Volume 39-Report No. 34 •  August 22, 2014
Copyright © 2014 Beacon Hill Roll Call. All Rights Reserved. By Bob Katzen
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THE HOUSE AND SENATEBeacon Hill Roll Call records the votes of local representatives and senators on three roll calls from prior legislative sessions.

Our Legislators in the House and Senate for Somerville:

Rep. Denise Provost
DISTRICT REPRESENTED: Twenty-seventh Middlesex. – Consisting of precinct 3 of ward 2, all precincts of ward 3, precinct 3 of ward 4, and all precincts of wards 5 and 6, of the city of Somerville, in the county of Middlesex.

Rep. Timothy Toomey
DISTRICT REPRESENTED: Twenty-sixth Middlesex. – Consisting of all precincts of ward 1, precinct 1 of ward 2, precincts 1 and 2 of ward 3, and precinct 1 of ward 6, of the city of Cambridge, and all precincts of ward 1 and precincts 1 and 2 of ward 2, of the city of Somerville, both in the county of Middlesex.

Sen. Patricia Jehlen
DISTRICT REPRESENTED: Second Middlesex. – Consisting of the cities of Cambridge, wards 9 to 11, inclusive, Medford and Somerville, and the town of Winchester, precincts 4 to 7, inclusive, in the county of Middlesex.

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$250,000 TO RETAIN TEACHERS (H 4242)
House 135-15, Senate 38-1, overrode Gov. Deval Patrick’s veto of the entire $250,000 for the Educator Mentor Corps that uses retired teachers to mentor newer public school teachers.

Supporters of keeping the $250,000 said between 30 percent to 50 percent of teachers leave their jobs during their first three years in the classroom. They noted this successful program uses experienced teachers to help support, inspire and retain the next generation of teachers, especially in urban areas.

In his veto message, Gov. Patrick said he vetoed the funding because the program was “not recommended.”

(A “Yes” vote is for the $250,000. A “No” vote is against it.)

Rep. Denise Provost       Yes
Rep. Timothy Toomey    Yes
Sen. Sal DiDomenico     Yes
Sen. Patricia Jehlen        Yes

$183,000 FOR NEW ENGLAND BOARD OF HIGHER EDUCATION (H 4242)
House 150-0, Senate 36-3, overrode Gov. Patrick’s $183,000 veto reduction (from $367,500 to $184,500) in funding for the New England Board of Higher Education. The board is made up of leaders in education, business and government from the six New England states and provides tuition savings to any New England resident who attends one of many public New England colleges to study certain majors which are not available at his or her own state’s college. It also has a Policy and Research arm that serves as a resource to education, government and business leaders throughout New England on issues related to higher education and workforce development.

Supporters of keeping the $183,000 said the cut will hurt the state’s participation on the board which has resulted in substantial savings for Massachusetts residents who attend public colleges in other New England states.

In his veto message, Patrick said that he reduced the funding to an amount consistent with his original budget recommendation.

(A “Yes” vote is for the $183,000. A “No” vote is against the $183,000.)

Rep. Denise Provost        Yes
Rep. Timothy Toomey     Yes
Sen. Sal DiDomenico      Yes
Sen. Patricia Jehlen         Yes

$750,000 FOR TUFTS VETERINARY SCHOOL (H 4242)
House 152-0, Senate 38-1, overrode Gov. Patrick’s $750,000 veto reduction (from $5,550,000 to $4,800,000) in funding for Tufts Veterinary School in North Grafton.

Supporters of keeping the $750,000 said that the funding is important to this college that welcomes 300 new students annually to its four-year academic programs which offer a degree in veterinary medicine. They noted that the school also has three hospitals that treat an estimated 28,000 animals annually and conducts groundbreaking research that benefits animals and people.

In his veto message, Patrick said that he reduced the funding to an amount “projected to be necessary.”

(A “Yes” vote is for the $750,000. A “No” vote is against the $750,000.)

Rep. Denise Provost        Yes
Rep. Timothy Toomey     Yes
Sen. Sal DiDomenico      Yes
Sen. Patricia Jehlen         Yes

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ALSO UP ON BEACON HILL

$50 FINE THRESHOLD (S 2340) – The House gave initial approval to a Senate-approved proposal changing the threshold at which a person with a suspended license is required to pay a $50 surcharge with half of that going to the Spinal Cord Injury Trust Fund and the other half to the General Fund. Current law imposes the surcharge on a driver with five or more moving violations or surchargeable offenses in a three-year period. The bill would change that threshold to three surchargeable events within any two-year period or seven surchargeable offenses within any three-year period.

FLAG FOR FAMILIES OF FALLEN POLICE OFFICERS (S 2344) – The House gave initial approval to a Senate-approved bill providing a Massachusetts state flag to the family of any state police officer killed in the line of duty. The flag would be presented at the funeral.

NATIONAL GUARD (H 4109) – The House gave final approval to a new version of a measure originally filed by Gov. Patrick making changes in the state’s National Guard system. When he originally filed the bill, Patrick said, “This bill modernizes the Guard’s governing statute, which was last revised in 1953, and brings Massachusetts into conformity with the overwhelming majority of states.  This legislation will facilitate the work of the Guard and strengthen the Commonwealth’s readiness and resiliency.”

