Volume 39-Report No. 37 •  September 12, 2014
Copyright © 2014 Beacon Hill Roll Call. All Rights Reserved. By Bob Katzen
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THE HOUSE AND SENATE.  There were no roll calls in the House or Senate last week.

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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Beacon Hill Roll Call has obtained the 2014 official list from the state treasurer’s office of the “per diem” travel, meals and lodging reimbursements collected by the Legislature’s 40 state senators from January 1, 2014 through September 1, 2014. The list reveals that senators collected a total of $55,891.

Under state law, per diems are paid by the state to senators “for each day for travel from his place of residence to the Statehouse and return therefrom, while in the performance of his official duties, upon certification to the state treasurer that he was present at the Statehouse.” These reimbursements are given to senators above and beyond their regular salaries.

The amount of the per diem varies and is based on the city or town in which a senator resides and its distance from the Statehouse. The Legislature in 2000 approved a law doubling these per diems to the current amounts. The payments range from $10 per day for senators who reside in the Greater Boston area to $90 per day for some Western Massachusetts lawmakers and $100 per day for those in Nantucket. Senators who are from areas that are a long distance from Boston’s Statehouse often collect the highest total of annual per diems.

Some supporters of the per diems say the system is fair and note the rising costs of travel, food and lodging. They argue many legislators spend a lot of money on travel to Boston and some spend the night in Boston following late sessions. Others say that some legislators accept the per diem but use all of the revenue they receive to support local nonprofit causes. They say that not taking the per diem would leave that money in the state’s General Fund to be spent on who knows what.

Some opponents argue most private sector and state workers are not paid additional money for commuting. They say the very idea of paying any per diem is outrageous when thousands of workers have lost their jobs and homes and funding for important programs has been cut. Others say the per diem is especially inappropriate given the recent 3-cent-per-gallon hike in the state’s current 21-cent-per-gallon gas tax and the creation of automatic gas tax hikes by linking the tax to the U.S. Consumer Price Index.

The 2014 statistics indicate that 12 of the state’s 40 senators have received reimbursements ranging from $864 to $7,200, while 28 senators have so far chosen not to apply for any money. State law does not establish a deadline that senators must meet in order to collect the per diems.

The senator who received the most per diem money in 2014 is Benjamin Downing (D-Pittsfield) who received $7,200.

The other four senators who received the most are Sens. Stanley Rosenberg (D-Amherst), $6,420; James Welch (D-Springfield), $4026; Donald Humason (R-Westfield), $4,026; and Richard Moore (D-Uxbridge), $2,520.

SENATORS’ 2014 PER DIEMS
The dollar figure next to the senator’s name represents the total amount of per diem money the state paid him or her in 2014. The number in parentheses represents the number of days the senator certified he or she was at the Statehouse during that same period. Senators who have not requested any per diems have “0 days” listed. That is not meant to imply that these senators didn’t attend any sessions but rather that they chose not to request any per diems.

Sen. Sal DiDomenico    $0    (0 days)
Sen. Patricia Jehlen       $0    (0 days)
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ALSO UP ON BEACON HILL

WELDING SAFETY (S 2368) – The Senate approved and sent to the House a bill creating a special commission to study welding regulations in Massachusetts and report back to the Legislature by June 1, 2015. The legislation was prompted by the spring deaths of Back Bay firefighters Edward Walsh and Michael Kennedy, who perished while fighting a fire that was reportedly caused by welders working on a building next door to the brownstone in which they perished. The commission would study current regulations and recommend whether new ones are warranted.

PRISONERS AND MENTAL HEALTH (H 4367) – The House gave initial approval to a bill to study the feasibility of creating a new facility to provide evaluation, care and treatment of mentally ill persons in the criminal justice system who are determined by a court to require care in a medium-security setting.

Supporters said a recent study noted that for some mentally ill prisoners, the maximum-security setting of Bridgewater State Hospital is appropriate.  They noted that for others, like pre-trial defendants who are charged with but not yet convicted of a crime, a secure hospital outside of a prison might provide a more therapeutically appropriate environment. They noted the state does not have a facility capable of treating individuals who require mental health treatment and clinical assessment in a medium-security setting.

