By Bob Katzen
THE HOUSE AND SENATE: Beacon Hill Roll Call records the votes of local representatives on three roll calls and local senators on one roll call from the week of July 9-13.
KEEP TAUNTON STATE HOSPITAL OPEN (H 4000) -- House 152-0, Senate 39-0, overrode Gov. Patrick's veto of $5.1 million in funding for the Taunton State Hospital to keep the psychiatric facility open to serve patients with mental illnesses at a diminished, 45-bed capacity, down from 169 beds.
Override supporters said that closing the facility would leave many Southeastern Massachusetts residents with mental health problems with no local facility to which they can go. They argued that moving patients to a facility in Worcester would be disruptive to those who might not be able to visit their family member at a more distant location.
The Patrick administration said the antiquated 150-year-old Taunton facility is not cost-effective. They noted the new Worcester Recovery Center and Hospital has more of a residential and neighborhood feel to it compared to older facilities that are set in a more institutionalized and cold environment.
(A "Yes" vote is for the $5.1 million.)
Rep. Jennifer Benson: Yes; Rep. Sheila Harrington: Yes; Sen. Eileen Donoghue: Yes; Sen. James Eldridge: Yes; Sen. Jennifer Flanagan: Yes
WELFARE EBT CARDS (H 4237) -- House 1-152, Senate on a voice vote without a roll call, rejected Gov. Deval
The governor left many of the Legislature's other restrictions intact including strip clubs, adult bookstores, adult paraphernalia stores, firearms dealers, ammunitions dealers and cruise ships.
Current law already bans the purchase of alcoholic beverages, lottery tickets and tobacco products.
The governor said some of the restrictions set by the Legislature were opposed by the special commission that researched and evaluated the illegal use of EBT cards. He noted he agreed with the commission's recommendation that the prohibitions be on usage in particular establishments, rather than prohibitions on particular items.
Opponents of Patrick's version said it is time to crack down on the abuse of EBT cards and ensure that taxpayers' hard-earned dollars are used only for necessities like food. They noted the purchase of non-essentials is outrageous.
(A "Yes" vote is for the governor's limited restrictions. A "No" vote is against the limited restrictions.)
Rep. Jennifer Benson: No
Rep. Sheila Harrington: No
REQUIRE PROOF OF LEGAL OR ILLEGAL RESIDENCE (H 4238 -- House 12-140, Senate on a voice vote without a roll call, rejected Gov. Patrick's version of a proposal, already approved by the Legislature, that would require applicants to provide proof of "legal residence" in order to register their car. The governor's version would require proof of "residence," legal or illegal.
Gov. Patrick said allowing an illegal alien to own a vehicle in Massachusetts does not jeopardize the public's safety. He argued that on the contrary, it serves the public's safety interests to know the name and location of the owner of every vehicle on the road.
Opponents of the governor's version said it is too weak and will still allow illegal aliens to drive on the roadways. They argued it is time to allow only legal residents to register a car in Massachusetts.
(A ""Yes" vote is for the governor's proposal requiring proof of residence, illegal or legal. A "No" vote is against it.)
Rep. Jennifer Benson: No
Rep. Sheila Harrington: No
ALSO UP ON BEACON HILL
ORDER OF THE THREE NOVEMBER 2012 BALLOT QUESTIONS -- Secretary of State William Galvin announced the order in which the three certified ballot questions will appear on the 2012 ballot. Question 1 would require auto manufacturers to sell to non-dealer repair shops complete repair information and diagnostic tools. Question 2 would allow terminally ill patients with fewer than six months to live to obtain medication they can self-administer to commit suicide. Question 3 would allow medical use of marijuana.
EMERGENCY RESPONSE IN SCHOOLS (S 2132) -- A law that would require every school in Massachusetts to have a written medical emergency response plan takes effect on July 17. The measure is designed to "reduce the incidence of life-threatening emergencies and promote efficient responses to such emergencies." It is called "Michael's Law" in memory of 16-year-old Michael Ellsessar of Sutton, who died suddenly of cardiac arrest during a high school football game.
Provisions include requiring establishment of a rapid communication system linking all inside and outside parts of the school campus to the emergency medical service system; a determination of emergency medical service response time to any location on campus; and a method of providing access to training in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and first aid for teachers, coaches and other school staff.
EASIER HIV TESTING (S 2158) -- A new law that would allow doctors to test for the HIV virus with only verbal consent of the patient is scheduled to take effect on July 27. Massachusetts was one of only two states that still require written permission from patients.
Supporters said the change would reduce the transmission of the virus from mother to child, which is almost totally preventable if the mother is tested. They argued there are an estimated 5,000 people in the state who don't know they have HIV because they have never been tested. They noted the change will result in more people getting tested and receiving life-extending treatment.
STANDARDS FOR DEMENTIA UNITS (H 3947) -- The governor signed into law legislation requiring the state Department of Public Health to establish minimum standards for dementia special care units in long-term care facilities in order to ensure the safety and quality of services.
The regulations must include dementia training for all direct care workers and guidelines for the physical design of dementia units, including taking into consideration the best design that would help prevent dangerous wandering by patients.
"I'm asking. I'm pleading."
-- Les Gosule, whose daughter Melissa was raped and murdered in 1999 by a repeat offender, urging the Legislature to approve 'Melissa's Law." The proposed law, currently tied up in a conference committee, would eliminate parole eligibility for repeat violent felons after a third offense.
"I'm not going to do anything that makes vulnerable people beg for their benefits. This notion of humiliating poor people has got to be separated from how we make a program ... work well."
-- Gov. Patrick on some of the Legislature's ban on what EBT card holders can buy with their cards.
"Contrary to the governor's belief that these reforms are 'political grandstanding' tactics, the members of the Legislature and the majority of the citizens of the Commonwealth are in favor of such common sense protections."
-- Senate Republican Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester) answering Patrick's charges that the Legislature's proposed restrictions on the use of EBT cards is political grandstanding.
HOW LONG WAS LAST WEEK'S SESSION? During the week of July 9-13, the House met for a total of seven hours and 34 minutes while the Senate met for a total of seven hours and 4 minutes.
Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org