Beacon Hill Roll Call: Dec. 20 to Dec. 24, 2021

  • Eggs and a hen in the laying boxes lining the walls of the hen house at Diemand Farm in Wendell. The House and Senate approved and Gov. Charlie Baker signed into law a conference committee version of legislation that would make changes and put Massachusetts in line with other larger egg-producing states that have put in place standards for hen confinement. “Fortunately, the egg producers and animal welfare groups have come together to agree on this legislation, ensuring safe and humane conditions for egg-laying hens and affordable eggs for Massachusetts consumers,” said Senate sponsor Sen. Jason Lewis, D-Winchester. Staff File Photo/Paul Franz

Published: 12/30/2021 3:07:17 PM
Modified: 12/30/2021 3:06:48 PM

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

This week, Beacon Hill Roll Call reports on the number of times in the 2021 session each senator sided with Republican Gov. Charlie Baker and voted to sustain the governor’s 25 vetoes of items, mostly in the fiscal year 2022 state budget. A vote to sustain means the senator supports Baker’s veto. A vote to override means the senator voted to fund the item despite the governor’s veto.

The current makeup of the Senate is 36 Democrats, three Republicans and one vacant seat. A two-thirds vote is required to override a gubernatorial veto in a full 40-member Senate when there are no vacancies. The governor needs the support of 14 senators to sustain a veto if all 40 senators voted — and fewer votes if some members are absent or there are vacancies.

Baker fell far short of that goal as six votes was the most support he received on any veto. The Senate easily overrode all 25 vetoes, including five that were overridden unanimously.

The vetoes had no support from 30 of the 36 Democrats who never once voted to sustain Baker’s veto. Only six Democratic senators voted to sustain any of the governor’s vetoes. The Democrat who voted the most times with Baker to sustain his veto is Sen. Walter Timilty, D-Milton, who voted with Baker four times. Sen. Marc Pacheco, D-Taunton, voted with Baker twice. Sens. Sonia Chang-Díaz, D-Boston, Diana DiZoglio, D-Methuen, Jason Lewis, D-Winchester, and Mike Rodrigues, D-Westport, each voted with Baker once.

None of the three Republicans voted with Baker 100% of the time. The Republican senator who voted the greatest number of times with Baker was Sen. Ryan Fattman, R-Sutton, who voted with Baker 17 times (68.0% of the time). Sen. Patrick O’Connor, R-Weymouth, voted with Baker only five times (20.0%), the least number of times among Republicans. Even Republican Minority Leader Bruce Tarr, R-Gloucester, only supported Baker 14 times (56.0%).

The percentage next to the senator’s name represents the percentage of times he or she supported Baker. The number in parentheses represents the actual number of times the senator supported Baker.

Sen. Joanne Comerford — 0% (0)

Sen. Anne Gobi — 0% (0)

Sen. Adam Hinds — 0% (0)

Also up on Beacon HillCorporations must pay higher taxes if CEO’s salary is more than 100 times that of median worker’s salary (S 1907)

The Revenue Committee held a virtual hearing that would require an additional 2% tax be paid by publicly-traded corporations that pay the CEO more than 100 times the median worker’s salary.

“In 1955, chief executives earned about 11 times more than their employees,” said sponsor Sen. Jason Lewis, D-Winchester. “By 2019, according to the Economic Policy Institute, the ratio of CEO-to-typical-worker compensation reached an obscene level of 320-to-1. The dramatic rise in CEO pay along with the anemic growth in worker pay over the past several decades is a major contributor to the destabilizing income and wealth inequality that plagues our commonwealth and country. This bill would be a small step in addressing income inequality and advancing economic justice for working people.”

Eliminate the $456 minimum excise tax for corporations (H 2954)

The Revenue Committee held a virtual hearing on legislation that would eliminate the $456 minimum excise tax for business corporations.

“The minimum tax has no bearing on the ability of a corporation to pay, which means that large, multi-national corporations and small, newly created corporations are held to the same tax standards,” said sponsor House Minority Leader Rep. Brad Jones, R-North Reading. “Eliminating the minimum excise tax would provide assistance to and encourage business formation in the commonwealth, exerting positive effects on the state’s key economic indicators.”

Tax credit for taxpayers who get COVID-19 vaccinations (H 2865)

The Revenue Committee will hold a virtual hearing on Jan. 4, 2022 on a proposal that would provide taxpayers with a tax credit of $100 if the filer has received COVID-19 vaccinations and includes proof with his or her tax return.

