Copyright © 2010 Beacon Hill Roll Call. All Rights Reserved.

By Bob Katzen

THE HOUSE AND SENATE. Beacon Hill Roll Call records the votes of local representatives on four roll call and the votes of local senators on three roll calls from the week of July 19-23.

 $2.3 MILLION FOR FIRE SERVICES (H 4800)

House 150-0, Senate 37-0, overrode Gov. Patrick’s veto reduction of $2.3 million (from $16.8 million to $14.5 million) for fire services. The funds are used for administration of the Department of Fire Services, including the Office of the State Fire Marshal, the Hazardous Materials Emergency Response Program, the Board of Fire Prevention Regulations and the Massachusetts Firefighting Academy.

 Supporters of the $2.3 million said that the cuts would hurt the ability to respond to dangerous hazardous material situations and to train recruits to become firefighters. They noted that the $2.3 million would come from an assessment on insurance companies and not from taxpayers’ pockets.

In his veto message, Patrick said that he is “striking language which earmarks funding for programs not recommended and reducing this item to the amount projected to be necessary.” (A “Yes” vote is for the $2.3 million.)

Rep. Denise Provost          Yes                                         

Rep. Carl Sciortino          Yes                                         

Rep. Timothy Toomey          Yes                                         

Sen. Sal DiDomenico          Yes                                         

Sen. Patricia Jehlen         Yes                                    

 NATIONAL POPULAR VOTE (H 4156)

House 116-34, gave final approval to and sent to the Senate legislation that would make Massachusetts a member of the Agreement Among the States to Elect the President by National Popular Vote. The agreement would require states that join the pact to cast all of their electoral votes for the presidential candidate who wins a majority of the national popular vote in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The pact would become effective when states representing at least 270 electoral votes – a majority of the 538-vote Electoral College – join this compact. States currently have a number of electoral votes equal to the number of senators and representatives that the state has in Congress. This endeavor is led by Fair Vote, a national group that says Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland and New Jersey, with a total of 50 electoral votes, have already joined the agreement.  

Supporters said that the Electoral College is an antiquated system that gives voters in states with a large number of electoral votes more voting power than those in other states and was designed by the framers because they did not trust the common citizen to vote correctly. They argued that the Electoral College leads presidential candidates to concentrate on and campaign in a handful of swing states while ignoring most of the states that are already solidly Democratic or Republican. 

Some opponents said that the Electoral College is a good system that has worked well and should not be changed. They argued that the Electoral College actually gives voters in smaller states power that they would not have if the president was elected strictly by a popular vote system in which candidates would concentrate on states with larger populations.  

The measure needs only final approval in the Senate before it goes to Gov. Patrick.  

(A “Yes” vote is for the bill making Massachusetts a member of the pact. A “No” vote is against the bill).

 Rep. Denise Provost          Yes                                         

Rep. Carl Sciortino          Yes                                         

Rep. Timothy Toomey          Yes                                    

PRINT ELECTION BALLOTS IN CHINESE AND VIETNAMESE (H 4880)

 House 118-35, approved a bill requiring the city of Boston to prepare ballots in Chinese and Vietnamese for all federal, state and municipal elections. The proposal mandates these ballots in polling places in which there are 35 or more voters who speak only Chinese or 30 or more voters who speak only Vietnamese.

It also requires that Chinese ballots be transliterated by the Boston Board of Election Commissioners to include the printing of Chinese characters to represent the phonetic equivalent of the syllables of an English name. The board would inform each candidate of the transliteration of his or her name. The candidate could accept the transliteration, request that it be changed or decline that it be used on the ballot.

Supporters said that the law is needed in order to allow many elderly Asian-Americans who do not read English to participate in the voting process. They noted that the transliteration is necessary because the Chinese language does not use the Western alphabet.

 Opponents argued that transliteration is imprecise and would confuse voters. They questioned why only Chinese voters should receive this special treatment. Secretary of State William Galvin is one of the bill’s chief opponents. 

The Senate approved the measure on a voice vote without a roll call and sent it to Gov. Patrick.

