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Beacon Hill Roll Call
Volume 48 – Report No. 13
March 27-31, 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 senators’ votes on the only roll call from the week of March 27-31. There were no roll calls in the House last week
$350 MILLION FOR ROADS AND BRIDGES (S 2375)
Senate 40-0, approved a bill that includes authorizing $200 million in one-time funding for the maintenance and repair of local roads and bridges in cities and towns across the state. The $350 million package, a bond bill under which the funding would be borrowed by the state through the sale of bonds, also includes $150 million to pay for bus lane improvements, improvement of public transit, electric vehicles and other state transportation projects. The House has approved a different version and the Senate version now goes to the House for consideration.
Supporters said the funding, known as Chapter 90 funding, will help cities and towns make their streets and bridges safer for all drivers and will improve the state’s public transportation system. They noted the money is relied on every year by local communities.
“This legislation will maintain and improve our state’s infrastructure, ensure that residents have safe and reliable transportation options and support sustainable, regionally equitable economic development in communities across the commonwealth,” said Senate President Karen Spilka (D-Ashland).
“Our transportation system is the backbone of our commonwealth, connecting us to our jobs, families and communities,” said Sen. Brendan Crighton (D-Lynn), Chair of the Senate Committee on Transportation. “This investment is not just an investment in infrastructure, but an investment in the future of our commonwealth, enabling our cities and towns to make the necessary improvements to promote efficient and safe travel for all.”
Geoff Beckwith, the executive director of the Massachusetts Municipal Association, is one of the biggest advocates for more Chapter 90 funding above the $200 million.
“We are grateful that the Senate has moved so quickly on this important legislation,” said Beckwith. “Cities and towns are anxious to begin the road construction season, and are waiting for this necessary infusion of funds. Communities are facing huge cost pressures as they seek to maintain 30,000 miles of local roads, so we hope the Legislature can send the best bill possible to the governor as soon as possible, as a first step in investing in the massive infrastructure needs at the local level.”
(A “Yes” vote is for the $350 million package.)
Sen. Lydia EdwardsYes
ALSO UP ON BEACON HILL
$388.6 MILLION FISCAL 2023 SUPPLEMENTAL BUDGET (H 3548) – Gov. Maura Healey signed into law a $388.6 million fiscal 2023 supplemental budget. Provisions include $65 million for free school meals; $130 million to keep expanded nutrition assistance in place for a few more months; $2 million for the reimbursement of SNAP benefits for victims of benefit theft; $250,000 for a free abortion-related legal hotline; $45 million for emergency shelter assistance; $40 million to support affordable housing for immigrants and refugees; and $2 million for the Boston branch of the NAACP for costs of some programs to be included in its 114th National NAACP Conference taking place in Boston in 2023.
Other provisions keep some pandemic-era programs, set to expire, in place including allowing restaurants to sell beer, wine and cocktails for take-out; expanding outdoor dining; and extending the authority, set to expire in a few weeks, for public bodies, agencies and commissions to hold their meetings remotely.
“I’m proud that the first major bill signed into law by our administration dedicates crucial resources to help Massachusetts families access safe and secure housing, keep food on the table and pay for childcare,” said Gov. Healey. “Additionally, this bill supports our health care workforce, crucial housing and economic development programs like MassWork and our efforts to compete for federal funding.”
“This supplemental budget injects urgently needed funds into programs that support Massachusetts families and drive housing and economic development across our state,” said Lt. Gov. Kim Driscoll. “It also takes important steps to educate the public on their options around reproductive health care, extends accessibility and flexibility for public meetings, protects access to clean water and bolsters broadband infrastructure.”
HEARING ON CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS – The Judiciary Committee held a hearing on several proposed amendments filed by representatives and senators to amend the state constitution.
Any proposed constitutional amendment sponsored by legislators needs the votes of a majority of the 200-member Legislature in the 2023 to 2024 session and the same in the 2025 to 2026 session in order to appear on the November 2026 ballot for voters to decide. None of these proposals have yet been approved.
EMINENT DOMAIN (H 83) – Would prohibit private property from being taken by the government for private commercial enterprise, economic development or any other private use without the consent of the owner. A similar measure was originally filed in 2005 as a response to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that allows communities to seize private homes and businesses solely for commercial purposes. The ruling also allows states to establish laws prohibiting the practice.
“The right to own property is a basic principle of the commonwealth and it is one that I feel strongly should be upheld,” said the proposal’s sponsor House Minority Leader Brad Jones (R-North Reading). “The government should never have the power to make value judgments with respect to private property. This proposed amendment would protect property owners by explicitly affirming that economic development and private commercial uses do not constitute acceptable public uses for the purpose of eminent domain takings in the commonwealth.”
