By Bob Katzen
THE HOUSE AND SENATE. There were no roll calls in the House or Senate last week.
Beacon Hill Roll Call this week examines the voting records of local senators on Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick's 63 vetoes during the 2013 session. A two-thirds vote is required to override a gubernatorial veto in the 40-member Senate that included 36 Democrats and only four Republicans. The governor needed the support of 15 senators to sustain a veto when all 40 senators voted - and fewer votes if some members were absent. Patrick fell far short of that goal. Five votes were the most support he received on any veto. The Senate easily overrode all 63 vetoes, including 17 that were overridden unanimously.
The vetoes had little support among Patrick's fellow Democrats. Only four of the chamber's 36 Democrats voted with Patrick to sustain any vetoes including Sen. Sonia Chang Diaz, D-Boston, the senator who gave him the most support, siding with him 35 times. The only other Democrats who supported the governor were Sens. Mark Montigny, D-New Bedford, three times; Marc Pacheco, D-Taunton, twice; and Barry Finegold, D-Andover, once.
On the GOP side, the senator who supported Patrick the most was Sen. Robert Hedlund, R-Weymouth, who supported him 22 times. Also weighing in were Sens. Bruce Tarr, R-Gloucester, six times; George Ross, R-Wrentham, twice; and former Sen. Mike Knapik, R-Westfield, once.
HOW OFTEN LOCAL SENATORS SUPPORTED GOV.
The number in parentheses represents the number of times the senator supported Patrick's vetoes.
Some senators voted on all 63 roll call votes. Others missed one or more of the votes. Their records are based on the number of roll calls on which they voted and do not count the roll calls for which they were absent.
Sen. Eileen Donoghue, 0 percent (0); Sen. James Eldridge, 0 percent (0); Sen. Jennifer Flanagan, 0 percent (0).
ALSO ON BEACON HILL
TREAT 17-YEAR-OLDS AS JUVENILES (H 1432) -- Gov. Patrick signed into law legislation that would move 17-year-olds from the adult justice system to the juvenile one. Supporters say this will end the misguided notion of putting 17-year-olds in adult prisons. They noted that juvenile facilities focus more on education and rehabilitation rather than punishment. They also argued that 17-year-olds in adult prisons are eight times more likely than an adult to be the victim of rape or to commit suicide than a teenager in a juvenile lockup.
DOG BITES (H 918) -- The Financial Services Committee heard testimony on legislation that would prohibit insurance companies from denying, canceling or raising the premium on a property owner's liability insurance because a specific breed of dog lives on the property.
Supporters said this discrimination should stop and is a slippery slope toward allowing insurance companies to target other things they don't want to insure. They argued current law has led to many "uninsurable" breeds of dogs being brought to shelters and euthanized.
Opponents said insurance companies should have this right and noted that in 2012 dog bites accounted for $489 million -- more than one-third of all homeowners' insurance liability claim dollars. They noted that policies that do not exclude breeds are available in Massachusetts.
EXPAND BOTTLE DEPOSIT LAW (H 2943) -- The Committee on Telecommunication, Utilities and Energy heard testimony from both sides of legislation that would expand the state's existing bottle law, which requires a deposit on beer and soda containers. The measure would require deposits on bottles of water, tea, juice and sports drinks, too.
Supporters said consumption of these beverages has grown dramatically since the original law was passed in 1980. They argued expansion would increase recycling and pointed to figures that show recycling rates for bottles that require a deposit to be some 80 percent while those without a deposit have a 20 percent return rate. They noted expanding the deposit would help the environment and raise some state revenue because any unclaimed deposits currently go to the state.
Opponents, led by supermarkets, convenience stores and beverage companies, said the increased burden and costs for retailers would be some $100 million and would be passed along to consumers. They pushed for an alternative bill (H 2513) that would essentially eliminate the current deposit program and replace it with a flat 1-cent fee on beverage containers. The revenues would be earmarked to support recycling programs.
In the meantime, sponsors of a ballot question expanding the bottle law are not sitting around waiting for legislative approval of the bill. They are busy gathering 68,911 voter signatures as the first step to get the question on the 2014 ballot. If the signatures are obtained, the proposal would then be sent to the Legislature and if not approved by May 6, 2014, proponents must gather another 11,485 signatures by July 2, 2014, in order for the question to appear on the 2014 ballot.
MISLEADING POLITICAL WEBSITES (H 563) -- The Election Laws Committee held a hearing on a bill prohibiting political candidates or their supporters from registering websites that could be identified as the website of another person who is an elected official, a candidate or a potential candidate for elective office. Violators would be hit with a fine of up to $1,000 or six months in prison. The measure is aimed at political operatives who register websites in the name of their client's opponent and then say outrageous things on the website that the voters think is being said by the opponent. The same bill was approved by the House in 2010 but died at the end of the session.
DOCTORS AND DRUGS -- The Public Health Committee will hold a hearing on Oct. 1 at 10 a.m. in room A-1 at the Statehouse. Bills on the agenda include prohibiting drug companies from advertising in Massachusetts (H 2061); creating the new Massachusetts Prescription Drug Program to purchase prescription drugs at the lowest prices possible for individuals and entities (H 2082); and regulating the in-office sale of medical devices and products by doctors (S 1032). Provisions include requiring doctors to disclose to patients any profit gained from the sale, advise the patient as to the availability and price of the medical device or product at a retail pharmacy and provide easily understandable literature explaining the benefits and risks.
HOW LONG WAS LAST WEEK'S SESSION? During the week of Sept. 16-20, the House met for a total of 36 minutes while the Senate met for a total of 29 minutes.