By Bob Katzen
THE HOUSE AND SENATE. Beacon Hill Roll Call records local senators and representatives’ votes on roll calls from the week of June 11-15.
$2.2 BILLION FOR CLIMATE ADAPTATION AND ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION (H 4599)
House 143-3, approved a bond bill allowing the state to borrow up to $2.2 billion for climate change adaptation, environmental and natural resource protection, and investment in recreational assets.
The package includes earmarks for hundreds of millions of dollars for hundreds of projects in legislators’ districts across the state — many of which will never be funded. The Baker administration ultimately decides which projects are affordable and actually get funded but it cannot fund most of them because the governor’s office is also required to adhere to the state’s annual bond borrowing cap.
Provisions include $60 million for the construction, reconstruction and rehabilitation of seawalls, jetties and retaining walls; $180 million for state and local dams; $7.5 million for water and air quality protection; $40 million for the containment, monitoring and cleanup of oil and other hazardous materials; and $9 million for an Electric Vehicle Incentive Program.
“Our commonwealth is once again a leader in regard to combatting the nation’s most dire policy issues, one of those being environmental change,” said “Smitty” Pignatelli (D-Lenox), chairman of the Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture.” I am proud to say that the [bill] … includes strategic investments in environmental protection and coastal infrastructure. Over the last few years, we saw communities across Massachusetts be ravaged by environmental destruction from severe drought to coastal flooding, and this … bill provides the critical funding our state needs to adapt and mitigate to future environmental impacts.”
“I was proud to vote in favor of H 4599,” said Rep. Frank Smizik (D-Brookline) chairman of the House Committee on Climate Change. “I was especially pleased by the inclusion of key provisions from my climate adaptation management plan bill … These measures will help our state to prepare for the increasingly severe impacts of climate change and to protect our communities for decades to come.”
“Over the last month or so, the House has approved nearly $10 billion in bond spending,” said Rep. Marc Lombardo (R-Billerica). “We are already at the top of the list for states with the highest debt per capita. We can’t continue to saddle our children with enormous debt.”
The two other representatives who voted against the bill did not respond to Beacon Hill Roll Call’s requests for a comment.
(A “Yes” vote is for the package. A “No” vote is against it.)
Rep. Christine Barber Yes Rep. Mike Connolly Yes Rep. Denise Provost Yes
ALLOW TWO DAYS TO PREPARE AMENDMENTS (H 4606)
House 110-36, approved a measure giving representatives 48 hours to file amendments to a bill making changes in the state’s health care system.
Supporters said versions of this bill have been around for months and members have had many months, in addition to the 48 hours, to draft amendments.
Opponents said this is a very complicated and important bill and argued representatives should have more than 48 hours to read the current version of the bill and draft amendments.
(A “Yes” vote is for the 48-hour limit. A “No” vote is against it.)
Rep. Christine Barber Yes Rep. Mike Connolly No Rep. Denise Provost Yes
CLEAN ENERGY (S 2545)
Senate 35-0, approved and sent to the House a clean energy bill that supporters say will prepare Massachusetts for the inevitable problems that will come with climate change.
Provisions include increasing the percentage of renewable energy that must be purchased by retail electric suppliers from an additional 1 percent annually to 3 percent annually; requiring the state to adopt statewide greenhouse gas emissions limits for the years 2030 and 2040; helping the state achieve its greenhouse gas emission by establishing compliance mechanisms for the transportation, residential, commercial and industrial building sectors; lifting the cap on solar net metering; authorizing additional hydropower and offshore wind; and implementing statewide energy storage goals.
“It is urgent that we move as quickly as possible to mitigate the worst effects of global climate change, said co-sponsor Sen. Marc Pacheco (D-Taunton). “The quality of the air we breathe and the water we drink, and the number of extreme weather events that we experience will depend on what we do at the local, state, and national level. The legislation … promotes a clean energy future that will protect public health, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and create thousands of new clean energy jobs that will continue to benefit Massachusetts and the New England economy.”
“The bill gives Massachusetts a chance to fight back against the inaction being taken by Trump and his administration,” said co-sponsor Sen. Mike Barrett (D-Lexington). “Climate change is relentless, and ‘putting a price on carbon’ is the single most effective thing a state government can do to fight it.”
