Beacon Hill Roll Call

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Volume 39 – Report No. 8
February 21, 2014
Copyright © 2014 Beacon Hill Roll Call. All Rights Reserved.
By Bob Katzen

THE HOUSE AND SENATE. This week, Beacon Hill Roll Call records local senators’ votes on four roll calls from recent legislative sessions. Last
week was February vacation week for all public schools in the state. Keeping with tradition, each branch holds only brief, informal sessions during school vacation weeks.

Senate 6-31, rejected an amendment that would provide cities and towns with an additional $20 million in local aid.

Amendment supporters said the Lottery recently increased its annual profit from $937 million to $957 million and argued that $20 million should go to all cities and towns. They noted the funds will help communities in many ways including paying for unanticipated very high snow and ice removal costs during this harsh winter.

Amendment opponents said the supplemental budget is not the place to address local aid. They noted the issue will be addressed in the upcoming fiscal 2015 state budget.

(A “Yes” vote is for the $20 million. A “No” vote is against it.)

Sen. Patricia Jehlen No

Senate 38-0, approved an amendment requiring the state’s Department of Unemployment Assistance to hold at least one public hearing annually to seek the input of Massachusetts employers on the state’s unemployment system.

Amendment supporters said it is important for employers to have the opportunity to give feedback on the jobs situation in the state.

(A “Yes” vote is for the amendment.)

Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes

Senate 38-0, approved an amendment providing full unemployment benefits for any fishermen who are laid off as a result of their employer’s vessels being unable to fish because of federal fisheries management restrictions.

Amendment supporters said these hardworking fishermen often get the runaround on collecting unemployment. They argued that if the federal government forces you out of work, you should be deemed unemployed.

(A “Yes” vote is for the amendment).

Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes

Senate 38-0, approved an amendment creating a 15-member special commission to study the impact of unemployment on the unemployed over 40 years of age and on the long-term unemployed.

Amendment supporters said older unemployed people face many difficulties in their search and are often told they are too old or too expensive. They argued it is long past time to look into this problem.

(A “Yes” vote is for the amendment.)

Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes


GOOD SAMARITAN LAW (S 1993) – The House and Senate approved and sent to Gov. Deval Patrick a bill that would apply the current “Good Samaritan” law to off-duty police officers, firefighters and EMTs, exempting them from liability when providing emergency care. The current “Good Samaritan” law protects civilians but not these trained professionals.

Supporters said these firefighters and EMTs should not be held liable if anything goes wrong as a result of their efforts to provide emergency care. They cited incidents in which aid was given by these professionals while off-duty and they ended up being sued.

FEMALE INMATES (S 1171) – The Committee on Public Safety has given a favorable report to a bill that would prohibit the shackling of a female prisoner during pregnancy, labor and delivery except to prevent her from escaping or seriously injuring herself or others. It would also establish minimum standards for the treatment and medical care of pregnant prisoners to promote safe and healthy pregnancy outcomes, including adequate nutrition and prenatal care.

REQUIRE HEALTH INSURANCE TO OFFER THESE BENEFITS – The Committee on Financial Services will hold a hearing on March 5 at 1 p.m. in Room A-1 at the Statehouse on several bills. The proposals include requiring health insurance companies to include coverage for mastectomy and a minimum of 48 hours in-patient care following the procedure (H 931); nicotine-based and non-nicotine-based smoking cessation products (H 945); prescription eye drops (H 903); annual physicals (H 968); eating disorders (H 937); telemedicine, the practice of physicians using telecommunication and information technologies to provide health care remotely (S 467); and scalp hair prosthesis (S 430). This artificial substitute for scalp hair would be provided for certain types of hair loss that are not part of the natural aging process including alopecia or permanent loss of scalp hair due to an injury.

