By Bob Katzen
THE HOUSE AND SENATE: Beacon Hill Roll Call records local representatives' votes on two roll calls from the week of May 26-30. There were no roll calls in the Senate last week.
$145 MILLION SUPPLEMENTAL BUDGET (H 4081)
House 122-29, approved a $145 million supplemental budget to fund various state programs until fiscal year 2014 ends on June 30. Provisions include $526,380 for veterans' benefits, $4 million for the Department of Children and Families Department for guardianship, foster care, adoption and family preservation services, and $27.5 million for charter schools.
Supporters said the package is a fiscally responsible one that funds necessary programs including several which are running out of money.
Some opponents said this budget is just a continuation of a string of budgets that are based on the wrong priorities, excessive taxes and insufficient local aid. Others said they voted against the budget because the Democratic leadership has refused to release the details of past and future costs resulting from the collapse of the state's Health Connector website designed to comply with Obamacare.
(A "Yes" vote is for the budget. A "No" vote is against it.)
Rep. Jennifer Benson, Yes; Rep. Sheila Harrington, No
EXPAND BOSTON CONVENTION CENTER (H 4111)
House 131-19, approved and sent to the Senate a $1.1 billion borrowing bill to fund a 1.3 million square-foot expansion of the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center. There are no new taxes or fees created in the bill and funding is provided by existing fees and taxes, including a 4.25 percent tax on hotel rooms in Boston and Cambridge and a $10 fee on all car rentals in Boston.
Supporters said Massachusetts is losing substantial business from events that the Boston Convention and exhibition center is too small to accommodate. They argued the project will create 4,000 construction jobs and 2,000 new permanent jobs and generate an estimated $15 million annually in taxes and $185 million in private-sector business including restaurants, hotels and other entertainment spending.
Opponents said the state was scheduled to pay off the existing loans that built the convention center by 2034 at which point that money would be available for the state's General Fund to use on projects that will benefit residents across the state. They noted this new expansion will require the state to continue servicing the debt on the $1.1 billion project until 2050, at a loss of $5 billion of revenue that would have been available for the state.
(A "Yes" vote is for the bill. A "No" vote is against it.)
Rep. Jennifer Benson, Yes; Rep. Sheila Harrington, Yes
ALSO ON BEACON HILL
TRANSGENDER PROTECTION (H 3625): Gov. Deval Patrick signed into law a bill that would add gender identity as a group protected from discrimination in the Boston housing market. Current law prohibits discrimination in several areas including race, color, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, religion, handicap, source of income and military status.
ALLOW SUNDAY HUNTING (H 4114): The House gave initial approval to a bill that would allow deer hunting on Sundays with a bow and arrow. Current law bans any hunting on Sundays.
Supporters said it is time to abolish this puritanical ban and stop Bay State hunters from traveling to and spending money in neighboring states where Sunday hunting is legal. They argued this would create an estimated 500 new jobs and generate millions of dollars in the private sector as well as tax revenue.
Some opponents said they oppose hunting and are against adding any additional days for this barbaric practice. Others said Sunday hunting will make it dangerous for people who simply want to take nature walks and enjoy the wildlife. They cited a 2007 poll showing that 86 percent of Bay State residents support this restriction and data that 34 percent of the state's population aged 16 or older take part in bird watching, photography, hiking and other wildlife activities while just 1 percent participate in hunting.
NATIONAL GUARD (H 4109): The House gave initial approval to a new version of a measure filed by Gov. Patrick making changes in the state's National Guard system. When he originally filed the bill, Patrick said, "This bill modernizes the Guard's governing statute, which was last revised in 1953, and brings Massachusetts into conformity with the overwhelming majority of states. This legislation will facilitate the work of the Guard and strengthen the commonwealth's readiness and resiliency."
INFORMATION ABOUT BREAST RECONSTRUCTION SURGERY (H 1959): The House gave initial approval to a bill requiring all facilities that provide mastectomy surgery, lymph node dissection or a lumpectomy to provide specific information to the patient in writing prior to the patient giving consent to the procedure. The information would include the advantages and disadvantages of various reconstructive options and the coverage of these surgeries under private and state-funded health insurance.
HEAD INJURIES (H 1983): The House gave initial approval to a bill requiring physician assistants who work for public schools to annually take the interscholastic athletic head injury safety training program. This would add physician assistants to a current list required to take the training including doctors, nurses, coaches, trainers and volunteers. The key part of the training includes recognizing the symptoms of potentially catastrophic head injuries and concussions.
MOTORCYCLES (H 3055): The House gave initial approval to a bill giving motorcycle owners nine days, instead of the current seven days, to get their vehicle inspected. Supporters said the additional two days are necessary because there are not an abundance of stations that perform motorcycle inspections and riders are often not able to ride on rainy and snowy days.
PAROLE HEARINGS (H 4084): The Judiciary Committee heard testimony on a bill that would increase from every five years to every 10 years the time second-degree murderers would be granted a parole hearing once they become eligible for parole after serving 15 to 20 years. The statute on time between hearings was increased from three to five years in 1996. The bill is named "Leslie's Law" after Leslie Haynes, who was murdered by a former boyfriend in 1982.
Supporters said every five years is too frequent and subjects victims' families to the nightmare of facing the killer and testifying against the parole.
Opponents said this new law would make first- and second-degree murder almost equal and essentially eliminate the incentive for anyone to plead guilty to second-degree murder.
"There is no place for discrimination of any kind here in the City of Boston."
Boston Mayor Marty Walsh commenting on Gov. Patrick's signing into law a bill adding gender identity as a class protected from discrimination in the Boston housing market
"The gas and cigarette tax were increased in the past within a matter of months, yet we still wait 15 months later for welfare reforms."
Rep. Shaunna O'Connell, R-Taunton, urging a House-Senate conference committee to work out the differences between the House and Senate versions of welfare reform.
"We have to face our sister's murderer every five years."
Robin Haynes Teague, sister of Leslie Haynes, who was murdered by an ex-boyfriend, urging lawmakers to support a bill requiring 10 years instead of five years between parole hearings for second-degree murderers.
"If this bill passes, the second-degree guilty plea will become virtually extinct. Everyone will go to trial."
Max Stern, criminal defense attorney, testifying in opposition to the bill.
"Children in the high exposure area (Logan Airport) were three-to-four times more likely to report asthma-related symptoms compared with children in the low exposure area."
From a Massachusetts Department of Public Health study on the environmental health impacts of Logan.