(A “Yes” vote is for the bill.)
Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes
LOW-INCOME HOUSEHOLDS AND SOLAR (S 2545)
Senate 34-0, approved an amendment requiring the Legislature, when passing any solar incentive program, to mandate that the state design a program whose economic and environmental benefits are equitably shared by low-income household and other communities facing barriers to accessing the program.
Amendment supporters said low-income communities are often left out of these programs. They argued this will ensure that these households get their fair share.
(A “Yes” vote is for the amendment).
Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes
ALSO UP ON BEACON HILL
MASS COMMISSION AGAINST DISCRIMINATION (MCAD) (S 1715) – The House gave initial approval to a Senate-approved bill requiring the MCAD Advisory Board to include representatives of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning youth (LGBTQ) community. Final approval is necessary in both branches before the measure goes to Gov. Carlie Baker.
The MCAD investigates and prosecutes complaints of discrimination that occur in employment, housing, public places, access to education, lending and credit.
Current law requires that representatives of several groups be on the board including labor organizations; minority racial, ethnic and linguistic groups; women; elderly and handicapped persons; and recipients of public assistance.
Sponsor Sen. Adam Hinds (D- Pittsfield) said that discrimination still persists against the LGBTQ community, but they are underrepresented on the MCAD Advisory Board. “This legislation is a logical fix, and its implementation will be significant,” continued Hinds. “This simple change to the board’s membership will go a long way in ensuring these voices are included in future deliberations.”
CITIZENS FOR LIMITED TAXATION (CLT) IN DANGER OF SHUTTING DOWN – Chip Ford, Executive Director of CLT, plans to send out one more fundraising appeal to raise enough money to continue the group’s operation when he returns from his trip to scout and choose from one of many less abusive and oppressive, more affordable places to relocate.
“The response to the mailing will determine whether CLT will be able to continue through the November election, or instead will just fade away as operating funds run out,” said Ford in CLT’s current newsletter. “I’d like to see CLT fight on through the coming election ― a final crusade on behalf of taxpayers ― but even if we somehow manage to stretch CLT’s life-support through then, it’ll be game-over, the end of an era. Forty-four Years as ‘The Voice of Massachusetts Taxpayers’ will end at 44.”
Ford said there is simply not enough support any more for the sustained effort required to defend Massachusetts taxpayers. He notes that too few and getting fewer are carrying the burden for far too many who have taken a free ride for all these decades. “Soon all will need to individually fend for themselves, without CLT, said Ford. I don’t want to be here when that happens.”
Ford concluded, “I thought you [the taxpayers] should know what’s ahead so that, like me, you too can begin making your own self-defense preparations.”
CLT’s founder, the late Barbara Anderson, passed away in April of 2016.
SHOOTING AT A HOUSE OR APARTMENT (H 4314) – The House gave initial approval to a bill imposing up to a 5-year prison sentence and/or $10,000 fine on anyone who discharges an assault weapon, firearm, large capacity weapon, machine gun, rifle, sawed-off shotgun or shotgun into a dwelling.
Supporters said there have been hundreds of these incidents in Boston since 2013. They pointed to many examples of bullets almost killing innocent victims including the September 2014 incident in which a little girl was almost hit by a bullet while sleeping in her room. They argued the penalties should reflect the serious nature of these crimes.
BALLOT QUESTIONS PROPONENTS ARE NOW WORKING TO GATHER ANOTHER 10,792 SIGNATURES BY JULY 4 – The clock is ticking away as sponsors of several possible ballot questions for the November 2018 election now face their final deadline in the long process to get their proposed law or constitutional amendment on the ballot. The Legislature did not act on any of the proposals by the May 2 deadline which means proponents must gather another 10,792 signatures by July 4, 2018, in order for the question to appear on the November 2018 ballot. The questions include:
HIKE MINIMUM WAGE – Increases the minimum hourly wage from $11 per hour to $12 in 2019, $13 in 2020, $14 in 2021 and $15 in 2022.
