GET BREAKING NEWS IN YOUR BROWSER. CLICK HERE TO TURN ON NOTIFICATIONS.

X

PUBLISHED: | UPDATED:

THE HOUSE AND SENATE. Beacon Hill Roll Call records local representatives and senators’ votes on two roll calls from prior legislative sessions. There were no roll call votes in the House or Senate last week.

$100,000 for Social Law Library (H 4900)

House 136-17, Senate 32-5, overrode Gov. Deval Patrick’s $100,000 veto reduction (from $2,229,671 to $2,129,671) in funding for the Social Law Library in Boston. Supporters of keeping the $100,000 said that this unique public-private partnership is an invaluable, world-class research facility that is used on a daily basis by the state’s courts, state government, academic institutions, private attorneys and the public. They noted that without the library, the courts and state government would not have adequate research resources or would have to pay a lot of money to purchase these resources from various companies. In his veto message, Patrick said that he reduced the funding to an amount consistent with his original budget recommendation. (A “yes” vote is for overriding Patrick’s reduction and for keeping the $100,000. A “no” vote is against overriding Patrick’s reduction and against keeping the $100,000).

Rep. Eldridge, Yes; Rep. Hargraves, No; Sen. Antonioni, Didn’t Vote; Sen. Panagiotakos, Yes; Sen. Resor, Yes.

$300,000 for zoos (H 4900)

House 137-19, Senate 34-3, overrode Gov. Patrick’s $300,000 veto reduction (from $7,150,000 to $6,850,000) in funding for the nonprofit Commonwealth Zoological Corporation that runs the Franklin Park Zoo in Boston and the Stone Zoo in Stoneham. The governor’s veto also eliminated a $50,000 earmark for the Buttonwood Park Zoo in New Bedford. Supporters of keeping the $300,000 said that these zoos depend on this state money. They noted that the zoos are a valuable resource for children and adults across the state. In his veto message, Patrick said that the $50,000 for the New Bedford zoo was not recommended and that he reduced overall funding for zoos to an amount consistent with his original budget recommendation. Some opponents of keeping the $300,000 said that the state cannot afford the additional $300,000 for zoos during these difficult economic times. (A “yes” vote is for overriding Patrick’s reduction and for keeping the 300,000. A “no” vote is against overriding Patrick’s reduction and against keeping the $300,000).

Rep. Eldridge, Yes; Rep. Hargraves, No; Sen. Antonioni, Didn’t Vote; Sen. Panagiotakos, Yes; Sen. Resor, Yes.

ALSO UP ON BEACON HILL

Ban trans fats in restaurants (H 4346) — The Senate approved a bill that would strictly limit the use of artificial trans fats, also known as partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, in Massachusetts restaurants. The proposal would require restaurants to switch to oils, margarines and shortenings that contain less than 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving. Supporters pointed to studies linking trans fats to coronary heart disease and the premature death of more than 4,000 people annually in Massachusetts. Opponents said that this decision should be left up to each restaurant and noted that individuals can decide to which restaurant they go. Some expressed support for a modified bill that would simply require restaurants to post the amount of trans fat in each menu item. The House approved the bill in June. Only final approval is needed in both branches prior to the measure going to Gov. Patrick.

Ban chain link basketball nets (S 1419) — The House approved a Senate-approved proposal banning chain link metal basketball nets in public parks, playgrounds and recreation centers. Supporters of the ban said that metal nets are dangerous and pointed to the injuries sustained by a young Walpole girl who was playing basketball with her friends and seriously injured her hand on an open chain link. Companies that sell these metal nets say that they are sturdier than nylon ones and also discourage vandals from stealing them. Additional approval is required in each branch prior to the measure going to Gov. Patrick.

Local employees must go on Medicare (H 4516) — The House and Senate approved and sent to the governor a local option bill allowing cities and towns to require their retired employees to sign up for Medicare when they are eligible. The municipality would then drop the employee’s primary health insurance and be required to purchase less-expensive secondary insurance for him or her. The law would not apply to local retirees with spouses currently included on the retiree’s health plan until the spouse is also eligible for Medicare. Supporters said that this would give struggling, cash-starved communities the option to save money while still protecting their local retirees. They noted that the city or town would no longer have to buy expensive primary coverage insurance but instead would buy less expensive secondary insurance to complement Medicare.

Close budget gap (H 5132) — The House and Senate approved and sent to the governor legislation designed to help close a gap in the state’s $28.2 billion fiscal 2009 state budget. Provisions include using $200 million from the state’s Rainy Day Fund; a two-month tax amnesty program waiving penalties for delinquent taxpayers who come forward and pay past due taxes; and a savings of $100 million by extending the state’s pension funding schedule two years, from 2023 to 2025.

