Beacon Hill Roll Call Volume 41 – Report No. 23 June 6-10, 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 June 6-10.
ENERGY (H 4377)

  House 154-1, approved and sent to the Senate a bill requiring utilities to solicit and agree to 15-20-year contracts for large amounts of hydroelectric and offshore wind power. Provisions include requiring all contract proposals to go through a competitive bidding process; requiring contracts to be cost-effective for ratepayers; and requiring that eligible offshore wind developers build projects in federally leased waters.
   Supporters said the bill provides power without pollution and will diversify the state’s energy portfolio and replace some of the power the state will be losing from dirtier sources that will eventually be shut down. They noted that the offshore wind requirements will enhance a new industry in Massachusetts, help the economy and create jobs. 
  The lone opponent did not respond to repeated attempts by Beacon Hill Roll Call for his arguments against the bill.
   (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                                     
ZONING CHANGES (S 2311)

   Senate 23-15, approved and sent to the House a bill making changes in state and local zoning laws. Provisions include requiring communities to designate districts for multi-family units and not requiring a special permit; allowing some in-law apartments without any special permit; requiring cities and town to adopt inclusionary zoning, which requires a percentage of the new housing stock be priced as affordable housing and not market rate housing; and extending permitting time for developers from the current maximum of two years to a maximum of three years.
   Supporters said the bill updates the zoning laws for the first time in 40 years and will promote sustainable growth. They argued that it will help build more housing for young people, families and seniors and encourage desperately needed housing development in cities and towns across the state.
   Opponents said that parts of the bill have not been the subject of a public hearing. They said the proposal has not been vetted and could lead to confusion and lawsuits.
   (A “Yes” vote is for the bill. A “No” vote is against it.)

 Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes                                     
REQUIRE AUDIT (S 2311)

   Senate 12-26, rejected an amendment that would require an outside audit of all affordable housing projects built since July 1, 1998, through Chapter 40B, which essentially exempts low and moderate income housing developers from local zoning bylaws in communities in which less than ten percent of the housing is deemed affordable by the state. 
   Amendment supporters said there has not been an audit since the 2006 one which uncovered abuse and fraud. They argued that some developers are taking advantage of weak oversight of 40B to make money.
   Some amendment opponents said no one has explained how the audit will be funded and how much it would cost. Others said 40B is a complicated issue that should be dealt with separately from this bill.
  (A “Yes” vote is for the audit. A “No” vote is against it.)

 Sen. Patricia Jehlen No                                      
CHAPTER 40B COMMISSION (S 2311)

   Senate 19-20, rejected an amendment creating an 11-member commission to explore reforming and improving regional planning related to chapter 40B. The commission would make recommendations for increasing the sustainable supply of affordable housing while increasing the authority of local communities to manage the siting and design of these projects to avoid undue harm to neighborhoods, schools, the environment, traffic and other local concerns.
   Amendment supporters said it is long past time to conduct a detailed review of Chapter 40B related regulations and court rulings and how these things have impacted the supply of affordable housing.
   Amendment opponents said 40B doesn’t need any more studies but rather needs to be reformed. They argued the Legislature has more than enough information about 40B.
   (A “Yes” vote is for the amendment. A “No” vote is against it.)

 Sen. Patricia Jehlen No                                      
BAN FRACKING (S 2309)

   Senate 36-0, approved and sent to the House a bill that would place a ten-year moratorium on fracking in Massachusetts. Fracking is a method of drilling that involves high-pressure water, often tainted by toxic chemicals, directed at the rock to release the gas inside.
   Supporters said fracking can contaminate water and make people ill. They argued the Senate must protect people from this irresponsible method that makes money for the frackers at the expense of other people’s health.
  No one vote against the bill but there was criticism of it from Massachusetts Petroleum Council Executive Director Steve Dodge who said the Senate’s hydraulic fracturing ban is bad energy policy. In a written statement he said, “The bill is political showmanship based on cut-and-paste arguments against hydraulic fracturing that have been repeatedly discredited by independent studies. The Senate should base its decisions on sound science, not on the false claims of groups that are oblivious to the concerns of middle class families in the Commonwealth.”
  (A “Yes” vote is for the 10-year ban on fracking.)

 Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes                                     
RECYCLING (S 1653)

   Senate 38-0, approved and sent to the House a bill that would require state agencies and courts to implement recycling programs by 2018. Mandatory recycling would include lead batteries, metal containers, glass containers, polymer plastics, recyclable paper, carpets, fluorescent lamps, cathode ray tubes and construction and demolition material. Agencies and courts with more than 50 employees would be required to submit an annual report to the secretary of energy and environmental affairs detailing their actions.
   Supporters said this was a major step forward in the ongoing recycling campaign to ensure the state complies with solid waste reduction plans.
   (A “Yes” vote is for the bill.)

 Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes                                     

ALSO UP ON BEACON HILL
   WORKPLACE BULLYING (H 1728) – The House gave initial approval to a bill giving state, city and town employees who are victims of workplace bullying, the legal right to seek damages against an employer or fellow employee.

 

   The bill defines bullying as physical, verbal, or non-verbal conduct that is threatening, humiliating, or intimidating in nature, or involves the repeated use of derogatory remarks, insults, or epithets; or intentionally sabotages or undermines the employee’s work performance, and causes physical or psychological harm.
   Supporters said that under current law, there is no recourse for these victims unless the bullying is based on a protected class status like race, sex or disability. They said that more than 25 percent of workers will be the victims of workplace bullying in their lifetime and that 72 percent of employers who received complaints about workplace bullying either ignored the problem or made it worse. They argued that bullying can result in many conditions including severe depression and anxiety.
   CAMERAS MONITOR PARKING (H 4243) – The House gave initial approval to a bill allowing cities and towns to use “self-enforcing parking systems” which are remote monitoring systems that use remote cameras to determine if a vehicle is violating any parking laws and regulations. Officials would have five days to send tickets out to violators via regular mail, e-mail or text. Each city or town would be required to maintain the confidentiality of all information. 
   Supporters said this will bring parking enforcement into the 21st century and eliminate the need to hire and pay parking enforcement officers who are often the victims of verbal and/or physical abuse.
   Opponents expressed concerns about violations of privacy and said this could lead to more video surveillance of citizens.
   ALLOW MASSAGE THERAPY ON SUNDAYS (H 169) – The House gave initial approval to legislation that would allow massage therapists to operate on Sundays and holidays. 

   Supporters said it is time to abolish one of the remaining blue laws that are not necessary.

   

   ALLOW DONATION OF LIQUOR AND BEER TO NON-PROFITS (H 248) – The House approved and sent to the Senate a bill that would allow individuals and businesses to donate liquor and beer to non-profits to serve or sell at an auction. Current law only allows the donation of wine. 

 Some charities and donators work around the law by having the charity pay for the spirits. The business or individual then returns the money by making a donation to the charity equal to the amount the charity paid for it.

   

   Supporters said this archaic law hurts charities by increasing their expenses. They noted that it also is foolish to have a law that prevents individuals and businesses from making a charitable contribution. 
   QUOTABLE QUOTES –-Special Gov. Charlie Baker Edition from Jon Keller’s interview with Baker on WBZ-TV.
   “I think we should at the start of next session, absolutely. And have that debate.”
   On Baker’s plans to file legislation next year to impose the death penalty on murderers convicted of killing a law enforcement officer.

  “I made a no new taxes pledge when I ran, and I said I wasn’t going to raise taxes, and I meant it.”
   On the upcoming ballot question that would allow a graduated income tax in Massachusetts and impose an additional 4 percent income tax, in addition to the current flat 5.10 percent one, on taxpayers’ earnings of more than $1 million.

    “Having a ‘body’ running for office … is nowhere near as important as having somebody who can win and will do the work. And I feel really good about the people who we have running.”
     On why there are many Democratic legislators who don’t have a GOP challenger in the November election.

   “Both parties suffer from a number of problems and the biggest one is that a lot of people believe that the parties are too focused on themselves and not enough on progress … One of our successes as an administration has been by focusing on the stuff people care about … and not getting into a lot of the nonsense that passes for political discourse.”
  On what’s wrong with the Republican party brand.

   “[It] has been in business for less than a year and they’ve already found hundreds of millions of dollars in savings.”
   On the MBTA Fiscal Management Control Board’s work.
   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 June 6-10, the House met for a total of eight hours and three minutes and the Senate met for a total of six hours and 38 minutes.
Mon. June 6 House 11:00 a.m. to 11:41 a.m.

                     Senate 11:05 a.m. to 11:47 a.m.
Tues. June 7 No House session

                     No Senate session
Wed. June 8 House 11:05 a.m. to 6:04 p.m.

                     No Senate session

 

Thurs. June 9 House 11:01 a.m. to 11:24 a.m.

                     Senate 11:09 a.m. to 5:05 p.m.

 

Fri. June 10 No House session

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

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