By Bob Katzen
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THE HOUSE AND SENATE: Beacon Hill roll Call records local senators’ votes on roll calls from the week of March 21-25. There were no roll calls in the House last week.
SUSPEND THE 24-CENTS-PER GALLON GAS TAX UNTIL LABOR DAY (S 2776)
Senate 11-29, rejected an amendment that would immediately suspend the state’s 24-cents-per gallon gas tax until September 5. The measure also requires that the total amount of revenue lost as a result of the suspension be taken out of the General Fund and transferred to the Transportation Fund, where the gas tax currently goes. All three Republicans voted for the suspension. Eight of the Senate’s 37 Democrats joined the Republicans and voted for the suspension.
“I sponsored this amendment to provide for relief to motorists across the commonwealth,” said Sen. Ryan Fattman (R-Sutton), the sponsor of the amendment. “Hardworking families in Massachusetts need to see relief at the pumps, and it is our legislative responsibility to provide immediate assistance wherever we can. When you amortize 24 cents over the course of 16 gallons of gas per tank, several fill ups per week, over the course of six months to a year, it turns out to be between $600 to $1,200 worth of savings. For many, that’s a mortgage payment, rent, car payments or essential supplies for the family.”
“There is a reason Gov. Baker, the House speaker and Senate president have been focused on other ways to provide relief to residents who are crunched under the impact of inflation,” said Sen. Adam Hinds (D-Pittsfield), the chair of the Revenue Committee. “I am not convinced this step would result in lower prices at the pump given the behavior of oil companies. This is a source of revenue we need for our transportation investments [and the suspension] could negatively impact the state’s bond rating and more.”
“Residents have shown great patience, hard work and determination to carry Massachusetts through the pandemic, and now is the time to reward all Bay Staters for not only keeping our economy afloat, but thriving during these challenging times,” said Sen. Patrick O’Connor (R-Weymouth). “Other states in the nation have suspended their gas tax or have plans to, including some of our New England neighbors. Massachusetts is in a strong financial position to offer this relief at the gas pump and it’s time we act with the urgency needed to get this done.”
“The proposed suspension of the gas tax is a political gimmick that is more likely to benefit oil companies than consumers,” said Senate Ways and Means chair Sen. Mike Rodrigues (D-Westport). “Further, the proposal would negatively impact our bond rating and hinder our ability to finance necessary transportation projects.”
“The Senate is committed to providing real, targeted relief to Massachusetts taxpayers,” continued Rodrigues. “We approved $500 checks for 500,000 essential workers that are in the mail right now. We created child and dependent tax credits that provide $16 million per year to over 85,000 families. And we ensured that COVID relief funds, including $10,200 in unemployment assistance for low-income families, is not subject to income tax. We will continue to provide meaningful support to families across the commonwealth. However, a gas tax suspension is the wrong approach.”
“With the Senate Democrats’ lopsided defeat of a reasonable suspension of the state gas tax, following its secret defeat by the Democrat House supermajority, it’s clear that the multi-billions in revenue surplus—at least in the eyes of most Democrat legislators—belongs to them and them alone,” said Chip Ford, executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation. “Obviously now, they have no intention of returning or sharing any part of the revenue bonanza with the taxpayers who provided every cent of the historic surplus, despite the increasing hardships their constituents must endure from record-setting inflation and over-taxation. Voters will remember come November, and surely will be reminded along the way, just who crushed them.”
“When Massachusetts motorists suffer with higher gas prices, they can blame Washington politicians and 29 of their Democratic Massachusetts state senators,” said Paul Craney, spokesman for the Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance. “It’s really calloused of these 29 Democratic state senators, who all get paid extra to drive to work, to vote against providing immediate relief for their struggling constituents and small businesses.”
(A “Yes” vote is for the suspension of the gas tax. A “No” vote is against suspension and favors keeping the gas tax in place).
Sen. Lydia Edwards No
$20 MILLION FOR COUNSELING VICTIMS OF CRIME (S 2776)
Senate 39-0, approved an amendment providing $200 million for free counseling, advocacy and intervention services to victims of crime. Amendment supporters said the funding is necessary to forestall devastating federal program cuts and will be distributed to 161 programs statewide.
“I’m tremendously heartened to see the Senate approve a strong supplemental budget with critical investments in much needed programs that will help my constituents continue to recover from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Sen. Jo Comerford (D-Northampton). “I am proud to secure victim assistance funding, which will help ensure that victim’s rights services in the Hampshire, Franklin, Worcester district are able to continue their critical work on behalf of children and survivors in our communities.”
(A “Yes” vote is for the amendment).
Sen. Lydia Edwards Yes
DIVEST STATE’S PENSION FUND FROM RUSSIAN INVESTMENTS (S 2776)
Senate 39-0, approved an amendment that would require the state’s pension funds to terminate investments with any company that has been sanctioned by the United States as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine or is incorporated in Russia. The list would be researched and prepared by an independent, third-party research firm and would be updated by the firm four times per year. The pension fund would be required to divest itself of 50 percent of the companies within six months and 100 percent within a year.
“We have the moral obligation here in the commonwealth of Massachusetts to take a stand and embrace any and all levers of opportunity to apply maximum pressure to a war criminal’s murderous regime, that is Vladimir Putin’s Russian Federation,” said sponsor Sen. Walter Timilty (D-Milton). “It is crucial that we send a message, as one commonwealth, that we are acting against an evil regime, standing united with the courageous people of Ukraine,” Timilty concluded.
“The members of the Massachusetts State Senate continue to stand with the people of Ukraine, as they move into a second month of fear, violence and anguish caused by the aggression of Vladimir Putin and Russian forces,” said Senate President Karen Spilka (D-Ashland). “There is nothing that we can do to fully erase the pain and suffering caused by this immoral and unnecessary military action, but we can insist that Massachusetts take action to divest from Russian interests and support the Ukrainian people.”
(A “Yes” vote is for the amendment).
Sen. Lydia Edwards Yes
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 March 21-25, the House met for a total of 48 minutes and the Senate met for a total of five hours and 59 minutes.
Mon. March 21 House 11:05 a.m. to 11:18 a.m.
Senate 11:15 a.m. to 11:41 a.m.
Tues. March 22 No House session
No Senate session
Wed. March 23 No House session
No Senate session
Thurs. March 24 House 11:02 a.m. to 11:37 a.m.
Senate 11:14 a.m. to 4:47 p.m.
Fri. March 25 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.