Beacon Hill Roll Call Volume 41 – Report No. 15 April 11-15, 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 April 11-15.
$200 MILLION FOR ROADS AND BRIDGES (H 4133)

   House 151-0, Senate 35-0, approved and Gov. Charlie Baker signed into law a bill authorizing the state to borrow $200 million in one-time funding for the maintenance and repair of local roads and bridges in cities and towns across the state. 
   Supporters said this would help cities and towns improve their roads and bridges and keep them safe.
   Although no legislators 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 Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes                                     
RULES FOR HOUSE BUDGET DEBATE (H 4199)

   House 116-34, voted strictly along party lines and approved a set of Democratic leadership-sponsored rules to be followed when the House considers the fiscal 2017 state budget beginning on April 25. Provisions include requiring all amendments to be filed online, any proposed tax hikes or reductions to be considered early in the process and amendments to be filed within three days after the budget is filed.
   Supporters said that these rules are fair and responsible and will help make the budget debate go smoothly.
   Opponents said the rules include several provisions that are anti-democratic and weaken the input of individual members.
    (A “Yes” vote is for the rules. A “No” vote is against the rules.)

 Rep. Christine Barber Yes Rep. Denise Provost Yes Rep. Timothy Toomey Yes                                     
ALLOW MORE TIME TO FILE BUDGET AMENDMENTS (H 4199)

   House 35-115, rejected a Republican-sponsored amendment that would give members seven days instead of three days to file amendments to the fiscal 2017 state budget.
   Amendment supporters said the budget is a massive document that members must have time to read and understand before proposing amendments.
   Amendment opponents said the three-day window has worked well and should not be changed. They noted that the Ways and Means Committee needs the early deadline so it can properly prepare the amendments for debate.
   (A “Yes” vote is for allowing more time to file amendments. A “No” vote is against allowing it.)

 Rep. Christine Barber No Rep. Denise Provost No Rep. Timothy Toomey No                                      
MAKE IT HARDER TO SHIP BUDGET AMENDMENTS OFF TO STUDY COMMITTEES (H 4199)

   House 34-115, voted strictly along party lines and rejected a rule requiring a two-thirds vote to ship proposed amendments off to a study committee unless the sponsor of the original amendment agrees with conducting a study. 
   The rule was designed to stop what Republicans describe as successful attempts by Speaker DeLeo and his Democratic leadership team to prevent Democratic members from having to vote directly against many GOP proposals including ones to reduce taxes.
   Here’s an example of how the GOP says it works: The Republicans offer a proposal to reduce the income tax from 5.1 percent back to 5 percent. If the Democratic leadership does nothing, there would be a roll call vote directly on the tax reduction. Most Democrats would vote against the reduction and then would be open to charges of being against tax relief. 
   Instead, a Democratic member offers a “delaying” amendment that would prohibit the tax reduction from taking effect until the Department of Revenue studies its economic impact.
   Under House rules, the amendment to study and delay the tax cut is voted upon first. If it passes, which it always does, no other amendments can be introduced and the original proposal that would simply cut the tax is dead without ever having a direct vote on it. Republicans say the studies are a sham because they are never done. 
   They say this is all pre-planned by the Democratic leadership when the presiding officer at the podium calls upon a Democratic representative who is loyal to him and the member proposes the delay and study. Even if a Republican member is waving his or her hand and shouting to be recognized, he or she will not be called upon because he or she would not propose the delay and study.
   Some Democrats say the study is often a legitimate option to examine the impact of the tax reduction. Other Democrats acknowledge that the study is proposed to prevent a direct vote on the tax reduction.
   Supporters of the proposed rule said this Democratic ploy is used to confuse the voters. They argued that the new rule would at least give supporters of tax reduction amendments a better opportunity to successfully force a vote directly on the tax cuts. 
   Opponents of the proposed rule said the current system has worked fine and argued that requiring a two-thirds majority for further amendments was simply another procedural delaying tactic by the minority party. They said that raising the bar to a two-thirds majority is a slippery slope that will lead to proposals to require a two-thirds vote for all kinds of legislation. 
   (A “Yes” vote is for the rule requiring a two-thirds vote. A “No” vote is against the rule.)

