Beacon Hill Roll Call Volume 41- Report No. 7 February 15-19, 2016

  

By Bob Katzen 
   
MEMO TO EDITORS: The following may be useful to you if you want additional information on local representatives’ 2015 per diems that are included in this week’s report. Per diems are paid by the state to legislators for mileage, meals and lodging.
    The amount of the per diem for representative varies and is based on the city or town in which the representative resides and its distance from the Statehouse. To find the amount allowed based on specific cities and towns, refer to paragraphs 2, 3 and 4 at the following Massachusetts General Laws link: https://malegislature.gov/Laws/GeneralLaws/PartI/TitleI/Chapter3/Section9B 
    This week’s report includes the total, from January 1, 2015, through December 31, 2015, of per diems filed by representatives with the state treasurer’s office. 
   If you would like to receive a breakdown that shows how many days a representative who filed for per diems certified that he or she was at the Statehouse each week during 2015, you should file a Public Records Law request by sending an e-mail to Mary Wilkins at the state treasurer’s office: mwilkins@tre.state.ma.us  
   The e-mail should include your name, mailing address, e-mail address and telephone number. Also, specify that you want the weekly per diem information for 2015 and be sure to list the specific representative(s) that you want to include. You can also request information from any prior year. 
   Keep in mind that the information will only indicate the total number of days the legislator certified he or she was at the Statehouse each week during 2015. Legislators are not required to list the specific days they were at the Statehouse.
   If you have any questions about the process, contact Mary Wilkins at 617-367-3900, x621.
   If you have any questions about this week’s report, e-mail us at bob@beaconhillrollcall.com or call us at (617)720-1562.
   This week’s report follows:
   THE HOUSE AND SENATE. There were no roll calls in the House or Senate last week. Beacon Hill Roll Call has obtained the 2015 official list from the state treasurer’s office of the “per diem” travel, meals and lodging reimbursements collected by the Legislature’s 157 state representatives from January 1, 2015, through December 31, 2015. The list reveals that representatives collected a total of $ 238,918. Combined with the $63,590 that the state’s 38 senators collected as reported in a recent Beacon Hill Roll Call, the grand total for both branches is $302,508.
   Under state law, per diems are paid by the state to representatives “for each day for travel from his place of residence to the Statehouse and return therefrom, while in the performance of his official duties, upon certification to the state treasurer that he was present at the Statehouse.” These reimbursements are given to representatives above and beyond their regular salaries.
   The amount of the per diem varies and is based on the city or town in which a representative resides and its distance from the Statehouse. The Legislature in 2000 approved a law doubling these per diems to the current amounts. The payments range from $10 per day for legislators who reside in the Greater Boston area to $90 per day for some Western Massachusetts lawmakers and $100 per day for those in Nantucket. Representatives who are from areas that are a long distance from Boston’s Statehouse most often collect the highest total of annual per diems.
   Some supporters of the per diems say the system is fair and note the rising costs of travel, food and lodging. They argue many legislators spend a lot of money on travel to the Statehouse and some spend the night in Boston following late sessions. Others say that some legislators accept the per diem but use all of the revenue they receive to support local nonprofit causes. They say that not taking the per diem would leave that money in the state’s General Fund to be spent on who knows what.
   Some opponents argue most private sector and state workers are not paid additional money for commuting. They say the very idea of paying any per diem is outrageous when thousands of workers have lost their jobs and homes, and funding for important programs has been cut. Others say the per diem is especially inappropriate given the 3-cent-per-gallon hike in the state’s gas tax that the Legislature approved in July 2013. 
    The 2015 statistics indicate that nearly one-half (78)of the state’s 157 representatives have received reimbursements ranging from $18 to $8,730, while a little more than one-half (79) have so far chosen not to apply for any money. State law does not establish a deadline that representatives must meet in order to collect the per diems. 
   The representative who received the most per diem money in 2015 is William “Smitty” Pignatelli (D-Lenox) who received $8,730. 
   The other nine representatives who received the most are Reps. Sarah Peake (D-Provincetown), $7,622; Patricia Farley-Bouvier (D-Pittsfield), $7,200; Nicholas Boldyga (R-Southwick), $6,996; Timothy Madden (D-Nantucket), $6,800; Robert Koczera (D-New Bedford), $6,795; Paul Mark (D-Peru), $6,300; John Scibak (D-South Hadley), $5,700; Michael Finn (D-West Springfield), $5,478; and Anthony Puppolo (D-Springfield), $5,400.
LOCAL REPRESENTATIVES’ PER DIEMS FOR 2015

   The dollar figure next to the representative’s name represents the total amount of per diem money the state paid him or her in 2015. The number in parentheses represents the number of days the representative certified he or she was at the Statehouse during that same period. Representatives who have not requested any per diems have “0 days” listed. That is not meant to imply that these representatives didn’t attend any sessions but rather that they chose not to request any per diems.

