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Foreclosure bill gets Legislature’s full approval

By Bob Katzen

THE HOUSE AND SENATE: Beacon Hill Roll Call records the votes of local representatives on four roll calls and local senators on five roll calls from the week of July 23-27.

RESTRICT USE OF EBT CARDS: Gov. Patrick signed into law a bill (H 4237) restricting the use of electronic benefit transfer (EBT) cards by welfare recipients. The measure prohibits the cards from being used for strip clubs, products from adult bookstores and adult paraphernalia stores, firearms, ammunition, cruises, vacation services, body piercings, jewelry, rent-to-own stores and bail. The governor early in July said some of the restrictions were unenforceable and unsuccessfully tried to amend the bill to allow the cards to be used for vacation services, body piercings, jewelry, merchandise from rent-to-own stores and bail.

Current law already bans the purchase of alcoholic beverages, lottery tickets and tobacco products.

Supporters said it is time to crack down on the abuse of EBT cards and ensure that taxpayers’ hard-earned dollars are used only for necessities like food. They noted the purchase of nonessentials is outrageous.

Patrick also vetoed and sent back to the Legislature a separate bill (H 4238) that would require applicants to provide proof of “legal residence” in order to register their car in the Bay State. The governor on July 11 tried unsuccessfully to soften and amend the bill to require proof of “residence, legal or illegal.”

Supporters of requiring proof of “legal residence” said it is time to get tough with illegal drivers and allow only legal residents to register a car in Massachusetts.

ALLOW CHILD CARE WORKERS TO FORM UNIONS (H 3986): House 122-31, Senate 34-4 approved and sent to Gov. Deval Patrick a bill that would allow child care providers who work out of their homes and receive voucher payments from the state to join a union. The proposal does not affect private day care workers or those who work in day care centers. Voters rejected a similar proposal on the 2006 ballot by a vote of 951,517 in favor and 1,042,253 against.

Supporters, noting the current payment rate is $28 a day, said the bill would allow these important low-wage earners to negotiate with the state for better pay and benefits.

Opponents said the bill would make child care quality and standards the subject of politically charged union negotiations and result in steady pay raises that would cost taxpayers more money.

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

YES: Reps. Jennifer Benson, Stephen DiNatale, Harold Naughton, Dennis Rosa; Sens. Stephen Brewer, James Eldridge and Jennifer Flanagan

NO: Reps. Richard Bastien, Kimberly Ferguson, Sheila Harrington

AVOID FORECLOSURES (H 4323): House 153-0, Senate 35-0, approved and sent to the governor the conference committee version of a bill prohibiting banks from pursuing foreclosure on a homeowner unless they have first taken “reasonable steps and good faith efforts to avoid foreclosure.” A key provision requires the bank to offer a modified loan to the borrower if it is more profitable than the amount the bank would recover through foreclosure.

Supporters said the bill would help an estimated 100,000 mortgages in jeopardy and keep families in their homes while still being more than fair to banks.

(A “Yes” vote is for the bill.)

YES: Reps. Bastien, Benson, DiNatale, Ferguson, Harrington, Naughton, Rosa; Sens. Brewer, Eldridge and Flanagan.

SUPER PACS: Senate 35-1, approved resolutionscalling for the U.S. Congress to pass a constitutional amendment to overturn theSupreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. In that decision, the court ruled the First Amendment prohibits the government from restrictingcorporations, unions and individuals from donating unlimited funds toSuper Political Action Committees that do not donate directly to candidates or political parties.

These super PACs are created to help candidates and are often run by the candidate’s former staffers or associates who use the PAC to fund negative ads against the candidate’s opponents. A candidate’s own committee’s contributions are limited by federal law but super PACs can legally accept unlimited donations.

Resolution supporters said the decision has led to corporations, unions and wealthy individuals contributing hundreds of millions of dollars to Super PACs and having an undue influence on elections that is drowning out the voices of everyday Americans.

The lone opponent said the First Amendment freedom of the press is the freedom to disseminate political ideas and opinions. He noted no one has offered a coherent approach to limiting that freedom nor does he think it is likely that anyone will. He argued the government should require disclosure of funding sources for advertising, but legislators have to trust the voters to sort out the truth.

(A Yes” vote is for the resolutions. A “No” vote is against them.)

YES: Sens. Brewer, Eldridge, Flanagan

WAMPANOAGS AND CASINOS (H 4259): Senate 27-9, approved the casino compact negotiated by Gov. Patrick and the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe to build a casino in Southeastern Massachusetts. The state would receive 21.5 percent of any casino revenue.

Supporters said this casino would be a big boost to Taunton, which has already approved a casino, and would generate millions of dollars for the state.

Opponents said the deal should include a deadline for the tribe to receive federal approval for placing the future casino land into trust — a key to the building of the casino. They argued the lack of a trust could freeze the state’s Southeast region out of casino development.

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

YES: Sens. Brewer, Flanagan

NO: Sen. Eldridge

ALSO ON BEACON HILL

CHILD SEX ABUSE (H 4329): The House, without debate and on a voice vote without a roll call, approved and sent to the Senate a bill increasing the statute of limitations during which a person can file a civil suit for child sexual abuse. Current law allows victims to file a suit up until the age of 21 while the bill would increase the age to 43. Another key provision allows victims currently aged 43 and under, who were barred under current law from filing because they already turned 21, a year to file a suit retroactively.

BAN CYBER CAFÉS THAT ALLOW ONLINE GAMBLING (H 3765): The House and Senate gave final approval to and sent to Gov. Patrick a bill that would ban cyber cafés that allow gamblers to play online slots.The measure makes it a crime to conduct a sweepstakes with an electronic machine and punishes offenders with up to 15 years in state prison or a $250,000 per machine fine.

CHOKING IN RESTAURANTS (H 1462): The House gave initial approval to a bill requiring all restaurants to have a device designed to remove food lodged in a person’s throat or an employee trained in the Heimlich Maneuver on the premises at all times. Under current law, the requirement only applies to restaurants with 25 or more seats.

EMERGENCY BATHROOM USE (H 2366):The House and Senate approved and sent to Gov. Patrick a bill that would require retail establishments to allow use of their bathrooms by people who have written documentation from a doctor of any medical condition, including ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease, that requires immediate access to a restroom facility.Businesses that violate the proposed law would be subject to a $100 fine. The proposal only needs final House and Senate approval and then would go to Gov. Patrick.

TWO-DAY SALES TAX HOLIDAY IN AUGUST (S 157): The House gave initial approval to legislation that would allow consumers to buy most products that cost under $2,500 on Saturday, August 11, and Sunday, Aug. 12, without paying the state’s 6.25 percent sales tax.

HOW LONG WAS LAST WEEK’S SESSION? During the week of July 23-27, the House met for a total of 17 hours and 22 minutes while the Senate met for a total of 19 hours and one minute.

Copyright © 2012 Beacon Hill Roll Call. All Rights Reserved. Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at bob@beaconhillrollcall.com.

Article source: http://www.sentinelandenterprise.com/local/ci_21190232/foreclosure-bill-gets-legislatures-full-approval

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