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Volume 47 – Report No. 27

Beacon Hill Roll Call

Volume 47 – Report No. 27

July 4-8, 2022

Copyright © 2022 Beacon Hill Roll Call. All Rights Reserved.

By Bob Katzen 

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   THE HOUSE AND SENATE: Beacon Hill Roll Call records representatives’ and senators’ votes on roll calls from the week of July 4-8, 2022.

BENEFITS FOR MILITARY FAMILIES (H 4978)

   House 154-0, approved legislation that would support military families who relocate to the Bay State by providing career stability for the spouses of service members and education for their children. The Senate has already approved a different version of the bill and the House version now goes back to the Senate for consideration.

   Provisions include making it easier for military personnel and their spouses who move to the Bay State to get a Massachusetts professional license, if their job requires one, so that they can continue their civilian careers and provide for their families without interruption; requiring the Commissioner of Education to issue a military spouse a valid certificate for teaching if he or she holds a valid teaching license from another state; allowing children of military members to register and enroll in a school district at the same time it is open to the general population by waiving the proof of residency requirement until the student actually begins school; creating a purple-star campus designation for certain schools that are military-kid friendly and show a major commitment to students and families connected to the nation’s military; and requiring that a child or spouse of an active-duty service member in Massachusetts continue to pay the in-state less expensive tuition rate at state universities even if the service member is assigned to move out of the state.

   “Anyone who has worn the uniform or has a family member who has worn the uniform knows that the sacrifice of military service goes far beyond the individual service member,” said Sen. John Velis (D-Holyoke) Senate chair of the Committee on Veterans and Federal Affairs. “[This bill] is a recognition of that sacrifice and the challenges these families face. The bill will benefit so many military families coming to our state and will help bring massive federal investments to our commonwealth.”

   “This comprehensive legislation is the result of countless hours of listening and learning from our veterans and advocates across the commonwealth,” said Rep. Paul McMurtry (D-Dedham), House chair of the Committee on Veterans and Federal Affairs. “It not only meets our veteran community’s most immediate needs, it also addresses the many challenges our veterans and their families face.”

    (A “Yes” vote is for the bill.)

Rep. Joseph McGonagleYes                                     

$56 MILLION FOR FAMILIES OF VICTIMS OF HOLYOKE SOLDIERS’ HOME (H 4932)

   Senate 39-0, approved $56 million in funding for the families of the victims of the COVID-19 outbreak at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home. The Senate has already approved the measure and only  final approval is needed in each branch before the measure goes to the governor for his signature.

   “No amount of money will ever make up for the devastating loss and heartbreak that these families have been through,” said Sen. John Velis (D-Holyoke). “What happened at the Home was unacceptable and will forever leave a scar on the commonwealth especially our Western Mass communities. No dollar figure will ever bring these families their loved ones back. That anguish and grief will always be there, but this settlement does ensure that the families no longer need to suffer the painful and long process of continued litigation.”

   (A “Yes” vote is for the bill.)

Sen. Sal DiDomenicoYes                                     

EARLY EDUCATION AND CHILD CARE (S 2973)

   Senate 40-0, approved and sent to the House a bill designed to expand access to high-quality, affordable early education and care.

   Provisions include increasing over time from the current $65,626 to $164,065 the maximum income allowed to qualify for subsidy eligibility for a family of four; requiring the Department of Early Education and Care to evaluate and eliminate barriers to subsidy access for families on an annual basis; strengthening the recruitment of early educators; establishing early educator scholarship and loan forgiveness programs to provide greater access to higher education and professional development opportunities; allowing subsidized providers to offer free or discounted seats for the children of their own staff; and creating a commission to study and recommend to the Legislature ways that employers could provide more support to their workers to help meet their early education and child care needs.

   “There are numerous benefits from expanding access to high-quality, affordable early education and childcare,” said Sen. Jason Lewis (D-Winchester), Senate Chair of the Committee on Education. “It enhances the cognitive and social emotional development of young children; it enables parents to work and improves families’ economic well-being; and it helps employers that are struggling with a workforce shortage. This legislation makes major strides in improving affordability and accessibility of care for families, stabilizing early education providers which will improve program quality and expand capacity and supporting the early educator workforce, many of whom are women of color.”

