THE HOUSE AND SENATE: Beacon Hill Roll Call records local senators’ votes on roll calls from the recent debate on the Senate’s version of a $55.9 billion fiscal 2024 state budget. There were no roll calls in the House or Senate last week.
HELP IMMIGRANTS TO APPLY FOR U.S. CITIZENSHIP (S 3)
Senate 39-0, approved a $250,000 increase (from $1,036,958 to $1,286,958) for organizations that provide programs to assist legal permanent residents of Massachusetts in becoming citizens of the United States. Programs include assisting applicants in filling out the 22-page application; ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages); civics classes; interview preparation and supportive services including interpretation and referral services.
“Becoming a citizen is a major step toward full integration into American life,” said sponsor Sen. Jamie Eldridge (D-Acton). “I am proud to represent a district with many vibrant immigrant communities throughout it, including Brazilians and Afghans. Recently, I have been assisting neighborhood support teams in the town of Harvard and the city of Marlborough resettle Afghan evacuees. The Afghan refugees in my district – along with so many other immigrants – could benefit from these critical programs.”
(A “Yes” vote is for the $250,000 increase.)
Sen. Sal DiDomenico Yes
ADVOCATES FOR FOSTER CHILDREN (S 3)
Senate 39-0, approved an amendment that would fund $1,526,000 for Court-Appointed Special Advocates, (CASAs) which are specially trained volunteers who represent the best interests of foster children in legal proceedings.
Supporters said that children with a CASA volunteer have significantly fewer foster care placements, perform better in school and report having a greater sense of hopefulness.
“Children in the commonwealth’s foster system often find themselves in court having decisions made for them without anyone directly arguing on their behalf,” said sponsor Sen. Mike Moore (D-Millbury). “Court-Appointed Special Advocates get to know the children as individuals and can steer the courts toward placing these children in environments where they can thrive. The outcomes of children represented by CASAs speak for themselves.”
(A “Yes” vote is for the $1,526,000.)
Sen. Sal DiDomenico Yes
$1 MILLION FOR ELDER NUTRITION (S 3)
Senate 39-0, approved an increase of $1 million (from $11.8 to $12.8 million) for elder nutrition programs including Meals on Wheels.
“For many older individuals, a daily delivered meal is their only social interaction,” said sponsor Sen. Julian Cyr (D-Truro). “The Meals on Wheels program provides critical nutrition for seniors including wellness checks, nutritional screenings, education and counseling.”
(A “Yes” vote is for the $1 million increase.)
Sen. Sal DiDomenico Yes
ALSO UP ON BEACON HILL
EXCLUDE MEDICAL DEBT FROM CREDIT REPORTS (H 284) – would exclude from consumer credit reports information about medical debt arising from the receipt of health care services.
“Debt and credit are critical to households’ personal finances,” said sponsor Rep. Kip Diggs (D-Barnstable). “I sponsored this legislation to protect consumers, especially those who struggle financially, from the implications of medical debt, which is often caused by cost-sharing from unpredictable medical events and has proven not to be a good predictor of credit worthiness anyway.”
TAX CREDIT TO BUSINESSES THAT OFFER DAY CARE (H 2779) – would allow businesses to qualify for a tax credit of up to $150,000 if they provide onsite day care for their employees. The tax credit would be equal to 25 percent of the costs of providing the day care.
“I filed the Workplace Child Care Program Tax Credit in response to the overwhelming costs and limited access to affordable day care so many of the families I represent in Brockton face each year,” said sponsor Rep. Michelle DuBois (D-Brockton). “The idea of incentivizing, with a tax credit, businesses to offer on-site affordable day care or to contract with a provider to offer affordable day care to their employees on-site came from a Child Advocacy group operated via the Brockton WIC program and Brockton Area Multi Services agency. This will not solve the problem of escalating childcare costs but could be one tool to help working families access safe, affordable day care.
LIMIT FEE FOR CASHING CHECKS (H 344) – would set a cap on the fees check-cashing stores and outlets are allowed to charge. The maximum charge would be 5 percent of the value of a personal check or $5, whichever is greater, plus a $1 service charge; 2.5 percent of a government check plus a $1 service charge; 2.25 percent of a payroll check plus a $1 service charge; and 3 percent of all other checks including traveler’s check, cashier’s check and certified check plus a $1 service charge.
Supporters said of the 34 states that regulate check cashing, Massachusetts is one of eight that do not regulate the fees that may be charged. They argued these check-cashing “stores” are often located in low-income neighborhoods and take advantage of vulnerable residents.