FAMILY AND MEDICAL LEAVE – Creates a program to provide paid family and medical leave to Massachusetts workers.
REDUCE SALES TAX TO 5 PERCENT AND ESTABLISH A PERMANENT SALES TAX HOLIDAY – Reduces the state’s sale tax from 6.25 percent to 5 percent and at the same time establishes 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 sales tax.
LIMIT THE NUMBER OF PATIENTS PER NURSE – Limits how many patients can be assigned to each registered nurse in Massachusetts hospitals and certain other healthcare facilities. The maximum number of patients per registered nurse would vary by type of unit and level of care.
CORPORATE CAMPAIGN DONATIONS – Creates a citizens’ commission to consider and recommend potential amendments to the U.S. Constitution to establish that corporations do not have the same constitutional rights as human beings and that corporations’ campaign contributions and expenditures may be regulated.
The proposal is in response to the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United v. the Federal Election Commission. In that decision, the court ruled that the First Amendment prohibits the government from restricting corporations, unions and individuals from donating unlimited funds to Super Political Action Committees (PACs) that do not donate directly to candidates or political parties.
Two other questions have already been certified to appear on the 2018 ballot:
4 PERCENT TAX HIKE ON MILLIONAIRES – Proposes a constitutional amendment that would allow a graduated income tax in Massachusetts and impose an additional 4 percent income tax, in addition to the current flat 5.10 percent tax, on taxpayers’ earnings of more than $1 million.
REPEAL TRANSGENDER RIGHTS – Repeals the new law that prohibits discrimination against transgender people in public accommodations by adding “gender identity” to existing Massachusetts law which already prohibits discrimination in public accommodations on the basis of age, race, creed, color, national origin, sexual orientation, sex, religion and marital status.
In the 2016 election, only four questions ultimately made it to the ballot. Only two of those were approved by voters and are law today. One legalized the possession, growing and sale of marijuana. The other one prohibited any farmers from confining any pigs, calves or hens in a way that prevents the animal from lying down, standing up, fully extending its limbs or turning around freely.
“‘Dear Future Boston’ is an effort to engage and encourage young people to take a leadership role in helping to create a debris-free environment.”
Nick Martin, spokesman for The Coca-Cola Company of Northern New England, on its contest that will award $30,000 to the young adult who comes up with new, innovative ideas to encourage recycling in the Bay State. More information at http://www.cocacola.promo.eprize.com/community
“Public, education and government channels should be broadcast in the same format and fashion as broadcast channels — to do anything otherwise puts local community access channels at a disadvantage that goes against FCC directives.”
From a letter sent by 20 senators urging the Senate to debate and vote on legislation that would require cable companies to provide high-definition capability to these local channels and include detailed programming information for the channels in their electronic guides.
“If you have sports betting and casinos, and fantasy sports, and the Lottery does not go online, it will shortly become irrelevant.”
State Treasurer Deb Goldberg on why she supports selling Lottery tickets online.
“I have said since this debate began that we are conceptually in favor of this concept and this notion and this sort of a law, and I think it actually builds on in many ways some of the more important and successful elements of the gun laws we have in Massachusetts already.”
Gov. Baker on the Red Flag 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 if he or she is believed to be a danger to themselves or others.
“The sky hasn’t fallen like I thought it would. If you regulate it properly, enforce the laws around it and you set up your government to help work collaboratively with the industry, good things will happen.”
Denver Mayor Michael Hancock who is working with Mayor Warty Walsh’s office to help Boston prepare for the July launch of legal marijuana sales in the Bay State. Hancock was originally opposed to its legalization in Denver.
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 June 11-15, the House met for a total of nine hours and two minutes while the Senate met for a total of nine hours and 58 minutes.
Mon. June 11 House 12:59 p.m. to 1:10 p.m.
Senate 11:33 a.m. to 11:35 a.m.
Tues. June 12 No House session
No Senate session
Wed. June 13 House 11:04 a.m. to 7:24 p.m.
No Senate session
Thurs. June 14 House 11:02 a.m. to 11:33 a.m.
Senate 11:13 a.m. to 8:41 p.m.
Fri. June 15 No House session
No Senate session
Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org