By Bob Katzen


This week, Beacon Hill Roll Call records local representatives’ votes on four roll calls from prior legislative sessions. There were no roll calls in the House or Senate last week.

AMBULANCE COSTS (H 55): House 33-123, rejected an amendment that would require health insurance providers to pay ambulance companies directly for their services. The measure 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.

Amendment supporters said this practice was designed to force ambulance companies to chase the consumer for payment with the ultimate goal of pressuring out-of-network ambulance companies to sign contracts with the health insurer that would force the ambulance companies to accept the insurer’s reimbursement rates. They noted that some ambulance companies refuse to sign agreements with BCBS, stating that reimbursement rates are way too low.

Amendment opponents said this major policy change should not be included in the supplemental budget. They argued it should be filed as a separate bill and go through the entire committee process, including public hearings.

The House and Senate both approved a similar bill in 2012 but it was vetoed by Gov. Deval Patrick, who said, “I am concerned about the impact of this legislation on health-care costs because it lacks guidelines governing reasonable charges for ambulance services.”

A “Yes” vote is for requiring insurance companies to pay ambulance companies directly. A “No” vote is against it.

Rep. Jennifer Benson, No; Rep. Sheila Harrington, Yes

$30 MILLION FOR DRUG SCANDAL FALLOUT (H 55): House 6-151, rejected an amendment requiring that the $30 million to pay for the fallout from the state drug lab scandal be taken from the current budget of the Department of Public Health (DPH) instead of the state’s General Fund. Former state drug lab testing chemist Annie Dookhan is accused of mishandling drug samples and putting in question an estimated 34,000 drug conviction cases. The $30 million would be used to fund the additional money needed by sheriffs, shelter programs and law enforcement agencies as a result of the scandal and the investigation.

Amendment supporters said DPH is out of control and has presided over this scandal and the shuttered pharmacy at the center of the spread of fungal meningitis to more than 700 people across the nation including 48 deaths. They noted taking money from the General Fund means less money for local aid and other important programs.

Amendment opponents defended much of the good work of DPH. They argued taking the money from DPH would result in a severe health-care budget shortage and a reduction in services, including the closing of some hospital wards.

A “Yes” vote is for requiring DPH to pay the $30 million. A “No” vote is against the requirement.

Rep. Jennifer Benson, No; Rep. Sheila Harrington, No

CRIME LAB OVERSIGHT (H 55): House 29-126, rejected an amendment requiring the state’s public safety department to investigate and determine whether each crime lab in the state is properly accredited by and meets the standards of the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors. The measure also requires the state to establish a system for receiving anonymous complaints of wrongdoing at any of the crime labs.

Amendment supporters said it is time to oversee and monitor these facilities in order to prevent another state drug lab scandal.

Amendment opponents said the amendment is unnecessary because these labs are already accredited.

A “Yes” vote is for verifying accreditation and opening an anonymous tip system. A “No” vote is against it.

Rep. Jennifer Benson, No; Rep. Sheila Harrington, Yes

TAKE LESS MONEY FROM RAINY DAY FUND (H 55): House 6-151, rejected an amendment reducing from $550 million to $243 million the amount of money the state takes from the Rainy Day Fund to fund a supplemental budget.

Amendment supporters said the state has collected $307 million above expected tax revenues and argued that money can be used to reduce the drain on the Rainy Day Fund by that amount.

Amendment opponents said the state needs the entire $550 million to fund necessary programs and balance the books.

A “Yes” vote is for taking only $243 million. A “No” vote is for taking $550 million.

Rep. Jennifer Benson, No; Rep. Sheila Harrington, No


Of the thousands of bill filed for the 2013-2104 session, there are many that attempt to designate “something” as the state’s official “something.”

Sponsors of these various proposals say that the measures are often filed on behalf of students in schools as a way to teach them the legislative process. Some critics say that the perennial filing of such proposals wastes the valuable time of the Legislature, which should be dealing with real issues and serious legislation.

Here’s our Top Ten favorite “officials”:

OFFICIAL GROUNDHOG (no number yet): Ms. G., the popular groundhog at the Massachusetts Audubon Society’s Drumlin Farm. She is the Bay State counterpart to Pennsylvania’s Punxsutawney Phil.

OFFICIAL SHELLFISH (S 1629): The quahog, a hard-shelled clam enjoyed by many seafood lovers. It also served as a form of currency for Native American tribes.

OFFICIAL TEXTILE (S 2862): Gingham. The Town of Clinton was a world leader in the manufacture of cotton gingham fabric. According to the town’s website, “In 1828 the Bigelow brothers, Erastus and Horatio, started an industrial revolution that left a lasting mark on the many aspects of Clinton. Erastus, a mechanical genius, invented the power loom for manufacturing coachlace, counterpane cloths and gingham plaids. With Horatio, a marketing entrepreneur, the brothers captured a firm hold on the textile industry.”

OFFICIAL DISH (S 1872): New England clam “chowdah,” a Boston tradition. Need we say more?

OFFICIAL SCULPTOR (H 2812): Cyrus Dallin, best known for Native Americans subjects and the statue of Paul Revere in the North End. Dallin lived in Arlington the last 40 years of his life.

OFFICIAL ROCK SONG (no number yet): “Roadrunner” by Modern Lovers. This is a 1970s ode to the joys of driving along Route 128 late at night. The group was led by Natick native Jonathan Richman.

OFFICIAL ROCK SONG (no number yet): “Dream On” by Boston’s very own Aerosmith. This was filed by opponents of the “Roadrunner” bill.

OFFICIAL SANDWICH (H 2868): Fluffernutter, a sandwich combining peanut butter and marshmallow Fluff. North Shore natives Allen Durkee and Fred Mower invented Fluff.

OFFICIAL COWBOY (H 2905): Rex Trailer, iconic Massachusetts children’s television host. Trailer passed away in January.

OFFICIAL RECREATIONAL AND TEAM SPORT (S 1627): Volleyball, invented in 1895 in Holyoke by William Morgan. Legislation making basketball the official state sport was signed into law in August 2007. Many Patriots and Red Sox fans disagree with both of these designations.


“Go online, not in line.”

— Registrar of Motor Vehicles Rachel Kaprielian noting that most of the things for which you go to a Registry branch can be done online.

“All-electronic tolling we really think holds out a promise.”

— Transportation Secretary Richard Davey, noting that future all-electronic tolling, without the cost of toll collectors or toll booth construction, will make it easier and less expensive to establish new tolls on state roads.

HOW LONG WAS LAST WEEK’S SESSION? Beacon Hill Roll Call tracks the length of time that the House and Senate were in session each week. Many legislators say that legislative sessions are only one aspect of the Legislature’s job and that a lot of important work is done outside of the House and Senate chambers. They note that their jobs also involve committee work, research, constituent work and other matters that are important to their districts. Critics say that the Legislature does not meet regularly or long enough to debate and vote in public view on the thousands of pieces of legislation that have been filed. They note that the infrequency and brief length of sessions are misguided and lead to irresponsible late night sessions and a mad rush to act on dozens of bills in the days immediately preceding the end of an annual session.

During the week of Feb. 28 through March 1, the House met for a total of 12 minutes while the Senate met for a total of six minutes.

Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at