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By Bob Katzen

There were no roll calls in the House or Senate last week.

This week, Beacon Hill Roll Call takes a look at some of the bills that were approved by the Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Deval Patrick in 2013.


House 123-33, Senate 35-5, overrode Patrick’s veto of a transportation package that proponents say will raise $500 million through tax hikes. Patrick said he vetoed the package because it did not raise enough revenue.

Provisions include a 3-cent-per-gallon hike in the state’s current 21-cent-per-gallon gas tax, which, beginning in 2015, would also be indexed to inflation. Other provisions include a $1 hike in the current $2.51-per-package cigarette tax, an increase in the tax on cigars and smokeless tobacco, a change in the way utilities are classified for tax purposes, and the reinstatement of tolls at exits 1 through 6 on the Massachusetts Turnpike in Western Massachusetts. The legislation also imposes a new 6.25 percent sales tax on computer system design services as well as services to modify prewritten software.

Some supporters said the bill is a reasonable and responsible package that will provide $805 million in revenue by 2018 to begin to solve many of the structural and financial problems that plague the state’s transportation system. Others argued they reluctantly voted for the package as the lesser of two evils. They said they would rather vote for these hikes than vote to sustain the governor’s veto and have the process start from scratch again with the looming prospect of passage of an even bigger tax package.

Sixteen Democratic legislators who voted in favor of the tax hikes last week had previously voted against them when they were first approved by the House 106-47 and the Senate 34-6 on June 26. One of these legislators, Rep. Josh Cutler, D-Duxbury, said “This override was a vote against the governor’s push for even higher taxes. It’s as simple as that.” MassGOP Chairman Kirsten Hughes had a different spin. “(Some) Democrats caved in to the Beacon Hill bosses and voted for a massive tax hike that even some Democrats said will hit middle class families hard,” said Hughes.

Opponents said the proposed tax hikes will hurt already overburdened taxpayers and businesses and urged the state to live within its means.

(Both roll calls are listed. A “Yes” vote is for the tax hikes. A “No” vote is against them.)

Rep. Jennifer Benson, Yes/Yes; Rep. Sheila Harrington, No/No; Sen. Eileen Donoghue, Yes/Yes; Sen. James Eldridge, Yes/Yes; Sen. Jennifer Flanagan, Yes/Yes.


House 124-29, Senate 36-3, approved and the governor signed into law an estimated $34 billion state budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2013. The price tag is up $1.5 billion from last year’s $32.5 billion package.

Supporters said the budget is a fiscally responsible and balanced one that funds important programs to the best of the state’s ability during this difficult economy.

Opponents said the budget is excessive and does not include sufficient reform of the welfare system to reduce fraud and ensure that electronic benefit transfer (EBT) cards are used only for necessities and by those qualify for them.

(A “Yes” vote is for the budget. 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


House 156-1, Senate 38-0, approved and Gov. Patrick signed the bill repealing the controversial 6.25 percent sales tax on computer system design services and modification of prewritten software. It is estimated that this service tax would have generated $160 million in new tax revenue. An earlier attempt to repeal the tax failed on a 54 to 97 margin in the House and on an 8 to 30 margin in the Senate.

Supporters of repeal said the tax would hurt the state’s important technology industry and that repeal would send a strong signal that the Bay State is business-friendly and helps businesses and innovators to thrive.

The lone opponent of repeal said the estimated $160 million in revenue is needed to begin to solve the state’s transportation problems.

(Both roll calls are listed below. The roll calls are on repealing the tax. On both roll calls, a “Yes” vote is for repealing the tax. A “No” vote is for the tax.)

Rep. Jennifer Benson, No/Yes; Rep. Sheila Harrington, Yes/Yes; Sen. Eileen Donoghue, No/Yes; Sen. James Eldridge, No/Yes; Sen. Jennifer Flanagan, No/Yes


House 154-0, Senate 40-0, approved and the governor signed into law a bill that would move 17-year-olds from the adult justice system to the juvenile one.

Supporters said this would end the misguided notion of putting 17-year-olds in adult prisons. They noted that juvenile facilities focus more on education and rehabilitation rather than punishment.

(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


House 115-38, (No Senate roll call) approved a new version of a casino compact negotiated by Patrick and the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe to build a casino in Southeastern Massachusetts. The state would receive between 15 and 21.5 percent of any casino revenue, depending on how many other casinos are built in Massachusetts. The Federal Bureau of Indian Affairs rejected the first version of the compact about a year ago.

Supporters said the state should make this deal with the tribe because if it doesn’t and the casino is approved by the federal government, the state will get nothing.

Opponents said it is premature to ratify a compact until and unless the tribe actually gets a “thumbs up” from the federal government.

