Beacon Hill Roll Call Volume 43 -Report No. 52 December 24-28, 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 concludes a series of reports on how local legislators voted on legislation that was approved in the 2017-2018 session by the House and Senate and signed into law by Gov. Charlie Baker.

The 2017-2018 Legislative session ends on January 1 and the new 2019-2020 session begins on January 2.

House 145-3, Senate 38-0, approved a $3.8 billion bond package allowing the state to borrow funds for improvements to state and local buildings, facilities and grounds across the state which would include repairs, reconstruction, demolition, remediation, rehabilitation, modernization, disposition and renovations.

Provisions include $950 million for state universities and colleges; $760 million for courts and $500 million for police stations, fire stations and other public safety-related buildings.

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 is required to adhere to the state’s annual bond borrowing cap and ultimately decides which projects are affordable and actually get funded.

Sometimes legislators will immediately tout the inclusion of local projects in these bond bills, especially in an election year to show they “brought home the bacon.” But Beacon Hill Roll Call informs readers that none of the projects in this package have been funded and most will end up never being funded because of the debt limit.

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

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

House 119-24, Senate 30-8, approved a bill that over five years would hike the minimum wage from $11 to $15, increase the wage for tipped workers from $3.75 to $6.75 and phase out over five years extra pay for employees who work on Sundays and holidays; institute a permanent sales tax holiday on a weekend every August; and establish a $1 billion family and medical leave program funded by a payroll tax paid for by both employers and employees.

(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

House 133-15, Senate 36-1, approved 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.

(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

House 138-9, Senate 38-0, approved a bill that would eliminate old state laws restricting or banning abortion and contraception.

The laws repealed include the ban on unmarried people accessing abortion and contraception; the ban on distributing information on how to procure contraception or abortion care; a law which punishes doctors, pharmacists and all healthcare providers for distributing contraception or providing abortion care; and a ban on adultery and fornication.

(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


$1.2 MILLION IN PAY HIKES FOR LEGISLATORS, GOV. BAKER AND OTHERS – A total of $1.2 million per year is the price tag for the salary hikes given last week to the governor, the other five constitutional statewide officers, 40 senators and 160 representatives. Here’s how it all went down:

Gov. Baker announced that the 200 members of the Legislature will receive a 5.93 percent pay hike for the 2019-2020 legislative session that begins January 2. The hike will increase the base salary of each senator and representative by $3,709 per year – from the current $62,547 to $66,256. The total cost of the hike for all 200 legislators is $741,800.

Baker was required under the state constitution to determine the amount of a pay raise or cut that state legislators would receive for the 2019-2020 session. All Massachusetts governors are obligated to increase or decrease legislative salaries biennially under the terms of a constitutional amendment approved by the voters in 1998. The amendment, approved by a better than two-to-one margin, requires legislative salaries to be “increased or decreased at the same rate as increases or decreases in the median household income for the commonwealth for the preceding 2-year period, as ascertained by the governor.” Baker said he used the United States Census Bureau’s American Community Survey to calculate that median household income in Massachusetts from for that 2-year period had grown from $73,052 to $77,385, or 5.93 percent.

Legislators’ salaries were increased by $2,515 for the 2017-2018 legislative session. That hike came on the heels of a salary freeze for the 2015-2016 legislative session, a $1,100 pay cut for the 2013-2014 session and a $306 pay cut for the 2011-2012 session. Prior to 2011, legislators’ salaries had been raised every two years since the $46,410 base pay was first raised under the constitutional amendment in 2001.

The new $66,256 salary means legislative salaries have been raised $19,846, or 42.7 percent, since the mandated salary adjustment became part of the state constitution.

In the meantime, a second pay hike for close to 70 percent of the state’s 200 legislators also takes effect January 2. Currently 139, or 69.5 percent, of the state’s 200 legislators receive a stipend for their service in Democratic or Republican leadership positions, as committee chairs or vice chairs and as the ranking Republican on some committees. All 40 senators and 99 of the 160 representatives receive this bonus pay ranging from $15,000 to $80,000. A pay raise approved by the Legislature in 2017 requires that every two years the salaries of these 139 legislators are increased or decreased based on data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) that measures the quarterly change in salaries and wages. This year, State Treasurer Deb Goldberg’s office said that based on that formula, these stipends will increase by 8.3 percent. That means the total of the stipends will increase by $249,010 per year, from the current $3,127,350 to $3,376,360.

