Beacon Hill Roll Call: Feb. 20 to Feb. 24, 2023

  • State Sen. Jo Comerford, D-Northampton, chops onions with Brandon Shantie at Stone Soup Café in Greenfield in preparation for a community meal in April 2022. Comerford is sponsoring a bill, SD 263, that would provide civil liability protections to individuals, restaurants and organizations that make direct food donations to persons in need. The donor would also receive a tax credit of up to $5,000. STAFF FILE PHOTO/CHRIS LARABEE

Published: 3/2/2023 3:11:18 PM

Beacon Hill Roll Call records local representatives’ votes on roll calls from early February sessions. There were no roll calls in the House or Senate last week.

More time to consider amendments (H 2023)

The House, 23 to 130, rejected a rule that would prohibit technical or perfecting amendments from being considered until 30 minutes after a copy of the amendment has been received by representatives. The rule would allow an amendment to be considered in less than 30 minutes if a two-thirds vote of the House agrees to the shortened time.

“Providing a half hour to review a technical or perfecting amendment would give members an opportunity to ask questions, get answers and better understand the amendment before a vote takes place,” said sponsor GOP House Minority Leader Brad Jones, R-North Reading. “I think this change is eminently reasonable and fair, and it also provides an option for the 30-minute review period to be waived or suspended if enough members agree to it.”

Opponents of the rule said technical amendments are just that — technical, and don’t need a half hour to review. They argued that the 30-minute requirement is unnecessary and noted members are informally given sufficient time to see the amendments before they are considered.

A “No” vote is against allowing 30 minutes.

Rep. Natalie Blais — No

Rep. Aaron Saunders — No

Rep. Susannah Whipps — No

Give one-week notice (H 2025)

The House, 24 to 129, rejected an amendment that would increase from three days to seven days the amount of advance notice for committees to notify the House and the public of the time, location and agenda of all public hearings and executive sessions.

“A public hearing before a committee is the only opportunity that a person has to be directly involved in the legislative process,” said Rep. Todd Smola, R-Warren. “By expanding the notification window for when hearings take place from 72 hours to one week, we are providing the public with more time to prepare and participate in the process. We welcome the viewpoints of our constituents on bills before the Legislature, bills [that] are often nuanced and very complex. It is not unreasonable to provide people with a few more days’ notice before a hearing commences.”

Opponents of the amendment said three days is more than sufficient and noted that under House rules, members of the public no longer have to plan far in advance to come into the State House to testify since they can now testify online from home. They noted that the increase to a week unnecessarily goes too far.

A “No” vote is against requiring seven days’ notice.

Rep. Natalie Blais — No

Rep. Aaron Saunders — No

Rep. Susannah Whipps — No

Also up on Beacon Hill

House and Senate clerks continue to process the thousands of bills filed for consideration in the 2023-2024 session, including:

Donate food (SD 263): Would provide civil liability protections to individuals, restaurants and organizations that make direct food donations to persons in need. The donor would also receive a tax credit of up to $5,000. A similar bill received a favorable report from the Judiciary Committee last year but died from inaction in the House.

“Massachusetts saw the greatest percentage growth in food insecurity in the nation during the pandemic,” said sponsor Sen. Jo Comerford, D-Northampton. “It could have been even more severe had it not been for commonwealth farmers who came forward again and again with donations of produce, dairy and meat — all the while acutely aware that they make 94 cents for every dollar they spend. Through a tax credit, this bill further incentivizes already committed farmers, as well as generous local restaurants, to donate food to food banks, meal sites and pantries — allowing them an opportunity to give within an expanded liability protection framework while strengthening our food system.”

Tax credit for donation of oyster shells (SD 432): Would provide individuals or businesses that donate oyster shells to an oyster shell recycling organization with a tax credit of $5 per full 5-gallon bucket of oyster shells.

“A shell recycling tax credit presents a creative and thoughtful tool to help diminish landfill waste, create habitat and mitigate pollution in our waters,” said sponsor Sen. Julian Cyr, D-Truro. “A $5 tax credit per 5-gallon bucket of recycled shells for restaurants will help encourage this environmentally friendly practice.”

Last month’s rent and security deposit (SD 141): Would amend the law that allows landlords to charge both last month’s rent and a security deposit to new tenants.

“If this bill is enacted, landlords will only be permitted to charge last month’s rent or the security deposit,” said sponsor Sen. Jamie Eldridge, D-Acton. “In short, this bill significantly lowers the upfront cost of renting.”

Presidential candidates must release tax returns (SD 617): Would require any presidential candidate who files to appear on a primary ballot in Massachusetts to release the most recent four years of their federal tax returns.

“For half a century, it has been a bipartisan custom for presidential candidates to release their tax returns before the election,” said sponsor Sen. Becca Rausch, D-Needham. “I filed this legislation because voters deserve transparency from presidential candidates. Tax returns provide the necessary information to assess the details of a candidate’s potential conflicts of interest or possible corruption, which could have an undue influence on candidates should they be elected to office.”

Establish Children’s Cabinet (SD 2242): Would establish, under the governor’s office, a Children’s Cabinet to develop and implement a cohesive vision using integrated services to improve child, youth and family outcomes, including issues relating to child poverty, educational preparedness, mental health, homelessness, foster care, juvenile justice and the health, safety and welfare of children.

“I am proud to sponsor this legislation so we can ensure the well-being of our children is prioritized and elevated across the most powerful cabinets of state government,” said sponsor Sen. Sal DiDomenico, D-Everett. “Children across our state were some of the hardest hit individuals throughout the pandemic.”

DiDomenico noted the new cabinet would coordinate government agencies to use every lever of power to feed, house and protect children.

$1,500 tax credit for hearing aids (SD 355): Would allow a $1,500 tax credit for taxpayers 55 and older who purchase hearing aids.

“Hearing loss is one of the most common struggles for our seniors and many times these devices are out of their financial reach,” said sponsor Sen. Patrick O’Connor, R-Weymouth. “Insurance companies will often only cover the cost of one hearing aid, even if the patient may need one in each ear to hear. Every citizen should have the right to a comfortable life, and this tax credit would help reduce the financial burden many seniors face and allow them to carry on with everyday life.”


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