Beacon Hill Roll Call Volume 17 – Report No. 22 May 29 – June 2, 2017

By Bob Katzen 
THE HOUSE AND SENATE: Beacon Hill Roll Call records local senators’ votes on roll calls from late May sessions. There were no roll calls in the House or Senate last week.

   Senate 38-0, approved an amendment providing $100,000 for a study by UMass Boston of the early education and care workforce.


   Amendment supporters said this will help develop a plan to attract new and retain existing early education and care workers who are underpaid but are crucial to our children’s education.


(A “Yes” vote is for the amendment.)

 Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes                                     

   Senate 38-0, approved an amendment creating a Municipal Epinephrine Bulk Purchase Program that will allow cities and towns to save money on their purchase of epinephrine for municipal first responders agencies and schools. Epinephrine is a drug that treats life-threatening allergic reactions caused by a variety of things including an insect bite or sting, food, medication and latex.
   Amendment supporters said the cost of a pair of life-saving EpiPens has skyrocketed from $100 in 2006 to $608 in 2017. They noted that this price gouging by the maker Mylan has made the EpiPen unaffordable to many people who need them and has sadly resulted in deaths. They argued that banding together and bulk-purchasing allows the government to negotiate with the manufacturer to get the lowest price.
(A “Yes” vote is for the amendment.)

 Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes                                     

   Senate 37-0, approved an amendment increasing funding for the Massachusetts Emergency Food Assistance Program (MEFAP) by $1 million (from $16.5 million to $17.5 million). MEFAP provides quality and healthy foods and locally grown fresh produce to a statewide network of over 800 emergency food providers who distribute the food to low-income families.
   Amendment supporters said this program, established in 1995, has fed hundreds of thousands of people. They said that projected federal government rollback of protections for the state’s neediest requires the state to step up and make up the shortfall.
(A “Yes” vote is for the amendment.)

 Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes                                     

  Senate 38-0, approved an increase of $2 million (from $18 million to $20 million) in funding for the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation (MLAC). 
   The MLAC provides legal representation for indigent and disadvantaged residents.
  Amendment supporters said these services ensure equal access to the justice system for thousands of below-poverty level Massachusetts residents including accused criminals, the poor, seniors, battered women, tenants and Medicaid recipients.


(A “Yes” vote is for the amendment.)

 Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes                                     
$500,000 FOR LGBTQ YOUTH (S 3)

   Senate 38-0, approved an amendment earmarking $500,000 of existing funding for youth at-risk programs utilizing an evidence-based positive youth development model, including programs that serve lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning youth.
   Amendment supporters said this funding will help improve the lives of many youths who still face discrimination, violence and bullying. They noted these teens have a high suicide rate.


   (A “Yes” vote is for the amendment).

 Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes                                     



   HEARING ON TAX CUTS AND MORE – The Revenue Committee will hold a hearing on June 13th at 10 a.m. in Room B-2 at the Statehouse on several tax bills including:


   SENIOR CITIZEN TAX REDUCTION (H 1512) – Increases from $700 to $1,200 the income tax exemption for seniors over age 65.


   CARING FOR ELDERLY RELATIVES (H 1519) – Gives an income tax credit of up to $4,000 for families caring for elderly relatives at home if the taxpayer provides more than one-half of the support of the relative over age 70. The relative must live with the taxpayer at least six months per year and have an annual income of less than $30,000. 


  EXEMPT SENIORS FROM AUTO EXCISE TAX (H 1568) – Exempts seniors over 65 with income below the federal poverty line from the automobile excise tax. The current federal poverty line is $12,060 for a single person and $16,240 for a married couple.  


  PROHIBIT TAX AUDITS OF TAXPAYERS OVER 80 (H 1584) – Prohibits the state from conducting tax audits on anyone over the age of 80 who earns less the $400,000 per year.


   ALLOW CITIES AND TOWNS TO INCLUDE MARKETING MATERIAL WITH PROPERTY TAX BILLS (H 3318) – Allows cities and towns to include in the envelope or electronic message in which a property tax bill is sent, nonpolitical informational or marketing material.


   PROPERTY TAX CEILING FOR LOW-INCOME SENIORS (H 3332) – Allows cities and towns to place a cap on the property tax paid by single seniors over 65 who are earning under $50,000 and married seniors who are earning under $60,000. To qualify, seniors would not be allowed to have assets of over $75,000, not counting their primary residence and automobile. 


   PROHIBIT LOWER TUITION RATES FOR ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS – The Higher Education Committee will hold a public hearing on June 13 at 10 a.m. in room A-2 at the Statehouse on a bill that would prohibit Massachusetts state universities from offering lower in-state tuition and fees to illegal immigrants and their children (H 637). Currently, the lower tuition rate is offered to legal citizens who live in the Bay State and Massachusetts students who have been accepted into the federal program for those who immigrated illegally to the country as children and have a work permit.


  Another bill on the agenda (H 685) does the opposite. It allows illegal immigrants to pay the in-state tuition rates and fees at Massachusetts colleges and universities if they have attended a high school in Massachusetts for at least three years and have graduated or received the equivalent of a diploma. The measure also requires these students to have a social security number or individual taxpayer identification number; provide an affidavit stating that he or she has filed or will in file an application to become a citizen or permanent resident and register for selective service. 


   Supporters of the ban say 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 Massachusetts state university.


   Opponents of the ban say 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 significantly higher than the in-state rate.


  MAKE DAYLIGHT SAVINGS TIME PERMANENT – The special legislative commission charged with studying the practical, economic and health-related impacts of the state remaining on Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) throughout the calendar year held its final meeting last week. 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 the 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.




 “By setting 8:30 a.m. as the earliest time that middle and high schools may operate, the state ensures that adolescents have the opportunity to get the sleep they need while allowing local communities to determine how to meet that standard. It is time that Massachusetts safeguard the physical and emotional health of our children by setting the standard for school start time.”
   Mary Hamaker, leader of the Massachusetts Chapter of Start School Later.

   “I am hopeful that the Legislature will take this question up during this term and get it to the governor’s desk. If we fail to do so, I expect there will be a ballot question putting this matter into the hands of voters.”
   Senate President Stan Rosenberg (D-Amherst) on what happens if a paid family and medical leave bill does not pass the Legislature this session.

   “What starts out as a seemingly simple question does not have a simple answer or simple solution, but many considerations.”
  Sen. Eileen Donoghue (D-Lowell), chair of the special legislative commission charged with studying the pros and cons of the Bay State remaining on Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) throughout the year.

   “Ninety Americans a day die at the hand of a gun, another 200 are injured. This is a public health issue. If you imagine a plane or a bus or a train crashing every day, killing that number of people, there’d be tremendous outcry.”
   Attorney General Maura Healey on why the state should spent more money on gun violence prevention and intervention.
 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 29-June 2, the House met for a total of two hours and 42 minutes and the Senate met for a total of two hours and 28 minutes.
Mon. May 29 No House session

                  No Senate session
Tues. May 30 House 11:03 a.m. to 11:16 a.m. 

                  Senate 11:06 a.m. to 11:10 a.m.


Wed. May 31 No House session

                  No Senate session


Thurs. June 1 House 11:00 a.m. to 1:29 p.m.

                  Senate 11:08 a.m. to 1:32 p.m.
Fri. June 2 No House session

                  No Senate session
 Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at

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