The highest legislative increases will go to House Speaker Bob DeLeo and Senate President Karen Spilka who currently earn $142,547 made up of the $62,547 base salary and an $80,000 bonus for being House speaker and Senate president. The 8.3 percent bump in $80,000 is worth $6,640. Add the $3,709 hike and DeLeo and Spilka’s annual salary increases to $152,896 – an increase of $11,260 or 9.3 percent.

And there’s more. The 2017 law also requires that every two years the salaries of the governor and the other five constitutional statewide officers be increased or decreased based on the same data from the BEA. This hikes the governor’s salary by $15,355, from $185,000 to $200,355, making him the highest paid governor in the nation, just ahead of Gov. Jerry Brown of California at $195,803. Add Baker’s $60,00 housing allowance and the total rises to $260,355. Other hikes include the lt. governor, auditor and secretary of state by $13,695, from $165,000 to $178,695 ; the state treasurer and attorney general by $14,525 from $175,000 to $189,525.

The 8.3 percent hike also applies to the general expense allowance each senator and representative receives. Members whose districts are within a 50-mile radius of the Statehouse currently receive $15,000 per year while members beyond the 50 miles receive $20,000 per year. The $15,000 will increase by $1,250 (to a total of $16,250). The $20,000 will increase by $1,660 to a total of $21,660. The grand total of the hike for the 200 legislators is $207,090.

This allowance is used at the discretion of individual legislators to support a variety of costs including the renting of a district office, contributions to local civic groups and the printing and mailing of newsletters. Legislators are issued a 1099 from the state and are required to report the allowance as income but are not required to submit an accounting of how they spend it.

MINIMUM WAGE HIKE ON JANUARY 1 – The state’s minimum wage goes from $11 per hour to $12 per hour beginning January 1. It is the first step in an annual hike of $1 until it reaches $15 per hour in 2022. The Legislature approved the raise in June 2018 and Gov. Baker signed it into law. The raise was part of a package which also included an increase in the wage for tipped workers from $3.75 to $6.75 over five years; the phase out over five years of extra pay for employees who work on Sundays and holidays; a permanent sales tax holiday on a weekend every August; and a $1 billion family and medical leave program funded by a payroll tax paid for by both employers and employees.

According to a new study released by the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, the hike will benefit an estimated 662,000 workers, with a total wage increase of $817.5 million. The study says the hike will give a raise to 68 percent of food service workers and about a third of workers in human services – including human service workers in the fields of child welfare, disability services and elder services.

“Minimum wage increases are essential to helping people put food on the table, and they help support the local economies in which workers spend their money,” said Jeremy Thompson, Senior Policy Analyst at MassBudget. “Moreover, if not for periodic minimum wage increases, hundreds of thousands of the lowest-wage workers in the state would have seen the real value of their wages fall over the past couple of decades.”

“This is a positive step for Massachusetts, but our work is not done,” said Marie-Frances Rivera, Interim President of MassBudget. “In a state with such a high cost of living, we need to do more work to make sure our family, friends, and neighbors can make ends meet.”

“Combined with the recently implemented $3 increase (which began January 1, 2015), this $4 increase over five years adds up to nearly a 90 percent increase in the Massachusetts state minimum wage,” said Jon Hurst President of the Retailers Association of Massachusetts who opposes the hike. “This unprecedented and dramatic 88 percent increase over nine years compares to a likely cumulative inflation rate of under 20 percent. Profitability for small employers with tight margins will be severely impacted, as will the availability of jobs for teenagers, which already number far fewer in Massachusetts than in the late 90s.

Hurst noted that 39 states have teen wages but Massachusetts does not despite having the highest minimum wage in the nation. Teen wages allow employers to pay workers under 18 years a lower minimum wage. “Beacon Hill leaders should make our young people a priority and pass legislation in 2019 authorizing a 90-day teen wage to incent employers from stores, restaurants, municipalities, to YMCAs to hire our 14-17-year olds,” concluded Hurst.

Paul Craney, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance said, “The New York Times, hardly a conservative publication, once wrote in their January 14, 1987 editorial: ‘The idea of using a minimum wage to overcome poverty is old, honorable — and fundamentally flawed. It’s time to put this hoary debate behind us and find a better way to improve the lives of people who work very hard for very little.’”

“Those words are just as true today,” continued Craney. “When government regulates something, you get less of it. When government increases the cost of labor, it only hurts the consumer and the workers who will be offered less low skilled jobs.”

GAS SAFETY (H 5005) – The House and Senate approved and sent to Gov. Baker a bill that would require that all-natural gas work that might pose a material risk to the public be reviewed and approved by a certified professional engineer to ensure the safe construction, operation and maintenance of gas infrastructure. The bill is based on a recommendation made by the National Transportation Safety Board after investigating the series of fires and explosions on September 13 that killed one person and damaged homes and businesses throughout Andover, North Andover and Lawrence.

