Beacon Hill Roll Call Volume 41-Report No. 5 January 30 -February 3, 2017

By Bob Katzen 

   THE HOUSE AND SENATE: Beacon Hill Roll Call records local senators’ and representatives’ votes on roll calls from the week of January 30 -February 3.
   The key roll call of the week was the one on which the House and Senate overrode Gov. Charlie Baker’s veto of a pay hike for some legislators, all constitutional officers and judges.
  The other main business was that the House and Senate, on voice votes, without a roll call, each approved the rules under which their chamber will operate.
    Changes to the Senate rules include prohibiting any senator from being compensated for service in more than three leadership or committee chair or vice-chair positions and from receiving a stipend for service as vice-chair of more than one committee. 
   Other changes include establishing rules for electronic voting on roll calls instead of the current system of the clerk calling each senator’s name; allowing a court officer to vote for members who are not able to do so because of a condition related to pregnancy, childbirth or nursing a child; expanding the ability of the Senate Committee on Climate Change to receive and hear bills related to climate change legislation; requiring that members of a committee be provided the text of the bills, or comprehensive summaries, prior to the beginning of a committee vote; and eliminating the practice of “pairing” – a process, used only in the Senate, that allows an absent senator to express how he or she would have voted on a roll call. Under the arrangement, the absent senator contacts a senator who is present and plans to vote the opposite way. The present senator agrees to “pair” his or her vote with the vote of the absent senator. Neither vote is counted in the official total–they cancel each other out. This process allows both senators to be unofficially recorded on the roll call.
  Changes to the House rules include prohibiting any representative from receiving a stipend for service in more than one leadership or committee chair or vice-chair position; allowing representatives to take photographs or selfies from their assigned seats in the chamber as long as anyone else who appears in the picture gives their permission to use it; prohibiting consolidated amendment from being adopted except by a roll call vote; formalizing a policy restricting the use of the members’ lounge area to official business and educational purposes only; and prohibiting the House Speaker from earning outside income.

    House 116-43, Senate 31-9, overrode Gov. Charlie Baker’s veto of an $18 million pay raise package including hiking the salaries of the two leaders who filed the bill, House Speaker Robert DeLeo (D-Winthrop) and Senate President Stan Rosenberg (D-Amherst), by $45,000 from $97,547 to $142,547. The measure also hikes the pay of the Legislature’s two Republican leaders, Sen. Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester) and Rep. Bradley Jones (R-North Reading) by $37,500 from $85,047 to $122,547. Another provision hikes the salaries of the state’s judges by $25,000 over an 18-month period. 
   The measure raises the governor’s salary by $33,200, from $151,800 to $185,000; and provides hikes for the other five constitutional officers. It also requires that every two years the salaries of the governor, the other five constitutional statewide officers and the House speaker and Senate president be increased or decreased based on data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) that measures the quarterly change in salaries and wages. It also requires that the same formula is used every two years to increase or decrease the stipends that more than 100 other legislators receive for their service in Democratic or Republican leadership positions, as committee chairs or vice chairs and as the ranking Republican on some committees. There is a caveat in all of these cases that the amount of money they receive can never be less than it is right now in February 2017.
   There was no shortage or reaction to the raises.
   “It is fiscally irresponsible and the process on it was inappropriate,” said Gov. Baker.
   DeLeo defended the raises and noted two independent commissions had recommended many of the hikes. “Raises of any type are always the subject of disagreement … I don’t think there’s ever a right time or right place,” he said.
   “Congratulations taxpayers, you now have the highest paid House speaker and Senate president of any state legislature in the nation,” said Chip Ford, Executive Director of Citizens for limited Taxation. “The Best Legislature Money Can Buy has struck again to make Massachusetts Number One.”  
   “My standard for judging these things is this: Are we paying a salary adequate enough to enable a family breadwinner or a professional to run for the office?” asked Sen. Mike Barrett (D-Lexington). “This will be the first pay raise in recent memory big enough to draw the interest of people employed in the private sector today. Any resulting competition will be good for the system.”
   The measure puts an end to legislative per diems which are travel, meals and lodging reimbursements collected by the legislators. These reimbursements are given to legislators above and beyond their regular salaries.
   Another provision increases the annual general expense allowance for each legislator from $7,200 to $15,000 for members whose districts are within a 50-mile radius of the Statehouse and to $20,000 for districts located outside of that radius. This allowance is used at the discretion of individual legislators to support a variety of costs including the renting of a district office, contributions to local civic groups and the printing and mailing of newsletters. Legislators are issued a 1099 from the state and are required to report the allowance as income but are not required to submit an accounting of how they spend it.
   The package also gives a $65,000 housing allowance for the governor. Massachusetts is one of only six states that supplies neither a governor’s residence nor a housing allowance, even as Boston is among the most expensive housing markets of any of the state capitals.
   The House and Senate attached an emergency preamble to the measure. That means it goes into effect immediately instead of in the usual 90 days. The preamble says, “Whereas, the deferred operation of this act would tend to defeat its purpose, which is to make certain changes in the law for compensation of public officials, therefore, it is hereby declared to be an emergency law, necessary for the immediate preservation of the public convenience.” 
   Voters are not allowed to collect signatures to put a question repealing the pay raises on the November 2018 ballot because the package includes judicial pay hikes which under the Massachusetts Constitution cannot be the subject of a repeal on the ballot.
   (A “Yes” vote is for overriding Gov. Baker’s veto and is for the pay raise. A “No” vote is against overriding the governor’s veto and is against the pay raise.)

