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By Bob Katzen

THE HOUSE AND SENATE: Beacon Hill Roll Call records the votes of local representatives on six roll calls and local senators on three roll calls from the week of June 25-29.

BOTH BRANCHES APPROVE $32.5 BILLION FISCAL 2013 STATE BUDGET (H 4200) — House 147-3, Senate 38-0, approved and sent to Gov. Deval Patrick an estimated $32.5 billion state budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2012. The package uses $350 million from the Rainy Day Fund while still leaving the fund with more than $1 billion.

Provisions include a $288.9 million increase in funding for local aid and prohibition of the use of electronic benefit transfer (EBT) cards by welfare recipients for the purchase of pornography, firearms, cosmetics, travel, jewelry, bond for defendants, tattoos, body piercings, manicures and gambling. Current law already bans the purchase of alcoholic beverages, Lottery tickets and tobacco products.

Supporters said the budget is a fiscally responsible and balanced one that does not raise taxes and funds important programs to the best of the state’s ability during this difficult economy.

Opponents did not offer any arguments.

(A “Yes” vote is for the budget. A “No” vote is against it.)

Rep. Jennifer Benson:Yes

Rep. Sheila Harrington: Yes

Sen. Eileen Donoghue: Yes

Sen. James Eldridge: Yes

Sen. Jennifer Flanagan: Yes

MBTA BAILOUT (H 4174) — House 127-24, Senate 27-9, approved and sent to Gov. Patrick a package providing for a one-time transfer of $49 million from the revenue generated from motor vehicle inspections to the MBTA and $2 million to regional transit authorities. The authorities would also receive $1.5 million in surplus snow removal funds.

Supporters said this money would be used, along with recently approved 23 percent average fare hikes and service cuts, to close the deficit in the MBTA’s $1.7 billion budget.

Opponents said the bill is nothing more than a one-year Band-Aid solution that does not make meaningful cost-saving reforms for the future.

(A “Yes” vote is for the bill. A “No” vote is against it.)

Rep. Jennifer Benson: Yes

Rep. Sheila Harrington: No

Sen. Eileen Donoghue: Yes

Sen. James Eldridge Yes

Sen. Jennifer Flanagan: Yes

$200 MILLION FOR LOCAL ROADS AND BRIDGES (S 2329) — House 152-0, Senate 36-0, approved and sent to the governor a bill providing $200 million for maintenance and repair of local roads and bridges in cities and towns across the state. This money would be borrowed by the state through the sale of bonds.

Supporters said this measure would fund the road and bridge repair account at the same level as last year and help cities and towns keep their roads and bridges safe.

(A “Yes” vote is for the $200 million.)

Rep. Jennifer Benson: Yes

Rep. Sheila Harrington: Yes

Sen. Eileen Donoghue: Yes

Sen. James Eldridge: Yes

Sen. Jennifer Flanagan: Yes

UTILITY COMPANIES AND OUTAGES (H 4196) — House 153-0, approved a bill regulating the actions of utility companies during and following power outages. The measure was filed in response to the slow reaction by power companies to widespread power outages across the state during Tropical Storm Irene in August and the big October 2011 snowstorm. A key provision gives the revenue from fines levied on public utility companies directly to ratepayers instead of to the state’s coffers.

The bill requires public utility companies to provide thrice-daily estimates to customers on when electricity will be restored following a 24-hour damage assessment period. It also requires the companies to set up a well-staffed call center in Massachusetts during major storms.

Supporters said the bill would ensure the utility companies work as quickly as possible to restore power. They noted the lack of communication, the chaos and incidents in which people died or became seriously ill during prior lengthy outages.

(A “Yes” vote is for the bill.)

Rep. Jennifer Benson: Yes

Rep. Sheila Harrington: Yes

GIVE $25 TO CONSUMERS FOR POWER FAILURE (H 4196) — House rejected 37-115, an amendment that would require public utilities to give $25 to each ratepayer if power is not restored within 120 hours after an interruption due to catastrophic conditions; 16 hours after an outage during normal conditions; and when there are more than seven service interruptions in a 12-month period.

Supporters said this would be an incentive for power companies to increase staff and work faster and more efficiently to restore power.

Opponents said the bill already provides that fines of up to $20 million imposed on power companies for violations of storm response plans be credited to ratepayers.

(A “Yes” vote is for the $25 rebate. A “No” vote is against it.)

Rep. Jennifer Benson: No

Rep. Sheila Harrington: Yes

CHANGES IN THE STATE’S ENERGY LAWS (H 4198)

House 135-16, approved a complicated, technical and lengthy bill aimed at reducing the high cost of electricity in Massachusetts, creating more competition for energy contracts and bringing down prices. Key provisions double the amount of renewables required to be purchased by utilities through long-term contracts and introduce competitive bidding to the process.

Supporters said the bill would make several changes to bring costs down and called it a jobs bill that would allow Massachusetts companies to hire more employees by reducing energy costs.

Opponents offered no arguments. However, the Associated Industries of Massachusetts said in a written statement that it is “extremely concerned about proposed new long-term contracting language that mandates joint solicitations among the distribution companies for renewable long-term contracts and, for the first time, includes transmission costs as part of the bidding and evaluation process.”

(A “Yes” vote is for the bill. A “No” vote is against it.)

