Beacon Hill Roll Call
Volume 47 -Report No. 37
September 12-16, 2022
Copyright © 2022 Beacon Hill Roll Call. All Rights Reserved.
By Bob Katzen
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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 number of times in the 2021-2022 session each senator sided with Republican Gov. Charlie Baker and voted to sustain the governor’s 31 vetoes of items, mostly in the fiscal 2022 and fiscal 2023 state budgets. A vote to sustain means the senator supports Baker’s veto. A vote to override means the senator voted to fund the item despite the governor’s veto.
The current makeup of the Senate is 37 Democrats and three Republicans. A two-thirds vote is required to override a gubernatorial veto in the 40-member Senate. The governor needs the support of 14 senators to sustain a veto if all 40 senators voted—and fewer votes if some members are absent or there are vacancies.
Baker fell far short of that goal as eight votes was the most support he received on any veto. The Senate easily overrode all 31 vetoes, including eight that were overridden unanimously.
The vetoes had no support from 28 of the 37 Democrats who never once voted to sustain Baker’s veto. Only nine Democratic senators voted to sustain any of the governor’s vetoes. The Democrat who voted the most times with Baker to sustain his veto is Sen. Walter Timilty (D-Milton) who voted with Baker five times. Sen. Marc Pacheco (D-Taunton) voted with Baker three times. Sens. Sonia Chang-Díaz (D-Boston), Nick Collins (D-Boston), Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen), Anne Gobi (D-Spencer), Jason Lewis (D-Winchester) and Mike Rodrigues (D-Westport) and John Velis (D-Westfield) each voted with Baker once.
None of the three Republicans voted with Baker 100 percent of the time. The Republican senator who voted the greatest number of times with Baker was Sen. Ryan Fattman (R-Sutton) who voted with Baker 20 times. GOP Minority Leader Sen. Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester) was a close second and voted with Baker 17 times. Sen. Patrick O’Connor (R-Weymouth) voted with Baker only eight times, the least number of times among the three Republicans.
NUMBER OF TIMES SENATORS SUPPORTED GOV. BAKER’S VETOES IN THE 2021-2022 SESSION
Gov. Baker vetoed 31 proposals that we approved by the Legislature in 2021-2022.
Here is how your senator fared in his or her support of Gov. Baker on the vetoes.
The percentage next to the senator’s name represents the percentage of times that he or she supported Baker. The number in parentheses represents the actual number of times the senator supported Baker.
Sen. Sal DiDomenico0 percent (0)
ALSO UP ON BEACON HILL
2.9 BILLION IN TAX RELIEF IS ON ITS WAY – State Auditor Suzanne Bump has certified that the Department of Revenue’s (DOR) figures are correct and Massachusetts must return $2.9 billion to taxpayers based on Chapter 62F, a 1986 law approved by the voters. That law requires that tax revenue above a certain amount collected by the state go back to the taxpayers. Bump has determined that the net state tax revenues of $41,812,654,358 for the fiscal year ended June 30, 2022 is $2,941,499,731 above the allowable state tax revenues of $38,871,154,627.
“Our review requires us to do more than check DOR’s math,” said Bump. “As has been done each year of my tenure, we apply generally accepted government auditing standards in our review to verify the accuracy and completeness of the report provided by DOR. This provides us with reasonable assurance required by those standards that DOR’s figures are correct.”
“Stronger-than expected state tax revenues have led to a major surplus for fiscal year 2022, and we are pleased to be able to return nearly $3 billion in excess revenue to the taxpayers,” said Gov. Charlie Baker. “With families facing continued pressure from high prices and inflation, these returns will provide some needed relief. Even with nearly $3 billion going back to taxpayers, significant state and federal resources remain, and we look forward to working with the Legislature to invest this funding into our economy, communities and families.”
According to the Baker Administration, the $2.9 billion will be returned to eligible taxpayers by the DOR in proportion to personal income tax liability in Massachusetts incurred by taxpayers in 2021. “Eligible taxpayers will receive a credit in the form of a refund that is approximately 13 percent of their 2021 personal income tax liability,” said a statement released by the Office of Administration and Finance. “This percentage is a preliminary estimate and will be finalized in late October, after all 2021 tax returns are filed. To be eligible, individuals must have filed a 2021 state tax return on or before October 17, 2022. An individual’s credit may be reduced due to refund intercepts, including for unpaid taxes, unpaid child support and certain other debts.
“That our tax cap has been dormant for over three decades until today shows that it is working exactly as it was designed to do,” said Chip Ford, executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation which sponsored the 1986 ballot question. “Our tax cap was intended as an automatic release valve for when revenue surpluses reach an unnecessary level, especially such an extraordinary level as recently. It was meant as a check on unlimited taxation and unsustainable spending.”
“It’s unfortunate that our late-executive director Barbara Anderson, who worked so hard for adoption of our 1986 ballot question (and so many other tax reforms) is no longer with us to celebrate this success she achieved for all taxpayers of Massachusetts,” continued Ford, “But I’m confident she’s up there joining us joyfully in spirit.”
