By Bob Katzen
THE HOUSE AND SENATE: Beacon Hill Roll Call records local representatives’ votes on roll calls from late April sessions. There were no roll calls in the House or Senate last week.
ADOPTION TAX CREDIT (H 3600)
House 47-110, rejected an amendment that would give adoptive parents up to a $1,000 tax credit to cover adoption expenses.
Amendment supporters said this will encourage more adoption and help these selfless parents meet some of the expenses which can amount to thousands of dollars.
Amendment opponents said the sponsors did not do a cost analysis to determine what the fiscal impact on the state budget and other programs would be.
(A “Yes” vote is for the $1,000 tax credit. A “No” vote is against it.)
Rep. Christine Barber No Rep. Mike Connolly Yes Rep. Denise Provost No
CREATE COLLEGE AFFORDABILITY COMMISSION (H 3600)
House 38-120, rejected an amendment that would create a 16-member College Affordability Commission to examine the contributing factors to rising costs at colleges and universities. The committee would hold public hearings and provide the Legislature with its findings and recommendations by March 1, 2018.
Amendment supporters said rising costs are pricing students out of college or leaving them with huge student loan debts.
Amendment opponents said the Committee on Higher Education has a Subcommittee on Student Loans and Debt that is already working on this issue.
(A “Yes” vote is for creating the commission. A “No” vote is against it.)
Rep. Christine Barber No Rep. Mike Connolly No Rep. Denise Provost No
LICENSING FOR SPECIAL EDUCATION ADVISERS (H 3600)
House 27-131, rejected an amendment that would require special education advisors to be regulated and licensed by the state. Special education advisors help the families of special education needs children navigate through the complicated world of special education and advise them on understanding their rights and how to receive appropriate services for their child.
The regulations would be drafted by the state’s Special Education Advisory Council which is comprised of individuals involved in or concerned with the education of children with disabilities.
Supporters said special education advisors currently are completely unregulated and do not need a license or any minimum amount of training.
Opponents said they don’t necessarily oppose the licensing and regulation of these advisors but argued the idea has not been debated at length and/or subject to a public hearing. They questioned whether the Special Education Advisory Council should be the entity that drafts the regulations.
(A “Yes” vote is for requiring special education advisors to be licensed and regulated. A “No” vote is against it.)
Rep. Christine Barber No Rep. Mike Connolly No Rep. Denise Provost No
CONTINUE BUDGET SESSION AFTER 9 P.M. UNTIL MIDNIGHT
House 127-31, suspended rules to allow the House to meet beyond 9 p.m. and continue until midnight if necessary.
Supporters of rule suspension said it is important to remain in session to finish action on the very important state budget.
Opponents of rule suspension said it is irresponsible for the House to act on the budget late at night when taxpayers are asleep.
The House session continued until 10:16 p.m.
(A “Yes” vote is for allowing the session to continue beyond 9 p.m. A “No” vote is against allowing it.)
Rep. Christine Barber Yes Rep. Mike Connolly Yes Rep. Denise Provost Yes
ALSO UP ON BEACON HILL
RAPISTS AND PARENTAL RIGHTS (S 832) – The Judiciary Committee held a hearing on a bill that would take away the parental rights of convicted rapists. The measure prohibits convicted rapists from getting custody of or obtaining visitation rights to see the child born from the rape. It also allows the courts, despite this termination of rights, to require that the perpetrator of the rape pay child support.
NO PARENTAL RIGHTS FOR MURDERERS (H 2285) – The Judiciary Committee is also considering a bill that would remove a child from the custody of his or her parent who is convicted of murdering the child’s other parent.
The measure provides a few exemptions including allowing custody by the convicted parent if the child requests it and the court determines that the child is mature enough to make such a decision. Another exemption allows custody if the convicted parent suffered from physical, sexual or psychological abuse from the murdered parent.
TAX CREDIT FOR ELECTRIC AND OTHER ALTERNATIVE FUEL VEHICLES (H 2585) – A bill before the Revenue Committee would provide a tax credit of up to $20,000 for taxpayers who purchase a new vehicle that is primarily fueled by an alternative fuel including electricity, liquid petroleum gas, natural gas or hydrogen fuel.
