Beacon Hill Roll Call Volume 43 – Report No. 17 April 23-27, 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 April 23-27.

Most of the House roll calls are on proposed amendments to the $41 billion fiscal 2019 state budget that the House considered for four days last week.

A LOOK BEHIND THE SCENES OF THE BUDGET “DEBATE”

Most of the decisions on what is included and not included in the budget are made behind closed doors. Of the 1,400 budget amendments proposed, many of them are bundled into consolidated amendments. This year there were nine consolidated amendments. The system works as follows: Individual representatives file amendments on general subject matters including local aid, social services and public safety. They are then invited to “subject meetings” in Room 348 at which they pitch their amendments to Democratic leaders who draft consolidated amendments that include some of the individual representatives’ amendments while excluding others.

Supporters of the system say that any representative who sponsors an excluded amendment can bring it to the floor and ask for an up or down vote on the amendment itself. They say this system has worked well for many years.

Opponents say that rarely, if ever, does a member bring his or her amendment to the floor for an up-or-down vote because that is not the way the game is played. It is an “expected tradition” that you accept the fate of your amendment as determined by Democratic leaders.

Opponents also say this inside, archaic system takes power away from individual members and forces legislators to vote for or against a package of amendments. They argued that individual amendments should be considered on a one-by-one basis on the House floor.

Republicans were slow to ask for roll call votes on many controversial amendments and instead let them die on an unrecorded voice vote. Rep. Marc Lombardo (R-Billerica) sponsored amendments to reduce the income tax and sales tax to 5 percent and exempt cities and town from paying the gas tax. Lombardo did not respond to requests by Beacon Hill Roll to tell why he didn’t ask for roll call votes on those three issues.

$200 MILLION FOR LOCAL ROADS AND BRIDGES (H 4637)

House 154-0, Senate 38-0, approved and sent to Gov. Charlie Baker a bill authorizing $200 million in one-time funding for the maintenance and repair of local roads and bridges in cities and towns across the state. The package is a bond bill under which the funding would be borrowed by the state through the sale of bonds.

Supporters said the $200 million would help cities and towns keep their roads and bridges safe and allow many vital municipal road projects to move forward.

No one voted against the bill, but most cities and towns were in favor of the Senate version which provided $600 million over three years. Municipal leaders note that approving $200 million per year for three years is helpful to cities and towns who would prefer to know the money is guaranteed each year for the next three years.

(A “Yes” vote is for the $200 million.)

Rep. Christine Barber Yes Rep. Mike Connolly Yes Rep. Denise Provost Yes Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes

$41 BILLION FISCAL 2019 BUDGET (H 4400)

House 150-4, approved and sent to the Senate the House version of a $41 billion fiscal 2019 state budget. During four days of budget deliberations the House added more than $81 million in spending.

Supporters said the budget is a fiscally responsible one that makes vital investments in the state while continuing fiscal responsibility and not raising taxes.

“This is a balanced budget,” said House Ways and Means Chair Rep. Jeff Sanchez (D-Boston). This budget was Sanchez’ first since he took over as Ways and Means Chair last summer.

“In this year’s budget, there were 1,400 amendments, of which there was meaningful debate on only one,” said Rep. Kevin Kuros (R-Uxbridge), one of only four legislators who voted against the budget. “I’ve long been uncomfortable with the ‘Room 348 process’ for approving and disposing of amendments.”

“I will no longer support a budget that has exploded by $10 billion in the last 10 years and still does not adequately fund education, public safety and transportation.” said Rep. Nicholas Boldyga (R-Southwick). “Much needed reforms have been neglected and 70 percent of the budget now equates to MassHealth and pension obligations choking out any other funding priorities.”

(A “Yes” vote is for the budget. A “No” vote is against it.)

Rep. Christine Barber Yes Rep. Mike Connolly Yes Rep. Denise Provost Yes

HOLD DETAINED IMMIGRANTS WITHOUT A WARRANT (H 4400)

House 10-145 rejected an amendment that would allow state and local law enforcement agencies to arrest and hold a person without a warrant if the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has issued an immigration detainer on that person. The amendment was proposed in response to a July 2017 ruling of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) that ruled local law enforcement could not assist federal immigration agents in enforcing federal civil enforcement immigration detainers.

