Beacon Hill Roll Call Volume 42 – Report No. 28 July 10-14, 2017

By Bob Katz
   THE HOUSE AND SENATE: Beacon Hill Roll Call records local senators’ votes on roll calls from prior Senate debate on the fiscal year 2018 budget approved by the Legislature and sent to Gov. Charlie Baker. There were no roll calls in the House or Senate last week.

   Senate 37-0, approved an amendment providing $300,000 for the creation and implementation of a centralized waiting list for people seeking to rent a unit in state public housing.
  Amendment supporters said this is part of the plan to modernize the state’s public housing system and local housing authorities. They noted the waiting lists are long and among other things, the centralized list will allow smaller local housing authorities to see where there is availability in other communities.


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

 Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes                                     
$50,000 FOR AUTISM (S 3)

   Senate 37-0, approved an amendment providing $50,000 for the Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders (CANDO) that provides comprehensive clinical services to children with autism spectrum and other neurodevelopmental disorders.
  Amendment supporters said the center was launched four years ago to fill a void and is the first-ever interdisciplinary autism disorder clinic in Metro West and Central Massachusetts. They said the clinic’s services are provided by specialists at every stage of patient care, from evaluation and treatment to transition to community providers.


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

 Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes                                     

   Senate 38-0, approved an amendment increasing funding by $2 million (from $5 million to $7 million) for the state’s Shannon Community Safety Initiative to reduce gang violence across the state. The program was established in 2006, in honor of the late Sen. Charlie Shannon who was also a police officer.
   The state’s website describes the program as one that is aimed at combating gang violence through coordinated prevention and intervention, law enforcement, prosecution and reintegration programs.
   Amendment supporters said these grants have been successful in helping to combat and reduce youth, gun and gang violence in the state. They noted the program increases community outreach to at-risk youths and provides them with positive opportunities and information that help divert them away from gang activity.
(A “Yes” vote is for the amendment.)

 Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes                                     

   HOUSE WAYS AND MEANS CHAIRMAN BRAIN DEMPSEY TO STEP DOWN – In an unexpected announcement, Rep. Brain Dempsey (D-Haverhill), the 6-year chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, announced that he will soon resign his House seat to become senior vice president and chief operating officer of ML Strategies, a well-known and well-connected lobbying firm. ML Strategies’ roster has included former Gov. Bill Weld, Stephen Tocco, the former Executive Director and CEO of Massport and the late Gov. Paul Cellucci.
   Dempsey, arguably the second most powerful person in the House after Speaker Bob DeLeo (D-Winthrop), has served in the Legislature since 1991 and was tapped by DeLeo in 2011 to become Ways and Means chair. His departure will leave DeLeo with a very powerful position to fill in the next few weeks.
   “Chairman Dempsey is an outstanding individual who has a brilliant political and fiscal mind,” said DeLeo. “Moreover, he is a dear friend – we entered the House together – and trusted advisor. I congratulate Chairman Dempsey on this opportunity and I am sure he will be an incredible asset to [ML Strategies].”
   STATE-FUNDED COLLEGE TUITION – The Higher Education Committee held a hearing on several bills providing various amounts of state funds for students residing in Massachusetts and attending public state universities and colleges in the Bay State including providing complete free tuition (H 622); complete free tuition for anyone with a family income of less the $200,000 (S 681); free tuition for one year, other than the first year(H 3000); $5,000 (S 691) or $250 (H 2225) to be given to all newborn babies to be used toward a college education; and tuition and fee waivers for veterans (H 636).
   REGISTRY OF ABUSERS OF PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES (S 64) – The Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities will hold a hearing On July 31 at 1 p.m. in Room B-1 at the Statehouse on a bill establishing a Registry of Caretakers who have abused or financially exploited persons with an intellectual disability or developmental disability. The measure requires service providers to check the registry prior to hiring an individual as a caretaker and prohibits the hiring if the person’s name is in the registry.
   “MIRACLE LEAGUE” FIELDS (S 78) – Also on the Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities’ agenda is a proposal that requires the state to create and fund the creation of five outdoor “miracle fields” to provide recreational resources and assist people with disabilities. The fields would be geographically distributed with at least one field each in western Massachusetts, central Massachusetts and eastern Massachusetts.
   REVENUE COMMITTEE HEARING – The Revenue Committee held a hearing on 16 bills including:
   TAX INCENTIVE FOR EMPLOYERS TO HELP EMPLOYEES WITH STUDENT LOANS (S 1516) – Gives employers an annual tax deduction of up to $2,000 for helping an employee pay off his or her student loan.


