The House and the Senate: Beacon Hill Roll Call records local representatives’ and senators’ votes on roll calls from the week of May 17-21.

Tax Millionaires Another 4 Percent (S 5)—House and Senate held a Constitutional convention and approved 159-41, (House approved 121-39, Senate approved 38-2), a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow a graduated income tax in Massachusetts and impose an additional 4 percent income tax, in addition to the current flat 5 percent one, on taxpayers’ earnings of more than $1 million annually. Language in the amendment requires that “subject to appropriation” the revenue will go to fund quality public education, affordable public colleges and universities, and for the repair and maintenance of roads, bridges and public transportation.

The proposal, dubbed by sponsors as “the Fair Share Amendment” is sponsored by Senator Jason Lewis (D-Winchester) and Representative James O’Day (D-West Boylston). Opponents reject that label and call it another unnecessary excessive tax. The proposal was also approved by the 2019-2020 Legislature and is now scheduled to go on the November 2022 ballot for voters to decide.

Supporters said the amendment will affect only 18,000 extremely wealthy individuals and will generate up to $2 billion annually in additional tax revenue. They argued that using the funds for education and for the repair and maintenance of roads, bridges and public transportation will benefit millions of Bay State taxpayers. They noted the hike would help lower income families which are now paying a higher share of their income in taxes.

Opponents argued the new tax will result in the loss of 9,500 private sector jobs, $405 million annually in personal disposable income and some millionaires moving out of state. They said that the earmarking of the funds for specific projects is illegal and said all the funds will go into the General Fund and be up for grabs for anything.

“Right now, our economy is working great for those at the very top, but it’s not working for the rest of us,” said Andrew Farnitano, a spokesman for the Raise Up Massachusetts coalition, which has led the campaign for the proposal. “Giving every student access to a high-quality public education, upgrading our crumbling transportation infrastructure and making our public colleges and universities affordable again is the best way to lift up our economy for everyone, and to ensure Massachusetts remains a great place to live, work and raise a family. The Fair Share Amendment would provide sustainable, long-term revenue for investments in transportation and public education, without asking low- and middle-income families to pay a penny more.”

A report released by the Beacon Hill Institute read, “The proposed surtax would decrease the demand for labor services and the quantity of labor services supplied. It would further increase the cost of obtaining capital services by reducing the after-tax profits that owners could plan on receiving from investments in their business. These effects would further manifest themselves as a reduction in private sector jobs, in disposable income and in state gross domestic product. In 2023, for example, more than 4,000 families would leave the Bay State with employment dipping by nearly 9,000 jobs. Workers will have $963 million less in disposable income and the state’s gross domestic project would shrink by $431 million.”

(A “Yes” vote is for the 4 percent tax. A “No” vote is against it.)

Rep. Kip Diggs—Yes

Rep. Dylan Fernandes—Yes

Rep. David Vieira—No

Rep. Steven Xiarhos—No

Sen. Julian Cyr—Yes

Reprecincting (H 3863)—House 113-29, approved and sent to the Senate a bill that would change how district boundaries for Congress, the state House of Representatives, state Senate and Governor’s Council will be redrawn ahead of the 2022 elections. Traditionally, cities and towns act first in the process by creating their local precincts and boundaries based on the latest decennial US Census population. This time around, the Census Bureau announced in February that as a result of the pandemic it wouldn’t be able to deliver redistricting data by the expected and promised date of March 30, 2021, and have pushed the delivery date to September 30, 2021, with some information possibly arriving in August 2021. This delay makes it impossible for Massachusetts cities and towns to meet the existing statutory June 15 deadline to submit their redrawn precincts to the Legislature.

The proposal, approved by the House, would change the order of things by authorizing the Legislature to take the first step by redrawing boundaries for state and federal offices using census tracts and blocks. Cities and towns would be required to complete their reprecincting work within 30 days after the Legislature finalizes districts.

