#childsafety | The Recorder – Beacon Hill Roll Call: Dec. 27 to Dec. 31, 2021

There were no roll calls in the House and Senate last week. This week, Beacon Hill Roll Call reports on the number of times each representative sided with Gov. Charlie Baker on his 25 vetoes in 2021.

A two-thirds vote is required to override a gubernatorial veto. In a full 160-member House, the governor needs the support of 54 representatives to sustain a veto when all 160 representatives vote — and fewer votes when some members are absent or a seat is vacant. Baker fell short of that goal as 35 votes was the most support he received on any veto. The House easily overrode all 25 vetoes, including four that were overridden unanimously.

It was mostly the 29 GOP members who voted with the Republican governor to sustain the vetoes, but no Republican representative voted with Baker 100% of the time.

The four GOP members who voted with Baker the most times are Reps. Shawn Dooley, R-Norfolk, 21 times (84.0%); Norman Orrall, R-Lakeville, 19 times (76.0%); Brad Jones, R-North Reading, and Donald Berthiaume, R-Spencer, who both voted with Baker 18 times (72.0%).

The three GOP members who supported Baker the least number of times were Rep. Jim Kelcourse, R-Amesbury, who voted with Baker only 12 times (48.0%); and Reps. Marc Lombardo, R-Billerica, and David Vieira, R-Falmouth, who both voted with Baker only 13 times (52.0%).

The vetoes had little support among the 129 Democrats in the House. One hundred and twenty-five (96.9%) did not support the governor even once. The other four (3.1%) voted with Baker to sustain only one veto (4.0%). They are Reps. Nika Elugardo, D-Jamaica Plain; Chris Markey, D-Dartmouth; Joan Meschino, D-Hull; and David Robertson, D-Tewksbury.

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

Rep. Natalie Blais — 0 percent (0)

Rep. Paul Mark — 0 percent (0)

Rep. Susannah Whipps — 4.1 percent (1)

Also up on Beacon HillMinimum wage hike from $13.50 to $14.25 per hour effective Jan. 1Effective Jan. 1, the state’s minimum wage rose from $13.50 per hour to $14.25 per hour. This hike is the fourth of five annual increases mandated by a law passed in 2018 that will eventually bring the minimum wage to $15 per hour in 2023.

In addition, the minimum wage for tipped workers increased from $5.55 per hour to $6.15 per hour — provided that their tips bring them up to at least $14.25 per hour. If the total hourly rate for the employee including tips does not equal $14.25 at the end of a shift, the employer is required to make up the difference.

“Boosting our wage floor in a steady and predictable way lifts all workers and especially lower-wage workers who are most impacted by rising inflation and cost of living,” said Rep. Josh Cutler, D-Duxbury, House chair of the Committee on Labor and Workforce Development. “A fair day’s work deserves a fair day’s pay and this increase takes us one step closer to that goal.”

“Consumers are dealing with the worst inflation spike in 40 years,” said Paul Craney of the Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance. “Nearly every product is more expensive and Massachusetts is going to exacerbate the rise in costs by mandating that our state pay the highest price for minimum wage labor in New England. This increase will be passed down to the consumers and ultimately it will serve as another economic blow to the poor and middle class.”

Raise fines for animal cruelty (H 2132)

The House gave initial approval to legislation that would amend current law that imposes up to a seven-year prison sentence and/or $5,000 fine for a first offense of animal cruelty and a 10-year prison sentence and/or $10,000 fine for a second offense. The bill leaves the prison sentences as they are but raises the fines to $5,500 for a first offense and $11,000 for subsequent offenses. It also creates a special account where up to $500 for a first offense and up to $1,000 for subsequent offenses would go to fund improvements to animal shelters in the city or town in which the violations occurred.

“Massachusetts has some of the strongest penalties in the country for animal cruelty, but this bill cracks down even further,” said sponsor Rep. Bruce Ayers, D-Quincy. “It places the financial burden of improving animal shelters on the backs of those who violate the law.”

Massachusetts Coalition of Police (H 2163)

The House gave initial approval to a measure that would allow members of the Massachusetts Coalition of Police to be paid when attending executive board meetings of their group without having to use accrued time off for their absence.

Supporters said that current law allows for members of the Massachusetts Police Association, a fraternal organization, to be excused from duty while attending executive board meetings.

“The Massachusetts Coalition of Police is the largest police union in the commonwealth,” said sponsor Rep. Jessica Giannino, D-Revere. “Currently, (its) executive board members must use accrued time off from their departments to attend executive board meetings. This bill affords the same courtesy as those in other organizations in being excused from duty to conduct this important business.”

