THE HOUSE AND SENATE. Beacon Hill Roll Call records local representatives’ votes on five roll calls from the week of Jan. 22-26. All roll calls are from debate on the set of rules that the House will follow during the 2007-2008 session. The House adopted the package proposed by Democratic Speaker Salvatore DiMasi and rejected all the new rules proposed by the Republican minority. The votes were all along party lines with Republicans supporting the GOP changes and Democrats opposing them. There were no roll calls in the Senate last week.

Adopt 2007-2008 House rules (H 2007)

House 133-19, approved the rules under which the House will operate during the 2007-2008 session. Supporters said that the package is basically the same one that was used in the 2005-2006 session. They argued that it is a fair set of rules that would allow the House to run smoothly and democratically. Opponents said the package is the same old one which stifles debate, prevents real input from rank-and-file members and puts too much power in the hands of the speaker and leadership. (A “yes” vote is for the rules package. A “no” vote is against it).

Eldridge, Yes; Hargraves, No

Require two-thirds vote for late night sessions (H 2007)

House 19-135, rejected a new rule requiring a two-thirds vote of members for the House to remain in session beyond 9 p.m. Current rules require only a majority vote. Supporters of the new rule said that it would make it more difficult to work in the middle of the night when legislators are tired and taxpayers are asleep. Opponents of the new rule said that the two-thirds requirement is unreasonable and noted the House rarely remains in session beyond 9 p.m. or 10 p.m. (A “yes” vote is for the two-thirds requirement. A “no” vote is against it).

Eldridge, No; Hargraves, Yes

Allow more time to vote on roll call votes (H 2007)

House 19-134, rejected a new rule increasing from two to four the minimum number of minutes that the speaker is required to keep a roll call vote open to allow members to vote. The proposed new rule does not change the current rule that gives the speaker the option to keep the roll call vote open for up to 22 minutes and allows members to vote for up to four minutes after the roll call is complete, unless two members object to a member voting late. Supporters of the new rule said that many legislators are at committee hearings when a vote is taken on the House floor. They argued that the extension to four minutes would give these members more time to get to the chamber and vote. Opponents of the new rule said that the two minute minimum is sufficient and noted that the speaker often leaves the roll call vote open for more than two minutes. They argued that there is rarely an objection when a member asks to vote up to five minutes after the roll call vote is closed. (A “yes” vote is for increasing the minimum time for voting from two to four minutes. A “no” vote is against the increase).

Eldridge, No; Hargraves, Yes

Require roll call vote to approve tax hikes (H 2007)

House 19-133, rejected a new rule prohibiting the House from approving any tax hikes without a roll call vote and allowing the House to approve tax hikes only up to 30 days prior to the deadline for filing nomination papers to run for a seat in the Legislature. The new rule could be suspended by a four-fifths vote. Supporters of the new rule said this would ensure that voters know how their legislators vote on any tax hikes. They noted that it would also prevent what occurred a few years ago year when the House approved a $1 billion plus tax hike two days after the filing deadline for candidates who may have chosen to run for office if they knew an incumbent had voted for the tax hike. Opponents of the new rule said that the amendment goes too far and would make it very difficult for the House to consider tax hikes even during an emergency. They argued that it sets a bad precedent to restrict the time period during which a bill can be considered. (A “yes” vote is for the new rule requiring a roll call vote and restricting the period during which tax hikes can be approved. A “no” vote is against the new rule).

Eldridge, No; Hargraves, Yes

Require two-thirds roll call vote to approve tax hikes (H 2007)

House 19-132, rejected a new rule that would prohibit a tax hike from taking effect unless it is approved on a roll call vote by two-thirds of the members of the House. Current rules require only a majority vote. Supporters of the new rule said that the higher threshold would protect the interests of taxpayers and ensure that a tax hike is absolutely necessary and has broad support. Opponents of the new rule said that it is difficult to get a two-thirds majority to support a tax hike and argued that the requirement should not be any higher for a tax hike than for any other legislation. (A “yes” vote is for requiring a two-thirds vote for a tax hike. A “no” vote is against the requirement).

Eldridge, No; Hargraves, Yes


Quick House action — The House last week approved a dozen bills — mostly minor local measures affecting individual cities and towns. None of the proposals had a public hearing. Any hearing would be impossible to hold since members have not yet been appointed to any committees that hold the hearings. The proposals received a favorable report from the temporary Rules Committee and then were approved by the House. The temporary 11-member committee, chaired by Rep. Angelo Scaccia, D-Boston, was appointed at the beginning of the 2007 session by Speaker Slavatre DiMasi.

Junk faxes — Sen. Stephen Brewer, D-Barre, filed legislation that would include “junk faxes” under the state’s current law that restricts telemarketing companies doing business in the state by allowing consumers to sign up for a “do not call” list. Current law fines companies up to $5,000 if they call an individual on the list and allows an individual to sue a company for up to $5,000 if the company violates the list and calls the individual more than once a year.

Child porn — A measure filed by Sen. Michael Knapik, R-Westfield, would require computer technicians and individuals who process film and print pictures for consumers to report to authorities if they see any pictures or images of minors under 18 engaged in sexual conduct. Failure to report the picture would result in a fine of up to $2,500 for a first offense and $5,000 for any subsequent offense.

Mandatory nutrition education in schools — Sen. Brian Joyce, D-Milton, proposed legislation requiring public school children in grades one through nine to attend a 45-minute class once a week on nutrition education and physical fitness guidelines. The agenda would include instruction on fat content awareness, cholesterol count, carbohydrate measurements, healthy eating guidelines, organic foods awareness, kosher food benefits and the dangers of cigarettes, alcohol and fast food establishments.

Ban chain link basketball nets — Chain link metal basketball nets would be prohibited in public parks, playgrounds and recreation centers under legislation filed by Sen. James Timilty, D-Walpole. Companies that sell these metal nets say that they are sturdier than nylon nets and also discourage vandals from stealing them. Opponents say that metal nets are very dangerous. Timilty’s office told us that the bill was filed in response to the injuries sustained by a young girl in Walpole who was playing basketball with her friends and seriously injured her hand on an open chain link.