THE HOUSE AND SENATE: Beacon Hill Roll Call records local representatives’ votes on roll calls from the week of July 10-14. There were no roll calls in the Senate last week.
$693 MILLION FISCAL 2023 SUPPLEMENTAL BUDGET (H 3982)
House 154-0, approved and sent to the Senate a $693 million fiscal 2023 supplemental budget to help close out the books on fiscal year 2023 that ended on June 30.
Provisions include $180 million for fiscally strained hospitals; $226 million for 33 collective bargaining agreements that have been ratified by state public employee unions; $100 million for the state’s pension fund; $40 million for a settlement of a court case related to police promotion discrimination; and $226 million for special education; and raises the current yearly cap from $10 million to $30 million for housing projects under the Housing Development Incentive Program (HDIP).
“The package that is before you today covers a number of different areas that require our immediate and timely attention,” said House Ways and Means Committee chair Rep. Aaron Michlewitz (D-Boston). “As we work towards closing the books for fiscal year 2023, these items are some of the most pressing needs the commonwealth is facing today. By addressing these deficiencies now, we’ll be able to start the fiscal year 2024 cycle in the strongest fiscal position possible.”
(A “Yes” vote is for the $693 million supplemental budget.)
Rep. Joseph McGonagle Yes
HOUSING DEVELOPMENT INCENTIVE PROGRAM (H 3982)
House 152-3, approved an amendment related to the Housing Development Incentive Program (HDIP). The amendment raises the current yearly cap from $10 million to $30 million – and provides for a one-time increase to $57 million to address the growing backlog of projects waiting for HDIP credits.
HDIP, according to its state website, “provides Gateway Cities with a tool to develop market rate housing while increasing residential growth, expanding diversity of housing stock, supporting economic development and promoting neighborhood stabilization in designated areas.”
“I have been working with MassINC, mayors and economic development directors from Gateway Cities, and housing advocates to support and improve the HDIP program since 2013,” said amendment sponsor Rep. Tony Cabral (D-New Bedford), Chair of the Gateway Cities Legislative Caucus. “Expanding the benefits of HDIP has long been the top priority of our caucus. We all know that Massachusetts and our Gateway Cities are facing a housing crisis that involves rising rents and home prices, and a severe shortage in housing options across all income levels.”
“HDIP addresses this critical lack of middle-income housing by using a tax incentive to make developing market-rate housing in New Bedford more financially viable,” continued Cabral. “It is the only housing development program specifically targeted to meet the financial needs of housing production in Gateway Cities.”
“I was proud to support the consolidated amendment, which included an increase in funding for the HDIP … [which is] is an essential tool available to Gateway Cities to produce housing supply,” said Rep. Carole Fiola (D-Fall River). “At a time when the commonwealth faces a severe housing shortage, this program is vital to getting projects in the pipeline off the ground and provide a much needed increase in housing.”
“I welcome all kinds of housing production, and I have the deepest respect for our Gateway Cities colleagues who are pushing to expand the HDIP program in their communities,” said Rep. Mike Connolly (D-Cambridge) who opposed the amendment. “However, HDIP doesn’t address the concerns of my Cambridge and Somerville constituents. The question raised by this amendment is ‘How much do we want to subsidize for-profit, private development of market-rate housing?’ Of all the ways we could spend money on housing, this is perhaps the most questionable.”
“I believe that focusing funding on local housing authorities is a far more effective means of providing for those most in need,” said Rep. David DeCoste (R-Norwell) who also opposed the amendment. “I shared the concerns of Rep. Connolly that too much of the HDIP spending ends up enriching developers. The commonwealth would be much better off spending those funds locally through improving and expanding local housing authority available units.”
(A “Yes” vote is for the amendment. A “No” vote is against it.)
Rep. Joseph McGonagle Yes
ALSO UP ON BEACON HILL
PROHIBIT REVOCATION OF PROFESSIONAL LICENSES (S 1997) – The State Administration and Regulatory Oversight Committee held a hearing on a bill that would repeal a current state law which creates professional licensure consequences for anyone who defaults on their student loan. Under current law, a borrower’s state-issued professional or occupational certificate, registration or license can be suspended, revoked or canceled if the borrower is in default on an education loan.
“This procedure is nonsensical, as it strips the individual of their ability to produce an income, making it even more difficult to pay off those loans,” said sponsor Sen. Ryan Fattman (R-Sutton). “Forced closures due to COVID-19 have highlighted the economic hardships faced by many professionally licensed individuals such as hairdressers, massage therapists and physical therapists. These professions require close contact and have seen many restrictions since the start of the pandemic. While the Department of Education has extended grace to borrowers through forbearance temporarily, the protection is not permanent. When forbearance is not in place, these individuals do not need the threat of losing their professional license and their income source because of significant economical challenges they face while trying to pay back their loan.”
