Volume 42-Report No. 15 • April 17-21, 2017
Copyright © 2017 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. Mike Connolly
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: There were no roll calls in the House or Senate last week.

Do you know that cranberry juice is the Bay State’s official beverage? The corn muffin is the official muffin? The Boston Terrier is the official dog? The chocolate cookie is the official cookie? Dr. Seuss is the official children’s author? The Rolling Rock in Fall River is the official glacial rock? These designations were approved by the Legislature over the past several decades and signed into law by the governor at that time.

There are dozens of other “official designations” dating as far back as 1918 when the Mayflower was designated the official state flower.

Most of these types of bills are filed by legislators on behalf of classes of students. It is not too late for students to propose a bill for the 2017-2018 session. Teachers and students should contact their local senators or representatives.

Sponsors of the various proposals say this is a way to teach youngsters about the legislative process. The children often go up to Beacon Hill to testify in favor of their bill.

Some critics say that the perennial filing of such proposals wastes the valuable time of the Legislature, which should be dealing with real issues and serious legislation.

One of the more unique ones that has not been approved is the proposal making the Fluffernutter, a sandwich combining peanut butter and Marshmallow Fluff on white bread, the state’s official sandwich. The concoction was invented in 1917 and the recipe was purchased by North Shore natives Allen Durkee and Fred Mower. It is still made in a small manufacturing plant in Lynn.

Other unsuccessful proposals from past years include making the late Rex Trailer, the iconic Massachusetts children’s television host, the official state cowboy; the “Number 6” the official state number; double fudge brownie the official ice cream; squash the official vegetable and Necco wafers the official candy.

Two of the most controversial of the successful designations are the 2007 vote making basketball the official state sport and the 2012 one making volleyball the state’s official recreational and team sport. Both were approved but there was some rare opposition.

Volleyball supporters explain that volleyball was invented in 1895 in Holyoke by William Morgan. Basketball supporters say that the National Basketball Hall of Fame is located in Springfield and note the game was invented in 1891 in that city by James Naismith, a gym teacher at the YMCA Training School. They also point out that that the Celtics have won more NBA championships than any other team.

Red Sox fans point to the team’s recent World Series wins and argue that Boston has been and always will be “a baseball town.” Supporters of the Patriots point to the team’ recent Super Bowl victories. Bruins fans point to the Stanley Cup win in 2011 and the team’s rich history.

Of the thousands of bills filed for the 2017-2018 session, there are many that attempt to designate “something” as the state’s official “something.”

Here are some of the proposals up for consideration this session:

OFFICIAL STATE ROCK SONG (H 1683) – One measure that was filed by a legislator and not on behalf of any students, is the one that would make Roadrunner by The Modern Lovers the state’s official rock song. The proposal was first filed in 2013 by Weymouth Mayor Bob Hedlund and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh. Both men were state legislators at that time.

Rep. Dave Linsky (D-Natick) picked up the torch and filed the bill in 2015 but it went nowhere. He has filed it again this year. Linsky tells Beacon Hill Roll Call that The Modern Lovers were a Boston-based rock band led by Jonathan Richman who is a Natick native, the town in which Linsky was born and currently represents as a state representative.

“Roadrunner, ranked the 274th Greatest Song of All Time by Rolling Stone Magazine, embodies what it was like for my generation growing up in the Massachusetts of the 1970s and 1980s,” said Linsky. “The lyrics of the song take the listener on a late-night car ride down Massachusetts Route 128, passing by several Bay State landmarks, including Stop & Shop, Howard Johnson’s, Routes 9 and 128 and the Massachusetts Turnpike. Roadrunner combines the liberation of youth on the open road with the sights and sounds (Radio on!) of our beloved Commonwealth.”

Reps. James Cantwell (D-Marshfield) and Josh Cutler (D-Duxbury) had originally disagreed with the choice of Roadrunner. In 2014, they filed a competing bill that would make Aerosmith’s Dream On the official rock song. They have since compromised. “We agreed to support Roadrunner as [the] state rock song,” said Cutler. “Aerosmith makes more sense as [the state’s] official rock band.” The duo plans to eventually file the Aerosmith bill.

OFFICIAL SHELLFISH (H 1654) – The quahog, a hard-shelled clam enjoyed by many seafood lovers. It also served as a form of currency for Native American tribes.

