By Bob Katzen
THE HOUSE AND SENATE. This week, Beacon Hill Roll Call records local representatives' votes on three roll calls from prior legislative sessions. All roll calls are on proposed amendments to the House version of the $34 billion fiscal 2014 state budget. There were no roll calls in the House or Senate last week.
$20 MILLION FOR LOCAL SCHOOLS (H 3400)
House 30-125, rejected an amendment that would provide $20 million to public schools for educational materials, text books, lab equipment, computers, other learning materials and physical safety improvements. The measure also ensures that each school district will receive at least $20 per student.
Amendment supporters said that many textbooks are outdated, falling apart and often have to be shared by two students. They noted the funds would be welcome by struggling schools across the state.
Amendment opponents said that despite the worthiness of the amendment, the state simply cannot afford this additional $20 million. They noted that schools already are receiving unrestricted education aid that can be used for these purposes.
(A "Yes" vote is for the $20 million. A "No" vote is against it.)
Rep. Jennifer Benson, No; Rep. Sheila Harrington, Yes.
CONTINUE SESSION AFTER 9 P.M. UP UNTIL MIDNIGHT (H 3400)
House 125-32, suspended rules to allow the House to meet beyond 9 p.m. and continue until midnight if necessary.
Supporters of rule suspension said that it is important to remain in session to finish action on the very important state budget.
Opponents of rule suspension said that it is irresponsible for the House to act on the budget late at night when taxpayers are asleep.
(A "Yes" vote is for allowing the session to continue beyond 9 p.m. A "No" vote is against it.)
Rep. Jennifer Benson, Yes; Rep. Sheila Harrington, No.
$3 MILLION FOR COLLEGE TUITION FOR ADOPTED CHILDREN (H 3400)
House 30-125, rejected an amendment that would provide $3 million to pay the tuition and fees for children who were adopted through the state adoption system and are attending any one of 29 state colleges. The Adopted Child Tuition Waiver and Fee Assistance Program, established in 2000, was designed to encourage families to adopt through the state's Department of Children and Families.
Amendment supporters said the eligibility requirements for this program were recently abruptly changed and left many families who depend on this money out in the cold. They argued it is unfair to change the rules in the middle of the game and put an unfair financial burden on these families or force the student to leave the college.
Amendment opponents said there is no need to create this reserve fund because the current budget provides sufficient money to fully fund this program. They noted that if the money should run out, additional funding could be provided in a future supplemental budget.
(A "Yes" vote is for the $3 million. A "No" vote is against it.)
Rep. Jennifer Benson, No; Rep. Sheila Harrington, Yes.
ALSO UP ON BEACON HILL
BAN SHADOWS (H 826) -- The Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture held a hearing on a bill that would prohibit the construction of any new building that would cast a new shadow in Boston on the Charles River Esplanade, Christopher Columbus Park, Commonwealth Avenue Mall, Copley Square Park, Magazine Beach Park or the Back Bay Fens.
Supporters said some new construction would cast shadows on many Boston parks and interfere with enjoyment by people of scarce open space while benefiting a few wealthy property owners and developers.
Some opponents said the proposal is another example of government interference on issues that are often silly. Others said that perhaps there could be a compromise that protects parks but also is not harmful to developers.
CHILD SEX ABUSE (S 633) -- The Judiciary Committee held a hearing on a proposal increasing from 21 to 45 the maximum age at which a person can file a civil lawsuit for child sexual abuse.
Supporters said that many children who are victims of sexual abuse are not emotionally ready to confront the situation until many years later. They argued that current law is unfair and allows many sexual predators to get away with their crimes.
Opponents said that the bill goes too far because evidence and memories are often hazy, unclear and unreliable after many years. They argued that the bill would result in many people being wrongly convicted.
OTHER SEX-RELATED BILLS -- Other measures on the Judiciary Committee's agenda included requiring local police departments to notify any "immediate abutting neighbor" that a Level 2 sex offender lives next door (S 745); raising from $75 to $100 the fee that sexual offenders must pay when signing up for the Sexual Offender Registry (S 759); prohibiting rapists from having parental rights to any child born as a result of the rape (H 1220); and adding computer technicians to the current list of professionals required to report instances of the abuse, sexual abuse or neglect of a child under 18 (S 757). The current list of mandated reporters includes doctors and medical personnel, teachers and educational personnel, police officers, firefighters and many human service professionals.
BILL COSBY'S ATTORNEYS TESTIFY (S 1630) -- The Tourism, Arts and Cultural Development heard testimony on a bill that would protect Massachusetts celebrities' images and voices after they die. Current law prohibits the use of the voice, portrait or photograph of anyone for commercial purposes without that person's approval, but only while the person is alive. The proposal would protect the person's image and voice for 70 years after his or her death. Comedian and actor Bill Cosby, a resident of Shelburne Falls in Western Massachusetts, is leading the charge for passage of the measure; two of his attorneys, Melinda Phelps and Bill Hart, spoke in favor of the proposal.
SENIORS -- The Elderly Affairs Committee held a hearing on a measure that would establish a statewide Adopt-A-Senior volunteer program and registry of people willing to assist seniors with snow removal and property or home maintenance services (S 306). The committee's agenda also included a measure that would require the Department of Elder Affairs to work to improve access to services for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender elders and caregivers (H 547). The legislation would require all caregivers who receive funding from the department, or whose services are certified by the department, to be trained in the field of providing services to these groups.
"Legislators and Gov. Patrick should understand there is broad support for comprehensive sexuality education and that constituents of all ages want to see Massachusetts lead the nation on this issue, as it has in other areas like health care reform and marriage equality."
Marty Walz, Chief Executive Officer Of Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts.
"I respectfully challenge you to a public debate on the matter. You can select the date, time and location of this debate and I will make arrangements to be there."
Democratic State Treasurer Steven Grossman challenging Republican U.S. House Speaker John Boehner to a debate on the federal proposal that would allow states to collect taxes on Internet sales. Grossman favors the measure while Boehner opposes it.
"For too long our systems for dealing with sex offenders have tolerated a lack of information, a lack of transparency, a lack of communication between those charged with protecting us and a lack of proper tools to access, classify and reclassify those who have committed these crimes."
GOP Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr on his bill to ensure that sex offenders are properly classified and monitored.
"I want you to know how deeply troubled I am by several recent brazen attacks on our employees in the course of them doing their jobs, and to let you know that we will not sit by idly and let these egregious acts go unanswered."
MBTA General Manager Beverly Scott.
"The day after he dies, they could put (Cosby Soap on a Rope) into production and start marketing it."
Bill Hart, attorney for Bill Cosby, on why the actor-comedian is supporting a bill that that would protect Massachusetts celebrities' images and voices after they die.
HOW LONG WAS LAST WEEK'S SESSION?
During the week of May 6-10, the House met for a total of 39 minutes while the Senate met for a total of 25 minutes.