   “This issue has been a top priority of mine for many years, and I am thrilled to pass this transformative piece of legislation alongside my Senate colleagues,” said Sen. Sal DiDomenico (D-Everett), a member of the Special Legislative Early Education and Care Economic Review Commission. “As a father of two children, I know that affordable and quality early education and care is indispensable for families and their economic security. This bill will increase childcare access and help thousands of families obtain care at lower costs. Just as importantly, these investments will provide support to childcare providers and ensure people working in this field can earn a living wage, acquire higher education and support their own families.”

   (A “Yes” vote is for the bill.)

Sen. Sal DiDomenicoYes                                     

   ALSO UP ON BEACON HILL

   $250 OR $500 TAX REBATE TO SOME TAXPAYERS – The House and Senate leadership unveiled legislation that would use some of the state’s estimated $3.6 billion surplus to give one-time tax rebates to an estimated 2 million eligible people. The package is estimated to cost $500 million. 

   A $250 rebate would go, by September 30, to individual taxpayers and a $500 rebate to married taxpayers. Eligibility will be determined by annual income reported in 2021, with the minimum income required to be $38,000, and the maximum $100,000 for individual filers and $150,000 for joint filers.

   “Whether it is the rising price of gas, groceries, or summer clothes for kids, the Massachusetts Legislature has heard loud and clear that increased costs due to inflation have cut into family budgets,” said speaker of the House Ron Mariano, Senate President Karen  Spilka, House Ways and Means Chair Aaron Michlewitz and Senate Ways and Means Chair Mike Rodrigues, in a joint statement.

   The statement continued, “These rebates represent the Legislature’s commitment to delivering immediate financial relief directly to residents of the commonwealth, rather than to large oil companies that continue to profit off economic uncertainty and international conflict and follow our efforts to provide $500 in premium pay for lower income front-line workers during the pandemic. As we recognize the need for structural change as well, we continue to work on potential changes to the tax code with the goal of providing additional relief to residents.”

   “The Legislature’s ‘Taxpayer Energy and Economic Relief Fund’ proposal is a good start in reimbursing taxpayers for the muti-billion-dollar over-taxation revenue surpluses bonanza of the past two years,” said Chip Ford, executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation. “Anything that reduces taxpayers’ burden especially in this economy is welcomed, but this will only reduce the pain for a few weeks in the fall. Gov. Baker’s tax relief bill offers broader and long-overdue structural tax reforms. It also needs consideration and adoption. Clearly there is sufficient surplus revenue for both.”

   “This is a poorly thought-out gimmick being done right before the election simply to score points with voters, plain and simple,” said Mass Fiscal Alliance spokesman Paul Craney. “Meaningful relief should be broad based and focused on lowering taxes on the people they most effect. Picking winners and losers through arbitrary brackets, as well as penalizing married couples more likely to have families depending on them, is a poor way for our out of touch Legislature to show solidarity with the privations their ill-conceived economic policies are currently forcing Massachusetts families to contend with.”

   Critics also took a swipe at the measure because it doesn’t provide a rebate for lower-income taxpayers earning less than $38,000. Marie-Frances Rivera, president of the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, said that rebates that exclude people earning less than $38,000 is not targeted tax relief to people who need it the most and are struggling to pay rent every month.

   Mariano responded at a press conference and pointed out that the Legislature several months ago had already spent $490 million on low-income folks who were adversely affected by the COVID loss of jobs. “So we felt we had addressed a lot of the needs there,” said Mariano. “The next step was to move up and take care of the folks who are in that middle income area that so often is neglected.”

   Some opponents said it is also unfair to exclude people earning over $100,000 from the rebate. They noted that if you have three children and earn $100,000 you are not exactly rich.

   $400,000 FOR FARMS – The Baker Administration announced the granting of $400,000 in grants to several Bay State farms to improve their operations. 

 

  “[The] administration remains committed to the Massachusetts agricultural industry to ensure our local farmers continue to succeed and have the support they need to provide invaluable products for the public to enjoy,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Beth Card. “These Agricultural Preservation Restriction Program Improvement grants will further strengthen the commonwealth’s food supply system making it more resilient now and well into the future.”

  “The Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR) is steadfast with its commitment to our commonwealth’s farming families,” said MDAR Commissioner John Lebeaux. “Through the … program we have been able to conserve critical farmland, preserve Massachusetts agricultural history and provide support to help keep these farm businesses sustainable now and for future generations.”

   SOME COVID-19 POLICIES EXTENDED (H 4978 AND S 2559) – The House approved a bill that extends the authority for remote participation for all public bodies and the authority for representative town meetings to meet by remote means through March 31, 2023.