OFFICIAL TEXTILE (H 3376) – Gingham. The Town of Clinton was a world leader in the manufacture of cotton gingham fabric. According to the town’s website, “In 1828 the Bigelow brothers, Erastus and Horatio, started an industrial revolution that left a lasting mark on the many aspects of Clinton. Erastus, a mechanical genius, invented the power loom for manufacturing coachlace, counterpane cloths and gingham plaids. With Horatio, a marketing entrepreneur, the brothers captured a firm hold on the textile industry.”

OFFICIAL CUPCAKE (H 1701) – The Boston Cream Pie Cupcake as the official cupcake. Need we say more?

OFFICIAL SEASONING (H 1693) -Bell’s Seasoning as the official seasoning. It was created in 1867 by Boston inventor William Bell and is manufactured in East Weymouth.

OFFICIAL BUTTERFLY (H 3364) –  The Black Swallowtail as the official butterfly.  Sponsors say this is an opportunity to educate, inform and engage the public as butterflies play a role in maintaining a healthy environment and are an important contributor to the ecosystem and help promote plant diversity.

OFFICIAL COUNTY SONG (H 1717) – 14 Counties of Massachusetts as the state’s official county song.  The song was written by Darci Hamman and her third-grade class at Our Lady’s Academy, a private catholic school in Waltham, to provide a fun and engaging way for students across the state to learn the names of the 14 counties of Massachusetts.

The entire list of official state symbols/designations can be found online at: http://www.sec.state.ma.us/cis/cispdf/Mass_Facts.pdf

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ALSO UP ON BEACON HILL

REVENUE COMMITTEE HEARINGS IN MAY – The Revenue Committee will hold several hearings in May including:

ENCOURAGE PROPERTY IMPROVEMENTS (H 1641) –  May 1 at 10 a.m. in Room B-2 in the Statehouse on a proposal that would allow homeowners living in a home worth $500,000 or less to deduct the cost of any home improvements from their property tax. The owner can deduct 100 percent of the increase in the tax liability because of the cost of the improvements in the first year and 50 percent of the costs in the second year. The deductions would be allowed only if a community votes to opt into this new incentive.

NO CORPORATE EXCISE TAX (H 1481) – May 9 at 1 p.m. in Room B-2 in the Statehouse on legislation that will exempt businesses with fewer than 25 employees from paying the corporate excise tax for the first three years they are in business. Currently, the mandatory minimum corporate excise tax is $456.
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TAX WEALTHY PRIVATE COLLEGES (H 1617) – Also included at the May 9 hearing is a bill that would impose a 2.5 percent tax on any private college that has an endowment fund of more than $1 billion. The funds would go into a newly-created Educational Opportunity for All Trust Fund that would be used exclusively for the purposes of subsidizing the cost of higher education, early education and child care for lower-income and middle-class residents of the Bay State.

RESIDENTIAL RENEWABLE ENERGY CREDIT (H 3320) –May 16 at 10 a.m. in Room A-1 in the Statehouse on a bill that will allow a residential renewable energy credit of up to $1,000 for installing solar and wind equipment at a person’s second home. Current law offers the credit only for a primary residence. The credit offsets a taxpayer’s personal income tax in the year that the system was financed.

HANDS-FREE PHONES ONLY (S 1908) – The Transportation Committee held a public hearing on a bill that would ban the use of hand-held cell phones for all drivers but allow them to use a hands-free cell phone with voice-activated dialing. Supporters said that it is dangerous to dial and talk on the phone while driving. They argued that the bill would save lives, prevent serious injuries and make the roads safer for everyone. Amendment opponents said that the amendment goes too far and is unnecessary government intrusion into people’s cars and rights. They noted that there are already many existing laws that prohibit all types of distracted driving.

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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 April 17-21, the House met for a total of 21 minutes and the Senate met for a total of 16 minutes.

Mon. April 17
No House session
No Senate session

Tues. April 18
House 11:02 a.m. to 11:09 a.m.
Senate 11:04 a.m. to 11:16 a.m

Wed. April 19
No House session
No Senate session

Thurs. April 20
House 11:03 a.m. to 11:17 a.m.
Senate 11:05 a.m. to 11:09 a.m.

Fri. April 21
No House session
No Senate session

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Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at bob@beaconhillrollcall.com