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.
RESTORATION OF LOCAL AID CUTS (H 3514)
House 13-139, rejected an amendment that would restore more than $17 million in local aid cuts that Gov. Deval Patrick had imposed in December 2012. Funding that would be restored includes $5.25 million for the homeless student transportation account, $1.3 million for veterans' benefits reimbursements and $1 million for charter school reimbursements.
Amendment supporters said that at the time of the cuts, the governor said they were necessary because state revenue were below projections. They noted that has changed and the state has taken in over $575 million above projections, some of which should be used to fund local police and firefighters.
Some said Gov. Patrick has already restored some of these funds on his own. Others noted the amendment is unconstitutional because it would essentially take away the constitutional power of the governor to unilaterally make these cuts.
(A "Yes" vote is for restoring the money. A "No" vote is against restoration.)
Rep. Jennifer Benson, No; Rep. Sheila Harrington, No.
ENSURE THE FEDS PAY FOR OBAMACARE (H 3452)
House 34-116, rejected an amendment that would prohibit any state funds, personnel, offices, facilities or any other state assets from being used to implement and operate Obamacare.
Amendment supporters said this will ensure that the state does not get stuck with a huge bill for Obamacare, which will be taking precedence over Romneycare that was implemented in 2006 and is working fine.
Amendment opponents said this sets a dangerous precedent that might lead the state to refuse to pay for any unfunded federal mandates. They said the state should be willing to spend some money to ensure the availability of health care across the state.
(A "Yes" vote is for prohibiting the use of state funds and assets. A "No" vote is against the ban.)
Rep. Jennifer Benson, No; Rep. Sheila Harrington, Yes.
EMERGENCY MORTGAGE ASSISTANCE PROGRAM (H 3492)
House 27-124, rejected an amendment creating an emergency mortgage assistance payment program. The program would provide loans to homeowners who are more than 60 days delinquent on their mortgage and meet other qualifications.
Amendment supporters said this program would help homeowners who are in difficult financial situations often because they lost their jobs. They noted it will help prevent many foreclosures.
Amendment opponents said the state cannot afford this well-intentioned program.
(A "Yes" vote is for the assistance program. A "No" vote is against it.)
Rep. Jennifer Benson, No; Rep. Sheila Harrington, Yes.
ALSO ON BEACON HILL
It was a busy week for committees, which held public hearings on hundreds of bills, including these 10 proposals.
CANNOT CONFISCATE GUNS (S 1156) -- Prohibits police and other law enforcement officers from confiscating any lawfully owned firearm, rifle or shotgun during a declared state of emergency.
FAKE WEAPONS (S 1159) -- Makes an offender who uses a "deceptive weapon" to commit a violent crime subject to the same punishment as if the weapon were real. Deceptive weapons include air guns, toy guns and anything carved or fashioned to resemble a weapon.
BULLET-PROOF VESTS (H 2198) -- Requires stores to keep a written record of the transaction, including the name, address, phone number and date of birth of any customer who purchases bullet-proof vests or other body armor.
BAN HARSH CLEANING PRODUCTS (H 2066) -- Prohibits cleaning products from being used in any school unless the product is included on the list of safer cleaning products established by the Department of Public Health. The list would include cleaning products that are "environmentally preferable" and do not contain ingredients that the public health commissioner has determined are asthma-causing agents. Students and school employees who have an adverse reaction to the environmentally preferable products may request that the school switch to yet another product.
STUDENT BEHAVIOR (S 631) -- Decriminalizes certain nonviolent and verbal behavior of students.
PROHIBIT TRANSGENDER DISCRIMINATION (H 1589) -- Provides transgender people equal access to all public accommodations defined as "a place, whether licensed or unlicensed, which is open to and accepts or solicits the patronage of the general public." The Legislature approved a law in 2011 that outlaws discrimination in employment, education, housing and credit.
AGE TO BUY TOBACCO (S 658) -- Raises from 18 to 19 the minimum age at which a person can purchase cigarettes or other tobacco products.
READ E-MAILS OF DECEASED (S 702) -- Allows access by family members and others legally in charge of the estates of individuals to the e-mail accounts of their late loved ones. The bill requires companies like Gmail, Hotmail and AOL to provide access if a probate court order is issued or a certified representative of the late owner of the account presents a notarized written request and a death certificate. The access would supersede any of the e-mail provider's contractual terms and privacy policies but would not take precedent over any instructions in the individual's will.
PROHIBIT SPRAY PAINT (S 804) -- Prohibits minors under the age of 17 from possessing spray paint if they intend to use it to create graffiti. Violators would be punished by up to two years in prison and/or a $250 fine. The measure also imposes a $500 fine on anyone who sells spray paint to a minor under 17.
PIRATE RADIO (H 1679) -- Gives the Massachusetts Attorney General the authority to shut down pirate radio stations that are broadcasting illegally and often interfere with existing stations.
HOW LONG WAS LAST WEEK'S SESSION? During the week of July 8-12, the House met for a total of 19 minutes while the Senate met for a total of one hour and 37 minutes.