BAN MOST OUT-OF-STATE USE OF EBT CARDS (H 106) – The Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities Committee held a hearing on legislation that would prohibit welfare recipients from using their Electronic Bank Transfer (EBT) cards in any state other than Massachusetts and its border states of Connecticut, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont.
Supporters say reports have shown that $2.3 million was used on EBT cards in Florida and substantial amounts in California and St. Thomas. They said it seems that some people might be vacationing on taxpayer dollars.
Opponents say less than one percent of EBT dollars is spent out of state. They noted this “over the top” amendment would prevent someone from using money even to attend a family member’s funeral out of state.
BAN CELL PHONES IN SCHOOL ZONES (H 1878) – The Transportation Committee held a hearing on a measure prohibiting the use of cell phones by drivers in a school zone. Violators would be fined $100 for a first offense, $200 for a second offense and $300 for subsequent offenses.
TOBACCO LAWS – The Public Health Committee’s hearing included proposals that would require all food and beverages sold through vending machines located in government buildings be limited to items that comply with the nutritional standards established by the state’s commissioner of public health (S 1217); raise from 18 to 21 the minimum age at which a person can purchase cigarettes or other tobacco products (S 1178); and require stores that sell tobacco products to conspicuously post signage informing consumers that smoking cessation programs are available at http://www.makesmokinghistory.org and The Smokers Helpline at 1-800-Quit-Now 1-800-784-8669 (S 1271).
ENSURE PRESCRIPTION MEDICINE IS AVAILABLE DURING EMERGENCIES (H 1178) – Another proposal at the Public Health Committee hearing would require the state to develop and publicize a statewide plan for ensuring the availability of prescription medications during a state of emergency.
The plan would include allowing early refills of prescriptions, ensuring that vehicles delivering medications to pharmacies and hospitals are treated as emergency vehicles and establishing a toll-free telephone number and a website for citizens to get assistance in locating prescription medication.
SEATBELT AWARENESS MONTH AND ASIAN AMERICAN PACIFIC ISLANDER MONTH – On May 18, the House gave initial approval to a bill (H 1716) designating June as Seatbelt Awareness Month to “increase awareness of the importance of seatbelt safety.”
On that same day, despite the month of May being more than half over, the House hastily gave initial approval to a proposal (H 3360) designating May as Asian American Pacific Islander, in recognition of “the significant contributions Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders have made to the commonwealth.”
“Winning the freedom to marry in Massachusetts was the result of years of hard work, a sustained campaign and an unprecedented statewide movement of thousands of people committed to ending discrimination.”
Deborah Shields, Executive Director of MassEquality on the 13th anniversary of the legalization of same-sex marriage in Massachusetts.
“Our states, working individually and in multi-state efforts, have already made tremendous progress in reducing our carbon emissions. We believe maintaining this commitment and the U.S. leadership on climate change is the right action for the protection of our children, grandchildren and future generations.”
Gov. Charlie Baker and Vermont’s Gov. Phil Scott in a letter urging the Trump Administration to continue the United States’ commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement.
“State employees who participate in Massachusetts Pension Reserves Investment Trust (PRIT) should be outraged that year after year their trustees have continued to violate their fiduciary duty by obstinately maintaining huge investments in the dying coal, oil, and gas industries.”
Bob Massie, environmentalist and entrepreneur, on why the state’s $65 billion pension fund should divest itself of all fossil fuel companies.
“Massachusetts has the most successful lottery in the country, thanks in large part to the 7,500 local businesses who partner with the lottery to sell its product. Abandoning the current system for a model which has yet to be proven successful anywhere in the country is simply bad policy.”
Jon Hurst, President of the Retailers Association of Massachusetts, on his opposition to legislation that would allow Lottery tickets to be sold online
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 May 15-19, the House met for a total of 27 minutes and the Senate met for a total of 23 minutes.
Mon. May 15 House 11:00 a.m. to 11:19 a.m.
Senate 11:02 a.m. to 11:13 a.m.
Tues. May 16 No House session
No Senate session
Wed. May 17 No House session
No Senate session.
Thurs. May 18 House 11:04 a.m. to 11:12 a.m.
Senate 11:15 a.m. to 11:27 a.m.
Fri. May 19 No House session
No Senate session
Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org