By Bob Katzen
THE HOUSE AND SENATE: This week, Beacon Hill Roll Call records local representatives' votes on three roll calls from prior legislative sessions. There were no roll calls in the House or Senate last week.
SIX HOURS TO REVIEW BILL (H 2015): House 29-125, rejected a new rule that would require copies of all bills scheduled for a vote by a committee to be available to the members of the committee electronically at least six hours prior to their consideration.
Supporters of the new rule said representatives are often given little time to read bills before being asked to vote on them.
Opponents said most committees give representatives adequate time to read the measures.
A "Yes" vote is for the six-hour requirement. A "No" vote is against it.
Rep. Jennifer Benson, No; Rep. Sheila Harrington, Yes
ALLOW UNLIMITED DEBATE (H 2013): House 29-126, rejected a new rule that would prevent members from making motions to limit debate on any piece of legislation or amendment.
Supporters of the new rule said limiting debate stifles free speech and the exchange of important information. They pointed to a recent incident when the House voted to limit debate to one hour while considering dozens of amendments.
Opponents said unlimited debate will lead to standstills similar to the ones in Washington. They said there are few if any examples of limited debate.
A "Yes" vote is for unlimited debate. A "No" vote is against it.
ALLOW MORE BUDGET AMENDMENTS (H 2013): House 29-126, rejected a new rule that would allow members to file amendments to the annual $30 billion plus state budget at any time up until the budget is approved. Current rules require members to propose their amendments within 72 hours after release of the details of the budget.
Supporters of the new rule said limiting the time for proposing amendments is misguided and anti-democratic.
Opponents said allowing unlimited time to offer amendments could result in weeks of budget debate or a standstill.
A "Yes" vote is for allowing more time to file amendments. A "No" vote is against allowing it.
Rep. Jennifer Benson, No; Rep. Sheila Harrington, Yes
ALSO ON BEACON HILL
NO COMMITTEE ROLL CALLS ON WEBSITE: The House and Senate have approved a set of compromise joint rules under which the Legislature will operate during the 2013-2014 session. A few weeks ago, each branch had passed a different version. Noticeably missing from the compromise package is a rule, originally approved by the Senate but rejected by the House, that would require joint committee votes cast by legislators on bills heard by their committees to be posted on the Legislature's website. Senate leaders finally deferred to the House and agreed to drop the provision. Current rules require these committee votes to be kept at the Statehouse in the offices of the committee, available for public inspection upon reasonable notice and during regular office hours.
Supporters of the new rule said it would have given people quick and easy access to the committee votes of their legislators. They noted that under current rules, a person has to drive to Boston during business hours in order to obtain this information. They said requiring a trip of perhaps hundreds of miles is ridiculous and archaic.
Some opponents said the idea is a good one but the website is not yet ready technologically to implement this system. Others argued the posting would be confusing. Some noted that the current process of allowing a person to come to the Statehouse to get these roll calls is sufficient and has worked well for years.
Ironically, the compromise package was approved in both branches by a voice vote, without a roll call.
MEDICAL MARIJUANA: Attorney General Martha Coakley's Office ruled that cities and towns are not permitted to enact a total ban on marijuana treatment centers. The ruling was in response to a town of Wakefield by-law imposing the ban. Coakley concluded that the Wakefield ban conflicted with the law, passed by the voters in 2012, that ensures reasonable access to marijuana treatment centers. She concluded that the law's purpose cannot be served if a community prohibits treatment centers within its borders because it would leave the door open for all communities to do so, eventually making it possible that there would be no access anywhere in the state.
In a separate ruling, Coakley ruled that communities are permitted to impose a temporary moratorium on establishing centers while it conducts planning studies and waits until May for the state Department of Public Health regulations concerning these centers.
WAMPANOAG CASINO: Gov. Patrick announced that he has reached an agreement in principle with the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe, allowing it to build a casino in Taunton. More details have to be worked out and the deal has to be approved by the Legislature.
HEARINGS GETTING UNDERWAY: Hearings on the thousands of bills filed for the 2013-2014 session are finally getting underway. On March 27, at 2 p.m. in Room A-1, the Election Laws Committee will hear testimony on several proposed amendments to the state's constitution including:
AT-LARGE SENATORS (S 10): Provides that the state's 40 senators be elected at-large by all voters.
REDISTRICTING (S 11): Establishes a nonlegislative redistricting commission to draw Massachusetts legislative and congressional districts every ten years. Currently, the constitution simply gives the Legislature itself the power to draw the districts.
LT. GOV. VACANCY (H 61): Allows the governor to appoint a lieutenant governor if that position becomes vacant. The governor's choice would be subject to confirmation by the Legislature. Currently if the lieutenant governor's office becomes vacant, there is no provision to appoint a replacement and the office simply remains vacant until the next regular election.
Special "Fun with Gov. Deval Patrick Edition"
Gov. Deval Patrick made his regular monthly appearance on Jim Braude and Margery Eagan's radio show. The duo's show has moved from the now defunct WTKK to public radio 89.7 WGBH. These are some of the governor's lighter moments.
(singing) "Memories, not a sound from the pavement."
Patrick singing "Memories" from the musical "Cats" to Jim and Margery when they talked about the "old days" at WTKK.
"I've been admonished to stop saying that we need an adult conversation about taxes because some members on Beacon Hill feel that I am referring to them as children, which is not my intention. So, what I mean is we need a sober conversation."
Patrick, to caller who congratulated the governor on his calling for an adult conversation about taxes.
"If we can't pick Earth, Wind and Fire, I don't know really know what we're talking about."
Patrick, when Braude tried to pin him down on whether "Roadrunner" by Modern Lovers or "Dream On" by Aerosmith should be the state's official rock song.
"I noticed that Margery was only boogying here on the first song, not the second."
Patrick pointing out that when both rock songs were played in the studio, Margery only danced to "Roadrunner."
HOW LONG WAS LAST WEEK'S SESSION? During the week of March 11-15, the House met for a total of 37 minutes while the Senate met for a total of two hours and 31 minutes.