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Malden – Volume 48 – Report No. 3

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If you have any questions about this week’s report, e-mail us at bob@beaconhillrollcall.com or call us at (617) 720-1562.

Beacon Hill Roll Call

Volume 48 – Report No. 3

January 16-20, 2023

Copyright © 2023 Beacon Hill Roll Call. All Rights Reserved.

By Bob Katzen 

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   THE HOUSE AND SENATE: Gov. Maura Healey told Poltico Playbook last week that she supports some tax cuts including raising the estate/death tax threshold from $1 million to $2 million and expanding the senior circuit breaker tax credit. She also said she is reviewing a proposal to reduce the short-term capital gains rate from 12 percent to 5 percent. 

   “Gov. Healey and Lt. Gov. Driscoll continue to have discussions with the Senate president and speaker and look forward to working together with the Legislature on efforts to make Massachusetts more affordable and support seniors, working families and small business owners during these challenging economic times,” Healey‘s press secretary Karissa Hand told Beacon Hill Roll Call. “The governor has previously supported raising the estate tax threshold and expanding the senior circuit breaker and rental deduction, and those remain under consideration.”

    Beacon Hill Roll Call asked Senate President Spilka and House Speaker Ron Mariano whether they supported these tax cuts.

   “Last session, the Senate president was proud to usher through the Senate a tax relief package that increased the child and dependent tax credit and earned income tax credit,” a spokesperson for Spilka  told Beacon Hill Roll Call. “This package also provided additional relief to renters and seniors and made the state more competitive by addressing the estate tax. She looks forward to pursuing permanent progressive tax relief in this new session.”

   “There is a consensus revenue hearing on January 24th,” Max Ratner, spokesperson for House Speaker Ron Mariano told Beacon Hill Roll Call. “Each tax cut proposal will be reviewed through the legislative process after the hearing, and when the Legislature can better understand the upcoming economic environment.”

   The House last year defeated raising the estate/death tax threshold, expanding the senior circuit breaker tax credit and reducing the short-term capital gains rate. 

   At that time, some opponents said they simply oppose the tax reductions. Others said that they voted against each of the three tax reductions, proposed as amendments to the state budget, because they are all included in a separate stand-alone piece of legislation filed by Gov. Charlie Baker. They argued the amendments are premature and that the House should not act on this or any other tax reduction piecemeal here in the state budget but rather should wait until the Revenue Committee holds a public hearing on the governor’s package as a whole and sends it to the House for action. Baker’s tax package was held up and never reached the House.

   “While it is slightly encouraging to see Gov. Healey see the value in lowering the country’s most aggressive estate tax, this proposed adjustment is still just a tweak of a deeply flawed system,” said Paul Craney, a spokesperson for MassFiscal. “Massachusetts would still end up having the country’s third most aggressive estate tax. This tweak may bring some temporary relief, but it will not stop the outward migration of taxpayers due to Question 1 and the estate tax. If Gov. Healey supported the full repeal of the estate tax, which many blue states are doing, MassFiscal would lavish praise to the new governor for adopting a policy that puts us in line to compete with 38 other states which don’t have an estate tax.”

   Here is how local representatives voted on the proposals last year. Votes were almost 100 percent across party lines with the Republicans favoring the tax cuts and the Democrats opposing them.


   House 30-126, rejected an amendment that would exempt the first $2 million of the value of a person’s estate from the state’s estate/death tax that a person is required to pay following their death before distribution to any beneficiary. Under current law, only the first $1 million is exempt.

   Under the current $1 million threshold and under the proposed $2 million threshold, the tax on anything over the threshold is a graduated one that ranges from 0.8 percent to 16 percent. This tax applies to the entire estate value, not just the portion above the threshold. 

   Most Republicans are against any such tax and coined the name “death tax” to imply that the government taxes you even after you die. Most Democrats support the tax and call it an “estate tax” to imply that this tax is only paid by the wealthy.

   Amendment supporters said that Massachusetts is one of only 12 states that have an estate/death tax and that the Bay State’s is the most aggressive of the 12. They said that in light of the high value of houses, with the average home price more than $500,000, the $1 million threshold of this “unfair and regressive” tax is too low and noted the federal tax exempts the first $12 million. They noted that Massachusetts is losing many residents, who move to Florida and other states where this tax does not even exist. 


   Amendment opponents said to wait for Gov. Baker’s proposal.

   (A “Yes” vote is for exempting the first $2 million of the value of a person’s estate from the state’s estate/death tax. A “No” vote is against exempting it.)

Rep. Paul DonatoNo                                      Rep. Steven Ultrino No                                      


   House 31-125, rejected an amendment that would increase by $1,005 (from $750 to $1,755) the maximum tax credit which seniors over 65 who qualify, can receive under the Senior Circuit Breaker Tax Credit Law. The law applies to seniors with homes valued at less than $884,000 and who earn $62,000 or less for a single individual who is not the head of a household; $78,000 for a head of household; and $93,000 for married couples filing a joint return.

   To qualify, if you are a homeowner, your property tax payments, together with half of your water and sewer expense, must exceed 10 percent of your total Massachusetts income for the tax year. If you are a renter, 25 percent of your annual Massachusetts rent must exceed 10 percent of your total Massachusetts income for the tax year.

   Amendment supporters said this will help seniors on fixed incomes who are having a difficult time as inflation and the cost of food and gas soar.

   Amendment opponents said to wait for Gov. Baker’s proposal.

   (A “Yes” vote is for the increased tax credit of $1,005. A “No” vote is against it.)

