By Bob Katzen
THE HOUSE AND SENATE: Beacon Hill Roll Call records the votes of local senators on five roll calls from the week of February 11-15. There were no roll calls in the House last week.
LOWER TUITION RATES FOR ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS (H 57): Senate 12-25, rejected an amendment that would prohibit illegal immigrant students from paying the preferred, lower in-state tuition rates and fees at Massachusetts colleges and universities. The amendment would supersede a recent policy, implemented by Gov. Deval Patrick, allowing some students who are not in the country legally to pay the lower tuition rates.
Amendment supporters said the state should not offer financial rewards to anyone who has broken the law and is in this country illegally. They argued it is outrageous to offer low tuition rates to these students while legal citizens from outside Massachusetts, including war veterans, are required to pay higher rates if they attend a Massachusetts state school.
Amendment opponents said many of these students were babies when they were brought here by their parents and had no choice about entering the country illegally. They noted some hardworking students are currently required to pay out-of-state tuition rates that are up to five times higher than the in-state rate.
(A "Yes" vote is the prohibition. A "No" vote is against it.)
Sen. Eileen Donoghue, Yes; Sen. James Eldridge, No; Sen.
PROOF OF RESIDENCY TO OBTAIN PUBLIC BENEFITS (H 57): Senate 12-25, rejected an amendment providing that "self-declaration of residency" not be accepted as a valid form of residency verification for people seeking welfare and other taxpayer-funded benefits from the state. The measure also lists specific forms of identification drivers can use to prove their legal residence in order to register their car. Papers include a U.S. passport, naturalization certificate and military service papers.
Amendment supporters said many people are cheating the welfare system by being allowed to simply state their address without it being verified and argued this crackdown would save the state millions of dollars. They said the Patrick Administration is currently violating a similar law approved last year by allowing applicants to prove their legal residence with a utility bill.
Amendment opponents said this major policy change should not be made through a budget amendment. They urged the Senate to wait to take a more comprehensive approach to the immigrant issue.
(A "Yes" vote is for the amendment. A "No" vote is against it.)
Sen. Eileen Donoghue, Yes; Sen. James Eldridge, No; Sen. Jennifer Flanagan, No
VALID SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER (H 57): Senate 6-31, rejected an amendment that would give welfare recipients who receive a temporary Social Security number from the Department of Transitional Assistance 30 days to obtain an official Social Security number from the federal government or lose their benefits. The amendment also allows the recipient to continue receiving benefits if he or she provides written verification that he or she has applied to the Social Security Administration for a number.
Amendment supporters said it is time to crack down on people gaming the system and noted the temporary Social Security number is not real and is not valid. They pointed to the outrage over recent reports of $25 million in welfare money going to people who aren't eligible to collect it.
Amendment opponents said they would also like to take some action but would rather do so through a separate bill that will address all the problems in the state's welfare system.
(A "Yes" vote is for requiring a federal social security number or valid application. A "No" vote is against it.)
Sen. Eileen Donoghue, No; Sen. James Eldridge, No; Sen. Jennifer Flanagan, No
CRIME LAB OVERSIGHT (H 57): Senate 5-33, rejected an amendment requiring the state's public safety department to investigate and determine whether each crime lab in the state is properly accredited by and meets the standards of the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors. The measure also requires the state to establish a system for receiving anonymous complaints of employee or facility wrongdoing at any of the crime labs.
Amendment supporters said it is time to monitor these facilities following accusations that chemist Annie Dookhan mishandled drug samples and put in question an estimated 34,000 drug conviction cases.
Amendment opponents said the amendment is unnecessary because these labs are already accredited.
(A "Yes" vote is for verifying accreditation and opening an anonymous tip system. A "No" vote is against it.)
Sen. Eileen Donoghue, No; Sen. James Eldridge, No; Sen. Jennifer Flanagan, No
SUPPLEMENTAL BUDGET (H 57): Senate 36-1, approved and sent to Gov. Patrick a $131 million fiscal 2013 supplemental budget to fund several programs, including $30 million for costs of the investigation and response related to the evidence tampering scandal at a state drug testing lab, $44 million for homeless shelters and $25 million for public lawyers to represent indigent defendants. It also spends $200 million from the state's Rainy Day Fund and saves employers an estimated $500 million by freezing the unemployment insurance tax at the current 2012 level.
