REPEAL 1913 MARRIAGE RESTRICTION (S 800) - The Senate, on a voice vote without a roll call, approved and sent to the House legislation that would repeal a 1913 law that prohibits out-of-state couples from getting married in Massachusetts if their home state does not recognize the union. The legislation is supported by House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi, Senate President Therese Murray and Gov. Patrick. State officials have used this law, upheld in 2004 by the Supreme Judicial Court, to prevent out-of-state same-sex couples from marrying here. Repeal supporters said that the law was originally put on the books to block interracial marriages and is an endorsement of discrimination that should be eliminated. Some noted that repeal would lead to many more visitors to Massachusetts and would be an economic boon. No one spoke on the Senate floor against the bill. Some opponents say that they simply oppose same-sex marriage. Other said that repeal of the 1913 law would open up the state to lawsuits from other states. The Senate in 2004 supported repeal of the law on a standing, non-roll call vote of 28-3 as part of the fiscal 2005 state budget. The House-Senate conference committee removed the repeal from the final version of the budget that was signed into law. The three senators who stood up in 2004 against the repeal were Sens. Richard Moore (D-Uxbridge), Scott Brown (R-Wrentham) and Robert Hedlund (R-Weymouth).
MEDICAID AND SAME-SEX MARRIAGES (H 4107) - The House approved and sent to the Senate legislation requiring the state to pay the full amount of same-sex married couples' Medicaid benefits. The federal government does not recognize same-sex marriage and does not contribute the same share of Medicaid funds for same-sex couples as it does for a marriage between a man and a woman. Supporters said that the state should absorb the cost, estimated at 50 percent, that is not paid by the federal government. They argued that it is unfair that same-sex couples are treated under Medicaid as if they are single and noted that the new law would protect the homes of same-sex couples when one spouse goes into a nursing home.
FISCAL 2009 STATE BUDGET (H 4900) - Gov. Patrick signed into law a fiscal 2009 state budget. The governor vetoed $122.5 million in spending - nearly three times the $41 million that he cut from last year's budget. According to the State House News Service, the final budget, including the vetoes, totals $28.11 billion, a 4.86 percent increase in spending over fiscal 2008. The Legislature is reviewing the cuts. A two-thirds vote of each branch is needed in order to override a veto.
SUDDEN INFANT DEATH SYNDROME ADVISORY COUNCIL (H 1678) - The House and Senate approved and sent to Gov. Patrick legislation creating the Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) Advisory Council. The council would be the focal point for many of the issues surrounding SIDS.
FIRE DEPARTMENT FEES (H 2374) - The House gave initial approval to a bill allowing local communities to assess a fee to construction companies that use fire department personnel for "confined space rescues." These spaces are defined by the U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) as ones with "configurations that hinder the activities of any employees who must enter, work in and exit the spaces." OSHA requires that some construction companies have a plan and personnel for these rescues. Sponsors of the bill say that the companies often do not hire private rescue personnel but instead rely on the trained rescue personnel of a city or town. They argue that the community should be allowed to assess a fee for providing this service.
OFFICIAL STATE GLACIAL ROCK (H 4823) - The House approved and sent to the Senate legislation making Fall River's Rolling Rock the state's official glacial rock.
- Bob Katzen