 Rep. Christine Barber Yes Rep. Mike Connolly No Rep. Denise Provost No Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes                                     

    House 37-122, Senate 6-33, rejected a joint rule requiring the House and Senate to annually adopt by March 15 resolutions stating the minimum amount of local aid that the Legislature will give to cities and towns for that year.
    Supporters said most communities craft their local budgets in March and can better prepare if they know by March 15 how much local aid they will receive. They noted it is unfair to make communities wait until July, which is when the Legislature often makes its decision. 
   Opponents said the Ways and Means Committees have not even drafted a budget proposal by March 15 so it would be irresponsible to make promises that might not be able to be kept. They said that being forced to set dollar figures for local aid too early can also result in conservative estimates that are lower than what communities will actually receive.


    (A “Yes” vote is for the March 15 deadline. A “No” vote is against it.)

 Rep. Christine Barber No Rep. Mike Connolly No Rep. Denise Provost No Sen. Patricia Jehlen No                                      

   House 37-120 rejected a proposed rule to reduce the scheduling conflicts between formal House sessions and committee hearings. Formal sessions are ones at which important legislation is often considered by the full House and sometimes includes roll call votes. 
   Current rules prohibit committee hearings “insofar as practical” from being scheduled at the same time as formal sessions of the House. The proposed rule would prohibit committee hearings from being scheduled at the same time as formal sessions unless there is an emergency and the chair of the committee submits to the House a written description of the emergency. 
   Supporters said the current rule is weak and vague. They argued that legislators should not have to choose between attending an important committee hearing and a key meeting of the full House. 
   Opponents said committee hearings are scheduled well in advance in order to give citizens adequate notice to arrange their schedules to be there. They noted that if this proposed rule is implemented, the House will inconvenience the public when it reschedules a committee hearing to another day. They argued that current rules already allow some flexibility and have been working well.
   (A “Yes” vote is for the rule. A “No” vote is against it.)

 Rep. Christine Barber No Rep. Mike Connolly No Rep. Denise Provost No                                      

   House 35-123, rejected a rule that would change the current 11-member Ethics Committee to an eight-member one that would include four Democrats and four Republicans. Current rules provide for seven Democrats and only four Republicans on the 11-member committee. 
   Supporters said a balanced membership, regardless of which party controls the House, would create a truly bipartisan committee and ensure that investigations into any representative’s or state worker’s conduct are fair and nonpartisan. They noted that the U.S. Congress’ Ethics Committee has an equal number of members from both parties. 
   Opponents said no one has challenged the fairness or integrity of the current Ethics Committee with its Democratic majority. They noted it is illogical to have an equal number of members from each party on the committee when the current makeup of the House membership is 125 Democrats and 35 Republicans. 
   (A “Yes” vote is for an equal number of Democrats and Republicans. A “No” vote is against it.)

 Rep. Christine Barber No Rep. Mike Connolly No Rep. Denise Provost No                                      

   House 37-122, 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 likely 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. Mike Connolly No Rep. Denise Provost No                                      

   House 34-123, rejected a rule that would require the House Clerk to post copies of the annual audit of the Legislature online. The current rule only requires that copies of the audit be “made available to the members and the general public upon request.”
   Supporters said the audit of the Legislature’s finances should be made available on the state’s website instead of requiring people to travel to Boston to get it. They argued this new rule would foster transparency.
   Amendment opponents said individual legislators can request a copy and place it on their own website.
   (A “Yes” vote is for requiring online posting. A “No” vote is against requiring it.)

 Rep. Christine Barber No Rep. Mike Connolly No Rep. Denise Provost No                                      

   Senate 6-32, rejected a rule requiring a unanimous vote in order for any Senate session to continue beyond midnight. Current law requires a two-thirds vote to go past midnight.
   Supporters said requiring unanimous consent will virtually put an end to post-midnight sessions. They argued it is unnecessary and irresponsible to work while legislators are exhausted and taxpayers are asleep. 
   Opponents said the rule is undemocratic and will allow one legislator to end Senate debate and action. 
   (A “Yes” vote is for requiring a unanimous vote to continue beyond midnight. A “No” vote is against requiring it.)

