Beacon Hill Roll Call Volume 43 – Report No. 21 May 21-25, 2018

By Bob Katzen

THE HOUSE AND SENATE. Beacon Hill Roll Call records local senators and representatives’ votes on roll calls from the week of May 21-25.

HIKE CAR RENTAL TAX BY $2 TO FUND POLICE TRAINING (H 4516)

House 149-4, Senate 37-0, approved an amendment imposing a $2 tax on car rentals to fund municipal police training.

Amendment supporters said the small fee would raise up to $10 million annually for this fund established by the criminal justice law signed by Gov. Charlie Baker last month.

“Over the past few years, the role of police officers in our country has changed,” said Rep. David Linsky (D-Natick). “We are continually asking more and more of the men and women who risk their lives to protect us, without providing the funding they need to ensure adequate training. We need a consistent revenue source – not reliant on language passing in the state’s budget – to ensure that our police officers are trained in the ever-evolving roles we are assigning to them.”

“I am a strong supporter our police,” said Rep. Shauna O’Connell (R-Taunton). “State revenue is $809 above expected projections. We don’t need to create a new fee to fund police training. This legislation is just another money grab from hard-working people.”

(A “Yes” vote is for the $2 tax to fund police training. A “No” vote is against it.)

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

$1.8 BILLION HOUSING PACKAGE (H 4536)

House 151-2, Senate 38-0, approved and sent to Gov. Baker 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; $100 million for the creation of rental housing that is affordable for working families whose incomes are too high for subsidized housing but are priced out of market rents; $600 million to rehabilitate and modernize existing public housing; $60 million for disabled persons and seniors to renovate and modify their homes; and $45 million for grants to non-profits for early education and out-of-school time program facilities that serve low income children.

Supporters said many people are being priced out of the housing market in the Bay State and the high cost of housing strains already stretched family incomes. They noted the package is a major step toward ensuring Massachusetts develops enough affordable housing.

The two opponents of the package did not respond to Beacon Hill Roll Call’s requests to provide their reasons for voting against the measure.

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

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

RED FLAG ON GUNS (H 4517)

House 139-14, approved and sent to the Senate a bill that would allow family or household members to petition the courts to issue an extreme risk protection order (ERPO) that would suspend a person’s license to carry a firearm and order him or her to surrender his or her firearms and ammunition if he or she is believed to be a danger to themselves or others.

“I’m proud of the members of the House for passing this bill which will save lives,” said House Speaker Bob DeLeo (D-Winthrop). “In Massachusetts, we have the most effective gun laws in the nation. Now, we have a new way to keep people safe and prevent senseless tragedies. I thank … my colleagues in the House and the students who raised their voices for their work on this crucial, life-saving measure.”

“This new ERPO law will give families a life-saving tool that will help save loved ones who own guns and are in crisis and at risk of killing themselves or others with a firearm,” said John Rosenthal, the co-founder and chair of the group Stop Handgun Violence. “Thanks to the courageous leadership of House Speaker Robert DeLeo, this common-sense legislation will save lives and continue to make Massachusetts the national leader in gun violence prevention.”

“We need to address mental health issues and effective preventive measures,” said Rep. Geoff Diehl (R-Whitman) who opposed the measure. “Unfortunately, this bill did not address these issues and threatens the constitutional rights of law abiding citizens. Worse yet, it gives more power to the courts rather than keeping it in the hands of local law enforcement.”

“This vague, overly broad bill relies on speculation to strip people of civil rights and completely fails to address the problems of people with mental health issues,” said Rep. Shauna O’Connell (R-Taunton). “We need to protect the public whether someone has a firearm or truck or a pressure cooker. This legislation gives more authority to the courts at a time when judges are failing to follow the law. It is time to enforce the laws we presently have on the books.”

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

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

MENTAL HEALTH (H 4517)

House 42-111, rejected an amendment that would require the court, within 24 hours of the issuance of an ERPO, to assign a mental health counselor to evaluate the individual, assess counseling needs and establish a counseling outline and program. It also requires the Department of Mental Health, if considered necessary, to establish a mental health counseling program for the individual and report back to the court.

Amendment supporters said the issue of mental health is not sufficiently addressed in the bill. They argued the amendment provides a system to determine if the person needs mental health counseling. They noted that without this amendment, the bill only requires the person to be given informational resources, including a list of services relating to crisis intervention, mental health, substance abuse and counseling.

Amendment opponents said the amendment is well-intentioned but would contribute to the stigmatization of mentally ill people. They said the purpose of the bill is to take weapons away from dangerous people. They argued the mental health components should be addressed in a separate bill.

(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

3-DAY MENTAL HEALTH EVALUATION (H 4517)

House 34-119, rejected an amendment that would require that the court order a 3-day stay in a hospital and a mental health evaluation of anyone who is the subject of an ERPO.

Amendment supporters said if someone is considered so dangerous and such an extreme risk to themselves or other people, he or she should not be allowed to immediately roam free. They noted that the person could easily use other means, like homemade bombs and knives to do harm.