“The amendment allows local enforcement to assist federal immigration agents to detain people with an outstanding civil federal immigration detainer,” said sponsor Rep. Jim Lyons (R-Andover). “It protects the citizens of the commonwealth. Without this law, Massachusetts is a sanctuary state.”

“Let the federal government do what the federal government is charged with,” said Rep. Paul Tucker (D-Salem) the former Salem police chief. “Let the local police be effective and efficient in enforcing the local laws.”

Other representatives said they support the bill but voted against it because it also included a section that changes the definition of “probable cause.”

“The language in this amendment would change the ‘probable cause’ standard and allow it to be based upon an individual officer’s personal belief,” said Rep. Tim Whelan (R-Brewster). “This is a radical change to a constitutionally accepted standard held in our nation since the ratification of the U.S. Constitution.”

The current definition of probable cause is “facts discovered through logical inquiry that would lead a reasonably intelligent and prudent person to believe that an accused person has committed a crime.”

(A “Yes” vote is for the amendment. A “No” vote is against it.)

Rep. Christine Barber No Rep. Mike Connolly No Rep. Denise Provost No

INDEFINITELY DELAY CUTTING OFF LOCAL AID TO SANCTUARY CITIES (H 4400)

House 136-19, approved an amendment that would cut off local aid to sanctuary cities but delay the cutoff until the Office of Public Safety furnishes a study of the cutoff’s impact on the public safety of the state, cities and towns. The amendment is essentially meaningless because as in past years, the study will never be done, and it is just a way to kill the cutoff without having a direct vote on the cutoff itself.

This amendment replaced an earlier amendment that would simply cut off the local aid to sanctuary without delay. Under House rules, there was no roll call on the earlier amendment.

“It was disappointing Democrats attached a further amendment to kill the original amendment that would have worked to stop sanctuary cities,” said Rep. Geoff Diehl (R-Whitman). “We don’t want another mother to have to experience the grief of Maureen Maloney.”

Maloney’s son was killed in August 2011 by Nicolas Guaman, an illegal immigrant from Ecuador, who was driving drunk when he ran a stop sign and knocked Matthew Denice off his motorcycle.

“Illegal immigration costs the taxpayers close to $2 billion a year,” said Rep. Shaunna O’Connell (R-Taunton). “Sanctuary cities make our state a magnet for illegal immigrants. We are a nation of laws. Communities should not be picking and choosing which laws to follow.”

Some supporters of the amendment acknowledge that the amendment is essentially meaningless because there will never be a study. Most of these oppose the cutoff of local aid to sanctuary cities.

But several supporters of the amendment have supported the cutoff of local aid to sanctuary cities in the past but voted for this watered-down version because it was “better than nothing.”

Other opponents of the amendment said that with the delay the amendment is a joke and means nothing. These opponents generally support cutting off aid to sanctuary cities.

(A “Yes” vote is for the cutoff and the delay. A “No” vote is against the cutoff and the delay.)

Rep. Christine Barber Yes Rep. Mike Connolly Yes Rep. Denise Provost Yes

COMMONWEALTH CONSERVATION LAND TAX CREDIT (H 4400)

House 154-0, approved an amendment that raises from $2 million to $5 million over three years the total annual amount of money that is available for the Commonwealth Conservation Land Tax Credit.

According to the state website, “The Conservation Land Tax Credit program recognizes and rewards landowners who donate a real property interest either outright, or through a Conservation Restriction. The donation must permanently protect an important natural resource such as forest land that is in the public’s interest. The donor is provided a tax credit of 50 percent of the donation value, up to $75,000.”

Amendment supporters said this program has been successful since it was created in 2009 and it has saved more than 258 pieces of land totaling more than 12,000 acres. They noted it has wide support from the environmental community and will help preserve open space.

(A “Yes” vote is for the increase to $5 million).