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

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


House 118-32, (No Senate roll call) approved and the governor signed a bill making many changes to state health-care laws in an effort to bring Massachusetts into compliance with Obamacare.

Supporters said these changes, combined with the state’s own health-care reform law, which was approved in 2006, will make Massachusetts a model among the states for expanding health-care coverage and reducing costs.

Opponents took issue with many of the changes, but the most frequent objection expressed was that the federal government is usurping the state’s power by forcing these changes on the Bay State.

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

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


House 152-0, (No Senate roll call) approved and the governor signed a bill updating many laws, known collectively as the Uniform Commercial Code, that govern commercial transactions in the Bay State. The code is routinely adopted by most states and is aimed at enabling firms doing business in multiple states to conform their practices to one set of uniform laws. That makes it easier and more appealing to businesses that otherwise would have to deal with a patchwork of different laws in each state.

Supporters said that without updating the code, the state would become “business-unfriendly” by having different commercial laws than most other states. They argued the result would put the state and businesses, both large and small, at risk of losing revenue.

(A “Yes” vote is for the bill.)

Rep. Jennifer Benson, Yes; Rep. Sheila Harrington, Yes


Senate 38-1, (No House roll call) approved and the governor signed a bill creating a commission to study the feasibility of Massachusetts hosting the Summer Olympic Games in 2024. The commission continues to meet and explore the details in preparation for its report due in March.

Supporters said this is a great opportunity for the state and should be explored.

Opponents said this is a misguided effort that will result in the next Big Dig-style boondoggle.

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

Sen. Eileen Donoghue, Yes; Sen. James Eldridge, Yes; Sen. Jennifer Flanagan, Yes


SEVEN POSSIBLE 2014 BALLOT QUESTIONS: Sponsors of seven possible 2014 ballot questions each have submitted the 68,911 signatures necessary to reach the next step in the long journey to the ballot. These questions include increasing the minimum wage from $8 per hour to $11 per hour; requiring employers to offer paid sick days; limiting the number of patients who can be assigned to one registered nurse in hospitals; repealing a recent law that indexes the state’s gas tax to inflation; expanding the state’s bottle deposit law; making casino gambling illegal; and penalizing and fining hospitals that receive any state funds if they post profits and/or pay their CEOs above certain limits.

The questions are now sent to the Legislature and if not approved by May 6, proponents must gather another 11,485 signatures per question by July 2 in order for it to appear on the 2014 ballot. The voters in 2012 approved ballot questions that allow medical use of marijuana and require auto manufacturers to sell to non-dealer repair shops complete repair information and diagnostic tools. They rejected a proposal to allow terminally ill patients with fewer than six months to live to obtain medication they can self-administer to commit suicide.

CAP SALARY OF NONPROFIT CEOS (H 1714): The Committee on Labor and Workforce Development held a hearing on a bill that would cap the salaries of CEOs and other executives of nonprofit social service agencies that receive at least 30 percent of their annual budget from state funding. The measure would cap the salaries of CEOs on a sliding scale ranging from a limit of $49,719 for any agency with a budget less than $250,000 to $213,165 for one with a budget exceeding $25 million.

LOWER LLC FEES (H 1742): Another measure on the Labor Committee’s agenda would eliminate the current $500 fee to form a limited liability corporation and lower the annual filing fee from $500 to $125. Supporters say Massachusetts is in many ways still viewed as “anti-business” and recently ranked as only the 49th best state for the cost of doing business.

ACCUSED KILLERS (S 1950): The House approved yet another version of a measure that would prohibit the next of kin charged with the murder of a spouse or other family member from claiming the body. Different versions of the bill have been going back and forth between the House and Senate since August with neither branch yet accepting the other’s version. The proposal also allows the accused murderer to appeal the denial to a Probate and Family Court and requires the court to act on the appeal within two days.

The legislation is championed by Ginny Marcheterre, whose 19-year-old daughter Heather was murdered in 2010. Funeral services for Heather were delayed for more than a month because Kyle Alleyne, her daughter’s husband, the alleged killer, refused to release the rights to her body. A court eventually ruled that the mother and family had legal rights to Heather’s body. In February, Alleyne was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

MONEY FOR MILK FARMERS (H 751): The Senate approved a House-approved bill that would reimburse small independent dairy farmers from a special insurance fund created in the 1980s to protect them when dairy processors go out of business without paying them. The program is funded by the dairy farmers themselves and has been used in the past but has been mostly stagnant for years. Farmers would be reimbursed based on what they have contributed to the fund over the years

Supporters noted the bill does not cost the state any money and estimated that the state’s 100 or so dairy farmers would receive amounts ranging from $10,000 to $20,000.

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