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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.

Borrow $1.3 billion for transportation (H 5039)

House 157-0 and 158-0, Senate 37-0, approved and Gov. Deval Patrick signed into law a bill allowing the state to borrow $1.3 billion to improve state and local roads, bridges and public transportation. The package includes $350 million in Chapter 90 transportation funds for local cities and towns and millions of dollars in funding for local projects for cities and towns across the state. The Patrick administration is required to adhere to the state’s annual bond borrowing cap and ultimately decides which projects are affordable and actually get funded. Supporters said that the measure would help communities across the state, boost the economy and create jobs. (A “yes” vote is for the bill).

Rep. Eldridge, Yes/Yes; Rep. Hargraves, Yes/Yes; Sen. Antonioni, Did Not Vote; Sen. Panagiotakos, Yes; Sen. Resor, Yes.

NOTE: The following projects were approved though not necessarily funded as part of the transportation issue: $45,000 for a transportation and infrastructure master plan at the Pepperell Paper mill; $50,000 for a portable solar-powered traffic signalization displays for the town of Groton; and $150,000 for design costs for Route 119 reconstruction in Townsend.

$150,000 for stormwater management (H 5000)

House 139-18, Senate 32-5, overrode Governor Patrick’s $150,000 reduction (from $1,094,643 to $944,643) in funding for stormwater management programs. Stormwater runoff is generated when precipitation from rain and snow flows over land or impervious surfaces, including paved streets, parking lots and building rooftops, and does not infiltrate into the ground. Supporters of keeping the $150,000 said that the water accumulates debris, chemicals and other pollutants that can flow into lakes, streams, rivers and wetlands and harm water that is used to provide drinking water and for swimming and fishing. They argued that the $150,000 cut would hurt the state’s efforts to manage and solve this ongoing problem. 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 $150,000. A “no” vote is against overriding Patrick’s reduction and against keeping the $150,000).

Rep. Eldridge, Yes/Yes; Rep. Hargraves, Yes/Yes; Sen. Antonioni, Did Not Vote; Sen. Panagiotakos, Yes; Sen. Resor, Yes.


Move over for emergency vehicles (H 5120) — The House and Senate have agreed on a version of a bill requiring drivers to reduce their speed to that of a “reasonable and safe speed for road conditions,” when they spot an emergency vehicle with flashing lights on the side of the highway. The measure also requires drivers traveling on a road with two or more lanes to move out of the emergency vehicle’s lane if it is practical to do so. Violators would be fined up to $100. The measure has been tied up since October 24 when the House approved a different version than the one that the Senate passed on July 29. Supporters, noting that 43 states have similar laws, said that this proposed “Move Over Law” is a simple “no brainer” public safety proposal that would save lives of and prevent injuries to police officers and other personnel who respond to emergency situations on the highway. They pointed to the recent tragic incident in which State Trooper Dana Cresta, responding to an emergency on the Mass Pike, was seriously injured when he was hit by a car traveling in the breakdown lane. Final approval in each branch is needed prior to the measure going to the governor.

Special commission (H 5164) — The House approved and sent to the Senate legislation creating a nine-member special commission to investigate and study the economy “in order to create and maintain quality jobs in the commonwealth.”

Parking in a bus stop (H 4524) — The House gave initial approval to a measure raising from $55 to $100 the fine for parking a motor vehicle in an MBTA bus stop. Supporters said that the current fine is too low for an offense that causes major problems including making it difficult for a disabled person to get on or off a bus.

Retirement benefits (H 2682) — The House approved and sent to the Senate a bill that would allow Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) employees who were laid off in 2003 and rehired in 2005 to count the missing two years toward their pensions. These employees would be required to pay into the retirement fund for those two years in order to qualify. Meanwhile, The MWRA Advisory Board announced that the average increase in 2008 retail water and sewer bills for customers in the MWRA District is 5.8 percent or $62.

Prohibit sex offenders from driving school buses (S 2849) — The House and Senate approved and sent to Gov. Patrick a bill prohibiting convicted sex offenders from driving a school bus. The proposal broadens current law that prohibits anyone convicted of committing an unnatural act, rape or sodomy from driving a school bus. The legislation also requires all school bus drivers to complete a basic course in first aid. Supporters said that broadening the prohibition would make children safer from all sex offenders. Opponents said that the well-intentioned bill creates a slippery slope which would result in proposals to ban sex offenders from other jobs involving children and eventually all jobs.

