Beacon Hill Roll Call: Jan. 22 to Jan. 26, 2024

Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey takes questions from reporters on Wednesday, Jan. 31, in the Roxbury neighborhood of Boston. Healey has filed her second annual state budget, this one with a price tag of $58.15 billion. The package calls for about $2.07 billion or 3.7% more spending compared to the fiscal year 2024 budget she signed in August 2023.

Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey takes questions from reporters on Wednesday, Jan. 31, in the Roxbury neighborhood of Boston. Healey has filed her second annual state budget, this one with a price tag of $58.15 billion. The package calls for about $2.07 billion or 3.7% more spending compared to the fiscal year 2024 budget she signed in August 2023. AP Photo/Steven Senne

By BOB KATZEN

Published: 02-02-2024 9:52 AM

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. Maura Healey on her 24 vetoes of mostly state budget items in the 2023 legislative session.

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. Healey fell short of that goal as 25 votes was the most support she received on any veto. The House easily overrode all 24 vetoes, including nine that were overridden unanimously.

No Democrats voted with Healey to sustain any vetoes. All 134 voted to override all the vetoes. Only GOP members voted with Healey to sustain the vetoes, but no Republican representative voted with Healey 100% of the time.

The three GOP members who voted with Healey the most times are Reps. Marc Lombardo, R-Billerica, and Nicholas Boldyga, R-Southwick, who both voted with her 14 times (58.3%); and Donald Berthiaume, R-Spencer, who voted with her 12 times (50%).

The GOP member who supported Healey least frequently was Rep. David Vieira, R-Falmouth, who voted with Healey only seven times (29.1%).

Here is how your representative fared in his or her support of Gov. Healey on the vetoes. The percentage next to the representative’s name represents the percentage of times that he or she supported Healey. The number in parentheses represents the actual number of times the representative supported Healey.

Rep. Natalie Blais — 0% (0)

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Rep. Aaron Saunders — 0% (0)

Rep. Susannah Whipps — 0% (0)

Also up on Beacon Hill Healey files $58.15 billion fiscal year 2025 budget

Gov. Maura Healey filed her second annual state budget, this one with a price tag of $58.15 billion. The package calls for about $2.07 billion or 3.7% more spending compared to the fiscal year 2024 budget she signed in August 2023.

“We are tightening our belts,” Healey said. “Our economy remains strong, but the revenue picture is changing. Pandemic-era funding relief has gone away, and nationally, the economic recovery has stabilized. So, in this environment, it is important that we manage spending in a way that is making strategic choices, examining the impact of every dollar we propose to spend and that we bring our budget in line with a rate of inflation and in line with the resources and the revenue that we have.”

“What Gov. Maura Healey is proposing is an irresponsible budget, coming in higher than last year, which was already too high, while missing the much-needed reforms to curtail our immigration problems along with making our state more competitive,” said Paul Craney, a spokesperson for the Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance. “The governor is continuing to spend taxpayer money on immigrants, while cutting spending on taxpayers, closing a state jail and shifting money away from dedicated savings. The governor describes this budget as fiscally responsible, but this budget reflects a state that is fiscally crumbling from the top down.”

“As a former mayor, and someone who has traveled around the state listening to our local officials, I’m proud of the way that this budget proposal responds to local needs,” said Lt. Gov. Kim Driscoll. “We’re fully funding the Student Opportunity Act to make sure our K-12 schools have equitable access to the resources their students and educators need. We’re also increasing the amount of local aid going to cities and towns and boosting Chapter 90 funding to improve roads and bridges, particularly in rural communities.”

“Gov. Healey has filed a fiscal year 2025 budget that calls for significantly increased spending across state government, but those aspirations need to be tempered by the fiscal realities facing the commonwealth,” said House Minority Leader Rep. Brad Jones, R-North Reading. “After six-plus months of tax revenues coming in lower than expected, Gov. Healey has already implemented hundreds of millions of dollars in mid-year cuts and downgraded projected revenues by $1 billion for fiscal year 2024. At the same time, funding for the migrant shelter crisis continues to drain much-needed revenues that would otherwise have been spent on other programs and services, with no end in sight.”

The budget now goes to the House, which will craft and approve its own version; then it moves to the Senate, which will offer a different plan. A House-Senate conference committee will eventually hammer out a compromise version that will be approved by both branches and sent to Gov. Healey, who has the power to veto any spending and any other items. The House and Senate can then choose to override any of the governor’s vetoes.

Gov. Healey signs executive order instituting skills-based hiring

Gov. Healey signed an executive order requiring all state agencies to institute skills-based hiring practices. The order requires hiring to focus primarily on an applicant’s skills, knowledge and abilities rather than educational credentials. The only jobs exempt from the requirement are jobs when education degree conditions are absolutely necessary for the performance of the job. In addition, people in charge of hiring will receive training to help them implement these new hiring policies.

