By Bob Katzen

THE HOUSE AND SENATE: Beacon Hill Roll Call records the votes of local representatives on four roll calls and local senators on three roll calls from the week of June 16-20.

HIKE MINIMUM WAGE TO $11 PER HOUR (S 2195)

House 124-14, approved a conference committee version of a bill hiking the current $8 per hour minimum wage by $3 over three years to $11 per hour. The measure also makes changes in the state's unemployment insurance system and raises the minimum hourly wage for tipped employees over three years from $2.63 to $3.75. The bill was hammered out by a conference committee after the House and Senate approved different versions of it. The measure does not include a provision, originally in the Senate version, that automatically raises future wages to reflect increases in the Consumer Price Index.

Supporters said the hike would put more money into the pockets of hardworking families, create jobs and grow the economy. They noted many families are living near the poverty level despite the fact that the breadwinner works in excess of 40 hours weekly.

Some opponents said they support a smaller hike to $9.50. Others said any hike is unfair to struggling businesses that already face skyrocketing health care and energy costs and argued those costs will be passed along to the consumer.

The Senate later approved the bill on a voice vote and sent it to Gov. Deval Patrick.

(A "Yes" vote is for the minimum wage hike. A "No" vote is against it.)

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

STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS FOR SEX CRIMES AGAINST CHILDREN (H 4126)

House 147-0, approved a bill increasing the statute of limitations during which a person can file a civil suit for child sexual abuse. Current law allows victims to file a suit up until the age of 21 while the bill would increase the age to 53. The extension is retroactive for claims against actual perpetrators of abuse and prospective for others with indirect liability like supervisors.

Supporters said that many children who are victims of sexual abuse are not emotionally ready to confront the situation until many years later. They noted the bill also would help hold institutions accountable for negligent behavior in supervising perpetrators of these crimes.

The Senate approved the bill on a voice vote without a roll call. Final approval is needed in both branches before the measure goes to Gov. Patrick.

(A "Yes" vote is for the bill.)

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

PROTECT DOMESTIC WORKERS (S 2132)

House 126-22, approved a Senate-approved bill establishing a bill of rights for domestic workers in households. These include employees who perform housekeeping, house cleaning, nanny services, caretaking of sick or elderly individuals, laundering and cooking. The measure needs only additional Senate approval before it goes to the governor.

Provisions include requiring that a worker who puts in more than 40 hours per week be given a period of rest of at least 24 consecutive hours each week; mandating that all meal periods, rest periods and sleeping periods count as working time; ensuring that workers have a right to privacy; and requiring that female full-time workers receive at least eight weeks' maternity leave.

Supporters said it is long past time to ensure that these domestic workers have the same rights as all other workers across the state. They noted many are not given time off, paid appropriately or given notice before they are fired.

Some opponents said the bill gives more benefits and rights to domestic workers than those enjoyed by many other workers who work outside a home. Others said this is an example of another overreach by the government. They argued it will increase costs to hardworking families and is a slippery slope that will lead to additional bureaucracy to oversee what goes on in our homes.

(A "Yes" vote is for the bill. A "No" vote is against it.)

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

JUVENILE JUSTICE (H 4184)

House 129-16, approved and sent to the Senate a bill making juveniles convicted of first-degree murder committed between their 14th and 18th birthdays, eligible for parole after serving 20 to 25 years in prison. The measure also requires juveniles convicted of premeditated murder, with malice or extreme atrocity or cruelty, to serve between 25 to 30 years before becoming parole eligible. Another provision increases from five to 10 years the time the prisoner must wait for another parole hearing if he or she is refused parole. The bill was filed in response to last year's Supreme Judicial Court ruling that life sentences without the possibility for parole for juveniles were unconstitutional.

Supporters said this range of strict minimum sentences is a balanced approach that protects the public while recognizing the special circumstances that the court pointed out about the developmental differences between children and adults.

Some opponents said the sentences are too harsh and that the increase to 10 years between parole hearings makes them even harsher. Others said the prison time is too little and should be increased for these young murderers.

(A "Yes" vote is for the bill. A "No" vote is against it.)

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

MUST CHECK FOR ABANDONED ANIMALS (S 942)

Senate 38-0, approved a bill that would require landlords and owners who are foreclosing to check each vacated unit within five days to look for abandoned animals and to report any to the animal control officer.

Supporters cited several cases of animals being abandoned including a 2-year-old Labrador who was found dead after being left in a vacated home for several weeks. They said the bill will help protect animals and may even save their lives.

(A "Yes" vote is for the bill.)

