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Beacon Hill Roll Call
Volume 38 -Report No. 8
February 20-24, 2023
Copyright © 2023 Beacon Hill Roll Call. All Rights Reserved.
By Bob Katzen
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THE HOUSE AND SENATE: Beacon Hill Roll Call records local representatives’ votes on roll calls from early February sessions. There were no roll calls in the House or Senate last week.
MORE TIME TO CONSIDER AMENDMENTS (H 2023)
House 23-130, rejected a rule that would prohibit technical or perfecting amendments from being considered until 30 minutes after a copy of the amendment has been received by representatives. The rule would allow such an amendment to be considered in less than 30 minutes if a two-thirds vote of the House agrees to the shortened time.
“Providing a half hour to review a technical or perfecting amendment would give members an opportunity to ask questions, get answers and better understand the amendment before a vote takes place,” said sponsor GOP House Minority Leader Brad Jones (R-North Reading). “I think this change is eminently reasonable and fair, and it also provides an option for the 30-minute review period to be waived or suspended if enough members agree to it.”
Opponents of the rule said technical amendments are just that—technical, and don’t need a half hour to review. They argued that the 30-minute requirement is unnecessary and noted members are currently informally given sufficient time to see the amendments before they are considered.
(A ”Yes” vote is for allowing 30 minutes. A “No” vote is against allowing 30 minutes.)
Rep. Joseph McGonagleNo
GIVE 1-WEEK NOTICE (H 2025)
House 24-129, rejected an amendment that would increase from three days to seven days the amount of advance notice for committees to notify the House and the public of the time, location and agenda of all public hearings and executive sessions.
“A public hearing before a committee is the only opportunity that a person has to be directly involved in the legislative process,” said Rep. Todd Smola (R-Warren). “By expanding the notification window for when hearings take place from 72 hours to one week, we are providing the public with more time to prepare and participate in the process. We welcome the viewpoints of our constituents on bills before the Legislature, bills which are often nuanced and very complex. It is not unreasonable to provide people with a few more days’ notice before a hearing commences.”
Opponents of the amendment said three days is more than sufficient and noted that under House rules, members of the public no longer have to plan far in advance to come into the Statehouse to testify since they can now testify online from their home. They noted that the increase to a week unnecessarily goes too far.
(A ”Yes” vote is for requiring seven days’ notice. A “No” vote is against requiring seven days’ notice.)
Rep. Joseph McGonagleNo
ALSO UP ON BEACON HILL
DON’T MISS THIS LIFE SCIENCES FORUM EVENT – The Life Sciences Industry has seen incredible growth the last decade, and Massachusetts has become a worldwide leader with continued industry growth and expansion underway. While the epicenter of the industry cluster remains in Kendall Square, the state’s strategy calls for the expansion of lab and manufacturing space throughout the state, with the potential for significant growth in Central Massachusetts. Don’t miss a special forum hosted by MASSterList, the State House News Service and the Worcester Business Journal on Tuesday, March 7, from 7:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. at the DCU Center (50 Foster St. Worcester, MA 01608). Tickets for the program can be purchased online at: https://www.wbjournal.com/lifescienceforum
BILLS, BILLS, BILLS – House and Senate clerks continue to process the thousands of bill filed for consideration in the 2023-2024 session including:
DONATE FOOD (SD 263) – Would provide civil liability protections to individuals, restaurants and organizations that make direct food donations to persons in need. The donor would also receive a tax credit of up to $5,000. A similar bill received a favorable report from the Judiciary Committee last year but died from inaction in the House.
“Massachusetts saw the greatest percentage growth in food insecurity in the nation during the pandemic,” said sponsor Sen. Jo Comerford (D-Northampton). “It could have been even more severe had it not been for commonwealth farmers who came forward again and again with donations of produce, dairy and meat—all the while acutely aware that they make 94 cents for every dollar they spend. Through a tax credit, this bill further incentivizes already committed farmers, as well as generous local restaurants, to donate food to food banks, meal sites and pantries—allowing them an opportunity to give within an expanded liability protection framework while strengthening our food system.”
TAX CREDIT FOR DONATION OF OYSTER SHELLS (SD 432) – Would provide a tax credit of $5 per full 5-gallon bucket to individuals or businesses that donate oyster shells to an oyster shell recycling organization.
