Beacon Hill Roll Call Volume 41 – Report No. 4 January 25-29, 2016


By Bob Katzen 

   THE HOUSE AND SENATE: Beacon Hill Roll Call records local representatives’ and senators’ votes on roll calls from the week of January 25-29.

    House 152-3, approved and sent to the Senate a bill creating a state Office of Health Equity to coordinate an effort to eliminate racial and ethnic health and health care disparities. The office would set goals for the reduction of disparities and prepare an annual plan to accomplish its goals.
   Supporters said minorities still have disproportionately higher rates of chronic disease and mortality than other persons. They noted that families that earn $40,000 or less are twice as likely to have diabetes as families with incomes of more than $75,000 annually. They argued the bill would help save and improve lives.
   Opponents said this is “feel good” legislation that expands bureaucracy and the cost of state government.
   (A “Yes” vote is for the bill. A “No” vote is against it.)

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

   House 147-8, approved and Senate approved on a voice vote without a roll call and sent to Gov. Charlie Baker a bill that would prohibit anyone under age 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 indoor tanning.


   Supporters said these booths are dangerous and increase by 75 percent a person’s chance 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.
   Opponents said this is another example of government intrusion into what should be a decision made by parents. They warned against a slippery slope in which children under 18 are banned from eating things like fast food and junk food, which often lead to health problems.
   (A “Yes” vote is for the bill. A “No” vote is against it.)

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

   Senate 36-0, approved and sent to the House a bill that would eliminate some of the age-old restrictions on the processing and sale of lobster in Massachusetts. Currently, the state allows only the sale of live, cooked and canned lobster. The bill would permit the processing of unfrozen lobsters, the importation of unfrozen shell-on lobster parts and tails and the retail of previously frozen raw in-shell tails.
   Supporters said the bill would allow more lobsters currently harvested and purchased here to be prepared for market in the Bay State rather than in Canada where the processing is currently done. They argued this will help the economy, create jobs and help lobstermen, processors, local restaurants and food stores.
   (A “Yes” vote is for the bill.)

 Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes                                     

   Senate 37-0, approved and sent to the House a bill that would strengthen the Bay State’s pay equity law by closing the wage gap between men and women doing the same job. The measure requires that women be paid equal pay for comparable work, establishes pay transparency, prohibits screening of prospective employees based on salary history, requires fairness in hiring practices and increases fines for violations.   
   Supporters said it is far past time to approve this historic bill and noted women comprise 50 percent of the workforce yet make only 80 cents for every dollar earned by men. They argued that if the proposed law is not approved, the gender wage gap in Massachusetts will not close on its own until 2058.  
   (A “Yes” vote is for the bill.)

 Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes                                     

   Senate 36-0, approved and sent to the House a bill designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and develop a long-term action plan to address the consequences of climate change in the Bay State. The measure requires the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent below 1990 levels by 2020; 35-45 percent below 1990 levels by 2030; 55-65 percent below 1990 levels by 2040; and 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. Another provision requires the state to develop a comprehensive plan to protect and ensure the preservation, protection and restoration of the state’s “built and natural environment” from the risks of climate change. The plan, updated every ten years, also authorizes the state to buy back at-risk coastal land from current owners for preservation.
   Supporters, noting that 2014 was the warmest year on record, said that this landmark pro-environmental legislation creates a long-term strategy to deal with the realities of the earth’s changing climate. They noted it would increase the state’s use of cleaner, renewable energy and create an innovative climate policy that strengthens the environment, infrastructure and the economy. They argued that the bill would help put Massachusetts on track to meet the 2050 statewide greenhouse gas emissions limits already in place through the Global Warming Solutions Act.
   (A “Yes” vote is for the bill.)

 Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes                                     

   Senate 10-26, rejected an amendment requiring that the plan to address climate change be cost-effective.
  Amendment supporters said this fiscally responsible amendment would ensure that the plan would make fiscal sense and not waste money.
  Amendment opponents said there are already provisions ensuring cost-effective provisions in the plan and argued the amendment was unnecessary and duplicative.
   (A “Yes” vote is for the amendment. A “No” vote is against it.)

