By Bob Katzen
The new session of the Massachusetts Legislature that begins on Jan. 3, 2019 will open with 127 Democrats, 32 Republicans and one Independent in the House. The Senate membership will be made up of 34 Democrats and six members of the GOP. These numbers are pretty close to the makeup of the 2017-2018 session.
Part one of a two-part series of reports on House members' votes on eight tax proposals.
* Delay permanent sales tax holiday (H 3600) -- House 119-38, approved a Democratic leadership-sponsored amendment indefinitely delaying a Republican proposal to establish a permanent annual two-day weekend sales tax holiday in August. The amendment would require the Baker administration to study the impact the reduction would have on the state.
Yes: Rep. Jennifer Benson
No: Rep. Sheila Harrington
* Delay permanent meals tax holiday (H 3600) -- House 117-39, approved a Democratic-sponsored amendment indefinitely delaying a Republican-sponsored proposal that would permanently exempt diners from paying the state's 6.25 percent meals tax each year from March 22-27. The amendment would require the state to study the impact of the tax holiday on the state's economy.
* Delay reduction in sales tax from 6.25 percent to 5 percent (H 3600) -- House 118-39, approved a Democratic-sponsored amendment indefinitely delaying a Republican-sponsored proposal that would reduce the state's sales tax from 6.
* Reduce income tax rate to 5 percent (H 3600) -- House 36-123, rejected an amendment reducing the income tax from 5.1 percent to 5 percent.
Yes: Benson, Harrington
* Adoption tax credit (H 3600) -- House 47-110, rejected an amendment that would give adoptive parents up to a $1,000 tax credit to cover adoption expenses.
Yes: Benson, Harrington
* 4 percent tax hike on millionaires (H 3933) -- House approved 105-48, approved a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow a graduated income tax in Massachusetts and impose an additional 4 percent income tax, in addition to the current flat 5.1 percent one, on taxpayers' earnings of more than $1 million.
The Supreme Judicial Court ruled that a planned ballot amendment was unconstitutional because the constitution prohibits placing more than one objective in a single proposed constitutional amendment.
* Regulation and taxing of short-term rentals (H 4841) -- House 119-30, approved and sent to the governor a measure that extends the state's current 5.7 percent hotel and motel tax and up to a 6 percent local option room occupancy tax to short-term rentals offered by Airbnb, HomeAway and VRBO while leaving the regulation of these rentals including registration, licensing and inspections up to local cities and towns.
Gov. Baker proposed some amendments to the bill and the Legislature has not yet acted on his amendments so the bill remains unsigned.
The measure also allows local cities and towns to impose a local impact fee of up to 3 percent on operators who rent out two or more professionally-managed short-term rental units within a municipality.
Other provisions create a central state registry of short-term rentals and require that a city or town dedicate no less than 35 percent of revenue generated from the new local option fee to either affordable housing or local infrastructure needs.
* Hike car rental tax by $2 to fund police training (H 4516) -- House 144-4, approved and Gov. Baker signed into law a bill imposing a $2 tax on car rentals to fund municipal police training.
Yes: Rep. Benson, Harrington
Also up on Beacon Hill
* Civic education in schools (S 2631) - Gov. Charlie Baker signed into law a bill will require Massachusetts public high schools and school districts serving eighth-grade students to provide at least one individual, small group, or class wide, student-led, non-partisan civics project for each student. The projects must be designed to promote student abilities related to the analysis of complex issues; consideration of different perspectives; engagement in civil discourse; and understanding of the connections between federal, state, and local policies. Another key provision establishes a Civics Project Trust Fund which will be used to create a statewide civic infrastructure and provide professional development to teachers, prioritizing underserved communities in "school districts with high concentrations of economically disadvantaged students."
* Training to help combat elder financial abuse - Secretary of State Bill Galvin unveiled a new training program to provide state and local law enforcement officials with free training and resources to help them recognize the red flags of elder financial abuse and fraud. "It is important for my office to collaborate with law enforcement throughout the commonwealth to combat elder financial abuse and securities fraud," said Galvin.
The training highlights common schemes and hallmarks of financial abuse that harm older adults and others. It also provides law enforcement officers with resources on how to recognize warning signs and how to report suspected problems to collaborating agencies such as the Massachusetts Securities Division.
For more information or to set up a training program in your community contact the Massachusetts Securities Division at 617-727-3548.