By Bob Katzen
THE HOUSE AND SENATE. There were no roll call votes in the House or Senate last week. This week, Beacon Hill Roll Call reports local senators' roll call attendance records for the 2014 session through Aug. 31.
The Senate has held 260 roll call votes. Beacon Hill Roll Call tabulates the number of roll calls on which each senator was present and voting and then calculates that number as a percentage of the total roll call votes held. That percentage is the number referred to as the roll call attendance record.
Only 16 of the Senate's 40 members have 100 percent roll call attendance records.
Some senators may have poor attendance records because of a variety of reasons including health problems or military service. Beacon Hill Roll Call does not ask each individual senator why he or she missed roll call votes.
The senator who missed the most roll calls is Sen. Thomas McGee, D-Lynn, who missed 23 roll calls (91.1 percent attendance).
Rounding out the top five worst are Sens. Michael Rush, D-Boston, missed 15 roll calls (94.2 percent attendance); Gale Candaras, D-Wilbraham, missed 14 roll calls (94.6 percent attendance); James Eldridge, D-Acton, missed 13 roll calls (95.0 percent attendance); and James Timilty, D-Walpole, missed 10 roll calls (96.1 percent attendance).
SENATORS' 2014 ROLL CALL ATTENDANCE RECORDS THROUGH AUG. 31
The percentage listed next to the senator's name is the percentage of roll call votes for which the senator was present and voting.
Sen. Eileen Donoghue, 99.2 percent (2); Sen. James Eldridge, 95.0 percent (13); Sen. Jennifer Flanagan, 99.6 percent (1).
ALSO ON BEACON HILL
STATE DIVESTMENT FROM FOSSIL FUELS (H 4354) -- The House approved and sent to the Senate a bill creating an 11-member special commission to investigate the prospect of requiring the state's pension funds to divest themselves of all fossil fuel companies including coal, oil and gas. The commission would evaluate the positive impact that divestment may have upon the environment weighed against the potential risk to the state's pension funds and retirees. It would send its findings to the Legislature by February 15, 2015.
LOWER STATE SHARE OF RACING REVENUE (H 4365) -- The House and Senate both accepted Gov. Deval Patrick's amendment deleting a provision that would have reduced the state's piece of the action on out-of-state greyhound races that are shown live at Raynham Park.
In his veto message, Patrick said that the bill does not provide any replacement for that lost revenue and "would leave the Racing Division nearly $600,000 short of its operating budget this year, and would create an annually recurring shortfall of approximately the same amount."
Supporters of the reduction said it would bring the state's take on greyhound simulcast races to the same percentage the state receives from simulcast horse racing.
TAX AMNESTY FROM SEPT. 1 TO OCT. 31 -- The Department of Revenue (DOR) announced the details of the tax amnesty program recently approved by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Patrick. If you owe the state back taxes, are issued a "Tax Amnesty Notice" from DOR and pay the full amount of tax and interest due by October 31, 2014, DOR will waive all penalties already incurred. For more details, go to mass.gov/dor/amnesty
INTERIOR DESIGNERS (H 4303) -- Gov. Patrick signed into law a bill that establishes the right of interior designers to bid directly on state contracts. Currently, designers are prohibited from doing so and are only allowed to subcontract their services with architectural firms that are bidding on projects.
Supporters say that current law is unfair and puts interior designers at a disadvantage. They noted allowing direct bidding would create competition, reduce costs and save taxpayers' money.
NATIONAL GUARD (H 4109) -- The Senate approved and sent to Gov. Patrick legislation originally filed by the governor, making changes in the state's National Guard system. The measure gives the Guard the authority to address homeland security threats. Other provisions add new protections against discrimination on the basis of religion or sexual orientation; increase the penalty for obstructing an enlisted person while on duty; and prohibit students from being penalized academically if they have to take a break to serve in the Guard. Students would have the option to complete the course at a later date without penalty or withdraw from the course with a full refund of fees and tuition.
Supporters said the laws governing the Guard's operation have not been updated since 1954. They noted this bill will bring the guard into the 21st century in many areas.
THEFT FROM RETAIL STORES (S 2346) -- The governor sent to the Legislature an amendment to a bill creating new crimes relating to theft from retail stores. The new crimes include using coated bags, duct tape or other devices that block sensors designed to set off an alarm if not removed by the cashier; forging a bogus sales receipt or UPC code; and working in an organized retail theft ring.
Supporters said that these theft rings are estimated to cost Massachusetts retailers more than $160 million annually.
Gov. Patrick amended the bill to allow prosecutors the discretion to bring anyone accused of the crime a second time to seek a lesser House of Corrections imprisonment rather than a state prison one. The Legislature will agree to the governor's amendment, according to Sen. William Brownsberger, D-Belmont, the Senate chairman of the Judiciary Committee, who was instrumental in the bill's passage.