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HOUSE AND SENATE:

Beacon Hill Roll Call records local senators’ votes on roll calls from the week of May 20-24. There were no roll calls in the House last week.

Roll calls are on Senate debate of the $42.8 billion fiscal 2020 state budget. Many of the 1,142 amendments filed by senators never came to a roll call vote and were approved or rejected one at a time on voice votes with no debate.

To move things along even faster, the Senate also did its usual “bundling” of many amendments. Instead of acting on the amendments one at a time, hundreds of the proposed amendments are bundled and put into two piles—one pile that will be approved and the other that will be rejected with a single vote on each pile.

Senate President Karen Spilka, or the senator who is filling in for her at the podium, orchestrates the approval and rejection of the bundled amendments with a simple: “All those in favor say ‘aye,’ those opposed say ‘no.’ The ayes have it and the amendments are approved.”

Or, “All those in favor say ‘aye,’ those opposed say ‘no.’ The no’s have it and the amendments are rejected.”

Senators don’t actually vote yes or no and, in fact, they don’t say a word. The outcome was determined earlier behind closed doors.

$42.8 BILLION FISCAL 2019 BUDGET (S 3)

Senate 40-0, approved an estimated $42.8 billion fiscal 2020 budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1. Over a three-day period, the Senate added an estimated $74 million to the original version of the budget and considered and voted on more than 1,100 proposed amendments.

Supporters said the budget is a fiscally responsible and balanced one that makes vital investments in the state while continuing fiscal responsibility.

“We can be really proud of the work we have accomplished,” said Senate President Karen Spilka (D-Ashland). “We expressed our best hopes for the future of our commonwealth and together we made the hard decisions to produce a fiscally responsible budget that truly reflects our Senate values.”

The House has approved a different version of the budget. A House-Senate conference committee will hammer out a compromise version and send it to the governor.

INCREASE IN REGISTER OF DEEDS FEES (S 3)

Senate 38-2, approved an amendment that would raise the existing surcharge on most Registry of Deeds’ real estate transaction fees by $30 (from $20 to $50). This money helps to fund the Community Preservation Act (CPA) which helps cities and towns preserve open space and historic sites, create affordable housing and develop outdoor recreational facilities.

Amendment supporters said that when the fund was created in 2000, the state was able to provide communities with a 100 percent match of the funds the community raised through their local option surcharge of up to 3 percent of the local property tax. The state now only matches about 11 percent because of a lack of funding.

“I have been trying to increase revenue for the state CPA matching funds for several sessions,” said Sen. Cindy Creem (D-Newton), the sponsor of the amendment. “Over 170 communities are waiting for us to keep our state’s promise to meaningfully partner with them for housing, historic preservation, open space and recreation. Raising the match from 11 percent to 30 percent will help move these important projects along.”

“I do not support making housing transaction costs in the commonwealth more expensive when not all cities and towns are opted into the CPA program,” said Sen. Ryan Fattman (R-Webster).

“Massachusetts housing and closing costs are already consistently highest in the nation.”

“The state is realizing record tax revenue exceeding our benchmark by over 900 million dollars,” said Sen. Dean Tran (R-Leominster). “This is indicative of a strong economy and an example of why we should put an emphasis on economic development, creating jobs and help put people to work so that they can provide for their families. It is not the time to raise taxes and fees.”

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

Sen. James Eldridge, Yes; Sen. Dean Tran, No

SECURITY OF ELECTIONS (S 3)

Senate 9-30, rejected an amendment that would require the secretary of state, in consultation with the United States Election Assistance Commission (EAC), to develop new rules and standards to ensure the cyber-security and general security of elections in the commonwealth to combat election fraud and other election security threats. The bill requires the rules to comply with those established by the United States Department of Homeland Security.

Amendment supporters said the integrity of our democracy and voting system must be protected. They noted the state has received $7.9 million from the federal government to spend on election security but has only spent $1 million.

Amendment opponents said the EAC and the Department of Homeland Security have not yet issued any guidelines for the state to follow.

They noted they support improving election security but argued the state will have to wait until the federal government can get its act together so we can use the funds allocated to us to work on these issues with them.

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

Sen. James Eldridge, Yes; Sen. Dean Tran, Yes

RAISE MINIMUM EDUCATION AID TO CITIES AND TOWNS (S 3)

Senate 7-32, rejected an amendment that would increase the minimum Chapter 70 education aid each city and town receives from $30 pe pupil to $100 per pupil.

Amendment supporters said that despite the $268 million increase in education aid in the budget, more than 180 school districts would see a hike of only $30 per student this year. They argued that the $30 figure is unfair and insufficient for those districts’ needs.

“There are suburban and rural communities that are unfairly represented in the chapter 70 education funding formula and rely upon minimum aid funding per student in the state budget,” said Sen. Ryan Fattman (R-Webster). “One hundred and eighty-two districts across the commonwealth are minimum aid districts with declining student enrollment and $100 per student would have adequately helped these districts which suffer from a broken education funding mechanism.”

“I was encouraged by the Senate’s commitment to invest in our public school system,” said Sen. Vinny deMacedo (R-Plymouth).

“However, the Senate’s $300 million investment would have had a minimal effect on the communities I represent. As minimum aid communities they would benefit most from a higher per pupil commitment. By spending $100 per pupil the Senate would have been able to better meet the budget needs of my communities and the educational goals of their students.”

Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at bob@beaconhillrollcall.com