Secretary of State William F. Galvin, the state’s chief election officer, opposes the bill and said he would urge Governor Charles D. Baker Jr. to veto the measure if it reaches the governor’s desk. “Have there been new ethnic communities come in?” asked Mr. Galvin at a hearing before the Election Laws Committee. “Have there been changes? Is there new construction? Are there new factors? Local governments are best able to deal with this.”

(A “Yes” vote is for the bill. A “No” vote is against it.)

Rep. Kip Diggs –Yes

Rep. Dylan Fernandes—Yes

Rep. David Vieira—No

Rep. Steven Xiarhos—No

Changes in Election Voting Laws (H 3862)—House 128-32, approved an amendment that would make mail-in voting and early voting before the biennial state primaries and general elections permanent. Both of these methods were approved by the Legislature when the pandemic hit but only applied to the 2020 elections.

“Massachusetts voters got a glimpse into an efficient, safe, and convenient way to vote that other states have long enjoyed during last year’s election, with 42 percent of our commonwealth’s voters voting by mail,” said Rep. Jack Lewis (D-Framingham). “And because of that, even in the midst of a global pandemic, we experienced turnout numbers we haven’t seen in nearly 30 years.”

“I’m a little shocked that we’re doing this today as part of the supplemental budget said GOP Minority Leader Brad Jones (R-North Reading). “This should go through the committee process. The chairman of Ways and Means has tried to impress that upon me numerous times. I don’t understand why that’s not the case here particularly for something that isn’t timely. This doesn’t have to be done … this doesn’t have any effect on the voters for over a year.”

(A “Yes” vote is for the amendment making mail-in voting and early voting permanent. A “No” vote is against the amendment.)

Rep. Kip Diggs—Yes

Rep. Dylan Fernandes—Yes

Rep. David Vieira—No

No Rep. Steven Xiarhos—No

Also Up On Beacon Hill

COVID-19 Policy Extensions (S 2467)—The Senate, on a voice vote without a roll call on the bill itself or on any proposed amendments, approved and sent to the House legislation that would extend many of the measures instituted in Massachusetts during the COVID-19 state of emergency that are slated to expire when the emergency declaration ends on June 15. During debate, the Senate approved eight amendments, rejected 23 while 13 were withdrawn by the sponsors.

Provisions of the bill include extending mail-in voting until December 15, 2021, and allowing cities and towns to extend early in-person voting through the same date; allowing public bodies subject to the open meeting law to continue to hold remote meetings until April 1, 2022; making remote town meetings and meetings of nonprofits and public corporations an option through December 15, 2021; allowing cities and towns to approve and extend permits for outdoor dining through April 1, 2022; allowing restaurants to offer alcoholic beverages, including mixed drinks, for off-site consumption with the purchase of food until March 1, 2022; extending several protections that have been granted to tenants who have difficulty paying rent; and extending until December 15 a requirement that certain in-network telehealth services be reimbursed at the same rate as equivalent in-person services.

Hunger on College Campuses (S 847)—The Higher Education Committee held a hearing on legislation that would create the Massachusetts Community College Campus Hunger Program pilot program that would provide funding to address food insecurity among college students at the state’s 15 community colleges. The program would provide grants in the form of student meal cards, meal plans, meal vouchers and other campus-designed projects to address food insecurity.

Free Tuition for Foster Kids (S 826)—The Higher Education Committee also held a hearing on a measure that would amend a current law that provides that when a family adopts a foster child through the Department of Children and Families, the child is entitled to free tuition and fees at state universities and community colleges for classes taught by full-time faculty. This excludes many classes taught by part-time instructors, online or at night. The bill would amend that current law to include all courses.

Default on Student Loans (H 412 and H 425)—The Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure Committee’s hearing included two similar bills that would repeal a current law passed in 1990, which created professional licensure consequences for anyone who defaults on their student loan. Under existing law, the Massachusetts Educational Financing Authority and the American Student Assistance can request that a borrower’s state-issued professional or occupational certificate, registration or license be suspended, revoked or cancelled for default on educational loans made or administered by either group.

Copyright © 2021 Beacon Hill Roll Call. All Rights Reserved.

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