Beacon Hill Roll Call Volume 40 – Report No. 51 December 21-25, 2015

By Bob Katzen 
 THE HOUSE AND SENATE. There were no roll calls in the House or Senate last week.
   Beacon Hill Roll Call this week examines the voting records of local representatives on Republican Gov. Charlie Baker’s 95 vetoes during the 2015 session.
   A two-thirds vote is required to override a gubernatorial veto. The number of legislators in the House during 2015 fluctuated based on a number of resignations and special elections. In a full 160-member House, there were 126 Democrats and only 34 Republicans. The governor needed the support of 54 representatives to sustain a veto when all 160 representatives voted — and fewer votes if some members were absent or a seat was vacant. 
   The House overrode all 95 vetoes including six that were overridden on unanimous votes. The most support Baker received on any veto was 37 votes. 
   It was mostly GOP members who voted with the Republican governor to sustain the vetoes. The number of times each GOP member supported Baker ranged from a low of 37 times by Rep. David Vieira (R-Falmouth) to a high of 87 times by Rep. James Lyons (R-Andover).
   The vetoes had little support among Democrats. Five of the chamber’s Democrats voted with Baker to sustain one veto each including Reps. Carole Fiola (D-Fall River); William “Smitty” Pignatelli (D-Lenox); Denise Provost (D-Somerville); Alan Silvia (D-Fall River); and Jonathan Zlotnik (D-Gardner). The remaining Democratic representatives voted to override all 95 vetoes.

   Here is how local representatives fared in their support of Baker on the 95 budget vetoes. The percentage next to the representative’s name represents the percentage of times the representative supported Baker. The number in parentheses represents the actual number of times the representative supported Baker.

 Rep. Christine Barber 0 percent (0) Rep. Denise Provost 1.1 percent (1) Rep. Timothy Toomey 0 percent (0)                           

   SEVEN POSSIBLE 2016 BALLOT QUESTIONS CLEAR ANOTHER HURDLE – Supporters of six initiative petitions for state laws and one for a constitutional amendment moved another step closer to getting their question on the 2016 ballot when the state certified that each group had gathered the necessary 64,750 signatures. The six proposals for laws will now be sent to the Legislature and if not approved by May 3, 2016, proponents must gather another 10,792 signatures by July 6, 2016, in order for the question to appear on the 2016 ballot.
   The procedure for getting the proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot is different than the one for getting a proposed law on the ballot. The proposal goes before the Legislature and on the 2018 ballot only if approved by 25 percent (50 members) of the 2015-2016 Legislature and the 2017-2018 Legislature. 
   The proposals for a new law include legalizing, licensing, regulating and taxing marijuana for adults over 21; allowing the state to open up to 12 new charter schools annually; ending Common Core Education Standards; allowing one more slot parlor with 1,250 machines to be built near Suffolk Downs; regulating the payments made to health care providers by any private, non-government health insurance plan for each medical service to no more than 20 percent above or 20 percent below the average price paid to providers by that health plan for that medical service; and prohibiting any farmers from confining any pigs, calves or hens in a way that prevents the animal from lying down, standing up, fully extending its limbs or turning around freely.
   The proposed constitutional amendment would allow a graduated income tax and impose an additional 4 percent income tax, in addition to the current 5.15 percent tax, on taxpayers’ earnings of more than $1 million.
   SEWER IMPROVEMENTS (H 3654) – The Senate approved a bill that would allow cities and towns to reduce and spread out the annual tax that homeowners pay when they are the beneficiary of a sewer betterment. A special assessment is permitted to be levied by a city or town where property within a limited area receives a special benefit or advantage, other than the general advantage to the community, from the construction of a sewer.