Senate calls for Wilkerson to resign — The Senate approved resolutions calling on Sen. Diane Wilkerson, D-Boston, to resign from her Senate seat. Wilkerson last week was indicted on charges that she took $23,500 in cash bribes to introduce legislation in the state Senate.

Changes in voting laws (H 5121) — Gov. Patrick signed into law a bill that gives voters who have failed to reregister within 18 months of moving out of their homes, the option to vote in their old district. Prior to passage of this new law, sponsored by Secretary of State William Galvin, previous law allowed voters this option only if they had failed to reregister within six months. The new law would only be effective for the November 2008 election and these voters would only be allowed to vote for president, vice president, U.S. Senate and on three ballot questions. They would be ineligible to vote in local races for U.S. Congress, state senate and state representative, since they are no longer living in their original districts. Supporters of the extension to 18 months said that this would benefit thousands of people who lost their homes to foreclosure and have not yet found a new home and/or had time to register to vote. Opponents, including many city and town clerks, said that passage of this last-minute law just days before the election is irresponsible and would create havoc and problems on Election Day. They questioned how the limited ballot access plan would be implemented.

Move over for emergency vehicles (H 5120) — The House approved a bill requiring drivers to reduce their speed to a minimum of 25 miles per hour below the posted speed limit when they spot an emergency vehicle flashing its lights on the side of a highway. The measure also requires drivers to move out of the right hand lane if it is practical to do so and imposes up to a $100 fine on drivers who do not follow the new law. Supporters described the recent incident in which a state trooper responded to an emergency on the Mass Pike and was seriously injured when he was hit by a car traveling in the breakdown lane. They argued that this proposed “Move Over Law” would save lives and prevent countless injuries. The Senate has approved a different version of the measure. The House version now goes to the Senate for consideration.

Plaque to honor African-Americans (S 2182) — The House approved a bill creating a nine-member special commission to make recommendations for the placement of a plaque, mural or bust in an appropriate area in the Statehouse to honor the contributions of African-Americans to Massachusetts. The commission would make recommendations about the location by July 27, 2009. The superintendent of state office buildings, subject to the approval of the art commission, would then install and maintain it. Only final approval is needed in each branch prior to the measure going to the governor.

QUOTABLE QUOTES

“The allegations against Senator Wilkerson are unconscionable, and the citizens of the commonwealth deserve honest and faithful services of their elected representatives — uncompromised by secret payments of cash.” — From a press release by the office of United States Attorney Michael J. Sullivan announcing Wilkerson’s indictment.

“I would like the voters of the 2nd Suffolk Senate District to know that I am staying the course of my campaign for re-election on Nov. 4. Not only does this represent the biggest challenge in my personal and political life, but it will test to the limit the notion of innocent until proven guilty.” — Sen. Dianne Wilkerson, D-Boston. (Note: Wilkerson suspended her sticker/write-in campaign for re-election on Friday, Oct. 31.)

“The Massachusetts Democratic party has become a haven for criminals and corruption. This is not the government that the people of Massachusetts deserve, and it is certainly not what the people want.” — Massachusetts Republican Party spokesman Barney Keller.

“By continuing in your position as state Senator, you are doing a disservice to your constituents, the people of Massachusetts as a whole, and the Senate as an institution. We, as public officials, are not above the law. I implore you to step down as state Senator for the 2nd Suffolk District.” — Former Republican senator Brian Lees in a letter to Sen. Wilkerson written 10 year ago on June 25, 1998. Lees was asking Wilkerson to resign following her conviction for failure to file tax returns and a subsequent violation of the terms of a six-month home confinement sentence.

“The state’s Medicaid program overpaid $610,333 in claims for personal care attendant services due to insufficient internal controls. DeNucci’s review found that 118, or 59 percent, of the claims were made for services purportedly provided in the home when a consumer was actually in a nursing home or other in-patient facility.” — From an audit by state auditor Joseph DeNucci. Personal care attendants help people with long-term disabilities to live at home independently by assisting them with taking medication, bathing, dressing and preparing meals.

“Hunger is Massachusetts increases at an alarming rate and 522,000 struggle to put food on the table. High food prices combined with the current economic crisis are driving a crisis in food insecurity that is broader and deeper than we’ve seen before in this state.” — Ellen Parker, executive director of Project Bread, an anti-hunger group.

Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at bob@beaconhillrollcall.com.

Copyright © 2008 Beacon Hill Roll Call. All rights reserved.