 Rep. Christine Barber No Rep. Denise Provost No Rep. Timothy Toomey No                                      
ALLOW TWO HOURS TO READ BUDGET AMENDMENTS (H 4199)

   House 34-116, voted strictly along party lines and rejected a Republican proposal increasing from 30 minutes to two hours the period given to legislators to read any proposed consolidated amendment to the House budget prior to debate and a vote on it. 
   Supporters of the new rule said these amendments are often up to 30 pages long and legislators are asked to vote on them while the paper is still warm from the copying machine. They said that this system is anti-democratic and results in members voting on something that they have not even read.
   Opponents of the new rule said the current 30-minute rule has worked well.
   (A “Yes” vote is for the two hours. A “No” vote is against it.)

 Rep. Christine Barber No Rep. Denise Provost No Rep. Timothy Toomey No                                      
CONSOLIDATED AMENDMENTS (H 4199)

  House 34-116, voted strictly along party lines and rejected a rule that would prohibit more than one consolidated amendment from being considered in a single vote. The consolidated amendment system works as follows when the House is considering the state budget: Individual representatives file dozens of amendments on the same general subject matters including local aid, social services and public safety. They are then invited to “subject meetings” in Room 348 at which they pitch their amendments to Democratic leaders who draft consolidated amendments that include some of the individual representatives’ amendments while excluding others. Current rules allow several of these consolidated amendments, each on different subjects, to be lumped together into a single, omnibus consolidated amendment and put to a vote. The proposed rule would prohibit that practice.
   Supporters of the new rule said the omnibus consolidated amendment creates a dilemma for legislators who support one or more of the amendments contained within the omnibus consolidated amendment but oppose the others. They argued members should have the right to vote on each consolidated amendment separately.
   Opponents said that current rules already allow a single member to separate his or her amendment from any consolidated amendment and request an up or down individual vote on that amendment.
   (A “Yes” vote is for the rule. A “No” vote is against it.)

 Rep. Christine Barber No Rep. Denise Provost No Rep. Timothy Toomey No                                      
TAKING DRIVER’S LICENSES AWAY FROM TAGGERS AND VANDALS

   The Senate approved and sent to the House two similar bills. One would repeal a current law that requires anyone convicted of tagging to have his or her driver’s license suspended, regardless of whether the crime itself involved driving a vehicle. The other would repeal a similar law that requires anyone convicted of vandalism to have his or her license suspended, regardless of whether the crime itself involved driving a vehicle. Tagging, also known as graffiti, is using spray paint to deface public or private buildings and other property. Vandalism is any destruction of property by any method.
   Supporters of repeal said the current laws are outdated, illogical and counterproductive because they prevent 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.
   Opponents of repeal said the bills minimize the seriousness of these crimes and take away one more tool in discouraging and preventing them.
The next four roll calls relate to those two bills.
TAGGING (S 727)
   Senate 28-7, approved and sent to the House the bill that would repeal a current law that requires anyone convicted of tagging to have his or her license suspended, regardless of whether the crime itself involved driving a vehicle.
   (A “Yes” vote is for the bill. A “No” vote is against it).

 Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes                                     
VANDALISM (S 728)

   Senate 28-7, approved and sent to the House the bill that would repeal a current law that requires anyone convicted of vandalism to have his or her license suspended, regardless of whether the crime itself involved driving a vehicle. 
(A “Yes” vote is for the bill. A “No” vote is against it).

 Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes                                     
INCREASE TAGGING FINE (S 727)

   Senate 7-28, rejected an amendment increasing the fine for tagging from a minimum of $1,500 to a minimum of $2,000.
   Supporters said the increase would get tougher with these vandals and serve as a deterrent.
   Opponents said the increase will not be a deterrent. They noted the court can already impose probation fees and require some kind of restitution. 
   (A “Yes” vote is for the amendment. A “No” vote is against it).

 Sen. Patricia Jehlen No                                      
INCREASE VANDALISM FINE (S 727)

   Senate 8-27, rejected an amendment increasing the fine for vandalism from a maximum of $1,500 to a minimum of $2,000.
   Supporters and opponents restated the same arguments that were used in the prior roll call on increasing the fine for tagging.
   (A “Yes” vote is for the amendment. A “No” vote is against it).

