Volume 40-Report No. 10 • February 27, 2015
Copyright © 2015 Beacon Hill Roll Call. All Rights Reserved. By Bob Katzen
____________________________________________________________________

Our Legislators in the House and Senate for Somerville:

barber_webRep. Christine Barber
DISTRICT REPRESENTED: Thirty-fourth Middlesex. – Consisting of all precincts in wards 4 and 5, precinct 1 of ward 7, and precinct 2 of ward 8, of the city of Medford, precincts 1 and 2 of ward 4, and all precincts of ward 7, of the city of Somerville, both in the county of Middlesex.

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.

*THE HOUSE AND SENATE. Beacon Hill Roll Call records local representatives’ votes on roll calls from prior sessions on the debate on joint House-Senate operating rules for 2015-2016. There were no roll calls in the House or Senate last week.

*
6-HOUR NOTICE (H 2017)
House 34-120, voted strictly along party lines and rejected a proposed Republican rule that would require copies of all bills that are to be voted on by joint committees to be made available electronically to the committee’s members at least six hours before the vote.

Supporters said this would help ensure that committee members have sufficient time to review the often complicated and lengthy bills and allow them to make a more informed decision on how to vote. They noted that currently some votes are scheduled quickly with little time for members to read the bills.

Opponents said the proposed rule is redundant and not necessary because the list of bills before each committee is already scheduled well in advance and published on the state’s website.

(A “Yes” vote is for the rule. A “No” vote is against it.)

Rep. Christine Barber      No
Rep. Denise Provost        No
Rep. Timothy Toomey    No

CONFERENCE COMMITTEES (H 2017)
House 34-120, voted strictly along party lines and rejected a proposed GOP rule that would require all House-Senate conference committees to resolve and agree on the wording of any section of a bill that the House and Senate have both already approved when the language in each branch’s version is similar or almost identical. Conference committees, comprised of a small number of senators and representatives, are appointed by each branch to draft a compromise bill when different versions of a measure are approved by the House and Senate.

Current rules allow the committee not to act on those sections, essentially defeating them. Current rules do stipulate that matters on which there is identical language cannot be altered by the committee and must be included in the final bill sent to the governor.

Supporters said this would ensure that conference committees work to reach a consensus on specific policy issues when both the House and Senate versions of the bill contain virtually identical language rather than holding these matters out of the final bill sent to the governor.

Opponents said including identical language is fine but argued when there are any differences in the two versions, the committee should not be forced to agree on language.

(A “Yes” vote is for the rule. A “No” vote is against it.)

Rep. Christine Barber     No
Rep. Denise Provost        No
Rep. Timothy Toomey    No

LEGISLATIVE BUDGET OFFICE (H 2017)
House 34-120, voted strictly along party lines and rejected a proposed GOP rule that would create a nonpartisan Legislative Budget Office to assist any joint committees in research including the analysis, appraisal and evaluation of legislative proposals before the committee. The office would also research and provide the fiscal impact of any bill or budget item. It would have no legislative powers to originate or file legislation and would provide services only when requested by a committee.

Supporters said this valuable nonpartisan office would be similar to the very important and useful federal Congressional Budget Office that offers help to Congressional committees.

Opponents agreed that a Legislative Budget Office could be a very useful tool but pointed out that several separate bipartisan bills have been filed to create such an office. They argued that House passage of the creation of this entity would circumvent an open hearing on these bills by approving a lengthy proposal as a budget amendment without a hearing and proper vetting.

(A “Yes” vote is for the rule. A “No” vote is against it.)

Rep. Christine Barber     No
Rep. Denise Provost        No
Rep. Timothy Toomey    No

ALSO UP ON BEACON HILL

HOUSE TOP DOGS APPOINTED – Democratic House Speaker Robert DeLeo (D-Winthrop) appointed his leadership team  for the 2015-2016 session. Reappointed to the same positions they had in the 2013-2014 session were Majority Leader Ronald Mariano (D-Quincy), Speaker Pro Tempore Patricia Haddad (D-Somerset) and Assistant Majority Leader Byron Rushing (D-Boston). Reps. Garrett Bradley (D-Hingham) and Paul Donato (D-Medford) were promoted to identical assistant majority leader positions. Rep. Brian Dempsey (D-Haverhill) was reappointed chairman of the powerful Ways and Means Committee. DeLeo also appointed his committee chairs and designated on which committee each of the House’s 124 Democratic members will serve.

