By Bob Katzen
THE HOUSE AND SENATE. There were no roll call votes in the House or Senate last week. The House and Senate are meeting only in brief, informal sessions until January and there will not be any additional roll calls until that time. This week, Beacon Hill Roll Call reports local senators' final roll call attendance records for the 2013 session.
The Senate held 232 roll call votes in 2013. Beacon Hill Roll Call tabulates the number of roll calls on which each senator was present and voting and then calculates that number as a percentage of the total roll call votes held. That percentage is the number referred to as the roll call attendance record.
Only 15 of the Senate's 40 members have 100 percent roll call attendance records.
The senator who missed the most roll calls is Sen. Harriette Chandler, D-Worcester, who missed 48 roll calls (79.3 percent attendance).
The second-worst record belongs to Sen. Marc Pacheco, D-Taunton, who missed 24 roll calls (89.6 percent attendance).
Third-worst belongs to Sen. Linda Dorcena Forry, D-Boston, who missed 23 roll calls (84.9 percent attendance). Her record is based on only 153 roll calls because she won a special election and did not enter the Senate until June.
Rounding out the top five worst are Sens. Cynthia Stone Creem, D-Newton, and Benjamin Downing, D-Pittsfield, who both missed 18 roll calls (92.2 percent attendance).
SENATORS' FINAL 2013 ROLL CALL ATTENDANCE RECORDS
The percentage listed next to the senator's name is the percentage of roll call votes for which the senator was present and voting. The number in parentheses represents the number of roll calls that the senator missed.
Sen. Eileen Donoghue, 100 percent (0); Sen. James Eldridge, 99.5 percent (1), Sen. Jennifer Flanagan, 97.8 percent (5).
ALSO ON BEACON HILL
AUTOMATIC TAX CUT ON JAN. 1 -- The state's Department of Revenue confirmed that sufficient economic growth in 2013 under the terms of a 2002 law will result in a tax cut for millions of Bay State taxpayers beginning in 2014. The cut will come from a reduction in the income tax rate and long term capital gains tax from 5.25 to 5.2 percent effective Jan. 1, 2014. This is only the second year that this automatic tax cut was triggered. The first time was in 2011 and resulted in a tax cut in 2012.
The tax cuts do not need the approval of the Legislature. They are part of a system devised by the Legislature when it approved a $1 billion-plus tax hike package in 2002. The package set the long term capital gains tax at 5.3 percent and froze the income tax rate at 5.3 percent instead of allowing it to drop to 5 percent in January 2003 -- a reduction that was approved by voters in 2000. The 2002 law also includes an automatic trigger that reduces both taxes by one-half of one percent each year that the state's economic growth is at least 2.5 percent until each tax is reduced to five percent. The 2013 growth is 3.99 percent. The Department of Revenue estimates that the tax cuts will reduce state revenue by $65 million in fiscal year 2014 and $132.5 million in fiscal year 2015.
2014 BALLOT QUESTIONS -- Sponsors of several possible ballot questions in the November 2014 election say they have filed more than the required 69,911 signatures, certified by local election officials, with the secretary of state as part of the long process to get their proposed law on the ballot. If the signatures are certified by the secretary of state, the question would then be sent to the Legislature and if not approved by May 6, 2014, proponents must gather another 11,485 signatures by July 2, 2014, in order for the question to appear on the November ballot.
Questions include repealing the indexing of the gas tax to inflation, limiting the number of patients a nurse can care for at one time, expanding the state's existing beer and soda bottle deposit law to require a deposit on bottles of most other carbonated and noncarbonated beverages, making casino gambling illegal, hiking the minimum wage from $8 per hour to $10.50 per hour and requiring employers to give sick days to employees.
The voters in 2012 approved ballot questions that allow medical use of marijuana and require auto manufacturers to sell to nondealer repair shops complete repair information and diagnostic tools. They rejected a proposal to allow terminally ill patients with fewer than six months to live to obtain medication they can self-administer to commit suicide.
REQUIRE TRAINING AND EDUCATION FOR LOCAL BOARDS (S 1092) -- The Public Health Committee held a hearing on legislation that would require members of local boards of health, conservation commissions, planning boards, and zoning boards of appeal to take an annual free education and training course developed by the state.
BODY PIERCING AND TATTOOS (H 1889) -- The Public Health Committee's hearing also included a proposal that would direct the Department of Public Health to establish rules and regulations for the licensing and regulation of body piercing and tattoos. Supporters say the measure will create a statewide law to ensure sanitary and safe body piercing and tattoo practices. They noted that currently individual cities and towns regulate the practice, creating a hodge podge of regulations that vary across the state.
ACCUSED KILLERS (S 1950) -- The Senate approved a new version of a measure that would prohibit the next of kin charged with the murder of a spouse or other family member from claiming the body. The proposal also allows the accused murderer to appeal the denial to a Probate and Family Court and requires the court to act on the appeal within two days. The House has approved a different version of the bill. The Senate version now goes to the House for consideration
The legislation is championed by Ginny Marcheterre, whose 19-year-old daughter Heather was murdered in 2010. Funeral services for Heather were delayed for more than a month because Kyle Alleyne, her daughter's husband, the alleged killer, refused to release the rights to her body. A court eventually ruled that the mother and family had legal rights to Heather's body. In February, Alleyne was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
HOW LONG WAS LAST WEEK'S SESSION? During the week of Dec. 2-6, the House met for a total of 44 minutes while the Senate met for a total of 15 minutes.