By Bob Katzen
MEMO TO BHRC SUBSCRIBERS: This week’s report is on the 2015 roll call attendance record of your local senators through August 21. Some senators may have poor attendance records for a variety of reasons, including health problems or military service. We do not ask each senator why he or she missed roll call votes, but it is something you may want to check out with any of your local legislators who have missed roll call votes. If we can be of further assistance, please feel free to contact us.
This week’s report follows:
THE HOUSE AND SENATE. There were no roll call votes in the House or Senate last week. This week, Beacon Hill Roll Call reports local senators’ roll call attendance records for the 2015 session through August 21.
The Senate has held 159 roll call votes. Beacon Hill Roll Call tabulates the number of roll calls on which each senator was present and voting and then calculates that number as a percentage of the total roll call votes held. That percentage is the number referred to as the roll call attendance record.
Thirty-two of the Senate’s 39 members have 100 percent roll call attendance records.
Some senators may have poor attendance records because of a variety of reasons including health problems or military service. Beacon Hill Roll Call does not ask each individual senator why he or she missed roll call votes.
The senator who missed the most roll calls is Sen. William Brownsberger (D-Belmont), who missed 57 roll calls (64.2 percent attendance). All the roll calls missed by Brownsberger were held on one day – July 30. There were 69 roll calls that day and Brownsberger missed 57 of them. He told Beacon Hill Roll Call, “I left the Senate session at 4 p.m. for a long-scheduled meeting with the District Attorneys Association, returning to the statehouse at 10:30 p.m., after the Senate session ended.”
The six other senators who missed roll call votes are Sens. Joan Lovely (D-Salem), six roll calls (96.2 percent attendance); Cynthia Stone Creem (D-Newton), five roll calls (96.9 percent attendance); Sonia Chang-Diaz (D-Boston) and Sal DiDomenico (D-Everett), three roll calls (98.1 percent attendance); and Patricia Jehlen (D-Somerville), Anthony Petruccelli (D-East Boston) and Daniel Wolf (D-Harwich) one roll call (99.4 percent attendance).
SENATORS’ 2015 ROLL CALL ATTENDANCE RECORDS THROUGH AUGUST 21
The percentage listed next to the senator’s name is the percentage of roll call votes for which the senator was present and voting. The number in parentheses represents the number of roll calls that the senator missed.
Sen. Patricia Jehlen 99.4 percent (1)
ALSO UP ON BEACON HILL
NOTIFY EMPLOYEES OF OPPORTUNITY TO PURCHASE THE BUSINESS (H 1740) – The House gave initial approval to a proposal that would require a business owner who intends to sell his or her company to notify employees of their eligibility to bid on and/or purchase the business. The measure requires the employer, within seven days of deciding to sell the business, to notify the employees that they are eligible to bid on the business through a cooperative or employee stock ownership program and have the right of first refusal.
Supporters said that employee-owned companies often outperform their competition, are more likely to remain in their current community and create excellent retirement plans for workers at all levels of the business.
WORKPLACE BULLYING (H 1771) – The House gave initial approval to a bill giving victims of workplace bullying the legal right to seek damages against an employer or fellow employee. The victim must prove that the bullying was intentionally abusive and resulted in physical or psychological harm. Employers can minimize their liability if they attempt to prevent and respond to bullying behavior.
According to the anti-workplace bullying website mahealthyworkplace.com, bullying includes false accusations of mistakes and errors; yelling, shouting and screaming; exclusion and “the silent treatment;” withholding resources and information necessary to the job; behind-the-back sabotage and defamation; use of put-downs, insults and excessively harsh criticism; and unreasonably heavy work demands.
Supporters said that under current law, there is no recourse for these victims unless the bullying is based on a protected class status like race, sex or disability. They said that more than 25 percent of workers will be the victims of workplace bullying in their lifetime and that 72 percent of employers who received complaints about workplace bullying either ignored the problem or made it worse. They argued that this can result in many conditions including severe depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress syndrome.
“PAY IT FORWARD” COLLEGE EDUCATION (H 1062) – The Higher Education Committee will hold a hearing on September 16 at 10:30 a.m. in Room A-2 of the Statehouse on a bill establishing a commission to study a “Pay It Forward” model to finance college for Massachusetts students. The plan allows students to attend college without payments up front.
Under the plan, students would sign a contract and agree to pay a portion of their income back to the state for a designated amount of time after graduating college and entering the workforce. Similar proposals are pending in other states and in Congress but none have actually been approved.
Under some proposals being floated in various states, the borrower would pay back 4 percent of his or her income annually for 25 years. Someone earning $30,000 per year would pay $1,200 per year or $100 per month while someone making $100,000 per year would pay $4,000 annually or $333.33 per month. And if someone loses a job, payments are put on hold.
Supporters say tuition costs have skyrocketed over the past decade, making it increasingly difficult for children from low- and middle- income families to get a college education. They argued this program will enable many students to go to college and not incur a huge debt.
CHANGE EDUCATION FUNDING (S 685) – The Education Committee’s hearing also includes a proposal to base 25 percent of the amount of state funding for each state university or community college on performance criteria developed by the Secretary of Education. The criteria would include students’ successful completion of courses of study as evidenced by graduation, certification or other similar documentation, and rates or measures of the academic achievement of students.
Supporters say this would reward colleges that are doing the best job of educating our children. They argued that the current system doesn’t reward schools for their performance.
“I’ve talked to students at UMass who are working two or three part-time jobs to scrape together enough money to stay in school. For them, $900 could put their future in jeopardy.”
Senate President Stan Rosenberg urging UMass President Marty Meehan to reconsider an estimated $900 hike in undergraduate tuition and fees.
“It will earn millions of dollars in new passenger revenues and millions more in maintenance savings – money that can be used to pay for all or most of the project.”
Former Govs. Bill Weld and Mike Dukakis in an op-ed piece supporting a rail link between North and South stations.
“I would oppose that and if that got to my desk, I’d veto it.”
Gov. Charlie Baker when asked if he would support legislation that would limit local law enforcement’s efforts to cooperate with the federal government to enforce immigration laws.
“Thousands of immigrants work hard every day to make Massachusetts the great state that it is. As we seek justice, respect and acceptance, Gov. Baker can and should set a good example of compassion and inclusion for others to follow.”
Natalicia Tracy, Executive Director of the Brazilian Worker Center, criticizing Baker.
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 August 17-21, the House met for a total of 32 minutes while the Senate met for a total of 24 minutes.
Mon. August 17 House 11:04 a.m. to 11:18 a.m.
Senate 11:02 a.m. to 11:15 a.m.
Tues. August 18 No House session
No Senate session
Wed. August 19 No House session
No Senate session
Thurs. August 20 House 11:01 a.m. to 11:29 a.m.
Senate 11:05 a.m. to 11:16 a.m.
Fri. August 21 No House session
No Senate session
Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at email@example.com