Beacon Hill Roll Call Volume 40 -Report No. 41 October 12-16, 2015

By Bob Katzen 

   THE HOUSE AND SENATE: Beacon Hill Roll Call records local representatives’ and senators’ votes on roll calls from the week of October 12-16.

   House 151-0, approved and sent to the Senate a bill creating a system governing the purchase and sale of secondary metals in Massachusetts. The measure is aimed at preventing the theft of scrap metal from job sites, vacant homes and farms. 
   The proposal requires that when a business or individual sells metal to a scrap metal dealer, the dealer must obtain a Massachusetts photo ID or federal employer ID number from the seller; keep a daily transaction log; and keep records of all transactions for a 1-year period and make them available to state and local police. The metal would be tagged and held for 48 hours to allow police to identify and track any stolen materials that have been reported to them.
    The measure also bars a dealer from accepting certain items including guardrails, manhole covers, cables used only in high voltage transmission lines, cemetery plaques, bleachers from an athletic field, traffic signs, beer kegs and railroad scrap metal. 
   Supporters said that while many scrap dealers already voluntarily comply with these actions, the bill would make compliance mandatory and impose fines and penalties on dealers who don’t comply. They argued the measure is long overdue and would crack down on offenders.


   (A “Yes” vote is for the bill.)

 Rep. Christine Barber Yes Rep. Denise Provost Yes Rep. Timothy Toomey Yes                                     

   House 127-23, approved a bill that supporters said would provide relief to Massachusetts homeowners who currently lack clear title to their homes due to prior faulty foreclosures while opponents argued it would curtail illegally foreclosed homeowners’ right to regain title to their homes.
   Supporters said the measure was filed in response to a Supreme Judicial Court decision that voided thousands of foreclosure sales. They noted the court said that a foreclosure is void if the foreclosing lender cannot produce a written assignment of its mortgage prior to the first publication of notice. They argued the bill remedies this problem by allowing the affidavit that is recorded during the sale of the property to serve as conclusive evidence that the foreclosing lender is in compliance. They said this will help thousands of homeowners who unwittingly purchased an improperly foreclosed property and are currently without a clear title and consequently unable to sell or refinance their homes.
   Although no one spoke on the floor against the bill, it is vehemently opposed by the Massachusetts Alliance Against Predatory Lending (MAAPL), which says the bill will dramatically curtail illegally foreclosed homeowners’ right to regain title to their homes. Its spokesperson, Grace Ross, says the bill is a travesty that strips foreclosed homeowners of their fundamental right to protect their property. 
     In a prepared statement, Ross said, “This bill attempts to determine that a previous foreclosure (even if it was illegal) will have no impact on the validity of the title to the property passed to an arm’s-length, third-party purchaser. It does nothing to repair the actual defects that legally rest in the title. Instead, it attempts to exclude claimants from this process, regardless of the facts surrounding an illegal foreclosure.”
   The Senate has approved a different version of the bill. The House version now goes back to the Senate for consideration.
   (A “Yes” vote is for the bill. A “No” vote is against it.)

 Rep. Christine Barber No Rep. Denise Provost No Rep. Timothy Toomey No                                      

   House 150-2, approved an amendment that would require the attorney general to publicize the new foreclosure regulations, if they are signed into law, through a website, to homeowners facing foreclosure or were foreclosed upon, and to other stakeholders participating in the foreclosure industry.  
   Supporters said approving the bill is the first step but it is essential that people affected by the law are notified about its passage.
   Opponents offered no arguments and did not respond to requests for comments by Beacon Hill Roll Call.
   (A “Yes” vote is for the amendment. A “No” vote is against it.)

 Rep. Christine Barber Yes Rep. Denise Provost Yes Rep. Timothy Toomey Yes                                     

   Senate 37-0, approved and sent the House a bill making Massachusetts a member of a new Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children. The compact establishes a process for interstate placement of children for foster care and adoption and ensures that children placed in another state would receive the same protections as if they were placed in their home state.
   So far 12 states have already adopted the new compact, which goes into effect if and when it is approved by 35 states.
   Supporters said the old compact, of which Massachusetts has been a member since 1963, is inactive, outdated and makes placements overly burdensome and lengthy. They argued it is overly broad, lacks sufficient enforcement mechanisms and is no longer an effective way to ensure children are placed with suitable families.
   (A “Yes” vote is for the new compact.)

 Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes                                     

   Senate 33-3, overrode Gov. Charlie Baker’s veto of a $3 per hour pay hike (from $50 to $53) for attorneys who represent indigents in children in need of services cases and a $5 per hour pay hike (from $50 to $55) for attorneys who represent indigents in children and family law cases and care and protection cases.   
   Supporters of the hikes said these lawyers are underpaid and should be properly compensated for this essential work that guarantees everyone receives representation in court.
   In his veto message, Gov. Baker said, “I am vetoing this section because it sets rates that become effective in fiscal year 2017. I believe it is not appropriate to raise rates for this important program without addressing overall cost issues in a comprehensive manner.”
   (A “Yes” vote is for the hikes. A “No” vote is against the hikes.)

 Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes                                     

   Senate 36-1, overrode the governor’s veto of the creation of a 6-member task force to study the feasibility of a state or privately operated prescription drug disposal program. The program would study ways that individuals could safely dispose of medications including take-back events, mail-back programs and collection receptacles.
   Supporters of the task force said the old method of flushing unwanted medications down the toilet is irresponsible because wastewater treatment plants and septic systems are not designed to treat pharmaceutical waste. They argued that it is also dangerous to put the unused medication in with the regular trash.
   In his veto message Gov. Baker said, “I am vetoing this section because under separate legislation filed today, I have proposed to create a Massachusetts Council on Substance Use Disorder Prevention and Treatment whose work will include providing recommendations on methods and programs to increase the collection and safe disposal of federally scheduled prescription medication.”
   (A “Yes” vote is for the task force. A “No” vote is against it.)

 Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes                                     

   CHARTER SCHOOL MORATORIUM – The Education Committee held a hearing on some 40 pieces of legislation dealing with charter schools. They ranged from barring the Board of Education from approving new charter schools until September 1, 2018 (S 326) to Gov. Baker’s proposal allowing the addition of up to 12 new charter schools (H 3804).

   DESIGNATE MAY AS “KINDNESS MONTH” (H 2747) – The Francis Wyman Elementary School was the scene of a hearing by the Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight on a bill that would designate May as the state’s official “Month of Kindness.” The bill was filed by Rep. Ken Gordon (D-Burlington) on behalf of students at the school, who testified in favor of the bill at a school assembly. The bill was inspired in part by the acts of kindness and outpouring of giving in 2013 after some students living in the Lord Baron apartment building lost their homes in a three-alarm fire. The community got together and supported them with donations of clothing, toys, furniture and more.
  RANDOM DRUG TESTS (S 69) – The Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities held a hearing on several bills including one requiring the state to perform random drug tests on anyone who collects public assistance, except food stamps, and has a prior conviction on a drug charge. The state would also be charged with establishing “suitable remedies to individuals with positive drug tests” and developing strategies to help ensure that participants receiving public assistance are drug-free. Individuals who refuse to comply with any recommendations may face a suspension of their benefits.
   OTHER PUBLIC ASSISTANCE BILLS – Also on the on the Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities Committee’s agenda was a measure requiring public assistance recipients to pick up every sixth check at the local branch of their welfare office rather than having a check mailed or directly deposited to their bank (S 99).


   Supporters said this will crack down on potential cheaters who are in prison or living out-of-state but still collecting benefits in Massachusetts.
    Another proposal would prohibit “self-declaration of residency” from being accepted as a valid form of residency verification for people seeking taxpayer-funded benefits from the state.
   Supporters say many people are cheating the welfare system by being allowed to simply state their address without it being verified. They argue this crackdown would save the state millions of dollars.
   Opponents say the self-declaration is a sworn statement and is sufficient.
    BUY DRUGS IN CANADA (H 1027) – The Committee on Health Care Financing held a hearing on a bill directing Gov. Charlie Baker to request a federal waiver to allow Massachusetts to act as an agent in providing information to its residents regarding the safe purchase of prescription drugs at reduced prices from certified Canadian sources. 
   The measure creates a state Office of Pharmaceutical Information to educate consumers and keep them informed about the advantages and any potential risks of purchasing Canadian drugs. Current federal law prohibits individuals from purchasing drugs from other nations.
   SELF-INFLICTED WOUNDS AT ILLEGAL PROTESTS (H 990) – The Committee on Health Care Financing hearing also included a bill prohibiting MassHealth from covering any medical treatment for self-inflicted injuries received by protestors during illegal protests. MassHealth is the state’s Medicaid program that provides health care for qualified low-income and disabled persons. 
   MINIMUM WAGE (S 1024) – The Committee on Labor and Workforce Development held a hearing on legislation prohibiting fast food and big box retail employers from paying their employees less than $12 per hour beginning in 2016. The wage would rise to $13.50 in 2017 and $15 in 2018. Those wages are higher than the current minimum wage for all employees, which is $9 and rises to $10 in 2016 and to $11 in 2017.
   DOCTORS MUST BE TRAINED IN TREATING ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE (H 3384) – The Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure’s hearing included a bill that would require physicians to receive training and education on the diagnosis, treatment and care of patients with Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and other cognitive impairments in order to renew their licenses to practice.
   QUOTABLE QUOTES – Special Gov. Baker Edition. Gov. Baker was on WGBH Radio 89.7 FM with talk show hosts Jim Braude and Margery Eagan last week for his monthly appearance on “Ask the Governor.”
   “In addition to the fact that no one elected me to worry about presidential politics, we’re still pretty early in that process. There’s a long way to go.”
    Baker in response to whether his politics are closer to Democrat Hillary Clinton’s than to Republican presidential candidates like Carly Fiorina, Ben Carson and Donald Trump.

   “I don’t think we should ever lose sight of the fact that we have 37,000 kids on waiting lists to get into charter schools in Massachusetts.”
   Baker on his bill to allow 12 more charter schools in the state.

   “We filed the hydro bill … to at least ‘test the water.’ And that’s pun intended.”
   Baker on his legislation to bring more hydroelectric power to the Bay State.
   “[That] you can graduate from medical school, nursing school or dental school without ever taking a course on addiction tells you something.”
   Baker on the state’s opioid crises and the medical community.
   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 October 12-16, the House met for a total of four hours and 50 minutes while the Senate met for a total of three hours and 26 minutes.
Mon. October 12 No House session

                      No Senate session
Tues. October 13 House 11:01 a.m. to 11:18 a.m.

                      Senate 11:16 a.m. to 11:45 a.m.
Wed. October 14 House 11:00 a.m. to 3:24 p.m.

                      No Senate session
Thurs. October 15 House 11:04 a.m. to 11:13 a.m.

                      Senate 11:03 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
Fri. October 16 No House session

                      No Senate session
Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.