    Other provisions authorize the use of electronic communication technology in real estate property closings by attorneys; require landlords, when sending tenants a notice to quit for nonpayment of rent, to include information regarding the tenant’s legal rights; require all public notices be posted to a website; require that the meeting of a state public body must have at least one of its members physically present at all meetings; and permit notary publics to select a tamper-evident technology for notarial acts with electronic record.

    “This legislation makes permanent the flexibility permitted under the Open Meeting Law during the COVID-19 State of Emergency while keeping with the Open Meeting Law’s objectives of transparency, convenience and access by the public,” said Rep. Tony Cabral (D-New Bedford), the chair of the Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight. “The ability to participate remotely has significantly increased and promoted access and participation in our democratic process throughout the commonwealth. There is no reason to move backwards from this new era of public access. Now that we have experienced the benefits of remote access to public meetings, we cannot go back.”

   Advocates for the bill include the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, Boston Center for Independent Living, Common Cause Massachusetts, Disability Law Center, League of Women Voters of Massachusetts, Massachusetts Newspaper Publishers Association, MASSPIRG, New England First Amendment Coalition, and New England Newspaper & Press Association.

  Those groups released a joint statement. “We applaud the Legislature for consistently appreciating the importance of remote access to public meetings,” read the statement. “Across the commonwealth, remote access to public meetings has significantly increased public participation in state and local government, and has lowered longstanding barriers for people with disabilities, people with limited access to transportation and people with work and family obligations.”

   The Senate has already approved its own version of the measure and a House-Senate conference committee will likely craft a compromise version.

   LOTTERY FOR LOW LICENSE PLATES – The Registry of Motor Vehicle announced that applications for the 2022 Low Number License Plate Lottery are now being accepted and must be submitted online by 5 p.m., Friday, September 2. This year’s goodies are 199 low license plates including F7, 36, 78K, X44, 1S, and 6666. Applications are available online at http://www.mass.gov/RMV 

    There is no fee to apply. However, If the applicant is selected as a winner, there is a special plate fee that will be required, in addition to a standard registration fee.

   Prior to the establishment of this lottery several years ago, these low-number plates were given away under the old-school system which gave the plates to “well-connected” drivers who “knew someone” in state government.

   QUOTABLE QUOTES

   “These toxic chemicals don’t belong anywhere, let alone in food packaging. Kudos to Rhode Island for taking this important step to protect the public from PFAS. I hope Massachusetts will soon become the next state to act.”

   — Ben Hellerstein, state director for Environment Massachusetts, on Rhode Island’s passage of a new law banning PFAS (per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances) in food packaging. Supporters say that PFAs are dangerous chemicals which have been linked to a wide variety of health problems including immunosuppression, low birthweight, liver disease and testicular and kidney cancer.

   “The Legislature’s move, driven by Speaker Ron Mariano and Senate President Karen Spilka, to give driver’s licenses to people in this country illegally resonated like no other issue before with the people of Massachusetts. MassFiscal set a record with the number of people who used our website to contact their legislators opposing this vote.

   —Paul Craney, spokesman for the Mass Fiscal Alliance.

   “I look forward to working with you and your team and our team as we hopefully quickly and successfully settle the differences between both of our bills. It’s the first time we’ve attempted to update and modernize the cannabis laws since they were enacted by the voters in 2016 and modified by us in the Legislature in 2017.”

   —Senate Ways and Means chair Sen. Mike Rodrigues (D-Westport) on the conference committee working on drafting a compromise version of a bill that would make changes in the cannabis laws.

   “We’re seeing more daylight shootings on busy streets and more guns in the hands of teenagers. The common thread, beyond shooters willing to send bullets flying regardless of where they are, is that the guns were likely trafficked in from another state.”

—Suffolk County District Attorney Kevin Hayden urging governors and legislators in states with “easy-access gun purchase laws” to consider the impacts their laws are having on cities like Boston.

   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 dozen  s of bills in the days immediately preceding the end of an annual session.

   During the week of July 4-8, the House met for a total of seven hours and 44 minutes and the Senate met for a total of seven hours and 55 minutes.

Mon.   July 4      No House session

                   No Senate session.

Tues.  July 5      House  11:03 a.m. to  11:14 a.m.

                   Senate 11:18 a.m. to  12:09 p.m.

Wed.   July 6      House  11:02 a.m. to  11:51 a.m

                   No Senate session.

 

Thurs. July 7      House  11:04 a.m. to   5:48 p.m.                   

                   Senate 11:19 a.m. to   6:23 p.m.

Fri.   July  8     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.

   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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