Following the Amendments on malegislature.gov

The House Committee on Ways and Means released their budget proposal on Monday, April 10th, a change from the typical Wednesday release to accommodate for Good Friday. Representatives had until 5pm on Thursday to add amendments to the $40.3Billion spending proposal.  Amendments can add additional funding and change line item language. Amendments must be filed by at least one representative, and others can add their name as co-sponsors after the amendment has been filed.  Historically, representatives co-sponsored an amendment by signing their names next to the corresponding number in a book in the clerk’s office with a quill pen.

Advocates and others would have to go to the clerk’s office at the State House and ask to see “the book” to see who had signed on. Now, legislators can use the “quill” feature on an online system that we can all track. Technology makes the process much more transparent.

The Massachusetts Legislature’s website had a bit of a face lift since last budget season. This blog post gives an overview of how to navigate the website so that you can read the various amendments, see what amendments your representative filed, and check to see if your State Representative is supporting the Budget Amendments that are important to you.

Step 1. Go to https://malegislature.gov/

Step 2. Go to the House Debate Page

Step 3. Use the Filter

When you enter your search terms, don’t forget to click the “filter” icon; use the “clear filter” feature to start a new search.  

Search Tips

  • If you don’t know who your State Representative is, click here
  • Housing programs all are listed with line item number 7004-
  • Line items we follow are: MRVP (7004-9024); Emergency Shelter (7004-0101); and HomeBASE (7004-0108)
  • Key words include: homeless, housing, voucher…

Step 4: Find your Amendment(s)

Step 5: Review the Amendment

Amendment #780 is an example of a funding amendment; striking the budget amount of $100M for MRVP and inserting $120M.

Click here to read the “technical amendment” #382 that was filed on MRVP 

Step 6: Take Action

If your Representative is signed on: say thank you!

If your Representative is not signed on: ask him/her to consider co-sponsoring.

You can call, email, use social media, visit the State House, attend an event.

Feel free to contact us with any questions or for more information.  For a sample script and a list of the amendments we are watching, click here

Stay tuned for more information; we will do our best to keep the blog updated as the budget process continues.  Representatives have up until the debates begin to co-sponsor and get educated about the amendments.

The debates begin on Monday, April 24th!

House Debate Week: You can’t always get what you want, but….

As our prior blog post illustrates, we wanted a lot from the House budget debates relative to housing:

We supported our amendment sponsors the best we could from outside of the ropes in front of the House Chambers (no matter how far the ropes are expanded!).  We gave them information and talking points, educated and encouraged other legislators to join them in the closed door discussions, and relied on you- our HFF community- to rally your legislators.

Unfortunately, none of our priority amendments for housing were passed. But as the Rolling Stones say, “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”.

Chart with adopted

But thankfully, the House Budget proposes things that we need:

  • A significant increase to the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program
  • A rejection of the Governor’s proposal to further restrict shelter eligibility
  • More funding for prevention, diversion and re-housing through RAFT and HomeBASE
  • And an increased cap to the HomeBASE benefit

For more details on the House budget relative to HOUSING, check out CHAPA’s summary.

The House Budget proposes the Emergency Assistance Line item be funded at $155,058,948, which is about a $15M increase from the appropriated amount for this fiscal year and about $40M less than the total spending on shelters and motels in FY15 including supplemental funding.  Earmarks were added to the line item for playspaces and to provide additional services to families in certain motels. The line item received a bump of $180,000 to cover the cost of those additions.

The House Budget provides a strong proposal for addressing the family homelessness crisis in fiscal year 2016, and will help us to focus on maintaining and fine tuning the line items in the Senate.

Do you want to stay involved and take more action? No problem, here are a few ways:

1. We invite you to listen to this song to remind you of our MRVP ask.  We hope it inspires you to call your Senator and remind them of the need for HOUSING SOLUTIONS TO THE HOMELESSNESS CRISIS! We are very pleased with the $90.1M proposed by the House, but more $ = more vouchers! #MRVP100!

2. Stay tuned for more information about the House Budget relative to our other priority areas and for action you can take to address the shelter and HomeBASE access issues in the Senate.

