By Bob Katzen

THE HOUSE AND SENATE: There were no roll calls in the House or Senate last week. The 2011-2012 legislative session is winding down and ends in early January. This week, Beacon Hill Roll Call begins a series of reports highlighting legislation approved by the House and the Senate and signed into law by Gov. Deval Patrick in the 2011-2012 session.

ALIMONY CHANGES (S 1989): House 151-0, Senate 36-0, approved a law making major changes in the state's alimony laws, including allowing some alimony payments to be reduced, suspended or terminated upon the payer reaching the full age of retirement or the remarriage or cohabitation of the recipient.

It also bases the duration of payments on the number of years the couple is married. For example, for marriages of five years or less, the maximum alimony term would be 50 percent of the number of the months of marriage, while 15 to 20 year marriages would be capped at 80 percent. More than 20 years would be up to the judge and could be mandated indefinitely.

(A "Yes" vote is for the law.)

Rep. Jennifer Benson: Yes

Rep. Sheila Harrington: Yes

Sen. Eileen Donoghue: Yes

Sen. James Eldridge: Yes

Sen. Jennifer Flanagan: Yes

DNA EVIDENCE (S 1987): House 155-0, Senate 37-0, approved a law allowing individuals who have been convicted of a crime to request access to DNA evidence for forensic testing that could grant a new trial. Prior to the law's passage, Massachusetts was one of only two states that did not have this law.

(A "Yes" vote is for the law.)

Rep. Jennifer Benson: Yes

Rep. Sheila Harrington: Yes

Sen. Eileen Donoghue: Yes

Sen. James Eldridge: Yes

Sen. Jennifer Flanagan: Yes

APPROVE CHANGES IN PENSION SYSTEM (S 2065): House 152-0, Senate 27-10, approved a law making changes in the pension and retirement systems for employees of the state and cities and towns. The measure reduces pensions by raising the minimum retirement age for most public employees by five years, from 55 to 60, and changing the formula on which pensions are based.

Other provisions include requiring that current employees serve at least one year in a group at the end of their career to retire from that group and establishing a minimum pension of $15,000 for state workers who have spent 25 years in state government. Currently, many retirees receive annual pensions of $12,000 to $13,000.

(A "Yes" vote is for the law. A "No" vote is against it.)

Rep. Jennifer Benson: Yes

Rep. Sheila Harrington: Yes

Sen. Eileen Donoghue: Yes

Sen. James Eldridge: No

Sen. Jennifer Flanagan: Yes

HABITUAL OFFENDERS - MELANIE'S LAW (H 3818): House 139-14, Senate 31-7, approved a law that denies parole eligibility for third-time violent felons for certain crimes.

Other provisions include requiring a two-thirds vote of the parole board to grant a prisoner parole while serving a single life sentence; preventing parole eligibility for felons serving multiple life sentences based on separate incidents; and reducing mandatory minimum sentences for certain nonviolent drug offenses.

(A "Yes" vote is for the law. A "No" vote is against it.)

Rep. Jennifer Benson: Yes

Rep. Sheila Harrington: Yes

Sen. Eileen Donoghue: Yes

Sen. James Eldridge: No

Sen. Jennifer Flanagan: Yes

ORGAN DONATION (S 2067): House 155-0, Senate 36-0, approved a law requiring the state to adopt the Revised Uniform Anatomical Gift Act. The measure streamlines the donation process and establishes revised rules and regulations for organ donations for transplantation or study.

(A "Yes" vote is for the law.)

Rep. Jennifer Benson: Yes

Rep. Sheila Harrington: Yes

Sen. Eileen Donoghue: Yes

Sen. James Eldridge: Yes

Sen. Jennifer Flanagan: Yes

CHANGES IN THE STATE'S ENERGY LAWS (S 2395): House 149-6, Senate 38-0, approved a law aimed at reducing the high cost of electricity in Massachusetts and creating more competition.

The law requires investor-owned utilities to competitively bid proposals from renewable-energy suppliers for long-term renewable-energy contracts. It also increases the overall net metering cap from 3 percent to 6 percent, thus doubling the existing limits on municipal and privately owned projects that generate their own renewable energy.

