postheadericon Beacon Hill Blotter: A Fool’s Errand?

Students from the 7th Plymouth District

On Friday, April 1st, one might have thought that, when observing the proceedings on Beacon Hill, an elaborate April Fool’s prank was being played on the people of the Commonwealth. On that day, the State House was taken over by high school students who, as part of the 64th annual “Massachusetts Student Government Day,” played the parts of Representatives, Senators and even the Governor. 

Their day began with a simulated committee hearing to introduce two pieces of legislation – one to mandate teaching financial literacy in grades K-12 and one related to reducing childhood obesity rates by removing the state subsidy for sugared, sweetened beverages and candy in schools. That was followed by formal sessions in the House and Senate Chambers, where debates ensued, followed by votes. (Both initiatives passed) 

The excitement felt by the students from my district was contagious and I enjoyed hearing great points made, pro and con, for the bills that are actually part of our legislative agenda. By sitting in our seats, pressing the actual buttons of “Yea” or “Nay” and by taking to the podium to present their opinions, I was duly impressed with the passion our future leaders brought to the “session.” Our founding fathers would have had a grin from ear to ear to see these students work with parliamentary procedure to pontificate on the merits of each bill. 

I didn’t have the heart to tell them that, due to the party imbalance at the State House (only 31 Reps out of 160 and 4 Senators out of 40 are Republican), healthy debate is a rarity when a party line vote comes down. Minority party leaders make the requisite plea to consider the merits, hoping more for attention from the media than the House members who are typically briefed on which way to vote prior to the session. I couldn’t let them know that “up and down” votes are avoided by an increasingly frequent use (abuse?) of the “further amendment,” which inoculates a bill so that it can be sent to study without anyone knowing what vote a Rep. might have taken on the issue. 

There will, of course, be bills and amendments that cut across geographic lines which are likely to elicit actual debate, but in a year where dismal economic data defines the agenda of cuts, cuts and more cuts, it’s unlikely that there will be as much back and forth as I was fortunate to watch on “All Fools Day.” 

“The fool on the hill sees the sun going down…” – The Beatles 

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Highlights from the past two weeks:

 

Monday (3/28): Met with Senator Brown at his Boston office to review resources available to help with constituents. In the evening, went to the Professional Fire Fighters of MA event at Florian Hall in Dorchester, where I spoke with members from the district. 
Tuesday (3/29): Was the MA Assoc. of School Committees day at the State House, so I was able to see Peter Schafer, Brenda Pignone and Jim West of Abington, plus Tom Evans of Whitman – great day for lobbying legislators to do the right thing and support the schools of our towns! 

Wednesday (3/30): A full formal session where the House voted $325 million spending bill, including $200 million for roads. $50M was reserved for state roads, but House members rejected an attempt by Republicans to steer an additional $25 million to cities and towns for their own snow removal costs. Once again, an effort to offset Local Aid to our towns was thwarted. 

Thursday (3/31): Work at the State House, followed by a “Spelling Bee” fundraiser held by the Whitman-Hanson Education Foundation. Rep. Webster and I fielded team “Bee-Con Hill” to compete. Didn’t win but had a GREAT time! 

Friday (4/1): Student Government Day at the State House was a huge success, where “Representatives,” “Senators” and even a “Governor” took over the chambers to debate and vote on two issues the felt should be heard on Beacon Hill. District students Nick Cotoulas, Kody Fabrowski, and Myles Casey took part, as well as Jim Hamilton – a Diehl intern who lives in Easton. 

Monday (4/4): Morning meetings at the State House on my Mortgage Relief bill, a redistricting review with Minority Leader Jones and time with Rich McKinnon, a Whitman fire fighter. 

Tuesday (4/5): Attended a panel discussion on “An Act to Promote Transparency and Efficiency in Economic Development Spending” with Noah Berger, President,  Massachusetts Budget & Policy Center; Ben Foreman, Research Director, MassINC; Steve Poftak, Director of Research and Director of the Shamie Center for Better Government, Pioneer Institute; Michael Widmer, President, Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation. Also met with the Fatherhood Coalition

Wednesday (4/6): Morning “Coffee with the Contractors” – the Associated Builders and Contractors. An afternoon coffee with the MTA’s new President, Paul Toner. Afternoon meeting with Elizabeth Blackman from the March of Dimes

Thursday (4/7): Agricultural Day at the State House. I also testified at the Joint Committee on Revenue for H2565. A full formal session later in the day to finalize the Senate version of the $200M bond for roads, voted in the previous week. 

Friday (4/8): Had breakfast at Thorny Lea in Brockton to hear from MSIA on their legislative priorities. Had a great time reading “Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type” to all the kids at the Whitman Self Help/Head Start program later in the AM. In the afternoon, met at the District Office with the President of Pilgrim Advocates, a division of CPCS

Saturday (4/9): Was honored to march the Whitman Baseball League’s parade, give a speech and throw out a “first pitch!” 