ALLOW COUPONS FOR DRUGS (H 4825) – The House and Senate approved and sent to Gov. Baker a bill extending until 2020 the current law, due to expire in 2019, that allows consumers to use coupons to get discounts and rebates when purchasing prescription drugs. In 2012, Massachusetts was the last state to lift a ban on the use of prescription coupons. The measure also requires the state to analyze and issue a report by June 1, 2019 on the effect of these discounts and rebates, on pharmaceutical spending and health care costs in Massachusetts.

In 2012, Massachusetts was the last state to lift a ban on the use of prescription coupons. The ban was lifted for only two years to see how it worked and has been lifted for another two years several times. The ban originally was designed to was prevent drug companies from trying to induce customers into buying their drugs. Supporters of lifting the ban say that the unintended consequence of the ban was that it resulted in people being prohibited from saving money on prescriptions. They say the lifting of the ban helps lower the cost of prescription drugs for seniors and others who otherwise might not be able to afford them.

Opponents argue the use of coupons drives up health care costs by luring consumers and encouraging them to request high-priced brand name medication.

CONFIDENTIALITY OF MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES (S 2684) – The House and Senate approved and sent to Gov. Baker a bill aimed at ensuring confidentiality for first responders who seek mental health services from a peer counselor. Current law does not guarantee confidentiality.

“These sensible confidentiality protections will allow our firefighters, paramedics and law enforcement officers to seek the help they need without fear of stigmatization,” said 22-year law enforcement official and the bill’s sponsor Sen. Michael Moore (D-Millbury). “The recent loss of Worcester Firefighter Christopher Roy only further highlights the importance of ensuring that services are available to support those impacted by the loss of a colleague, friend and member of a department’s family.”

BENEFITS FOR LOCKED OUT GAS WORKERS (S 2692) – On Christmas Eve the House and Senate approved and sent to Gov. Baker a bill extending unemployment benefits to workers during a lockout until the lockout has ended. The bill was filed in response to the current lockout of more than 1,200 National Grid workers which began in June but applies to all workers locked out of any job. These workers will run out of their initial six-month unemployment compensation in January. The cost of the extended benefits would be paid by all employers in the state who currently pay into the unemployment insurance system.

The House originally favored tapping the utility responsible for the lockout to cover the unemployment costs while the Senate preferred using the existing unemployment insurance system to cover the costs. The House finally agreed with the Senate. The measure prohibits utility companies that lock out their workers from passing on the costs to ratepayers of any additional unemployment insurance assessments the imposed on the employer.

“The Baker-Polito Administration is grateful for the Legislature acting quickly and will now carefully review the legislation while looking forward to both sides reaching a compromise to end the lockout this week,” said Baker spokesman Brendan Moss.

ONE FINAL LOOK AT THE 2017-2018 LEGISLATURE – As we say goodbye to the 2017-2018 Legislature, let’s take a final look at the composition of both branches. The first number listed applies to the Senate and the second number applies to the House. Figures are courtesy of Craig Sandler and David Art of the Massachusetts Political Almanac.

80 and 77
Age of the oldest senator and representative

31 and 23
Age of the youngest senator and representative

38 percent and 28 percent
Percent of senators and representatives whose only job is being a legislator

15 percent and 15 percent
Percent of senators and representatives who are attorneys

4 percent and 4 percent
Percent of senators and representatives who are small business owners

100 percent and 97 percent
The percent of senators and representatives who are college graduates

64 percent and 43 percent
Percent of senators and representatives who have advanced degrees

78 percent and 72 percent
Percent of senators and representatives who were born in Massachusetts

0 percent and 19 percent
Percent of senators and representatives who were born outside the U.S.

27.5 percent and 21.3 percent
Percent of women in the Senate and House

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 December 24-28, the House met for a total of nine hours and 42 minutes while the Senate met for a total of six hours and two minutes.

Mon. December 24 House 11:00 a.m. to 11:26 a.m.
Senate 11:03 a.m. to 11:44 a.m.

Tues. December 25 No House session
No Senate session

Wed. December 26 House 11:06 a.m. to 11:14 a.m.
No Senate session

Thurs. December 27 House 11:04 a.m. to 4:12 p.m.
Senate 11:19 a.m. to 4:40 p.m.

Fri. December 28 House 11:05 a.m. to 3:05 p.m
No Senate session

Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.