Supporters said the laws governing the Guard’s operation have not been updated since 1954. They noted this bill will bring the Guard into the 21st century in many areas including current gender neutrality standards of discrimination.

The bill needs only final Senate approval prior to it going to the governor for his signature.

SPECIAL COMMISSION ON YOUNG PROFESSIONALS (S 2339) – The House gave initial approval to a Senate-approved bill establishing a special commission on young professionals to examine how the state can better engage, involve and educate young professionals in decisions and policies that affect them. The commission’s goal would be to determine a strategy to retain and attract young professionals to live, work and play in Massachusetts.

GYM CLASSES (S 2047) – The Senate approved and sent to the House a bill that would amend the current law that requires physical education to be taught as a required subject in all grades for all students but allows cities and towns to determine the amount of mandated time. The measure requires that the instruction be age-appropriate and include physical activity, nutrition and wellness with a focus on physical competence, health-related fitness and enjoyment of physical activity that benefits children physically, cognitively, emotionally and socially. Another provision requires the education commissioner to conduct an evaluation of the duration, frequency and content of current physical education classes and to report findings to the Legislature.

Supporters said that it is time to ramp up physical education requirements. They noted childhood obesity has increased 300 percent over the last three decades and led to an increase in heart disease, diabetes and other obesity-related diseases.

ROBOTIC SURGERY (S 2261) – The House gave initial approval to a bill creating a special commission to investigate the use of robotic surgery in Massachusetts.  Robotic surgery is a method in which the surgery is performed using small tools attached to a robotic arm controlled by the surgeon with a computer.

Supporters said it is important to get a handle on this surgery that is rising in popularity. They noted there are increased reports of complications from robotic surgery and questions about whether some surgeons have the skill level to perform this surgery.

REGULATE PORTABLE ROCK CLIMBING WALLS (S 2253) – The Senate gave final approval to and sent to the governor a bill requiring companies that set up portable rock climbing walls higher than 12 feet to be equipped with an inflatable protective base and guardrail surrounding the base of the wall. The measure also requires that all climbers use a safety harness and a helmet.

Supporters said this popular but potentially dangerous industry should be regulated in order to prevent injuries and save lives.

Opponents said this unwarranted government intrusion would hurt many companies by not allowing them to use their existing walls and requiring them to purchase expensive new equipment.

PROTECTING ANIMALS (S 2345) Gov. Patrick signed into law a bill increasing the prison time and fines for committing animal abuse. The measure increases the fine for a first offense from a maximum of $2,500 to a maximum of $10,000 while raising the maximum prison sentence for a first offense from five years to seven years. The measure also requires veterinarians to report suspected animal abuse and create a special taskforce of experts to review methods to prevent animal abuse and punish those who commit it.

Supporters say the bill was filed in response to the “Puppy Doe” case in which a dog was euthanized after she suffered extensive injuries, including a stab wound to her eye and burns to her body. They argued it is time to increase the punishment and fine for these offenders.

Animal advocacy organizations generally support the increased penalties. Some of these groups, however, say the bill was severely weakened by removing provisions that would have created an animal abuse hotline and a registry to prevent known abusers from adopting or buying an animal. They question whether abusers take the animals they’ve harmed to veterinarians.

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QUOTABLE QUOTES

“I’m sick of unarmed black men being shot by police. I’m sick of the lawlessness on the streets.” — Gov. Patrick on the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

“The signing … represents a victory for everyone who cares about animals in our state, and those who have worked tirelessly to champion this legislation. Now we have stronger penalties and a clear message that if you abuse an animal there will be serious consequences.” — Senate GOP Minority Leader Sen. Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester) on Gov. Patrick’s signing of Tarr’s bill increasing the prison time and fines for committing animal abuse.

“$25.9 million.” – The Department of Revenue’s estimate of how much consumers saved during the August 16 and 17 sales tax holiday.

“If the majority party wants to continue to tax and spend in this fashion, they should have the courage to vote for the tax increases annually.” — Rep. Marc Lombardo (R-Billerica) on why the voters should vote to repeal the 2013 law that creates automatic gas tax hikes by linking the tax to the U.S. Consumer Price Index.

“We already know what happens when we don’t index the gas tax to inflation: Our roads and bridges fall into disrepair, which creates a public safety hazard and it undermines our state economy.” — Somerville Mayor Joe Curtatone.

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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 August 18-22, the House met for a total of one hour and 30 minutes while the Senate met for a total of one hour and 28 minutes.

Mon. August 18
House 11:03 a.m. to 11:17 a.m.
Senate 11:08 a.m. to 11:15 a.m.

Tues. August 19
No House session
No Senate session

Wed. August 20
No House session
No Senate session

Thurs. August 21
House 11:03 a.m. to 12:19 p.m.
Senate 11:01 a.m. to 12:22 p.m.

Fri. August 22
No House session
No Senate session

 

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Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at bob@beaconhillrollcall.com