(A "Yes" vote is for the law. A "No" vote is against it.)

Rep. Jennifer Benson: Yes

Rep. Sheila Harrington: Yes

Sen. Eileen Donoghue: Yes

Sen. James Eldridge: Yes

Sen. Jennifer Flanagan: Yes

"THE VALOR ACT" TO HELP VETERANS (S 2254): House 154-0, Senate 38-0, approved a law expanding financial, housing and education benefits and many other services for veterans and active-duty military personnel and their families.

Provisions include facilitating seed money for the startup and expansion of veteran-owned businesses; expanding eligibility for the Massachusetts Military Family Relief Fund that provides help with the cost of food, housing, utilities and medical services; allowing for a minimum 90-day license renewal extension for service members returning from active duty for certain Department of Public Safety licenses, including engineering and firefighter licenses; and permitting cities and towns to provide a property-tax exemption of up to $750 for veterans who do volunteer work in their community.

(A "Yes" vote is for the law.)

Rep. Jennifer Benson: Yes

Rep. Sheila Harrington: Didn't Vote

Sen. Eileen Donoghue: Yes

Sen. James Eldridge: Yes

Sen. Jennifer Flanagan: Yes

AVOID FORECLOSURES (H 4323): House 153-0, Senate 35-0, approved a law prohibiting banks from pursuing foreclosure on a homeowner unless they have first taken "reasonable steps and good faith efforts to avoid foreclosure." A key provision requires the bank to offer a modified loan to the borrower if it is more profitable than the amount the bank would recover through foreclosure.

(A "Yes" vote is for the law.)

Rep. Jennifer Benson: Yes

Rep. Sheila Harrington: Yes

Sen. Eileen Donoghue: Yes

Sen. James Eldridge: Yes

Sen. Jennifer Flanagan: Yes

ALLOW CHILD CARE WORKERS TO UNIONIZE (H 3986): House 122-31, Senate 34-4, approved a law allowing child care providers who work out of their homes and receive voucher payments from the state to join a union. The proposal does not affect private day care workers or those who work in day care centers. Voters rejected a similar proposal on the 2006 ballot by a vote of 951,517 in favor and 1,042,253 against.

(A "Yes" vote is for the law. A "No" vote is against it.)

Rep. Jennifer Benson: Yes

Rep. Sheila Harrington: No

Sen. Eileen Donoghue: Yes

Sen. James Eldridge: Yes

Sen. Jennifer Flanagan: Yes

MBTA BAILOUT (H 4174): House 127-24, Senate 27-9, approved a law providing for a one-time transfer of $49 million from the revenue generated from motor-vehicle inspections to the MBTA and $2 million to regional transit authorities. The authorities would also receive $1.5 million in surplus snow removal funds.

(A "Yes" vote is for the law. A "No" vote is against it.)

Rep. Jennifer Benson: Yes

Rep. Sheila Harrington: No

Sen. Eileen Donoghue: Yes

Sen. James Eldridge: Yes

Sen. Jennifer Flanagan: Yes

ALSO ON BEACON HILL

NO AUTOMATIC TAX RELIEF IN 2013: The State Department of Revenue (DOR) determined that taxpayers will not get an automatic tax cut on Jan. 1, 2013, like they did on January 1, 2012, when the income tax and long-term capital gains tax rates were reduced from 5.3 to 5.25 percent. DOR confirmed that there was insufficient economic growth under the terms of a 2002 law to result in a similar 2013 tax cut.

These type of automatic cuts do not need the approval of the Legislature. They are part of a system devised by the Legislature when it approved a $1 billion-plus tax hike package in 2002. The package set the long term capital gains tax at 5.3 percent and froze the income tax rate at 5.3 percent instead of allowing it to drop to 5 percent in January 2003 -- a reduction that was approved by voters in 2000. The 2002 law also includes an automatic trigger that reduces both taxes by one-half of 1 percent each year that the state's economic growth is at least 2.5 percent until each tax is reduced to 5 percent. The 2011 growth was 7.2 percent and resulted in a 2012 estimated tax cut of $115 million.