Rep. Christine Barber Yes Rep. Mike Connolly Yes Rep. Denise Provost Yes

CONTINUE BUDGET SESSION AFTER 9 P.M. UNTIL MIDNIGHT

House 122-33, 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 continue working 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 9:46 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

CREDIT FREEZES AT NO COST (S 2455)

Senate 38-0, approved legislation that would prohibit consumer reporting agencies, like Equifax, Experian and TransUnion from charging fees for freezing and unfreezing a person’s credit information. Under current law, companies can and have charged up to $5 per freeze or unfreeze. A freeze makes the report inaccessible until the consumer unfreezes it. Since banks and other lenders require access to the borrower’s credit report before giving a loan, this greatly reduces identity thieves from getting a loan or credit in another individual’s name.

The proposal gained momentum following the 2017 crisis when from May to July the personal information including names, social security numbers, addresses, driver’s licenses, and credit card numbers of 145 million Americans was stolen from Equifax’s systems. Equifax didn’t reveal the breach until September and consumers lost valuable time to act.

Other provisions of the bill prohibit businesses from obtaining a consumer’s credit report without obtaining written, verbal or electronic consent from the consumer; shorten the waiting period to implement a freeze; allow consumers to request a freeze by phone or electronically; require credit monitoring services to be available for five years for some consumers affected by a breach and establish additional protections for minors and incapacitated adults.

Supporters said the ability of a consumer to freeze his or her consumer credit reports without a charge is the key to this measure. They said that provision and many other major changes will offer more protection for consumers.

The House has approved a different version of the bill and a conference committee will hammer out a compromise version.

(A “Yes” vote is for the bill.)

Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes

$156 MILLION SUPPLEMENTAL BUDGET (S 2481)

Senate 38-0, approved a $156 million supplemental budget for fiscal 2018 including $2.5 million to assist the residents of Puerto Rico or the Virgin Islands who have moved to Massachusetts following the impact of hurricanes Maria and Irma. The funding can be used for various needs including transportation costs of traveling to the Bay State, immediate living and related expenses and costs incurred by cities and towns as a result of the influx of new people.

The package also includes $12.5 million for the special education circuit breaker which reimburses school districts for some of the costs of educating students with special needs.

Other provisions include $21 million for sheriff’s offices, $3 million to support regional transit authorities, $15.5 million in newly ratified collective bargaining costs and $4.5 million for payroll costs at the Department of Correction.

Supporters said the package is a balanced one that begins to close out the books on fiscal 2018 by funding necessary programs while continuing fiscal responsibility.

The House has approved a different version of the supplemental budget and a conference committee will hammer out a compromise version.

(A “Yes” vote is for the budget.)

Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes

ALLOW EARLY VOTING FOR STATE PRIMARY ELECTIONS (S 2481)

Senate 35-3, approved an amendment allowing early voting for five days before the Sept. 4 primary election between Aug. 27 through Aug. 31. Early voting was first used in the Nov. 2016 election but current state law only allows early voting for the November General Elections, not the primaries.

Amendment supporters said early voting increases voter participation. They noted that more than 1 million ballots were cast across the state during the early voting period before the Nov. 2016 election.

Amendment opponents said the bill is an unfunded state mandate. “This amendment is a change in the early voting law with no funding attached,” said Sen. Kathleen O’Connor Ives (D-Newburyport), one of only three senators who opposed the amendment. “The city clerks in my district were in communication with me months ago with concerns about expanding early voting to primary elections without any funding for implementation.”

(A “Yes” vote is for early voting. A “No” vote is against it.)

Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes

ALSO UP ON BEACON HILL

BAN THE PRACTICE OF TAKING AWAY LICENSES FROM PROFESSIONALS WHO DEFAULT ON LOANS (S 2266) – The Senate approved and sent to the House a bill repealing a current law that allows a borrower’s state-issued professional or occupational certificate, registration or license be suspended or revoked if the borrower is defaulting on his or her educational loan.

“Taking away a borrower’s ability to engage in their profession does not put them in a better position to be able to repay the loan,” said Sen. Will Brownsberger (D-Belmont), the sponsor of the bill.

“High quality, affordable education is the key to future success, yet too many Massachusetts residents are saddled with the burden of student loan debt,” said Sen. Karen Spilka (D-Ashland). “Taking away licenses from those who default on student loans makes it even more difficult, if not impossible, for that person to make a living and pay back those loans. This practice clearly makes no sense.”

