Beacon Hill Roll Call Volume 41 – Report No. 12 March 21-25, 2016


By Bob Katzen 
   THE HOUSE AND SENATE. Beacon Hill Roll Call records local senators’ and representatives’ votes on roll calls from the week of March 21-25.

   House 157-0, Senate 38-0, approved and sent to Gov. Charlie Baker a bill that would repeal a 1989 law that requires anyone convicted of a non-violent drug crime to have his or her license suspended, regardless of whether the crime itself involved driving a vehicle. The measure also allows automatic license suspension for anyone convicted of trafficking in illegal drugs, except for marijuana. Another provision repeals the current law that requires offenders to pay a $500 fee to get their license back. The bill is retroactive and also applies to people who currently are without a license because of this law.
   Supporters said the current law is outdated, illogical and counterproductive because it prevents many offenders from driving to work or to get a new job, driving their children to school, traveling to a doctor and using their car for the things necessary in day-to-day life.

   (A “Yes” vote is for the bill.)

 Rep. Christine Barber Yes Rep. Denise Provost Yes Rep. Timothy Toomey Yes Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes                                     

   House 157-0, Senate 37-0, approved different versions of a $168 million fiscal 2016 supplemental budget to replenish some accounts and programs that are running out of money.
   Supporters said the packages are balanced ones that makes vital investments in the state while continuing fiscal responsibility. A House-Senate conference committee will likely work out a compromise version of the budget.
   (A “Yes” vote is for the budget.)

 Rep. Christine Barber Yes Rep. Denise Provost Yes Rep. Timothy Toomey Yes Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes                                     

   Senate 37-0, approved and sent to the House a bill that would prohibit banks from issuing unsolicited loans through the mail unless the recipient is already a customer of the bank. And even those customers would have ten days to rescind the loan and pay the bank back the entire amount, without any interest or fees. Another provision prohibits the person to whom the loan is sent from being held liable for any debt incurred by the unauthorized use of the loan by someone else. The measure also imposes fines of up to five years in prison and a $25,000 fine on any bank or person who violates this law.
   Supporters said these loans prey upon unsuspecting victims including the sick and elderly. They noted the recipient does not understand all the fine print and suddenly is paying enormous interest rates and fees.
   (A “Yes” vote is for the bill.)

 Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes                                     

   Senate 36-0, approved and sent to the House legislation that would require all colleges and universities to give applicants who have been accepted to the college a uniform financial aid information shopping sheet, developed by the federal government, to assist with the financial part of the decision whether or not to enroll in that school.
   Supporters said requiring each college to present the costs of the school per semester on the same standard form will allow potential students to compare the schools’ costs side by side. They argued it is difficult to compare costs when they are presented in a different way by each school.

   (A “Yes” vote is for the bill.)

 Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes                                     

   BILLS APPROVED BY HOUSE – The House gave initial approval to several bills last week including:
   BUSINESSES OPT INTO “DO NOT CALL” LIST (H 159) – Restricts telemarketing companies doing business in the state by allowing businesses to sign up for a “do not call” list and fining companies up to $5,000 if they call a business on the list. Current law only allows individual consumers to sign up for the list.
   Under the bill, all current laws that now apply to individuals would also apply to businesses and would allow a business on the list to sue a telemarketing company for up to $5,000 if the company violates the list and calls the individual more than once a year. Other provisions prevent companies from blocking their number from appearing on any business’ Caller ID box; prohibit companies from using recorded message devices to make these calls; and restrict these calls to between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. 
   Supporters said this long overdue bill will finally allow businesses to put a stop to these annoying calls. They argued the system has worked well for consumers and will be a success for businesses.
   ALLOW MORE CAMPAIGN CONTRIBUTIONS (H 542) – Allows donors to contribute the maximum $1,000 twice per year to a candidate who runs for the Legislature in a special election and a regular election in the same year. Current law only allows donors to give a maximum of $1,000 in any calendar year.
   Supporters said it is unfair to a candidate who runs in a special election and then runs for re-election in the same year but is limited to $1,000 per donor for the entire year. They argued current law gives an advantage to some candidates who are only running in the second election.
   BUSINESS TELEPHONE LISTING (H 250) – Prohibits a business from listing a local telephone number in a phone directory if calls are routinely forwarded to a non-local number and the listing does not give the true physical address of the business.
   Supporters said this would prohibit businesses from misrepresenting their location and fooling people into thinking an out-of-town company is actually in town.
    INSURANCE MONEY RECEIVED BY TOWNS (H 1830) – Increases from $20,000 to $150,000 the amount of money from an insurance settlement that a town is allowed to spend to replace the insured item without being required to get town meeting approval. The approval could be given at either a regular town meeting or the community can call a special town meeting.
   Supporters said the current $20,000 limit established in 1992, is way out of date because the average replacement cost of a police cruiser is $30,000, trucks $40,000 to $90,000 and heavy equipment such as bulldozers and excavators often cost more than $100,000. They argued that currently some towns end up waiting months until the next town meeting when they can finally purchase the equipment.
   HANDICAPPED PLATES (H 1861) – Waives the $275 court fee for any driver who owns a handicapped placard but is ticketed for allegedly illegally parking in a handicapped parking space. 
   Supporters said the measure was filed following an incident in which a woman received a $250 ticket for parking in a handicapped space. She actually is handicapped and does have the appropriate placard but it fell on the floor of the car where the police officers did not see it. She was planning to appeal the ticket but decided not to because the non-refundable $275 fee for the appeal is $25 more than the ticket itself.
   DESIGNATE ON BALLOT THAT CANDIDATE IS A VETERAN (H 3160)-– Allows the word “veteran” to be placed next to any candidate’s name, if requested by the candidate, on any general election and city or town election ballot. Current law only allows this designation on primary election ballots.
   PARENTS CAN’T BE FORCED TO TESTIFY AGAINST THEIR CHILDREN (H 1245) – Protects parents from being forced to testify against their children. Current law only protects children from being forced to testify against their parents.  
   Supporters said it is time to get rid of this double standard and to have an even playing field.
   PROTECT VETERANS’ PROPERTY TAX ABATEMENTS (H 4029) – Allows veterans and their surviving spouses who put their primary residence into a trust to still be entitled to property tax abatements from their city or town. Current law prohibits them from receiving an abatement if the property is in a trust. The law would only take effect in cities or towns that adopt it.
   Supporters noted that many veterans and surviving spouses are putting their primary residences in a trust for estate planning purposes. They argued a trust should not take away from these heroes the savings that come from a property tax abatement.


   “Approximately 7,000 people had their license suspended last year due to a drug conviction even if that conviction had nothing to do with the operation of a motor vehicle. That’s 7,000 people who cannot drive to their jobs and miss court dates and rehabilitation meetings, making it harder for them to rejoin their families and their communities.”
   Senate President Stan Rosenberg (D-Amherst) on passage of a bill that would repeal a 1989 law that requires anyone convicted of a non-violent drug crime to have his or her license suspended, regardless of whether the crime itself involved driving a vehicle.

   “With this bill we have the opportunity to be a leader in alleviating the student loan debt crisis and set the standard for other states and our federal government to follow.”
   Rep. Kate Campanale (R-Leicester) on her bill to give a tax credit and personal income tax deduction for student loan assistance.

   “Horrific attacks like the one that took place at the Brussels airport highlight the sensitive nature of all work at the airports. We must continue to invest in both the physical and human capital that keeps passengers safe. Workers put safety first every day and must be prepared, trained, and properly compensated as they keep airports secure.” 
   Roxana Rivera, Vice-President of 32BJ District 615 on legislation that would raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour for baggage handlers, airplane cleaners, wheelchair assistants and other employees at Logan Airport.

   “Thousands of workers receive training through these grants, making themselves and their work environments safer.”
   Lt. Governor Karyn Polito on release of $215,000 in grants to train employees to prevent workplace injuries, illnesses and death.

    “I acknowledge we have a great health care system, but it’s a health care system that doesn’t work for everybody.”
     Sen. Jamie Eldridge (D-Acton) testifying on his bill to create a state-run “Medicare For All,” single-payer health care system. 
   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 March 21-25, the House met for a total of six hours and 29 minutes and the Senate met for a total of six hours and 23 minutes.
Mon. March 21 House 11:03 a.m. to 11:12 a.m. 

                 Senate 11:06 a.m. to 12:54 p.m
Tues. March 22 No House session

                 No Senate session
Wed. March 23 House 10:03 a.m. to 2:29 p.m. 

                 No Senate session


Thurs. March 24 House 11:04 a.m. to 12:58 p.m. 

                 Senate 11:02 a.m. to 3:36 p.m.


Fri. March 25 No House session

                 No Senate session

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