CHANGE MANDATORY RETIREMENT AGE FOR JUDGES (H 36) – Would change the mandatory retirement age for judges from 70 years old to 75 years old.
“In recent years we have seen an increased need to bring judges back to the bench after their mandatory retirement age,” said sponsor Rep. Paul McMurtry (D-Dedham). “This proposal would allow them to stay on the bench and provide the court with their years of experience.”
HIS OR HER EXCELLENCY THE GOVERNOR (S 10) – Would amend the part of the state constitution that creates the title “His Excellency” for the governor and lieutenant governor. The proposal would add “Her Excellency” as a possibility.
“[The bill] is one of a several bills filed to clean up language in our constitution that privileges male gender by using male pronouns to refer to office holders,” said sponsor Sen. Will Brownsberger (D-Belmont). “I’m hopeful that the Judiciary Committee will report out a consolidated bill that makes all the necessary corrections.”
OATH OF OFFICE (H 33) – Would amend a current section of the constitution that gives Quakers the option to change the oath a person must take upon taking office from the current: “I do solemnly swear, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the commonwealth of Massachusetts and will support the constitution thereof. So help me God.” Currently Quakers are allowed to change the word “swear” to “affirm” and the words “So help me God” with “under the pains and penalties of perjury.” The amendment would give that same option to anyone, not just Quakers.
“The state constitution only allows people of Quaker faith to have the option of affirming their oath,” said sponsor Rep. Mindy Domb (D-Amherst). “The amendment would remove the Quaker eligibility [only] for this option. Federal officials, including the President, a U.S. Representative and a U.S. Senator all have the opportunity to choose to swear or affirm their oaths of office.”
APPOINT LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR. (H 38) – Would grant the governor the power to appoint a lieutenant governor if the office is vacant because of the death, resignation, removal from office or incapacity of the lieutenant governor. The appointment would have to be confirmed by a majority vote of the House and Senate. Current law leaves the seat vacant until the next election.
Sponsor Rep. Susannah Whipps (U-Athol) did not respond to repeated requests by Beacon Hill Roll Call asking her why she filed the proposal.
LIMIT JUDICIAL APPOINTMENTS TO 7 YEARS (H 34) – Would limit judicial appointments to seven years but would allow judges to be re-appointed by the governor for an unlimited number of years every seven years. The appointment would have to be approved by the Governor’s Council as required under current law.
Sponsor Rep. Vanna Howard (D-Lowell) did not respond to repeated requests by Beacon Hill Roll Call asking her why she filed the proposal.
“Massachusetts remains deeply committed to working with our partners across state and local agencies to ensure our schools offer a safe and healthy learning environment for our children and educators. These grants will provide the resources that school officials need to enhance safety and mitigate potential threats.”
—Gov. Maura Healey announcing $570,000 to some Massachusetts school districts to bolster school safety and enhance violence prevention efforts.
“If we truly want to fix the broken childcare sector that is having damaging effects on our children, families, educators, and economy, we need public investment. This funding is a win for everyone and we are committed to continuing our work with our state partners to solve the child care crisis.”
—Lauren Kennedy, co-president of Neighborhood Villages, a Boston-based nonprofit that advocates for solutions to challenges faced by the early education sector, commending Gov. Healey for signing the supplemental budget which includes $68 million to help extend a grant program.
“The tourism industry is critical to local economies across our state, and we are committed to supporting the small businesses, hospitality industry partners, and incredible attractions that make communities throughout Massachusetts some of the best tourism destinations in the world. By marketing Massachusetts to visitors outside of our borders, we are investing in this key sector of our economy.”
—Massachusetts Economic Development Secretary Yvonne Hao on the announcement of a new state marketing campaign “Take a Moment,” which encourages visitors to pause from their daily lives and engage in new experiences and sensory moments in Massachusetts.
“The Credit for Life Fairs offer high-quality experiential learning for young adults in Massachusetts. Students deserve access to education that will prepare them for the kind of financial situations they will encounter throughout their lives.”
—State Treasurer Deb Goldberg on $42.2 million in grants that provide Massachusetts high schools and special education programs with funding to hold “Credit for Life Fairs which provide financial education for students.
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 27-31, the House met for a total of two hours and seven minutes while the Senate met for a total of four hours and five minutes.
Mon. March 27 House 11:01 a.m. to 11:31 a.m.
Senate 11:35 a.m. to 1:18 p.m.
Tues. March 28 No House session
No Senate session
Wed. March 29 No House session
No Senate session
Thurs. March 30 House 11:03 a.m. to 12:40 p.m.
Senate 11:10 a.m. to 1:32 p.m.
Fri. March 31 No House session
No Senate session
Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at email@example.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.