 Sen. Patricia Jehlen No                                      

   TAX MILLIONAIRES ANOTHER 4 PERCENT (H 3933) – The Revenue Committee has recommended passage of a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow the state to have a graduated income tax and impose an additional 4 percent income tax, in addition to the current 5.10 percent tax, on taxpayers’ earnings of more than $1 million. Language in the amendment requires that the revenue go to fund quality public education, affordable public colleges and universities, and for the repair and maintenance of roads, bridges and public transportation. 
   The proposal now goes before the Legislature and could eventually go on the 2018 ballot if approved by 25 percent (50 members) of the 2016 Legislature and the 2017-2018 Legislature. The amendment is being spearheaded by the group Raise Up Massachusetts, which recently gathered the necessary signatures to bring the measure to the Legislature.
   Supporters said the amendment will affect only 14,000 extremely wealthy individuals and will bring up to $1.9 billion in additional tax revenue. They said using the funds for public education, public colleges and universities, and for the repair and maintenance of roads, bridges and public transportation will benefit millions of Bay State taxpayers.
   Opponents argued the new tax will result in the loss of 9,500 private sector jobs, $405 million annually in personal disposable income and some millionaires moving out of state. They argued that the earmarking of the funds for specific projects is illegal and said all the funds will go into the General Fund and be up for grabs for anything.
   $39.6 BILLION FISCAL 2017 BUDGET – Gov. Baker fired the first shot in the likely six-month battle over the state budget. He filed a $39.6 billion state budget for the fiscal year that begins on July 1, 2016 — a 3.5 percent increase over last year. The House will hold hearings on the governor’s package and then draft its own version that will be debated and amended on the House floor. The Senate will follow suit with its own draft, and a House-Senate conference committee will eventually craft a plan that will be presented to the House and Senate for consideration and then sent to the governor.
   STOP CIVIL COMMITMENT OF WOMEN (H 3956) – Gov. Baker signed into law a bill prohibiting the civil commitment of women facing substance abuse disorders to MCI-Framingham and instead providing addiction treatment services at Shattuck and Taunton State Hospitals.
   Supporters said addiction is a disease and it is time to end the practice of sending women struggling with addiction to jail instead of to a facility where they can get the treatment they need.
   DOUBLE SPEEDING FINES (H 3033) – The House gave initial approval to a bill that would double fines for speeding in a breakdown lane when the breakdown lane is allowed to be used for regular travel. 
    Supporters said speeding in breakdown lanes can endanger police officers and emergency personnel.


   NEW OFFICE OF PRIVACY PROTECTION (S 128) – The Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure Committee held a hearing on legislation that would establish a Division of Privacy Protection within the current Office of Consumer Affairs. The office would be a centralized repository to log consumer complaints of identity fraud, refer them to local police and adopt rules and regulations about the investigation and prosecution of identity fraud. 
   MAKE MORE DISABLED VETS ELIGIBLE FOR HOUSING (H 3547) – The Committee on Veterans and Federal Affairs held a hearing on a bill that would make more disabled veterans eligible for public housing. Eligibility for public housing is based on income, and there are limitations to the amount of income an applicant can have in order to qualify. Many disabled veterans are disqualified because their disability compensation exceeds the maximum income allowed.
   Current law allows local housing authorities to exempt a disabled veteran’s compensation over $1,800 when calculating the income. The bill would require the authorities to do so.
   Supporters said it is unfair that many disabled veterans are disqualified. They noted these veterans were injured in the line of duty protecting the nation and should be eligible for public housing.
   NO GUNS IF ON TERRORIST OR NO-FLY LIST (H 3914) – The Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee held a hearing on legislation that would prohibit the state from issuing a gun license to anyone on the federal Terrorist Watch list or the No-Fly list.
   BULLET-PROOF VESTS (H 2187)- The Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee also held a hearing on a measure requiring stores that sell ammunition to keep a written record of anyone who purchases body armor including bullet-proof vests. The records are required to include the purchaser’s name, address, phone number and date of birth and will be turned over to law enforcement officials when needed to aid in any criminal investigation.
   GUN CONTROL (H 2158) – Another proposal on the Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee’s agenda was a measure prohibiting any city, town or county from passing any gun control laws.
   KINDNESS MONTH (H 2747) – The House approved and sent to the Senate a bill declaring May as the state’s official month of kindness. The proposal urges people to “pay special attention to the importance of being kind to each other with acts that will assist those in need in a way that provides a path to self-sufficiency.”
   “The passing of this bill further establishes Massachusetts as a leader in innovative climate policy … If gone unchecked, severe weather will wreak immense havoc on current and future generations.”
   Marc R. Pacheco (D-Taunton) on his climate change bill.

   “‘The RMV Near Me’ Program is another great example of our commitment to identifying new, creative ways to improve customer service at the Registry of Motor Vehicles.” 
    Gov. Baker on the state’s new program that trains staff of local Councils on Aging to help seniors with their RMV transactions online.

   “When President Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act of 1963, women earned 59 cents on the dollar. It’s been 53 years, and we’ve closed the gap to 82 cents on the dollar in Massachusetts. We cannot — we will not — wait another half century to finally achieve equal pay for equal work.”
   Senate President Stan Rosenberg (D-Amherst) on Senate passage of a bill strengthening the state’s Pay Equity Law.

   “Sweet music to the ears of the taxpayers … No longer are annual refrains of the need for new taxes or increased revenues crooned by a Massachusetts governor.”
   Chip Faulkner, Director of Communications for Citizens for Limited Taxation (CLT), on Gov. Baker’s $39.6 billion fiscal 2017 state budget.

   “It is largely a status quo budget … There are no major new efforts to expand access to early education, to make higher education more affordable or to make new investments in fixing our transportation infrastructure.”
   MassBudget President Noah Berger on Baker’s $39.6 billion budget.
   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 January 25-29, the House met for a total of five hours and 36 minutes while the Senate met for a total of five hours and 31 minutes.
Mon. January 25 House 11:02 a.m. to 12:06 p.m.

                   Senate 11:09 a.m. to 12:31 p.m.
Tues. January 26 No House session

                   No Senate session
Wed. January 27 House 11:00 a.m. to 3:14 p.m.

                   No Senate session
Thurs. January 28 House 11:01 a.m. to 11:19 a.m.

                   Senate 11:06 a.m. to 3:15 p.m.
Fri. January 29 No House session

                   No Senate session
Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at

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