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Beacon Hill Roll Call, Week Ending Sept. 8, 2017



Beacon Hill Roll Call
Tuesday, September 12, 2017
THE HOUSE AND SENATE

There were no roll calls in the House or Senate last week.

This week, Beacon Hill Roll Call looks at the handful of major legislation that was approved by the Legislature and signed into law so far by Gov. Charlie Baker in 2017.

In the first eight months of the 2017 session, only 79 bills out of more than 6,000 filed have been approved by the House and Senate and signed into law by Gov. Charlie Baker.

Thirty-five of those were local bills dealing with an individual city or town and 29 were on sick leave banks for individual state workers. Sick leave banks allow employees to voluntarily donate sick, personal or vacation days to a pool for use by ill fellow state workers so they can get paid while on medical leave.

Of the 15 remaining, 10 ranged from supplemental budgets and extending simulcast racing to designating May as Seatbelt Awareness Month and the first week in August as Ice Bucket Challenge week.

The remaining five are five major key issues that came to a roll call vote in both branches and were signed into law by Baker.

Here they are:

$18 MILLION IN PAY HIKES (S 16) —On Feb. 2, the House 116-43, Senate 31-9, overrode Gov. Charlie Baker’s veto of an $18 million pay raise package including hikes for senators, representatives, judges, court clerks, the governor and the other five statewide constitutional office holders.

The measure increases the salaries of the two leaders who filed the bill, House Speaker Robert DeLeo, D-Winthrop, and Senate President Stan Rosenberg, D-Amherst, by $45,000 from $97,547 to $142,547. The measure also hikes the pay of the Legislature’s two Republican leaders, Sen. Bruce Tarr, R-Gloucester, and Rep. Bradley Jones, R-North Reading, by $37,500 from $85,047 to $122,547. Another provision hikes the salaries of the state’s judges by $25,000 and of court clerks over an 18-month period.

The proposal raises the governor’s salary by $33,200, from $151,800 to $185,000; the lieutenant governor by $30,068, from $134,932 to $165,000; secretary of state by $34,738 from $130,262 to $165,000; treasurer by $47,083 from $127,917 to $175,000; auditor by $30,048 from $134,952 to $165,000; and the attorney general by $44,418 from $130,582 to $175,000. It also bans the six constitutional officers and the House speaker and Senate president from earning outside income, other than passive income from investments.

“Given the current fiscal outlook for the state, now is not the time to expend additional funds on elected officials’ salaries,” Baker said. “This bill is the result of a hasty process that included little substantive debate or time for public comment.”

Supporters said that only $1.4 million is for the legislative pay raises while the remainder is for hikes for constitutional officers, judges and court clerks. They said that the hikes will be entirely paid for from existing funds with no net new cost to taxpayers. They noted many of these legislative salaries are still lower than the average salary of school superintendents and town managers in most communities.

The pay raise package made it through the Legislature at lightning speed. It was only Thursday, Jan. 18, when the temporary Joint Committee on Ways and Means held a brief one-hour hearing on a December 2014 report of the Special Advisory Commission on the Compensation of Public Officials. At that point, DeLeo and Rosenberg had not yet appointed members of any committees so a temporary Ways and Means Committee was hastily appointed and assembled for the hearing. The hearing was convened with less than 72 hours notice to the public. Then just a week later on Jan. 25, a pay raise package was approved.

Rosenberg defended the bill. “We followed overall the recommendations of the independent commission, that was appointed two years ago,” he said. “They came back and said that the constitutional officers’ salaries are out of line with national salaries and ought to be increased ... Fair minded people will consider the fact that the stipends for the presiding officers have not changed for 33 years. Who works for the same amount 33 years later?”

The commission was chaired by Ira Jackson, Dean of the John W. McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies at UMass Boston. Other members were from the League of Women Voters, Mass. Taxpayers Foundation, Massachusetts Business Roundtable, University of Massachusetts President’s Office and the Simmons College of Management.

“The Advisory Commission conducted a transparent, open, data-driven review of the current compensation of public officials and developed a series of major reforms and recommendations based on its research, as well as input from the public,” said Jackson.

