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Beacon hill roll

THE HOUSE AND SENATE. There were no roll calls in the House or Senate last week. The debate over immigration continues to dominate the news following President Trump’s new version of an executive order restricting travel to the U.S. from six countries with links to terrorism.

Where do local state representatives stand on the immigration issue? This week, Beacon Hill Roll Call researched local representative’s votes on several roll calls on the immigration issue from 2013 through 2016. Here are the results.

The first three House roll call votes involve successful attempts by Speaker Robert DeLeo and his Democratic leadership team to prevent Democratic members from having to vote directly against several Republican proposals to restrict access to state funding by illegal immigrants. The Democrats, with a current 125 to 35 membership advantage, control the House.

Here's an example of how it works: The Republicans offer a proposal banning illegal immigrant students from paying the preferred, lower in-state tuition rates and fees at Massachusetts state universities. If the Democratic leadership does nothing, there would be a roll call vote on the lower in-state tuition rates. Most Democrats would vote against it and then would have cast a direct vote on a very controversial issue.

To avoid that situation, a Democratic member offers a "delaying" amendment that would prohibit the ban from taking effect until the Baker administration studies the impact of such a ban.

Under House rules, the amendment to study and delay the ban is voted upon first. If it passes, which it always does, no other amendments can be introduced and the original proposal that would simply prohibit the lower tuition rate is dead without ever having a direct vote on it. Republicans say that the studies are a sham because they are never done.

This is all pre-planned by the Democratic leadership. The presiding officer at the podium calls upon a representative who is loyal to him and that member proposes the study. Even if a Republican member is waving his or her hands and shouting to be recognized, he or she will not be called upon because it is assumed he or she would not propose the study.

GOP members have always been wary of this ploy and have spoken out strongly against it. They urged the Democratic leadership to stop purposely trying to confuse the voters and instead allow a vote directly on the issue itself, not a study of it.

The Democrats fall into four categories. Some Democrats favor the ban and vote with the Republicans against the study. Others say they are truly open to the ban but vote for the study because they want to find out the cost first. A third group opposes the ban but also opposes the study because they feel there should be a direct vote on the proposal. Most Democrats who vote for the study acknowledge that it is designed to protect them by preventing them from being required to vote directly on the ban.

Beacon Hill Roll Call urges you to read the roll calls carefully and be aware that on the first three roll calls, a "Yes" vote is for the study and essentially is against the restriction or ban. Conversely, a "No" vote is against the study and generally favors the restriction or ban.

 

STUDY PROHIBITING LOWER TUITION RATES FOR ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS (H 4000)

House 103-46, approved a Democratic leadership-sponsored amendment prohibiting a proposal barring illegal immigrant students from paying the preferred, lower in-state tuition rates and fees at Massachusetts state universities from taking effect until the Department of Higher Education studies the impact of the barring.

Supporters of the study said 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 up to five times higher than the in-state rate.

Opponents of the study said sending the bill to a study committee essentially kills it and argued the state should not offer financial rewards to anyone who has broken the law and is in this country illegally. They said 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.

The roll call vote is on the amendment to study, rather than vote directly on the banning of lower tuition rates for illegal immigrants. (A "Yes" vote is for the study. A "No" vote is against the study.)

Rep. Paul Donato                 Yes

Rep. Steven Ultrino                         Was not yet elected

 

STUDY LOWER TUITION RATES FOR VETERANS (H 4000)

House 107-42, approved a Democratic leadership-sponsored amendment prohibiting a proposal that would allow honorably discharged veterans to pay the preferred, lower in-state tuition rates and fees at Massachusetts state universities from taking effect until the Department of Higher Education studies the impact of the lower rates for veterans. The proposal would offer the discount to all in-state veterans and to any veteran from across the nation who designates Massachusetts as his/her intended home and moves to Massachusetts within one year of attending a state university.

Supporters of the study said there is no estimate on how much it would cost the state to offer this discount to all these veterans.

Opponents of the study said it is outrageous that the state provides the lower tuition rate for some illegal immigrants but not to veterans. They noted that sending the bill to a study committee is the same as killing it.

