By Bob Katzen
THE HOUSE AND SENATE. There were no roll calls in the House or Senate last week. Immigration continues to be one of the widely debated and most discussed topics across the nation.
Where do Massachusetts state senators stand on the issue? This week, Beacon Hill Roll Call records local senators’ votes on several roll calls on the immigration issue in 2013-2014. There were no roll calls on the issue in the 2015-2016 session.
LOWER TUITION RATES FOR ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS (H 57)
Senate 12-25, rejected an amendment that would prohibit illegal immigrant students from paying the preferred, lower in-state tuition rates and fees at Massachusetts universities. The amendment would supersede a policy, implemented several years ago by former Gov. Deval Patrick, allowing some students who are not in the country legally to pay the lower tuition rates.
Amendment supporters said the state should not offer financial rewards to anyone who has broken the law and is in this country illegally. They argued it is outrageous to offer low tuition rates to these students while legal citizens from outside Massachusetts, including war veterans, are required to pay higher rates if they attend a state school.
Amendment opponents said many of these students were babies when they were brought here by their parents and had no choice about entering the country illegally. They noted some hardworking students are currently required to pay out-of-state tuition rates that are up to five times higher than the in-state rate.
(A “Yes” vote is the prohibition. A “No” vote is against it.)
Sen. Patricia Jehlen No
SHOW PROOF OF RESIDENCY TO REGISTER CAR (S 3)
Senate 13-25, rejected an amendment that would require applicants to provide specific proof of legal residence in order to register their cars. The accepted IDs include a driver’s license, Massachusetts identification card, social security number or other proof of legal residence issued by the state or the federal government.
Amendment supporters said this would prevent illegal immigrants and people who lose their driver’s license in other states for things like drunken driving from illegally registering their cars here. They argued that the Registry of Motor Vehicles has refused to enforce this law which is already on the books and is still allowing people to register their cars by just showing a utility bill.
Amendment opponents said allowing an illegal alien to own a vehicle in Massachusetts does not jeopardize the public’s safety. They argued the bill seems aimed at using the Registry of Motor Vehicles to identify and police undocumented people.
(A “Yes” vote is for requiring proof of legal residence. A “No” vote is against it.)
Sen. Patricia Jehlen No
STUDY THE FEDERAL REQUIREMENTS AMENDMENT (S 1835)
Senate 31-7, approved an amendment that would require the state to study and determine the costs and benefits of limiting eligibility for state assisted public housing to individuals who qualify under federal guidelines. The amendment would replace a proposal that would require applicants qualify under federal guidelines. Federal eligibility standards and proof of identity for housing assistance are stricter than state standards and include requiring a social security number.
Supporters of the study said requiring applicants to meet federal guidelines is unconstitutional and would take housing away from immigrants including people who were granted temporary status from countries with oppressive regimes.
Opponents of the study said it is outrageous that currently people can get subsidized housing ahead of verified citizens without producing a social security number. They noted the federal guidelines offer exemptions for some categories.
(A “Yes” vote is for the study. A “No” vote is against it.)
Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes
MUST PROVIDE SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER FOR PUBLIC HOUSING (S 3)
Senate 11-27, rejected an amendment prohibiting potential tenants who cannot provide a social security number from being placed in a public housing unit prior to any applicant who can do so.
Amendment supporters said this would ensure that illegal immigrants who are breaking the law are not given priority over citizens and others who abide by the nation’s laws. They argued it is outrageous that illegal immigrants should be considered for scarce public housing units prior to legal residents of the community.
Amendment opponents said the number of illegal immigrants in public housing is minimal. They argued it would be unfair and inhumane to deny housing to these immigrants.
(A “Yes” vote is for requiring a social security number. A “No” vote is against requiring it.)
Sen. Patricia Jehlen No
ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS TO HANSCOM (H 4217)
Senate 9-29, rejected an amendment requiring the state to submit a report on the details of and the cost to the state of the transport of illegal immigrants to the Hanscom Air Force Base and Logan Airport by Federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The amendment was proposed to a bill that would fund the state temporarily until the Legislature approves a fiscal 2015 budget.
Amendment supporters said taxpayers have a right to know the details and cost, including whether any detainees were released from federal custody into the state, and whether the state has provided any detainees with state benefits.
Amendment opponents said they weren’t necessarily opposed to the idea but noted that the passage of the temporary budget cannot be delayed with consideration of amendments, or the state will run out of operating money.
(A “Yes” vote is for requiring the report. A “No” vote is against requiring it.)
Sen. Patricia Jehlen No
ALSO UP ON BEACON HILL
Several laws approved by the House and Senate and signed into law by Gov. Charlie Baker at the end of 2016 go into effect this month including:
ADULT MALNUTRITION COMMISSION (S 2499) – Establishes a 17-member commission on malnutrition prevention among older adults. The commission will investigate and study the effects of malnutrition on older adults and the most effective strategies for reducing it. It will also provide a report to the Legislature by December 31, 2017.