Over the past several years, the House has increased the total number of legislators appointed to positions that provide annual stipends of $7,500 to $35,000 beyond their annual base salary of $60,032. The latest figures show that at least 62, or almost 40 percent, of the representatives receive bonus pay for their service in Democratic or Republican leadership positions, as committee chairs or vice chairs and as the ranking Republican on some committees.

Supporters say legislators in these important positions should be appropriately compensated for their many added responsibilities and hard work.

Critics say the base salary is sufficient.

FORMER PUBLIC SAFETY SECRETARY GETS BIG PENSION – State Retirement Board officials said that former Public Safety Secretary Andrea Cabral qualifies for Group 4 classification usually reserved for frontline police officers and firefighters who put themselves in harm’s way. The board concluded that Cabral, with 28 years in public service, is eligible for the group because of her service as Public Safety secretary, Suffolk County sheriff and assistant district attorney.

House Minority Leader Bradley Jones (R-North Reading) and Rep. Bradford Hill (R-Ipswich) object to Cabral’s pension classification. “It is our opinion that she should not be designated a Group 4 employee,” the duo said in a joint statement. “This designation is meant for police officers, correction officers, firefighters and other public safety officers that risk their lives on a routine basis.”

Nicola Favorito, executive director of the board, said that the board has no choice but to follow the law, which places Cabral in Group 4. Retirement officials said the amount of her pension has not yet been calculated but is expected to be done soon.

MBTA REFUNDS? – Gov. Charlie Baker said that he is open to the idea of refunding some money to T riders because of the failure of the system during recent storms. “I know they [T officials] are having conversations about what people might be able to do as part of a service recovery plan with respect to the performance of the T over the past several months and I look forward to seeing what they come up with,” Baker said.

STATE LOSES OUT ON $11.6 MILLION IN FEDERAL FUNDS – State Auditor Suzanne Bump released an audit indicating that from 2011-2012, Massachusetts lost out on $11.6 million in reimbursements from the federal government’s Medicaid program for the costs of inmate medical care. The savings would have come from the state billing MassHealth for medical care of eligible inmates at county and state prisons. The Medicaid program does not usually reimburse states for these costs, but an exception allows reimbursement if inmates meet certain program eligibility requirements.

MassHealth is the state’s Medicaid program that provides health care for approximately 1.4 million qualified low-income and disabled persons.

The audit found that MassHealth had not coordinated with the Department of Corrections (DOC) and county sheriffs to establish a process to take advantage of this cost-saving Medicaid exemption. As a result, MassHealth did not seek available federal reimbursement and the state lost the opportunity to receive the $11.6 million. Bump has called on MassHealth to establish a process with the DOC and county officials to take advantage of the federal reimbursements. She says that this will save more than $5.3 million annually.

QUOTABLE QUOTES

“A slap in the face [to police officers and firefighters].” — Rep. Bradford Hill (R-Ipswich), commenting to the State House News Service on the decision that former Public Safety Secretary Andrea Cabral qualifies for Group 4 classification usually reserved for frontline police officers and firefighters who risk their lives every day.

“Once the issues are diagnosed, I look forward to helping implement a strategy to restore our system to full strength, and restoring our customers’ faith in our ability to provide safe, reliable, efficient transit service.” — Newly appointed MBTA Interim General Manager Frank DePaola.

“He’s going to be a rising star in this building.” — House Speaker Robert DeLeo on Rep. Evandro Carvalho (D-Dorchester).

“It is a slam-dunk for public school systems, especially the neediest systems.” — Brockton School Superintendent Kathleen Smith on a pending proposal before the State Board of Education that would provide students in low-performing public schools with breakfast in the classroom at the beginning of each school day.

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 February 23-27, the House met for a total of 23 minutes and the Senate met for a total of 12 minutes.

Mon. February 23
House 11:09 a.m. to 11:23 a.m.
Senate 11:02 a.m. to  11:05 a.m.

Tues. February 24
No House session
No Senate session

Wed. February 25
No House session
No Senate session

Thurs. February 26
House 11:04 a.m. to 11:13 a.m.
Senate 11:08 a.m. to 11:17 a.m.

Fri. February 27
No House session
No Senate session

*__________________________________________________

Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at bob@beaconhillrollcall.com