Volume 40-Report No. 24 • June 19, 2015
Copyright © 2015 Beacon Hill Roll Call. All Rights Reserved. By Bob Katzen
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Our Legislators in the House and Senate for Somerville:

barber_webRep. Christine Barber
DISTRICT REPRESENTED: Thirty-fourth Middlesex. – Consisting of all precincts in wards 4 and 5, precinct 1 of ward 7, and precinct 2 of ward 8, of the city of Medford, precincts 1 and 2 of ward 4, and all precincts of ward 7, of the city of Somerville, both in the county of Middlesex.

Rep. Denise Provost
DISTRICT REPRESENTED: Twenty-seventh Middlesex. – Consisting of precinct 3 of ward 2, all precincts of ward 3, precinct 3 of ward 4, and all precincts of wards 5 and 6, of the city of Somerville, in the county of Middlesex.

Rep. Timothy Toomey
DISTRICT REPRESENTED: Twenty-sixth Middlesex. – Consisting of all precincts of ward 1, precinct 1 of ward 2, precincts 1 and 2 of ward 3, and precinct 1 of ward 6, of the city of Cambridge, and all precincts of ward 1 and precincts 1 and 2 of ward 2, of the city of Somerville, both in the county of Middlesex.

Sen. Patricia Jehlen
DISTRICT REPRESENTED: Second Middlesex. – Consisting of the cities of Cambridge, wards 9 to 11, inclusive, Medford and Somerville, and the town of Winchester, precincts 4 to 7, inclusive, in the county of Middlesex.

*THE HOUSE AND SENATE. Beacon Hill Roll Call records local senators’ votes on roll calls from debate on the $38.1 billion fiscal 2016 state budget. There were no roll calls in the House or Senate last week.

$2.5 MILLION FOR REGIONAL SCHOOL TRANSPORTATION (S 3 – Amendment #545)
Senate 39-0, approved an amendment increasing funding for state reimbursement to communities for regional school district transportation by $2.5 million (from $56.5 million to $59 million).

Supporters said these 85 regional school districts are having financial problems and noted that the state currently reimburses only some of the school transportation costs despite a promise several years ago that it would reimburse 100 percent. They noted that last year the state reimbursed 80 percent and this increase would bring the current year up to 75 percent.

(A “Yes” vote is for the $2.5 million.)

Sen. Patricia Jehlen    Yes

ADDITIONAL $2 MILLION FOR MASSACHUSETTS CULTURAL COUNCIL (S 3 – Amendment #130)
Senate 39-0, approved an amendment increasing funding for The Massachusetts Cultural Council (MCC) by $2 million (from $12 million to $14 million). According to its website, the MCC is a state agency that promotes “excellence, access, education, and diversity in the arts, humanities, and interpretive sciences to improve the quality of life for all Massachusetts residents and contribute to the economic vitality of our communities.” The agency offers grant programs, partnerships and services to nonprofit cultural organizations as well as schools and local cities and towns.

Amendment supporters said the cultural economy contributes to the quality of life and is an economic driver. They said the additional $2 million will generate more than that amount in the long term in hotel and meals taxes.

(A “Yes” vote is for full the $2 million.)

Sen. Patricia Jehlen    Yes

ADDITIONAL $500,000 FOR ADULT EDUCATION (S 3 – Amendment #564)
Senate 39-0, approved an amendment increasing funding for basic adult education by $500,000 (from $30.3 million to $30.8 million).

Amendment supporters said there are currently over 18,000 people on waiting lists for these services, which will change their lives and help them get a high school equivalency diploma. They said the average dropout can expect to earn $36,400 per year less than someone with a degree.

(A “Yes” vote is for full the $500,000.)

Sen. Patricia Jehlen    Yes

ALSO UP ON BEACON HILL

SENATE TAX HIKES ARE LEGAL ACCORDING TO SUPREME JUDICIAL COURT (SJC) – The SJC ruled in favor of the Senate and said that the changes in tax policy, including a permanent freeze of the income tax rate at its current 5.15 percent, included in the Senate version of the fiscal 2016 budget were legal. The House, which did not include the hikes in its version of the budget, had challenged the Senate’s authority to raise taxes, saying that under the constitution, the Senate can only include changes in tax policy if the House version already included changes in tax policy. The ruling said that since the House had included a delay in the implementation of a business tax break and expanded a tax credit for land conservation, the Senate had the authority to include additional tax policy changes in its budget.

In addition to freezing the income tax at 5.15 percent instead of letting it drop to as low as 5 percent over the next few years, the Senate budget freezes the income tax rate at its current 5.15 percent; increases over a three-year period the earned income tax credit for low-income working families with children living at home from 15 percent to 22.5 percent of the federal credit; and raises personal income tax exemptions.

A six-member House-Senate conference committee is working on drafting a compromise version of the budget that may or may not include the tax hikes and tax cuts.

PROHIBIT LOWER TUITION RATES FOR ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS (H 1054) – The Higher Education Committee will hold a public hearing on July 15 at 11 a.m. in room A-2 at the Statehouse in Boston on a bill that would prohibit Massachusetts state universities from offering lower in-state tuition and fees to illegal immigrants and their children. Currently, the lower tuition rate is offered to legal citizens who live in the Bay State and Massachusetts students who have been accepted into the federal program for those who immigrated illegally to the country as children and have a work permit.