They noted the bill would provide greater consumer protections for individuals who are “unbanked” — folks who don’t have a checking, savings or money market account or who are “underbanked” — folks may have a bank account, but also rely regularly on alternative financial services outside of the mainstream banking system. Lower-income households, less educated households, Black households, Hispanic households, working-age households with a disability and single-mother households are most vulnerable to being unbanked or underbanked.
“This bill aims to tear down financial barriers that perpetuate situational and generational cycles of poverty,” said sponsor Rep. Kay Khan (D-Newton). “It creates a fair and responsible market in which low-income families can more easily save and protect their money.”
PROHIBIT DISCRIMINATION AGAINST GENDER IDENTITY OF INDIVIDUALS IN INSURANCE POLICIES (H 1089) – would prohibit insurance companies from discriminating against a customer based on gender identity.
Sponsor Rep. Jay Livingstone (D-Boston) said he filed this piece of legislation to address the lack of protections for gender-fluid and transgender people regarding insurance discrimination. He said it would safeguard the fundamental right of equality for gender-fluid individuals.
“[The bill] would safeguard the fundamental right of equality for gender-fluid individuals across the commonwealth by defining gender identity and expanding anti- discrimination statutes to include gender identity to the current list of protections pertaining to insurance,” said Livingstone. “I believe that this is an important step for the commonwealth to provide equal protections for all of our residents.”
ALLOW SOME UNUSED DRUGS TO BE DONATED (H 1208) – would establish drug repository program which would allow people to donate their unused medications, excluding controlled substances, and permit them to be redistributed to individuals who need them and cannot afford them.
Supporters said that strict safeguards would be in place to ensure that the medication has not been tampered with and is not expired or mislabeled.
“Due to high prescription drug costs, over 15 million Americans are forced to forgo their medication to pay for other essential living expenses, yet $10 billion in medication is destroyed or discarded in the United States each year,” said sponsor Rep. Brad Junes (R-North Reading). “A statewide drug repository program would help to reduce this waste and make life-saving medication more affordable and accessible to residents of the commonwealth. Twenty-six states currently have operational repository programs, which proves that these programs can be administered safely and effectively.”
“As a community, we must ensure our young people are working in safe and healthy environments. Whether it be for a summer job or year-round, younger workers – particularly those in low-income, immigrant communities and communities of color – are vulnerable to poorer working conditions and exploitation.”
—Attorney General Andrea Campbell on building public awareness surrounding workplace protections for migrant and other vulnerable children in the Bay State.
“The Healey Administration is committed to ensuring that the options available through SNAP are wide-ranging and reflect the communities we serve. These selected restaurants and food trucks are diverse and strong focal points in their communities, dedicated to providing their neighbors with access to delicious and healthy food that is also nourishing and familiar to people from around the world.”
—Secretary of Health and Human Services Kate Walsh announcing that 27 restaurants and food trucks have been selected to participate in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Restaurant Meals Program pilot. The Department of Transitional Assistance will work with the selected businesses over the next several months to become federally certified SNAP restaurants and anticipates the program will open for individuals and households to use their benefits at all selected restaurants and food trucks by fall 2023.
“These federal funds will allow us to advance and finalize critical long-term habitat restoration efforts along the Massachusetts coast to protect the environment and improve resilience to climate change. Our administration is committed to working directly with coastal communities to restore these habitats, and we will continue to maximize state investment by pursuing federal funding whenever possible.”
—Gov. Maura Healey on a $3.7 million federal grant for two coastal habitat restoration projects through the Coastal Zone Management Habitat Protection and Restoration Awards.
“It’s clear that immigrant entrepreneurs are a positive force in Massachusetts and New England. Entrepreneurship is consistently linked to higher economic growth and more opportunity.”
— Pioneer Institute Executive Director Jim Stergios on the group’s new study that found that immigrants in Massachusetts and New England are more likely to be self-employed, but the businesses they own tend to be in different industries than those owned by the U.S. born.
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 June 5-9, the House met for a total of 25 minutes while the Senate met for a total of 51 minutes.
Mon. June 5 House 11:01 a.m. to 11:04 a.m.
Senate 11:00 a.m. to 11:33 a.m.
Tues. June 6 No House session
No Senate session
Wed. June 7 No House session
No Senate session
Thurs. June 8 House 11:00 a.m. to 11:22 a.m.
Senate 11:12 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
Fri. June 9 No House session
No Senate session
Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org 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.