Beacon Hill Roll Call: April 8 to April 12, 2024

By BOB KATZEN

Published: 04-19-2024 11:18 AM

Beacon Hill Roll Call records local senators’ votes on a roll call from the week of April 8 to April 12. There were no roll calls in the House last week.

$375 million for roads and bridges (H 4529)

The Senate, 39-0, approved a bill that includes authorizing $200 million in one-time funding for the maintenance and repair of roads and bridges across the state. The $375 million package, a bond bill under which the funding would be borrowed by the state through the sale of bonds, also includes $175 million for transportation-related grant programs. The House has already approved the bill and only final House and Senate passage are necessary before the measure goes to Gov. Maura Healey for her signature.

“The annual authorization of the Chapter 90 program provides cities and towns with the state funding they need to most effectively address their transportation infrastructure needs,” said Sen. Brendan Crighton, D-Lynn, Senate chair of the Committee on Transportation. “This $375 million total investment in both Chapter 90 and additional grant opportunities funds tangible improvements across our entire transportation network — including roads, bridges, access to mass transit and sidewalks.”

“Getting around our communities is a fundamental part of everyone’s day,” said Senate President Karen Spilka, D-Ashland. “Whether the commute takes you on the sidewalk, through a bike lane, across a small bridge, onto your regional transit authority or to the T, your journey should be quick and safe. By passing today’s legislation, we are empowering our cities and towns with the funding to make improvements to the infrastructure our residents travel on, regardless of where they go and how.”

“We’re grateful to see the House and Senate swiftly pass the Chapter 90 bond bill with key investments in municipal roads and bridges,” said Adam Chapdelaine, CEO of the Massachusetts Municipal Association. “This quick action was essential with the construction season already underway. This year, we’ll again be advocating for the Legislature to supplement these programs through dedicated funding via the new state surtax. Last year, supplemental Chapter 90 aid via the surtax provided an additional $100 million for the 30,000 miles of municipal roads, which went to great use in communities all across the commonwealth.”

A “Yes” vote is for the $375 million package.

Sen. Joanne Comerford — Yes

Sen. Paul Mark — Yes

Also up on Beacon HillHouse Ways and Means Committee proposes $57.9 billion state budget

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The House fired the second shot in the long battle over the state budget for fiscal year 2025 that begins on July 1. Gov. Healey fired the opening volley in January when she filed her version of the spending package. The House Ways and Means Committee last week unveiled its own $57.9 billion plan. It increases spending by $1.9 billion, or 3.3%, over the fiscal year 2024 budget. Debate on the House version is scheduled to begin soon.

After the full House approves a version of the package, the Senate will follow suit with its own draft, and a House-Senate conference committee will eventually craft a plan that will be presented to the House and Senate for consideration and sent to the governor.

Traffic stops for people with autism

The state announced the implementation of the “Blue Envelope Program,” designed to improve interactions between police officers and people with autism spectrum disorder during traffic stops. The voluntary program provides individuals on the autism spectrum with specially designed blue envelopes to carry their driver’s licenses, vehicle registration and a contact card that informs police officers about their diagnosis.

In addition, information printed on the envelope’s exterior identifies the driver as a person with autism spectrum disorder and provides instructions for a police officer on how to enhance communication with the driver, as well as how to reduce any anxiety the driver may be experiencing as a result of being stopped or involved in an incident. The envelope also lists guidelines for the driver, including what to expect during a traffic stop, and how to present the blue envelope to the officer.

“In honor of Autism Acceptance Month, the Blue Envelope Program reflects our deep commitment to supporting programs that strengthen inclusivity and support law enforcement’s ability to more effectively meet the needs of every community member,” Gov. Healey said. “We’re grateful for the collaboration of our partners who brought this important public safety program to fruition.”

“This new program provides an essential tool to enhance communication between police officers and drivers with autism while helping officers to recognize possible behaviors and more effectively engage individuals during traffic stops, motor vehicle accidents or mechanical breakdowns,” said Public Safety and Security Secretary Terrence Reidy.

More information about the Blue Envelope Program, including how to request an envelope online and how to prepare, carry and display them, is available at bit.ly/4d60leu.

Blue envelopes are available at all Massachusetts State Police barracks and will soon be available at local police departments.

Must notify owner of gas or electric shutoffs (H 1370)

The House gave initial approval to legislation that would require gas and electric companies to contact landlords within 14 days of a tenant’s bill becoming past due.

Supporters said the bill would allow for third-party notifications as an extra measure of protection against having their gas or electric service shut off. Utility companies would be required to contact landlords within 14 days of a tenant’s bill becoming past due. And if a tenant is out of town or overlooks the notice, the landlord will be notified and can help rectify the situation to protect their property from any damage due to a cessation of service.

“The purpose of this bill is to notify homeowners, particularly landlords, about a potential shutoff,” said sponsor Rep. Jeff Roy, D-Franklin. “Currently, only the customer of record is given notice, which makes a landlord vulnerable to cessation of services [that] may harm their real property.”

Lower interest rate on property taxes deferred by seniors (H 2919)

The House gave initial approval to a bill that would lower the current flat 16% interest rate on property taxes that are deferred under the Senior Citizen Property Tax Deferral Program, which defers payment until the senior sells the property or dies. The bill would lower the rate to the prime rate plus 2%. The current prime rate is 8.5%, which would result in a 10.5% interest rate.

“This legislation establishes more reasonable interest rates on the property taxes deferred under the Senior Citizen Property Tax Deferral Program, enabling more senior citizens to take advantage of the program and freeing up money for important items such as medication, housing expenses and health care,” said sponsor Rep. Alice Peisch, D-Wellesley.

Official state jazz song (H 3105)

The House gave initial approval to a measure that would make the song “Massachusetts” the state’s official jazz song.

Sponsor Rep. Orlando Ramos, D-Springfield, did not respond to repeated requests by Beacon Hill Roll Call to comment on his bill and its passage.