This year's growth was insufficient to trigger a 2013 tax cut from 5.25 percent to 5.2 percent, a reduction that would have saved taxpayers an estimated $110 million to $124 million.

PARKING METER REVENUE (H 901): The House approved and sent to the Senate a bill that would allow cities and towns to use revenue from their parking meters for the purchase or lease of any commuter shuttle or shuttle services between a municipal parking lot and public transportation. Current law allows the revenue to be used only for the acquisition and maintenance of parking lots and for traffic control and safety. Supporters said the bill would expand the use of commuter shuttles, which will in turn increase the use of public transportation.

OFF TO A STUDY COMMITTEE

Various committees recommended that bills be shipped off to a "study committee" where measures are never actually studied and are essentially defeated. Here are some of the bills that headed for that fate last week:

ABOLISH PER DIEMS (H 3236): Bans all legislators who take office beginning in January 2013, except current existing incumbents, from collecting controversial "per diems" that reimburse them for travel, meals and lodging. The amount of the per diem varies and is based on the city or town in which a senator or representative resides and its distance from the Statehouse. The payments range from $10 per day for legislators who reside in the Greater Boston area to $90 per day for some Western Massachusetts lawmakers and $100 per day for those on Nantucket.

DIVEST PENSION FUND FROM GENOCIDE NATIONS (H 3351): Creates a special commission on human rights to compile and update a list of countries where there is evidence of genocide or other egregious human-rights abuses. The state treasurer would then compile a list of companies with active business operations in these countries and determine "the feasibility and reasonableness of divesting pension fund assets from any or all of these companies."

BAN CONTRACTING OUT JOBS (H 2973): Bans state universities from abolishing any permanent jobs and instead contracting with private companies that will provide the services.

QUINN BILL FOR POLICE OFFICERS (H 3633): Restores some $50 million in funding for the Quinn bill, which provides police officers with increased salaries for furthering their education. Until recently, the state picked up half of the tab for the salary hike while the city or town picked up the other half. The program was funded at $50 million in 2009 and was reduced to $10 million in 2010 and to zero in 2011.

QUOTABLE QUOTES

"I'm not ready to announce anything yet but we're not so far away."

Gov. Patrick on his talks with Amazon.com about collecting the state's 6.25 percent sales tax. Under a Supreme Court ruling, online retailers are not required to collect the tax unless they have a substantial physical facility in the state. Amazon reportedly is interested in larger facilities in the Bay State, a move that that would require the collection of the sales tax.

"Like many of you in the room, I would like to be governor. I think it's okay to say that out loud."

Lt. Gov. Timothy Murray during a Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce speech.

"I saw during the campaign his plea for bipartisanship. That is a big joke. It's a travesty ... He was one of the most partisan people that's ever served here."

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) on Sen. Scott Brown.

"Sen. Brown has a proven record of working across party lines, and as a result, has been invited to the White House three times in the last year to stand next to the president to see bills that he has worked on signed into law."

Brown spokeswoman Marcie Kinzel.

"(In the last 30 days) 22 percent of high school students reported binge drinking defined as five or more drinks consumed within a few hours; 23 percent rode with a driver who had been drinking; and 6.5 percent drove while drinking."

From a report by the Massachusetts Health Council.

"The consequences of this are pretty dire."

Gov. Patrick's Secretary of Administration and Finance Jay Gonzalez on the potential state loss of up to $300 million this fiscal year and $1 billion over the next full fiscal year if Congress fails to avert the "fiscal cliff."

"With the ongoing dialogue within the Patrick administration being the need for a crippling statewide tax increase, I would encourage the governor to think twice about those plans as any tax hike would further diminish the Bay State's opportunity for any sort of sustainable economic recovery."

House Republican Minority Leader Bradley Jones (R-North Reading).

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 November 12-16, the House met for a total of 21 minutes while the Senate met for a total of 20 minutes.

Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at bob@beaconhillrollcall.com.