 Rep. Christine Barber $1,260 (126 days) Rep. Denise Provost $1,490 (149 days) Rep. Timothy Toomey $0 (0 days)                        

ALSO UP ON BEACON HILL
   NEW LAWS TAKE EFFECT – Several new laws approved by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Charlie Baker in November have now taken effect. Most laws become effective 90 days after the bill is signed by the governor. Here are some of the new laws:
   SPINAL CORD INJURY (S 2109) – Makes 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 formerly was 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.

  

   The measure requires that all revenue from the surcharge go to the fund. Under prior law, the state’s General Fund received 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.
   FLAG HOLDERS (H 3173) – Makes it a crime to destroy, mutilate or deface an American flag, veteran’s commemorative flag holder or a commemorative flag holder representing service in both the police and fire department. Offenders would be sentenced to up to five years in prison. Prior law applied only to tombs, monuments, gravestones, trees, shrubs and plants.
   FREE ACCESS TO STATE PARKS FOR VETERANS (H 3243) – Provides Purple Heart recipients free access to state parks, state forest recreation areas and state reservations. Prior law provided free access only for disabled veterans and handicapped persons. 
   SELLING VETS’ GRAVE MARKERS (H 1306) – Imposes up to a $5,000 fine for a first offense of selling or attempting to sell a stolen veteran’s grave marker. A second and subsequent offenses would trigger up to a five-year prison sentence. Some of these markers are made of bronze and are a target of scrap metal thieves who steal and sell them.
   STOLEN VALOR (H 1641) – Makes it a crime for a person to misrepresent himself or herself as a veteran. Violators would be subject to a one-year prison sentence and/or a $1,000 fine.
   POLICE SHOOTINGS (H 3480) – A bill pending before the Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security would create a seven-member Independent Police Conduct Review Board to investigate and reach a verdict in all fatal and non-fatal shootings and any other allegations of misconduct by police and other law enforcement officers. The board would decide whether the officer involved in the shooting engaged in misconduct or acted inappropriately. Any officer found guilty would be fired and banned from working in law enforcement in the Bay State for ten years and be forced to give up his firearm for ten years. An officer convicted of misconduct in a non-shooting incident would be disciplined with penalties ranging from a public reprimand to loss of his or her job.
   The board would consist of the presidents of four organizations or their designees including the Massachusetts Coalition of Police Officers, the Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, the NAACP of Massachusetts and the Neighbor to Neighbor Massachusetts Education Fund. The governor would appoint a retired judge; the attorney general would appoint a person with experience prosecuting criminal cases; and the general and the chief counsel of the group that provides free legal advice to indigents would appoint a person who has experience representing defendants in criminal cases.
   USE OF UNDUE FORCE (H 3479) – Another proposal pending before the Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security would create a 13-member special commission to investigate methods to prevent the use of undue force by police officers. The commission would be charged with analyzing methods and practices that would reduce the likelihood of undue force by police officers. The commission would then make recommendations for changes that should be made to existing law.
   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.”
   “I’ve been waiting to strangle somebody all day. I’m just waiting for somebody who looks like they deserve to be strangled.”
   On last week’s issues on the MBTA including problems with the third rail that led to smoke and panicked Orange Line passengers kicking open windows.

   “I think one of Massachusetts’ big problems economically is our energy costs are very high. That means we should be aggressive about investing in a whole variety of energy sources that will help us reduce our carbon footprint.”
  On rising energy costs.

   “I’m a parent. I have three kids. Where they went to school was probably one of the most important decisions for my wife and me.”
   On schools and charter schools.

  “I’m just not a big believer in litmus tests as a general rule, period … I don’t think we should rule people out based on one thing.”
   On whether his choice to fill an opening on the state’s Supreme Judicial Court should have to pass a litmus test on specific issues.
   

   “I think the 70-year-old limit, I don’t know where is it came from … is not an unreasonable statute.”
   On the law requiring judges to retire at age 70.
    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 February 15-19, the House met for a total of 12 minutes and the Senate met for a total of 14 minutes.
Mon. February 15 No House session

                    No Senate session

 

Tues. February 16 House 11:01 a.m. to 11:08 a.m. 

                    Senate 11:15 a.m. to 11:22 a.m
Wed. February 17 No House session

                    No Senate session

 

Thurs. February 18 House 11:03 a.m. to 11:08 a.m. 

                    Senate 11:08 a.m. to 11:15 a.m.

 

Fri. February 19 No House session

                    No Senate session
   

  Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at bob@beaconhillrollcall.com

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