“To successfully combat the COVID-19 virus, we should use a range of tools to reach the highest possible level of vaccination in our population, recognizing the distinct economic value of doing so,” said sponsor Vince Dixon, a private citizen who sponsored the bill through Rep. Michael Day, D-Stoneham. “A vaccination tax credit specifically offers an economic incentive to individuals who go through the effort of receiving vaccinations — in effect, sharing the important economic value of such actions. In doing so, it will likely improve, even further, the respect for the value of safe and approved vaccinations.”

Rep. Day filed the bill at Dixon’s request. Massachusetts is one of a handful of states that give citizens the “right of free petition” — the power to propose their own legislation. A citizen’s proposal must be filed in conjunction with his or her representative or senator or any other representative or senator. Sometimes a legislator will support the legislation and will sponsor it along with the constituent. Other times, a legislator might disagree with the bill or be undecided about the measure, but will file it anyway as a courtesy. In those cases, the bill is listed as being filed “by request” — indicating that the legislator is doing so at the constituent’s request and does not necessarily support it.

Exempt masks, face shields and gloves from sales tax (H 2847)

The Revenue Committee’s virtual hearing on Jan. 4, 2022 will also include a proposal that would exempt masks, face shields, medical gloves and smocks from the state’s 6.25% sales tax.

“These products are in high demand and are going for record-high prices,” said sponsor Rep. Tackey Chan, D-Quincy. “Exempting them from the sales tax helps keep them accessible, which is especially important when we continue to encourage residents to wear masks in indoor public spaces.”

Abolish the estate tax/death tax (S 1862 and S 1942)

The Revenue Committee will hold a virtual hearing on Jan. 12, 2022 on separate bills sponsored by Sens. Ryan Fattman, R-Sutton, and Patrick O’Connor, R-Weymouth, that would abolish the tax that the estate of a person with assets of more than $1 million is required to pay following their death before distribution to any beneficiary.

The first $1 million is exempt from this tax and the tax on anything over $1 million is a graduated one that ranges from 0.8% to 16%. This tax applies to the entire estate value, not just the portion above the $1 million mark. Most Republicans are against the tax and coined the name “death tax” to imply that the government taxes you even after you die. Most Democrats support the tax and call it an “estate tax” to imply that this tax is only paid by the wealthy.

“The threshold for the estate tax in Massachusetts is much lower than what is already taxed at the federal level — $1 million compared to $12 million federally,” Fattman said. “This year, for the first time in history, the average home price in Massachusetts is over $500,000. Since the estate tax is a transfer tax on the value of a decedent’s estate before the distribution to any beneficiaries, and when you factor in a house that would sell for over $500,000 plus additional assets, that threshold becomes very easy to reach. This creates a financial burden on people that may not have the means to pay the tax bill.”

“Massachusetts is one of just a handful of states that administer an estate tax in addition to the federal estate tax. While the threshold for an individual at the federal level is $12.06 million, in Massachusetts it is just $1 million,” O’Connor said. “I don’t believe families that have called Massachusetts home for their entire life should need to consider moving elsewhere because of an outdated tax law.”

Hen treatment and cage-free standards (S 2603)

The House and Senate approved and Gov. Baker signed into law a conference committee version of legislation that would make changes and put Massachusetts in line with other larger egg-producing states that have put in place standards for hen confinement. In 2016, Massachusetts voters overwhelmingly passed Question 3 to prevent cruelty to pigs, calves and egg-laying hens. At the time it was the strongest law for farm animals in history, but since then, leading retailers, producers and other states mandated even stronger standards in the shift to cage-free conditions for hens. Supporters said the bill will ensure Massachusetts adapts to the new science unavailable in 2016.

Senate sponsor Sen. Jason Lewis, D-Winchester, said the standard around the country for egg-laying hens has evolved, and Massachusetts is now an outlier, which could threaten the state’s supply of eggs.

“Fortunately, the egg producers and animal welfare groups have come together to agree on this legislation, ensuring safe and humane conditions for egg-laying hens and affordable eggs for Massachusetts consumers,” Lewis said.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has lobbied against the bill.

“Whether hens are given 1 or 1.5 square feet of space, the term ‘cage-free’ is still a scam,” said PETA Executive Vice President Tracy Reiman. “These exploited animals are forced into a hellscape of crowding and chaos before they’re slaughtered and replaced by the next batch of doomed souls. PETA is launching an ad campaign in Boston exposing the suffering that hens will endure under this bill, and we’re urging the public to see through the egg industry’s lies and greed and go vegan.”


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