THE HOUSE AND SENATE. Beacon Hill Roll Call records local representatives' votes on two roll calls and local senators' votes on three roll calls from the week of January 12-16.
GIVE PATRICK POWER TO CUT LOCAL AID (H 98)
House 132-22, Senate 32-6, approved and sent to Gov. Deval Patrick a bill giving the governor the power to make cuts to local aid funding in order to balance the fiscal 2009 state budget. Under current law, the governor's power to cut is mostly limited to health and human services areas. The measure prohibits the local aid cuts from totaling more than one-third of the total cuts that the governor makes. Supporters said that without the ability to cut local aid, the governor will be forced to make more drastic cuts in human services and health programs which were already the victims of hundreds of million dollars of cuts in October.Â They argued that the bill is a reasonable and balanced one which includes safeguards to ensure that local aid is not cut excessively. Some opponents said that it is simply unfair to cut local aid to communities after promising them a certain amount of it. They said that the cuts would hurt cities and towns and result in cuts in local essential services, education and public safety personnel. Others said that they oppose giving this power solely to the governor and argued that the Legislature should be involved in determining the cuts. (A "Yes" vote is for giving the governor the power to make cuts to local aid funding. A "No" vote is against giving him the power).
Rep. Thomas CalterÂ Â Â Yes
Rep. Daniel WebsterÂ Â Â NoÂ Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Sen. Robert HedlundÂ Â Â NoÂ Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â
LIMIT LOCAL AID CUTS TO 25 PERCENT (H 98)
House 18-137, rejected an amendment that would limit Patrick's local aid cuts to 25 percent of the total fiscal 2009 budget cuts. This would replace the section of the bill that limits local aid cuts to 33 percent. Amendment supporters said that limiting the local aid cuts to 25 percent would offer some protection to cities and towns that are already facing dire problems. Amendment opponents said that the 25 percent limit is well intentioned but would result in even deeper cuts to human service programs that help thousands of people across the state. (A "Yes" vote is for limiting Patrick's local aid cuts to 25 percent, instead of 33 percent, of the total fiscal 2009 budget cuts. A "No" vote is against the 25 percent limit and favors the 33 percent limit).
Rep. Thomas CalterÂ Â Â NoÂ Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Rep. Daniel WebsterÂ Â Â YesÂ Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â
CUT LOCAL AID BY SAME PERCENT FOR EACH CITY AND TOWN (H 98)
Senate 8-30, rejected an amendment requiring that the governor cut each city and town's local aid by the same percentage. Amendment supporters said that this would ensure that all communities are treated equally and prohibit the governor from making unilateral decisions on how much local aid each community would lose. Amendment opponents said that "one size fits all" does not work and argued that the governor needs flexibility in order to fairly administer the cuts. (A "Yes" vote is for requiring the governor to cut each city and town's local aid by the same percentage. A "No" vote is against the requirement).
Sen. Robert HedlundÂ Â Â YesÂ Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â
GIVE LEGISLATURE FIVE DAYS TO VETO LOCAL AID CUTS (H 98)
Senate 8-30, rejected an amendment giving the Legislature five days to review and act on any local aid cuts proposed by the governor. Amendment supporters said that the Legislature should be more involved in the process and not just hand over all cutting power to the governor. They argued that this amendment would essentially give legislators the power to vote the governor's cuts up or down and allow the governor to come back with a new package of reductions if the cuts are rejected. Amendment opponents said that it is essential to take quick action to make these local aid cuts and argued that the state cannot afford to have these proposal tied up in the Legislature for weeks. (A "Yes" vote is for giving the Legislature five days to review and act on any local aid cuts proposed by the governor. A "No" vote is against the five-day period).
Sen. Robert HedlundÂ Â Â YesÂ Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â
ALSO UP ON BEACON HILL
Gov. Patrick signed into law dozens of bills that were approved in the final days of the 2008 legislative session. Here are some of the proposals that he signed:
ALLOW BREASTFEEDING IN PUBLIC (H 5177) - Permits breastfeeding of children in any public place or establishment which is open to the general public. The measure exempts breastfeeding from laws prohibiting indecent exposure and permits mothers to bring civil actions and be awarded damages of up to $500 if they are harassed or penalized for breastfeeding. An exemption allows temples, churches and other places of religious worship to prohibit breastfeeding.
