Beacon Hill Roll Call Volume 42 – Report No. 2 January 9-13, 2017

By Bob Katzen 

   THE HOUSE AND SENATE. There were no roll calls in the House or Senate last week. Beacon Hill Roll Call has obtained from the state treasurer’s office the 2016 official list of the “per diem” travel, meals and lodging reimbursements collected by the Legislature’s 40 state senators from January 1, 2016 through December 31, 2016. The list reveals that senators collected a total of $51,725.
   Under state law, per diems are paid by the state to senators “for each day for travel from his place of residence to the Statehouse and return therefrom, while in the performance of his official duties, upon certification to the state treasurer that he was present at the Statehouse.” These reimbursements are given to senators above and beyond their regular salaries.
   The amount of each per diem varies, based on the city or town in which a senator resides and its distance from the Statehouse. In 2000, the Legislature approved a law doubling per diems to the current amounts. The payments range from $10 per day for senators who reside in the Greater Boston area to $90 per day for some western Massachusetts lawmakers and $100 per day for those residing in Nantucket. Senators from areas farthest from Boston’s Statehouse most often collect the highest total of annual per diems.
   Some supporters of the per diems say the system is fair and note the rising costs of travel, food and lodging. They argue that many legislators spend a lot of money on travel to Boston and some spend the night in Boston following late sessions. Others say that some legislators accept the per diem but use it to support local nonprofit causes. They say that not taking the per diem would leave that money in the state’s General Fund to be spent frivolously.
   Some opponents argue that most state employees, and even people working for private companies, are not paid additional money for commuting. They say the very idea of paying any per diem is outrageous when thousands of workers have lost their jobs and homes, and when funding for important state programs has been cut. 
   The 2016 statistics indicate that 16 of the 40 senators who served in 2016 received reimbursements ranging from $820 to $8,280, while 24 senators have so far chosen not to apply for any money. Three current senators were not yet in office in 2016 and therefore couldn’t collect per diems. According to the state treasurer’s office, a legislator can request to be paid a per diem for any day in the current year and the previous year. Any request for a day prior to that time period will be denied.
   The senator who received the most per diem money in 2016 is former Sen. Benjamin Downing (D-Pittsfield), who received 8,280.   
   The other four senators who received the most are Sens. Karen Spilka (D-Ashland), $6,534; Stan Rosenberg (D-Amherst), $5,700; and Donald Humason (R-Westfield), $4,554; and former Sen. Daniel Wolf (D-Harwich), $4,860.

   The dollar figure next to the senator’s name represents the total amount of per diem money the state paid him or her in 2016. The number in parentheses represents the number of days the senator certified he or she was at the Statehouse during that same period. Senators who have not requested any per diems have “0 days” listed. That is not meant to imply that these senators didn’t attend any sessions but rather that they chose not to request any per diems.

 Sen. Patricia Jehlen $1,110 (111 days)                       

   MAKE DAYLIGHT SAVINGS TIME PERMANENT – The special legislative commission charged with studying the practical, economic, fiscal and health-related impacts of the state remaining on Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) throughout the calendar year held its first meeting last week. The commission was created last year and its report and recommendations are due March 31, 2017. Currently, the Bay State is on EDT only when we push the clocks ahead during the period of the second Sunday in March to the first Sunday in November. During EDT, evening daylight lasts an hour longer while sunrise is an hour later.
   Supporters of permanent EDT say that it delivers more sunlight in the evening after work and school when people can enjoy it, rather than during the morning rush. They argue that studies show it helps businesses, saves energy, reduces robberies and improves physical and mental health.
   Opponents question the energy savings and say that studies have shown that EDT increases risk of a heart attack. Some farmers say the practice leaves them with an hour less sunlight to get crops to market and tampers with the milking schedules of cows which often do not adapt easily to a sudden shift. Many parents and schools oppose EDT because it makes sunrise times much later and results in children being out on dark streets on their way to school.
  The commission has not yet scheduled its next meeting. All meetings are open to the public. You can find out the date of the next hearing or offer your opinion via e-mail to the committee’s chair Sen. Eileen Donoghue at or by regular mail at: State House, Room 112, Boston, MA 02133.
   GOV. BAKER SIGNS SEVERAL BILLS INTO LAW – Gov. Charlie Baker signed several bills into law last week including:
   LICENSE AND REGULATE NATUROPATHIC DOCTORS (H 4787) – Creates a state board to license and regulate naturopathic doctors and requires that these doctors have extensive training in a naturopathic program at an approved naturopathic medical college. The bill sets out allowable practices that naturopathic doctors may perform but does not permit them to perform surgery or invasive procedures or prescribe a controlled substance. 
   The American Association of Naturopathic Physicians defines naturopathic doctors as “primary care and specialty doctors who address the underlying cause of disease through effective, individualized natural therapies that integrate the healing powers of body, mind and spirit.” 
  Supporters say the bill would ensure high-quality naturopathic care in the Bay State and protect the consumer from unqualified practitioners who claim to be naturopathic doctors. “It’s important for us to utilize prevention, therapeutic treatment and natural therapies whenever possible,” said sponsor Sen. Marc Pacheco (D-Fall River). “For those who find it helpful, naturopathic medical treatment will be well-served by a board of registration to establish requirements and authorized practices. Consumer protection must be a priority.”
   The Massachusetts Medical Society (MMS) opposed the legislation. “The establishment of licensure for naturopathy is disappointing, as licensing is likely to be perceived by the public as an endorsement of an area of care that lacks rigorous medical training and standards of care, and offers few if any treatments based on clinical and scientific evidence,” said James Gessner, President of the MMS. “We urge patients to be cautious when considering naturopathic treatments.”
   WARNING SYSTEM AT BEACHES – CALEIGH’S LAW (S 1956) – Creates a program that uses different colored flags to advise beachgoers of the safety conditions at their beach. 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 say the flag system might have saved Caleigh’s life and should become law in order to save the lives of others.


   INSURANCE FOR SELF-STORAGE RENTAL UNITS (H 4765) – Allows owners of self-storage facilities to offer renters insurance to cover the loss of or damage to the customer’s belongings that are stored at the facility. The measure also requires that employers provide their workers with training to teach them about the ins and outs of this type of insurance. The insurance would be provided through a third-party insurance company.
  Supporters say the Bay State should join the 20 other states that allow and regulate this practice. They note it will protect the consumer and make it easier to buy this type of insurance. They say that most customers are under the false impression that their homeowner policy already covers their storage room or that the owner carries insurance for the customer.
  MONEY FOR AIDS AND HEPATITIS (H 3960) – Expands the use of a fund currently used for AIDS prevention and reduction efforts. The bill would allow the money to also be used on programs for HIV or viral hepatitis prevention and treatment. The funds are from revenue voluntarily paid by taxpayers using a checkoff system on their income tax return and from private sources including gifts, grants and donations.


   “The key to reducing the death rate for people reported with HIV/AIDS is ensuring that those already diagnosed remain engaged in care and targeting those at high risk,” says Rep. Jennifer Benson (D-Lunenburg), the chief sponsor of the measure. “The Department of Public Health is already doing a commendable job combatting this disease … [this] will simply allow for the department to enhance those services and expand research.”
   QUOTABLE QUOTES – By the Numbers Edition
   According to the state’s public health commissioner, the number of people in Massachusetts trained in administering Narcan, a drug that reverses potentially fatal overdoses of opioid.

   The number of suspected heroin overdose deaths responded to by the State Police in 2016.

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