Supporters say that incidents of malnutrition among seniors are increasing in the Bay State. They argue that it is a serious problem that can lead to illness and even death.
“Elder malnutrition is often diagnosed as a secondary condition when an older person is admitted to the hospital for an acute illness and is frequently cited as the primary reason for readmission to a hospital after treatment,” said bill’s sponsor Sen. Jennifer Flanagan (D-Leominster). “This commission seeks to find out how to reach elders out there who may be suffering from food insecurity and malnutrition and I hope that the recommendations will result in better health outcomes for our elder population.”
BAN DISCRIMINATION IN ORGAN TRANSPLANTS (H 4332) – Prohibits consideration of a patient’s intellectual or physical disability when determining who is eligible for an organ transplant and who should be highest on the waiting list. It allows the disability to be considered only if it is determined to be medically significant in a negative way to the transplant.
Supporters say it is long past time to end this discrimination.
“People with disabilities have faced discrimination in other states when seeking potentially lifesaving organ transplants,” said sponsor Rep. Jim Cantwell (D-Marshfield). “In fact, a survey conducted by Stanford University of 88 transplant centers found that 85 percent of pediatric transplant centers consider intellectual or developmental disability as a factor in their determinations of transplant eligibility.”
DUCK BOAT TOURS (S 2473) – Prohibits a driver of any amphibious sightseeing vehicle, commonly known as Duck Boats, from providing commentary about the tour while driving and requires companies to add a second worker to narrate the tour. It requires the vehicle to be equipped with safety equipment including blind spot cameras and proximity sensors and that the Registrar of Motor Vehicles set new rules for the operation of duck boats by April 1, 2017. Violators will be fined up to $500 for the first offense and $1,000 for any subsequent offenses.
The bill was filed in June 2016 in response to the tragic death in April in which a Duck Boat struck and killed Allison Warmuth. The vehicle ran over Allison’s moped near her Beacon Hill residence, killing the graduate of Messiah College, a Christian school in Pennsylvania, who was a senior underwriter for hospitals and medical practices.
“It makes Boston safer, but more than that, gives a little bit of positive meaning to the otherwise completely wasteful death of a fine young woman in her prime,” said the bill’s sponsor Sen. William Brownsberger (D-Belmont).
The popularity of the duck boats can continue while the public safety is better preserved,” added Rep. William Straus (D-Mattapoisett).
THE CARE ACT (H 3911) – Require hospitals to allow patients to designate a caregiver who would be given all the patient’s health information and a copy of his or her discharge plan. Hospital staff are required to discuss with the patient and caregiver the after-care assistance needs of the patient including medication management, injections and wound care.
Other information that must be provided to the caregiver includes available community resources and long-term care support services near the patient’s residence that may be used to support the discharge plan.
Supporters say this will make life a little easier for caregivers and provide better services for the patient. They note that Massachusetts has 844,000 unpaid family caregivers who are helping an aging parent or other loved one to live independently in their own homes. They argue that many of these caregivers have a regular full or part-time job and are overwhelmed by their caregiver duties. They note that in 2015 in Massachusetts, family caregivers provided 786 million hours of unpaid care valued at an estimated $11.6 billion annually.
“Today many family members or family friends are charged with caring for a person when they are released from the hospital without adequate instructions,” said the bill’s sponsor said Rep. Chris Walsh (D-Framingham). “The CARE Act ensures that caretakers will be provided with appropriate training and education in what they will need to do for the patient upon release.”
QUOTABLE QUOTES – Special “By the Numbers Edition” in honor of Massachusetts being named the “Best State in the U.S.”
Last week, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts was named the best overall state in the U.S. by U.S. News & World Report magazine. In calculating the ratings, more weight was given to health care and education that to all other categories. Other categories considered include what kind of opportunities the state offers its citizens, crime, prison system, infrastructure, the economy and government administration. Massachusetts’ ranking as Number 1 in education and Number 2 in health care, heavily contributed to the Bay State being Number 1 overall in the rankings.
Overlooked were some of the low rankings the Bay State received. A rating of 50th is the worst rating. A rating of 1st is the best. Here are some of the not so great rankings:
Government budget balancing
Low prison population
Cost of electricity
Fewest hospital re-admissions
Lowest prison overpopulation
Cost of living
College tuition and fees at private colleges
Racial gap in income
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 February 27-March 3, the House met for a total of nine minutes and the Senate met for a total of 20 minutes.
Mon. February 27 House 11:02 a.m. to 11:05 a.m.
Senate 11:08 a.m. to 11:15 a.m
Tues. February 28 No House session
No Senate session
Wed. March 1 No House session
No Senate session
Thurs. March 2 House 11:06 a.m. to 11:12 a.m.
Senate 11:00 a.m. to 11:13 a.m.
Fri. March 3 No House session
No Senate session
Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at email@example.com