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

 Rep. Denise Provost          Yes                                         

Rep. Carl Sciortino          Yes                                         

Rep. Timothy Toomey          Yes                                     

 $12.5 MILLION FOR WORKFORCE TRAINING (H 4800)

    House 106-43, overrode Gov. Patrick’s $12.5 veto reduction (from $24 million to $11.5 million) in funding for workforce training grants. These funds come from the Workforce Training Fund that was established in 1998 and is financed by Massachusetts employers.

    Supporters of keeping the $12.5 million said it is important to fund these grants that provide resources to Massachusetts businesses to train employees and improve their skills. They argued that the $12.5 million is particularly important because of the state’s high unemployment.

    In his veto message, Patrick said there is $10 million for this program that was not spent last year. He noted that combined with the $11.5 million that remains following his veto, there would still be $21 million left for this important program. Opponents of the $12.5 million noted that if the veto is overridden, there will be a total of $33.5 million in the fund – more than anyone thinks is needed.

    (A “Yes” vote is for overriding Patrick’s reduction and for keeping the $12.5 million. A “No” vote is against overriding Patrick’s reduction and against keeping the $12.5 million.) 

Rep. Denise Provost          Yes                                         

Rep. Carl Sciortino          Yes                                         

Rep. Timothy Toomey          Yes                                     

 MALPRACTICE CHANGES (H 4915)

House 24-128, rejected an amendment that would make changes in the state’s medical malpractice laws, including reducing from $500,000 to $250,000 the maximum a plaintiff could receive for non-economic damages. Other provisions would prohibit physicians and nurses who volunteer to help during emergencies and disasters from being held liable for civil damages for any act or omission; require expert witnesses to be board-qualified in the same specialty as the defendant and allow defendants to spread any payments out over a period of time.

 Amendment supporters said tort reform has long been ignored in the effort to reform and lower the costs of health care. They argued that the amendment would be a step forward toward lowering health care costs.

Amendment opponents urged members to wait until separate legislation proposing a comprehensive and permanent solution is presented to the Legislature. (A “Yes” vote is for the malpractice changes. A “No” vote is against the changes.)

Rep. Denise Provost          No                                          

Rep. Carl Sciortino          No                                          

Rep. Timothy Toomey          No                                     

 CORPORATE MANSLAUGHTER (H 1614)

 Senate 37-0, approved a bill that would increase the current $1,000 fine to up to $250,000 for the crime of “manslaughter by a corporation” under which a corporation could be convicted and punished for culpable conduct that leads to a person’s death. The measure also allows the state to debar from future state business a corporation indicted for corporate manslaughter and requires the state to debar for up to ten years a corporation convicted of the crime.

 Supporters said that this long overdue legislation would finally crack down on corporations responsible for lost lives. They noted it is outrageous Bechtel was found responsible and paid restitution for the death of a woman who lost her life in the 2006 Big Dig ceiling collapse but is still bidding on and receiving state contracts.

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

    (A “Yes” vote is for the bill.)

 Sen. Sal DiDomenico          Yes                                         

Sen. Patricia Jehlen         Yes                                    

 MORE NUTRITIOUS FOOD IN SCHOOLS (H 4919)

 Senate 37-0, approved and sent to Gov. Patrick a bill that would ban junk food in schools and require the Department of Public Health to develop new, healthy nutritional standards for food sold in all school cafeterias and vending machines.

The proposal mandates that the standards include requiring that schools offer fruits or vegetables, drinking water at no cost and nutritional information about any non-prepackaged foods. It also bans the use of fryolators in the preparation of food.

 Other provisions create a special commission on nutrition and childhood obesity; establish guidelines to assist school nurses in screening and referring children suffering from childhood obesity, diabetes and eating disorders; require that all schools include nutrition and exercise in their curricula and encourage public schools, colleges and universities to purchase locally grown foods from Massachusetts farms.    

 Supporters said schools should not promote the sale of junk food and drinks that are unhealthy and have contributed to an increase in child obesity and diabetes. They noted that one in three Massachusetts middle school students and one in four high school students is overweight or obese.

   (A “Yes” vote is for the nutrition bill).

