions against Israel.   
     Supporters say this will prevent the state from funding companies that pursue anti-Israel policies. 
   Opponents say the Legislature should not be micromanaging the pension fund and divestiture and that no research has been done to determine how much money the divestiture would cost the pension fund.
   TAX BREAKS FOR VIDEO GAME COMPANIES (H 2487) – The Revenue Committee held a hearing on a bill extending the 25 percent payroll tax credit to video game developers. Currently, the tax credit is only available to movie production companies.
   Supporters, noting some 2,000 people currently work in this industry in the state, say offering tax credits to video game developers will encourage the companies to remain in or move to Massachusetts.
   INVESTMENT TAX CREDIT (H 2474) – Another proposal heard by the Revenue Committee would raise the state’s three percent investment tax credit to five percent and make it permanent. 
   Supporters say that this would be good for the state’s sagging economy. They argue that it would create jobs by helping to attract new companies to the state and encouraging existing ones to remain here by spurring investment in new buildings, manufacturing, and research and development. They noted that the tax revenue loss would be offset by a growth in property, income and corporate excise taxes. 
   Opponents say that the extension would cost millions of dollars in revenue that the state cannot afford to lose and argued that this money should be used to fund important state programs. 
   WAIVE COLLEGE TUITION FEES FOR VETERANS (H 1043) – The Higher Education Committee will hold a hearing on October 7, 2015, at 10:30 a.m. in Room A-2 on legislation providing tuition and fee waivers at state universities for veterans and children of veterans killed in action. The cost would be paid by the state rather than the colleges.
   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 21-25, the House met for a total of one hour and 32 minutes while the Senate met for a total of four hours and 28 minutes.
Mon. September 21 House 11:03 a.m. to 12:23 p.m.

                      Senate 11:01 a.m. to 11:08 a.m.
Tues. September 22 No House session

                      No Senate session
Wed. September 23 No House session

                      No Senate session
Thurs. September 24 House 11:02 a.m. to 11:14 a.m.

                      Senate 11:06 a.m. to 3:27 p.m.
Fri. September 25 No House session

                      No Senate session
Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at

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