Beacon Hill Roll Call Volume 41 -Report No. 25 June 20-24, 2016

By Bob Katzen 

   THE HOUSE AND SENATE. Beacon Hill Roll Call records local representatives’ votes on roll calls from the week of June 20-24. There were no roll calls in the Senate last week.

   House 156-0, approved and sent to the Senate a bill that would tie the penalty for solicitation of a felony crime to the penalty for committing the actual crime itself. Under current law, solicitation of a felony can only be charged as a misdemeanor, with no distinction made for the seriousness of the crime solicited. The current penalty can be no more than 2.5 years in a house of correction.
   Supporters said it is outrageous that the penalty for soliciting someone to commit a murder provides no greater punishment than soliciting someone to alter the vehicle identification number on a car. They pointed to a case in which a person hired someone to kill his wife and only faced 2.5 years in jail.
   (A “Yes” vote is for the bill.)

 Rep. Christine Barber Yes Rep. Denise Provost Yes Rep. Timothy Toomey Yes                                     

   House 156-0, approved and sent to the Senate an $800 million package for transportation projects across the state. The package includes $750 million for highway improvements and $50 million for a new grant program to fund the repair of cities’ and towns’ bridges that are 20 or fewer feet in length. 
   Supporters said the bill would fund critical improvements to highways throughout the state. They noted the $50 million for bridge repairs would go directly to cities and towns in need of funds to repair bridges that are crumbling.
   (A “Yes” vote is for the bill.)

 Rep. Christine Barber Yes Rep. Denise Provost Yes Rep. Timothy Toomey Yes                                     

   House 151-0, approved and sent to the Senate a bill that would allow 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 for a candidate who runs in a special election and then runs for re-election in the same year to be 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 regular election.
   (A “Yes” vote is for the bill.)

 Rep. Christine Barber Yes Rep. Denise Provost Yes Rep. Timothy Toomey Yes                                     

   House 146-10, approved and sent to the Senate a bill that would require the names of the top five contributors who donate over $5,000 to a super Political Action Committee (PAC) and other groups or political committees to be listed on all campaign billboards and mailers. Current law requires the listing of the top five donors only on television, Internet and print ads.
   Super PACs are created to help candidates and are often run by the candidate’s former staffers or associates who use the PAC to fund positive ads about the candidate and/or run negative ads against the candidate’s opponents. There is a limit on how much money can be donated to a candidate’s own election committee but super PACs can legally accept unlimited donations.
    Supporters said this will increase transparency and allow more voters to see who is funding these influential PACs. They said it will shine the light on this “dark” money.
   Opponents said the bill does not go far enough on several counts to make true campaign finance reforms. They noted it still allows unions to contribute excessive money to campaigns.
   (A “Yes” vote is for the bill. A “No” vote against it.)

 Rep. Christine Barber Yes Rep. Denise Provost Yes Rep. Timothy Toomey Yes                                     

   INFORMATION ABOUT BREAST RECONSTRUCTION SURGERY (H 3699) – The House gave initial approval to a bill requiring all facilities that provide mastectomy surgery, lymph node dissection or a lumpectomy to provide specific information to the patient in writing prior to the patient giving consent to the procedure. The information would include the advantages and disadvantages of various reconstructive options and the coverage of these surgeries under private and state-funded health insurance.
   ASSISTANCE TO FAMILIES OF MURDER VICTIMS (S 851) – The Judiciary Committee gave a favorable report to legislation that would create the Murder Victims Families Assistance Fund to provide aid to immediate families of murder victims. The fund would be funded by voluntary contributions from publishers, authors and movie or television studios that create books, movies or television shows based on murders committed in the Bay State.
   DIVERSIONARY PROGRAMS INSTEAD OF PRISON (H 1463) – The House gave initial approval to legislation that would allow persons of any age convicted of certain crimes to be eligible to be placed in a diversionary program instead of prison. Current law allows this only for persons ages 18-21.
   These programs provide first-time nonviolent offenders the chance to participate in a program that would help them instead of being prosecuted through the court process.


   PROPERTY TAX EXEMPTION FOR VOLUNTEER FIREFIGHTERS (S 1537) – The House gave initial approval to a Senate-approved measure allowing local cities and towns to give a property tax exemption to volunteer, call or auxiliary firefighters or emergency medical technicians.
  Supporters said these people work hard without pay and local communities should have the right to offer them property tax relief.
  SHOOTING AT A HOUSE OR APARTMENT (H 4314) – The House gave initial approval to a bill imposing up to a 5-year prison sentence and/or $10,000 fine on anyone who hits any dwelling with an assault weapon, firearm, large capacity weapon, machine gun, rifle, sawed-off shotgun or shotgun.
   REPEAL ARCHAIC LAWS (H 4392) – The House gave initial approval to a bill abolishing some archaic laws that are still on the books in Massachusetts. These laws include requiring that portions of the bible be read in public schools; declaring that the Communist Party is a subversive organization and prohibiting adultery, anal sex, blasphemy and vagabonds.
   ARCHITECT LAUREATE (H 4401) – The House gave initial approval to a bill that would create the position of Architect Laureate of the Commonwealth. The architect laureate would serve a two-year term and would advocate for the physical, historic and aesthetic nature of the statehouse and other architecturally significant public buildings in the state. The unpaid position would be filled by gubernatorial appointment. A laureate is a person who has been honored for achieving distinction in a particular field or with a particular award.
   QUOTABLE QUOTES – By the Numbers Edition
  Number of years former Sen. Mike Knapik served in the Legislature before being appointed last week as the director of the governor’s Western Massachusetts Office in Springfield.

   The maximum number of years in prison recommended by Gov. Baker’s in his proposal to increase the prison sentence for a person who causes serious bodily injury to a police officer. The current maximum is 2.5 years. 

   Number of doctors who have completed education courses in opioids and pain management offered by the Massachusetts Medical Society in the past 13 months.

   $700 million.
   The total of wages stolen annually in Massachusetts from about 350,000 workers, according to Community Labor United, the group supporting legislation to crack down on employers who violate the state’s minimum wage, overtime and other wage laws.

   $5.3 billion
  The amount of money in a temporary state budget approved by the Legislature and signed by the governor until a full fiscal 2017 budget is crafted by a House-Senate conference committee.

   The mph speed limit that cities and towns would be able to establish for thickly settled areas under a bill approved by the House. The current speed limit is 30 mph.
   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 20-24, the House met for a total of nine hours and nine minutes and the Senate met for a total 33 minutes.
Mon. June 20 House 11:04 a.m. to 3:09 p.m.

                     Senate 11:05 a.m. to 11:18 a.m.
Tues. June 21 No House session

                     No Senate session
Wed. June 22 House 11:07 a.m. to 3:54 p.m.

                     No Senate session


Thurs. June 23 House 11:06 a.m. to 11:23 a.m.

                     Senate 11:09 a.m. to 11:29 a.m.


Fri. June 24 No House session

                     No Senate session
Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at

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