July 12, 2012
BOSTON — Massachusetts House lawmakers have pushed back against Gov. Deval Patrick on welfare restrictions, mental health and immigration checks.
EBT and the RMV
When he signed the budget on July 8, the governor rejected a measure that would have banned the use of EBT swipe cards at jewelry stores and nail salons, saying he wasn't going to make vulnerable people beg for their benefits. He also rejected a provision that would require the Registry of Motor Vehicles to ask for proof of legal residency. He said state agencies should not enforce federal immigration law.
But on July 11, House lawmakers voted overwhelmingly to keep the original proposals alive. Rep. Carl Sciortino (D-Medford) opposed the governor’s changes but he said he was doing so with a heavy heart.
“This is a difficult debate and a difficult decision and I hope as a body we can get back to the debate about how we take care of the working families that are struggling against the Commonwealth rather than penalizing families who are seeking our assistance,” he said.
> > LISTEN: Emily Rooney discusses the EBT issue on Boston Public Radio
Taunton State Hospital
Lawmakers also voted unanimously to override a line-item veto that would have eliminated the 45 inpatient mental health beds at Taunton State Hospital, making Worcester the nearest location for inpatient treatment.
Rep. Patricia Haddad (D-Somerset) encouraged fellow lawmakers to show empathy: “If your loved one had a heart condition, and you were told that the only place they could go was Worcester, how would you feel? Would you willingly accept that as an answer? Well, I’m asking you if that’s fair to people with mental illness in their families — and I think you’re all going to answer 'no.'"
Rep. Sarah Peake (D-Provincetown) added that her constituents already faced enough of a transportation challenge as is. "Taunton is already quite the drive and quite the trip to make, and as we know, and as we’re treating people with their mental health issues, their support system is critically important,” she said.
After the vote, Karen Coughlin, a longtime nurse at Taunton State, said she was thrilled. "Success all around is the way we look at it," she said. "We would have liked to avoid this — would we have liked to have more than 45 beds? Absolutely. But you know what, we will take this as a victory."
The issues now move on to the Senate for further action — and ultimately back to Patrick for his final review.