By Bob Katzen
THE HOUSE AND SENATE: This week, Beacon Hill Roll Call records local representatives’ votes on three roll calls and senators’ votes on one roll call from July legislative sessions.
CHANGES TO STATE GOVERNMENT (S 2342) — House 152-0, Senate 39-0, approved and Gov. Deval Patrick signed into law a lengthy bill designed to make major changes in the way state government operates. Key provisions include requiring monthly rather than quarterly distribution of unrestricted local aid; requiring an independent debt affordability study to be performed and posted online before the governor sets a bond cap and issues bonds; requiring each state agency to have a performance management system in place; and establishing a commission to make recommendations on the feasibility of moving the state from traditional maintenance-based budgeting to a modern zero-based budgeting process — a system that would require all state departments to start with zero dollars and prepare and justify their budget regardless of what it was in prior years.
Supporters said this would modernize and reform the way state government operates and contribute to a more open and transparent government. They noted the measure also abolishes many antiquated laws relating to state financing.
(A “Yes” vote is for the bill.)
Rep. Jennifer Benson: Yes; Rep. Sheila Harrington: Yes ; Sen. Eileen Donoghue: Yes; Sen. James Eldridge: Yes; Sen. Jennifer Flanagan: Yes
READ PROFICIENTLY BY THIRD GRADE (H 4243) — House 150-0, approved a bill creating an Early Literacy Expert Panel to advise the state’s education departments on strategies to have all students in the state reading proficiently by the end of third grade. The panel would make recommendations for the implementation of a language-rich curriculum, professional training of teachers, and family partnerships for improving the quality of interaction between homes and schools to support children’s language and literacy development.
Supporters said 39 percent of the state’s third grade students read below their grade level. They argued that studies show 74 percent of students who have a difficult time with reading in third grade often continue to struggle throughout high school and are four times as likely to drop out before graduation. The Senate has approved a different version of the bill which now goes to the House for consideration.
(A “Yes” vote is for the bill.)
Rep. Jennifer Benson: Yes
Rep. Sheila Harrington: Yes
$45 MILLION SUPPLEMENTAL BUDGET (H 4324) — House 120-33, approved a $45 million supplemental budget designed to close out the books on fiscal 2012. Provisions include $7.08 million to cities and towns for the cleanup following Tropical Storm Irene in August 2011 and $8.4 million for the October 2011 snowstorm; $10 million for information technology upgrades and improvements; and $2 million for the eradication and control of mosquitoes.
Supporters said the package is fiscally responsible and funds necessary programs including several that are running out of money.
Some opponents said the House leadership was unable to demonstrate that the state took in enough tax revenue to pay for this $45M supplemental budget. Others said the budget rewarded agencies that failed to live within their budgets by giving them additional funding.
(A “Yes” vote is for the budget. A “No” vote is against it.)
Rep. Jennifer Benson: Yes
Rep. Sheila Harrington: No
ALSO UP ON BEACON HILL:
SMOKING CESSATION PROGRAMS (S 2121) — The House gave initial approval to a proposal that would provide all residents insured under Commonwealth Care with coverage for smoking cessation programs, including use of a nicotine patch and counseling sessions. Commonwealth Care is the state’s health insurance program for uninsured adults who meet income and other requirements.
The measure also allows the state to offer the same coverage to current or retired state employees.
FLYING FLAG AT HALF MAST (S 1573) — The House gave initial approval to a Senate-approved proposal requiring the state flag to be flown at half mast following the death of a police officer or firefighter killed in the line of duty. More rounds of approval are needed in both branches before the measure can go to Gov. Patrick.
OIL SPILLS ON STREETS (H 487) — The House gave initial approval to legislation imposing a $10,000 civil fine on companies that spill more than 100 gallons of oil on any Massachusetts road. The revenue would go to the city or town in which the spill occurred. The fine would be in addition to, not in place of, the company’s responsibility to foot the bill for the cleanup.
LOW BIRTHWEIGHT BABIES (S 2406) — The House and Senate approved and sent to Gov. Patrick a bill requiring the Department of Public Health (DPH) to develop standardized procedures for discharging from the hospital babies who are born weighing less than 5.5 pounds or with any other
high-risk problem. The DPH would also be charged with ensuring the procedures are followed.
Supporters said low birthweight babies who survive will suffer from higher rates of respiratory, cardiovascular, neurologic and gastrointestinal problems than other babies. They argued it is time for the state to get more involved in ensuring they have the proper care after leaving the hospital.
AFTERSCHOOL PROGRAMS (S 2111) — The House and Senate approved and sent to the governor a bill creating a 15-member Massachusetts Afterschool and Out-of-School Time Coordinating Council that would strive to increase access for all children to high quality afterschool and out-of-school time programs. The council would try to improve coordination between school districts and these programs and also try to attract public and private support to build a sustainable infrastructure for these programs.
JOB PREFERENCE FOR CHILDREN OF CORRECTIONS OFFICERS (H 4182) — The House gave initial approval to a bill that would put the names of children of corrections officers who died in the line of duty at the top of the civil service eligibility list. The children would only be eligible after passing the written and physical exams that qualify them to be on the list. Current law provides this preference to sons and daughters of police and firefighters.
“I’ll tell you, this probably isn’t the most popular thing to say in (an) election year but I consider Brad Jones to be a good friend … We have an interesting relationship. Sometimes you can find us yelling and screaming at one another. But at the end of the day, what I’m most proud of, what we do in Massachusetts, is that we work together.”
— Democratic House Speaker Robert DeLeo (D-Winthrop) talking about Republican House Minority Leader Brad Jones (R-North Reading).
“Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, 55 percent; Vice President Joe Biden, 9 percent; GOP Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren, 8 percent; New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, 6 percent; and Gov. Deval Patrick, 3 percent.”
— The results of a Public Policy Polling survey, taken between Aug. 9 and Aug. 12, asking New Hampshire Democrats who they would vote for in the 2016 presidential election. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percentage points.
“He had a conversation with his new employer, and he’s not going to resign. He’s just going to finish out his term … There’s no reason for him to resign.”
— Scott Ferson, a spokesman for Rep. Charlie Murphy (D-Burlington), on Murphy’s decision not to resign from his House seat after all. Murphy announced his intention to resign and gave his farewell address to his colleagues on July 31 after 16 years in the House, including a stint as Ways and Means chairman.
— Gov. Deval L. Patrick’s little-known middle name.
“This report is proof that Massachusetts’ innovation economy is succeeding.”
— Clean Energy Center Executive Director Alicia Barton McDevitt on a report that Massachusetts clean energy and energy efficiency companies added more than 7,000 jobs over the last 12 months.
HOW LONG WAS LAST WEEK’S SESSION?
During the week of Aug. 13-17, the House and Senate both met for a total of two hours and 53 minutes.
— Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at email@example.com