 Sen. Patricia Jehlen No                                      

   URGE TRUMP TO RECONSIDER TRAVEL RESTRICTIONS – The Senate on a voice vote, without a roll call, approved a resolution condemning the recent Executive Order issued by President Trump which for 90 days bars entry to the United States for some nationals from seven nations including Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Syria, Somalia, Libya and Yemen. The resolution calls for Trump to reconsider and rescind those portions of the executive order that interfere with the rights of already documented students, workers, permanent residents and other visitors.
   “Thousands of Massachusetts residents voiced their disapproval of this order in private conversations and public demonstrations, and displayed the very best of American values: freedom of religion and equal protection under the law,” said Sen. Kathleen O’Connor Ives (D-Newburyport) who sponsored the resolution. “The Senate passed this resolution today in solidarity with those affected by the order and sends an important message that the Massachusetts State Senate rejects discrimination based on race, ethnicity, nationality, gender, or religion. It is my hope that state senates across our country will consider similar resolutions in response to this Presidential Executive Order.” 
   THREE NEW LAWS TOOK EFFECT – Several laws took effect last month. These laws were all approved by Legislature and signed by Gov. Baker in October 2017. These three laws and other ones mostly take 90 days to become effective.


   RECORKING WINE (H 199) Effective January 20, 2017: Expands the prior law allowing restaurant and hotel customers to bring home an unfinished bottle of wine. The new law expands the law to taverns, clubs and veterans’ organizations like American Legion posts. The wine would have to be resealed and then placed in a one-time-use tamper-proof, transparent bag.
   Supporters say it is time to expand this law to ensure that people do not finish their bottle of wine just so it doesn’t go to waste. They noted that often leads to drunken driving.
   WELDING COMMISSION (H 4455) – Effective January 20, 2017: Creates a special commission to study welding regulations in Massachusetts and report back to the Legislature with recommendations by June 1, 2017. 
   The law was prompted by the March 2014 deaths of firefighters Edward Walsh and Michael Kennedy who perished while fighting a fire that was caused by welders, working without a city permit, on a building next door to the brownstone in which they died. The commission will study current regulations and recommend whether changes and new regulations are warranted.”
  “Today, an individual can purchase a welding unit and go into business for himself without any education or certification requirements.” says State Fire Marshal Peter Ostroskey. “Recommendations from this commission will be extremely helpful to public safety as to whether training and certification should be required, whether we can strengthen or improve existing regulations or should increase penalties for violations.”
   ALLOW BANKS TO CONDUCT RAFFLES (S 2374) – Effective January 28, 2017- Allows banks to conduct a “savings promotion raffle” and offer prizes to winners. The contests, designed to encourage more people to save money, are open only to customers who deposit a specific amount of money, to be determined by the bank, in a savings account. 
   Supporters say some states have already done this and have seen a marked increase in the number of people who open savings accounts at the bank. They argued it is a great promotion that will result in more Bay State residents depositing money into a savings account.
  Opponents say that banks should not be involved in raffles and gambling.
   QUOTABLE QUOTES – Special “By the Numbers Pay Raise Edition.
   $33,200 (from $151,800 to $185,000.)
   Hike in Gov. Baker’s salary. 

   $30,068 (from $134,932 to $165,000)
   Hike in Lt. Gov. Karen Polito’s salary.

   $44,418 (from $130,582 to $175,000.)
   Hike in Attorney Genera Maura Healey’s salary.

   $34,738 (from $130,262 to $165,000)
   Hike in Secretary of State Bill Galvin’s salary.

   $47,083 (from $127,917 to $175,000)
   Hike in Treasurer Deb Goldberg’s salary.

   $30,048 (from $134,952 to $165,000)
   Hike in Auditor Suzanne Bump’s salary.

   $45,000 (from $97,547 to $142,547.) 
   Hike in the salary of House Speaker Robert DeLeo (D-Winthrop) and Senate President Stan Rosenberg (D-Amherst).

$37,500 (from $85,047 to $122,547)
   Hike in the salary of the Legislature’s two Republican leaders, Sen. Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester) and Rep. Bradley Jones (R-North Reading).
   $7,200 to $15,000 for members whose districts are within a 50-mile radius of the Statehouse and to $20,000 for districts located outside of that radius.
   Hike in the annual general expense allowance for each legislator.

   Hike in judges’ salaries.
 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 January 30 -February 3, the House met for a total of eight hours and 37 minutes and the Senate met for a total of seven hours and four minutes.
Mon. January 30 House 11:04 a.m. to 11:08 a.m.

                    Senate 11:02 a.m. to 11:41 a.m.
Tues. January 31 No House session

                    No Senate session
Wed. February 1 House 11:02 a.m. to 1:24 p.m. 

                    No Senate session


Thurs. February 2 House 11:05 a.m. to 5:16 p.m. 

                    Senate 11:51 a.m. to 6:16 p.m. 


Fri. February 3 No House session

                    No Senate session

  Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at


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