Sen. Sal DiDomenico          Yes                                         

Sen. Patricia Jehlen         Yes                                    

 ALSO UP ON BEACON HILL

 LOGAN’S LAW BANS DEVOCALIZATION OF DOGS AND CATS – The nation’s first state law banning devocalization of dogs and cats took effect on July 21, marked by a celebration at the Statehouse. Rep. Ruth Balser (D-Newton), one of the law’s 59 legislative sponsors, and Coalition to Protect and Rescue Pets, which campaigned for it, sponsored the event.  Speaking to Logan’s Law supporters, Rep. Balser said this historic humane law was the impetus for pending federal legislation that would provide cruelty prevention grants of up to $1 million to states that ban devocalization of dogs and cats. Coalition spokeswoman Beth Birnbaum said, “Kudos to Beacon Hill for hearing the majority voice of ordinary citizens above the din of monied lobbies.”

Devocalization, or cutting vocal cords to stifle an animal’s voice, is widely considered cruel; 84% of Massachusetts adults oppose it, according to a recent poll. Logan’s Law was named for a show dog whose breeder had him devocalized, then abandoned him when he stopped winning blue ribbons. This is not unusual, according to his adopter, Gayle Fitzpatrick, founder, Friends of the Plymouth Pound. Fitzpatrick said Logan rasped, gagged and retched persistently as a result of devocalization surgery till he died, and that “no animal deserves this.”  

ALLOW HOME HEALTH AIDES TO ADMINISTER PILLS (S 860) – The House approved a Senate-approved bill that would allow home health aides, if delegated to do so by a nurse, to administer certain medications to seniors at home. The aide would first have to complete a training course. Supporters said that this would ensure seniors are taking their medication and help keep more in their homes.

NURSING HOME RESIDENTS (H 4637) – The House and Senate approved and sent to Gov. Patrick legislation that would require each new nursing home resident or family member to be given an informational packet that would include the laws and regulations governing nursing homes. The material would be written by the Department of Public Health in layperson’s language.

EUNICE KENNEDY SHRIVER DAY (H 4796) – The Senate approved a House-approved bill designating the fourth Saturday in September Eunice Kennedy Shriver Day. Shriver, the sister of the late Sen. Ted Kennedy and the founder of the Special Olympics, passed away in August. The measure needs only final approval in each branch prior to going to Gov. Patrick.

 QUOTABLE QUOTES

 “You have given Logan back the voice that was stolen from him in life.”  

Gayle Fitzpatrick, Friends of the Plymouth Pound, thanking the Legislature for passing Logan’s Law, the first state law banning devocalization of dogs and cats. The law is named in memory of the devocalized dog she rescued.

  “I’m speaking.” 

 Acting Senate President Joan Menard responding to Sen. Robert Hedlund (R-Weymouth), who was saying “Madame President” in order to get Menard’s attention so he could make a point of parliamentary inquiry.

 “I pledge allegiance to the flack.”

Incorrect on-screen captioning for the hard of hearing and deaf of senators reciting the Pledge of Allegiance during the Senate session broadcast online last Thursday.

 “Mitt Romney’s name was translated a short time ago and The (Boston) Globe had it down as ‘sticky or uncooked rice.’ Fred Thompson, another presidential candidate, was ‘virtual soup.’ But my favorite of all time is Mayor Thomas Menino … The first alternative was ‘rainbow farmer’ and the second one was ‘imbecile.’”

 Sen. Michael Morrissey (D-Quincy) offering some examples of how candidates’ names have been transliterated into Chinese characters. The Senate was debating a bill that would require the city of Boston to prepare ballots in Chinese and Vietnamese for all federal, state and municipal elections.

 “I think it’s a good reason for the general public to turn on Democrats. I can see why the general public, the populace, would rebel.”

Rep. David Flynn (D-Bridgewater) commenting to the State House News Service on the House and Senate’s failure to reach agreement on a gambling bill. Flynn, a lifelong Democrat and longest serving member of the House, favors the House version that calls for 3,000 slot machines – 750 at each of the state’s two horse racing tracks and two former dog racing tracks. Senate President Therese Murray and Gov. Patrick both oppose the slot machines.

 Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at bob@beaconhillrollcall.com

 

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