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THE HOUSE AND SENATE. Beacon Hill Roll Call records local representatives’ votes on one roll call from the week of March 16-20. There were no roll calls in the Senate last week.

State will guarantee a portion of Turnpike debt (H 100) — House 134-19, approved a bill authorizing the state to continue to guarantee a portion of the debt of the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority. The current state guarantee expired in January and the bill would extend it to June 30. The Senate approved the measure on a voice vote without a roll call and sent it to Gov. Deval Patrick. The proposal is designed to prevent the Turnpike from getting hit with up to a $400 million bill from investment company UBS if the Turnpike’s struggling insurance agency’s credit rating is downgraded. Supporters said that the guarantee is necessary to avoid the Turnpike being required to make a $400 million lump sum payment. Some opponents said that the bill is a weak, Band-Aid solution to an increasingly deteriorating transportation funding system and an overall transportation problem that is threatening the state. Others said that the House should not have removed some provisions that were in an earlier version of the bill that included disclosure and reporting requirements. (A “yes” vote is for the bill authorizing the state to continue to guarantee some of the debt of the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority. A “no” vote is against the bill).

Rep. Benson, Yes; Rep. Hargraves, No.


Retain accident Board of Appeals — Insurance Commissioner Nonnie Burnes announced that she has scratched plans to abolish the state board that hears appeals from drivers who are found more than 50 percent at fault in accidents. These drivers lose safe driver points and pay an insurance surcharge unless their appeal is successful. Burnes in January had announced plans to scrap the board and replace it with an alternative means of addressing at-fault accidents. Following an outcry from legislators and the public, Burnes said, “We had every confidence that this new plan would protect consumers and offer them a fair resolution; however, we have heard the concerns voiced by the general public. Responding to those concerns, today we are announcing that we are maintaining the Board of Appeals and its accident resolution review process.”

Delay toll hikes — Gov. Patrick, House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senate President Therese Murray urged the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority board to delay toll hikes planned for March 29 and use its reserve funds to temporarily solve its financial problems. The board a few weeks ago voted to raise the tolls at the Brighton and Weston toll booths by 25 cents (from $1.25 to $1.50) and at the Sumner and Ted Williams tunnels by $2 (from $3.50 to $5.50). The trio also intends to have a transportation reform and financing system in place by July 1 — the date of a second round of scheduled toll hikes. That round includes another 50 cent hike (to $2) at the toll booths and an increase in the tunnel tolls ($5.50 to $7). Following the announcement, Secretary Transportation James Aloisi released a statement that the board’s March 23 agenda will include a motion to delay any toll increase until July 1.

Ethics proposals — The State Administration and Regulatory Oversight Committee held a hearing on several bills including Gov. Patrick’s lengthy proposal to change the state’s ethics and lobbying laws. The committee’s hearing also included a proposal banning legislators from holding fund-raisers during state budget debate as well as one week before and one week after the debate (S 346). Sponsors say that legislators should not be allowed to accept contributions during that period, when thousands of contributors are looking to get their projects funded in the state budget. Other measures include prohibiting felons from becoming lobbyists for six years after their conviction (H 3500) and increasing from one to two years the period of time that ex-state workers and legislators are prohibited from lobbying in the Statehouse (H 3501).

Another detailed and controversial proposal (H 3498) would limit the time that a representative is allowed to serve as the Speaker of the House to six years; prohibit ethics fines from being paid with campaign funds; ban earmarks from being included in the state budget; prohibit campaign committees from paying for a candidate’s leasing of a vehicle, clothing, laundry and dry cleaning; prohibit campaign funds from being used to fund a legislator’s local district office if it is used simultaneously as a law offices or other private business and reducing the salary of representatives on a daily pro rated basis for each day that they miss a session of the Legislature. The salary would not be reduced if he or she receives an excused absence approved on a recorded roll call vote in the House. An excused absence would include the birth or adoption of a child or grandchild, military duty, serious illness of the member or a member of his or her family, death of a family member or unforeseen emergencies including unsafe weather conditions.

Mandatory ethics training for Representatives — All 159 representatives are required to attend an ethics law training program on March 24, March 30, April 2 or April 6. A new rule approved in February by the House requires members, officers and legislative employees to attend a training program once during each two-year legislative session. The sessions will be hosted and run by the Ethics Commission and Office of Campaign and Political Finance.

2009-2010 LEGISLATION — Here is a look at some of the more than 6,000 bills filed for consideration in the 2009-2010 session:

* No private callers — This measure would require telephone companies to eliminate the private caller feature that currently allows callers the option to not have their phone number show up on the caller ID system of the person being called. Under the bill, all numbers would be displayed.

* Posting gas prices — This legislation would require that the price on the marquee at gas stations state the per gallon price if paying with a credit card. Supporters say that consumers are often lured into a gas station with a misleading large sign that states a lower cash price for gas, only to find that the credit card price is higher.

* Legalize marijuana — This proposal would completely legalize the use of marijuana by adults. It would set up a state agency to regulate the cultivating, possessing and selling of marijuana. The measure also taxes it at a rate of $150 to $250 per ounce depending on the quality and grade.


“To be perfectly clear, Caritas Christi will never do anything to promote abortions, to direct any patients to providers of abortion or in any way to participate in actions that are contrary to Catholic moral teaching and anyone who suggests otherwise is doing a great disservice to the Catholic Church. We are committed to the Gospel of Life and no arrangement will be entered into unless it is completely in accord with Church teaching.” — Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley commenting on the agreement of the Boston Archdiocese’s Caritas Christi Health Care to join with a secular health organization to participate in Commonwealth Care — Massachusetts’ subsidized health program that also covers abortions and family planning services.

“With Caritas Christi now thoroughly embedded in the culture of death, we are now facing the end, in Massachusetts at least, of Catholic medical resistance to abortion and contraception. This tragic state of affairs is the personal responsibility of the Archbishop of Boston, Cardinal Sean O’Malley, who not only failed to stop this contract, but who endorsed it while making unsupportable assertions implausibly denying what everyone else knew – that the contract required participation in the deliberate killing of innocent unborn children.” — Catholic Action League Executive Director C. J. Doyle offering a different perspective.

“Now is certainly not the appropriate time to be doing raises.” — Rep. Martin Walsh, D-Boston, co-chairman of the Joint Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight, commenting in a State House News Service story on Gov. Patrick’s proposal to move seven sheriffs under state control and to increase the salary of the sheriffs of Nantucket County and Dukes County by $26,000 each — from $97,000 to $123,000.

“Last night in an attempt to defend my sister — who I dearly love — I posted an ill-advised statement on Blue Mass Group where I wrongly impugned the integrity of the Boston Globe and its reporter, Andrea Estes. I apologize for those comments and regret this error in judgment.” — Transportation Secretary James Aloisi, apologizing for his earlier response to a Globe story that his sister, Carol, held a $60,000 per year “no responsibility” job for six months on Beacon Hill. He had originally called the story “disgraceful” and “clearly designed to take a shot at me through her.”

“I’m delighted, and let me say in the presence of my friends here from the Globe, that he has also apologized.” — Gov. Patrick commenting on Aloisi’s apology.

HOW LONG WAS LAST WEEK’S SESSION? During the week of March 16-20, the House met for a total of five hours and 38 minutes while the Senate met for a total of five hours and 26 minutes.

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