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By Bob Katzen

THE HOUSE AND SENATE: Beacon Hill Roll Call records the votes of local representatives on seven roll calls and local senators on six roll calls from the week of July 30-Aug. 3.

REQUIRE PROOF OF LEGAL RESIDENCE TO REGISTER AUTO (H 4238): House 135-19, Senate 24-10, overrode Gov. Patrick’s veto of a bill that would require applicants to provide proof of legal residence in order to register their cars.

Supporters of the bill said it would prevent illegal immigrants from registering their cars. They noted this loophole has allowed unlicensed drivers to legally register their cars and then drive illegally without a license.

In his veto message, Gov. Patrick said allowing an illegal alien to own a vehicle in Massachusetts does not jeopardize the public’s safety. He argued the bill seems aimed at using the Registry of Motor Vehicles to identify and police undocumented people.

(A “Yes” vote is for requiring proof of legal residence. A “No” vote is against it.)

YES: Reps. Jennifer Benson, Sheila Harrington; Sens. Eileen Donoghue, Jennifer Flanagan;

NO: Sen. James Eldridge

$10 MILLION FOR PROBATION DEPARTMENT (H 4200): House 149-0, Senate 34-1, overrode Gov. Patrick’s $10 million reduction (from $123.4 million to $113.4 million) in funding for the state’s probation department.

Supporters of preserving the $10 million said the cut would result in the loss of 250 to 300 jobs They argued the loss would have a devastating effect on the probation system which is a useful, money-saving alternative to the expensive prison system.

In his veto message, the governor said he reduced the funding to the amount he feels is “necessary to meet agency responsibilities and caseloads.”

(A “Yes” vote is for keeping the $10 million by overriding the governor’s reduction. A “No” vote is against it.)

YES: Reps. Jennifer Benson, Sheila Harrington; Sens. Eileen Donoghue, James Eldridge, Jennifer Flanagan

$3.5 MILLION FOR EDUCATION RESERVE (H 4200): House 153-0, Senate 36-0, overrode Gov. Patrick’s veto of the entire $3.5 million in funding for a reserve account for education aid for cities and towns. This so-called “pothole account” provides funds to communities that meet certain criteria including cities and towns with extraordinary enrollment growth and those with behavioral treatment residential student placements.

Supporters of the $3.5 million said it would fund grants for communities that are experiencing financial hardships. They argued these grants are an important safety net for cities and towns across the state and assist communities that are struggling with their education budgets.

In his veto message, Patrick said “the funding is not necessary given other related investments in fiscal year 2013.”

(A “Yes” vote is for keeping the $3.5 million by overriding the governor’s veto.)

YES: Reps. Jennifer Benson, Sheila Harrington; Sens. Eileen Donoghue, James Eldridge, Jennifer Flanagan

CHANGES IN HEALTH CARE SYSTEM (S 2400): House 132-20, Senate 38-0, approved and sent to Gov. Patrick a bill making changes in the state’s health care system. A key provision establishes a statewide health care cost growth goal for the health care industry tied to the growth in the economy.

Other provisions require the state’s Medicaid program and the state’s employee health care program to transition to new health care payment models; implements new technology for expansion and maintenance of the electronic medical records system so all patients’ medical records are accessible by all providers; provides $60 million to a newly created Prevention and Wellness Trust Fund to invest in community-based disease prevention, public health and wellness programs; and $135 million to community hospitals.

Supporters said this landmark bill would save the state $200 billion over the next 15 years while also saving billions of dollars for consumers and small businesses. They noted it would improve the quality of care and increase the transparency and accountability of the state’s entire health care system.

Opponents said the bill includes good reforms but has many provisions which are a concern. They questioned the projected cost savings of the bill and the bureaucracy that it establishes.

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

YES: Rep. Jennifer Benson; Sens. Eileen Donoghue, James Eldridge, Jennifer Flanagan.

NO: Rep Sheila Harrington.

$1.4 BILLION TRANSPORTATION BOND PACKAGE (H 4371): House 151-2, Senate 36-0, approved and sent to Gov. Patrick a $1.4 billion transportation bond bill that includes the borrowing of millions of dollars for state highway, bridge, rail and other projects. It also includes dozens of local projects costing hundreds of millions of dollars sponsored by legislators to fund projects in their districts. The projects are actually more a “wish list": The Patrick administration is required to adhere to the state’s annual bond borrowing cap and ultimately decides which projects are affordable and get funded.

Supporters said the package will ensure the state’s roads and bridges are improved and safe. They noted the measure would also leverage hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funds for roads and bridges.

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

YES: Reps. Jennifer Benson, Sheila Harrington; Sens. Eileen Donoghue, James Eldridge, Jennifer Flanagan

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT BILL (H 4352): House 153-1, Senate 36-0, approved and sent to the governor an economic development and jobs bill.

Provisions include a sales tax holiday that will allow consumers to buy most products under $2,500 without paying the state’s 6.25 percent sales tax on Saturday, August 11, and Sunday, August 12; a tax credit equal to the current $456 minimum corporate excise tax for all corporations for their first three tax years; a two-year extension of existing state and local permits held by developers who had been unable to proceed with their projects because of tight credit markets; creation of an Innovation Investment Fund that offers matching grants to universities and research institutions for research and development projects ; and creation of a MassWorks Infrastructure Program, which will serve as a one-stop shop for infrastructure funding.

