By Bob Katzen
THE HOUSE AND SENATE. Beacon Hill Roll Call records local representatives’ and senators’ votes on roll calls from the week of January 22-26.
Senate sessions and atmosphere in general have been more toned down in recent weeks and some senators and their staffs say there is still a dark cloud over the Senate because of the resignation of former Senate President Stan Rosenberg. He resigned following a Boston Globe story which alleges that his husband, Bryon Hefner, groped three men and kissed another one against his will. The story also included claims that Hefner has said he speaks for Rosenberg and talks about Senate business with legislators and their staffs.
The Senate Ethics Committee has begun the investigation of the sexual assault charges against Hefner, whether Rosenberg violated any rules of the Senate and if Hefner did have any influence over what happens in the Senate.
In a much-needed lighter moment at a recent Senate session, Senate Clerk Bill Welch mistakenly addressed Sen. Bruce Tarr as Sen. Bruce Lee. Twice. It got lots of laughs.
The late Bruce Lee was an actor, film director and martial artist who died in 1973.
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$1.7 BILLION HOUSING PACKAGE (H 4134)
House 150-1, approved and sent to the Senate a bill funding various state programs to construct and preserve affordable housing in the Bay State.
Provisions include $400 million for the Affordable Housing Trust Fund that funds a myriad of programs including help for first-time homebuyers $600 million to rehabilitate and modernize existing public housing; $60 million for disabled persons and seniors to renovate and modify their homes; and $100 million for innovative and alternative forms of rental housing including shelters for survivors of domestic violence, housing for seniors and veterans; transitional and permanent housing for the homeless; housing for recovering drug addicts; and $45 million for grants to non-profits for early education and out-of-school time program facilities that serve low income children.
Tax incentives include extending several existing tax credits including credits for companies that invest in affordable multifamily rental projects; credits for individuals who donate to community development corporations; credits for developers in Gateway Cities to construct or rehabilitate properties and create affordable and market-rate housing; and a credit to clean up contaminated sites known as brownfields.
“With the passage of this bond bill, we renew our commitment to affordable housing,” said House Speaker Bob DeLeo. “I’m particularly proud of the provisions that support housing for those with disabilities and improve facilities used for early education and care.”
“Individuals and families need access to safe housing, quality child care and jobs that allow them to support themselves,” said Michael Durkin, President and CEO of United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley. “But high housing costs, a lack of affordable housing production, and low wages create significant barriers to opportunity and jeopardize our future workforce and economy. The Housing Bond Bill is essential to efforts to produce, preserve and modernize affordable housing in communities across the state.”
“Massachusetts ranks in the top three of per capita debt in the country,” said Rep. Jim Lyons (R-Andover), the lone member who opposed the package. “Our overall debt has increased from $19 billion to over $26 billion dollars since 2009. The overall debt per person in Massachusetts has grown from approximately $23,000 in 2010 to over $32,000 in 2016. Our overall spending is unsustainable. My job is to protect the hardworking taxpayers and families of my district and that is exactly what my vote does.”
(A “Yes” vote is for the $1.7 million housing package. A “No” vote is against it).
Rep. Christine Barber Yes Rep. Mike Connolly Yes Rep. Denise Provost Didn’t Vote
ABOLISH ARCHAIC LAWS (S 2260)
Senate 38-0, approved and sent to the House a bill repealing an 1800s ban on all abortions, a ban on contraception use for unmarried women and a requirement that all abortions after the 12th week of pregnancy be performed in a hospital. It also repeals laws punishing adultery and masturbation.
“I am so proud that, at a time when there are renewed threats nationally to providing comprehensive health services to women, the Massachusetts Senate voted unanimously to adopt this bill,” said Sen. Cynthia Creem (D-Newton). “We stand with a woman’s right to make decisions about her own body, including the right to complete control over her medical care, and decisions about contraception and abortion.”
Creem also said that just because these laws are not currently enforced does not mean they could not be enforced in the future. She noted that there is discussion in Congress about an attempt to reverse the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court case that legalized abortion nationwide.
“We are living in a time when leaders at the highest levels of power in our country are demeaning women and attempting to roll back their rights,” said Acting Senate President Harriette Chandler (D-Worcester). “Massachusetts must affirm its commitment to protecting women’s rights to essential health care and expunge these dangerous laws.”
“The Massachusetts Senate is unwavering in its commitment to women’s health care,” said Sen. Karen Spilka (D-Ashland). ”This legislation continues our commitment to women and sends a strong message that this commonwealth will continue to move forward in improving the health and well-being of all our citizens.
(A “Yes” vote is for the bill).
Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes
ALSO UP ON BEACON HILL
ALLOW VOTER REGISTRATION ON ELECTION DAY – Secretary of State Bill Galvin proposed legislation to allow Massachusetts voters to register and vote on Election Day. Under current law, voters must be registered at least 20 days before an election in order to be eligible to vote in it.