   The proposal would increase from the current 20 years to 30 years the time period over which homeowners can spread out their payments. Current state law requires towns to charge 5 percent interest on the unpaid balance of the tax or 2 percent above the rate at which the town borrowed the money for the project. The bill would allow cities and towns to charge less, possibly as little as 0 percent interest.
   Supporters said that the bill is a local-control one that would provide the cities and towns in the Commonwealth with options to keep the cost of any sewer betterments as low as possible for the homeowner. They noted communities will have the choice whether or not to opt into the system or remain under current law.
   The House has approved a different version of the bill. The Senate version now goes to the House for consideration.
   BILLS AWAITING ACTION – Several bills had recent public hearings and are waiting to be acted upon by the Committee on Municipalities and Regional Government including:
     TRAINING COURSES FOR MEMBERS OF LOCAL BOARDS OF HEALTH AND OTHERS (S 1211) – Requires members of local boards of health, conservation commissions, planning boards and zoning boards of appeals to attend a free state-sponsored program of education and training annually.
   Supporters say the training will assist members of local boards and commissions keep up-to-date on issues and also gain a more thorough understanding of state laws as they apply to cities and towns.
   Opponents say this is another example of the state interfering with local cities and towns.


  EXEMPT FROM PREVAILING WAGE (H 1857) – Allows cities and towns to exempt construction projects costing less than $50,000 from the prevailing wage law, which establishes minimum wage rates for workers on public construction projects. Prevailing wage laws require that workers on these projects be paid wages that “prevail” in the community where the work is done. 
   Supporters of the exemption say the prevailing wage law is an unfair pro-union law that prevents smaller non-union companies from submitting low bids for construction work because they are forced to pay their workers more.
   Opponents of the exemption argue that the prevailing wage law levels the playing field, protects workers and prevents contractors from bringing in outside, non-union workers who are willing to work for less pay.


   UNFUNDED MANDATES (S 1096) – Creates the Commission on Unfunded Mandates on Municipalities to study the effects of mandates that are forced upon cities and towns but are not funded by the state.
   Supporters say struggling cities and towns should not be forced to pay for state-mandated programs.
   QUOTABLE QUOTES – Special Gov. Baker Edition, featuring quotes from the governor’s recent appearance on WGBH Radio (89.7 FM) with talk show hosts Jim Braude and Margery Eagan. The duo hosts Gov. Baker’s “Ask the Governor” show once a month. 
   “There are a lot of people who work for the T and work elsewhere in government who do stuff like that every single day and no one ever writes about it, talks about it or says anything about it.”
   Baker on the two state workers at the MBTA control center who stopped a runaway Red Line train and possibly saved lives and prevented injuries. 

    “This thing is like a bathtub with holes in it. If you pour more money into the tub, it’s just gonna run out of the bottom.”
    Baker quoting Secretary of Transportation Stephanie Pollack on the problems at the MBTA including the Green Line Extension project.
   “When you walk in the door at those registries there’s the big rows and rows of benches and chairs that usually have tons of people who are sitting in there, taking root, moths growing on them and all the rest. [But now] there’s nobody in the chairs, nobody! Because people are just in and out.”
   Baker touting the success of his reforms and the reduced waiting time for customers at the Registry of Motor Vehicles. 

   “I just think the relentless nature of it is a little bit of a surprise. You’re kind of always on. You know the day starts at 6 and ends at 10. There really isn’t a weekend to speak of.”
   Baker on what surprised him about the job as governor.

   “While there are many people … who are fleeing horrible situations in terrible places, it creates an opening and an opportunity for people who want to do us harm.”
   Baker on whether the Bay State should accept Syrian refugees.

   “My wife can’t understand it.”
   Baker on the latest poll showing he has a 74 percent favorability rating.

   The first movie I saw literally like the first week it came out. I was in college at the time and I loved it and I saw it a bunch of times. And the second one and third one I was there on day one for them. I went to the first of the next three and I thought it stunk … the next two were bad and so I am done with these things. Now if I turns out that this one turns out to be spectacular … I’ll go see it.”
   Baker on whether he will be going to see the new “Star Wars.”
  Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at

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