“This is a tremendous victory for all taxpayers of the commonwealth,” said Paul Craney of the Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance. “We were fully prepared to bring the auditor to the Supreme Judicial Court to enforce this certification and are even more thrilled that they’ve made this certification ahead of the September 20 deadline.”
“The 1986 law was regressive when it passed before I was born, and it is regressive today,” said Jonathan Cohn, the policy director at the group Progressive Massachusetts. “It is incumbent upon the Legislature to ensure that the implementation of such a law does not make inequality in our state worse, as it undoubtedly will if it is used to disproportionately benefit the highest-income residents—those who bear the impact of inflation and economic turbulence of any kind the least—as Gov. Baker proposes.”
“I support the idea to deliver $2.9 billion in relief checks to taxpayers this fall,” said Rep. Mike Connolly (D-Cambridge). “However, Chapter 62F would send the largest checks to the state’s top income earners, while those most impacted by inflation would get the smallest checks. That’s not just inequitable, it’s also bad economic policy. Moreover, 62F only authorizes tax credits for next year, not checks this fall. That’s why I am calling on legislative leaders to return to formal session as soon as possible to adjust the 62F distribution formula so that middle-income residents and the working poor are prioritized, as they are the ones who are being most crushed by inflation. At the same time, I think the legislature should take action to legally authorize the distribution of these checks this fall. Otherwise, Gov. Baker’s rebate scheme could get tied up in the courts.
REDUCED TRAFFIC FATALITIES AND PROTECT PEDESTRIANS AND BICYCLISTS (H 5103) – The House and Senate approved and sent to Gov. Baker a bill designed to protect “vulnerable road users” which includes pedestrians, constructions workers, emergency responders bicyclists, skateboarders, roller skates and wheelchair users. A key provision requires vehicle drivers, when passing a vulnerable user, to pass at a safe distance of not less than 3 feet when the motor vehicle is traveling at 30 miles per hour or less, and an additional foot of clearance for every ten miles per hour that the vehicle is traveling above 30 miles per hour.
Other provisions include establishing a process to lower the default speed limit to 25 mph on state highways and parkways in thickly settled or business districts; requiring higher-visibility mirrors and lateral sideguards on certain state-owned, state-operated and state-contracted trucks; creating a uniform reporting tool for crashes involving a pedestrian or cyclist; and requiring bicyclists to have red rear lights.
“[The bill] strengthens traffic safety regulations, making our roads safer and taking critical steps to save lives, and reduce crashes that needlessly put people at risk,” said Rep. Christine Barber (D-Somerville), sponsor of an earlier version of the bill .“With an emphasis on enhancing safeguards for pedestrians and bikers, the commonwealth positions itself as a leader in road user safety and promotes alternative modes of transportation.”
Others sponsors of earlier versions of the bill, including Reps. Michael Moran (D-Brighton),Bill Strauss (D-Mattapoisett) and Dave Rogers (D-Cambridge) did not respond to repeated requests from Beacon Hill Roll Call to comment on the bill being approved and sent to Gov. Baker.
BALLOT QUESTION ASKS VOTERS TO REPEAL THE NEW LAW ALLOWING DRIVER’S LICENSE FOR UNDOCUMENTED/ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS (H 4805) – The new law that would allow, starting July 1, 2023, undocumented/illegal immigrants to apply for a Massachusetts standard driver’s license is going to be on the November ballot for voters to decide whether to repeal it or leave it intact. “Fair and Secure Massachusetts,” the group spearheading the repeal campaign, submitted 71,883 voter signatures to get the question on the ballot, far more than the 40,120 signatures required.
The law would require an applicant for a driver’s license “without legal presence” in the United States to provide the Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) with a foreign passport and at least one of five other documents: a driver’s license from another state, a foreign driver’s license, a birth certificate, a foreign national identification card or a marriage certificate or divorce decree from any U.S. state. The bill became law when the House and Senate on June 9 overrode Gov. Charlie Baker’s veto of the bill.
Maureen Maloney, whose son Matthew Denice was killed by a drunk driver who did not have legal status in the United States, is the chair of the repeal campaign. She said that Massachusetts roads “will be much more unsafe” if the law takes effect. “Voters lined up to sign our petition, they voiced to us their reasons for opposing the law,” Maloney said.
A newly formed group, The Yes for Safer Roads Coalition, is spearheading the campaign to reject the repeal effort and keep the law intact. “This law is about more than just operating a motor vehicle,” said Middlesex Sheriff Peter Koutoujian, a member of the coalition. “It enhances safety on our roadways, but just as importantly it allows individuals to get to their work and medical appointments as well as to kids’ school and after school activities. That’s why I am proud to stand with the broad coalition of law enforcement colleagues, public health professionals, advocates and legislators who worked to pass this crucial law.”
