Beacon Hill Roll Call Volume 43-Report No. 47 November 19-23, 2018

By Bob Katzen

THE HOUSE AND SENATE: There were no roll calls in the House or Senate last week. This week, Beacon Hill Roll Call continues a series of reports on how local legislators in 2017-2018 voted on roll calls raising, lowering or creating new taxes.

This week: Part one of a two-part series of reports on Senate members’ votes on seven tax proposals.

Senate 29-7, approved a proposed 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 5.1 percent one, on taxpayers’ earnings of more than $1 million.

Language in the amendment requires that, “subject to appropriation,” the revenue goes to fund quality public education, affordable public colleges and universities, and for the repair and maintenance of roads, bridges and public transportation.

The proposal was supposed to go on the November ballot for voters to decide but the Supreme Judicial Court ruled that the amendment was unconstitutional because the constitution prohibits placing more than one objective in a single proposed constitutional amendment. The decision noted that the proposal imposes the tax and then stipulates how the money could be spent.

(A “Yes” vote is for the additional 4 percent tax. A “No” vote is against it.)

Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes

Senate 15-23, rejected an amendment that would raise from $1,500 to $2,000 the amount of property tax reduction seniors over 60 can earn by doing volunteer work in their city or town which has opted into this program. Local cities and towns are not required to offer the volunteer program.

(A “Yes” vote is for the hike to $2,000. A “No” vote is against the hike.)

Sen. Patricia Jehlen No

Senate 39-0, approved an amendment that would raise from $1,000 to $1,500 the amount of property tax reduction veterans can earn by doing volunteer work in their city or town which has opted into this program. Local cities and towns are not required to offer the volunteer program.

(A “Yes” vote is for the hike to $1,500.)

Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes

Senate 37-0, approved an amendment to a current law that allows veterans to do volunteer work in their city or town and get up to a $1,000 property tax reduction in exchange. Local cities and towns are not required to offer the volunteer program and the decision whether to opt in is up to each individual city or town.

The amendment would raise the limit of the allowable property tax reductions to 175 hours at the current minimum wage of $11 per hour. That would make the new ceiling $1,925.

(A “Yes” vote is for the hike to $1,925.)

Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes

Senate 38-0, approved an amendment creating a 20-member special commission to determine the feasibility of establishing local option property tax deduction programs for persons with an intellectual or developmental disability and family or friends providing care for them at home.

(A “Yes” vote is for the amendment.)

Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes

Senate 39-0, approved an amendment allowing local cities and towns to give volunteer, call or auxiliary firefighters and emergency medical technicians up to a $2,500 property tax exemption for doing volunteer work in their city or town which has opted into this program. Local cities and towns are not required to offer the volunteer program.

(A “Yes” vote is for the amendment.)

Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes

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.

(A “Yes” vote is for raising the maximum tax credit to $8 million. A “No” vote is against raising the tax credit.)

Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes


PROHIBIT HIDDEN COMPARTMENTS (H 1266) – On June 29, 2017, the House gave initial approval to a proposal that would prohibit the sale or equipping of motor vehicles with hidden compartments to conceal drugs or other illegal contraband. The proposal has been tied up ever since then in the House bills in Third Reading Committee.

REGISTRY OF ABUSERS OF PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES (S 64) – A bill establishing a Registry of Caretakers who have abused persons with an intellectual disability or developmental disability was unanimously approved by the Senate on July 18, 2018. The measure requires service providers to check the registry prior to hiring an individual as a caretaker and prohibits the hiring if the person’s name is in the registry. The proposal has been stuck in the House Ways and Means Committee since it was approved by the Senate.

“MIRACLE LEAGUE” FIELDS (S 78) – On March 29, 2018, The Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities gave a favorable report and sent to the Senate legislation that would require the state to create and fund the creation of five outdoor “miracle fields” to provide recreational resources and assist people with disabilities. The fields would be geographically distributed with at least one field each in western Massachusetts, central Massachusetts and eastern Massachusetts. The measure has been tied up in the Senate Ways and Means Committee.

BILLS SENT TO STUDY – Various committees shipped off many bills to a “study committee.” Most measures that are sent to a study committee are never actually studied and are essentially defeated. Here are some of the bills that were sent to a study committee and will likely be refiled by their sponsors in 2019:

FREE COLLEGE TUITION FOR ALL (H 633) Provides free tuition to Massachusetts residents to attend state community colleges and all other state universities.

WAIVE COLLEGE TUITION FEES FOR VETERANS (H 636) – Provides tuition and fee waivers at state universities for veterans. The cost would be paid by the state rather than the university. To qualify, a veteran must be honorably discharged from the U.S. Armed Services after at least one year of active service; designate Massachusetts as his or her intended home, and then move to and successfully establish residency in the Bay State within one year of beginning his or her college education.

DEDUCT SCHOOL AND MUNICIPAL FEES FROM INCOME TAX (H 1574) – Allows taxpayers to annually deduct all fees paid to a city or town for trash pickup or disposal, children’s transportation to or from a public school and participation in sports, academic or other student activities.

TEACHERS CAN DEDUCT SOME CLASSROOM EXPENSES (H 1586) – Allows teachers to deduct up to $250 annually of what they pay out of their pockets for classroom materials including books, supplies, computers, software and other equipment used in the classroom. The proposal mirrors the same tax deduction currently allowed by the IRS on federal tax returns.


“Massachusetts is in a congestion crisis. The quality of the experience we provide to the customers of our roads is very poor because it is marked by congestion, delay and uncertainty.”

Chris Dempsey, Director of the Transportation for Massachusetts Coalition.

“Recycling mattresses and box springs keeps these bulky items out of landfills and incinerators and can save communities significant money in disposal costs. The grants awarded through our Mattress Recycling Incentive also help communities better protect the environment and help the commonwealth meet our recycling and solid waste reduction goals.”

Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Matthew Beaton on the state’s program that has resulted in the recycling of 50,000 mattresses

“Massachusetts state and local taxes, as a share of personal income, are lower than 17 other states and lower than most states in the Northeast.”

Kurt Wise, Senior Policy Analyst at The Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center.

“Millions of Americans have a significant portion of their retirement savings in stocks, and these stock market ups and downs can take a toll on portfolios. At times like these, schemers will inevitably try to exploit investor panic.”

Secretary of State Bill Galvin cautioned investors to beware of scams that often surface when stock markets are caught in wild swings.

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 November 19-23, the House met for a total of 59 minutes and the Senate met for a total of 46 minutes.

Mon. November 12 House 11:04 a.m. to 11:23 a.m.
Senate 11:03 a.m. to 11:13 a.m.

Tues. November 13 No House session
No Senate session.

Wed. November 14 House 11:08 a.m. to 11:48 a.m.
Senate 11:16 a.m. To 11:52 a.m.

Thurs. November 16 No House session
No Senate session

Fri. November 17 No House session
No Senate session

Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at

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