Volume 41-Report No. 20 • May 16-20, 2016
Copyright © 2016 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’ and representatives’ votes on roll calls from the week of May 16-20.

4 PERCENT TAX HIKE ON MILLIONAIRES (H 3933)
House and Senate held a constitutional convention and approved 135-57 (House approved 102-50, Senate approved 33-7), a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow a graduated income tax in Massachusetts and impose an additional 4 percent income tax, in addition to the current flat 5.10 percent one, on taxpayers’ earnings of more than $1 million. The proposal garnered the required vote of at least 25 percent (50 members) of the 2015-2016 Legislature and will go on the November 2018 ballot if approved by 50 members of the 2017-2018 Legislature.

The amendment is being proposed by the group Raise Up Massachusetts, which gathered the necessary signatures to bring the measure to the Legislature. Language in the amendment requires that, “subject to appropriation,” the revenue goes to fund quality public education, affordable public colleges and universities, and for the repair and maintenance of roads, bridges and public transportation.

Supporters said the amendment is a reasonable one that will affect only 14,000 very wealthy individuals and will raise $1.9 billion in additional revenue. They said the requirement to use the revenue for education and transportation will benefit millions of Bay State taxpayers. They argued the hike would help lower income families which are now paying a higher share of their income in taxes.

Opponents said that if the amendment becomes law, the state will soon regain its dreaded title of “Taxachusetts.” They argued the new tax will lead to the loss of 9,500 private sector jobs and will result in many millionaires moving out of the state and a loss of all income tax revenue from them. They argued that the 1.9 billion, “subject to appropriation,” will go into the General Fund and be up for grabs for anything. They noted the amendment will result in class warfare and higher taxes on millions of taxpayers by allowing the Legislature to establish different tax rates for different levels of income.

(A “Yes” vote is for the additional 4 percent tax. A “No” vote is against it.)

Rep. Christine Barber      Yes
Rep. Denise Provost        Didn’t Vote
Rep. Timothy Toomey    Yes
Sen. Patricia Jehlen        Yes

REDUCE INCOME TAX TO 5 PERCENT AND STRIKE MILLIONAIRE TAX (H 3933)
Constitutional convention rejected 42-148 (House rejected 35-115, Senate approved 7-33), an amendment that would eliminate the proposed additional 4 percent tax on millionaires and instead reduce the income tax from 5.10 to 5 percent beginning in January 2019.

Amendment supporters said that voters in 2000 approved a gradual reduction of that year’s 5.85 percent tax to five percent by January 2003, and it is time for the Legislature to honor that vote. They argued that the billions of dollars saved by taxpayers will be pumped back into the economy.

Some opponents said that the amendment dismisses the will of 157,000 people who signed an initiative petition to get this millionaire’s tax to the Legislature and on the ballot. Others said the state simply cannot afford to lose billions of dollars in revenue that will result in severe cuts to very important programs like education, local aid, mental health and substance abuse.

(A “Yes” vote if for the amendment reducing the income tax to 5 percent instead of taxing millionaires another 4 percent. A “No” vote is against the amendment.)

Rep. Christine Barber      No
Rep. Denise Provost        Didn’t Vote
Rep. Timothy Toomey    No
Sen. Patricia Jehlen        No

APPROVE BOTH INCOME TAX CUT TO 5 PERCENT AND THE MILLIONAIRE’S TAX (H 3933)
Constitutional convention rejected 42-147 (House rejected 36-114, Senate rejected 6-33), an amendment that would keep the proposed additional 4 percent tax on millionaires but also reduce the income tax from 5.10 to 5 percent beginning in January 2019.

Amendment supporters said this compromise is a fair one that honors the will of voters to put the 4 percent tax hike on the ballot and to reduce the income tax to 5 percent.

Amendment opponents again said the state cannot afford to lose millions of dollars with an income tax reduction. They noted that the income tax has been reduced from 5.85 percent to 5.1 since 2000 and will likely be reduced to 5 percent in two years under an automatic trigger that reduces the income tax by one-half of one percent each year that the state’s economic growth is at least 2.5 percent.

(A “Yes” vote is for the reduction in the income tax from 5.10 percent to 5 percent. A “No” vote is against it.)