An excerpt from the report sums up the commission’s findings. “After extensive analysis and fact finding, the Special Commission concludes that the compensation of the commonwealth’s constitutional officers and legislative leadership is generally outdated and inadequate.”

The report continued, “Massachusetts state government is the instrument through which we govern ourselves as a commonwealth. It is a large and complex organization that provides vital services that affect every citizen, and as such it needs to attract talented, publicly spirited and honest individuals from diverse socio-economic and geographic backgrounds to fulfill its mission of serving every citizen. In recent years, state government has increasingly been asked and expected to provide more and better services with fewer resources. A greater premium is placed on efficiency and effectiveness in government today than in the past, and there is a greater need for modern management practices in all of its aspects.”

“The Beacon Hill power brokers robbed the taxpayers,” said Rep. Jim Lyons, R-Andover. “They voted to increase their salaries by over 50 percent. The Republican caucus voted unanimously against this thievery and abuse of power. We must end one-party rule on Beacon Hill.”

“This wasn’t myself just thinking during the Christmas holiday that this would be a good thing to do,” said DeLeo. “This is something which I’ve been hearing about for years from constitutional officers. I’ve been hearing from House members and Senate members and an awful lot of folks.”

Chip Ford, executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation, said, “These cynical actions demonstrate that when the leadership and enough beholden members in the Legislature want something badly enough ― they just take it. Disguising it as something at all legitimate required a whole two days.” Ford continued, “There was little if any trickery and manipulation that didn’t go into this shameless effort on behalf of legislative leadership and others with much to gain.”

“Strange — no one’s talking about the effect these raises will have on bringing out more candidates against incumbents,” said Sen. Michael Barrett, D-Lexington, who supported the raises. “It’s going to happen. These are the first salary adjustments in recent memory big enough to draw the interest of potential competitors employed in the private sector today.”

Paul Craney, executive director of the Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance said, “The move sends the worst type of message. Good work should be rewarded but there’s no good in this. Salaries and pensions will go up for these lawmakers and they’ll be quick to call for more tax hikes.”

“These are serious jobs,” said Sen. Will Brownsberger, D-Belmont. “And you want people to compete for these jobs and you don’t want these guys under financial strain. You’re talking about the legislative leaders, you don’t want them under financial strain any more than you want a police officer walking the beat under financial strain.”

“I don’t think anyone that works in the Legislature as a representative or senator is struggling to put food on their table or get health care for their families,” responded Rep. Shauna O’Connell, R-Taunton. “And we have people in Massachusetts that are struggling. We have a budget deficit right now. And the first thing that we go in and do, the very first session we have, is to vote on a substantial pay raise.”

In 1998, voters approved by a 2-to-1 margin a constitutional amendment requiring governors to calculate and announce an increase or decrease in legislative salaries every two years. The specific language requires legislative salaries to be “increased or decreased at the same rate as increases or decreases in the median household income for the commonwealth for the preceding two-year period, as ascertained by the governor.”

Under that formula, legislators’ salaries were increased by $2,515 for the 2017-2018 legislative session. The current base pay for legislators is now $62,547. That hike came on the heels of a salary freeze for the 2015-2016 legislative session, a $1,100 pay cut for the 2013-2014 session and a $306 pay cut for the 2011-2012 session. Prior to 2011, legislators’ salaries had been raised every two years since the $46,410 base pay was first raised under the constitutional amendment in 2001.

The new $62,547 salary means legislative salaries have been raised $16,137, or 34.8 percent, since the mandated salary adjustment became part of the state constitution.

(A “Yes” vote is for overriding Gov. Baker’s veto and is for the pay raise. A “No” vote is against overriding the governor’s veto and is against the pay raise.)

