Beacon Hill Roll Call Volume 39 -Report 28 July 7-11, 2014

Copyright © 2014 Beacon Hill Roll Call. All Rights Reserved.
By Bob Katzen

THE HOUSE AND SENATE: Beacon Hill Roll Call records the votes of local representatives on three roll calls and local senators on five roll calls from the week of July 7-11.

House 57-92, rejected a motion to postpone for one week debate and a vote on the bill making changes in the state’s gun laws.

Postponement supporters said the bill has only been available to members to read for a very short period of time. They argued it is undemocratic and irresponsible to debate and vote on this important bill without giving legislators a chance to read it and get input from their constituents.

Postponement opponents the gun issue has been around for years and every member has had input on this bill. They argued that this bill has had more discussion, deliberation and input than any other bill being considered by the House.

(A “Yes” vote is for postponement. A “No” vote is against postponement.)

Rep. Denise Provost No Rep. Carl Sciortino has resigned Rep. Timothy Toomey No

GUNS (H 4278)
House 112-38, approved and sent to the Senate a bill making changes in the state’s gun laws. A key provision allows police chiefs to deny a firearm identification (FID) card if there is credible information that the applicant poses a public safety risk.

Other provisions prohibit a convicted felon from acquiring an FID card; require gun dealers to obtain a CORI check when hiring workers; increase the fine for failure to report a lost or stolen firearm; require school districts to have a school resource officer to provide security services and to develop plans to address the mental health needs of their students; and increase the penalty for carrying a firearm on school grounds.

Supporters said this comprehensive proposal is a well-balanced update of current gun laws that will remove the unnecessary burden placed on gun owners while taking action to eliminate firearm violence in the state.

Some opponents said they opposed the bill because they did not have sufficient time to read it since it was brought up for a vote only a few hours after legislators received a copy of it. Others said the bill goes too far and infringes on the rights of lawful gun owners and imposes unfunded mandates on schools.

(A “Yes” vote is for the bill. A “No” vote is against it.)

Rep. Denise Provost Yes Rep. Carl Sciortino has resigned Rep. Timothy Toomey Yes

House 30-120, rejected an amendment that would prohibit any new requirements to be placed on gun owners by any state authority or constitutional officer without the approval of the Legislature.

Amendment supporters said this will ensure the Legislature retains its power to regulate guns and prohibit other officials from making changes without legislative approval. They argued it has no effect on the power of local police chiefs.

Amendment opponents said it would take some discretion away from local police chiefs who, when denying an FID card, would be required to list the credible information that an applicant poses a public safety risk. They argued the amendment might require the chiefs to obtain legislative approval for the denial.

(A Yes” vote is for the amendment. A “No” vote is against it.)

Rep. Denise Provost No Rep. Carl Sciortino has resigned Rep. Timothy Toomey No

Senate 37-2, approved a bill making juveniles convicted of first-degree felony murder or premeditated murder committed between their 14th and 18th birthdays eligible for parole after serving 20 to 30 years in prison. It also makes juveniles convicted of first-degree murder with “extreme atrocity” eligible for parole after 30 years. The bill was filed in response to last year’s Supreme Judicial Court ruling that life sentences without the possibility for parole for juveniles were unconstitutional.

Supporters said this range of strict minimum sentences is a balanced approach that protects the public while recognizing the special circumstances that the court pointed out about the developmental differences between children and adults.

Opponents said the sentences are too harsh and noted that serving 15 years before being eligible for parole would be a fairer choice. They noted the international average maximum sentence for juvenile murderers is 20 years.

The House has approved a different version of the bill. A House-Senate conference committee will attempt to work out a compromise version.

(A “Yes” vote is for the bill. A “No” vote is against it.)

Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes

Senate 16-23, rejected an amendment increasing the 20 to 30 year range that juvenile first-degree murderers must serve before being eligible for parole to a flat 35 years.

Amendment supporters said 35 years is a fair sentence given the severity of the crimes and the inability to sentence these murderers to life without parole.

Amendment opponents said 35 years is excessive and most said they supported the 20 to 30 years range.

(A “Yes” vote is for waiting 35 years. A “No” vote is against it.)

Sen. Patricia Jehlen No

Senate 34-5, approved an amendment increasing the 20 to 30 year range that juvenile first-degree murderers must serve before being eligible for parole to a flat 30 years if the murder was committed with extreme atrocity or cruelty.

Amendment supporters said juveniles convicted of murder with atrocity or cruelty should have to serve more years prior to being eligible for parole than other cases of first-degree murder.

Some amendment opponents said the 30 years is excessive and argued that the 20 to 30 year range gives more flexibility. Others said they support an even shorter period of 15 years.

(A “Yes” vote is for the increase to 30 years. A “No” vote is against the increase.)

Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes

Senate 38-1, approved and sent to the House a bill requiring companies that set up portable rock climbing walls higher than 12 feet to be equipped with an inflatable protective base and guardrail surrounding the base of the wall. The measure also requires that all climbers use a safety harness and a helmet.

Supporters said this highly unregulated industry should be regulated in order to ensure safety, prevent injuries and save lives.

The lone opponent said the bill is another example of unnecessary government intrusion. He noted it would hurt many of these companies because it would not allow them to use their existing walls and will result in the purchase of new equipment.

(A “Yes” vote is for the bill. A “No” vote is against the bill.)

Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes

Senate 38-0, approved a $1.9 billion environmental bond package allowing the state to borrow funds to finance various environmental projects. The Senate during floor debate added an estimated $200 million in extra spending, many for projects in individual districts. The measure includes dozens of earmarks costing hundreds of millions of dollars proposed by individual senators and designed to fund projects in their districts. The projects are actually more of a “wish list”: The Patrick administration is required to adhere to the state’s annual bond borrowing cap and ultimately decides which projects are affordable and actually get funded.

Supporters said this landmark environmental legislation package is a fiscally responsible fair and balanced one that provides for important projects in all parts of the state and will help the state and local communities improve the environment.

(A “Yes” vote is for the bill.)

Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes


GOV. PATRICK SIGNS $36.5 BILLION FISCAL 2015 STATE BUDGET (H 4001) – Gov. Deval Patrick vetoed $16.1 million in spending and then signed into law a $36.5 billion fiscal 2015 budget that increases spending by 5.5 percent.

Supporters said the budget is a fiscally responsible and balanced one that makes vital investments in the state while continuing fiscal responsibility.

Opponents said the budget is excessive and does not include sufficient reforms.

WELFARE CHANGES (S 2211) – Gov. Patrick signed into law a bill making changes in the state’s welfare system including increasing penalties for store owners who knowingly allow the purchase of prohibited products or services with an EBT card. The measure also mandates that applicants search for a job prior to receiving cash assistance. Current law gives recipients a 60-day window after they start receiving benefits before they are required to look for employment.

Other provisions reduce the period for an extension of benefits beyond the 24-month period from six months to three months; create a job diversion program to connect able-bodied individuals with full-time jobs before they start receiving benefits; and change the school attendance requirement from age 14 to age 16.

WARNING SYSTEM AT BEACHES (S 2247) – The Senate approved and sent to the House a bill creating a program that uses different colored flags to advise beachgoers of the safety conditions at their beach. This uniform warning system would be required at all public beaches maintained by the Department of Conservation and Recreation. Cities and towns would have the option of using the flags for their local beaches.

The bill was filed at the urging of Anthony Harrison, the father of Caleigh Anderson, the 2-year-old girl who went missing while at the beach in 2012 and is believed to have been swept out to sea. Supporters said the flag system might have saved Caleigh’s life and should become law in order to save the lives of others.

LOTTERY FOR LOW LICENSE PLATES – The Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) announced it is now accepting applications for the 2014 Low Number License Plate Lottery. This year’s batch includes 160 low number license plates including 351, D88, 6777 and 7000. Applications are available at all RMV branches and online at All entries must be mailed and postmarked by August 11. No date for the drawing has been set.

MIXED MARTIAL ARTS LICENSES FOR NON-CITIZENS (H 3946) – The House and Senate have agreed on a version of a bill that would make it easier for non-citizens to obtain a license to compete in mixed martial arts, boxing and kickboxing competitions in Massachusetts. Current law requires the fighter to obtain a social security number. The bill would allow the use of a form of identification “sufficient to identify the applicant.” Only final approval is needed in each chamber until the measure goes to the governor.

Supporters said the social security number requirement discourages many major competitions from holding events in the Bay State because it is a long process to get a social security number.

Gov. Patrick signed into law a bill that would increase the state’s oversight and regulation of compounding pharmacies that create a specific product to fit the unique needs of a patient. The bill comes more than a year after the State Board of Pharmacy voted to permanently revoke the license of the New England Compounding Center in Framingham, the pharmacy at the center of the 2012 spread of fungal meningitis that infected hundreds of people across the nation and killed 64.

Supporters said the bill will save lives by setting many new standards and requiring more transparency from compounding pharmacies. They argued it would help prevent an event like the meningitis outbreak of 2012 from ever happening again.


“Local managers remain fearful of making a ‘wrong decision’ that could find them responsible for the next Jeremiah Oliver.”

Peter MacKinnon, president of the SEIU Local 509 representing social workers, on the morale of social workers at the Department of Children and Families. Jeremiah Oliver is the 5-year-old Fitchburg boy who went missing and was later found dead.

“With this legislation, we will go from the state where an unregulated pharmacy compounded a substance that killed dozens of people and caused more than 700 to deal with serious illness, to the state which provides patients with the best safety standards in the country.”

Sen. John Keenan (D-Quincy) on the new law increasing the state’s oversight and regulation of compounding pharmacies .

“At a time when employers and the state are struggling with the high cost of health care, adopting new mandated benefits will exacerbate the challenge Massachusetts businesses face in finding affordable options.”

Jon Hurst, president of Retailers Association of Massachusetts, on pending legislation that mandates that health insurance companies provide additional benefits for coverage mandated by the state.

“If she was wearing a helmet, she would not have died.”

Sen. Thomas McGee (D-Lynn) on a bill requiring climbers using portable rock climbing walls to wear a helmet. He was referring to the May 2005 death of Stacey Sarrette, then 24, of Saugus who died of injuries suffered in a fall from one of those walls.

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 July 7-11, the House met for a total of nine hours and 55 minutes and the Senate met for a total of 11 hours and 54 minutes.

Mon. July 7 House 11:03 a.m. to 11:13 a.m.
Senate 11:06 a.m. to 11:12 a.m.

Tues. July 8 No House session
Senate 1:00 p.m. to 6:25 p.m.

Wed. July 9 House 11:01 a.m. to 8:14 p.m.
No Senate session

Thurs. July 10 House 11:07 a.m. to 11:39 a.m.
Senate 1:02 p.m. to 6:46 p.m.

Fri. July 11 No House session
Senate 11:01 a.m. to 11:40 a.m.

Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at

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