By Bob Katzen
THE HOUSE AND SENATE: Beacon Hill Roll Call records the votes of local representatives and local senators on two roll calls from the week of July 1-5.
$34 BILLION FISCAL 2014 STATE BUDGET (H 3538)
House 124-29, Senate 36-3, approved and sent to Gov. Deval Patrick an estimated $34 billion state budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2013. The price tag is up $1.5 billion from last year's $32.5 billion package. The budget is depending on a $500 million plus tax package that has been approved by the Legislature but has not yet been signed by the governor.
Supporters said the budget is a fiscally responsible and balanced one that funds important programs to the best of the state's ability during this difficult economy.
Opponents said the budget is excessive and also relies on a $500 million plus tax hike. Some noted that the package does not include sufficient reform of the welfare system to reduce fraud and ensure that electronic benefit transfer (EBT) cards are used only for necessities and by those who qualify for them.
(A "Yes" vote is for the budget. 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.
$134 MILLION FISCAL 2013 SUPPLEMENTAL BUDGET (H 3539)
House 153-0, Senate 39-0, approved a $134 million supplemental budget designed to close out the books on fiscal 2013, which ended on June 30. The measure requires a photo identification on all EBT cards used by welfare recipients.
Other provisions include $55.7 million to cover the remainder of snow and ice costs from last winter; $500,000 to fund Welcome Home bonuses for soldiers; one-time reimbursement reserve for cities and towns facing unanticipated costs related to extreme weather including communities impacted by Hurricane Irene; $200,000 to establish a reserve fund to provide for home modifications for victims of the Boston Marathon bombings and funding to ensure the family of slain MIT police officer Sean Collier is eligible for Line of Duty benefits.
Supporters said the package is fiscally responsible and that it funds necessary programs including several which are running out of money.
(A "Yes" vote is for the budget.)
Rep. Jennifer Benson, Yes; Rep. Sheila Harrington, Yes; Sen. Eileen Donoghue,Yes; Sen. James Eldridge, Yes; Sen. Jennifer Flanagan, Yes.
ALSO ON BEACON HILL
GOVERNOR AND LEGISLATIVE LEADERS CLASH ON TAXES -- Gov. Patrick returned the transportation financing bill, including its $500 million plus tax hikes, to the Legislature with an amendment. The bill includes a 3-cent-per-gallon increase in the state's current 21-cent-per-gallon gas tax, which, beginning in 2015, would also be indexed to inflation; a $1 hike in the current $2.51-per-package cigarette tax; an increase in the tax on cigars and smokeless tobacco; a change in the way utilities are classified for tax purposes; a new 6.25 percent sales tax on computer system design services as well as services to modify prewritten software; and reinstatement of tolls at exits 1 through 6 on the Massachusetts Turnpike in Western Massachusetts.
Patrick's amendment would impose an additional gas tax hike, estimated at between 3 or 4 cents per gallon, in 2017 if the tolls from Newton to the New York border come down as planned, eliminating $135 million in tax revenue. Senate President Therese Murray and House Speaker Robert DeLeo both oppose the additional hike, which basically means it is "dead on arrival."
MORE HEARINGS SCHEDULED -- Here are some upcoming hearings at the Statehouse at which the public may weigh in on proposed laws.
SENIOR CITIZENS SAFETY ZONE (S 77) -- Room A-2 on July 18 at 10 a.m. The Committee on Community Development and Small Businesses. Allows cities and towns to double speeding fines in areas adjacent to nursing homes, assisted living facilities, hospitals and senior housing and community centers.
BAN SEXUAL ORIENTATION CONVERSION THERAPY (H 154) -- Room B-1 on July 16 at 1 p.m. The Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities. Prohibits psychiatrists and other mental health professionals from providing conversion therapy to lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender minors under 18 designed to change their sexual orientation or gender identity. Supporters of the ban say there is evidence this type of therapy can pose significant risks of self-destructive behavior and argued there is no sound evidence that it works.
NO ROBOCALLS TO CELLPHONES (S 131) -- Room A-1 on July 16 at 1 p.m. Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure. Prohibits robocalls to cellphones and other mobile electronic devices. The measure exempts messages from school districts to students, parents or employees; from companies advising employees of work schedules; from correctional facilities advising victims of paroles and furloughs of offenders; and from municipalities and state government.
HOW LONG WAS LAST WEEK'S SESSION? During the week of July 1-5, the House met for a total of two hours and 59 minutes while the Senate met for a total of three hours and eight minutes.