Supporters said the bill would foster job creation and make Massachusetts more competitive and business friendly.

The lone opponent offered no arguments.

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

YES: Reps. Jennifer Benson; Sheila Harrington; Sens. Sens. Eileen Donoghue, James Eldridge, Jennifer Flanagan

PATRICK’S AMENDMENT TO HABITUAL VIOLENT OFFENDER LEGISLATION (H 3818): House 23-132, Senate on a voice vote without a roll call, rejected Gov. Patrick’s proposed amendment to a bill that denies parole eligibility for third-time violent felons for certain crimes such as rape and murder. The measure is dubbed “Melissa’s Bill” for Melissa Gosule who was raped and murdered in 1999 by a repeat offender with 27 prior convictions. Patrick’s amendment would give judges in the “interest of justice and upon a finding on the record of substantial and compelling reasons” the option to allow parole eligibility for these habitual offenders after serving two-thirds of the maximum sentence, or after 25 years in the case of a life sentence. The judge’s decision could be appealed by the prosecutor.

In his letter to the Legislature, the governor said the law should include limited judicial discretion to ensure that this expansion of mandatory sentencing does not have unjust consequences. He argued, “The sentencing judge, who has observed all the witnesses and the defendant, heard all the evidence, and considered and ruled upon all the arguments throughout the course of the trial, is in the best position to appreciate all the facts.

Opponents of the governor’s amendment said it would essentially gut the provision of the bill that is designed to keep the “worst of the worst” repeat violent off the streets in order to keep the public safe. They argued there should be no judicial discretion for these violent offenders who repeatedly prey on vulnerable people.

(A “Yes” vote is for Gov. Patrick’s amendment. A “No” vote is against it.)

NO: Reps. Jennifer Bensonm Sheila Harrington


MELISSA’S LAW (H 4286): Gov. Patrick signed Melissa’s Law, which denies parole eligibility for third-time violent felons for certain crimes including murder, manslaughter, rape, armed robbery, armed home invasion, kidnapping, motor vehicle homicide and use of firearms while committing a felony.

Other provisions include requiring a two-thirds vote of the parole board to grant a prisoner parole while serving a single life sentence, preventing parole eligibility for felons serving multiple life sentences based on separate incidents and reducing mandatory minimum sentences for certain non-violent drug offense.

EMERGENCY BATHROOM USE (H 2366): Gov. Patrick signed into law 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.

AMBULANCE COSTS (S 2384): The House and Senate approved and sent to Gov. Patrick a bill that would prohibit insurance companies from sending checks directly to the policyholder for out-of-network private ambulance rides rather than to the ambulance company.

This practice of paying the policyholder directly was started in 2011 by Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) as part of a plan to force ambulance companies to chase the consumer for payment. The goal was to pressure out-of-network ambulance companies to sign contracts with BCBS forcing them to accept the typically reduced reimbursement rates offered by BCBS.

SUPER PACS: The House approved resolutions calling for the U.S. Congress to pass a constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. In that decision, the court ruled the First Amendment prohibits the government from restricting corporations, unions and individuals from donating unlimited funds to Super Political Action Committees (PACs) that do not donate directly to candidates or political parties.

The Super PACs are often run by a candidate’s former staffers or associates, who use the PAC to fund negative ads against the candidate’s opponents. A candidate’s own committee’s contributions are limited by federal law but Super PACs can legally accept unlimited donations.

OVERHAUL SYSTEM OF HANDLING RUNAWAY AND TRUANT CHILDREN (H 4244): The House and Senate approved and sent to the governor a proposal that makes changes in the Children in Need of Services (CHINS) system of handling children who are runaways and truants. The changes would abolish the current system which brings most of these juveniles to court, and replace it with a statewide intervention network that would provide community services for them and their families.

HEARING AIDS AND CLEFT LIP (H 52 and H 3928): The House and Senate approved and sent to Gov. Patrick a bill mandating that health insurance companies require bill that would require health insurance plans to cover the costs of hearing aids for anyone under 21. The measure would require coverage of up to $2,000 per hearing aid every three years. The average price of a hearing aid is estimated at $2,500 each.

Both branches also approved a bill requiring plans to provide coverage for treatment of cleft lip and palate for anyone under 18.

Supporters said it is outrageous that insurance companies are not required to cover these necessities.

Opponents said the Legislature will drive up health insurance costs if it continues to mandate additional coverage.

VOLLEYBALL (S 1709): The House and Senate approved a bill designating volleyball as the state’s official recreational and team sport. Additional approval is needed in each branch prior to the measure going to Gov. Patrick.

HOW LONG WAS LAST WEEK’S SESSION? During the week of July 30-August 3, the House met for a total of 21 hours and eight minutes while the Senate met for a total of 24 hours and 25 minutes.

Copyright © 2012 Beacon Hill Roll Call. All Rights Reserved. Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at