Gold Star license plates (S 2352) — The House and Senate approved and sent to Gov. Patrick a bill allowing siblings and grandchildren of veterans who were killed in action to be issued the special “Gold Star Family” license plate for their cars. Current law allows only the parents, children or spouses of these veterans to be issued the special plates. Supporters said that more family members of veterans killed in action should have the opportunity to honor these heroes by displaying the special plate.

Restrict idling cars and buses on school grounds (S 2628) — The Senate gave final approval to and sent to Gov. Patrick a measure requiring the Registry of Motor Vehicles to adopt regulations restricting operators of school buses and personal motor vehicles from idling their vehicles on school grounds. Current law prohibits vehicles from idling more than five minutes and applies to all vehicles in all locations — not just schools. Supporters said that the proposal would save millions of dollars in fuel costs for individuals and local communities and would help protect the environment.

Protect military families from predatory insurance sales (H 4508) — The Senate approved and sent to the governor legislation allowing the state’s insurance commissioner to establish and adopt rules and regulations to protect members of the military and their families from unscrupulous sales practices of companies that sell insurance. Supporters said that a federal act requires states to adopt a law providing this protection for our brave men and women who are defending this nation.

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 very dangerous and have caused serious injuries. Companies that sell these metal nets say that they are sturdier than nylon ones and also discourage vandals from stealing them. Final approval in each branch is needed prior to the measure going to the governor.


“Any off-hour usage that requires lighting, heating or cooling will require a charge for costs.” — From a memo that was sent to executive department heads by the Patrick administration’s Bureau of State Office Buildings. The State House News Service reports that the bureau will limit office work hours, beginning Jan. 1, to between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. Monday through Friday in the Statehouse and two other state office buildings. Offices that use lighting, heating or cooling outside of those days and hours will be assessed hourly fees ranging from $350 to $750. The fees will be used by the bureau, a recent victim of budget cuts by Gov. Patrick, to pay energy costs.

“Communities should be preparing for a cut in local aid for next year of at least 5 percent, possibly as high as 10 percent. With local aid next year, the question is not if we cut, it is now how much we cut.” — House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi, D-Boston.

“The Republican caucus calls on the governor and the Democratic-controlled Legislature to start cutting the pork and get its own house in order before announcing cuts to already struggling cities and towns.” — House Minority Leader Bradley Jones, R-North Reading,

“I understand all too well that under the leadership of J. Edgar Hoover, the FBI engaged in covert and sometimes documented illegal actions to subvert the constitutional rights of those who were seeking justice. Yes, J. Edgar is dead but I believe his spirit lingers on.” — Boston City Councilor Chuck Turner, who along with former Sen. Dianne Wilkerson was formally indicted last week. Turner is charged with extortion for allegedly accepting $1,000 in cash to help a businessman obtain a liquor license and then lying to FBI agents. The FBI assisted in the sting operation that targeted Turner.

“Chuck Turner was well known as a critic of the FBI’s record of infringement upon civil liberties. If the FBI’s attempt to trap Chuck Turner in a fake bribery attempt was motivated by payback for his political activities, it will have a chilling effect on any elected official who contemplates questioning FBI tactics.” — Green-Rainbow Party co-chairman Eli Beckerman. The party has asked the Department of Justice to investigate the process by which the FBI targeted Turner in its recent FBI sting operation.

“Reduce unused gifts. Give a consumable gift. Whether it’s organic coffee or tea, fresh or dried nuts, movie tickets, or another consumable gift, you can be assured that your gift doesn’t collect dust sitting in the corner. Reuse ribbon and gift decorations. Recent statistics reveal that 38,000 miles of ribbon gets simply tossed out as trash each year — that’s enough to tie a bow around the Earth. Try accenting gifts with reusable festive items, like seasonal cookie cutters, a handmade ornament, or even fresh herbs.” — From a Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection press release encouraging consumers to make environmentally-sound holiday decisions.

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