THE HOUSE AND SENATE: There were no roll calls in the House or Senate last week.
ALLOW THE SALE OF LOTTERY TICKETS ONLINE: Front and center up on Beacon Hill last week: Treasurer Deb Goldberg continued her campaign to allow the state’s Lottery to sell tickets online. She told a budget panel that Lottery sales have begun to drop, citing the record $1.035 billion it generated in 2017 and the drop to $997 million in fiscal 2018.
Of the 44 states with lotteries, 11 of them now offer online purchases. New Hampshire started selling online in September and in just 12 weeks, the state posted over $1.3 million in net gaming revenue from online sales alone.
“The landscape has shifted and technology has transformed every aspect of our lives,” said Goldberg. “I am confident that our Lottery will continue to maximize its performance, maintain current revenues, and meet the need for unrestricted local aid — but all of us as partners must take the next steps together.”
Goldberg said the next step is to allow the Lottery to go online to cater to the new and younger market which is used to doing everything online. “We need to provide the Lottery with the tools and resources necessary to win new customers, utilizing digital marketing and providing frictionless transactions through cashless purchasing options.”
Goldberg, a former retailer, said she wants to make sure the state protects the retail stores that sell tickets óparticularly convenience store operators, gas stations and quick-marts. “Done right, an online Lottery will help them — directing new customers through their doors,” said the treasurer.
“If we want to uphold our commitment to supplying reliable local aid to our cities and towns, we have no choice but to respond proactively to these challenges,” said Goldberg.
The opposition is determined to keep the ban on online sales. “It’s ridiculous and disgraceful and will undoubtedly be a waste of money for people that don’t have the money to waste,” said Sen. Kathleen O’Connor Ives (D-Newburyport). “I’d hope that Massachusetts had ways of raising revenue that didn’t exacerbate addictive activities like gambling, but I guess that would require the thoughtful, difficult work of tax reform.”
“We believe good state public policy should incentivize our consumers to spend in our economy with our local small businesses,” said opponent Jon Hurst, President of the Retailers Association of Massachusetts. “Consumers represent 70 percent of the economy and the commonwealth should recognize the importance of impulse buys when spending locally with a brick and mortar employer. To take the traffic away from small businesses will mean lower sales on a variety of consumer products.”
In 2016, the Senate approved an amendment that allowed online Lottery sales. However, the measure was never taken up by the House and it died.
2016 SENATE VOTE ON ALLOWING ONLINE LOTTERY SALES: Here is how local senators voted on the 2016 amendment that would authorize online Lottery sales.
(A “Yes” vote is for allowing online sales. A “No” vote is against allowing it.)
NO: Sen. James Eldridge
Dean Tran was not yet a senator.
Also Up on Beacon Hill
PROTECTION FOR WORKERS (H 4988): The House approved and sent to the Senate a bill requiring the state to set up an employer-funded benefit plan for employees locked out in a labor dispute. The bill was approved as more than 1,200 National Grid employees are still locked out of their jobs and whose unemployment benefits are scheduled to run out in January. Under the program, locked out workers would receive the same weekly amount they are now receiving under the state’s current unemployment system until the lockout is resolved. All costs of the program would be paid by the employer who would be prohibited from passing that cost along to ratepayers.
“I’m glad that the House advanced a bill … to create a program to extend the benefits for these workers,” said House Speaker Robert DeLeo (D-Winthrop). “In addition to providing relief and security to these workers and their families, we built in protections for taxpayers and ratepayers ó assuring that the cost of these benefits falls solely on the employer responsible for the lockout.”
National Grid President Marcy Reed did not respond to repeated requests by Beacon Hill Roll Call for a comment.
MILLENNIALS’ PLAN FOR 100 PERCENT RENEWABLE FUTURE: Many of the state’s leaders from the millennial generation gathered at Boston University’s BUild Lab for discussions on how to transition Massachusetts to a 100 percent renewable energy supply for electricity, heating and transportation.
“As millennials, the way our society produces and consumes energy will affect our lives for decades to come,” said Ben Hellerstein, State Director of the Environment Massachusetts Research and Policy Center. “The good news is that we have the power to do something about it. Millennials are showing that a future powered entirely by renewable energy is attainable.”
“This is the most critical issue of our time, especially for millennials, since we are the ones who will have to breathe the air and drink the water in 30, 40, 50 years,” said Sen. Eric Lesser (D-Longmeadow). “The window of time when we can actually do something to prevent the disastrous effects of fossil fuels is closing rapidly, so this is an all-hands-on-deck situation. Summits like these that bring together policymakers, energy experts and advocates are important for finding solutions and building the momentum we need to make change.”
BILLS SENT TO STUDY: Many legislative committees shipped off several bills to a study committee in the 2017-2018 session. Most measures that are sent to a study committee are never actually studied and are essentially defeated. Here are some of the bills that were sent to a study committee and will likely be refiled by their sponsors in 2019:
DEDUCT COLLEGE TUITION (H 1582): Allows taxpayers to annually deduct an amount equal to 50 percent of the cost of tuition and fee payments made to a college or university in which the taxpayer or a dependent is enrolled.
TAX INCENTIVE FOR EMPLOYERS TO HELP EMPLOYEES WITH STUDENT LOANS (S 1516): Gives employers an annual tax deduction of up to $2,000 for helping an employee pay off his or her student loan.
FREE COLLEGE TUITION (H 3000): Gives all public college students free tuition for one year, other than the first year. The scholarships would be available to Bay State residents in need of financial assistance whose family income is less than twice the state’s median family income. The state’s current estimated family income is $75,000 which would mean that students with family incomes of $150,000 or more would be ineligible.
TASERS (H 1249): Allows people who have a firearms license to also possess and use a Taser, also known as a stun gun, for self-defense. The person must be 18 years of age or older and have completed a 4-hour training session in the use of a Taser. The training session would include an explanation of self-defense, a review of the mechanics of a Taser and the effects of the weapons on individuals with pre-existing medical conditions.
In March 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a Massachusetts law that prohibits citizens from possessing and using a Taser violates the Second Amendment.
Supporters of the bill say it would put the Bay State in compliance with the Second Amendment. They note that it is essential that individuals have the right of self-defense. They argue that the device is designed to incapacitate, not kill, an attacker at short range and relieves the shooter from the possibility of harming an attacker or another person by mistake.
Opponents say Tasers do not belong in the hands of non-law enforcement people. They note that Tasers have killed and seriously injured many victims.
HOW LONG WAS LAST WEEK’S SESSION? During the week of Dec. 3-7, the House met for a total of 21 minutes while the Senate met for a total of 56 minutes.