Beacon Hill Roll Call Volume 43 – Report No. 5 January 29- February 2, 2018

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 29 – February 2.

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$15 MILLION FOR PUERTO RICO (H 4160, S 2280)

House 153-0, Senate 38-0, approved different versions of a fiscal 2018 supplemental budget. The Senate version now goes to the House for consideration.

Both versions include $15 million to help school districts educate students who came to the Bay State from Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands following Hurricanes Maria and Irma. Another $420,000 is in both versions for the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD) to hire additional employees and to conduct training on sexual assault and harassment to address the recent rise in these complaints.

Supporters said the $15 million will help reimburse cities and towns for the additional costs of absorbing an estimated 2,400 new students who fled here with their families following the hurricanes. They argued that the additional funding for the MCAD is needed in order for it to do its job properly.

“This funding supports school districts across the state that have faced a sudden influx of new students,” said Sen. Karen Spilka (D-Ashland), Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “It is our duty to welcome these students with open arms and ensure they continue to have access to high-quality education.”

(A “Yes” vote is for the budget.)

Rep. Christine Barber Yes Rep. Mike Connolly Yes Rep. Denise Provost Didn’t Vote Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes

$1,063,978 TO REIMBURSE CITIES AND TOWNS FOR COSTS OF EARLY VOTING (H 4160)

House 151-0, approved an amendment to provide $1,063,978 to reimburse cities and towns for the costs they incurred for the implementation of the state law mandating that communities allow early voting for the November 2016 election.

Amendment supporters said allowing early voting worked out very well and argued the state, not struggling cities and towns, should pay for these expenses.

(A “Yes” vote is for the $1,063,978.)

Rep. Christine Barber Yes Rep. Mike Connolly Yes Rep. Denise Provost Didn’t Vote

PLAN TO COORDINATE EFFORTS TO COMBAT ALZHEIMER’S (H 4116)

House 153-0, approved and sent to the Senate a bill requiring the governor’s Executive Office of Health and Human Service to assess all current state programs that address Alzheimer’s disease and create and maintain an integrated state plan to overcome the illness.

The plan would include accelerating the development of treatments that would prevent, halt or reverse the disease; helping to coordinate the health care and treatment of individuals with the disease; ensuring the inclusion of ethnic and racial populations, who have a higher risk or are the least likely to receive care for the disease; and implementing a strategy to increase the diagnostic rate.

Another provision requires doctors, physician assistants and nurses to complete a one-time course of training and education on the diagnosis, treatment and care of patients with Alzheimer’s, dementia and other cognitive impairments.

The measure also creates an Advisory Council on Alzheimer’s Research and Treatment to work with closely with state agencies and the Legislature.

“Alzheimer’s disease is a growing epidemic. It’s impacting hundreds of thousands of Massachusetts residents,” said Jim Wessler, President and CEO of the Alzheimer’s Association, Massachusetts/New Hampshire Chapter.

Supporters said that this disease affects more than 120,000 people in the Bay State and according to the Alzheimer’s Association, that number is projected to increase by 25 percent to 150,000 by 2025. They argued deaths from Alzheimer’s have nearly doubled from 2000 to 2014 and it is time for the state to step up to the plate and lead the way in the care for people with Alzheimer’s and in the fight to eradicate it.

(A “Yes” vote is for the bill.)

Rep. Christine Barber Yes Rep. Mike Connolly Yes Rep. Denise Provost Didn’t Vote

NO LONGER REQUIRE HAND-WRITTEN USED VEHICLE RECORD BOOK (S 2269)

Senate 36-0, approved and sent to the House a bill repealing the outdated current requirement that all car dealers maintain a book in which they enter extensive hand-written information about each used vehicle sold. This law was put on the books decades ago to ensure that used car sales were tracked so that police and other law enforcement could access them. The bill would allow the information to be maintained in the dealer’s online database.

Supporters said dealers switched to online record-keeping years ago but under this antiquated law are still required to also maintain this hand-written book which duplicates what is online and is a waste of the dealer’s time. They said they don’t know of a single case in the past few decades in which a law enforcement official has asked to see this book.

(A “Yes” vote is for the bill.)

Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes

ALSO UP ON BEACON HILL

INCREASE THE STORAGE CHARGE FOR TOWED VEHICLES (H 2509) – The House gave initial approval to a bill increasing from $35 per day to $42 per day the maximum storage charge that can be charged by private storage lots that store cars that are ordered towed by police in a city or town.

“The last increase to this rate was in 2010,” said bill sponsor Rep. Aaron Vega (D-Holyoke) “Everything has gone up since then in regard to running any business including, property taxes, property insurance and all related expenses to property maintenance.”