 Sen. Patricia Jehlen No                                      

ALSO UP ON BEACON HILL
   FIRST RESPONDER DAY (H 4161) – The House and Senate both approved and Gov. Baker signed into law a bill designating the day before Patriots’ Day as First Responder Day. Patriots’ Day falls annually on the third Monday of April. 

   

   Supporters said this will honor these police officers, firefighters, EMTs and other first responders who save many lives every day and especially on the day of the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013.
   SOLAR ENERGY (H 4173) – Gov. Baker signed into law a bill that raises the public and private net metering caps from 5 percent of utilities’ peak load to 8 percent, and from 4 percent of utilities’ peak load to 7 percent. The measure also decreases the reimbursement rate paid to solar energy producers by 40 percent.
   Supporters said the bill is a fair and balanced one that keeps the solar industry moving forward while watching out for the ratepayers at the same time. 
   Upon signing the bill, Gov. Baker said, “This legislation builds upon the continued success of the Commonwealth’s solar industry and ensures a viable, sustainable and affordable solar market at a lower cost to ratepayers. As our administration continues its balanced approach to diversifying Massachusetts’ energy portfolio, solar development will be an integral component of our state’s clean energy future.”
   VIDEOTAPE MEDICAL PROCEDURES (H 4099) – The Public Health Committee held a hearing on legislation that would allow a patient to videotape his or her doctor, without permission, performing any medical procedures. Current Massachusetts law allows doctors to refuse to be taped. This is part of a law that makes it illegal to tape any person without his or her consent. 
   Supporters say that patients should have this right in order to have a recording that can be useful if the patients bring a malpractice suit against the doctor. They noted the videos can also help hospitals learn from mistakes.
   Opponents say doctors, like any other workers, should have a right to do their work in private. They argued the bill is an unnecessary invasion of privacy.
   SPEED LIMITS NEAR GARBAGE AND RECYCLING TRUCKS (H 4149) -The Judiciary Committee held a hearing on legislation that would create a 15-mile-per-hour speed limit for any vehicles passing stationary garbage and recycling trucks that are on city and town roads. 
   Supporters said this will protect hardworking people from accidents and even death.
   KINDNESS MONTH (H 2747) – The House and Senate approved and Gov. Baker signed into law a bill making May the official month of kindness, recommending its observance by the people as a “period of 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.”
   

   QUOTABLE QUOTES – Special Transgender Legislation Edition on pending bill that would prohibit discrimination against transgender individuals in the state’s public accommodations.
   “If the transgender bill gets to my desk, I will make sure I talk to all parties involved before we make any decision.”
   Gov. Baker, in his keynote speech at a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) event.

  “Boo. Boo. Boo. Sign the bill.”
   The crowd’s response to Baker’s remarks.

   “I reject that claim. It’s false politics. Intellectually dishonest.”
   Legal Counsel Jonathan Alexandre, Legal Counsel of the Massachusetts Family Institute on statements that have compared the transgender rights movement to the Black Civil Rights movement.

   “This is a simple bill that will make a significant impact on the lives of transgender people. The business community has long known that anti-discrimination policies aren’t just good for people, they’re good for business. We thank these companies for making the message clear: transgender people deserve to feel safe and welcome in Massachusetts.”
   Attorney General Maura Healey on the business community’s support for the bill.
   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 April 4-8, the House met for a total of five hours and 32 minutes and the Senate met for a total of nine hours and 36 minutes.
Mon. April 4 House 11:03 a.m. to 11:09 a.m. 

                  Senate 11:04 a.m. to 11:14 a.m.
Tues. April 12 No House session

                  No Senate session
Wed. April 13 House 11:04 a.m. to 5:16 p.m. 

                  Senate 11:09 a.m. to 4:11 p.m.
Thurs. April 14 House 11:00 a.m. to 11:14 a.m. 

                  Senate 11:03 a.m. to 11:27 a.m.

.

 

Fri. April 15 No House session

                  No Senate session
 Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at bob@beaconhillrollcall.com

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