THE HOUSE AND SENATE. Beacon Hill Roll Call records local representatives' votes on one roll call and local senators' votes on three roll calls from the week of March 9-13.
$327 MILLION FROM RAINY DAY FUND (H 3415)
House 145-0, Senate 37-0, approved and sent to Gov. Deval Patrick a supplemental budget package that takes $327 million from the state's Rainy Day Fund to pay expenses in the current year's state budget. The package also contains new spending including $105 million for snow and ice removal costs from winter storms. Other provisions include increasing from 45 to 90 days the time during which the state Department of Revenue can process tax refunds without paying interest to the taxpayer; new assessments on mortgage companies and other non-depository institutions so that they are paying the same assessments as banks and a $286,943 reduction in funding for the governor's office. Supporters said that the package is a fiscally responsible one that is necessary to close the state's growing budget deficit. (A "Yes" vote is for the bill).
Rep. Thomas CalterÂ Â Â Yes
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 Â Â Â 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
ONE PERCENT ACROSS THE BOARD CUT IN STATE BUDGET (H 3415)
Senate 9-28, rejected an amendment cutting most items in the current state budget by one percent. Local aid and any programs that bring in matching federal funds would be exempt from the cut. Amendment supporters said that this would save the state $140 million and help close the ballooning state budget deficit. They argued that a one percent cut is reasonable and is similar to action that families are forced to take in light of the economy. Amendment opponents said that across the board cuts are irresponsible because they treat all programs the same when in fact some would be severely affected by cuts and others would not feel much effect. They noted that many cuts have already been made and that any future ones will be done program by program - not on a one size fits all basis. (A "Yes" vote is for cutting most items in the state budget by one percent. A "No" vote is against the cut).
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
PROHIBIT PAY RAISES AND IMPOSE HIRING FREEZE FOR STATE WORKERS (H 3415)
Senate 9-28, rejected an amendment prohibiting pay hikes for any state employees and implementing a hiring freeze that prohibits any job vacancies from being filled unless "deemed critical to public safety." The moratoriums would go into effect immediately and last more than 15 months - until July 1, 2010. Amendment supporters said that these freezes would save an estimated $160 million that could be used to balance the state budget and/or replenish the state's Rainy Day Fund. They argued that no state employee should receive a raise when thousands of people in the private and public sector are losing their jobs and facing the loss of their homes. Amendment opponents said that the freeze in well-intentioned but goes too far. They noted that some collective bargaining raises for union workers are required and unavoidable because they were agreed to by the state. (A "Yes" vote is for the amendment prohibiting pay hikes and implementing a hiring freeze. A "No" vote is against the amendment and favors allowing pay hikes and filling job vacancies).
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
SEN. MARIAN WALSH GETS NEW JOB - Sen. Marian Walsh (D-Boston) was appointed by Gov. Patrick as the new assistant executive director of the quasi-public Massachusetts Health and Educational Facilities Authority (MHEFA). The $175,000 position has been vacant for several years. The appointment was ratified by the MHEFA board on the same afternoon of the Senate's defeat of a Republican-sponsored amendment prohibiting any job vacancies from being filled unless the position is critical to public safety.Â
TAX HIKES BEING BANDIED ABOUT - The worsening economic situation of the state has led to several tax hike trial balloons being floated on Beacon Hill. Other ideas are now competing with Gov. Patrick's proposed 19-cent-per-gallon gas tax hike and proposal to impose the stateâ€™s five percent sales tax on some currently exempt items including alcohol purchased at stores, candy and sweetened beverages. Competing measures include a 25-cent-per-gallon gas tax increase; a hike in the sales tax from five to six percent and raising the income tax from 5.3 percent to 5.4 percent.
REMEMBERING GEORGE KEVERIAN - Former Speaker of the House George Keverian was remembered by friends and former colleagues during a service in the House chamber. The 77-year-old Keverian served as speaker from 1985-1991 after a revolution in which he wrested control from sitting Speaker Tom McGee. Among those in attendance was an array of former speakers of the House including former Speakers Robert Quinn, Charles Flaherty, Thomas Finneran and Sal DiMasi. Flaherty and Finneran were both convicted of crimes while DiMasi resigned earlier this year under a cloud of suspicion.
