By Bob Katzen
THE HOUSE AND SENATE. Beacon Hill Roll Call records local senators’ votes on roll calls from the week of May 20-24. There were no roll calls in the House last week.
All Senate roll calls are on the Senate debate of the $42.8 billion fiscal 2020 state budget. Many of the 1142 amendments filed by senators never came to a roll call vote and were simply approved or rejected one at a time on voice votes without debate.
To move things along even faster, the Senate also did its usual “bundling” of many amendments. Instead of acting on the amendments one at a time, hundreds of the proposed amendments are bundled and put into two piles—one pile that will be approved and the other that will be rejected with a single vote on each pile.
Senate President Karen Spilka, or the senator who is filling in for her at the podium, orchestrates the approval and rejection of the bundled amendments with a simple: “All those in favor say ‘aye,’ those opposed say ‘no.’ The ayes have it and the amendments are approved.” Or, “All those in favor say ‘aye,’ those opposed say ‘no.’ The no’s have it and the amendments are rejected.”
Senators don’t actually vote yes or no and, in fact, they don’t say a word. The outcome was determined earlier behind closed doors.
$42.8 BILLION FISCAL 2019 BUDGET (S 3)
Senate 40-0, approved an estimated $42.8 billion fiscal 2020 budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1. Over a three-day period, the Senate added an estimated $74 million to the original version of the budget and considered and voted on more than 1,100 proposed amendments.
Supporters said the budget is a fiscally responsible and balanced one that makes vital investments in the state while continuing fiscal responsibility.
“We can be really proud of the work we have accomplished,” said Senate President Karen Spilka (D-Ashland). “We expressed our best hopes for the future of our commonwealth and together we made the hard decisions to produce a fiscally responsible budget that truly reflects our Senate values.”
The House has approved a different version of the budget. A House-Senate conference committee will hammer out a compromise version and send it to the governor.
(A “Yes” vote is for the budget.)
Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes
INCREASE IN REGISTER OF DEEDS FEES (S 3)
Senate 38-2, approved an amendment that would raise the existing surcharge on most Registry of Deeds’ real estate transaction fees by $30 (from $20 to $50). This money helps to fund the Community Preservation Act (CPA) which helps cities and towns preserve open space and historic sites, create affordable housing and develop outdoor recreational facilities.
Amendment supporters said that when the fund was created in 2000, the state was able to provide communities with a 100 percent match of the funds the community raised through their local option surcharge of up to 3 percent of the local property tax. The state now only matches about 11 percent because of a lack of funding.
“I have been trying to increase revenue for the state CPA matching funds for several sessions,” said Sen. Cindy Creem (D-Newton), the sponsor of the amendment. “Over 170 communities are waiting for us to keep our state’s promise to meaningfully partner with them for housing, historic preservation, open space and recreation. Raising the match from 11 percent to 30 percent will help move these important projects along.”
“I do not support making housing transaction costs in the commonwealth more expensive when not all cities and towns are opted into the CPA program,” said Sen. Ryan Fattman (R-Webster). “Massachusetts housing and closing costs are already consistently highest in the nation.”
“The state is realizing record tax revenue exceeding our benchmark by over 900 million dollars,” said Sen. Dean Tran (R-Leominster). “This is indicative of a strong economy and an example of why we should put an emphasis on economic development, creating jobs and help put people to work so that they can provide for their families. It is not the time to raise taxes and fees.”
(A “Yes” vote is for raising the surcharge. A “No” vote is against raising it.)
Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes
SECURITY OF ELECTIONS (S 3)
Senate 9-30, rejected an amendment that would require the secretary of state, in consultation with the United States Election Assistance Commission (EAC), to develop new rules and standards to ensure the cyber-security and general security of elections in the commonwealth to combat election fraud and other election security threats. The bill requires the rules to comply with those established by the United States Department of Homeland Security.
Amendment supporters said the integrity of our democracy and voting system must be protected. They noted that the state has received $7.9 million from the federal government for the state to spend on election security but has only spent $1 million.
Amendment opponents said the EAC and the Department of Homeland Security have not yet issued any guidelines for the state to follow. They noted they support improving election security but argued the state will have to wait until the federal government can get its act together so we can use the funds allocated to us to work on these issues with them.
(A “Yes” vote is for the amendment. A “No” vote is against it.)
Sen. Patricia Jehlen No
RAISE MINIMUM EDUCATION AID TO CITIES AND TOWNS (S 3 )
Senate 7-32, rejected an amendment that would increase the minimum Chapter 70 education aid each city and town receives from $30 per pupil to $100 per pupil.
Amendment supporters said that despite the $268 million increase in education aid in the budget, more than 180 school districts would see a hike of only $30 per student this year. They argued that the $30 figure is unfair and insufficient for those districts’ needs.
“There are suburban and rural communities that are unfairly represented in the chapter 70 education funding formula and rely upon minimum aid funding per student in the state budget,” said Sen. Ryan Fattman (R-Webster). “One hundred and eighty-two districts across the commonwealth are minimum aid districts with declining student enrollment and $100 per student would have adequately helped these districts which suffer from a broken education funding mechanism.”