Rep. Paul DonatoNo                                      Rep. Steven Ultrino No                                      


   House 29-127, rejected an amendment that would reduce the short-term capital gains tax from 12 percent to 5 percent.

   Amendment supporters said this will help investors in Massachusetts keep up with mounting inflation. They asked why the capital gains or any tax imposed should be charged at a higher rate than earned income, especially considering the multi-billions in historic revenue surpluses that the state has..

   Amendment opponents said to wait for Gov. Baker’s proposal.

   (A “Yes” vote is for reducing the capital gains tax from 12 percent to 5 percent. A “No” vote is against the reduction.)

Rep. Paul DonatoNo                                      Rep. Steven Ultrino No                                      


   THOUSANDS OF BILLS FILED FOR 2023-2024 SESSION – Friday, January 20 at 5 p.m. was the “soft deadline” for legislation to be filed for consideration by the Legislature during the 2023-2024 legislative session. However, under House and Senate rules, bills filed after January 20 can still be admitted to the Legislature following the deadline if the Legislature agrees to admit it by a four-fifths vote of the members of the branch where the bill is introduced. Each legislative session, hundreds of bills are admitted as late-filed bill


   CONFIDENTIALITY OF MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES (S 2684) – Before the 2022 session ended on January 3, the House approved and sent to the Senate legislation expanding the 2019 law that ensures confidentiality for first responders, including an active or retired law enforcement officer, police officer, state police trooper, sheriff or deputy sheriff, firefighter and emergency medical personnel, who seek mental health services from a peer counselor.

   The bill, which would expand the current law to include state or municipal police criminalists, crime scene personnel, police dispatchers and 911 operators, died in the Senate.

   “The … committee supported [the bill],” said Rep. Carlos Gonzalez (D-Springfield), the chair of the Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security which handled the proposal. “It is good policy. The folks serving our community should not worry about privacy issues or unfounded stigmatization for seeking mental health treatment. We owe them any support we can afford them—including the assurance of confidentiality when they seek help.”

   Rep. Ed Coppinger (D-Boston), the sponsor of the bill, did not respond to repeated requests from Beacon Hill Roll Call asking why he filed the bill, how he feels about its death in the Senate and whether he will refile it for the 2023-2024 session.

   OVERDOSES AND NALOXONE (S 3182) – Before the 2022 session ended, the Senate approved and sent to the House a bill designed to increase access to and education about the drug overdose-reversal medication Naloxone, or a similar medication.

   The measure would require doctors and other medical professionals who prescribe an opioid to a patient to also prescribe Naloxone or a similar medication under certain circumstances.

   The bill died in the House.

   “We must do all we can to prevent overdoses in the ongoing opioid epidemic,” said Sen. Brendan Crighton (D-Lynn), the sponsor of the bill. “This law would help improve education of and access to Naloxone, which in turn can save lives in emergency situations. I look forward to re-filing this bill and working with my colleagues to get it signed into law.”

   SEABEES DAY (S 3159) – Before the 2022 session ended, the House and Senate approved and former-Gov. Baker signed into law a bill designating March 5 as United States Navy Seabees Day in recognition of the birthday of the United States Naval Construction Battalion, better known as the Navy Seabees, formed on March 5, 1942.

  Supporters said the Seabees were created for a dual mission to build and to fight in support of combat operations, humanitarian outreach and nation-building.

   Sen. Mike Rush (D-Boston), the sponsor of the measure did not respond to repeated requests by Beacon Hill Roll Call to comment on the signing of the bill and why he filed it.

   QUOTABLE QUOTES – While Gov. Maura Healey and Lt. Gov Kim Driscoll assumed office on January 5th, the other four statewide constitutional officers were not sworn in until January 18. Here are some quotes from each of their remarks on Inauguration Day:

   “My hope is that every day, women and young people who look like me—and see the incredible work of this office—will feel less invisible, despairing and lonely because there continues to be a shining example of what is possible. We can provide greater economic opportunity by tackling wage theft; protecting residents from predatory practices and scams; fighting to ensure families have the tools they need to buy or stay in their homes; and punishing unfair or discriminatory practices that stand in the way of upward mobility and opportunity.”

  —Attorney General Andrea Campbell

    “I love this state. It is full of talented, diverse, hard-working people of every color, background and religion. I am so honored that you have again placed your trust in me as your treasurer. I look forward to building upon our work to ensure that everyone who calls Massachusetts home has equal opportunities to achieve economic stability and security for themselves and their families for generations to come.” 

   —Treasurer Deb Goldberg

    “We know representation matters and I am thrilled that we have a more representative and diverse group of leaders recently elected across our state. Congratulations. But I submit to you that if we really want to see the bold and meaningful change that working families and historically underserved communities need and deserve — we must also talk about access – and why access matters. 

   —Auditor Diana DiZoglio

   “One of the things we’re seeing is that there’s a need for better civic education, especially in high schools, of what the significance of elections are. I mean, I think the root cause of some of the election denialism and some of the other hostility that’s out there is people don’t really understand what government is supposed to do.”

   —Secretary of State Bill Galvin

   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 January 16-20, the House met for a total eight hours and 33 minutes while the Senate met for a total of 7 minutes.

Mon.   Jan. 16   No House session

                 No Senate session

Tues.  Jan. 17   House  11:02 a.m. to   7:33 p.m.                    

                 Senate 11:34 a.m. to  11:39 a.m.

Wed.   Jan. 18   No House session

                 No Senate session


Thurs. Jan. 19   House  11:01 a.m. to  11:03 a.m.                 

                 Senate 11:15 a.m. to  11:17 a.m.   

Fri.   Jan. 20   No House session

                 No Senate session


   Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at bob@beaconhillrollcall.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

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