The House and Senate both approved a similar bill in the 2021-2022 session on November 21, 2022 and sent it to then-Gov. Baker who proposed an amendment to the bill on December 1. Baker’s amendment would allow the Division of Banks to consider student loan defaults in order to ensure that the division will retain the discretion it has always applied when assessing an applicant’s fitness to provide consumer financial services to prospective borrowers.
“Precluding the Division of Banks from reviewing credit reports as part of its evaluation of an individual’s financial responsibility for a financial services license could ultimately result in harm to consumers,” said Baker in his veto message.
The House and Senate had more than a month to act on the governor’s amendment but did not do so. As a result, the entire bill died on January 3, 2023, the final day of the 2021-2022 session.
ONLINE DRIVER’S ED (S 2261)- A proposal heard by the Transportation Committee would provide an online driver education program as an alternative to the current in-person classroom instruction for young drivers under 18. The bill would also remove the requirement to observe another student driver for six hours.
“Obtaining a license is a milestone achievement but for many young people the inability to attend in-person classes due to family obligations, lack of transportation or after-school jobs, hinders their opportunity to succeed,” said sponsor Sen. Joan Lovely (D-Salem). “I filed [the bill], so students who face barriers like these have access to online classes that allow them to meet their driver’s ed requirements.”
MARIJUANA AND DRIVING (H 3355) – Another measure heard by the Transportation Committee would require that driver education courses include information on the impairment effects of marijuana. This would expand current law which requires driver education to include the dangers of drinking and driving.
Supporters say that marijuana has been found in 30 percent of fatal car crashes in the Bay State. They noted that sadly many people have the false assumption that driving while under the influence of marijuana is relatively safe.
“Driver’s education is crucial towards promoting safe driving habits,” said sponsor Rep. Hannah Kane (R-Shrewsbury). “Implementing a science-based module on the impairment effects of marijuana will provide the resources and information needed for future drivers to make informed decisions. This legislation will help make the streets of the commonwealth safer for everyone.”
RIGHT OF STRIKERS TO RECEIVE UNEMPLOYMENT (H 1947/S 1172) –The Labor and Workforce Development Committee heard testimony on legislation that would allow unemployment benefits to be paid to on-strike workers who are unemployed because of a labor stoppage.
“The corporation or employer in the middle of often contentious collective bargaining can weaponize certain unemployment benefits to coerce action and activity that is favorable to the employer and that adversely affects the worker,” said Senate sponsor Sen. Paul Feeney (D-Foxborough). “We’ve seen a patchwork of decisions over the years regarding unemployment depending on who the governor is and who the secretary of labor is on whether or not unemployment benefits would actually be paid.”
“The right to strike is an important tool available to unions but many workers are afraid of what a strike may mean to their finances,” said House sponsor Rep. Lindsay Sabadosa (D-Northampton). “Rules around unemployment are confusing and hard to understand. This legislation would clarify the right to benefits and, in doing so, would protect workers and their families.”
ASIAN BODYWORK THERAPY (H 350) – A bill heard by the Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure would create a Board of Registration of Asian Bodywork Therapy to establish standards of professional and ethical conduct for these bodywork therapists; set standards for continuing education; investigate complaints; and conduct inspections.
“Asian Bodywork Therapy is the treatment of the human body/mind/spirit, including the electromagnetic or energetic field which surrounds, infuses and brings that body to life, by using pressure and/or manipulation,” according to the American Organization for Bodywork Therapies of Asia. “Asian Bodywork is based upon Chinese medical principles for assessing and evaluating the body’s energetic system. It uses traditional Asian techniques and treatment strategies to primarily affect and balance the energetic system for the purpose of treating the human body, emotions, mind, energy field and spirit for the promotion, maintenance and restoration of health.”
“This legislation is designed to enhance career pathways and streamline local regulations for east Asian healing practices, including bodywork lineages,” said sponsor Rep. David LeBoeuf (D-Worcester). “The bill would create a defined, appropriate licensure pathway to make sure these practices are held to high standards and not misrepresented in the market. Unlike other bills that want to create an inappropriate, catch all licenses, this would be for particular traditional lineages.”
QUOTABLE QUOTES – BY THE NUMBERS EDITION
Cable TV business network CNBC released its annual ranking of the Top States for Doing Business, which includes both good news and bad news for Massachusetts. Here are the Bay State’s rankings among the 50 states in several categories:
— Technology and innovation
—Access to capital
—Life, health and inclusion
—Cost of living.
—Cost of doing business.
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 July 10-14, the House met for a total of eight hours and 26 minutes while the Senate met for a total of two hours and 58 minutes.
Mon. July 10 House 11:01 a.m. to 1:01 p.m.
Senate 11:24 a.m. to 1:45 p.m.
Tues. July 11 No House session
No Senate session
Wed. July 12 No House session
No Senate session
Thurs. July 13 House 11:02 a.m. to 5:28 p.m.
Senate 11:14 a.m. to 11:51 a.m.
Fri. July 14 No House session
No Senate session
Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at email@example.com
Bob founded Beacon Hill Roll Call in 1975 and was inducted into the New England Newspaper and Press Association (NENPA) Hall of Fame in 2019.