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Beacon Hill Roll Call records local representatives and senators’ votes on three roll calls from the week of May 15-19.

Changes in construction and development permitting system (H 4968)

House 134-15, approved and sent to the Senate a lengthy and complicated bill making major changes aimed at streamlining the permitting process for developers who build on commercial land in priority development sites designated by a city or town. The proposal provides incentives, including financial grants and technical assistance, to communities that choose to opt into the streamlined permitting process. It also creates a new state office to help new and expanding businesses navigate through the permit process. A key controversial section repeals a current law that prohibits any approved commercial, industrial or residential construction from continuing during an appeal process against the project. Supporters said that the bill would establish a friendlier and less-confusing permitting process which would encourage businesses to locate or expand in Massachusetts. They argued that the bill would stimulate the economy, help local cities and towns and create jobs. Opponents objected to a variety of provisions that they said unfairly favor developers at the expense of citizens. Some said that they support streamlining the process but oppose provisions that take away power from citizens and local communities. (A “Yes” vote is for the bill. A “No” vote is against the bill).

Rep. James Eldridge, No

Rep. Robert Hargraves, Yes

Smart-growth criteria (H 4968)

Rep. James Eldridge, Yes

Rep. Robert Hargraves, No

Prohibit construction during appeal process (H 4968)

House 52-98, rejected an amendment reinstating a current law that prohibits any approved commercial, industrial or residential construction from continuing during an appeal process against the project. The bill being considered by the House would change current law and allow construction to continue. Amendment supporters said that allowing construction to continue would take power away from citizens who are appealing the project. They argued that construction could be completed by the time the appeal is decided and noted that judges are less likely to rule in favor of an appeal that would result in a building be torn down. Some amendment opponents said that developers usually voluntarily halt construction during an appeal because they do not want to sink more money into a project that might be ruled illegal by the court. Others noted that there are other legal avenues including restraining orders that citizens can use to stop construction during the appeal process. (A “Yes” vote is for the amendment prohibiting construction from continuing during an appeal. A “No” vote is against the amendment and favors allowing construction to continue).

Rep. James Eldridge, Yes

Rep. Robert Hargraves, No

”Primary enforcement” of seat belt law (H 229)

Sen. Robert Antonioni, Yes

Sen. Steven Panagiotakos, Yes

Sen. Pamela Resor, Yes

Raise seat belt fine to $100 (H 229)

Senate 15-24, rejected an amendment to the primary enforcement bill that allows police officers to stop and issue $25 tickets to a driver and passengers solely for not wearing seat belts. The amendment raises the fine from $25 to $100 and revokes for 45 days the license of an offender who has been a licensed driver for less than three years. It also sends $75 from each fine to a program to promote seat belt usage and $25 to a fund to treat head injuries. Amendment supporters said that the amendment strengthens the bill by raising fines and revoking driver’s licenses of inexperienced drivers who do not wear seat belts. Amendment opponents said that the amendment is an attempt by opponents of the primary enforcement bill to cloud the issue and delay action. They noted that the House might not accept these amendments and that these tactics might result in a stalemate and the bill’s eventual defeat. (A “Yes” vote is for the amendment raising the fine to $100 and the 45-day license revocation. A “No” vote is against the amendment).

Sen. Robert Antonioni, No

Sen. Steven Panagiotakos, Yes

Sen. Pamela Resor, No

Retain secondary enforcement and raise fine to $200 (H 229)

Sen. Robert Antonioni, No

Sen. Steven Panagiotakos, Yes

Sen. Pamela Resor, No


Free tobacco samples (H 3634) — The Committee on Health Care Financing approved a measure prohibiting anyone from distributing free samples of cigarettes in any public places in the state. The bill imposes a fine of between $25 and $50 for each day an offender violates the law.

Health insurance for school employees (H 4654) — The House and Senate approved and sent to Gov. Romney a bill prohibiting local cities and towns from dropping non-teaching school personnel from their health insurance plans during the two summer months that they do not work. This protection is currently provided only to teachers.

Massage therapists (S 2258) — The House and Senate approved and sent to Gov. Romney legislation providing for state regulation of massage therapists. Current law leaves this process up to local boards of health. Sponsors say that the bill would create uniform standards and regulations to protect the public and ensure that only qualified people are licensed.

Ben Franklin (H 4690) — The House approved a proposal designating Ben Franklin as the state’s official inventor.

Vaccinations and mercury (H 4703) — The Committee on Health Care Financing approved legislation prohibiting doctors and other health care providers from administering any vaccine with more than trace amounts of mercury to pregnant women and children under age three. The measure allows for an exemption during an epidemic or emergency. Supporters say that many vaccines contain Thimerosal, a preservative that is nearly 50 percent mercury. They note that mercury is a neurotoxin that can cause birth defects in infants.

HOW LONG WAS LAST WEEK’S SESSION? Beacon Hill Roll Call tracks the length of time that the House and Senate were in session each week. Many legislators say that legislative sessions are only one aspect of the Legislature’s job and that a lot of important work is done outside of the House and Senate chambers. They note that their jobs also involve committee work, research, constituent work and other matters that are important to their districts. Critics say that the Legislature does not meet regularly or long enough to debate and vote in public view on the thousands of pieces of legislation that have been filed. They note that the infrequency and brief length of sessions are misguided and lead to irresponsible late night sessions and a mad rush to act on dozens of bills in the days immediately preceding the end of an annual session.

During the week of May 15-19, the House met for a total of eleven hours and 46 minutes while the Senate met for a total of two hours and 41 minutes.

Mon., May 15

(H) 10:59 a.m. to 11:15 a.m.

(S) 11:02 a.m. to 11:17 a.m.

Tues., May 16

No House session

(S) 1:02 p.m. to 1:06 p.m.

Wed., May 17

(H) 11:02 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.

No Senate session

Thurs., May 18

(H) 11 a.m. to 2:02 p.m.

(S) 1:04 p.m. to 3:26 p.m.

Fri., May 19

No House session

No Senate session

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