Amendment opponents said the amendment goes too far and noted that every single incident does not rise to the level that the person needs a 3-day commitment. They said this decision should be left up to then judges handling the case.

(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

BENEFITS AND SERVICES FOR VETERANS (H 4525)

House 150-0, approved a bill that would expand benefits and increase access to a range of services for veterans, active-duty military personnel and their families. Provisions include reducing from five years to two years the residency period required for some veteran’s property tax exemptions;

increasing coverage for funeral expenses for indigent veterans from $2,000 to $4,000; allowing cities and towns to designate a reserved parking space for veterans at city and town halls; and waiving certain training requirements for EMT certification for military trained medical professionals.

Supporters said the state should provide these additional benefits and opportunities to the thousands of Bay State veterans who have served and are still serving our nation. They noted that one in three homeless people in the nation are veterans. They pointed out that one in five Massachusetts veterans suffer post-traumatic stress disorder and 11 percent suffer traumatic brain injuries.

The Senate has approved a different version of the bill and the House version now goes to the Senate for consideration.

(A “Yes” vote is for the bill.)

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

$41.49 BILLION FISCAL 2019 BUDGET (S 4)

Senate 38-0, approved a $41.49 billion fiscal 2019 budget. Over a 3-day period, the Senate added an estimated $75.5 million to the original version of the budget and considered and voted on more than 1,000 proposed amendments.

There were many controversial amendments that that were decided by voice votes or standing votes — neither of which allows you to see how an individual senator voted.

Some of the amendments rejected without a roll call were ones to reduce the sales tax from 6.25 percent to 5 percent; reduce the income tax from 5.1 to 5 percent; and give an up to $1,500 tax credit to family member who are caregivers for a family member over 18.

Supporters said the budget is a fiscally responsible and balanced one that makes vital investments in the state while continuing fiscal responsibility.

The House has approved a different version of the budget. A House-Senate conference committee will hammer out a compromise version.

(A “Yes” vote is for the budget.)

Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes

IMMIGRATION STATUS (S 4)

Senate 25-13, approved an amendment that would prohibit police and other law enforcement from asking people about their immigration status. Other provisions end the practice that deputizes state and local law enforcement as U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents; bans state resources from being used to create a registry based on ethnicity, religion, country of origin and other criteria; and requires that immigrants be notified of their due-process rights.

Sen. Jamie Eldridge (D-Acton), the amendment’s sponsor, said that immigrant communities and families are feeling very fearful. “There’s a role for state government, to make sure that no state resources, no state functions, no state power is engaged in Donald Trump’s mass deportation agenda — an agenda that has created divisiveness among religious lines, ethnic lines and racial lines.”

“The Senate took a strong stand for Massachusetts values,” said Eva Millona, executive director of the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition (MIRA). “Sen. Eldridge’s amendment will make our communities safer by ensuring that all residents know they can speak to police without fear. At a time when our federal government is tearing families apart, tonight’s votes send a powerful message that in our commonwealth, we value and welcome immigrants.”

Gov. Baker opposes the proposal. “I don’t support it and I would veto it if it ends up coming to my desk,” Baker said. “I’ve said many times that I think decisions like this belong with local law enforcement.”

“Gov. Baker opposes a sanctuary state and this amendment does not address the issue of creating clear guidelines for state and local law enforcement to work with federal immigration officials to detain violent and dangerous criminals convicted of heinous crimes like rape and murder,” said Baker’s Communications Director Elizabeth Guyton.

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

Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes

INCREASE DEEDS EXCISE TAX FROM $20 to $50 (S 4)

Senate 38-0, approved an amendment raising the state deeds excise tax from $20 to $50. The deeds excise tax is paid by the seller of the property and funds the state’s Community Preservation Act Trust Fund that “matches” the money raised by local cities and towns which are allowed to impose a surtax on real estate sales to fund projects like affordable housing, preservation of historical resources and open space.

Amendment supporters said the new tax revenue would be used to increase the “matching” funds given to communities. They noted that the match was a real 100 percent in 1999 but has sunk to 11 percent.

(A “Yes” vote is for the hike.)

Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes

SALES TAX HOLIDAY (S 4)

Senate 14-24, rejected an amendment allowing consumers to buy most products that cost under $2,500 during a two-day weekend sales tax holiday in August without paying the state’s 6.25 percent sales tax.

Supporters of the bill said the holiday, which has been in effect for many years, would boost retail sales and noted that consumers would save millions of dollars. They argued that the state’s sales tax revenue loss would be offset by increased revenue from the meals and gas tax revenue generated by shoppers on those two days.

Some opponents of the bill said the state cannot afford the up to $30 million estimated revenue loss and argued the holiday actually generates little additional revenue for stores because consumers typically buy the products even without the tax-free days. They said that the Legislature should be looking at broader, deeper tax relief for individuals and businesses and not a tiny tax-free holiday. Others said that legislators should not vote for this tax holiday when they have not yet restored all the local aid, education and other important program cuts made over the past few years.

