Beacon Hill Roll Call Volume 41-Report No. 13 March 28-April 1, 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 28-April 1.

   House 153-0, approved and sent to the Senate a bill authorizing $200 million in one-time funding for the maintenance and repair of local roads and bridges in cities and towns across the state. The package is a bond bill under which the $200 million would be borrowed by the state through the sale of bonds. 
   Supporters said this would help cities and towns keep their roads and bridges safe. They noted that the money will be delivered early in the construction season and allow many vital municipal road projects to move forward.

   Although no one voted against the proposal, the Massachusetts Municipal Association had urged legislators to increase the funding to $300 million per year and have it in effect for several years. 
  (A “Yes” vote is for the $200 million.)

 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 create a MassMade program which identifies and supports businesses that produce consumer goods in the Bay State and serves as a resource for consumers seeking goods made in the state. In order to qualify, a business must meet three conditions: produce a consumer good in the state; be headquartered in the state or have a principal place of business here; and possess a certificate of good standing from the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation.
   Supporters, noting that Maine and New Hampshire have similar programs, said the state has many small and larger businesses that make their goods here but have difficulty conveying that to the public because of lack of advertising dollar. They argued this program will help these loyal companies, boost the economy and demonstrate that the state is supportive of local businesses.
(A “Yes” vote is for the amendment.)

 Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes                                     

   Senate 36-0, approved an amendment requiring the state to develop methods to provide support to Massachusetts-based businesses that bid on state contracts. 
   Amendment supporters said this would help these local businesses navigate through the often complicated bidding process. They argued awarding contracts to Massachusetts-based companies would strengthen the economy and create jobs.
   (A “Yes” vote is for the amendment.)

 Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes                                     

   Senate 36-2, approved an amendment requiring the MassMade program to identify obstacles to conducting business in the Massachusetts.
   Amendment supporters said this would help existing and future Bay State-based companies by identifying and hopefully eventually removing some of these obstacles.
   Amendment opponents offered no arguments. Beacon Hill Roll Call made repeated attempts to contact the two senators who voted against the bill but they did not respond. 
   (A “Yes” vote is for the amendment.)

 Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes                                     

   Senate 36-0, approved and sent to the House a bill that would expand health and safety protections to cover state and municipal employees. The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) covers private employees but 26 states have exercised the act’s option of extending the OSHA protections to public workers. 
   Supporters said this would cover an estimated 150,000 state workers and countless local ones who perform jobs that are sometimes just as dangerous as private sector ones.
   (A “Yes” vote is for the bill.)

 Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes                                     

   DRUG OFFENSES AND DRIVER’S LICENSES (S 1812) – Gov. Charlie Baker signed into law 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 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.
   TAX AMNESTY FROM APRIL 1 TO MAY 31 – The Department of Revenue (DOR) announced another tax amnesty program. If you owe the state back taxes, you will be issued a “Tax Amnesty Notice” from the DOR. If you pay the full amount of tax and interest due by May 31, tax penalties and any interest due on those penalties will be waived by the DOR. For more information, go to or call DOR’s Customer Service line at 617-887-6367 or toll free in Massachusetts at 800-392-6089.
  WARNING SYSTEM AT BEACHES – CALEIGH’S LAW (S 1956) – As summer and beach season approach, a bill creating a program that uses different colored flags to advise beachgoers of the safety conditions at their beach remains stuck in the House Ways and Means committee. This uniform warning system would be required at all public beaches maintained by the Department of Conservation and Recreation. Cities and towns would have the option of using the flags for their local beaches.


  The bill was filed at the urging of Anthony Harrison, the father of Caleigh Harrison, the 2-year-old girl who went missing while at the beach in 2012 and is believed to have been swept out to sea. Supporters said the flag system might have saved Caleigh’s life and should become law in order to save the lives of others.
   The Senate approved the bill on July 23 and sent it to the House for action. The measure has remained in the House Ways and Means Committee for more than eight months. Sponsors hope that the bill won’t meet the same fate it did in the 2013-2014 session when the Senate approved it but it died in the House Ways and Means Committee and never reached the House floor.
   IMPOSE SALES TAX ON ITEMS BOUGHT ONLINE (S 1974) – Another proposal approved by the Senate in July and still stuck in the House Ways and Means Committee would require the state to plan and prepare to collect sales taxes on all items purchased online if and when the federal government authorizes states to mandate that Internet sellers collect sales taxes. Federal law currently only requires the sales tax to be collected by sellers, like Amazon, who have a physical presence like a store or warehouse in the state. 
   Under current state law, a Massachusetts resident who buys a taxable item online is required to take the initiative and pay the 6.25 percent sales tax upon filing of his or her state tax return. But few ever do so.
   Supporters said this will raise a much needed $150 million to $200 million annually if implemented in the Bay State. They noted that Massachusetts local brick and mortar stores are all required to collect the sales tax and are losing sales to online companies. They argued that the tax is not a new tax but rather a new system to collect a tax that taxpayers are already required to pay but rarely do so.
   Opponents said the tax is a new tax since the honor system of people paying the sales tax when filing their returns has not worked. They said the last thing the state’s taxpayers need is a tax increase during this struggling economy.
   INCREASE TERMS OF VETERANS’ AGENTS (H 3130) – The House gave initial approval to a bill allowing cities and towns to increase from one year to up to three years the duration of the term of their appointed veterans’ agent.
   Supporters said it takes a while for veterans’ agents to get settled, develop experience and establish a supportive and trusting relationship with their local veterans. They noted that the increased term will allow for the stability and continuity which will provide critical and effective support to these heroes.
   PEACE DAY (S 2181) – The State Administration and Regulatory Oversight held a hearing on a proposal designating September 21 as Peace Day, in memory of victims lost to acts of violence, to recognize and further the goals of Peace Day in the United States, and International Peace Day
    “The less lethal option offered by [Tasers] increases not only officer safety but also the safety of suspects. They are a tool that will help resolve hostile confrontations before they escalate into situations requiring lethal force.”
   State Police Colonel Richard McKeon on the state’s purchase of several hundred Taser guns. 

   “There is a growing demand for natural clothes in America. Cotton uses a tremendous amount of water. Hemp has the possibility of replacing cotton which would be an environmental achievement. Hemp would be another avenue to boost agriculture in the Commonwealth.”
   Rep. Paul Schmid (D-Westport) on legalizing the cultivation and manufacturing of industrial hemp.

    “I am pleased to sign legislation providing opportunities for those convicted of drug offenses and who have served their time to re-enter society, find and keep a job and support their families. Removing this significant barrier to re-entry reduces the prospects of recidivism as individuals continue treatment or recovery and gives them a better chance at getting back on their feet.” 
   Gov. Baker upon signing the repeal of 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.
   “Our ultimate goal is to make the MBTA one of the best transit systems in the country. The Dashboard reflects our priority of making data-driven decisions and in keeping us accountable when it comes to customer satisfaction.”
   Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack on the launch of the MBTA’s Performance Dashboard that allows the public to track the daily reliability levels of the four subway lines and all 170 bus routes.   


   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-April 1, the House met for a total of six hours and 20 minutes and the Senate met for a total of four hours and 56 minutes.
Mon. March 28 House 11:02 a.m. to 11:19 a.m. 

                 Senate 11:14 a.m. to 11:29 a.m
Tues. March 29 No House session

                 No Senate session
Wed. March 30 House 11:03 a.m. to 1:36 p.m. 

                 No Senate session


Thurs. March 31 House 11:02 a.m. to 2:32 p.m. 

                 Senate 11:01 a.m. to 3:42 p.m.


Fri. April 1 No House session

                 No Senate session
 Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at

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