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The House and Senate — Beacon Hill Roll Call records local senators’ votes on three roll calls from the week of June 19-23. There were no roll calls in the House last week.

One percent tax on real estate sales on Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard (S 2555)

Sen. Robert Antonioni, Yes

Sen. Steven Panagiotakos, Yes

Sen. Pamela Resor, Yes

Massage therapists (S 2258)

Senate 29-8, overrode Gov. Mitt Romney’s veto of a bill creating a new state board to regulate the state’s estimated 5,000 massage therapists and requiring that they meet certain educational or “hands-on” experience requirements in order to be licensed to practice by the state. Current law leaves this process up to local boards of health. The bill also prohibits the granting of a license to anyone who has been convicted of a sexually-related crime or crime involving moral turpitude in the last 10 years. Supporters of the bill said that transferring this authority to the state would create uniform standards and regulations to protect the public and ensure that only qualified people are licensed to be massage therapists. They argued that the current piecemeal approach by local boards of health is inconsistent and does not protect the consumer. In his veto message, Gov. Romney said that he supports the licensing of massage therapists but argued that the measure unnecessarily creates a new and costly state bureaucracy. He said that the licensing and regulation of massage therapists could be placed under the existing Board of Registration of Allied Health Professionals that currently licenses and regulates occupational therapists, athletic trainers and physical therapists. He also said that he supports a lifetime license ban rather than a 10-year one on anyone who has ever been convicted of a sex crime. The bill now goes to the House for action on Romney’s veto. (A “Yes” vote is for the bill. A “No” vote is against the bill).

Sen. Robert Antonioni, Yes

Sen. Steven Panagiotakos, Yes

Sen. Pamela Resor, Yes

Purchase needles and syringes without prescriptions (S 2569)

Sen. Robert Antonioni, No

Sen. Steven Panagiotakos, No

Sen. Pamela Resor, Yes


Pension for former Rep. Michael Ruane (H 5063) — The Senate approved on a voice vote, without a roll call, and sent to Gov. Romney a bill providing seriously ill former Rep. Michael Ruane with health insurance and a $44,000 annual state pension that would continue to be collected by his wife when he dies despite the fact that Ruane has never paid into the state’s retirement system. The measure would have been brought to a roll call vote if requested by six of the Senate’s 40 senators. It allows Ruane or his family one year to pay what he should have paid into the state’s pension system and provides that a lien be attached to Ruane’s home to allow the state to eventually collect the balance owed to the system. The house could not be sold until Ruane, his wife and his children who are living in the House die. Ruane was denied the right to enter the retirement system from 1975 to 1994 because he was already in the city of Salem’s system. He did not take advantage of a special bill passed into law in 1994 that allowed him to join the state’s pension system. Supporters said that Ruane is near death and that the Senate should do the right thing and help this former legislator, his sick wife and their children. They noted that the state would recoup the pension payments upon the sale of the house. Opponents expressed sympathy for Ruane and his family but said that the Senate should not approve this unique and narrow bill for a former legislator. They noted that the Legislature annually ignores or defeats many similar proposals for other public employees who are in difficult situations. Opponents also said that Ruane was aware of his opportunity to join the system in 1994 while supporters argued that Ruane was preoccupied with family health problems and was not aware of the opportunity. The House two weeks ago approved the measure on a roll call vote.

Campaign contributions (S 2340) — The House and Senate gave final approval to and sent to Gov. Romney a bill allowing campaign contributions to be made through the use of a debit card. Supporters say that this expands a current law that permits these contributions to be made by a credit card. Critics say that it is shameful that this self-interest legislation to help legislators’ campaigns has been rushed through the House and Senate while important bills dealing with gas prices, crime, taxes and senior citizens languish in committee.

Tax credits for hearing aids — A late-filed bill would give taxpayers a tax credit for the cost of purchasing hearing aids.

License genetic counselors (H 4326) — The Senate approved a House-approved measure creating a state board to license and regulate genetic counselors. These counselors work with individuals and families about their risk of passing on a genetic predisposition for birth defects and disorders to future generations. Supporters said that this important field should be regulated and licensed by the state. Only final House and Senate approval are needed prior to the measure going to Gov. Romney.

Unsigned campaign circulars (H 126) — The House and Senate gave final approval to and sent to Gov. Romney a proposal repealing the current state law that prohibits the distribution of unsigned circulars and posters supporting or opposing any candidates for public office.

Minimum wage (H 4781) — The House postponed action on legislation raising the minimum wage from $6.75 per hour to $7.75 per hour over two years. The Senate in April approved a hike to $8.25 over two years. The Senate version also includes a provision providing automatic future increases based on an inflation index.

Name Route 28 “Tolerance road” (H 4971) — The Transportation Committee has okayed a bill naming a portion of Route 28 in the Reading/North Reading area “Tolerance Road.” The original bill, filed by private citizen Robert Sansone, designated all of Route 28 as “Glory Road.” The committee restricted the portion of Route 28 and changed Glory to Tolerance. Both versions promote the proposed names as a celebration of racial understanding and diversity.

Bunker Hill Day — Many Statehouse employees took either Friday, June 16, or Monday, June 19, as their day off for Bunker Hill Day — an official state holiday celebrated only in the four Suffolk County communities of Boston, Chelsea, Revere and Winthrop. The June 17 holiday this year fell on a Saturday so many employees were given the option to take the day off on Friday or Monday. Supporters of keeping the day as a legal state holiday in Suffolk County say that it commemorates the important Battle of Bunker Hill. Opponents say that the holiday should either be a legal holiday statewide or not at all. The Senate in May approved a budget amendment making it a statewide legal holiday. The House did not include the provision in its version of the budget. A House-Senate conference committee is now working on a compromise version of the budget that is unlikely to include the statewide holiday.

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 June 19-23, the House met for a total of ten hours and 31 minutes while the Senate met for a total of four hours and four minutes.

Mon., June 19

(H) 11 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.

(S) 11:02 a.m. to 11:09 a.m.

Tues., June 20

No House session

(S) 11:02 a.m. to 11:18 a.m.

Wed., June 21

(H) 11 a.m. to 3:13 p.m.

(S) 11 a.m. to 11:26 a.m.

Thurs., June 22

(H) 11:04 a.m. to 4:07 p.m.

(S) 1:04 p.m. to 4:19 p.m.

Fri., June 23

(H) 11:05 a.m. to 11:09 a.m.

No Senate session

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