REP. CALTER GETS NOD FROM BOTH PARTIES – Rep. Thomas Calter (D-Kingston), currently serving his eighth year in the House, is “running against himself” in November. In an interesting turn of events, Calter not only won the Democratic primary where he was unchallenged on the ballot but also was the victor in a write-in campaign on the Republican ballot. His name will appear only once on the ballot but will have the designation “Democrat/Republican” next to his name.

No one had filed the required 150 signatures to appear on the Republican primary ballot. Two newly converted Kingston Republicans, Bradford Randall and Peter Boneck, mounted a write-in campaign to get the GOP nomination and face Calter on the ballot in November. Some of Calter’s supporters mounted a campaign to write his name in on the GOP side. Calter won with 184 write-in votes, besting 110 for Randall and 106 for Boncek.

MASSACHUSETTS RESIDENTS CAN NOW BUY PEPPER SPRAY – A little-noticed part of the gun bill recently signed into law by Gov. Deval Patrick allows Massachusetts consumers over 18 to purchase of self-defense sprays like Mace and pepper spray without a Firearms Identification (FID) card. Prior to implementation of the law on August 13, Massachusetts was the only state that required an FID card to carry these sprays. Now the buyer can purchase the spray just by showing his or her license. Individuals between the ages of 15 and 18 must still have a valid FID card to purchase the self-defense spray.

Only licensed firearms or ammunition dealers are authorized to sell the spray. Will that add to a bump in the number of outlets asking to be a licensed dealer? During a briefing of local officials at the Statehouse, Elisabeth Ryan of the Executive Office of Public Safety said, “We don’t know if that’s going to happen, but depending on what the demand is, we might see businesses like CVS looking for ammunition licenses.”

Many people are asking whether they can now legally buy pepper spray online. Terrel Harris, spokesman for the governor’s Executive Office of Public Safety and Security, tells Beacon Hill Roll Call, “The simple answer is ‘no.’  For a Massachusetts resident to purchase self-defense spray, it must be from a Massachusetts firearms or ammunition dealer. One of their license requirements is that sales be conducted at a specific physical business address within the Commonwealth. Online sales would not be legally possible.”
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QUOTABLE QUOTES

“Creating a diverse legal community is essential to the continued success of our justice system and is at the core of UMass Law’s mission as the Commonwealth’s only public law school.” — UMass Law Dean Mary Lu Bilek on the news that the school has been named a Best Bargain Law School for Latino Students.

“Too early to tell.” — Patrick administration Secretary of Administration and Finance Glen Shor on whether there will be sufficient economic growth under the terms of a 2002 law that will result in an automatic reduction from 5.25 percent to 5.15 percent in the income tax and long-term capital gains tax for millions of Bay State taxpayers beginning in 2014. Economic growth led to an automatic reduction in those taxes from 5.3 to 5.25 percent in 2011.

“I think the nature of the four questions (on the ballot) will help us in November. I’m pretty confident November will be a good turnout.” — Secretary of State William Galvin, who accurately predicted the very low turnout of voters in last week’s state primary election.

“I have for so long talked about the need for unity, and the need for bipartisanship. To me, these aren’t just words. These concepts are how we should strive to represent the people we serve – understanding that good ideas and good government can come from both sides of the aisle.” — Rep. Thomas Calter (D-Kingston) on winning both the Democratic and GOP nomination is his bid for re-election to a fifth term in November.

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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 September 8-12, the House met for a total of 18 minutes and the Senate met for a total of 17 minutes.

Mon. September 8
House 11:04 a.m. to 11:12 a.m.
Senate 11:08 a.m. to 11:13 a.m.

Tues. September 9
No House session
No Senate session

Wed. September 10
No House session
No Senate session

Thurs. September 11
House 1:02 p.m. to 1:12 p.m.
Senate 11:02 a.m. to  11:14 a.m.

Fri. September 12
No House session
No Senate session

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Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at bob@beaconhillrollcall.com