Schedule looking ahead:

 

Monday (4/11): Attending from 7:30a – 9:30a the “White Ribbon Campaign” event at Whitman-Hanson Regional High School as part of the anti-violence against women week. Meeting with Abington’s “Friends of the Library” group later in the AM. Will be taking a tour of the High Point treatment center in Brockton. 
Tuesday (4/12): TAX FREEDOM DAY! Will be meeting with the East Bridgewater Housing Authority Board in the morning, followed by a groundbreaking ceremony for the new East Bridgewater Senior Center at Sachem Rock Farm. Taping an episode of “Cross Talk” with Kevin Tocci in the afternoon. 

Sachem Rock Farm, where the new Senior Center will be located

Wednesday (4/13): A full day at the District Office to prepare for budget debates in the following weeks. 

Thursday (4/14): A morning meeting with AHEM, regarding Home Schooling. Southeast Mass Police Chiefs will be at the State House for lunch. Will meet with Boys & Girls Club reps in the afternoon, followed by B.O.L.T.

Friday (4/15): Am excited to take a tour of Southeastern Regional Vocational Technical School with Superintendent Lopes. 

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Ten more bills I’ve co-sponsored and their intent:

 

HD02117: An Act Regulating the Direct Shipment of Wine.  (House GOP Caucus)
 
This legislation allows wine retailers and manufacturers to ship wine to Massachusetts consumers. This is in response to a ruling by the Massachusetts District Court overturning a law passed by the Legislature in 2005 that prohibited certain wine shipments to Massachusetts from other states.

 

HD02126: An Act Relative to Nonresident Health Insurance Exclusion.  (House GOP Caucus)

This legislation exempts non-residents of Massachusetts who work in Massachusetts from being counted toward the fair share employer contribution. This will help to decrease the cost for small businesses.

 

HD02169: Resolve Relative to an Improving the Calculation of Foundation Budgets.  (House GOP Caucus)
 
This bill would form a study commission to investigate the restructuring of the Chapter 70 formula calculation to account for the discrepancies that exist between urban and rural school districts.

 

HD02172: An Act Relative to the Defense of Private Property Rights Through the Prevention of Abusive Eminent Domain Takings in the Commonwealth. (House GOP Caucus)
 
This legislation prevents eminent domain takings for any non-public use. It also prevents a private entity from receiving any seized land for a five year period and if the governmental body does not use the land within five years, the title reverts back to the original owner.

 

HD02177: An Act Relative to Pension Equality.  (House GOP Caucus)
 
This bill would, for all persons who entered the system in or after 2012, calculate pensions payments based on the average annual rate of regular compensation received by such member during all said member’s years of employment, adjusted for inflation.

 

HD02186: An Act Relative to Pensions for Felons.  (House GOP Caucus)
 
This legislation revokes pension payments from those who have been convicted of a felony on or after the effective date of the legislation. The member will lose his pension payments for the period of his incarceration and cannot at any time recover those lost payments.

 

HD02191: An Act Relative to Expediting the Transition of Cities and Towns to the General Insurance Commission.   (House GOP Caucus)
 
Currently, in order to have a contract with a health insurance carrier, such as the GIC, that contract must conform with an agreement between the appropriate public authority and a public employee committee. However, an agreement with the public authority must be approved by 70% of the votes of the representatives of the public employee committee, which is mainly composed of collective bargaining units. This makes it very difficult for a municipality to join the GIC. This legislation changes the 70% required to 51% required, in order to make it easier to join the GIC.

 

HD02202: An Act Relative to Medical Malpractice Claims.  (House GOP Caucus)
 
This legislation amends laws relative to medical malpractice claims. It caps non-economic damage awards at $250,000, requires that expert witnesses in medical malpractice cases be certified in the same specialty as the defendant, requires that the amount of damages paid out by a defendant be based on the specific amount of his liability, and protects physicians and nurses administering immunization or other protective programs under public health programs from civil lawsuits resulting from damages incurred by physician or nurse carrying out his duties.

 

HD02203: An Act Relative to Improving the Protection of Children.  (House GOP Caucus)
This legislation allows the Department of Children and Families to pursue the termination of parental rights of a parent who has been convicted of the murder or voluntary manslaughter of the child’s other parent.HD02204: An Act Relative to Restrictions on Public Benefits.  (House GOP Caucus)
 
This bill would require verification of lawful presence prior to awarding public benefits, and restrict benefits for non-residents.

 

This wraps up another Beacon Hill Blotter post for the 7th Plymouth District. Thank you, as always, for allowing me to be your voice on Beacon Hill! 

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  • [...] Beacon Hill Blotter: A Fool's Errand? On Friday, April 1st, one might have thought that, when observing the proceedings on Beacon Hill an elaborate April Fool's prank was being played on the people of the Commonwealth. On that day, the State House was taken over by high . [...]

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