“As the state’s largest employer, we rely on a strong, diverse workforce to deliver crucial services and programs for Massachusetts residents, businesses and communities every day,” said Healey. “But too many job applicants are being held back by unnecessary degree requirements. This executive order directs our administration to focus on applicants’ skills and experiences, rather than college credentials. It will expand our applicant pool and help us build a more inclusive and skilled workforce than ever before. Our administration is leading by example, and we encourage the business community to join us by adopting similar skills-based hiring practices.”

“Massachusetts has an incredible opportunity to leverage its platform as a major employer, lead by example, and encourage more employers to do the same,” said Secretary of Labor and Workforce Development Lauren Jones. “As employers, including the commonwealth, embrace a skills-based hiring practice, we will collectively open more opportunities to hire, retain and develop the diverse, skilled talent employers need to grow and thrive in regions across the state.”

Free buses (H 3266)

The Transportation Committee held a hearing on legislation that would create a one-year pilot program for free access to bus service for the MBTA (Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority) and regional transit authorities. The measure would also establish advisory committees to evaluate the impacts of the pilot program on ridership, equity, increased access, efficiency, on-time performance, cost savings and other metrics.

“Sen. [Pat Jehlen] and I filed [the bill] because access to public transit is critical to the well-being and economic development of our communities,” said House sponsor Rep. Christine Barber, D-Somerville. “As we continue to see lower ridership compared to before the pandemic, removing barriers to public transit is an important method to get people out of their cars, decrease bus waiting time, decrease carbon emissions, reduce traffic and improve health.”

Privacy of college students (H 4266)

The House gave initial approval to a bill that would prohibit colleges from being required to release certain student education records to third parties that request the records. The prohibition would not apply to federal, state or municipal agency requests.

“This bill is about protecting and safeguarding the privacy of our students in public higher ed and ensuring they have the same rights as all students who are afforded the same protections under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act,” said Senate sponsor Sen. Jake Oliveira, D-Ludlow.

Waive first annual inspection for new cars (H 3255)

Another proposal before the Transportation Committee, offered by Rep. Jim Arciero, D-Westford, would eliminate the initial state-required annual inspection for brand new vehicles for one year.

Supporters said the legislation is based on the fact that pre-delivery inspections (PDIs) are required by each motor vehicle manufacturer from their dealers prior to the sale of a vehicle to a consumer. The PDI checklist parallels the state’s vehicle inspection checklist and is an unnecessary duplication of the state’s inspection process.

State panel denies effort to remove former President Donald Trump from primary ballot

The State Ballot Law Commission dismissed a challenge that alleged former President Donald Trump is ineligible for office due to his role in the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol, ruling that it does not have jurisdiction over the case.

“The commission, having reviewed the materials submitted, has determined that the State Ballot Law Commission does not have jurisdiction over the matters presented,” the panel wrote.

“Donald Trump’s name will not be appearing on the presidential primary ballot as a result of the submission of nomination papers or a certificate of nomination over which the commission does have jurisdiction,” the panel continued. “Rather, Donald Trump’s name will appear on the presidential primary ballot as a result of the Republican State Committee’s submission of his name to the secretary of the commonwealth on Sept. 29, 2023. … This submission from the state party should not be confused with a certificate of nomination.”

Gov. Healey plans to close MCI-Concord

The Massachusetts Department of Correction (DOC) announced its intention to shut down MCI-Concord, a medium-security men’s prison that currently operates at 50% capacity with an incarcerated population of approximately 300. The shutdown is proposed by Gov. Healey in her fiscal year 2025 budget proposal. The shutdown needs legislative approval before it goes into effect.

The DOC said in a press release that the decision to end operations at MCI-Concord and relocate its staff and population is based on a “thorough assessment of decreased housing needs and the aging facility’s high maintenance costs.” It noted that the closure “allows the department to dispose of the property, making it available for non-correctional purposes and potential redevelopment to the benefit of the surrounding community.”

“During its first year, the Healey-Driscoll administration has worked closely with the Legislature, community partners and advocates to invest in justice initiatives that have contributed to the lowest rates of incarceration and recidivism in decades,” said Public Safety and Security Secretary Terrence Reidy. “Strategically consolidating DOC resources makes financial sense and enables the department to build upon the proven, evidence-based rehabilitative programs that support successful reentry and improve outcomes.”

The Massachusetts Correction Officers Federated Union’s Executive Board announced it is adamantly against the closing of MCI-Concord or any other prison.

“The Executive Board feels that the closing of MCI-Concord or any other prison will burden our already violent and dangerous prisons,” the group said in a statement. “We are witnessing extreme and daily violence at the Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center [in Lancaster] after the closing of Walpole.”

The statement continued, “With over 300 inmates at Concord, our classification system will undoubtedly need to reclassify many of these and other inmates statewide. This will potentially place higher-risk inmates in lower-level facilities, thus placing our officers’ safety at risk. We ask the governor, public safety secretary and DOC commissioner to halt any plans to close Concord until a comprehensive plan is in place.”