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Beacon Hill Roll Call
Volume 48 – Report No. 9
February 27-March 3, 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 a roll call from the week of February 27-March 3. There were no roll calls in the Senate last week.
$353 MILLION SUPPLEMENTAL BUDGET (H 57)
House 153-0, approved and sent to the Senate a $353 million fiscal 2023 supplemental budget. Provisions include $86 million for the emergency shelter system to help offset medical costs for migrant families going to emergency rooms for shelter and assistance; $130 million to keep expanded nutrition assistance in place for a few more months; $65 million for the universal school meals program; and provisions to keep some pandemic-era programs, set to expire, in place including allowing restaurants to sell beer, wine and cocktails for take-out and expanding outdoor dining from April 1, 2023 to April 1, 2024. Another provision extends the authority, set to expire in a few weeks, for public bodies, agencies and commissions to hold their meetings remotely until March 31, 2025.
“The package … covers a number of different areas that all require our immediate attention,” said House Ways and Means Committee chair Rep. Aaron Michlewitz (D-Boston). “This modest proposal addresses some of the pressing needs the commonwealth is facing currently. As we begin this legislative session, we are on a quick time frame for some of these programs and this spending bill is one that we need to move fairly quickly to ensure our people receive the services they need.”
“The migrant crisis our commonwealth has been facing with these last couple of months has put our will to the test,” continued Michlewitz. “While Washington continues to struggle with finding a reasonable compromise on a broken immigration system, it is the state and our municipalities that have been forced to pick up the pieces.”
(A “Yes” vote is for the budget.)
Rep. Paul DonatoYes Rep. Steven Ultrino Yes
ALSO UP ON BEACON HILL – A look at some bills filed for consideration in the new 2023-2024 Legislature:
BABY BONDS (SD 711) – Would create a Baby Bonds program in Massachusetts to provide funds at birth to certain low-income residents which can be accessed when the account holder turns 18 to support asset-building activities such as post-secondary education, homebuying or investing in a business.
“I am proud to have filed [this bill] to start building an effective and transformational baby bonds program in the commonwealth that will build wealth from the bottom up, and the middle out, to put hard-working residents on a trajectory for wealth-creation from day one,” said sponsor Sen. Paul Feeney (D-Foxborough). “By automatically investing from day one of a child’s life, we are providing a jump-start to individuals otherwise at a disadvantage by beginning to narrow the racial wealth gap and giving our poorest residents a fighting shot at the middle class and the American Dream.”
CHOREOGRAPHER LAUREATE (SD 2382) – Would create a new state position of Choreographer Laureate to encourage participation in the arts, elevate the dance legacy and current dance in Bay State communities and choreograph performances for important state events and ceremonies.
“In my decades as a dancer and choreographer, I’ve witnessed the power of dance and movement to bring people together, and to embrace the joy and diversity of humanity,” said sponsor said Sen. Becca Rausch (D-Needham). “I filed this bill to help spread that joy and appreciation throughout the commonwealth and uplift the importance of the arts and cultural exchange in our communities.”
IMMIGRANTS IN SCHOOLS (SD 2412) – Would require the Department of Education to establish an assistance program for cities and towns that are experiencing sudden influxes of immigrant populations in their schools but are not receiving any additional educational aid from the state.
Sponsor Sen. John Velis (D-Westfield) said that he filed the measure to start an important conversation on how we can assist municipalities that are seeing a sudden influx of population in their school districts. “I am pleased that Gov. Healey has also recognized this issue and set aside funding in her supplemental budget to help schools take care of these students. This is a working bill and I look forward to continuing to collaborate with my colleagues to ensure our municipalities have the resources they need.”
ACTIVE SHOOTER (SD 157) – Would require the state to adopt the National Fire Protection Association’s standard guidelines for active shooter or hostile events. The bill also establishes an Executive Council comprised of representatives of fire fighters, EMS and law enforcement agencies to develop best practices for all elements of active-shooter response situations.
“In recent years, our country has been presented with greater risks and threats when it comes to active shooter situations,” said sponsor Sen. Patrick O’Connor (R-Weymouth). “We are fortunate that here in Massachusetts, we have been proactive and collaborative about protecting the safety of all residents. This legislation seeks to ensure that we remain ahead of the curve and keep our residents safe well into the future.”