Rep. Christine Barber      No
Rep. Denise Provost        Didn’t Vote
Rep. Timothy Toomey    No
Sen. Patricia Jehlen        No

ENSURE EXTRA REVENUE GOES TO EDUCATION AND TRANSPORTATION (H 3933)
Constitutional convention rejected 64-138 (House rejected 56-106, Senate rejected 8-32) an amendment requiring that the estimated $1.9 billion in annual revenue generated by the 4 percent millionaire’s tax be used on top of the amount of money funded for education and transportation for those programs in the prior year, and not in lieu of it.

Amendment supporters said without this requirement, future Legislatures could play a game in which the money the state currently spends on education and transportation will be moved to other projects and the $1.9 billion generated by the 4 percent tax will simply replace that money with no net gain in education and transportation spending.

Amendment opponents said the Legislature should not change this citizens-sponsored initiative. The argued the proposed constitutional amendment already ensures the $1.9 billion will go to transportation and education.

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

Rep. Christine Barber      No
Rep. Denise Provost        Didn’t Vote
Rep. Timothy Toomey    No
Sen. Patricia Jehlen        No

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ALSO UP ON BEACON HILL

ALLOW MEDICAL ASSISTANTS TO GIVE FLU SHOTS (H 3895) – The House approved and sent to the Senate a bill that would allow certified medical assistants who work in a doctor’s office to give flu and other immunization shots to patients. A certified medical technician is an individual who is a graduate of a post-secondary medical assisting education and performs basic administrative, clerical and clinical duties under the direct supervision of a doctor.

Supporters said this will free up the time of doctors and nurses so they can work on more urgent medical issues.

NELSON MANDELA (H 2929, S 2295) – The House and Senate approved different versions of bills creating a special commission to consider establishing a designed space or facility on the Esplanade, and/or Madison Park High School in Boston commemorating the visit and speeches of Nelson Mandela to Boston in June 1990.

ELDERLY ABUSE (S 2277) – The Elder Affairs Committee held a hearing on a bill designed to protect seniors from abuse. The measure would prohibit individuals, employed as caregivers in a licensed facility, home health agency or homemaker agency who are under investigation or convicted on charges of serious elder abuse, from continuing to work with seniors or people with disabilities.

RAPISTS AND PARENTAL RIGHTS (H 4265) – The Judiciary Committee held a hearing on a bill limiting the parental rights of convicted rapists. The measure prohibits convicted rapists from obtaining visitation rights to see the child born from the rape unless the judge determines that visitation is in the best interest of the child and the mother of the child consents to visitation.

CAR RENTALS USED IN CRIMES (H 4248) – The Judiciary Committee held a hearing on legislation making it a crime to rent a car, knowing that it will be used in the commission of a felony. A convicted offender would be considered an “accessory before the fact of the crime” and be sentenced to a 2.5-year prison sentence and/or up to a $10,000 fine.

QUOTABLE QUOTES

“Today’s vote marks the first step in changing our tax code to a more equitable and fair system to fund our serious needs in transportation infrastructure and education.” — Senate President Stan Rosenberg (D-Amherst) on the Legislature’s vote to impose an additional 4 percent income tax on taxpayers’ earnings of more than $1 million.

“Citizens for Limited Taxation (CLT) will be prepared to fight this latest noxious proposal all the way to the 2018 ballot – as we last did successfully in 1994.” — CLT’s reaction to the additional 4 percent income tax on taxpayers’ earnings of more than $1 million.

“No one should die because a friend or stranger is too afraid to call 911.” — Attorney General Maura Healey on ““ake the Right Call,” a new public information campaign to encourage people to call 911 at the first signs of a drug overdose.

“Nobody should be allowed to rape themselves a family.” — Rep. Michelle DuBois (D-Brockton) on her bill to limit the parental rights of convicted rapists.

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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 May 16-20, the House met for a total of six hours and 28 minutes and the Senate met for a total of seven hours and 3 minutes.

Mon. May 16
House 11:02 a.m. to 11:27 a.m.
Senate 11:13 a.m. to 12:02 p.m.

Tues. May 17
No House session
No Senate session

Wed. May 18
House 12:33 a.m. to 4:23 p.m.
Senate 1:07 p.m. to 4:08 p.m.

Thurs. May 19
House 11:03 a.m. to 1:16 p.m.
Senate 11:06 a.m. to 2:19 p.m.

Fri. May 20
No House session
No Senate session

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Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at bob@beaconhillrollcall.com