(A “Yes” vote is for the tax-free holiday. A “No” vote is against it.)

Sen. Patricia Jehlen No

INCREASE MAXIMUM DAIRY TAX CREDIT FROM $4 MILLION TO $8 MILLION (S 4)

Senate 17-20, rejected an amendment that would increase the statewide annual maximum amount of tax credit for dairy farmers from a current cap of $4 million to $8 million. Farmers can apply for the tax credit when milk prices, regulated by the federal government, are insufficient to cover the farmers’ cost of producing the product.

Amendment supporters said that dairy farmers are in the fourth consecutive year of depressed milk prices and are being paid the same amount as they were 20 years ago. This month, the price for producing one cwt of milk (100 pounds) was $24 but farmers sold it on the market for $14.44. They argued that raising the cap to $8 million will allow more farmers to receive the credit.

Amendment opponents said they understand the plight of farmers but argued that the state simply cannot afford the additional $4 million.

(A “Yes” vote is for the hike to $8 million. A “No” vote is against it.)

Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes

CYBERSECURITY FOR ELECTIONS (S 4)

Senate 10-28, rejected an amendment that would require the secretary of state, in consultation with the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) to develop and implement new rules and standards to ensure the cyber-security and general security of elections in the Bay State and to combat election fraud and other election security threats.

The EAC was established by the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) of and is charged with developing guidance to meet HAVA requirements. The rules would be required to be in compliance with rules set by the United States Department of Homeland Security.

Amendment supporters said there have been many instances of election hacking across the nation and argued that Massachusetts should be proactive on this issue and act in a preventative way.

Amendment opponents said the proposal is premature because the United States Department of Homeland Security has not

yet adopted its rules. Some said that this effort is not necessary because the Massachusetts statewide voter database is not connected to the internet and is not vulnerable to hacking.

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

Sen. Patricia Jehlen No

ALSO UP ON BEACON HILL

PROTECT SCHOOL CUSTODIANS (H 1390) – The House and Senate approved and sent to Gov. Baker a bill designed to protect the rights of custodians, cafeteria and other non-teaching employees of school districts by exempting them from the Education Reform Act or 1993. That act gave school principals strong control over the hiring and assignment of teachers and other education professionals as part of the effort to improve test scores and overall student performance.

“There have been many instances in which the law has been applied to non-classroom personnel in a way that circumvents collective bargaining agreements,” wrote sponsor Rep. Pat Haddad (D-Somerset) in her testimony at the bill’s hearing last year. “This bill would prevent the continuation of this practice by specifically excluding non-classroom personnel from the provisions of the Education Reform Act.”

MANDATORY $100,000 DEATH BENEFIT (H 2195) – The House gave initial approval to a bill requiring drivers to carry a $100,000 death benefit as part of their auto insurance coverage. The $100,000 would be used to pay the estate of any person killed by the negligence of a driver in cases where a decedent is survived by a minor child, spouse or dependent.

Supporters said under current law, the amount of “bodily injury” insurance coverage used to compensate the families of those killed in automobile accidents maxes out at $20,000 — an amount insufficient to provide adequate support to surviving family members after the victim ’s legal and medical costs are paid.

“This bill will help the spouses, minor children or dependents of victims of fatal motor vehicle accidents by providing significantly more financial support than current law allows,” said sponsor Rep. Alice Peisch (D-Wellesley). “Recognizing

that money does not fill in for the loss of a loved one, it is my hope that some additional compensation can ease some of the financial strain caused by these tragic events.”

MAKE COURT JUDGEMENTS FROM OTHER STATES VALID HERE (H 718) – The House gave initial approval to legislation that would require the Bay State to agree to the enforcement of foreign judgments — the recognition and enforcement in one state of court judgments rendered in another state. Currently, judgements from other states are not automatically valid in Massachusetts where the plaintiff would be required to file the case all over again.

“The Uniform Enforcement of Foreign Judgments bill is common sense legislation, already adopted in 47 other states, that simplifies legal procedures,” said the bill’s sponsor Rep. Ruth Balser (D-Newton). “It will protect Massachusetts residents from having to re-litigate issues already resolved elsewhere.”

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 21-15, the House met for a total of 14 hours and 27 minutes while the Senate met for a total of 30 hours and 29 minutes.

Mon. May 21 House 11:02 a.m. to 3:13 p.m.

Senate 11:01 a.m. to 3:16 p.m.

Tues. May 22 No House session

No Senate session

Wed. May 23 House 11:02 a.m. to 9:03 p.m.

Senate 11:14 a.m. to 11:20 p.m.

Thurs. May 24 House 11:02 a.m. to 11:17 a.m.

Senate 11:00 a.m. to 1:08 a.m. (Friday)

Fri. May 25 No House session

No Senate session

Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at bob@beaconhillrollcall.com

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