Beacon Hill Roll Call Volume 41 – Report No. 2 January 11-15, 2016

By Bob Katzen 

  THE HOUSE AND SENATE: Beacon Hill Roll Call records local representatives’ votes on roll calls from the week of January 11-15. There were no roll calls in the Senate last week.

   House 149-0, approved a bill aimed at reducing the opioid abuse crisis in the Bay State. The measure is designed to reduce the number of opioid pills in circulation by working with many parties involved in the process including schools, doctors, insurance companies and pharmacists.
   Other provisions include requiring all public schools to have a policy regarding substance abuse prevention and educate their students about the dangers of substance abuse; requiring increased substance abuse training for health care professionals; limiting initial opioid prescriptions by doctors to a seven-day supply except for chronic pain management, cancer and palliative care; requiring doctors to check the state’s prescription monitoring database each time they prescribe opiates; and ending the practice of sending women who are civilly committed for alcohol or substance-abuse disorders to MCI-Framingham.
    Supporters said this landmark legislation is a balanced and practical approach that will improve schools’ approach to teaching kids about drug prevention and increase access to treatment for those who are addicted. They argued it will save lives and spare the heartache of many families by helping to stem the rising tide of drug addiction and drug-related deaths across the state. They noted there were 1,256 accidental drug-related deaths last year.
  (A “Yes” vote is for the bill.)

 Rep. Christine Barber Yes Rep. Denise Provost Didn’t Vote Rep. Timothy Toomey Yes                                     

   House 34-116, rejected an amendment allowing a doctor to commit to a mental health facility for up to three days an alcohol or substance abuse patient who has overdosed if the doctor feels that there is a likelihood of the person harming himself or herself or others.
   Amendment supporters said it could save lives if doctors, other health professionals and family members have more time to intervene. They argued that people are dying every day as a result of being sent home instead of held and evaluated.
   Some amendment opponents said the bill already requires a written evaluation within the first 24 hours of admission to the facility. Others said there is a shortage of hospital staff and facilities to handle this 72-hour hold. Some argued the amendment is an unfunded mandate that will further burden community hospitals and cities and towns.
   (A “Yes” vote is for the amendment. A “No” vote is against it.)

 Rep. Christine Barber Yes Rep. Denise Provost Didn’t Vote Rep. Timothy Toomey No                                      

   House 33-115, rejected an amendment that would decrease from seven days to five days the maximum length of time that doctors are allowed to write initial opioid prescriptions for a patient.
   Amendment supporters said the reduction to three days would reduce the chances that patients will become addicted to opioid pain pills in the first place. They noted that some doctors prescribe up to a two-week supply when the patient is likely to have pain for only a few days.
   Amendment opponents said patients often need more than a five-day dose and argued the seven-day maximum is more reasonable. They noted that patients must have a written hard copy of an opioid prescription, which means they must go back to the doctor’s office if they’re still in pain. That could create a problem as most offices are closed on weekends.
   (A “Yes” vote is for the amendment. A “No” vote is against it.)