MAKE ELECTION DAY A LEGAL HOLIDAY (SD 353) – Would make Election Day, every two years, a statewide holiday and provide people who cannot take the holiday off because they are Election Day workers or perform other essential work, with two hours paid voting leave.
“The ability to vote is the foundation of our democracy,” said sponsor Sen. Becca Rausch (D-Needham). “For economically vulnerable communities, the question of voting oftentimes comes down to missing hours at work, holding onto a job or earning pay they rely on to put food on the table. My bill to establish Election Day as a holiday gives voters the greatest flexibility to cast their ballot and make their voices heard.”
QUOTABLE QUOTES – Gov. Maura Healey released a proposed $55.5 billion fiscal 2024 state budget. Here’s what they are saying about it.
“Our … budget is what Massachusetts needs to meet this moment and build a strong economy, livable communities and a sustainable future. Combined with our tax relief proposal, we will set Massachusetts up for success by lowering costs, growing our competitiveness and delivering on the promise of our people. Additionally, we are taking aggressive action to address our housing crisis by creating the Executive Office of Housing and Livable Communities led by a housing secretary who will coordinate across state government and with cities and towns to move us forward on our housing goals.”
—Gov. Maura Healey.
“Hang onto your wallets. Gov. Maura Healey’s budget will cost you. A $55.5 billion dollar proposed budget, which is 14 percent higher than [ex-Gov. Charlie Baker’s] budget proposed last year. If Question 1 didn’t scare away the taxpayers, a 14 percent increase to state spending certainly will. This budget doesn’t include broad based tax cuts and tax eliminations that Massachusetts desperately needs to compete with states like New Hampshire and Florida. Instead, it explodes state spending, which seems to be rife with abuse by adding generously to payroll expenses, new bureaucracies and giveaways.”
—Paul Craney, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance.
“We thank the Healey-Driscoll administration for a … budget that makes significant and important investments in Jewish communal priorities. Today’s budget provides $1.5 million in vital funding for nonprofit security grants, $1.5 million in the Genocide Education Trust Fund and builds towards greater economic security.”
—From a press release from the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston.
“While the governor’s budget proposes several meaningful new initiatives, it doesn’t come close to making the investments necessary to address our workforce challenges, tackle our broken childcare system, end the housing affordability crisis or fix the MBTA and build a 21st century statewide transportation system. Instead, a massive permanent tax cut for the wealthy would most likely lead to catastrophic budget cuts the next time we hit a recession.”
—Andrew Farnitano, spokesman for Raise Up MA Coalition that spearheaded the successful November 2022 ballot question requiring taxpayers who earn more than $1 million annually to pay an additional 4 percent income tax, in addition to the current flat 5 percent one, on their earnings of more than $1 million annually.
“Gov. Healey’s … budget proposal includes several positive elements that begin to address the new competitive challenges Massachusetts employers are facing, but rehabilitating Massachusetts’ declining business climate will require far more significant steps.”
— Chris Anderson, President of the Massachusetts High Technology Council.
“The filing of Gov. Healey’s first budget proposal comes at a critical time for the commonwealth. With pandemic-era federal support ending for many programs, it is imperative that we set clear priorities to ensure that state spending is maintained at sustainable levels. I look forward to reading through the governor’s budget in more detail and following the upcoming Ways and Means budget hearings to get a better understanding of what her proposal entails.”
—GOP House Minority Leader Rep. Brad Jones (R-North Reading).
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 27-March 3, the House met for a total of five hours and four minutes while the Senate met for a total of four minutes.
Mon. Feb. 27 House 11:03 a.m. to 11:13 a.m.
Senate 11:36 a.m. to 11:37 a.m.
Tues. Feb. 28 No House session
No Senate session
Wed. March 1 House 11:01 a.m. to 3:51 p.m.
No Senate session
Thurs. March 2 House 11:01 a.m. to 11:05 a.m.
Senate 11:04 a.m. to 11:07 a.m.
Fri. March 3 No House session
No Senate session