DRIVER’S LICENSE FOR ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS (H 3285) – The Transportation Committee’s March 5 hearing at 1 p.m. in Room B-2 of the Statehouse includes the controversial proposal that would allow the Registry of Motor Vehicles to issue driver’s licenses to immigrants who meet other criteria but do not have a social security number. The legislation would establish a special driver’s license for those who are unable to provide a social security number if they take driver’s education, pass a driving test and carry insurance. The hearing was originally scheduled for February 5 but was postponed.

Supporters say these immigrants are currently driving illegally without any training or insurance because they are not allowed to get a license. They argue this bill would ensure that these immigrants have driving skills that would make the roads safer and insurance that would cover them in accidents.

Opponents say illegal immigrants are illegal and should not be allowed to get a driver’s license. They note that some states have repealed similar laws because they were beginning to become a haven for illegals to obtain a license.

ELECTRIC CARS, INSPECTION STICKERS AND BUS DRIVERS – The Transportation Committee’s March 5 hearing agenda also includes legislation that would allow electric vehicles to use high occupancy lanes (H 3038); require gas stations and other inspection stations to fail and reject any car that has tires or a spare that is more than six years old (H 3016); and require that an applicant pass a written English proficiency test in order to qualify to be a school bus driver (H 3470).


“Today’s ruling is an enormous victory for privacy in the Commonwealth … Under this ruling, turning on a cell phone does not justify warrantless local and state surveillance of when, where and how you use it.”

Matthew Segal , Legal Director, American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts on a Supreme Judicial Court ruling that police need to obtain a warrant before they get information about a person’s location from a cell phone service provider.

“When a waitress loses a Saturday night to a snow storm, she can’t just catch up the next day. If politicians really care about the 300,000 hospitality employees, they will pass a Meals Tax Holiday to stimulate their tips and business.”

Dave Andelman, president of the Restaurant and Business Alliance, on proposals to establish a Meals Tax Holiday during which diners would be exempt from the 6.25 percent meals tax.

“As hard as this is to believe, it is not unusual for pregnant women in Massachusetts jails to be handcuffed to the hospital bed even while in labor. It is inhumane and puts the woman’s and the fetus’ health at risk.”

Megan Amundson, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts, on a bill that would prohibit the shackling of female prisoners during pregnancy, labor and delivery.

“There were some incidents where people were off-duty, rendered aid, and they ended up being sued for the aid they gave in good faith.”

Revere Fire Chief Gene Doherty on his support for legislation that would apply the current “Good Samaritan” law to off-duty police officers, firefighters and EMTs, exempting them from liability when providing emergency care.

“We treat someone who has a cardiac problem due to a lifetime of unhealthy habits better than we treat someone who has an addiction problem, and it could have started from something as simple as a back surgery.”

Sen. Jen Flanagan (D-Leominster), chair of a commission looking into the state’s need to increase access to mental health and substance abuse treatment.

HOW LONG WAS LAST WEEK’S SESSION? Beacon Hill Roll Call tracks the length of time that the House and Senate were in session each week. Many legislators say that legislative sessions are only one aspect of the Legislature’s job and that a lot of important work is done outside of the House and Senate chambers. They note that their jobs also involve committee work, research, constituent work and other matters that are important to their districts. Critics say that the Legislature does not meet regularly or long enough to debate and vote in public view on the thousands of pieces of legislation that have been filed. They note that the infrequency and brief length of sessions are misguided and lead to irresponsible late night sessions and a mad rush to act on dozens of bills in the days immediately preceding the end of an annual session.

During the week of February 17-21, the House met for a total of 24 minutes and the Senate met for a total of 15 minutes.

Mon. February 17 No House session
No Senate session
Tues. February 18 House 11:03 a.m. to 11:14 a.m.
Senate 11:02 a.m. to 11:06 a.m.

Wed. February 19 No House session
No Senate session

Thurs. February 20 House 11:02 a.m. to 11:15 a.m.
Senate 11:02 a.m. to 11:13 a.m.
Fri. February 21 No House session
No Senate session

Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at

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