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THE HOUSE AND SENATE. BHRC records local representatives’ votes on two roll calls and local senators’ votes on one roll call from the week of June 11-15.

Place on 2008 ballot a proposal banning future same-sex marriages (S 2220)

The House and Senate, sitting as a Constitutional Convention, defeated 45-151 a motion to place on the November 2008 ballot for voter consideration a proposed constitutional amendment banning future same-sex marriages in Massachusetts. The proposal does not include language nullifying any same-sex marriages that have already taken place. Under the constitution, the amendment needed only 50 votes of the 2006 Legislature and the 2007 Legislature in order to go on the 2008 ballot. The amendment received 62 votes in the 2006 Legislature but fell five votes short last week. The proposal is dead for the near future and it cannot appear on the ballot until November 2010 at the earliest. Under the constitution, supporters of the ballot question would have to start from scratch by refiling their proposal, gathering thousands of signatures and garnering 50 votes in the 2008 convention and 2009-2010 convention in order for the ban to go on the November 2010 ballot for voter consideration.

Nine legislators who had voted in 2006 to place the amendment on the ballot switched their votes this year and voted against it. The nine legislators who switched their votes are Sens. Gale Candaras, D-Wilbraham; and Michael Morrissey, D-Quincy; and Reps. Christine Canavan, D-Brockton; Paul Kujawski, D-Webster; Paul Loscocco, R-Holliston; Robert Nyman, D-Hanover; Richard Ross, R-Wrentham; James Vallee, D-Franklin; and Brian Wallace, D-Boston.

Following the vote, same-sex marriage supporters said it took courage for these nine legislators to switch their votes. Proponents of placing the matter on the ballot argued that Gov. Deval Patrick and legislative leadership pressured and twisted arms to get legislators to switch their votes and keep the question off the ballot. Some said that they intend to look into any promises for jobs or other rewards for legislators who switched their votes.

There was no debate on the convention floor but the arguments on both sides are well known. Some supporters of the ban said that they oppose same-sex marriages and believe that marriage should be reserved for a man and a woman. Other legislators said that they voted to place the question on the ballot but actually support same-sex marriages and oppose the ban. They noted that despite their opposition to the ban, they felt that voters should have the right to vote on the matter.

Opponents of the ban said that the Legislature should not insert discrimination into the constitution. They noted that thousands of same-sex couples have already married and society has not collapsed. They argued that the ban would deny rights to same-sex couples and said that all citizens are entitled to equal protection under the law.

The exact language of the proposed amendment reads: “When recognizing marriages entered into after the adoption of this amendment by the people, the commonwealth and its political subdivisions shall define marriage only as the union of one man and one woman.” (Both roll calls are listed. The first is from the 2006 session. The second is from last week. A “yes” vote is for the placing on the 2008 ballot of a proposed constitutional amendment banning future same-sex marriages. A “no” vote is against placing it on the ballot).

Rep. Eldridge, No/No; Rep. Hargraves, Yes/Yes; Sen. Antonioni, No/No; Sen. Panagiotakos, Yes/Yes; Sen. Resor, No/No.

More tax credits for companies making films in Massachusetts (H 4084)

House 153-1, approved and sent to the Senate a bill lifting the $700 million per film cap on tax credits that the state gives movie production companies which make films on location in Massachusetts. A law approved in November 2005 provides tax credits and other incentives to these companies but also includes a $700 million cap on the tax credits. Supporters said that the initial law has brought in more revenue in the past year from moviemakers than in the combined seven years prior to its approval. They argued that the $700 million cap should be lifted because neighboring states like Rhode Island and Connecticut now offer more tax credits and incentives than Massachusetts. They said that unless the cap is lifted, Massachusetts will continue to lose millions of dollars in business, jobs and taxes to other states. The lone opponent offered no arguments. Opponents in the past said that the state should not offer tax credits to a wealthy, private entertainment industry while education, human service programs and local aid are still severely underfunded. (A “yes” vote is for the bill lifting the $700 million cap. A “no” vote is against the bill).

Rep. Eldridge, Yes; Rep. Hargraves, Yes.

