Beacon Hill Roll Call

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Beacon Hill Roll Call

Postby GymMom on Sat Mar 28, 2009 8:05 am

This is the "ethics vote" that prevented Miceli and Finegold from attending the SPEDPAC's Delegation Forum last Thursday night.
(Check out the total length of last week's session at the bottom of the article.)

Beacon Hill Roll Call
The Lowell Sun
Updated: 03/28/2009 06:37:32 AM EDT


By Bob Katzen

CHANGES TO ETHICS LAWS (H 3853)

House 153-0, approved and sent to the Senate a bill making major changes in the state's ethics laws. The measure increases many penalties for violating these laws including hiking the penalty for bribery from $5,000 and/or three years in prison to $100,000 and/or 10 years in prison and raising the penalty for violating lobbying laws from up to a $5,000 fine to a $10,000 fine and/or a five-year prison sentence. Other provisions ban any gifts from lobbyists to public officials and expand the secretary of state's powers to enforce lobbying laws.

TAX ALL BRIBERY INCOME AND CORRUPT GIFTS (H 3853)

House 155-0, approved an amendment to tax all bribes, corrupt gifts and income gained through illegal activities. Supporters said that this is common sense legislation that would ensure that illegal income is taxed. Some said that this "Al Capone" amendment would allow prosecutors to bring non-payment of income tax charges against people who claim that they did not know that the money that they received was illegal. Capone was suspected of many other crimes including murder but ultimately was indicted and convicted for income-tax evasion.

REPORT INDEPENDENT EXPENDITURES (H 3853)

House 22-133, rejected an amendment requiring individuals or committees that spend money to defeat or oppose a specific candidate for office without cooperation or consultation with any candidate, to report expenses of more than $250 per year. Amendment supporters said that voters have a right to know how much these committees are spending to promote or oppose a candidate and argued that this will increase transparency. Amendment opponents said that this is a complicated issue that involves constitutional rights and free speech. They said that the Elections Laws Committee is looking into the situation and is awaiting guidance from the Office of Campaign and Political Finance. (A "Yes" vote is for requiring these individuals and committees to report any expenses of more than $250 per year. A "No" vote is against the required reporting.)

Yes: Robert Hargraves, James Miceli

No: James Arciero, Cory Atkins, Jennifer Benson, Barry Finegold, Thomas Golden, William Greene, Charles Murphy, Kevin Murphy, David Nangle

Not voting: Colleen Garry

MANDATORY ETHICS TRAINING (H 3853)

House 32-123, rejected an amendment requiring the House Committees on Ethics and Personnel and the Senate Committee on Ethics and Rules to conduct mandatory ethics education and training sessions for legislators at the beginning of each two-year legislative session. A current House rule, not a state law, requires legislators and legislative employees to attend an ethics law training program once during each two-year legislative session. Amendment supporters said that House rules can be easily changed every two years and are not a permanent state law. They argued that ethics training is important and should be mandated by state law. Amendment opponents said that the amendment is flawed because it requires the training "at the commencement of each two-year legislative session." They noted that they interpret that to mean the training must take place on the first day of a legislative session, when members of the committees that would conduct the training have not even been appointed. Amendment supporters countered that their intent was not to require training on the first day and said that they would welcome a change to fix the flaw. No one filed the change to fix it. (A "Yes" vote is for requiring the House Committees on Ethics and Personnel and the Senate Committee on Ethics and Rules to conduct mandatory ethics education and training sessions for legislators at the beginning of each two-year legislative session. A "No" vote is against requiring it.)

Yes: Hargraves, Miceli

No: Arciero, Atkins, Benson, Finegold, Golden, Greene, C. Murphy, K. Murphy, Nangle

Not voting: Garry

BAN PAC CONTRIBUTIONS (H 3853)

House 7-145, rejected an amendment banning political action committees (PACs) from contributing money to candidates. Current law limits a PAC from giving an individual candidate more than $500 and also limits the aggregate amount of PAC money that an individual candidate can receive from all PACs. These limits range from $7,500 for a candidate for state representative to $150,000 for a gubernatorial candidate. Amendment supporters said that it is time to ban all of this special interest PAC money from politics and remove the influence of these committees. They said that allowing only individuals to contribute would level the playing field for challengers because incumbents often receive lots of PAC money. Amendment opponents said that the issue is not that simple and argued that there are first amendment rights involved here. They argued that the Election Laws Committee would soon deal with this issue. (A "Yes" vote is for banning PAC contributions. A "No" vote is against the ban.)

Yes: Miceli

No: Arciero, Atkins, Benson, Finegold, Golden, Greene, Hargraves, C. Murphy, K. Murphy, Nangle

Not voting: Colleen Garry

MAJOR CHANGES IN TRANSPORTATION SYSTEM (S 2023)

Senate 39-1, approved and sent to the House a complicated 278-page bill making major changes in the state's transportation system. The measure creates a new quasi-public transportation super agency -- the Massachusetts Surface Transportation Authority (MSTA). Over the next three years, all Mass Turnpike Authority roads, the Tobin Bridge, the three Boston tunnels and the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority (MBTA) system would be folded into the new MSTA. Another provision ends the T's policy that allows employees of any age to retire with a full pension after 23 years and replaces it with the same state practice that requires a full pensioner to be at least 55 years old and have put in 25 years of service. It also bans T employees from receiving health benefits that are any better than those offered to state workers. S(A "Yes" vote is for the bill. A "No" vote is against the bill.)

Yes: Kenneth Donnelly, Susan Fargo, Jennifer Flanagan, Steven Panagiotakos, Bruce Tarr, Susan Tucker

REQUIRE LOCAL APPROVAL FOR MBTA BILLBOARDS (S 2023)

Senate 12-26, rejected an amendment prohibiting the MBTA from erecting billboards on its property if the placement violates the regulations of the local community in which the billboard is located. The T could apply to the community to waive the regulation and allow the billboard. Amendment supporters said that local communities should have the power to decide if a billboard is allowed. Amendment opponents said that the Legislature should not tie the hands of the deficit-ridden MBTA in its attempt to raise revenue. (A "Yes" vote is for prohibiting the MBTA from erecting billboards on its property if the placement violates the regulations of the local community. A "No" vote is against the prohibition.)

Yes: Donnelly, Fargo, Panagiotakos, Tarr, Tucker

AUTO INSURANCE APPEALS BOARD (S 2022)

Senate 39-0, approved and sent to the House a bill establishing a board that hears appeals from drivers who are found more than 50 percent at-fault in accidents. These drivers lose safe driver points and pay an insurance surcharge unless their appeal is successful. The board already exists under a state regulation but the amendment would make the board permanent by putting it into state law. Insurance Commissioner Nonnie Burnes in January had announced plans to scrap the board and replace it with an alternative means of addressing at-fault accidents. Following an outcry from legislators and the public, Burnes left the board intact. Supporters said that this board should be permanent and not left to the whim of the insurance commissioner to abolish it.

HOW LONG WAS LAST WEEK'S SESSION? During the week of March 23-27, the House met for a total of eight hours and 16 minutes. The Senate met for a total of 10 hours and 12 minutes.

Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at bob@beaconhillrollcall.com
GymMom
 
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