Supporters say the state should not offer financial rewards to anyone who has broken the law and is in this country illegally. They argued it is outrageous to offer low tuition rates to these students while legal citizens from outside Massachusetts, including war veterans, are required to pay higher rates if they attend a Massachusetts state university.

Opponents say many of these students were babies when they were brought here by their parents and had no choice about entering the country illegally. They noted some hardworking students are currently required to pay out-of-state tuition rates that are significantly higher than the in-state rate.

VETERANS AND MEMORIAL DAY OFF WITH PAY (H 3162) – The Veterans Affairs Committee will hold a public hearing on Tuesday, July 14,  at 12:30 p.m. at Battleship Cove in Fall River on legislation allowing veterans a day off with pay on Memorial Day and Veterans Day. Current law allows employees who want to participate in a Veterans Day or Memorial Day parade or service to be given the day off with or without pay at the discretion of the employer. Both the current and proposed law do not apply to employees whose services are essential and critical to public health or safety.

DESIGNATE ON BALLOT THAT CANDIDATE IS A VETERAN (H 3160) – Another proposal on the Veterans Affairs Committee agenda on July 14 would permit the word “veteran” to be placed next to any candidate’s name, if requested by the candidate, on any general election and city or town election ballot. Current law only allows this designation on primary election ballots.

CLOTHESLINES (S 1056) – The Municipalities and Regional Government Committee held a hearing on a local option bill that would prohibit a condominium association from unreasonably prohibiting the installation or use of clotheslines. The law would only take effect in cities or towns that opt into it.

Supporters said that using a clothesline in place of energy-intensive automatic dryers is a low-tech way of cutting energy use, reducing pollution and saving on bills. They noted the bill will protect the aesthetic and safety interests of homeowners by allowing homeowners’ associations to impose reasonable location and manner restrictions on clothesline use.

LICENSE AND REGULATE AU PAIRS AND NANNIES (H 117) – The Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities held a hearing on legislation that would require the state to establish a licensing process for employment and placement agencies engaged in placing au pairs and nannies in a private residence to perform child care services. The agencies would be required to provide verification to the state that each au pair and nanny, prior to being placed in a private residence, has the proper screening, background checks and psychological assessments.

FIRE CHIEF MUST HAVE EXPERIENCE (H 2141) – The Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security held a hearing on a bill prohibiting anyone from being appointed to the position of fire chief in any city or town unless he or she has been a uniformed member of the firefighting force of a fire department for a minimum of ten years.

QUOTABLE QUOTES

“Firefighters have cancer rates three times higher than the general public. When we enter a home fire we breathe in gasses and toxins from flame retardants that put us at a higher risk. We’re calling on the legislature for swift passage of this bill as it will no doubt save lives.” — Edward Kelly, president of the Professional Firefighters of Massachusetts, testifying on legislation that would ban the use of hazardous flame retardants in children’s products and upholstered furniture.

“We are always mindful of the impact that raising fees will have on our students and their families and, we approach such decisions with the utmost caution and reluctance.” — Victor Woolridge, chairman of the Umass Board of Trustees, on its vote to raise tuition and the mandatory curriculum fee by up to 5 percent for in-state undergraduates.

“There’s only one thing that’s gone up faster than the cost of health care over the course of the past 30 years, and that’s the cost of higher education.” — Gov. Charlie Baker expressing his opposition to the Umass tuition hikes.

“There is history and tradition of Boston and what it’s all about and I don’t want to lose that and that should be reflected in the 2024 Olympics. If they do it right, I think it will work; and if they don’t do it right, then we will be critical of it.” — Former Boston Mayor Ray Flynn on his support to bring the 2024 Olympics to Massachusetts.

“Effective July 6th, the so-called ‘honor box’ payment system will no longer exist at MBTA parking lots. The MBTA is eliminating the much-maligned process of folding individual dollar bills and stuffing them into tiny slots.” — Massachusetts Department of Transportation memo on the MBTA’s new convenient PayByPhone method which allows customers to pay parking fees by using any phone or any internet connected device.

“All of you have worked tirelessly in your communities without recognition or fanfare to improve the lives of your friends and neighbors. You represent a breadth of knowledge, compassion and diversity, and for that all of you should be proud.” — House Speaker Robert DeLeo (D-Winthrop) on the event honoring 100 women from around the state as “unsung heroines” by the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women for the work they do in their communities.

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 15-19, the House met for a total of 30 minutes and the Senate met for a total of 23 minutes.

Mon. June 15
House 11:00 a.m. to 11:11 a.m.
Senate 11:03 a.m. to 11:13 a.m.

Tues. June 16
No House session
No Senate session

Wed. June 17
No House session
No Senate session

Thurs. June 18
House 11:00 a.m. to 11:19 a.m.
Senate 11:05 a.m. to 11:18 a.m.

Fri. June 19
No House session
No Senate session

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Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at bob@beaconhillrollcall.com