2022 COASTSWEEP BEACH CLEANUP – The Baker Administration announced the kickoff of the 2022 COASTSWEEP beach cleanup program which runs through from September 17 to early November. Since 1987, thousands of volunteers have participated and removed hundreds of tons of marine debris and other trash from Massachusetts beaches, lakes, rivers and the seafloor. COASTSWEEP is part of the International Coastal Cleanup initiative that is organized by Ocean Conservancy and draws hundreds of thousands of volunteers to coastal cleanups in more than 150 countries worldwide. Volunteers also record data about what they find into Ocean Conservancy’s international marine debris database, where it helps researchers and policymakers better understand the sources of global marine debris and develop solutions for its prevention.
“Throughout the commonwealth are incredible beaches, waterfronts and shorelines that are enjoyed and appreciated by so many, and the COASTSWEEP program offers a great way for everyone to give back to these treasured natural resources,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Beth Card. “The Baker-Polito Administration encourages everyone to get out and get involved with a cleanup or gather some friends and organize your own this fall season.”
Volunteers can organize their own cleanup or volunteer at a scheduled cleanup. All supplies, including bags, gloves, data cards and pencils are provided free of charge. To join an existing cleanup or to organize one, go to https://www.mass.gov/service-details/coastsweep-cleanup-list or email email@example.com
POLYCYSTIC OVARY SYNDROME AWARENESS (H 3735) – The House approved and sent to the Senate a bill making September Polycystic Ovary Syndrome Awareness (POSA) Month. According to the Mayo Clinic website, POSA is a problem with hormones that happens during the reproductive years. “The exact cause of PCOS is unknown,” notes the website. “Early diagnosis and treatment along with weight loss may lower the risk of long-term complications such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease.”
The bill was approved by the House on September 15, 2022, when half the month of September was already over. It still needs the initial approval of the Senate and another round of approval in both branches, as well as the governor’s signature as the month of September continues to roll on. It was originally filed 16 months ago on May 6, 2021 but September 2021 went by without passage of the bill.
Rep. Nika Elugardo (D-Boston), the sponsor of the bill, did not respond to repeated requests by Beacon Hill Roll Call to comment on her bill and explain why it has been stalled in the House for 18 months.
U.S. LABOR SECRETARY MARTY WALSH TALKS UNIONS AND THE FUTURE – The momentum of labor, including the growth of unions and the increased leverage of workers, is reshaping the traditional workplace dynamic In Massachusetts and beyond. Join Labor Secretary Marty Walsh and Massachusetts labor leaders for a special event hosted by the State House News Service and MASSterList that will explore the important labor trends: labor’s gains, goals and the outlook for the future. The in-person event is Wednesday, September 28, at the Massachusetts Continuing Legal Education (MCLE) at 10 Winter Place (Downtown Crossing) in Boston. Doors open for networking and light refreshments at 7:30 a.m., with the program kicking off at 8:15 a.m. Register at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/the-new-power-of-labor-in-massachusetts-and-beyond-tickets-414176953417?aff=BHRCSept
“We remain committed to delivering support to local officials who understand the positive effect of sustainable roadway safety. Every tool made possible by today’s grants empowers police to educate the public about our commonwealth’s laws, reduce speeding, renew our commitment to wear seat belts and properly address all forms of distracted and impaired driving.”
—Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito upon announcing $10.9 million in federal grant funding to cities and towns to improve road safety across the state.
“This report is a powerful tool for state leaders with clear, measurable and aspirational recommendations that focus on areas that are especially important for advancing equity to ensure all students have access to high-quality opportunities from birth to early adulthood.”
—Edith Bazile, Executive Director of Black Advocates for Educational Excellence on the release by the Massachusetts Education Equity of a report “There Is No Excellence Without Equity: A Path Forward for Education in Massachusetts,” calling on state leaders to make tackling the state’s long-standing educational inequities a top priority.
“After two challenging years, we rebounded stronger than we could have expected.”
—Massachusetts Convention Center Authority (MCCA) Executive Director David Gibbons announcing that the authority just completed its most successful financial year in history, following two years of empty gathering halls because of COVID-19.
“We are honored by this award. A commitment to diversity is a commitment to a culture of continuous improvement.
— Umass Lowell Chancellor Julie Chen on the school being named a recipient of the 2022 Higher Education Excellence in Diversity award recognizing U.S. colleges and universities that demonstrate an outstanding commitment to diversity and inclusion on campus.
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 September 12-16, the House met for a total of 54 minutes and the Senate met for a total of one hour and four minutes.
Mon. Sept. 12 House 11:05 a.m. to 11:23 a.m.
Senate 11:03 a.m. to 11:28 a.m.
Tues. Sept. 13 No House session
No Senate session
Wed. Sept. 14 No House session
No Senate session
Thurs. Sept. 15 House 11:04 a.m. to 11:40 a.m.
Senate 11:03 a.m. to 11:42 a.m.
Fri. Sept. 16 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.