“Allowing voters to register on Election Day is the next step in our successful effort to expand access to the ballot,” Galvin said. “Over the past few years, my office has worked to bring online voter registration, pre-registration and early voting to Massachusetts. This is yet another way to make it easier to cast a ballot for any eligible citizen who wants to vote.”
“Secretary Galvin is again saying one thing and doing another,” said Boston City Councilor Josh Zakim, who is challenging Galvin for the Democratic nomination for secretary of state. “Although he purports to support enabling residents to register to vote on Election Day, he is actively trying to overturn a Superior Court decision that would allow for it. Likewise, he says on one hand he wants to increase voter turnout, but he schedules the primary for the day after Labor Day.”
LAST WEEK’S PUBLIC HEARINGS
Several bills were the subject of public hearings last week on Beacon Hill including:
FLY FLAGS AT CONDOS (H 3986) – Bans condo associations from prohibiting a unit owner or resident from displaying the American flag, the flag of Massachusetts and military flags within an area over which the unit owner or resident has exclusive control.
STIPEND FOR STATEHOUSE INTERNS (H 1420) – Gives a $1,000 annual stipend to each of the interns who work for the state’s 160 state representatives and 40 state senators.
CENTRALIZE JOB POSTINGS (H 3620) – Centralizes the posting of all state job openings before they are filled by requiring that they be placed in the statewide employment computerized referral system.
PREPARE FOR NUCLEAR DISASTERS (H 4096) – Increases from 10 miles to 20 miles the radius around a nuclear power plant in which the state’s Department of Public Health is required to conduct environmental monitoring. Another provision provides for the stockpiling of thyroid-blocking agents for use by cities and towns within the expanded radius.
NO TOLLS FOR SENIORS OVER 70 (H 1914) – Exempts drivers 70 and older from paying a toll on the Mass Turnpike and the Callahan, Sumner and Ted Williams Tunnels.
NO FRONT LICENSE PLATE (H 1857) – Allows vehicle owners to choose to just put a license plate on the back of their car. Current law requires Bay State drivers to have front and back license plates.
PERSONAL DATA (H 3766) – Prohibits telecommunications and Internet service providers from collecting personal information resulting from the customer’s use of the service without getting written approval from the customer.
INCREASE ORGAN DONATIONS (H 1454) – Establishes a pilot program to explore different methods, including compensation, of incentivizing people to become organ donors.
QUOTABLE QUOTES – Special State of the Commonwealth Edition
Last week Gov. Baker delivered his annual State of the Commonwealth speech. Here are some of the responses to the speech:
“I thought it was a very positive thing.”
House Speaker Bob DeLeo (D-Winthrop).
“If Gov. Baker attended a women’s march, regularly rode the T, or even held a single public town hall meeting where voters could talk to him face to face, maybe he’d understand the big problems we face. The millionaires who fund his campaign accounts think things are good under Charlie Baker’s status quo, but the rest of us know that Massachusetts needs a plan to invest in transportation and education, resist the Trump Administration, fight the opioid epidemic and lower the cost of healthcare. It’s clear that Gov. Baker doesn’t have that plan.”
Massachusetts Democratic Party Chair Gus Bickford.
“Gov. Baker’s remarks tonight show that the state of the commonwealth is strong and getting stronger, with the economy continuing to move in the right direction. That is due in large part to the competence and integrity the Baker-Polito Administration has demonstrated since taking office, which has been essential in protecting taxpayer dollars. The Administration has a proven track record … of making state government more responsive to the residents of the commonwealth, from implementing much-needed reforms at the Department of Children and Families to improving the management and operations of the MBTA, in addition to making advancements across a broad spectrum of areas important to the citizens of the commonwealth.”
House Minority Leader Brad Jones (R–North Reading).
“Gov. Baker ignored the central issue facing all schools across our state: Foundation Budget reforms and our broken Chapter 70 system. We spent the last four years arguing about issues that don’t affect most students – and it’s time to get back to basics. To make a serious investment in education we must fix the broken Chapter 70 formula. It’s called the ‘foundation’ for a reason.”
Sen. Sonia Chang-Díaz (D-Boston).
“Tonight, the governor touched on many of the priority issues that we in the Senate believe are critical as we fight for the future of Massachusetts families, including housing, the opioid crisis and transportation. As the governor said, while we may sometimes disagree on approach, we all share common goals.”
Acting Senate President Harriette Chandler (D-Worcester).
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 22-26, the House met for a total of seven hours and 44 minutes while the Senate met for a total of five hours and 21 minutes.
Mon. January 22 House 11:03 a.m. to 12:01 p.m.
Senate 11:06 a.m. to 12:06 p.m.
Tues. January 23 No House session
No Senate session
Wed. January 24 House 11:02 a.m. to 5:38 p.m.
No Senate session
Thurs. January 25 House 11:00 a.m. to 11:10 a.m.
Senate 11:02 a.m. to 3:23 p.m.
Fri. January 26 No House session
No Senate session
Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at email@example.com