By Bob Katzen
THE HOUSE AND SENATE: There were no roll calls in the House or Senate last week
This week, Beacon Hill Roll Call examines the voting records of local senators on GOP Gov. Charlie Baker’s 95 vetoes during the 2015 session. A two-thirds vote is required to override a gubernatorial veto in the 40-member Senate that includes 35 Democrats and only five Republicans. The governor needed the support of 15 senators to sustain a veto when all 40 senators voted — and fewer votes if some members were absent. Baker fell far short of that goal. Six votes were the most support he received on any veto. The Senate easily overrode all 95 vetoes, including 37 that were overridden unanimously.
The vetoes had little support among Democrats in the Senate. Only three of the chamber’s 35 Democrats voted with Baker to sustain any vetoes. The Democratic senator who voted with Baker the most times was Sonia Chang-Diaz (D-Boston), who supported the governor 17 times. Sens. Mark Montigny (D-New Bedford) and Cynthia Stone Cream (D-Newton) each supported Baker only once.
The GOP senator who voted with Baker the most times was Sen. Ryan Fattman (R-Webster), who supported the governor 41 times.
Other Republican senators and how many times they supported Baker include Sens. Vinny deMacedo (R-Plymouth), 40 times; Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester), 37 times; and Robert Hedlund (R-Weymouth) and Donald Humason (R-Westfield), 32 times each.
PERCENTAGE OF TIMES LOCAL SENATORS SUPPORTED THE GOVERNOR
Here is how local senators fared in their support of Baker on the 95 budget vetoes. The percentage next to the senator’s name represents the percentage of times the senator supported Baker. The number in parentheses represents the actual number of times the senator supported Baker.
Sen. Patricia Jehlen 0 percent (0)
ALSO UP ON BEACON HILL
AUTOMATIC INCOME TAX AND LONG-TERM CAPITAL GAINS CUT ON JANUARY 1 – The state’s Department of Revenue confirmed that sufficient economic growth in 2015 under the terms of a 2002 law will result in a tax cut for millions of Bay State taxpayers in 2016. The cut will come from a reduction in the income tax rate and long-term capital gains tax from 5.15 percent to 5.10 percent effective January 1, 2016.
The tax cuts do not need the approval of the Legislature. They are part of a system devised by the Legislature when it approved a $1 billion-plus tax hike package in 2002. The package set the long-term capital gains tax at 5.3 percent and froze the income tax rate at 5.3 percent instead of allowing it to drop to 5 percent in January 2003 — a reduction that was approved by voters in 2000. The 2002 law also includes an automatic trigger that reduces both taxes by one-half of one percent each year that the state’s economic growth is at least 2.5 percent until each tax is reduced to five percent. The 2015 growth is 5.37 percent, more than twice the amount necessary for the cut. The Department of Revenue estimates that the tax cuts will reduce state revenue by $74 million in fiscal year 2016 and $152 million in fiscal year 2017.
PUNISH “SANCTUARY” CITIES AND TOWNS (H 1856) – The Municipalities and Regional Government Committee held a hearing on legislation that would withhold local aid from any cities or towns that do not enforce federal immigration laws. The withholding would also apply to communities that have established themselves as “sanctuary” cities or towns that offer protection in a variety of ways to illegal immigrants.
According to Aspen Law Offices, a New York City-based law firm that specializes in immigration issues, “sanctuary city” is a name given to a city in the United States that follows certain procedures that shelter illegal immigrants. The term most commonly is used for cities that do not permit municipal funds or resources to be applied in furtherance of enforcement of federal immigration laws. These cities normally do not permit police or municipal employees to inquire about one’s immigration status.
Aspen also notes that Massachusetts currently has five sanctuary cities and towns: Cambridge, Chelsea, Northampton, Orleans and Somerville.
Supporters of the bill said cities and towns that encourage law-breaking are hurting this nation. They pointed to recent terrorist attacks and argued the state should do everything it can to dissuade those who seek to come here illegally.
Opponents of the bill said the proposal is mean-spirited and noted that some individuals are here because of political asylum. Others said they oppose sanctuary cities but do not support cutting off local aid as punishment.