 Rep. Christine Barber No Rep. Denise Provost Didn’t Vote Rep. Timothy Toomey No                                      

   BAN SEXUAL ORIENTATION CONVERSION THERAPY (H 97) – A bill that would prohibit psychiatrists and other mental health professionals from providing conversion therapy to lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender minors under 18, designed to change their sexual orientation or gender identity, took a step forward when it advanced from committee to the House calendar where it could be taken up any day.
   Supporters of the ban say being gay, bisexual or transgender is not a disease and therefore does not need a cure. They argue this type of “junk therapy” is very destructive and argue there is no sound evidence that it ever works.
   Opponents of the ban say the treatment has been successful for children whose sexuality was influenced by sexual abuse. They note that the conversion therapy should not be used on any patient who believes that he or she is simply born with a specific sexual preference.
  ELIMINATE DRIVER’S LICENSE SUSPENSION (S 2094) – The Senate approved a new version of legislation that would repeal a 1989 law which automatically suspends for up to five years the driver’s license of anyone convicted of a drug offense even if the offense is unrelated to driving a vehicle. The proposal allows automatic license suspension for anyone convicted of trafficking in illegal drugs, except for marijuana. It also repeals the current law that requires offenders to pay a $500 fee to get their license back.
   Supporters said current law is counterproductive because it prevents many offenders from having the mobility to find and/or retain a job, drive their children to school, travel to a doctor and do many other things necessary to help them rebuild their lives. 
   The House has approved a different version of the bill. The Senate version now goes to the House for consideration.
   JUDICIARY COMMITTEE HEARING -The Judiciary Committee held a hearing on dozens of bills including:
   LEGALIZE RECREATIONAL MARIJUANA (H 1561) – Legalizing, licensing, regulating and taxing marijuana and allowing adults over 21 to grow it for their personal use and the use by others over 21. The measure is similar to a possible 2016 ballot question legalizing all marijuana use.
   SOCIAL CARD GAMES (H 1152) – Legalizes “social card games.” These games are small, private games in which the winnings of a player do not exceed $50; players cannot invest more than $10 in the game; and all winnings are distributed to the players at the end of the game. Games include poker, pinochle, bridge, rummy, canasta and hearts.
   Supporters said the measure was filed in response to a group of seniors at the Cameron Senior Center in Westford who were told by the director that their small card games for a few dollars were technically illegal gambling. They said it is illogical and unfair that current law actually bars these harmless games.
   HELP FAMILIES OF MURDER VICTIMS (S 951) – Creates the Murder Victims Families Assistance Fund to provide aid to immediate families of murder victims. It would be funded by voluntary contributions from publishers, authors and movie or television studios that create books, movies or television shows based on murders committed in the Bay State. 
   “BILL OF RIGHTS” FOR VICTIMS OF SEXUAL ASSAULT (H 1278) – Establishes a bill of rights for sexual assault victims. The proposal creates a system to track and secure the safety of rape kits that are used to collect and store physical evidence in sexual assault cases. Other provisions give the victim access to the results from the rape kit and obligate authorities to inform victims of their rights including the right to be accompanied by a victim’s advocate or sexual assault counselor during the administration of the rape kit.
   Supporters said it is long past time to provide justice for survivors of sexual assault and noted cases where rape kits were lost and destroyed. They argued the current system does not provide a way to keep track of and secure a rape kit when it is sent by the hospital to a crime lab. They argued that this bill will help put a stop to the victim being victimized again by the system after the rape.
   FRIEND OR RELATIVE OFFICIATE AT WEDDING (H 3897) – Allows city and town clerks to issue special licenses that allow a couple to choose a friend or relative to perform their marriage ceremony. Under current law, these special licenses are handled by the governor and the secretary of state.
   Supporters said this would bring the system to the local level and streamline the process for the couple.
    Special Gov. Charlie Baker Edition: Quotes from the governor’s appearance on WGBH Radio (89.7 FM) with talk show hosts Jim Braude and Margery Eagan. The duo hosts Gov. Baker’s “Ask the Governor” show once a month.
      “Is that directed toward somebody who is over the age of 21 or somebody who is over the age of 12? That’s my problem. We are headed right down the Joe Camel path here.”
     Baker upon being told that the name of one of the edible marijuana cookies in Colorado is “rookie cookie.”

   “Rather than dictating from on high, which they [legislators] hate, and telling them exactly what they should do, which they also hate, my view on this is I should let them work this stuff through and then deal with it when it gets to me, which is what I’m going to do.”
   Baker when asked if he will support a pending bill that would prohibit discrimination against transgender individuals in the state’s public accommodations.

   “It’s still a bargain relative to virtually every other system in the country.”
   Baker on possible fare hikes at the MBTA.

   “3 seconds, 11 seconds, 22 seconds, 57 seconds, 23 seconds … they are all basically a minute or less.”
   Baker reading off the current waiting times listed online at various Registry of Motor Vehicles across the state.

   “My staff is telling me … those [waiting times] are in minutes, not seconds. Which just goes to show, I can’t read my own phone.”
   Baker making a correction.
   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 January 11-15, the House met for a total of eight hours and 26 minutes while the Senate met for a total of 39 minutes.
Mon. January 11 House 11:05 a.m. to 11:17 a.m.

                   Senate 11:03 a.m. to 11:18 a.m.
Tues. January 12 No House session

                   No Senate session
Wed. January 13 House 11:03 a.m. to 6:46 p.m.

                   No Senate session
Thurs. January 14 House 11:04 a.m. to 11:35 a.m.

                   Senate 11:09 a.m. to 11:33 a.m.
Fri. January 15 No House session

                   No Senate session
Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at

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