Beacon Hill Roll Call Volume 40 – Report No. 43 October 26-30, 2015


By Bob Katzen 

   THE HOUSE AND SENATE: Beacon Hill Roll Call records local representatives’ votes on roll calls from the week of October 26-30. There were no roll calls in the Senate last week.

   House 157-0, approved a $328 million fiscal 2015 supplemental budget. Provisions include $203 million for MassHealth, the state’s Medicaid program that provides health care for low-income and disabled persons; $120 million for the state’s Rainy Day Fund; $31 million for snow and ice removal; $29 million to fight opiate abuse; $2.2 million to support training and staffing needs at the Department of Children and Families; $250,000 for a grant program for municipal police departments to purchase body cameras; and creation of a special commission to study pancreatic cancer. The Senate approved the bill on a voice vote without a roll call and sent it to Gov. Charlie Baker.
   Supporters said the package is a balanced one that closes out the books on fiscal 2015 and makes vital investments in the state while continuing fiscal responsibility.
   (A “Yes” vote is for the budget.)

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

   House 157-0, approved 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.
   Only final Senate approval is needed before the measure goes to Gov. Baker.
   (A “Yes” vote is for the bill.)

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

   ADOPT-A-SENIOR (S 367) – The Elder Affairs Committee held a hearing on a bill that would establish a statewide Adopt-A-Senior volunteer program to assist seniors with snow removal and property or home maintenance services. The measure includes creation of a registry of volunteers and establishes a system of volunteer incentives to assist with the recruiting and registration of volunteers. 
   BANKS MUST PAY PENALTIES (H 815) – The Committee on Financial Services held a hearing on legislation that would require a bank to pay the fine, penalty and/or late charge incurred by the customer if the bank makes an error and fails to make an automatic payment pre-authorized by the customer to a third party. If a bank fails to comply with this law, the customer would be entitled to triple damages.
   ALLOW BANKS TO CONDUCT RAFFLES (S 495) – Another measure on the Committee on Financial Services’ agenda would allow banks to conduct a “savings promotion raffle” and offer prizes to winners. The contests, designed to encourage more people to save money, would be open only to customers who deposit a specific amount of money, to be determined by the bank, in a savings account. 
   Supporters say some states have already done this and have seen a marked increase in the number of people who open savings accounts at the bank. They argue it is a great promotion that will result in more people depositing money into a savings account.
   Opponents say that banks should not be involved in raffles and gambling.
   GOVERNMENT PUBLICATIONS AND BAN OFFICIALS’ NAMES – The Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight held a hearing on a proposal requiring all government publications to be written for a 6th grade literacy level (H 2730) and a measure to prevent exploitation of materials bought with taxpayer money by prohibiting the placing of a personal name on any state property by an elected or appointed official (H 2707). 
   ALLOW LEGISLATORS TO PERFORM MARRIAGE CEREMONIES (H 3303) – The State Administration and Regulatory Oversight’s agenda included a proposal that would allow all 200 state legislators to perform marriage ceremonies. The measure also allows legislators to communicate directly with a state agency in order to discuss issues brought to a lawmaker by a constituent. Some state agencies currently require constituents to sign a written release form that permits direct communication between a senator or representative and the agency on the person’s behalf.
   MAKE THE BAY STATE A “PURPLE HEART STATE” (H 2839) – The House gave initial approval to a bill declaring every August 7 as Purple Heart Day. The measure would recognize the “contributions and sacrifices of the men and women from Massachusetts who served in harm’s way in the Armed Forces and have been vital in maintaining the freedom and the way of life enjoyed by our citizens.”
   PHYSICIAN-ASSISTED SUICIDE (H 1991) – The Public Health Committee held a hearing on a very controversial bill that would allow terminally ill patients with fewer than six months to live to obtain medication they can self-administer to commit suicide. Voters defeated a similar measure on the 2012 ballot by a very slim 51 percent to 49 percent margin with 1,466,866 voting for the measure and 1,534,757 against. There were also 182,573 blank ballots of people who took a ballot but did not vote on this question.
   PRICE GOUGING DURING EMERGENCIES (S 137) – The Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure Committee held a hearing on legislation making it a crime to price gouge and charge unconscionable prices during a declared state emergency. The measure imposes up to a $5,000 fine on anyone who charges excessive prices for necessities including food, fuel and shelter.
  “Any businesses attempting to avoid the licensing and usury laws of the Commonwealth at the expense of Massachusetts consumers will not be tolerated. This settlement is a victory for the thousands of Massachusetts consumers who took out Western Sky loans and serves as a warning to unlicensed lenders.”
    John Chapman, Undersecretary of the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation, commenting on a settlement agreement between the state and businesses that made illegal, high-interest loans over the Internet to thousands of consumers.



    “This legislation would allow Massachusetts to stand strong in the fight against climate change. We need a sustainable, healthy, economical future. Without mindful clean-energy policy, our world will see serious devastation.”
   Sen. Marc Pacheco (D-Taunton) testifying in favor of his legislation, which he says would reduce the state’s carbon footprint and help meet the goals of the Global Warming Solutions Act.

   “The epidemic of opioid addiction sweeping through our cities and towns shows no mercy, and we consider the initiatives in this bill to be significant tools in combating this unprecedented crisis. We need bold action to bend the trend in opioid deaths.”
   Gov. Baker and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh in a joint letter to members of the Legislature asking for swift action on Baker’s recently filed legislation to combat opioid addiction. 

   “1.2 million Massachusetts workers risk losing their jobs if they take time off work to take care of a family medical emergency or after the birth of a child. For most working families, unpaid leave is not a financially viable option. We need paid family and medical leave for a simple reason: Hardworking people shouldn’t have to choose between the jobs they need and the family they love.”
   Deb Fastino, co-chair of Raise Up Massachusetts, a group advocating paid family and medical leave for Bay State workers.

   “We will determine where to cut $11 million — approximately $5 million on the Amherst campus — and figure out how to deal with this cut. It’s always difficult when you get a cut that you didn’t anticipate, particularly during the middle of the academic year.”
  University of Massachusetts President Martin Meehan on his disappointment that the Legislature’s final fiscal 2015 budget did not provide funds to cover already negotiated and paid retroactive pay increases for UMass faculty, staff and unions.
   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 26-30, the House met for a total of four hours and 47 minutes while the Senate met for a total of five hours and 1 minute.
Mon. October 26 House 11:01 a.m. to 11:19 a.m.

                      Senate 11:05 a.m. to 11:24 a.m.

Tues. October 27 No House session

                      No Senate session
Wed. October 28 House 11:01 a.m. to 3:20 p.m.

                      Senate 11:03 a.m. to 3:23 p.m.
Thurs. October 29 House 10:59 a.m. to 11:09 a.m.

                      Senate 11:04 a.m. to 11:26 a.m.
Fri. October 30 No House session

                      No Senate session
Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at

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