HOMELESS BILL OF RIGHTS (H 1129) – The Housing Committee has given a favorable report to legislation that would establish a bill of rights for homeless persons. The measure prohibits denial of any person’s rights, privileges or access to public services solely because he or she is homeless. Specifics include guaranteeing a homeless person’s right to use and move freely in public spaces, including sidewalks, parks and public transportation buildings; equal treatment by all state and municipal agencies; access to emergency medical care; the right to vote; and a reasonable expectation of privacy of his or her personal property to the same extent as if he or she were in a permanent residence.
Supporters say there are more than 20,000 homeless people across Massachusetts and many have complained of discrimination. They argue that homeless people should have the same rights as everyone else.
MINIMUM WAGE INCREASES TO $10 PER HOUR ON JANUARY 1 – The state’s current $9 per hour minimum wage increases to $10 on January 1. The wage will then go to $11 in 2017. The new law also raises the minimum hourly wage for tipped employees from $3 to $3.35 on January 1 and to $3.75 in 2017.
MANDATORY INSPECTION OF HEALTH CLUB EQUIPMENT (H 3736) – The Public Health Committee held a hearing on a measure requiring every health club to be inspected for defective exercise equipment at least once every six months. The cost of the inspections would be funded by a yet undetermined annual fee paid by the club owners.
Club owners would be required to remove or prohibit the use of any exercise equipment determined to be defective or unsafe. Owners who do not remove the equipment would be subject to a $100 per day fine to a maximum of $5,000.
CREATE NEW OFFICE OF CONDOMINIUM OMBUDSMAN (H 1110) – The Housing Committee held a hearing on a bill creating a new state Office of Condominium Ombudsman in the attorney general’s office. The office would investigate and resolve complaints received by unit owners, boards of directors, board members, community associations and other parties. The measure also creates the Condominium Mediation Pilot Program, including mediators who will try to work out the differences between these parties. The funds to run this new office would come from a new $50 fee to be paid at the time of sale by the seller of any condo in the state.
MEDICAL ASSISTANTS CAN GIVE FLU SHOTS (H 3895) – The House gave initial approval to a bill that would allow certified medical assistants who work in a doctor’s office to give flu and other immunization shots to patients. A certified medical technician is an individual who is a graduate of a post-secondary medical assisting education and performs basic administrative, clerical and clinical duties under the direct supervision of a doctor.
Supporters said this will free up time of doctors and nurses so they can work on more urgent medical issues.
“Meeting the requirements needed to reduce the income tax rate is a sign that the Massachusetts economy remains strong. Allowing citizens across the Commonwealth to keep more money in their pockets will allow the state’s economy to continue growing in 2016.”
Gov. Baker on the reduction in the income tax and capital gains tax from 5.15 percent to 5.10 percent.
“CarMax is playing recalled car roulette with the public’s safety.”
Rosemary Shahan, president of the Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety Foundation, on a joint report issued by her group and MASSPIRG indicating that CarMax, the nation’s largest retailer of used cars, is endangering lives in Massachusetts by selling recalled vehicles with potentially lethal safety defects.
“Younger homebuyers, especially millennials, have increasingly wanted to get information through video rather than some of the traditional ways we have provided material about the home buying process. In the age of YouTube, we believe this series of videos will expand our ability to educate potential homebuyers of any age on the steps they should take that will help ensure they become successful homeowners.”
MassHousing Executive Director Thomas Gleason on a new video series, now available on masshousing.com and on the agency’s YouTube channel, giving homeowners advice on buying a home.
“For low-income families in Boston and surrounding cities and towns, people struggling every day to pay their rent, buy groceries and cover the bills, public transportation isn’t a casual consideration, it’s their only option.”
Action for Boston Community Development (ABCD) President/CEO John J. Drew endorsing the MBTA’s exploration of means-tested fares for low-income, senior and disabled riders.
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 December 14-18, the House met for a total of 40 minutes while the Senate met for a total of two hours and 44 minutes.
Mon. December 14 House 11:04 a.m. to 11:15 a.m.
Senate 11:06 a.m. to 11:22 a.m.
Tues. December 15 No House session
No Senate session
Wed. December 16 No House session
No Senate session
Thurs. December 17 House 11:02 a.m. to 11:31 a.m.
Senate 11:04 a.m. to 12:50 p.m.
Fri. December 18 No House session
No Senate session
Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org