   DEDUCT SCHOOL AND MUNICIPAL FEES FROM INCOME TAX (H 1574) – Allows taxpayers to annually deduct all fees paid to a city or town for trash pickup or disposal, children’s transportation to or from a public school and participation in sports, academic or other student activities.
   DEDUCT COLLEGE TUITION (H 1582) – Allows taxpayers to annually deduct an amount equal to 50 percent of the cost of tuition and fee payments made to a college or university in which the taxpayer or a dependent is enrolled.


   REDUCE INCOME TAX TO 5 PERCENT (H 2619) – Lowers the income tax rate from 5.1 percent to 5 percent.
   TEACHERS CAN DEDUCT SOME CLASSROOM EXPENSES (H 1586) – Allows teachers to deduct up to $250 annually of what they pay out of their pockets for classroom materials including books, supplies, computers, software and other equipment uses in the classroom. The proposal mirrors the same tax deduction currently allowed by the IRS on federal tax returns.
   “The unique cultures, traditions and perspectives of Massachusetts’ Latino community continue to shape and influence the development and success of our Commonwealth. Our administration is dedicated to providing equal opportunities to residents across Massachusetts and we look forward to working with the Latino community through this commission.”


  Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito on Gov. Baker’s establishment of a Latino Advisory Commission to focus on addressing the concerns of the Massachusetts Latino community.

   “The establishment of a Latino Advisory Commission … should be an act to be applauded. However, in light of … failure to address the aggressively adversarial and negative attitude of both the federal government and state leadership toward the Latino immigrant community, we find this measure to be a cynical, electioneering ploy that should be carefully monitored as to whether it produces any tangible benefits for thousands of Latino residents in Massachusetts who must confront the draconian policies Gov. Baker fails to call out or act against.”
   Patricia Montes, Executive Director of Centro Presente, described on its website as a “statewide Latin American immigrant organization dedicated to the self-determination and self-sufficiency of the Latin American immigrant community of Massachusetts.”

   “This legislation would unlock the mystery of what we are getting for our money when we pay the high price for prescription drugs. We need to shine a light to make the drug industry justify the actual costs that go into their complicated, opaque pricing schemes.”
  Brian Rosman, Policy and Government Relations Director of Health Care for All, on legislation that would require pharmaceutical manufacturers to disclose detailed information on the pricing of their most expensive drugs including the cost of production, research and development, marketing and discounts.

   “Maryland, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Illinois, and New Jersey rank in the bottom five states, largely a result of the low amounts of cash they have on hand and their large debt obligations. States that fail to address long-term drivers of debt and are not prepared for recessions will continue to rank poorly.”
   From the “Ranking the States by Fiscal Condition” study by the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.

   “It clearly shows that Massachusetts voters feel the criminal justice system is broken and biased. For far too long the system has given preference to the connected and wealthy.”
   Rahsaan Hall, Director of the ACLU’s Racial Justice Program, on a survey that found that 88 percent of voters believe the state should change the system so that the well-connected do not get special treatment, and 84 percent said the system needs changing to make sure people are not treated differently based on the color of their skin.
   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 July 10-14, the House met for a total of 10 hours and 55 minutes and the Senate met for a total of three hours and 54 minutes.
Mon. July 10 House 11:00 a.m. to 11:17 a.m.

                    Senate 11:07 a.m. to 11:51 p.m.
Tues. July 11 House 11:06 a.m. to 1:05 p.m.

                    Senate 11:03 a.m. to 1:01 p.m.
Wed. July 12 House 11:04 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

                    No Senate session


Thurs. July 13 House 11:01 a.m. to 2:44 p.m.

                    Senate 11:03 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.


Fri. July 14 No House session

                     No Senate session
  Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at

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