“A shell recycling tax credit presents a creative and thoughtful tool to help diminish land fill waste, create habitat and mitigate pollution in our waters,” said sponsor Sen. Julian Cyr (D-Truro). “A $5 tax credit per 5-gallon bucket of recycled shells for restaurants will help encourage this environmentally friendly practice.”
LAST MONTH’S RENT AND SECURITY DEPOSIT (SD 141) – Would amend a current law which allows landlords to charge both last month’s rent and a security deposit to new tenants.
“If this bill is enacted, landlords will only be permitted to charge last month’s rent or the security deposit,” said sponsor Sen. Jamie Eldridge (D-Acton). In short, this bill significantly lowers the upfront cost of renting.”
PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES MUST RELEASE TAX RETURNS (SD 617) – Would require any presidential candidate who files to appear on a primary ballot in Massachusetts to release the most recent four years of their federal tax returns.
“For half a century, it has been a bipartisan custom for presidential candidates to release their tax returns before the election,” said sponsor Sen. Becca Rausch (D-Needham). “I filed this legislation because voters deserve transparency from presidential candidates. Tax returns provide the necessary information to assess the details of a candidate’s potential conflicts of interest or possible corruption which could have an undue influence on candidates should they be elected to office.”
ESTABLISH CHILDREN’S CABINET (SD 2242) – Would establish, under the governor’s office, a Children’s Cabinet to develop and implement a cohesive vision using integrated services to improve child, youth and family outcomes, including issues relating to child poverty, educational preparedness, mental health, homelessness, foster care, juvenile justice and the health, safety and welfare of children.
“I am proud to sponsor this legislation so we can ensure the wellbeing of our children is prioritized and elevated across the most powerful cabinets of state government,” said sponsor Sen. Sal DiDomenico (D-Everett). “Children across our state were some of the hardest hit individuals throughout the pandemic.” He noted the new cabinet will coordinate government agencies to use every lever of power to feed, house and protect our kids.
$1,500 TAX CREDIT FOR HEARING AIDS PURCHASE (SD 355) – Would allow a $1,500 tax credit for taxpayers 55 and older who purchase hearing aids.
“Hearing loss is one of the most common struggles for our seniors and many times these devices are out of their financial reach,” said sponsor Sen. Patrick O’Connor (R-Weymouth). “Insurance companies will often only cover the cost of one hearing aid, even if the patient may need one in each ear to hear. Every citizen should have the right to a comfortable life and this tax credit would help reduce the financial burden many seniors face and allow them to carry on with everyday life.”
“[We] appreciate the support and partnership with USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service and remain committed to ensuring that our most vulnerable populations, including elders, have access to local, fresh food. At a time when food insecurity rates remain high, the added benefit will provide elders with high-quality, nutritious food while supporting our Massachusetts farmers and food producers.”
— Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources Commissioner John Lebeaux announcing that Massachusetts has been awarded $1.4 million to expand the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program.
“Massachusetts has completely lost its economic competitive edge, now having the highest top tax rate for income taxes in New England, and seventh highest in the entire country. Despite this setback, some Massachusetts lawmakers are pushing forward with ways to add more taxes such as penalizing couples when they file their taxes as married.”
— Paul Craney, spokesman for the Mass Fiscal Alliance on a new Tax Foundation report.
“His public health expertise and military service make him uniquely qualified to serve as Massachusetts’ first-ever Secretary of Veterans’ Services. I’m confident that he will be the leader our veterans need and deserve and will always stand up for their health, safety and wellbeing.”
—Gov. Maura Healey on appointing Rep. Jon Santiago (D-Boston), a major in the U.S. Army Reserve and a physician as the state’s Secretary of Veterans’ Affairs which was recently elevated to a cabinet level position.
“One thing I did hear as I crisscrossed the state is, yes, folks want us to pay attention to some national issues, of course, and protect us, but they don’t want us to forget the issues we have to deal with here at home.”
—Attorney General Andrea Campbell.
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 February 20-24, the House met for a total of nine minutes while the Senate met for a total of four minutes.
Mon. Feb. 20 No House session
No Senate session
Tues. Feb. 21 House 11:05 a.m. to 11:11 a.m.
Senate 11:10 a.m. to 11:12 a.m.
Wed. Feb. 22 No House session
No Senate session
Thurs. Feb. 23 House 11:02 a.m. to 11:05 a.m.
Senate 11:23 a.m. to 11:25 a.m.
Fri. Feb. 24 No House session
No Senate session