Beacon Hill Roll Call: June 5 to June 9, 2023

Published: 6/16/2023 7:20:38 PM

Beacon Hill Roll Call records local senators’ votes on roll calls from the recent debate on the Senate’s version of a $55.9 billion fiscal year 2024 state budget. There were no roll calls in the House or Senate last week.

Help immigrants to apply for U.S.citizenship (S 3)

Senate 39-0, approved a $250,000 increase (from $1,036,958 to $1,286,958) for organizations that provide programs to assist legal permanent residents of Massachusetts in becoming citizens of the United States. Programs include assisting applicants in filling out the 22-page application; ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages); civics classes; interview preparation and supportive services, including interpretation and referral services.

“Becoming a citizen is a major step toward full integration into American life,” said sponsor Sen. Jamie Eldridge, D-Acton. “I am proud to represent a district with many vibrant immigrant communities throughout it, including Brazilians and Afghans. Recently, I have been assisting neighborhood support teams in the town of Harvard and the city of Marlborough resettle Afghan evacuees. The Afghan refugees in my district — along with so many other immigrants — could benefit from these critical programs.”

A “Yes” vote is for the $250,000 increase.

Sen. Joanne Comerford — Yes

Sen. Anne Gobi — Yes

Sen. Paul Mark — Yes

Advocates for foster children (S 3)

Senate 39-0, approved an amendment that would fund $1,526,000 for court-appointed special advocates (CASAs), which are specially trained volunteers who represent the best interests of foster children in legal proceedings.

Supporters said children with a CASA volunteer have significantly fewer foster care placements, perform better in school and report having a greater sense of hopefulness.

“Children in the commonwealth’s foster system often find themselves in court having decisions made for them without anyone directly arguing on their behalf,” said sponsor Sen. Mike Moore, D-Millbury. “Court-appointed special advocates get to know the children as individuals and can steer the courts toward placing these children in environments where they can thrive. The outcomes of children represented by CASAs speak for themselves.”

A “Yes” vote is for the $1,526,000.

Sen. Joanne Comerford— Yes

Sen. Anne Gobi — Yes

Sen. Paul Mark — Yes

$1 million for elder nutrition (S 3)

Senate 39-0, approved an increase of $1 million (from $11.8 to $12.8 million) for elder nutrition programs, including Meals on Wheels.

“For many older individuals, a daily delivered meal is their only social interaction,” said sponsor Sen. Julian Cyr, D-Truro. “The Meals on Wheels program provides critical nutrition for seniors, including wellness checks, nutritional screenings, education and counseling.”

A “Yes” vote is for the $1 million increase.

Sen. Joanne Comerford — Yes

Sen. Anne Gobi — Yes

Sen. Paul Mark — Yes

Also up on Beacon Hill

Exclude medical debt from credit reports (H 284): would exclude from consumer credit reports information about medical debt arising from the receipt of health care services.

“Debt and credit are critical to households’ personal finances,” said sponsor Rep. Kip Diggs, D-Barnstable. “I sponsored this legislation to protect consumers, especially those who struggle financially, from the implications of medical debt, which is often caused by cost-sharing from unpredictable medical events and has proven not to be a good predictor of credit worthiness anyway.”

Tax credit to businesses that offer day care (H 2779): would allow businesses to qualify for a tax credit of up to $150,000 if they provide onsite day care for their employees. The tax credit would be equal to 25% of the costs of providing the day care.

“I filed the Workplace Child Care Program Tax Credit in response to the overwhelming costs and limited access to affordable day care so many of the families I represent in Brockton face each year,” said sponsor Rep. Michelle DuBois, D-Brockton. “The idea of incentivizing, with a tax credit, businesses to offer onsite affordable day care or to contract with a provider to offer affordable day care to their employees onsite came from a child advocacy group operated via the Brockton [Women, Infants and Children] program and Brockton Area Multi Services agency. This will not solve the problem of escalating child care costs but could be one tool to help working families access safe, affordable day care.

Limit fee for cashing checks (H 344): would set a cap on the fees check-cashing stores and outlets are allowed to charge. The maximum charge would be 5% of the value of a personal check or $5, whichever is greater, plus a $1 service charge; 2.5% of a government check, plus a $1 service charge; 2.25% of a payroll check, plus a $1 service charge; and 3% of all other checks, including traveler’s check, cashier’s check and certified check, plus a $1 service charge.

Supporters said of the 34 states that regulate check cashing, Massachusetts is one of eight that do not regulate the fees that may be charged. They argued these check-cashing “stores” are often located in low-income neighborhoods and take advantage of vulnerable residents.

They noted the bill would provide greater consumer protections for individuals who are “unbanked” — folks who don’t have a checking, savings or money market account — or who are “underbanked” — folks may have a bank account, but also rely regularly on alternative financial services outside of the mainstream banking system. Lower-income households, less educated households, Black households, Hispanic households, working-age households with a disability and single-mother households are most vulnerable to being unbanked or underbanked.

“This bill aims to tear down financial barriers that perpetuate situational and generational cycles of poverty,” said sponsor Rep. Kay Khan, D-Newton. “It creates a fair and responsible market in which low-income families can more easily save and protect their money.”

Prohibit discrimination against gender identity of individuals in insurance policies (H 1089): would prohibit insurance companies from discriminating against a customer based on gender identity.

Sponsor Rep. Jay Livingstone, D-Boston, said he filed this piece of legislation to address the lack of protections for gender-fluid and transgender people regarding insurance discrimination. He said it would safeguard the fundamental right of equality for gender-fluid individuals.

“[The bill] would safeguard the fundamental right of equality for gender-fluid individuals across the commonwealth by defining gender identity and expanding anti- discrimination statutes to include gender identity to the current list of protections pertaining to insurance,” Livingstone said. “I believe that this is an important step for the commonwealth to provide equal protections for all of our residents.”

Allow some unused drugs to be donated (H 1208): would establish a drug repository program that would allow people to donate their unused medications, excluding controlled substances, and permit them to be redistributed to individuals who need them and cannot afford them.

Supporters said strict safeguards would be in place to ensure that the medication has not been tampered with and is not expired or mislabeled.

“Due to high prescription drug costs, over 15 million Americans are forced to forgo their medication to pay for other essential living expenses, yet $10 billion in medication is destroyed or discarded in the United States each year,” said sponsor Rep. Brad Jones, R-North Reading. “A statewide drug repository program would help to reduce this waste and make life-saving medication more affordable and accessible to residents of the commonwealth. Twenty-six states currently have operational repository programs, which proves that these programs can be administered safely and effectively.”


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