By Bob Katzen

THE HOUSE AND SENATE. Beacon Hill Roll Call records local representatives' votes on five roll calls from the week of June 3-7. There were no roll calls in the Senate.

Four of last week's roll calls are on proposed amendments that would impose more requirements on individuals to verify their eligibility for public housing and other state assistance.

Supporters of the amendments said that the stricter requirements would help ensure that only people who are truly eligible for these benefits will receive them. They argued it is outrageous that people can get taxpayer-funded welfare and other public assistance without producing a social security number. They noted this must be stopped so that people who are verified and struggling can get taxpayer-funded assistance.

Opponents of the amendments said they go too far and place an undue burden on some people who cannot easily provide documentation. They argued the Legislature should not micromanage the Department of Transitional Assistance which administers these programs. They noted that requiring a social security number in order to receive assistance that includes federal dollars, has already been banned by the federal government because immigrants who are here with asylum cannot produce those numbers.

APPROVE $1.4 BILLION FOR HOUSING (H 3492) -- House 150-0, approved and sent to the Senate a bill allowing Gov. Deval Patrick's administration to borrow $1.4 billion over five years for public and affordable housing.


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Provisions include $500 million to renovate and modernize many of the state's 45,000 public housing units; $55 million in loan guarantees to assist homeowners with blindness or severe disabilities to make their homes handicapped accessible; and $47 million for loans for the development of community-based housing for individuals with mental illness and intellectual disabilities.

Supporters said that Massachusetts has the 4th highest average home sale price in the nation. They noted this package will help thousands of people remain in their homes or find new affordable housing in the state. (A "Yes" vote is for the bill.)

Rep. Jennifer Benson, Yes; Rep. Sheila Harrington, Yes.

MUST HAVE SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER TO COLLECT BENEFITS (H 3492) -- House 51-98, rejected an amendment requiring that a valid social security number be shown and verified in order for a person to receive any form of housing assistance from the state. (A "Yes" vote is for requiring a social security number. A "No" vote is against requiring it.)

Rep. Jennifer Benson, No; Rep. Sheila Harrington, Yes.

MUST BE CITIZENS OR RESIDENTS (H 3492) -- House 48-102, rejected an amendment prohibiting anyone who is not a citizen or resident of Massachusetts from receiving any state public assistance. The amendment also requires that any residents have proper verifiable documents or identification from their country of origin. (A "Yes" vote is for the prohibition. A "No" vote is against it.)

Rep. Jennifer Benson, No; Rep. Sheila Harrington, Yes.

DECLARING RESIDENCY NOT VALID (H 3492) -- House 43-107, rejected an amendment providing that "self-declaration of residency" not be accepted as a valid form of residency verification for people seeking taxpayer-funded benefits from the state. (A "Yes" vote is for requiring more than self-declaration. A "No" vote is against requiring it.)

Rep. Jennifer Benson, No; Rep. Sheila Harrington, Yes.

MUST ALSO BE ELIGIBLE UNDER FEDERAL GUIDELINES (H 3492) -- House 123-27, approved an amendment prohibiting anyone who is ineligible for federal assisted housing to displace or be given priority over any applicants who are eligible under both state and federal guidelines. Federal eligibility standards and proof of identity for housing assistance are stricter than state standards. (A "Yes" vote is for the prohibition. A "No" vote is against it.)

Rep. Jennifer Benson, Yes; Rep. Sheila Harrington, Yes. 

ALSO ON BEACON HILL

RAW MILK SALES (H 717) -- The Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture held a hearing on legislation that would allow licensed raw milk farmers to deliver raw milk directly to the consumer. Current law allows only the on-farm sale of raw milk. The bill would also allow farmers to sell raw milk to consumers through third-party cooperative buying clubs. This would allow consumers to join together and have the milk delivered to a nearby location so each individual consumer does not have to travel miles to the few farms that sell on-site.

ABORTIONS FOR WOMEN UNDER 18 (S 999) -- The Public Health Committee heard testimony from both sides of a measure that would give women under 18 more options to have an abortion. Current law prohibits abortion without parental consent or a court order. The bill would allow abortions with the consent of a doctor, physician assistant, nurse, psychologist, social worker or family member over 25. Supporters said this simply gives more options to girls who don't have good relationships with their parents. Opponents said the bill goes too far, undermines parental rights and will make access to abortion even easier.

ANESTHETIZE FETUS (H 1930) -- The Public Health Committee's agenda also including a proposal that would prohibit doctors from performing an abortion without first anesthetizing the fetus, unless the mother asks not to have it anesthetized. The bill exempts other circumstances from the requirement, including if the anesthesia would cause serious risk of life or harm to the mother and if the woman has been pregnant less than 20 weeks. Supporters said this will help prevent the fetus from feeling any pain. Opponents said the bill goes too far and is unnecessary.

GOOD SAMARITAN BILL (S 829) -- The House gave initial approval to a Senate-approved bill that would protect off-duty firefighters and EMTs from liability when providing emergency care. The current "Good Samaritan" law only protects civilian bystanders who are not trained in emergency response. Supporters said the bill is long overdue and has gained more support since the Boston Marathon, in which hundreds of off-duty personnel were running in the race and then responded immediately after the bombing. They noted that under current law, these firefighters and EMTs would have been liable if anything went wrong as a result of their efforts to provide care.

EXPAND VALEDICTORIAN TUITION WAIVER PROGRAM (H 1070) -- The Higher Education Committee's June 19 hearing in Room A-2 at the Statehouse will include a proposal expanding the current program that waives the tuition cost for any high school valedictorian who attends a state university. The measure would also waive the mandatory fees. The average annual tuition cost is $1,700 while the fees are $12,000.

Sponsors say that current law offering valedictorians a $1,700 discount is not likely to lure them to the state's system of public higher education because they still have to pay the other $12,000.

QUOTABLE QUOTES

"We have people on wait lists. It is crazy for our residents not to be first on the list. The hard-working families in my district are tired of their tax dollars going to people who are not legal residents of our country."

Rep. Geoff Diehl (R-Whitman) on his proposal requiring a valid social security number in order for a person to receive any form of housing assistance from the state.

"Massachusetts Housing Partnership found that a 2012 state law that requires banks to notify borrowers of their rights to pursue a loan modification before foreclosing is contributing to this precipitous drop."

Timothy Warren, Jr., CEO of The Warren Group, on the 79 percent decrease in the number of foreclosure petitions statewide, from 1,750 in April 2012 to 370 in April 2013.

HOW LONG WAS LAST WEEK'S SESSION? During the week of June 3-7, the House met for a total of six hours and 20 minutes while the Senate met for a total of 38 minutes.