Rep. Jennifer Benson: Yes

Rep. Sheila Harrington: Yes

ALSO UP ON BEACON HILL

PAY RAISES IN AUDITOR SUZANNE BUMP’S OFFICE — State Auditor Suzanne Bump announced she will boost salaries retroactively for nearly 100 staff members at an estimated cost of more than $500,000. The hikes, ranging from $3,515 to $9,453, take effect on July 6 but are retroactive to June 4. The changes are based on a nearly $30,000 study of salaries commissioned by Bump’s office. In an interview with the State House News Service, Bump said she has been unable to attract and retain well-qualified people at the lower salaries.

READ E-MAILS OF DECEASED (S 2313) — The Senate approved and sent to the House a bill allowing access by family members and others legally in charge of the estates of individuals to the e-mail accounts of their late loved ones. The bill requires companies like Gmail, Hotmail and AOL to provide access if a probate court order is issued or a certified representative of the late owner of the account presents a notarized written request and a death certificate. The access would supersede any of the e-mail provider’s contractual terms and privacy policies but would not take precedent over any instructions in the individual’s will.

Supporters said this would ensure Massachusetts laws are compatible with new technology and would help authorized representatives, often a family member, to properly take care of the business and personal matters of their late loved ones. They argued this access is currently left up to the company and cited cases in which bereaved family members were refused access.

EMERGENCY BATHROOM USE (H 2366) — The House approved and sent to the Senate a bill that would require retail establishments to allow use of their bathrooms by people who have written documentation from a doctor of any medical condition, including ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease, that requires immediate access to a restroom facility. Businesses that violate the proposed law would be subject to a $100 fine.

MUST INFORM STUDENTS ABOUT FLU SHOTS (H 3948) — The House approved and sent to the Senate a bill mandating that the state adopt regulations requiring all Massachusetts public schools to provide information to parents about the benefits and risks of their children getting a flu shot.

MAKE ANTIFREEZE TASTE BITTER (S 88) — The House gave initial approved to a Senate-approved proposal expanding the current law requiring that any antifreeze in small retail containers that contains sweet-tasting ethylene glycol also include denatonium benzoate, a substance that makes the antifreeze taste bitter. The bill would expand the requirement to include the large 55-gallon drums that service stations use when servicing a vehicle.

Supporters said the sweet taste of antifreeze is a major reason for its fatal ingestion by young children, pets and wildlife. They noted that sweet-tasting antifreeze often leaks from consumers’ cars after they get the fluid changed at a service station.

The measure still needs additional approval in each branch before it goes to Gov. Patrick.

LOCAL SPEED LIMITS (H 926) — The House gave initial approval to a bill allowing cities and towns to set vehicle speed limits inside designated historic districts.

TEACHER EVALUATION (S 2315) — The House and Senate on a voice vote without a roll call and without debate, approved and sent to the governor complicated legislation that includes requiring teachers’ effectiveness to be the prime consideration in the hiring and firing process rather than their seniority. The proposal was drafted as a compromise to head off a tougher November ballot question dealing with the issue.

The ballot question drive is being led by Stand for Children, which reached a compromise with the AFL-CIO and the Massachusetts Teachers Association — both of which are opposed to the ballot question. Neither side got everything it wanted in the compromise but sides were eager to avoid a bloody ballot question battle that would cost them millions of dollars.

ALLOW SCANNERS INSTEAD OF STICKERS IN GROCERY STORES (H 4089) — The House and Senate, on a voice vote without debate, approved and sent to Gov. Deval Patrick a bill that would allow supermarkets to stop putting a price sticker on each item and instead provide electronic price scanners around the store for customers to use. The measure requires stores that convert to scanners to disclose the correct prices of items in a “clear and conspicuous manner” including having a sign at least one inch high on shelves to display the price of each item. Stores would have to apply to the state for permission to convert to scanners and also promise that no job losses will result from the change.

Supporters note the bill will bring grocery store pricing into the 21st century while still protecting consumers with many safeguards and severe penalties for stores that violate the new law.

Opponents say this anti-consumer bill will make it difficult for consumers to discern the price of each item and to verify they are being charged the right price at checkout.

MALE BREAST CANCER (H 4019) — The House approved and sent to the Senate a measure designating the third week in October of each year as Male Breast Cancer Awareness Week to focus on cancer in men and to encourage regular screenings.

QUOTABLE QUOTES – Special “Supreme Court Ruling on Obamacare” Edition

“Today’s ruling I believe is an affirmation of basic American ideals.”

— Gov. Deval Patrick

“Our mission is clear. If we want to get rid of Obamacare, we’re going to have to replace President Obama. My mission is to make sure we do exactly that.”

— Presumptive GOP presidential nominee and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

“We still have much work to do to implement the law, and I hope we can all come together now to complete that work. The stakes are too high for us to do otherwise.”

— Vicki Kennedy, widow of health care reform champion Sen. Edward Kennedy.

“We will redouble our efforts to educate and inform political activists of the threat to individual liberty this policy represents.”

— Greater Boston Tea Party President Christine Morabito.

HOW LONG WAS LAST WEEK’S SESSION?

During the week of June 25-29, the House met for a total of 14 hours and 57 minutes while the Senate met for a total of ten hours and 22 minutes.

Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at bob@beaconhillrollcall.com

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