By Bob Katzen
THE HOUSE AND SENATE: Beacon Hill Roll Call records local representatives’ votes on two roll calls from prior sessions on the debate on legislative rules for when the fiscal 2016 $38 billion budget is debated. It was vacation week for students last week so, as is customary there were no formal sessions or roll calls in the House or Senate.
CONSOLIDATED AMENDMENTS (H 3399)
House 35-120, voted strictly along party lines and rejected a proposed GOP rule that would prohibit more than one consolidated amendment from being considered in a single vote.
The consolidated amendment system works as follows when the House is considering the state budget: Individual representatives file dozens of amendments on the same general subject matters including local aid, social services and public safety. They are then invited to “subject meetings” at which they pitch their amendments to Democratic leaders who draft “consolidated amendments” that include some of the individual representatives’ amendments while excluding others.
Current rules allow several of these consolidated amendments, each on different subjects, to be lumped together into a single, omnibus consolidated amendment and put to a vote. The proposed rule would prohibit that practice.
Supporters said the omnibus consolidated amendment system creates a dilemma for legislators who support one or more of the consolidated amendments contained within the omnibus consolidated amendment but oppose the others. They argued members should have the right to vote on each consolidated amendment separately.
Opponents said that current rules already allow a single member to separate his or her amendment from any consolidated amendment and request an up or down individual vote on that amendment.
(A “Yes” vote is for the rule. A “No” vote is against it.)
Rep. Jennifer Benson, No; Rep. Sheila Harrington, Yes.
ALLOW TWO HOURS TO READ BUDGET AMENDMENTS (H 3399)
House 35-120, rejected a Republican proposal increasing from 30 minutes to two hours the period given to legislators to read any proposed consolidated amendment to the House budget prior to debate and a vote on it.
Supporters of the rule said these amendments are often 30 pages long and legislators are asked to vote on them while the paper is still warm from the printer or copying machine. They said that this system is anti-democratic and results in members voting on something that they have not even read.
Opponents said the current 30-minute rule has worked well.
(A “Yes” vote is for the two hours. A “No” vote is against it.)
Rep. Jennifer Benson, No; Rep. Sheila Harrington, Yes.
ALSO ON BEACON HILL
MBTA CHANGES — Gov. Charlie Baker filed a bill to make changes in the way the MBTA operates. The proposal includes many of the recommendations made by the special panel studying ways to improve the T’s operation including establishment of a Fiscal Management and Control Board and Chief Administrator to oversee the T’s operations and finances through 2018. Other provisions include creation of capital plans and new reporting and audit requirements.
“The T failed its stress test this winter when we needed it most, exposing the deep operational problems and lack of planning,” said Baker. “We simply cannot afford a repeat and this legislation sets in motion significant reforms to once again deliver accountability, reliability and the world-class transportation system Massachusetts deserves.”
The bill had mixed reactions from legislators. Some praised the proposal while others took issue with various provisions. The next step will be a public hearing on the bill.
LIMIT SALE OF E-CIGARETTES — A public hearing was held on Attorney General Maura Healey’s proposed set of regulations to prevent the sale of e-cigarettes to minors. Provisions include prohibiting the sale of e-cigarettes to anyone under the age of 18; prohibiting sampling, promotional giveaways and other free distributions; prohibiting the sale of nicotine liquid or gel without child-resistant packaging; and prohibiting sale of the product in stores with vending machines available to persons under 18.
Dr. David Crandall, testifying on behalf of the Massachusetts Medical Society, said, “While the tobacco industry, and indeed, some policymakers, view e-cigarettes as less hazardous alternatives to combustible cigarettes, the Massachusetts Medical Society is among those that see them as a gateway product to tobacco abuse and nicotine addiction and support restricting the sale of such products.”
Retail industry representatives agreed with many of the regulations but expressed concern that the restrictions would discourage some people from quitting smoking and switching to e-cigarettes. “Every little barrier to adult access is going to mean that one or ten or a hundred people who would have quit smoking don’t quit smoking and that’s going to kill people,” said Carl Phillips, of the retailer trade group Consumer Advocates for Smoke-free Alternatives Association.
LIMIT JUDGES’ TERMS (S 54) — The Judiciary Committee held a public hearing on a proposed constitutional amendment that would limit the state’s judges to serving ten years, at which time they would be eligible for reappointment by the governor.
LIMIT EMINENT DOMAIN (H 55) — The committee’s agenda also included a proposed constitutional amendment providing that “private property may be taken only when necessary for the possession, occupation and enjoyment of land by the public at large or by public agencies.” The proposal also prohibits private property from being taken for private commercial enterprise, economic development or any other private use without the consent of the owner.
The legislation was originally filed in 2008 as a response to a 2008 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that allows communities to seize private homes and businesses solely for commercial purposes. The ruling also allows states to establish laws prohibiting the practice.
REPORT DRIVERS WITH SUSPENDED OR REVOKED LICENSES (H 4521) — A new law that took effect at the beginning of April requires the Registry of Motor Vehicles to notify the local police department when the driver’s license of a local resident is suspended or revoked. The notification is only required when the offense is a specific crime committed by the offender including vehicular homicide and drunken driving, and if the person is a habitual traffic offender or poses an immediate threat to public safety. Included in the notification would be the offender’s name, address, license plate number, type of car and driving record.
“No, I’m never running for president. I had enough trouble running for governor.”
Gov. Charlie Baker during an interview about his first 100 days as governor.
“David Ortiz and Larry Bird.”
Two of the people appointed to serve on the board of Boston 2024 — the group leading the charge for Boston to host the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
“We allege this treatment center knowingly took advantage of patients by forcing them to pay exorbitant and unnecessary fees for opiate addiction service.”
Attorney General Maura Healey on her office’s civil suit against North Andover’s Center for Psychiatric Medicine.
“43 percent support and 46 oppose.”
Results of a Suffolk University poll on whether Boston should host the 2024 summer Olympics.
“MassHealth … paid more than $3.5 million in questionable, unallowable, and potentially fraudulent medical claims for Personal Care Attendant services for its members.”
State Auditor Suzanne Bump on her audit of MassHealth, which provides access to healthcare services for approximately 1.4 million eligible low- and moderate-income individuals.
“We are worried that natural gas and electric customers who have run up enormous heating bills this winter will miss out on financial help they are entitled to and have their utilities shut down. Our doors are open and we can help eligible families and seniors.”
John Drew, president of Action for Boston Community Development (ABCD), noting that Massachusetts residents have until May 15 to apply for fuel assistance to help pay their utility heating bills and avoid shut-off.
HOW LONG WAS LAST WEEK’S SESSION? During the week of April 20-24, the House met for a total of two hours and 19 minutes and the Senate met for a total of two hours and 18 minutes.