By Bob Katzen

THE HOUSE AND SENATE: Beacon Hill Roll Call records the votes of local representatives on two roll calls and local senators on four from the week of Feb. 24-28.


House 145-4, approved and sent to the Senate a bill adding some provisions to the 2010 anti-bullying law that requires all public and private schools to develop and implement a plan to prevent bullying from occurring and to discipline bullies. The bill requires that each plan recognize that some students may be more vulnerable to become targets of bullying based on "race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, sex, socioeconomic status, homelessness, academic status, gender identity or expression, physical appearance, pregnant or parenting status, sexual orientation, or mental, physical, developmental or sensory disability."

Other provisions include requiring schools to annually report bullying data to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, the attorney general and the Legislature and inform the parents of the victim about the department's problem resolution system and the process for seeking assistance or filing a claim.

Supporters said these changes will enhance the law and save countless children from a lifetime of physical and emotional scars and worse.

All four opponents agree that bullying must be stopped but said the bill is another unfunded state mandate that stretches administrative staff with additional unnecessary paperwork. One of the opponents said it is divisive to enumerate categories of students and said all students deserve a safe learning environment.


(A "Yes" vote is for the bill. A "No" vote is against it.)

Rep. Jennifer Benson, Yes; Rep. Sheila Harrington, Yes.


House 147-0, approved a Senate-approved measure and sent to Gov. Deval Patrick a bill that would require all newborns to have a test that will determine whether he or she has a congenital heart defect. The test would be required to be preformed prior to the infant being discharged.

Supporters said 27 other states have this mandate and noted the requirement will save lives.

(A "Yes" vote is for the bill.)

Rep. Jennifer Benson, Yes; Rep. Sheila Harrington, Yes.


Senate 37-0, approved and sent to the House a bill aimed at funding much needed drinking water and wastewater infrastructure repairs in cities and towns. The bill increases from $88 million to $138 million the spending capacity of the Massachusetts Clean Water Trust. It also authorizes low-interest loans for water infrastructure projects based on a sliding scale interest rate on loans from zero to 2 percent and allows cities and towns to levy a water infrastructure surtax on real estate of up to 3 percent.

Supporters said the bill takes a huge step toward making critical investments in the state's declining water infrastructure and noted that cities and towns simply do not have the funds to undertake these costly projects on their own. They argued the reforms in the bill will protect the environment and water supply.

(A "Yes" vote is for the bill.)

Sen. Eileen Donoghue, Yes; Sen. James Eldridge, Yes; Sen. Jennifer Flanagan, Yes.


Senate 19-17, approved an amendment that that would allow communities that are too far away to be able join the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) to be eligible for the same additional one-to-one match funding for which MWRA communities are eligible.

Amendment supporters said there are many non-MWRA communities that have major infrastructure problems and should be eligible for the same funds.

Amendment opponents said the bill is carefully balanced and noted there is just not enough money in the budget to give everything to every community.

(A "Yes" vote is for the amendment. A "No" vote is against it.)

Sen. Eileen Donoghue, Yes; Sen. James Eldridge, No; Sen. Jennifer Flanagan, No.


Senate 31-5, approved an amendment that would allow cities and towns to levy a water infrastructure surcharge on real estate of up to 3 percent to help fund projects. The surcharge would have to be approved by the city council or Town Meeting and then by the voters at the next regular municipal or state election.

Amendment supporters said this surcharge is modeled after the Community Preservation Act local option surcharge that has worked well. They noted many communities do not have the resources for these costly projects and this option will give them the opportunity to raise some revenue.

Amendment opponents said they oppose what just amounts to an unwanted and unnecessary tax.

(A "Yes" vote is for the amendment. A "No" vote is against it.)

Sen. Eileen Donoghue, Yes; Sen. James Eldridge, Yes; Sen. Jennifer Flanagan, Yes.


Senate 31-5, approved an amendment that would require any city or town that wants to adopt an impact fee to approve the fee by a vote of the city council or Town Meeting. The impact fee would help offset environmental impacts caused by developments requiring new or increased water and sewer system withdrawals.

Amendment supporters said that local governing bodies should have a say in whether or not to establish the fee. They argued that without the amendment, any entity that wants to assess the fee can do so by designating the board, commission or official responsible for assessing, collecting and expending the fee.

Some amendment opponents said they had some reservations about the original version of the amendment. They noted that in the end, the redrafted version was fine but since they did not have sufficient time to read it before the roll call vote, they voted against it.

(A "Yes" vote is for the amendment. A "No" vote is against it.)

Sen. Eileen Donoghue, Yes; Sen. James Eldridge, Yes; Sen. Jennifer Flanagan, Yes.


GRADUATED INCOME TAX: The 15-member Tax Fairness Commission created by the Legislature in July has recommended that the state adopt a constitutional amendment that would allow the Legislature to impose higher income-tax rates on taxpayers in higher income brackets and lower rates on those in lower income brackets. This controversial graduated income tax, similar to the federal government's income tax, would replace the state's current 5.2 percent tax. Massachusetts voters have rejected the graduated income tax proposal on the ballot five times. The most recent defeat was in 1994 by better than two to one, with 1,442,404 voters against the tax and 630,694 in favor.

TRANSGENDER PROTECTION (H 3625): The House gave initial approval to a bill that would add gender identity as a class protected from discrimination in the Boston housing market and give the Boston Fair Housing Commission enforcement powers. Current law prohibits discrimination in several areas including race, color, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, religion, handicap, source of income and military status.

RAISE MINIMUM INSURANCE REQUIREMENT FOR TAXIS (H 854): The House gave initial approval to a bill that would raise from a flat $8,000 to $100,000 per person and $300,000 per accident the minimum amount of personal injury protection coverage that taxis and other commercial vehicles must have.

NEW STATE SEAL AND MOTTO (H 2873): The State Administration and Regulatory Oversight Committee's hearing included a proposal creating a special commission to examine the state seal and motto and develop a revised version of it. The current state seal includes a Native American holding a bow and arrow. The motto is "By the sword we seek peace, but only under liberty." The commission would determine "whether the seal and motto accurately reflect and embody the historic and contemporary commitments of the commonwealth to peace, justice, liberty and equality, and to spreading the opportunities and advantages of education."

Supporters of the revisions say the current seal is politically insensitive and historically inaccurate. They note that it depicts a Native American who represents a tribe from Lake Superior rather than Massachusetts and argued that the bow and arrow depict violence.

Supporters of the current seal say that it is appropriate and noted that arrow is pointing downward which is known as a Native American symbol signifying peace.

OTHER BILLS: Other measures on the same committee's agenda included requiring the state purchasing agent to give preference to products or services manufactured or produced in the United States (H 2804); prohibiting alcohol advertising on state-owned property (H 2897); prohibiting any state offices or facilities that are served by public water supplies from purchasing bottled water except for safety, health or emergency situations (H 2875); and repealing a current law that charges nongovernmental groups and individuals for using the Statehouse for functions during business hours, unless the fee is waived by the superintendent of state office buildings (H 2833). The proposal would allow the state to charge for use of the Statehouse only during nonbusiness hours.