Volume 43-Report No. 2 • January 8-12, 2018
Copyright © 2018 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 and Senate last week. This week, Beacon Hill Roll Call reports on the number of times each representative sided with Gov. Charlie Baker on his 179 vetoes of items in the 2017 session.

A two-thirds vote is required to override a gubernatorial veto. In a full 160-member House, there were 125 Democrats and 35 Republicans. The governor needed the support of 54 representatives to sustain a veto when all 160 representatives voted — and fewer votes when some members were absent, or a seat was vacant.

It was mostly the 34 GOP members who voted with the Republican governor to sustain the vetoes. Minority Leader Brad Jones (R-North Reading) and Rep. James Lyons (R-Andover) both voted with Baker 100 percent of the time. The GOP member who supported Baker the least number of times was Rep. David Vieira, who sided with the governor only 83 times (68.5 percent).

The vetoes had little support among the 126 Democrats in the House. Only ten of the chamber’s 126 Democrats voted with Baker to sustain any vetoes while the other 116 did not support the governor even once. The Democratic representative who supported Baker the most times was Rep. Jonathan Zlotnik (D-Gardner) who supported him seven times (3.9 percent). The other nine representatives who supported the governor did so only on one veto each (less than 1 percent).

PERCENTAGE OF TIMES REPRESENTATIVES SUPPORTED GOV. BAKER ON VETOES
Here are how local representatives fared in their support of Gov. Baker on the 179 vetoes.

The percentage next to the representative’s name represents the percentage of times he or she supported Baker’s vetoes.

The number in parentheses represents the number of times he or she supported Baker’s vetoes.

Some members voted on all 179 roll call votes. Others missed one or more of the 179 votes. Each record is based on the number of roll calls on which a representative voted and does not count the roll calls for which he or she was absent.

Rep. Christine Barber   0 percent (0)
Rep. Mike Connolly      0.55 percent (1)
Rep. Denise Provost     0.85 percent (1)

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ALSO UP ON BEACON HILL

“MOVE OVER” FOR UTILITY AND CONSTRUCTION VEHICLES (H 4244) – The House gave initial approval to a bill expanding the current “Move Over Law” to include public utility and construction vehicles. Current requires drivers to reduce their speed to that of a “reasonable and safe speed for road conditions” when they spot an emergency vehicle with flashing lights on the side of the highway. It currently applies only to fire trucks, police vehicles, ambulances, disaster vehicles and highway maintenance vehicles.

“This bill would expand the law to apply to utility and construction workers who are parked on the side of the road carrying out highway maintenance, so the law would no longer be limited to just law enforcement and first responders,” said Rep. Harold Naughton (D-Clinton), the bill’s sponsor. “Protecting the utility workforce involved in important public safety-related activities is an important part of improving the safety of work zones and the commonwealth as a whole.”

“Utility vehicles are on the streets doing important and hazardous work during times of emergency, and motorists should approach utility workers with caution just as they would a recovery or emergency response vehicle,” said Rep. Bill Straus (D-Mattapoisett), House chair of the Transportation Committee.

SECRETARY GALVIN ANNOUNCES DATE OF 2018 STATE PRIMARY ELECTION – Secretary of State Bill Galvin announced that the 2018 state primaries will be held on Tuesday, September 4 instead of Tuesday, September 18, the original date established by law. This year September 18 coincides with the important Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur. If there is a conflict with a religious holiday, state law requires Galvin to move the primary to a date within seven days of the second Tuesday in September, which this year is September 11. That gave Galvin a choice of the 15 days from Sept. 4 until Sept. 18 to hold the election.

A logical choice would be to hold the election the week before on Tuesday, September 11, but that would create another problem because that date coincides with the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah. These circumstances led to Galvin choosing September 4.

Galvin also will be proposing legislation to allow each city and town to hold five days of early voting prior to the state primaries. “Given the interest we are already seeing in the primaries and the successful implementation of early voting in the 2016 state election, I believe offering early voting for the state primaries would provide a greater opportunity for voter participation,” Galvin said.

The League of Women Voters of Massachusetts (LWVMA) said it is pleased that Galvin has embraced the league’s recommendation to extend early voting days to the primary. “We are disappointed in the timing of the primary, which is earlier than the dates LWVMA recommended,” said the league’s President Mary Ann Ashton. “Voting on the day after Labor Day will prove challenging for voters in the commonwealth, especially for families preparing children for the start of school, and for candidates who are eager to get their message out to voters.”

Boston City Councilor Josh Zakim, who is challenging Galvin for the Democratic nomination for secretary of state, was less kind.

“It is outrageous and unprecedented to schedule a statewide primary for the day after Labor Day, when people are just returning from their summer vacations and haven’t had time to focus on the upcoming election,” Zakim said.

