THE HOUSE AND SENATE: There were no roll calls in the House or Senate last week. This week, Beacon Hill Roll Call reports on the percentage of times local senators voted with their party’s leadership in the 2023 session through August 25.
Beacon Hill Roll Call uses 61 votes from the 2023 Senate session as the basis for this report. This includes all roll calls that were not quorum calls or on local issues.
The votes of 34 Democrats were compared to Senate Majority Leader Cynthia Creem (D-Newton), second-in-command in the Senate. We could not compare the Democrats’ votes to those of Senate President Karen Spilka (D-Ashland) because, by tradition, the Senate president rarely votes.
The senator who voted with Creem the least percentage of times is Sen. Walter Timilty (D-Milton) who voted with her only 52 times (85.2 percent). Rounding out the top four who voted with Creem the least number of times are Sens. John Keenan (D-Quincy) who voted with her 55 times (91.6 percent); and Barry Finegold (D-Andover) and Becca Rausch (D-Needham) who each voted with her 57 times (93.4 percent).
Beacon Hill Roll Call contacted these four senators and asked them to comment on the percentage of times, lower than the other senators, each one voted with the leadership. Only one of the four responded. “I always respect and value the views and contributions of all my colleagues,” said Sen. Keenan. “I also recognize the difference in our perspectives and the politics of the districts we represent, and these sometimes lead to differences in voting records. What has always guided me in voting is doing what I believe is right and what best benefits my constituents and all the residents of the commonwealth.”
Sens. Timilty, Finegold and Rausch were contacted three times but did not respond.
Overall, 33 of the 34 Democrats (97 percent) voted with Creem 90 percent or more of the time — including 19 (55.8 percent) who voted with Creem 100 percent of the time and nine (26.4 percent) who voted with Creem all but one time.
The votes of the two Republican senators were compared with those of GOP Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester). Sen. Patrick O’Connor (R-Weymouth) voted with Tarr 61 times (100 percent) while Sen. Ryan Fattman (R-Sutton) voted with Tarr 60 times (98.3 percent).
SENATORS’ SUPPORT OF THEIR PARTY’S LEADERSHIP IN 2023 THROUGH AUGUST 25
The percentage next to the senator’s name represents the percentage of times the senator supported his or her party’s leadership so far in 2023. The number in parentheses represents the number of times the senator opposed his or her party’s leadership.
Some senators voted on all 61 roll call votes. Others missed one or more roll calls. The percentage for each senator is calculated based on the number of roll calls on which he or she voted.
Sen. Sal DiDomenico 98.3 percent (1)
ALSO UP ON BEACON HILL
DUELING VERSION OF TAX REDUCTION BILLS ARE STILL STUCK IN COMMITTEE (H 377 and S 2406) – A 6-member House-Senate conference committee, appointed on June 20, is still negotiating the hammering out of a compromise version of different versions of competing tax relief packages approved by each branch. The Senate’s package would cost the state about $590 million annually, while the House’s would cost close to $1.1 billion.
In the meantime, there are dozens of tax relief bills pending before the Revenue Committee. Here are some of them:
CHARITABLE DEDUCTION (S 1801) – Would allow the state’s charitable deduction to be claimed only by taxpayers who do not itemize their federal returns — a group that supporters say generally consists of lower to moderate income people. They say the bill makes the charitable tax deduction more progressive.
“This bill strikes the right balance between encouraging charitable contributions and ensuring that our tax code is fair,” said sponsor Sen. Jamie Eldridge (D-Marlborough).
DEDUCT COLLEGE TUITION COSTS (S 1884) – Would allow students or their parents, on their state tax returns, to deduct up to 50 percent of their tuition payments to public colleges in the Bay State.
“An individual choosing to pursue higher education is a student making an investment not only in their own future, but also in the future of the commonwealth,” said sponsor Sen. Mike Moore (D-Millbury). “I believe we ought to encourage and celebrate that. At a time when higher education is becoming increasingly unaffordable, creating a tax deduction for students pursuing a degree at one of Massachusetts’ world-class colleges or universities seems like a no-brainer. Increasing access to education makes all of us more competitive, more productive and more successful. Let’s do what we can to make higher ed possible for every student who wants it.”