Sen. Eileen Donoghue, Yes; Sen. James Eldridge, Yes; Sen. Jennifer Flanagan, Yes.

SHARK FINS (H 4089)

Senate 38-0, approved a House-approved bill banning the possession and sale of shark fins in the Bay State. Shark finning is the practice of cutting off the fins of sharks and then throwing them back into the ocean to die a slow and painful death.

Supporters said it is outrageous that this is done merely to make shark fin soup, an Asian delicacy. The bill is being spearheaded by Sean Lesniak, a nine-year-old boy from Lowell who was in the gallery watching the vote. Senators gave him a big ovation following the vote. Only final House and Senate approval are needed prior to the measure going to the governor.

(A "Yes" vote is for the bill.)

Sen. Eileen Donoghue, Yes; Sen. James Eldridge, Yes; Sen. Jennifer Flanagan, Yes.

CARBON MONOXIDE ALARMS (S 2215)

Senate 38-0, approved and sent to the House a bill that would expand required use of carbon monoxide alarms to schools and restaurants. Provisions include giving schools with fossil fuel burning equipment five years to retrofit their fire alarms systems to include carbon monoxide alarms and requiring them to have battery powered carbon monoxide alarms in the meantime; requiring all restaurants to integrate carbon monoxide alarms into their fire alarm systems when undergoing a significant remodeling or construction; and requiring all homes to be inspected for working carbon monoxide alarms prior to their sale or transfer.

Supporters said this long overdue bill will save lives and spare many people from this "silent killer."

(A "Yes" vote is for the bill.)

Sen. Eileen Donoghue, Yes; Sen. James Eldridge, Yes; Sen. Jennifer Flanagan, Yes.

ALSO ON BEACON HILL

TELEFUNDRAISERS ON "DO NOT CALL" LIST (H 190) -- The House gave initial approval to a bill that would add telefundraisers to the "Do Not Call Registry," which restricts telemarketing companies doing business in the state by allowing consumers to sign up for the list and fining companies up to $5,000 if they call an individual on the list. Telefundraisers are private for-profit companies that raise money for charities but also take a percentage of the money they raise. The charities themselves would not appear on the list and would still be free to call anyone.

Under the bill, the phone solicitors would be required on each phone call to state the name of the private company for which they are working and, if asked, reveal how much of the money raised actually goes to the charity. Under current law, companies are allowed to say that 100 percent of the money goes to the charity because technically it does--at least until the charity pays the company its fee and the 100 percent is reduced to as low as 20 percent.

Supporters said people, especially seniors, are being misled and fooled by these companies.

NONVIOLENT SCHOOL BEHAVIOR (H 4132) -- The House gave initial approval to a bill that would require schools to deal with non-violent and verbal on-campus behavioral problems like disorderly conduct and disturbing the peace without having the student arrested. Supporters said these minor infractions used to be dealt with outside of the criminal justice system by the school, the student and parents. They noted that arrests and trials and convictions unnecessarily jam our courthouses and harm the students by starting them out on a "school-to-prison pipeline."

JUSTICES OF THE PEACE (H 1362) -- The House gave initial approval to a bill that allows justices of the peace to advertise their services on the Internet. Current law lists specific places they can advertise including newspapers, telephone books and "other publications of general circulation" but omits the Internet because the law was written years ago. Currently a justice can be fined up to $100 for advertising online.

DUAL LIQUOR LICENSES (H 3420) -- The House rejected a bill that would allow cities and towns to issue a liquor license permitting supermarkets to sell packaged alcohol and serve alcoholic drinks inside the store. Current law prohibits any establishment from offering both at the same location. The measure was filed on behalf of Wegman's Supermarket in Northborough, which noted it is allowed to do this in other states.

Supporters say this archaic law should be changed to leave the decision up to local communities.

Opponents say the new law would damage smaller local supermarkets, restaurants and liquor stores that do not have the space to be a dual licensee.

GOOD SAMARITAN LAW (S 795) -- The House gave initial approval to a bill that would apply the current "Good Samaritan" law to engineers, architects, environmental professionals, landscape architects, planners, land surveyors, licensed site professionals and contractors who render voluntary services at the scene of a disaster or catastrophe. This would expand current law, which applies to civilians, off-duty police officers, firefighters and EMTs.

Supporters said these professionals should not be held liable if anything goes wrong as a result of their efforts to provide emergency care. They said under current law, these professionals could be sued if they give aid off-duty.

HOW LONG WAS LAST WEEK'S SESSION? During the week of June 16-20, the House met for a total of 13 hours and 36 minutes and the Senate met for a total of four hours and 21 minutes.