Zakim accused Galvin of brazenly trying to depress voter turnout. “We should be making it easier and more convenient for people to vote, not putting up additional barriers,” he said. “There are any number of dates that he could have selected that would have made it easier for working people and young people to get to the polls despite busy work and school schedules. I’m running for secretary of the commonwealth to make government more accessible to the people it serves. Scheduling this vote the day after Labor Day achieves the exact opposite.”
When asked to respond to Zakim’s charges, Deb O’Malley, spokeswoman for Galvin said, “I have no comment on this.”

THE EFFECT OF THE FEDERAL TAX CHANGES ON THE BAY STATE – The Revenue Committee will hold a public hearing on Tuesday, January 23 at 11 a.m. in the Gardner Auditorium at the Statehouse on the impact on Massachusetts and its taxpayers of the many recent changes in federal tax law approved by Congress and signed by President Trump. The committee will also hear testimony on identifying and exploring creative ways in which the state might respond to counteract any ill-effects of the federal changes.

Front and center will be the part of the new federal code that beginning in 2018 caps at $10,000 the deduction of state and local taxes for taxpayers who itemize. Prior to this, there was no limit to the amount of those taxes that could be deducted.

“As the federal tax law reform begins to take its effect on state and local revenues, it’s imperative we explore how this will affect Massachusetts residents,” said Sen. Michael Brady (D-Brockton), Senate Chair of the Revenue Committee.

“The hearing is our chance to digest the impact of the massive federal tax cut and to explore appropriate actions we can or should take to protect the interests of the citizens, communities and commonwealth of Massachusetts,” said House Revenue Committee Chair, Rep. Jay Kaufman (D-Lexington).

The hearing comes on the heels of a report released last week by the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation reporting that of the $19 billion Bay State taxpayers could deduct under the system in place in 2015 before the passage of the new law, some $7.5 billion of that will no longer be available. The report also states that 34 percent of Massachusetts tax filers in 2015 claimed state and location tax deductions, with an average deductible claim of $17,000.

NO MORE DEBIT CARDS FOR POT PURCHASES – Many of the Bay State’s 18 medical marijuana dispensaries have ceased to take debit cards and have become cash-only operations. The debit card companies that process payments for the dispensaries severed their relationship with the shops out of fear they could be prosecuted for their participation in the sale of marijuana.

This action was a result of U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts Andrew Lelling’s statement that he would not rule out prosecution of any of the many players in the state’s marijuana industry.

“Congress has unambiguously made it a federal crime to cultivate, distribute and/or possess marijuana,” said Lelling. “As a law enforcement officer in the Executive Branch, it is my sworn responsibility to enforce that law, guided by the Principles of Federal Prosecution. Deciding, in advance, to immunize a certain category of actors from federal prosecution would be to effectively amend the laws Congress has already passed, and that I will not do. The kind of categorical relief sought by those engaged in state-level marijuana legalization efforts can only come from the legislative process.”

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QUOTABLE QUOTESSpecial Taxes Edition

On Monday, Jan. 8: “Much too early to discuss that at all.” — House Speaker Robert DeLeo (D-Winthrop), when asked about the possibility of new taxes or tax hikes this year.

On Tuesday, Jan 9: “Beacon Hill Democrats just won’t learn. After a year where they achieved next to nothing except a massive pay hike for themselves, they’re already floating the idea of new taxes on hardworking families.” — MassGOP Chairman Kirsten Hughes following DeLeo’s statement.

On Wednesday, Jan. 10. “The House will not be proposing any new broad-based taxes in its budget.” — DeLeo, following Hughes’s statement.

On Thursday, Jan. 11: “Grab your wallets, folks! The Legislature apparently is going down the same rabbit hole as political leaders in other high-tax, high-spending, Democrat-dominated states have desperately plunged. [The Legislature is] … intent on protecting their wealthiest state taxpayers by scheming to circumvent federal tax policy — while simultaneously plotting to soak the same taxpayers with a state ‘Millionaire’s Tax.’” — Chip Ford, Executive Director of Citizens for Limited Taxation. The “Millionaire’s Tax is a 2018 ballot question that would allow the state to impose an additional 4 percent income tax, in addition to the current 5.10 percent tax, on taxpayers’ earnings of more than $1 million.

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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 January 8-12, the House met for a total of 25 minutes while the Senate met for a total of two hours and 57 minutes.

Mon. January 8
House 11:02 a.m. to 11:11 a.m.
Senate 11:11 a.m. to 11:21 a.m.

Tues. January 9
No House session
No Senate session

Wed. January 10
No House session
No Senate session

Thurs. January 11
House 11:02 a.m. to 11:18 a.m.
Senate 11:07 a.m. to 1:54 p.m.

Fri. January 12
No House session
No Senate session

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Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at bob@beaconhillrollcall.com