3. You can also say thank you to:

  • Speaker DeLeo; Chairman Dempsey of Ways and Means; Chairman Honan of the Housing Committee; and Assistant Majority Leader Byron Rushing with a simple call or email saying “Thank you for the protections and investments for homeless families in the House Budget”
  • Representative Marjorie Decker of Cambridge for sponsoring and fighting for important amendments related to shelter, HomeBASE, welfare benefits, and EITC….and for giving an impassioned speech about her own history in public housing, the role of Government and the need for housing for all families of the Commonwealth
  • Representative Barber and Representative Gregoire for sponsoring the HomeBASE access and EA reporting amendments, respectively
  • and your representative if they signed on to the amendments that you care about

Finally, we leave you with this- a video taken at the State House.  No filming is allowed from the House Gallery where we watch the debates and the votes are taken, but thankfully this video was made of the evacuation of the State House on Wednesday morning to give you a sense of the fun and energy that is House Debate Week!

video credit: Mike Deehan from MASSter List

Thank you for all YOU do to end homelessness!

Onward….

LH

Getting Wonky With It: Information for next week’s budget debates

On April 15th, the House Committee on Ways and Means released their budget proposal.  You can read our analysis here, Mass Law Reform’s analysis on programs impacting families with low incomes here, and Mass Budget and Policy Center’s full analysis here.

Representatives filed 1,096 amendments to the proposal.  All of the amendments are posted online and can be viewed here.  Using the on-line mass.gov tool, you can search for particular amendments by key word, line item number, and amendment number and/or legislator name. If you click on the amendment number, you will be able to see the text of the amendment, as well as the names of the legislators that have signed on in support.

The chart below includes amendments that are relative to homelessness.  We included all amendments that are being filed to our priority line items, issues that correspond to our Visioning Day recommendations, amendments that are priorities of our partner organizations, earmarks, and amendments that would have a negative impact on the people experiencing housing and economic instability, so that you know what is at stake in the debates.

Amendment Chart Take 2

Click the picture to enlarge 

Next week, the House of Representatives will debate the amendments in order to finalize the FY 16 House Budget.  Much of this process is done behind closed doors in “caucus meetings”, or meetings pertaining to a particular topic, such as housing.  Legislators will have an opportunity to speak for or against a specific amendment, and then the Ways and Means committee will determine which amendments will get considered as part of a broad “consolidated” amendment relative to each topic.  Then legislators will vote on the consolidated amendment.  In other words, not every amendment will get voted on.  This is why it is so important for you to advocate and let your representative know what amendments are important to you – and to addressing our family homelessness crisis.  We need Legislators to show their support through co-sponsoring, but also for going to the caucus meetings and speaking up for the important issues. They need you to help educate them so that they can be active participants.

Click here to find out who your Representative is and their contact information.

 

TeamHFF

Day Two: Tracking the Amendments

It’s day two of the debates, and the House is most certainly off to an alarming start. Despite the surprising interruption, we at HFF have been hard at work to keep you in the know as the races…I mean, debates….take off.

We have been “track”ing our primarysecondary, and other notable amendments, and want to share the Representatives who have signed on to some of those amendments.  Supporters are as follows:

 

Amendment 1105: Rep. Garballey to restore $15 million to MRVP.

 

Garballey

Amendment 519: Rep Fox to restore $30 million to MRVP.

Fox MRVP

 

Amendment 1108: Rep. Decker to would provide an average increase of $70 per month per household in TAFDC grants and in some cases can prevent a family from becoming homeless.

decker

Amendment 348: Rep. Gordon to provide $15 million in funding to expand the number of shelter units across the state, allowing for more families to be placed in supportive shelters rather than a motel room.

two

Amendment 700: Rep. Swan to establish no less than 12 month contracts with shelter service providers.

swan contracts

Amendment 463: Rep. DiZoglio to would allow eligible families to access up to $8,000 in ‘household assistance,’ and to allow for annual access to HomeBASE, as needed.

diz

AMENDMENT 643: Rep. Fox for funding and language for the 7 day temporary accommodation program through RAFT

Fox7Day

AMENDMENT 755: Rep. Speliotis to establish a 6 month residency requirement

speliotis

AMENDMENT 979: Rep. Wagner relative to the Secure Jobs Initiative

wagner

 

Amendment 1161: Rep. Decker to allow access to shelter for families who are at immediate risk of having to stay in a place not meant for human habitation.

decker

To learn more about the budget process, check out yesterday’s blog: And they’re off! 

Stay tuned as we continue the conversation on facebook, live tweet the debates, and make Derby puns right here on our blog…and right down to the wire.