Supporters said the package is fiscally responsible and necessary to continue to fund essential programs.
The lone opponent said many attempts by the Republicans to make policy changes and save money in the welfare department, criminal labs and other important areas were defeated.
(A "Yes" vote is for the budget. A "No" vote is against it.)
Sen. Eileen Donoghue, Yes; Sen. James Eldridge, Yes; Sen. Jennifer Flanagan, Yes
ALSO ON BEACON HILL
A BUDGET HEARING COMING SOON TO A LOCATION NEAR YOU: The House and Senate Ways and Means Committee held its first hearing on Gov. Patrick's $34.8 billion state budget last week. The show now goes on the road, and several hearings across the state are scheduled, including Wednesday, Feb. 20, at Worcester State University; Tuesday, Feb. 26, in Greenfield; Wednesday, Feb. 27, in Hanover; Thursday, Feb. 28, in Fitchburg; and Thursday, March 7, in Everett. The final hearing will be held on Friday, March 8, at the Statehouse.
A LOOK AHEAD AT BILLS FILED FOR THE 2013-2014 SESSION: Thousands of pieces of legislation have been filed for consideration in the 2013-2014 Legislature. Here are 10 of the more interesting ones:
LIVE THEATER CREDIT: Gives a tax credit to companies producing live stage shows in Boston in order to attract more of them to the state.
NO SMOKING AT HOME: Prohibits smoking in all condominiums, apartments and multifamily homes and allows it only in single-family, stand-alone residences.
BAN FUNERAL DISRUPTION: Imposes up to a two-year prison sentence and/or $2,000 fine on anyone who causes a disturbance within 1,000 feet of a military funeral, procession or burial.
BATHROOM BREAKS: Requiring the MBTA to give its drivers paid bathroom breaks of 10 minutes for every four hours worked in a day.
BAN CELLPHONES: Bans the use of all hand-held cellphones while driving and allows only hands-free ones.
NO SPRAY PAINT: Imposes up to a two-year prison sentence and/or $250 fine on minors under 17 possessing spray paint if they intend to use it to create graffiti.
REDUCING VEHICLE IDLING TIME: Reduces from five minutes to three minutes the length of time a driver is allowed to let his or her vehicle idle.
TAX DEDUCTION FOR GLUTEN ALLERGY SUFFERERS: Provides up to a $5,000 tax deduction for the cost of gluten-free food that is in excess of the cost of food containing gluten.
DON'T CONFISCATE GUNS: Prohibits the government from confiscating lawfully owned firearms during a state of emergency.
BAN PLASTIC BAGS: Bans the use of plastic bags by retail stores.
The number of drivers reportedly fined $500 for violating Gov. Patrick's driving ban during last week's blizzard.
Secretary of State William Galvin's estimate of how much the special election to replace Secretary of State John Kerry's vacant Senate seat will cost the state.
"Lynch and Markey sign people's pledge."
Title of press release from U.S. Rep. Steve Lynch's campaign announcing that he and fellow Democratic candidate U.S. Rep. Ed Markey have agreed to help promote a ban on outside groups broadcasting ads or sending out political mailings in the U.S. Senate campaign.
"Markey and Lynch sign people's pledge."
Title of a similar press release issued by Markey's campaign.
"Help them see the generational urgency of this moment and help them find the political courage to choose what's right for our long-term good instead of just what's easy for short-term politics."
Gov. Patrick, urging people to contact their legislators to support the governor's $1.9 billion tax hike proposal.
"I've heard from numerous people and I'm very, kind of, afraid of the class warfare in the regards to the (tax hike) proposal. I've heard a lot of people say, 'Why am I working? The people who aren't working are going to have their taxes lowered by the sales tax.'"
Rep. Colleen Garry, D-Dracut, on Patrick's tax proposal, which includes a hike in the income tax and a reduction in the sales tax.
HOW LONG WAS LAST WEEK'S SESSION?
During the week of February 11-15, the House met for a total of one hour and two minutes while the Senate met for a total of eight hours and 16 minutes.
Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org.