Vega noted that it is important to point out that these storage lots are not open land – they require fencing, lighting and are required to follow many other municipal regulations. He said they can’t be used for any other purpose other than a storage lot, as they need to be available for public authority police tows.

CHILD PASSENGER RESTRAINTS (H 12434) – The House gave initial approval to a bill requiring that children under the age of two or weighing less than 30 pounds, ride in a federally approved child passenger restraint that is facing backwards.

Current law is more general and requires children under eight to ride in a federally approved child passenger restraint but does not mandate that it face backwards.

“Research has shown that children up to two years old are less likely to be seriously injured when their car seat is rear-facing,” said Rep. Claire Cronin (D-Easton), the sponsor of the bill. “This bill reflects the current research and increases child safety at no additional cost to the consumer.”

WANT TO RUN FOR OFFICE? – While the 2018 elections are still months away, Secretary of State Bill Galvin announced that nomination papers for the 2018 State Primaries and General Election are now available at Galvin’s Elections Division, Room 1705, McCormack State Office Building, One Ashburton Place, and regional offices in Fall River and Springfield.

The state party primaries will be held on Tuesday, September 4th, and the state election will be on Tuesday, November 6th.

Details, deadlines and the number of signatures required are at: http://www.sec.state.ma.us/ele/elepdf/Candidates-Guide-18.pdf

All 160 state representative and state senator seats are up for grabs. Other offices to be filled include U.S. senator, U.S. representative, governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state, treasurer, auditor, governor’s councilor, district attorney, clerk of courts, register of deeds and county commissioner.

THREE POSSIBLE 2018 BALLOT QUESTIONS GET A HEARING – Three possible 2018 ballot questions were the subject of hearings last week.

The proposals would increase the minimum hourly wage to $12 in 2019, $13 in 2020, $14 in 2021 and $15 in 2022; create a program to provide paid family and medical leave to Massachusetts workers; and reduce the state’s sale tax from 6.25 percent to 5 percent and at the same time establish an annual two-day permanent sales tax holiday in August that allows consumers to buy most products that cost under $2,500 without paying the state’s sales tax.

If the Legislature does not approve the proposed laws by May 2, 2018, proponents must gather another 10,792 signatures by July 4, 2018, in order for the question to appear on the November 2018 ballot.

QUOTABLE QUOTES

“This hearing, even by legislative standards, had exceptionally low committee attendance. Only the Senate and House chairmen plus Sen. Ryan Fattman were present — just 3 out of 17! And once again, no questions from the committee were asked after I testified. I guess I must have wowed them into silence.”

Chip Faulkner, Director of Communications of Citizens for Limited Taxation on testifying before the Revenue Committee in favor of lowering the state’s sales tax from 6.25 percent to 5 percent.

“We had a busy year and have much to be proud of. Working together, our membership was able to accomplish many gains.”

Rep. Frank Moran (D-Lawrence), Chairman of the Massachusetts Black and Latino Legislative Caucus.

“Not only does this irresponsible and careless plan put our state’s jobs and environment at risk, but it shows utter disregard for the will and voices of thousands of local businesses and fishing families. My colleagues and I will continue to fight this plan.”

Attorney General Maura Healey urging U.S. Department of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to cease his plan to open up nearly all offshore areas – including waters off the Massachusetts coast – to oil and gas drilling.

“Many states currently recognize that voter registration deadlines are unnecessary, obsolete and disenfranchise voters. Massachusetts’ current deadline is out of step with what is done in states across the nation. It is time for Massachusetts to join others in recognizing the harm of its voter registration deadline once and for all.”

Alora Thomas-Lundborg, from the American Civil Liberties Union Voting Rights Project urging the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court to declare Massachusetts’ 20-day voter registration cutoff law unconstitutional. That law requires a person be registered to vote at least 20 days before an election.

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 29-February 2, the House met for a total of 10 hours and 55 minutes while the Senate met for a total of three hours and 35 minutes.

Mon. Jan. 29 House 11:03 a.m. to 5:10 p.m.

Senate 11:07 a.m. to 1:19 p.m.

Tues. Jan. 30 No House session

No Senate session

Wed. Jan. 31 House 11:02 a.m. to 3:35 p.m.

No Senate session

Thurs. Feb. 1 House 11:01 a.m. to 11:16 a.m.

Senate 1:14 p.m. to 2:37 p.m.

Fri. Feb. 2 No House session

No Senate session

Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at bob@beaconhillrollcall.com

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