Seat belts and other driving laws — The Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee held a hearing on a “primary enforcement bill” allowing police officers to stop and issue $25 tickets to drivers and passengers solely for not wearing their seat belts (H 3478). Current law is a “secondary enforcement” one that prohibits drivers from being stopped solely for not wearing a seat belt and allows an officer to issue a ticket only if the driver is stopped for another motor vehicle violation or some other offense. The Senate last year approved a similar bill on a 24-15 roll call vote but the House defeated it 76-80. The proposal would also require the Registry of Motor Vehicles to maintain a registry of drivers who were fined or received a warning for not wearing a seat belt. The committee’s agenda also included legislation requiring all children riding on school buses to wear seat belts (S 1395); requiring the use of seat belts by all drivers and passengers in taxi cabs (H 2348); requiring drivers to have “two hands firmly on the steering wheel at all times” except when operating windshield wipers and headlights and performing other tasks necessary for the operation or control of the vehicle (H 2282); requiring a special learner’s permit decal to be displayed on the window of a vehicle being driven by anyone with a learner’s permit (H 2319) and requiring child passengers under 4 feet 9 inches to wear a child passenger restraint (H 2361). The bill would eliminate the current law that requires the restraint to be worn by children up to 5 years of age and/or 40 pounds.

Seat belts and other driving laws — The Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee held a hearing on a “primary enforcement bill” allowing police officers to stop and issue $25 tickets to drivers and passengers solely for not wearing their seat belts (H 3478). Current law is a “secondary enforcement” one that prohibits drivers from being stopped solely for not wearing a seat belt and allows an officer to issue a ticket only if the driver is stopped for another motor vehicle violation or some other offense. The Senate last year approved a similar bill on a 24-15 roll call vote but the House defeated it 76-80. The proposal would also require the Registry of Motor Vehicles to maintain a registry of drivers who were fined or received a warning for not wearing a seat belt. The committee’s agenda also included legislation requiring all children riding on school buses to wear seat belts (S 1395); requiring the use of seat belts by all drivers and passengers in taxi cabs (H 2348); requiring drivers to have “two hands firmly on the steering wheel at all times” except when operating windshield wipers and headlights and performing other tasks necessary for the operation or control of the vehicle (H 2282); requiring a special learner’s permit decal to be displayed on the window of a vehicle being driven by anyone with a learner’s permit (H 2319) and requiring child passengers under 4 feet 9 inches to wear a child passenger restraint (H 2361). The bill would eliminate the current law that requires the restraint to be worn by children up to 5 years of age and/or 40 pounds.

Allow non-citizens to vote, lower voting age to 17, encourage more candidate debates and consider Internet voting — The Elections Laws Committee held a hearing on a bill allowing cities and towns to adopt local laws permitting non-citizens to vote for school committee, city council and board of selectmen (H 696). The non-citizen would be required to certify that he or she lives in the local city or town and intends to become a citizen. The law would only take effect in communities in which voters approve a local ballot question implementing it. The committee is also looking at legislation reducing from 18 to 17 the age at which a person can vote in a local city or town election (H 627); creating a special commission to consider legislation to encourage more candidate debates and informed voting (H 667); and establishing a task force to investigate various methods of conducting state elections via the Internet (H 707). The Internet voting study is estimated to cost $200,000.

Pay raise for legislators’ staffs (H 2734) — The Public Service Committee held a hearing on legislation that would give the staffs of senators and representatives’ the same percentage salary increase that legislators receive every two years. A constitutional amendment approved by voters in 1998 requires legislative salaries to be increased or decreased biennially at the same rate as the state’s median household income for the preceding two-year period, as ascertained by the governor. Legislators received a 4.8 percent annual pay raise for 2007 and 2008.

Protect journalists from disclosing sources (S 898) — The Judiciary Committee heard testimony on a measure that would establish a “shield law” providing protection to journalists who refuse to disclose confidential sources. Protection would not be provided if disclosure of the source would prevent imminent and actual harm to public security from acts of terrorism and the potential harm “clearly outweighs the public interest in protecting the free flow of information.”

Breastfeeding (S 78) — The Health Committee heard testimony on a bill permitting breastfeeding of children in any “public place, or place or establishment which is open to and accepts or solicits the patronage of the general public.” Other provisions allow places of religious worship to prohibit breastfeeding and exempt breastfeeding from laws prohibiting indecent exposure and open and gross lewdness.

HOW LONG WAS LAST WEEK’S SESSION? During the week of June 11-15, the House met for a total of six hours and 45 minutes while the Senate met for a total of two hours and 27 minutes.

Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at bob@beaconhillrollcall.com.

Copyright © 2007 Beacon Hill Roll Call. All rights reserved.

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