Rep. Stephen Kulik, Yes

Rep. Paul Mark, Yes

Rep. Susannah Whipps, No

Sen. Adam Hinds, Yes

Sen. Stanley Rosenberg, Yes

$200 MILLION FOR LOCAL ROADS AND BRIDGES (H 3648) — House 159-0, Senate 36-0, approved and on May 4 Gov. Baker signed into law a bill authorizing $200 million in one-time funding for the maintenance and repair of local roads and bridges in cities and towns across the state. The package is a bond bill under which the funding would be borrowed by the state through the sale of bonds.

The measure also authorizes $70 million for the completion of the ATLAS, the Registry of Motor Vehicles’ technology system that will replace an archaic system that is 30 years old and difficult to maintain and use.

(A “Yes” vote is for the bill.)

Rep. Stephen Kulik, Yes

Rep. Paul Mark, Yes

Rep. Susannah Whipps, Yes

Sen. Adam Hinds, Yes

Sen. Stanley Rosenberg, Yes

$40.2 BILLION FISCAL 2018 STATE BUDGET (H 3800) — House 140-9, Senate 36-2, approved and on July 11 Gov. Baker signed into law a conference committee version of a $40.2 billion fiscal 2018 state budget to cover state spending from July 1, 2017 to June 30, 2018. The governor vetoed $320.3 million in spending. The Legislature has yet to override any of the vetoes.

(A “Yes” vote is for the budget. A “No” vote is against it.)

Rep. Stephen Kulik, Yes

Rep. Paul Mark, Yes

Rep. Susannah Whipps, Yes

Sen. Adam Hinds, Yes

Sen. Stanley Rosenberg, Yes

FAIRNESS FOR PREGNANT WORKERS (H 3816) — House 150-0, Senate 38-0, approved and on July 27 Gov. Baker signed into law the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act that prohibits an employer from discriminating against, refusing to employ or firing a woman because she is pregnant or has a condition related to pregnancy.

The measure guarantees reasonable accommodations and safety measures for pregnant mothers. Reasonable accommodations include time off to recover from childbirth; more frequent, longer paid or unpaid breaks; acquiring or modifying equipment or seating arrangements; and a private non-bathroom space for expressing breast milk – unless any of these would create an undue hardship on the employer.

(A “Yes” vote is for the bill.)

Rep. Stephen Kulik, Yes

Rep. Paul Mark, Yes

Rep. Susannah Whipps, Yes

Yes Sen. Adam Hinds, Yes

Sen. Stanley Rosenberg, Yes

REGULATE MARIJUANA (H 3818) — House 136-11, Senate 32-6, approved and on July 28, Gov. Baker signed into law a bill changing some provisions and adding other provisions to the law, approved by voters on the 2016 ballot, legalizing the possession, growing and sale of marijuana.

The measure taxes all marijuana sales with a 10.75 percent excise tax, 6.25 percent state sales tax and a local option allowing cities and towns to impose an additional tax of up to 3 percent. In addition, any agreement between a retail marijuana establishment and a host community for the first five years may include a community impact fee of up to another 3 percent paid by the seller to the city or town to cover the costs imposed upon the municipality by the operation of the establishment. Medical marijuana remains tax-free.

If a city or town voted for the 2016 marijuana ballot question, the decision to prohibit or restrict marijuana establishments will be determined by a local city or town wide referendum.

If a city or town voted against the ballot question, the decision would be made by the municipality’s governing body until December 2019 and then by a local city or town wide referendum.

Other key provisions of the new law include:

Allowing persons over 21 to give an ounce or less of marijuana to others; possess up to one ounce of marijuana outside their home and ten ounces in their home. Any quantity above one ounce in the home must be under lock and key.

Allowing each person to grow six plants per person in his or her home, with a maximum of 12 plants per household.

Prohibiting plants that can be visible by neighbors or from a public place and putting growing areas under lock and key.

Giving landlords the right to prohibit smoking or growing of marijuana on their properties.

Allowing advertising on TV, radio, billboard, print or the Internet only in markets where at least 85 percent of the audience is over 21.

Banning retail shops from being located near school zones.

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

Rep. Stephen Kulik, Yes

Rep. Paul Mark, Yes

Rep. Susannah Whipps, Yes

Sen. Adam Hinds, Yes

Sen. Stanley Rosenberg, Yes