In case you missed it, today marks the second day of debate on the House Ways & Means Fiscal Year 2015 Budget.
As you may have heard, the House of Representatives recently unveiled their $36.2 billion state budget proposal. While the Democratic-majority set an unfortunate tone to this year’s budget debate by refusing to consider amendments relative to local aid, education spending, and welfare reform, the House Republican Caucus will not be deterred.
During this year’s budget debate, the House Republican’s firmly believe that the Legislature must make considerable strides in delivering a budget that is mindful of the economic times, while producing a spending plan that delivers an accountable and transparent state government which reflects the taxpayers’ priorities, and seeks to eliminate waste, fraud and abuse.
This evenings debate will continue with amendments relative to constitutional officers and state administration. Below, you will find the amendments offered by House Republicans, along with a brief description of the amendment.
Amendment 1 - Commission to Study Retiree Health Care Reform (Jones, Bradley) ADDS a new outside section establishing a commission similar to the OPEB Commission, to look at the feasibility of moving toward a defined contribution system and away from defined benefit delivery. Current law requires municipalities to provide health insurance that offers a defined set of benefits. This study, however, would look at the potential savings that could be achieved by allowing payers to offer comparable individual policies funded by Health Reimbursement Arrangements (HRAs). The payer would thus convert the amount used for premium allowance (about $300 per person per month) and put it towards an HRA. The retiree would then be able to purchase comparable coverage using the HRA funds.
Amendment 5 - Allowable Earning Increase for Disability Retirees (Jones, Bradley) ADDS a new outside section increasing the earned income cap for disability retirees from $5K to $10K.
Amendment 8 - Agency Credit Card Audit (Jones, Bradley) ADDS a new outside section requiring the State Auditor to conduct an annual audit of credit cards issued on behalf of any state agency. The audit will include: the number of credit cards issued by each agency; an accounting of credit cards issued to agency employees, be they actively employed or formerly employed by the agency; and the aggregate monetary amount of credit card transactions per agency.
Amendment 12 - Electronic Paperwork (Jones, Bradley) ADDS a new outside section to increase government transparency and reduce costs of printing by eliminating paperwork which is able to be submitted electronically. It also creates a commission to study the feasibility of increasing electronic filings, records management and transactions within the Judiciary Branch.
Amendment 29 - Reforming the Regulatory Process (Jones, Bradley) ADDS a new outside section reforming the regulatory process by requiring a review process for all agency rules by the appropriate committee. When an agency creates a regulation, it is filed with the Secretary of State and the appropriate committee. The committee exams the rule to see if it is a valid exercise of designated legislative authority, necessary, reasonable and if it complies with regulatory analysis. The rule must be voted on by committee within 30 days and an agency may withdraw the rule from committee. The review also will include a small business impact statement. Furthermore any agency that approves a state grant to a person or public or private entity over $500K must submit a detailed cost benefit analysis to the Legislature.
Amendment 46 - Highly Paid State Employee Compensation Study (Jones, Bradley) ADDS a new outside section creating a commission to conduct a comprehensive review and evaluation of public employment and compensation, including: a comparison of public employees with salaries above $100K in the current fiscal year and the change in the number of such employees for each of the previous 10 fiscal years across all branches, offices, departments, agencies and authorities.
Amendment 59 - Public Service Announcements (Jones, Bradley) ADDS a new outside section requiring after any advertising, whether print, broadcast, or online, to include a disclosure stating, “Brought to you by the Massachusetts Taxpayers.”
Amendment 131 - An Amendment to reform and modernize legislative transportation reimbursement (Fattman, Ryan) ADDS a new outside section eliminating the per diem and allowance for each day after prorogation for new members elected after January 1, 2015.
Amendment 167 - Government Efficiencies Commission (Vieira, David) ADDS a new outside section creating a Government Efficiency Commission. The commission will consist of 17 members: three appointed by the Speaker, two by the House Minority Leader, three by the Senate President, two by the Senate Minority Leader, one by the Auditor, one by the Treasurer, and five by the Governor. The commission is tasked with identifying ways to eliminate redundancies among state agencies and make recommendations to do so in a report to the Legislature by January 2, 2015.
Amendment 175 - Chapter 90 Youth Jobs Funding (Jones, Bradley) ADDS a new outside section prohibiting the expenditure of funds from the Youthat- Risk Summer Jobs Program account (7002-0012) until all of the $300M appropriated for Chapter 90 road funding has been released by the Governor.
Amendment 460 - Gaming Payments to Plainville (Dooley, Shawn) ADDS a new outside section including the town of Plainville in the payments to cities and towns from the Massachusetts Gaming Commission.
Amendment 526 - An Amendment to Benefit the Right Lots School House (Fattman, Ryan) EARMARKS $5K from the Massachusetts Historical Commission account (0526- 0100) for a matching grant for the maintenance and enhancement of the Historical Eight Lots Sutton School House. Does not increase the overall appropriation.