A PLETHORA OF PROPOSED LEGISLATION - House and Senate clerks continue to process the more than 6,000 bills that have been filed for consideration in the 2009-2010 session. Here is a look at some interesting ones:
BAN PUBLISHING NAMES OF MINORS - This measure would prohibit television stations, radio stations, Internet websites, newspapers and magazines from broadcasting or publishing the name, home address or e-mail address of any minor under 18 whose image appears in any broadcast or photograph unless the parent or guardian gives written consent. A similar bill filed last year was shipped off to a study committee where it died.
BAN SALE OF NOVELTY CIGARETTE LIGHTERS - This proposal would ban the sale of toy-like or novelty lighters in the state. The lighters are described as those that "resemble cartoon characters, toys, guns, watches, musical instruments, vehicles, toy animals, food, beverages, sports equipment or that play musical notes or have flashing lights or other entertaining features." Supporters say that children often mistake these lighters for toys and note that the lighters are responsible for fires, injuries and death.
PREFERRED PARKING FOR HYBRIDS - This legislation would allow cities and towns to restrict some public parking spaces to drivers who are driving low and zero emissions vehicles.
BAN NORTH VIETNAMESE FLAG - This bill would provide that the old South Vietnamese flag be the only flag depicting the country of Vietnam that may be displayed at any state-sponsored public function or in any public institution of learning. Supporters note that the flag, a symbol of resilience, freedom and democracy, was the official flag of South Vietnam from 1954 until that country surrendered to North Vietnam in 1975. They say that the flag of the current oppressive Communist regime of Vietnam is offensive to many Vietnamese-Americans and should not be used at public events.
"What planet are these people on?"
Sen. Michael Knapik (R-Westfield) talking about reports that some communities have given pay raises to employees during this devastating economy.
"Does this broadcast in Jamaica?"
Knapik during Senate debate on a budget. He was asking whether Gov. Patrick can see the broadcast of the Senate session while on vacation in Jamaica.
"I'm like a Republican now. I'm irrelevant."
Former House Speaker Sal DiMasi addressing reporters during his first visit to the Statehouse following his resignation in January.
"Whatever Dianne did, don't do."
From a State House News Service story reporting what Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure Co-chairman Sen. Michael Morrissey (D-Quincy) said to members of the committee at its first meeting. Morrissey was referring to former Sen. Dianne Wilkerson who is awaiting trial on charges including illegally accepting more than $20,000 in payments for her help in obtaining a liquor license for a nightclub.
If you apply for unemployment today, good luck trying to get somebody on the phone."
Senate Minority Leader Richard R. Tisei (R-Wakefield) commenting on the overwhelming number of unemployment claims being filed in Massachusetts.
"Creating a job for (Senator) Marian Walsh does not count as one of the thousands of jobs Governor Patrick promised to create in Massachusetts. Instead of rewarding supporters with high-paying jobs, the governor should focus on creating jobs for the thousands of unemployed taxpayers."
Massachusetts Republican Party spokesman Barney Keller commenting on Gov. Patrick's appointment of Walsh to the $175,000 position of assistant executive director of the Massachusetts Health and Educational Facilities Authority (MHEFA).
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 March 9-13, the House met for a total of eight hours and 58 minutes while the Senate met for a total of seven hours and 15 minutes.
Mon.Â Â March 9Â Â Â HouseÂ 11:02 a.m. toÂ 3:00 p.m.
Senate 11:00 a.m. toÂ 3:09 p.m.
Tues.Â March 10Â Â No House session
No Senate session
Wed.Â Â March 11Â Â No House session
Senate 11:04 a.m. to 11:06 a.m
Thurs. March 12Â Â HouseÂ Â 1:00 p.m. toÂ 6:00 p.m.
SenateÂ 3:05 p.m. toÂ 6:09 p.m.
Fri.Â Â March 13Â Â No House session
No Senate session
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