By Bob Katzen
THE HOUSE AND SENATE. Beacon Hill Roll Call records local senators' votes on two roll calls from the week of Jan. 20-24. There were no roll calls in the House last week.
$177 MILLION FOR MILITARY INSTALLATIONS (S 1988)
Senate 37-2, approved a bill that would provide $177 million over the next five years to make improvements at and expand the state's six military installations.
Supporters said this would ensure that Massachusetts provides funding for all its major federal military bases and may help persuade the federal government not to close the state's military bases if and when another round of closings occurs. They argued these military installations contribute more than $14.2 billion to the state's economy and support more than 46,000 jobs.
Opponents said it is questionable whether state dollars should be used for a national purpose. They argued the money would be better spent on state problems like education, construction, health care and clean energy, all of which will also help create jobs.
The House approved a different version of the bill. The Senate version now goes to the House for consideration.
(A "Yes" vote is for the bill. A "No" vote is against the bill.)
Sen. Eileen Donoghue, Yes; Sen. James Eldridge, No; Sen. Jennifer Flanagan, Yes
CLEAR TITLE TO PROPERTY (S 1987)
Senate 38-0, approved and sent to the House a bill that would provide relief to Massachusetts homeowners who currently lack clear title to their homes due to prior faulty foreclosures.
Supporters said this long overdue bill will help thousands of homeowners who unwittingly purchased an improperly foreclosed property and are currently without a clear title and consequently unable to sell or refinance their homes.
(A "Yes" vote is for the bill.)
Sen. Eileen Donoghue, Yes; Sen. James Eldridge, Yes; Sen. Jennifer Flanagan, Yes
ALSO ON BEACON HILL
$36.374 BILLION FISCAL 2015 BUDGET -- Gov. Deval Patrick fired the first shot in the likely six-month battle over the state budget. He filed a $36.374 billion state budget for the fiscal year that begins on July 1, 2014 -- a 4.9 percent increase over last year. The House will hold hearings on the governor's package and then draft its own version that will be debated and amended on the House floor. The Senate will follow suit with its own draft, and a House-Senate conference committee will eventually craft a plan that will be presented to the House and Senate for consideration and then sent to the governor.
DRIVER'S LICENSE FOR ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS (H 3313) -- Perhaps the most controversial legislation on the Transportation Committee's Feb. 3 hearing at 1 p.m. in Room A-2 of the Statehouse is a proposal that would allow the Registry of Motor Vehicles to issue driver's licenses to immigrants who meet other criteria but do not have a Social Security number. The legislation will establish a special driver's license for those who are unable to provide a Social Security number but who receive driver's education, pass a driving test and carry insurance.
Supporters say this will ensure that these immigrants have driving skills which will make the roads safer. They noted that currently they are driving without any training or insurance because they are not allowed to get a license.
Opponents say that the immigrants are illegal and should not be allowed to get a driver's license. They noted that some states approved a similar law but have since repealed it because these states were beginning to become a haven for noncitizens to obtain a license.
TICKET SCALPING -- The Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure Committee heard testimony on six proposals that would change the state's laws for the resale of tickets to sporting and entertainment events including some that repeal the current law that prohibits the resale of tickets for more than $2 over the face value.
Current state law dates back to 1924 and limits the resale price by individuals or companies to $2 above face value plus costs incurred by the seller related to obtaining and selling the ticket, excluding the cost of the seller's general business operation. Allowable charges include paying for messengers to stand in line to buy tickets, postage, long-distance telephone calls and credit card fees. The current law is rarely enforced. An estimated 130 ticket resellers are currently licensed by the state.
No one testified against the bill. Supporters said the current law is antiquated and unenforceable and argued it is time to allow the marketplace to determine the price of resold tickets.
TREATMENT OF CIRCUS ELEPHANTS (S 1626) -- The Committee on Tourism, Arts and Cultural Development will hold a hearing on Feb. 3 at 2 p.m. in Room A-1 on legislation that would ban the use of bullhooks and chains on circus elephants. Violators would be punished by up to a $5,000 fine and/or a year in jail.
Supporters of the ban say circus elephants are abused and routinely beaten with bullhooks inserted into their skin. A bullhook is a weapon that resembles a fireplace poker, with a sharp steel hook at one end.
Opponents say bullhooks simply help guide and train elephants and argue that existing animal-abuse laws already cover elephants.
SEAT BELT REPORT -- The Bay State received a rating that put it in the second best category ranked by Advocates for Highway And Auto Safety, an advocacy group that graded all 50 states on adoption of 15 laws it thinks are necessary to improve highway safety. Massachusetts earned points for several laws, including a ban on texting while driving, prohibiting drivers under 18 from using any type of cellphone or mobile electronic device while driving and a booster seat requirement.
The state lost points for not having several laws, including a primary enforcement seat belt law and a law requiring all convicted drunk drivers to have an ignition interlock device that prevents a vehicle from starting if it detects a blood alcohol concentration over a limit of .02.
ANOTHER EXIT -- The number of state legislators resigning prior to the end of their current term rose to 12 last week. Rep. Steven Walsh, D-Lynn, announced he will soon resign from the Legislature to take a job beginning March 1 as executive director of the Massachusetts Council of Community Hospitals, a nonprofit corporation that advocates for the Commonwealth's community hospitals. Walsh is currently the chairman of the House Committee on Health Care Financing.
HOW LONG WAS LAST WEEK'S SESSION? During the week of January 20-24, the House met for a total of eight hours and 32 minutes and the Senate met for a total of two hours and 48 minutes.