“I was encouraged by the Senate’s commitment to invest in our public school system,” said Sen. Vinny deMacedo (R-Plymouth). “However, the Senate’s $300 million investment would have had a minimal effect on the communities I represent. As minimum aid communities they would benefit most from a higher per pupil commitment. By spending $100 per pupil the Senate would have been able to better meet the budget needs of my communities and the educational goals of their students.”
Some amendment opponents said that even districts receiving the minimum will still see an increase in Chapter 70 aid next year. They noted that the education aid in the Senate is significantly higher than the plan proposed by Gov. Baker and the one approved by the House last month. Others said the Senate should tackle the broader issue of school funding through legislation now pending that will update and make major changes in the school funding formula.
“The Senate fiscal year 2020 budget provides $268 million more in Chapter 70 funding to our local school districts than in fiscal year 2019, the largest annual increase in two decades,” said Sen. Jason Lewis (D-Winchester) who opposed the amendment. “This budget also makes significant progress in implementing the recommendations of the Foundation Budget Review Commission, in order to ensure that our public schools are adequately and equitably funded so that every student across the commonwealth has access to a great education.”
(A “Yes” vote is for the $100 per pupil. A “No” vote is against it.)
Sen. Patricia Jehlen No
$1.5 MILLION FOR CIVICS EDUCATION (S 3)
Senate 39-0, approved an amendment providing $1.5 million for the Civics Project Trust Fund to promote civics education in the state.
Amendment supporters said that this funding is a beginning and will capitalize the Civics Project Trust Fund, created by the Legislature last year as part of a broader civics bill, to support the infrastructure, curriculum resources and professional development needed to integrate high-quality civics education into our schools beginning in September 2020.
“This money is a down payment on the future of civics education in Massachusetts,” said Sen. Harriette Chandler (D-Worcester), the sponsor of the amendment. “The students that will take these history courses and participate in these civics projects are the future leaders of this state. The future leaders of this state deserve a curriculum that has received robust investment.”
The civics education law that was signed into law last year added more topics the civics courses must cover including the function and composition of the branches of local, state and federal government; the roles and responsibilities of a citizen in a democracy; the development of skills to access, analyze and evaluate written and digital media as it relates to history and civics; community diversity and historical trends in voter registration; civic participation relative to disenfranchised voter populations; opportunities to identify and debate issues relative to power, economic status and the common good in democracy.
Other provisions include requiring each public school serving grades eight to 12 to provide at least one student-led civics project for each student; and requiring the state to provide information to cities and promote youth membership on municipal boards, committees and commissions.
(A “Yes” vote is for the $1.5 million.)
Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes
$350,000 FOR SUICIDE PREVENTION (S 3)
Senate 39-0, approved an amendment increasing funding by $350,000 (from $4,469,372 to $4,819,372) for suicide prevention.
“One of my top priorities this session is mental health and suicide prevention, and this amendment ensures that key programs are maintained to provide much-needed services,” said the amendment’s sponsor Sen. Barry Finegold (D-Andover). “We’re facing an epidemic of teen suicide across the country. While teen drunk driving and teen pregnancy rates are way down, suicide rates for teen girls have doubled in recent years, and suicide rates for teen boys have increased by more than 30 percent. This funding, paired with my legislative agenda this session, would look out for our most vulnerable young people and give them the resources they need.”
A “Yes” vote is for the $350,000.)
Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes
$500,000 FOR SECURITY (S 3)
Senate 40-0, approved an amendment that would provide $500,000 for a nonprofit security grant program to provide support for target hardening and other physical security enhancements to nonprofit organizations that are at high risk of terrorist attacks or hate crimes and are ineligible for the United States Department of Homeland Security’s Nonprofit Security Urban Area Grant Program based on their location.
“Unfortunately, we have seen a troubling rise in hate crimes across Massachusetts,” said Sen. Eric Lesser (D-Longmeadow), the sponsor of the amendment. “These incidents are meant to intimidate some people in our communities, and they tear at the fabric of who we are as a country based on the equal right of everyone to participate in our democracy. With these security grants for synagogues, mosques, community centers and other organizations, we have made clear that hate has no place in our commonwealth.”
(A “Yes” vote is for the $500,000.)
Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes
ALSO UP ON BEACON HILL
DEFAULT ON STUDENT LOANS (S 737) – A bill before the Judiciary Committee would repeal a current law passed in 1990, which created professional licensure consequences for anyone who defaults on their student loan. Under existing law, the Massachusetts Educational Financing Authority and the American Student Assistance can request that a borrower’s state-issued professional or occupational certificate, registration, or license be suspended, revoked or cancelled for default on educational loans made or administered by either group.
“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), lead sponsor of the bill in the Senate.