Revenue Committee virtual hearing

The Revenue Committee will hold a virtual hearing on Jan. 12 on several bills, including:

Exempt those under 18 from paying income tax (S 1970): Exempts residents and non-residents under 18 from paying an income tax.

“I filed this bill to provide our younger employees, who traditionally work low-wage jobs, the ability to keep more of their money,” said Sen. Patrick O’Connor, R-Weymouth. “This will allow for better saving and investment opportunities for student workers that may solely rely on their income.”

$4,000 tax credit for family caregiver (H 2911): Provides up to a $4,000 annual tax credit for a taxpayer who provides more than one-half of the support for an elderly relative who is age 75 and older — provided that the elderly relative resided with the taxpayer for more than six months of the year and the taxpayer has a maximum adjusted gross income of less than $30,000.

Supporters say this will save some money for caregivers. They note that Massachusetts has more than 800,000 unpaid family caregivers who are helping an aging parent or other loved one to live independently in their own homes. They argue that many of these caregivers have a regular full-time or part-time job and are overwhelmed by their caregiver duties. They note that a study from 2015 concluded that in Massachusetts, family caregivers provided 786 million hours of unpaid care valued at an estimated $11.6 billion annually.

“As someone who cared for my own elderly parents at home and being so grateful that I could do it for them, I know that it comes with a financial cost to the caregiver,” said co-sponsor Rep. Colleen Garry, D-Lowell. “Whether it be medications or supplies that you may pick up and pay for, or with caregivers who hold outside employment based on hourly wages having to take time off to bring them to medical appointments, etc., this bill will help compensate family members for just some of the financial losses they face while caring for their elderly relatives at home. Meanwhile, the senior gets loving care in the family home and the commonwealth does not see increasing MassHealth expenses for nursing homes for these folks.”

“With the price of medical equipment and outside caretakers, this will give those families relief, while allowing more people to take advantage of a cheaper option than placement at an elder-care home,” said co-sponsor Rep. Dave Robertson, D-Tewksbury. “In the end, it encourages an option sought by many seniors, while saving the family and the public money — as subsidizing elder care is a large part of the state budget for care of those 65 and older.”

Universal basic income of $1,000 (S 1883): Establishes a universal basic income pilot program run by the Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA) under which 100 people would be given $1,000 per month over a two-year period. Participants would be a diverse representation of all demographics of the state including race, gender identity, sexual orientation and educational achievement. Recipients would be allowed to spend the money without restrictions, except for a prohibition on the purchase of illegal drugs.

The program would be funded by a public-private partnership with local businesses, nonprofits and/or private foundations, and no state money would be used to fund the monthly grants. However, the administration of the program would be handled by the DTA, which is funded with state money.

Following the completion of the program, DTA would have up to a year to issue a report that includes information about how the funds were spent; the socioeconomic background of the participants prior to entering into the study; how the participants’ quality of life evolved over the period of time of the study; and recommendations for permanent implementation of this program on a larger scale.

“During the response to the economic downturn caused by COVID-19, we saw first-hand the positive impact of basic supports,” said Sen. Adam Hinds, D-Pittsfield, the bill’s sponsor. “Centrally, children were lifted out of poverty with documented long-term benefits related to elevated lifelong earnings, education attainment and health outcomes. This program could be a more efficient way for the government to provide a social safety net.”

Make a piece of private pensions tax exempt: (H 2839): Exempts from taxation up to $12,500 of the private pension of a taxpayer over age 60 and up to $2,000 for one under 60.

“The goal of this bill is to provide some tax relief to retirees and seniors living on a fixed retirement income,” said sponsor Rep. Peter Capano, D-Lynn. “I have personally heard from countless retirees who have been living on private pensions for extended periods of time and are struggling. These individuals have not received cost-of-living increases and are having trouble making ends meet given rising property taxes and health care costs and diminished savings. It is my hope that the legislation will ease some of the burden on retirees and seniors.”

Create Haitian commission (S 1819): Creates a 12-member Commission on the Status of Citizens of Haitian Descent. Sponsor Sen. Nick Collins, D-Boston, said the proposal is intended to create a state-established body charged with reviewing the status of residents of Haitian ancestry and offer recommendations regarding policy that would improve access to opportunities and equality.

“Massachusetts has the third largest Haitian population in the country and while the Haitian community can be proud of its contributions, there continues to be many nuances government can be educated on in order to better serve this constituency,” Collins said. “As a representative of the most dense Haitian community in Boston, I am proud to file this legislation and work with leaders, advocates and colleagues to bring this to fruition.”

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