Amendment 554 - Minimum Wage Regulations Review (Mirra, Leonard) ADDS a new outside section instructing the state to review the economic impact of the minimum wage and other economic regulations every 5 years, rather than every 12.
Amendment 626 - An Act Relative to the Funding of the Commission on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning Youth (Lombardo, Marc) SUBTRACTS $200K from the Commission on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning Youth (0950-0050). Eliminates funding entirely.
Amendment 684 - Conforming to Federal ID Standards (Diehl, Geoff) ADDS a new outside section requiring a voter to show an ID to vote. Valid forms of identification include a valid driver’s license, a Massachusetts identification card, a passport, US military ID, Massachusetts voter ID card. If a voter qualifies for MassHealth, they are entitled to obtain a Massachusetts Voter ID card at no cost from the RMV. Furthermore this section requires driver’s licenses to comply with all federal Real Identification Act standards.
Amendment 686 - Consolidating the Various Registrars (Diehl, Geoff) ADDS a new outside section creating a commission to study the feasibility of consolidating the resources, facilities and man power of the RMV, registries of probate and registries of deeds. The commission will consist of the Secretary of State, who will chair the commission; the director of DCAMM; a member appointed by the House Minority Leader; a member appointed by the Senate Minority Leader; and two members appointed by the Governor. The commission will submit a report to the legislature by December 31, 2015.
Amendment 693 - An Amendment for Tax Abatements for Veterans, Widows, Blind Person (Kuros, Kevin) INCREASES the total appropriation for the Tax Abatements for Vets, Widows, Blind, Elders account (1233-2000) by $1.2M.
Amendment 756 - Sunshine Policy Disclosure (Poirier, Elizabeth) ADDS a new outside section requiring that sunshine disclosures, which require applicants for state employment to list all family members currently employed in state government, be filed on a separate page at the end of each application in order to facilitate public access.
Amendment 786 - One-year adjustment period for new regulations (O'Connell, Shaunna) ADDS a new outside section forbidding any regulation, except for emergencies, from taking effect until one year after publication.
Amendment 827 - Transparency in state spending (O'Connell, Shaunna) ADDS a new outside section mandating the Treasurer to post on Open Checkbook all payouts of severance and settlement agreements involving employee disputes including the amount of the settlement and to whom it was paid.
Amendment 831 - Transparency in pension funds (O'Connell, Shaunna) ADDS a new outside section authorizing the State Auditor to audit the accounts, programs, activities and functions directly related any person, corporation, or legal entity that receives public funds for the payment of pensions.
Amendment 834 - Hearings for the potential impact of statewide taxes (Cole, Leah) ADDS a new outside section requiring the Joint Committee on Revenue to hold at least five public hearings throughout the Commonwealth prior to enacting any proposed tax increases.
Amendment 837 - Ensuring vendor compliance in pension plans (O'Connell, Shaunna) ADDS a new outside section adding any person, corporation, or other entity which receives public funds for pensions to the retirement boards to the section on debarment or suspension of contractors or vendors.
Amendment 839 - Procurement standards for pension plans (O'Connell, Shaunna) ADDS a new outside section adding any person, corporation, or legal entity which receives or expends public funds for its pensions to the definition of the retirement boards to the section on the requirements applicable to retirement board contracts for the procurement of investment, actuarial, legal or accounting services.
Amendment 845 - Relative to auditing state issued credit cards (O'Connell, Shaunna) ADDS a new outside section mandating the State Auditor to conduct an audit of all credit cards, procurement cards, and travel cards issued by all state colleges, universities, state agencies, and quasi-agencies from January 2013 through April 2014. The results will be submitted to the Legislature by December 30, 2014.
Amendment 849 - Relative to reporting standards for retirement systems (O'Connell, Shaunna) ADDS a new outside section relative to reporting standards for state funded retirement system. Creates an extraordinary status retirement system (ESRS) which includes any entity which receives or expends public funds for its' pensions. Each ESRS will prepare financial statements annually, conduct an investigation every five years with the standards established by the Public Employees Retirement Administration Commission, and file a report with every governmental unit it receives funds from. Said report must include financial transactions, statistical information in regards to system membership, and a summary of any audits. Establishes penalties are included for failure to comply.
Amendment 996 - DCAM contract negotiations with Human Service Organizations (Durant, Peter) ADDS a new outside section requiring if the conditions and use of a lease between DCAMM as tenant and any Human Service Organization remain unchanged, the rates paid by DCAMM for said lease cannot change by more than 5%.
Amendment 1081 - Municipalities Regarding the Pacheco Law (Howitt, Steven) ADDS a new outside section exempting municipalities from the regulations regarding privatization contracts (i.e., the Pacheco Law) when using local money for a city or town project.
Amendment 1120 - Retirement Benefits of Certain Widows and Surviving Spouses (Howitt, Steven) ADDS a new outside section allowing spouses of police and fire fighters who died in the line of duty and remarried after January 1, 1990 to collected survivor benefits. This amendment is prospective from the passage of the bill.