EARLY COLLEGE HIGH SCHOOL PROGRAMS (H 1238) – A bill before the Higher Education Committee would put the state’s Early College High School Program into state law. The program was formed administratively by the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Board of Higher Education. In 2017 the two boards launched a joint initiative to establish guiding principles and designation standards for Early College High School programs.
In March 2017, Gov. Charlie Baker announced the state would make efforts to significantly increase the number of early college seats available to high school students. During the 2018-2019 school year, an estimated 1,500 students were enrolled in designated early college programs around the state. Enrollment is expected to jump to 2,280 for the 2019-2020 school year.
According to the state’s Higher Education website, “the program combines traditional high school classes with college courses through a local public college or university to give students knowledge and exposure to an area of study, while earning up to 12 college credits – equivalent to one semester – for free. Early college boosts college completion rates for low-income students, minority students, and first-generation college-goers by exposing students to college-level work and different career pathways before they graduate high school. The college courses are designed to fulfill high school graduation requirements and award college credit.”
“By offering the opportunity for high school students to earn no-cost college credits, the Early College program exposes students who are traditionally underrepresented in higher education to rigorous college coursework and boosts their chances of earning a postsecondary degree,” said Rep. Alice Peisch (D-Wellesley), the bill’s sponsor. “This bill would codify the state’s existing program to promote its expansion, placing more students on a path to college success.”
DENY MEDICALLY NECESSARY SERVICES – Attorney General Maura Healey today joined a coalition of 23 states, cities and counties in filing a lawsuit against the Trump administration over its new rule granting health care providers the authority to deny medically necessary treatments, services and information on the basis of religious or moral views.
“Access to medically accurate and necessary health care is a basic civil right,” Healey said. “Providers should not be able to use their personal beliefs as an excuse to deny needed care. We are suing to protect the lives and health of our residents.”
“The rule opens the door for a physician and other practitioners to bring his or her bias into a patient encounter and justify denial of care based on the patient’s racial identification, national or ethnic origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, religious affiliation, disability, immigration status, or economic status,” said Dr. Maryanne Bombaugh, President of the Massachusetts Medical Society.
“Healey’s lawsuit has more to do with political posturing than legal redress,” said Catholic Action League Executive Director C.J. Doyle. “The attorney general knows fully well that in 1991 the U. S. Supreme Court, in Rust v. Sullivan, upheld the right of the Reagan Administration to enact the very same compliance integrity measures now prescribed by the Trump Administration.”
“For Healey, it is also about serving a powerful special interest which has advanced her career in elective office,” continued Doyle. “As Maura Healey was endorsed by the Planned Parenthood Advocacy Fund of Massachusetts in both 2014 and 2018, it is unsurprising that she would seek to block the Trump Administration from withdrawing tens of millions of taxpayer dollars from an organization whose support for her candidacy she described as a game changer for our campaign.”
YOUTH PUBLIC AWARENESS CAMPAIGN: “RESPECTFULLY” – Gov. Charlie Baker announced the launch of “RESPECTfully,” a $500,000 statewide public awareness and prevention campaign to promote healthy relationships among middle school and high school students. The campaign’s goal is to promote healthy relationships among young people and prevent sexual assault and domestic violence.
Provisions include increasing awareness about what constitutes a healthy relationship by defining characteristics using examples of acceptable vs. unacceptable behaviors; focusing on promoting healthy relationships and confronting the issues around healthy boundaries and behaviors while communicating key components around respect and honesty through short videos with modern animations conveying a clear message on social media platforms that teens are using every day; and encouraging parents, caregivers and adults in youth-serving organizations (educators, mentors and school resource officers, among others) to have open, honest, non-judgmental and continuous conversations with youth about respect in friendships and romantic relationships
“The ‘RESPECTfully’ campaign builds upon the hard work that Lt. Gov. Polito and the [Governor’s] Council have done to address prevention, protect Massachusetts’ youth and expand programs for survivors,” said Gov. Baker. “I am proud to launch this initiative to provide children in Massachusetts with the tools they need to succeed and encourage parents and youth-serving organizations to engage and promote the campaign throughout the commonwealth.”
The campaign spots will be on social media channels including Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube from the end of May through October. The campaign images will also appear on transit stations, Registry of Motor Vehicle locations, MassPort Digital Panels, convenience stores and billboards throughout the state.
For more information about the program, go to http://www.mass.gov/RESPECTfully
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 20-24, the House met for a total of one hour and 28 minutes while the Senate met for a total of 32 hours and 51 minutes.
Mon. May 20 House 11:00 a.m. to 11:41 a.m.
Senate 11:08 a.m. to 11:43 a.m.
Tues. May 21 No House session
Senate 10:50 a.m. to 8:26 p.m.
Wed. May 22 House 11:04 a.m. to 7:31 p.m.
Senate 11:06 a.m. to 9:56 p.m.
Thurs. May 23 House 11:02 a.m. to 11:49 a.m.
Senate 10:46 a.m. to 10:28 p.m.
Fri. May 24 No House session
No Senate session
Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at email@example.com