ALLOW LOTTERY EMPLOYEES TO BUY LOTTERY TICKETS (H 4329) – The House gave initial approval to a measure that makes exceptions to the current law that prohibits all Lottery employees and their spouse, child, brother, sister or parent living with them to buy a Lottery ticket.

The measure permits the Lottery director to allow employees to purchase tickets if they are bought to be used as part of a Lottery sting operation. These operations investigate many things including improper prize payout, reselling of winning tickets by retailers and sale of tickets to teens under the age of 18.

CHAIR FOR PREGNANT WOMEN IS PLACED OUTSIDE THE HOUSE CHAMBER

The law signed by Gov. Baker at the end of July 2017 that prohibits an employer from discriminating against, refusing to employ or firing a woman because she is pregnant or has a condition related to pregnancy took effect on April 1.

The measure guarantees reasonable accommodations and safety measures for pregnant mothers. Reasonable accommodations include time off to recover from childbirth; more frequent, longer paid or unpaid breaks; acquiring or modifying equipment or seating arrangements; and a private non-bathroom space for expressing breast milk — unless any of these would create an undue hardship on the employer.

During last week’s budget debate, a chair with a “Reserved for Pregnant Individuals” sign was placed outside the House chamber.

Supporters said a pregnant woman should not have to fear losing her job when she could continue working with some reasonable adjustments. They argued that no one should have to choose between a healthy pregnancy and a weekly paycheck.

TAILGATING EMERGENCY VEHICLES (H 4344) – The House gave initial approval to a bill that raises from $100 to $250 the fine for tailgating any emergency vehicle.

QUOTABLE QUOTES

“Victims and survivors often want to see something positive come out of their tragedy. Through the voices of survivor speakers, we have highlighted that there are many ways for survivors be involved. We want to provide them the support they need to tell their stories, because as we have seen, the voices of victims are critical to implementing the changes our country needs.”

Liam Lowney, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Office for Victim Assistance (MOVA) at the Victim Rights Conference that provides a platform for crime victims and service providers to celebrate the achievements made by survivors of crime in serving victims and promoting public safety.

“Massachusetts has for many years lead the country in making their state spending data available online. However, as technology and information improve so do our expectations, and the website evaluations get more difficult. It’s time for Massachusetts to once again invest in meaningful, accessible, comprehensive disclosure of the state’s spending data.”

Deirdre Cummings, Consumer Program Director of the Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group (MASSPIRG) on the Bay State receiving a “B-” grade from MASSPIRG for its government spending transparency website.

“This is the third leg of the charter expansionists’ strategy. They filed charter expansion bills, which have been rejected by the Legislature. They spent tens of millions of dollars backing Question 2 [in 2016] which was soundly rejected by the voters. And they filed this lawsuit, which has such weak claims that the SJC won’t even allow it to go to trial.”

MTA President Barbara Madeloni applauding today’s ruling by the SJC upholding an earlier decision by a Superior Court judge to dismiss a lawsuit to lift the ceiling on the number of charter schools permitted to operate statewide.

“We appreciate that the House rejected a number of cruel, anti-immigrant amendments. There is no room for attacks on immigrants here in the commonwealth … Decades from now, history will judge how Massachusetts treated immigrants in this divisive time. It is not enough to say no to hate. The Massachusetts legislature must step up to protect the most vulnerable among us and recommit the commonwealth to its most basic values of inclusivity, support for children and families, and democracy.”

Carol Rose, executive director of the ACLU of Massachusetts on the defeat of what she called anti-immigration amendments.

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 April 23-27, the House met for a total of 43 hours and five minutes while the Senate met for a total of seven hours and 42 minutes.

Mon. April 23 House 10:02 a.m. to 9:46 p.m.

Senate 11:09 a.m. to 11:40 a.m.

Tues. April 24 House 10:04 a.m. to 8:20 p.m.

No Senate session.

Wed. April 25 House 10:00 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.

No Senate session

Thurs. April 26 House 10:00 a.m. to 7:35 p.m.

Senate 11:06 a.m. to 6:07 p.m.

Fri. April 27 No House session

No Senate session

Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at bob@beaconhillrollcall.com

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