ALLOW STATE INCOME TAX DEDUCTION FOR SCHOOL AND MUNICIPAL FEES PAID BY RESIDENTS (H 2868) – Would provide a tax deduction for the school fees that parents must often pay for their public school children and for trash pick-up and disposal fees.
Supporters say most public schools levy a variety of fees on their students including fees to park cars in school lots, to enroll in full-day kindergarten, to ride the school bus, to participate in after-school sports and to join clubs and other extracurricular activities.
“I filed this bill because many families in my district and in MetroWest pay over $1,000 per year in school fees,” said sponsor Rep. David Linsky (D-Natick). “All these services were formerly funded through the local property tax, though that is no longer the case. [The bill] will benefit the middle class and help to uplift the purpose of well-rounded public schools.”
CONSERVATION LAND TAX CREDIT (H 2839) – Makes changes to the state’s current Conservation Land Tax Credit (CLTC) law which provide an incentive for individuals to donate land in Massachusetts to a public or private conservation agency. The CLTC provides an up to $75,000 refundable state tax credit equal to 50 percent of the fair market value of the donated property. The land being donated must have significant conservation value, which includes forest land, farmland, land used for wildlife protection and projects essential to water quality protection.
The bill would increase the current annual statewide maximum total CLTC cap allowed from $2 million to $5 million over a three-year period. The $5 million cap will remain in effect until December 31, 2034, at which time the cap will revert back to $2 million.
“For every $1 in tax credits paid out under this program, the state has leveraged $4.16 of private land donated value, which is a tremendous return,” said sponsor Rep. Brad Jones (R-North Reading). “Since the CLTC was launched, it has protected over 15,000 acres of land with an appraised value of over $89 million, with many more projects already lined up seeking a tax credit. Increasing the annual cap will help clear up the waiting list and allow more landowners to take advantage of the tax credit while also ensuring that more of the state’s natural resources are protected.”
“As senseless acts of gun violence continue to take the lives of innocent people across the commonwealth and country, we should be doing everything we can to protect the public – including barring those with restraining orders for domestic violence from having access to deadly weapons. The lower court’s ruling makes society less safe and ultimately places domestic violence survivors in a position of greater danger. Commonsense gun measures save lives and now more than ever, we need our courts to recognize this fact.”
—Attorney General Andrea Campbell on behalf of 25 state attorneys general urging the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse a lower court’s decision striking down a federal statute that bars individuals subject to domestic violence restraining orders from accessing guns.
“This is a great day for our state. This is a big step forward for students who have grown up here, worked here and followed their dreams here in Massachusetts. It’s what is fair and what is right. They’re going to continue their journey on the same terms as their peers.”
—Gov. Maura Healey on the new state law that would allow undocumented/illegal immigrants to qualify for the lower in-state college tuition rate if they attended high school here for at least three years and graduated or completed a GED.
“Many municipalities are eager to replace their failing culverts with larger, climate-ready structures, but they often lack the technical knowledge and financial resources to do so. This grant program fills the gap by providing both necessary funding and technical assistance to local communities.
—Lt. Gov. Kim Driscoll announcing a $6.4 million grant program to strengthen community preparedness for large storms, improve climate-ready infrastructure, restore flood storage capacities and protect fisheries, wildlife and river habitat.
“Data equity has been a priority for the House Asian Caucus for a number of years now and we’re extremely proud to have gotten it over the finish line. Accurate data collection is imperative to combatting systemic inequities and better understanding the needs of our diverse communities.”
—Rep. Tackey Chan (D-Quincy), chair of the House Asian Caucus, on a new law signed by the governor as part of the fiscal 2024 budget, that mandates better reporting for racial and ethnic data including requiring uniform data collection by all state agencies that include a race/ethnicity question on their state forms and mandate that such data be made publicly available.
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 August 21-25, the House met for a total of 42 minutes while the Senate met for a total of 36 minutes.
Mon. August 21 House 11:02 a.m. to 11:28 a.m.
Senate 11:06 a.m. to 11:33 a.m.
Tues. August 22 No House session
No Senate session
Wed. August 23 No House session
No Senate session
Thurs. August 24 House 11:03 a.m. to 11:19 a.m.
Senate 11:12 a.m. to 11:21 a.m.
Fri. August 25 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.