FOOD ALLERGIES AND RESTAURANTS (S 2701) - Requires all restaurants to prominently display a poster about food allergy awareness in the staff area and to include on all menus a notice of the customerâ€™s obligation to inform the server about any food allergies. Another provision requires the Department of Public Health (DPH) to develop a voluntary program that allows restaurants to be designated as "Food Allergy Friendly" by the DPH and be listed on the agency's website. The guidelines that restaurants would have to meet for the designation would be developed by the DPH and would include a requirement that a restaurant maintain on the premises a master list of all the ingredients used in the preparation of each food item on the menu.
BUY ONLY U.S FLAGS MADE IN AMERICA (H 5026) - Requires that all U.S. flags purchased by state agencies be "manufactured" in the United States. The proposal describes these flags as those for which "a substantial majority of the principal components are assembled into the final product in an assembly plant in the United States."
REGULATE LOW SPEED VEHICLES (S 2898) - Regulates the use of increasing popular "low speed vehicles" with a maximum speed capacity of 25 miles per hour. The best known of these vehicles is the electric-powered Chrysler Neighborhood Electric Vehicle (NEV). The legislation bans NEVs from traveling on roads with speed limits over 30 miles per hour and requires these vehicles and their drivers to follow the same registration and licensing requirements that currently apply to regular cars.
BICYCLE SAFETY (S 2573) - Makes major changes in bicycling laws in Massachusetts. The measure allows police officers to ticket bicyclists for traffic violations in the same way that they ticket motorists but prevents these violations from resulting in an auto insurance surcharge. Other provisions require the basic training curriculum for municipal police officers to include a course on bicycle safety; impose up to a $100 fine on motorists who open their car doors when it is not safe to do so and could jeopardize the safety of bicyclists, cars or pedestrians; require bicycle rental stores to offer helmets to their customers and change numerous current traffic laws.
1,000 GREATEST PLACES IN MASSACHUSETTS (H 5181) - Creates a 13-member special commission to conduct an investigation and study to "identify, catalogue, evaluate and designate the 1,000 great places in the commonwealth."
ASIAN LONGHORNED BEETLE (H 5147) - Increases from $25 to up to $25,000 the fine that would be imposed on any individual or business that "resists or obstructs" the state's effort to stop the spread of the Asian longhorned beetle. These bugs have infested thousands of trees in central Massachusetts and a quarantine zone has been designated in Worcester and some surrounding communities. State, federal and local officials are working to cut down the infested trees and take other steps to contain the infestation.
"No, I don't want to go to DC with my pal."
Gov. Patrick's response to a participant in a live chat on boston.com last week. The participant had asked the governor if in light of the state budget crisis, he wanted to head off to Washington, D.C. with his pal, Barack Obama.
"For years I have filed and refiled my legislation to legalize 10,000 slot machines (2,500 at each Massachusetts track) within the Commonwealth. Yet every year it doesn't get the serious attention it deserves, and every year we instead go after the taxpayer."
Rep. David Flynn (D-Bridgewater) commenting on proposals to raise the state's gas tax.
"Next term, we have already been told to expect a pay cut."
House speaker Sal DiMasi commenting on the recent $3,203 pay raise for legislators. He did not elaborate on who did the telling.
"We gather tonight under an economic cloud darker than anything this nation has faced in three generations. No oneâ€™s priorities will be spared. Local services will be cut, and in many cases, police, firefighters and teachers will face layoffs."
Gov. Patrick giving his State of the Commonwealth Address to a joint session of the Massachusetts Legislature.
"Instead of imposing new taxes and overly burdensome regulations that will drive businesses away, we should spend the weeks and months ahead creating a dynamic economic recovery plan that will attract new businesses and new jobs to our state."
Senate Republican Minority Leader Richard Tisei delivering the GOP response to Patrick's speech.
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 January 12-16, the House met for a total of ten hours and 14 minutes while the Senate met for a total of six hours and 21 minutes.
Mon.Â Â Jan.Â 12Â Â Â Â HouseÂ 11:04 a.m. to 11:16 a.m.
Senate 11:01 a.m. to 11:08 a.m.
Tues.Â Jan.Â 13Â Â Â Â No House session
No Senate session
Wed.Â Â Jan.Â 14Â Â Â Â HouseÂ 11:02 a.m. toÂ 7:28 p.m.
SenateÂ 2:30 p.m. toÂ 7:31 p.m.
Thurs. Jan.Â 15Â Â Â Â HouseÂ Â 6:31 p.m. toÂ 8:07 p.m.
SenateÂ 6:51 p.m. toÂ 8:04 p.m.
Fri.Â Â Jan.Â 16Â Â Â Â No House session
No Senate session
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