Beacon Hill Roll Call Volume 39 – Report No. 44 October 31, 2014

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By Bob Katzen

THE HOUSE AND SENATE: There were no roll call votes in the House or Senate last week.

This week, Beacon Hill Roll Call reports the percentage of times local senators voted with their party’s leadership in 2013 and 2014. The votes of the chamber’s four Republicans were compared with those of Minority Leader Sen. Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester). The votes of the chamber’s 36 Democrats were compared to Senate Ways and Means chairman Steven Brewer’s (D-Barre) votes because by tradition, Senate President Therese Murray (D-Plymouth) rarely votes.

Beacon Hill Roll Call uses 440 votes from the 2013-2014 Senate session as the basis for this report. This includes all roll calls that were not on local issues.

The only senator from either party who voted with leadership 100 percent of the time is Sen. Jennifer Flanagan (D-Leominster), who voted with Brewer on all the roll calls.

The two Democratic senators who voted the lowest percentage of times with the Democratic leadership are Sens. James Timilty (D-Walpole), 78.2 percent, and Sonia Chang-Diaz (D-Boston), 84.5 percent. The 36 other Democrats all voted with the leadership more than 90 percent of the time.

The GOP senator who voted with leadership the lowest percentage of times is Sen. Robert Hedlund (R-Weymouth), who supported Tarr 90.6 percent of the time. Both Sens. Donald Humason (R-Westfield) and Richard Ross (R-Wrentham) voted with Tarr 98.1 percent of the time.

LOCAL SENATORS’ PERCENTAGE OF VOTES SUPPORTING THEIR PARTY’S LEADERSHIP
Here is how local senators fared in their support of the leadership of their party on 440 roll calls.

The percentage next to the senator’s name represents the percentage of times the senator supported his or her party’s leadership.

The number in parentheses represents the number of times the senator opposed his or her party’s leadership.

Some senators voted on all 440 roll call votes. Others missed one or more of the 440 votes. The percentage for each senator is calculated based on the number of roll calls on which he or she voted and does not count the roll calls for which he or she was absent.

Sen. Patricia Jehlen 92.4 percent (33)

ALSO UP ON BEACON HILL

COACHES MUST LEARN CPR (S 1918) – The House and Senate approved and sent to Gov. Deval Patrick a measure that would require all school coaches to complete a course in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) from the American Heart Association, American Red Cross or other state-approved agency by August 2015. The measure exempts coaches with a physical disability and prohibits local cities and towns from being responsible for the costs.

Supporters said there are creative ways to pay for the training or to get the fee waived. They argued this invaluable training costs about $50 per person and could save many lives.

BAN HALLUCINOGENIC DRUG (H 4484) – The House gave initial approval to a bill that would make the hallucinogenic drug 25-1, typically sold over the Internet, illegal and put it in the same class as cocaine and methamphetamine. The bill is being pushed by Erin Valentine of East Bridgewater, whose 15-year-old daughter Emily died in June of organ failure after ingesting this drug that is also known by its street names N-bomb or Smiles. At a hearing on October 14, Erin urged lawmakers to quickly pass the bill and noted that her daughter is gone “because of a five-dollar hit of a drug that is not even illegal.”

POTLUCK DINNERS (H 3680) – A law effective November 3 prohibits state and local departments of public health from regulating the serving of food brought to potluck dinners sponsored by a group of individuals or by a religious, charitable or nonprofit organization.

Supporters say this will give the power to citizens, instead of local boards of health, which have gone too far by attempting to regulate this time-honored harmless tradition.

Opponents argue there is real danger of diners getting a food-borne illness and noted people have become sick and even died from the food at these events.

BACKGROUND CHECKS (H 4327) – A law effective November 3 allows the FBI to conduct fingerprint checks for a national background check on individuals who apply for employment in Massachusetts to work with persons who get services from the Massachusetts Department of Developmental Disabilities (DDS). Prior law authorizes only a Massachusetts CORI check.

Supporters say that the CORI check is limited to a criminal’s history in the Bay State and note that this national check will look into his or her offenses in any state. They argue the new law will protect many people with intellectual and developmental disabilities from out-of-state criminals.

ACCOSTING AND ANNOYING (S 2362) – The Senate approved and sent to the House a bill that would change a current law that makes it illegal to annoy or accost people of the opposite sex with behavior that is deemed offensive and/or disorderly. The bill would allow the charges to be brought even if the victim was a person of the same sex.

Supporters said the bill will change this antiquated law and is aimed at sex offenders who target children, regardless of gender. They cited an incident in Bellingham in which a male offender accosted young boys but the charges were dismissed because under the law, it was only a crime when it was against the opposite sex.

QUOTABLE QUOTES – Special Edition quoting State House leaders on the death of former Boston Mayor Thomas Menino.

“Boston has lost a political giant, and Diane and I have lost a friend.”

Gov. Deval Patrick

“(He) had the courage to do whatever it took to fight for the people of Boston. We are all beneficiaries of his generous spirit, particularly the children of Boston, for whom he advocated tirelessly so they would have bright futures.”

House Speaker Robert DeLeo (D-Winthrop).

“He never lost sight of his priorities, which included doing everything he could to improve the lives of others and to make Boston a better place to live, work and raise a family.”

Minority Leader Sen. Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester).

“One of the nation’s greatest mayors. He cared not just about Boston, but about everybody … It’s because of his fierce guidance and innovative vision that Boston has emerged as a vibrant urban landscape worthy of the title world-class city.”

Senate President Therese Murray (D-Plymouth).

“In a day and age when personal interactions with high-ranking public officials can be few and far between, (he) was a man of the people, and never forgot from where he came. From community gatherings to ribbon-cuttings, (he) truly embodied the spirit of Boston.”

House Republican Minority Leader Bradley Jones (R-North Reading).

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 October 27-31, the House met for a total of six hours and one minute and the Senate met for a total of six hours and 27 minutes.

Mon. October 27 House 11:00 a.m. to 11:16 a.m.
Senate 11:00 a.m. to 11:20 a.m.

Tues. October 28 No House session
No Senate session

Wed. October 29 No House session
No Senate session

Thurs. October 30 House 11:03 a.m. to 2:47 p.m.
Senate 11:00 a.m. to 3:03 p.m.

Fri. October 31 House 10:02 a.m. to 12:03 p.m.
Senate 10:03 a.m. to 12:07 p.m.

Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at bob@beaconhillrollcall.com

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