The roll call vote is on the amendment to study, rather than vote directly on the lower tuition rates for veterans. (A "Yes" vote is for the study. A "No" vote is against it.)

Rep. Paul Donato                  Yes

Rep. Steven Ultrino                         Was not yet elected

 

STUDY REQUIRING THAT SPONSOR PAY FOR IMMIGRANTS (H 3400)

House 128-29, approved a Democratic leadership-sponsored amendment prohibiting a proposal requiring sponsors of immigrants who have green cards (lawful permanent residents) to reimburse the state for any means-tested state assistance the immigrant receives from taking effect, until after the state conducts a study of the current system and receives any federal waivers necessary.

Some supporters of the study said the House should get more information prior to voting on this. Others said they simply oppose the mean-spirited measure meant to hurt legal residents who through no fault of their own need some assistance. They noted that the state shouldn't be punishing eligible individuals who have become estranged or disconnected from their sponsor.

Opponents of the delay questioned why the state is providing these benefits when each green card holder is required by law to have a sponsor who has promised to be financially responsible for that person.

The roll call vote is on the amendment to study, rather than vote directly on requiring sponsors to reimburse the state. (A "Yes" vote is for the study. A "No" vote is against the study.)

Rep. Paul Donato                  Yes

Rep. Steven Ultrino                         Was not yet elected

 

ELIGIBILITY FOR PUBLIC HOUSING (H 3400)

The House considered a GOP-sponsored proposal to require applicants and household members over the age of 18 to provide a social security number upon application for public housing and prohibit anyone who does not supply the number from being eligible for housing.

House 115-44, then approved a Democratic leadership-sponsored amendment replacing the Republican proposal with a new one requiring the state to establish rules and regulations regarding the disclosure and verification of social security numbers for applicants of public or subsidized housing.

The new proposal also requires the Department of Housing and Community Development to study and submit a report on the matter of public housing eligibility by July 1, 2016. The report would include the number of applicants and household members for state-assisted public housing who would be unable to access it if required to submit a social security number on their application.

Supporters of the new proposal said the earlier one goes too far and will not solve any problems. They argued the new proposal is a thoughtful and fair approach to this problem.

Opponents of the new proposal said the earlier proposal is simple and effective: if you don’t provide a social security number, you are not eligible for public housing. They argued it is unfair to provide housing to illegal immigrants.

The roll call vote is on the amendment to study, rather than vote directly on requiring a social security number. (A "Yes" vote is for the study. A "No" vote is against the study.)

Rep. Paul Donato                  Yes

Rep. Steven Ultrino              Yes

 

PUNISH "SANCTUARY" CITIES AND TOWNS (H 4200)

House 34-124, rejected a Republican-sponsored amendment that would withhold local aid from any cities or towns that do not enforce federal immigration laws. The withholding would also apply to communities that have established themselves as "sanctuary" cities or towns that offer protection in a variety of ways to illegal immigrants.

Amendment supporters said cities and towns that encourage law-breaking are hurting this nation. They argued the state should do everything it can to dissuade those who seek to come here illegally.

Some opponents said the amendment is a mean-spirited political stunt and questioned why supporters would want to punish students by taking away local aid from their schools. Others said the amendment is unenforceable, just like a municipality declaring itself a sanctuary city is nothing but symbolism.

(A "Yes" vote is for cutting off local aid to sanctuary cities and towns. A "No" vote is against cutting it off.)

Rep. Paul Donato                   No

Rep. Steven Ultrino               No

 

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 March 6-10, the House met for a total of 22 minutes and the Senate met for a total of six minutes.

 

Mon. March 6 House 11:03 a.m. to 11:13 a.m.

Senate 11:05 a.m. to 11:08 a.m.

Tues. March 7 No House session

No Senate session

Wed. March 8 No House session

No Senate session

Thurs. March 9 House 11:03 a.m. to 11:15 a.m.

Senate 11:08 a.m. to 11:11 a.m.

Fri. March 10 No House session

No Senate session

Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at
bob@beaconhillrollcall.com

 

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