By Bob Katzen
THE HOUSE AND SENATE: Beacon Hill Roll Call records local senators’ votes on roll calls from the week of February 8-12. There were no roll calls in the House last week.
ILLEGAL HUNTING (S 2069)
Senate 35-0, approved and sent to the House a bill that would increase penalties for illegal hunting, also known as poaching. Provisions include increasing the fine for hunting bears or bobcats with the aid of a dog or bait from $300-$1,000 to $1,000-$5,000; raising the prison sentence from up to six months in prison to a year in prison; and increasing penalties for serial poachers who repeatedly break the law.
The measure also makes the Bay State a member of the Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact, a reciprocal agreement among 45 other states that allows state law enforcement agencies to share information with those of other states. It recognizes suspension of hunting, fishing and trapping licenses in all states that are members of the compact. Any person whose license is suspended in a member state would also have his or her license suspended in all other member states in which that conviction would be a violation resulting in suspension.
Supporters said the illegal harming or killing of wildlife is a very serious problem that should not be tolerated. They noted the bill would update current state laws created more than 80 years ago, and would increase penalties which currently are so low that they no longer serve as a deterrent. They argued that the increase in penalties would also reduce the black market for bear gall bladders and other animal organs sold for a profit.
(A “Yes” vote is for the bill.)
Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes
ALSO UP ON BEACON HILL
INCREASE JAYWALKING FINES (S 1813) – The Transportation Committee held a hearing on legislation to increase the fine for jaywalking, currently $1 for the first three violations and $2 for fourth and subsequent ones. The bill would increase the fine to $25 for a first offense, $50 for a second offense and $75 for subsequent offenses.
Pedestrians are legally permitted to cross streets only in designated areas such as crosswalks. Crossing streets outside of these areas or against “don’t walk” signals is defined as jaywalking.
Supporters said citations which would result in the low fines currently in force are rarely issued by police officers and are not an effective deterrent. They said jaywalking has caused many accidents and deaths.
YELLOW DOT PROGRAM (S 1889) – The Transportation Committee’s agenda also included a bill that would create the Yellow Dot Program to assist first responders at the scene of a car accident. The voluntary program would allow seniors 62 years of age and older and individuals with a chronic disease to affix a decal with a yellow dot to the rear window on the driver’s side of the motor vehicle. The dot would alert first responders to look in the glove compartment and locate a yellow dot folder compiled by the participant which would include his or her medical information.
Supporters said the program would help save lives by ensuring that first responders have a list of the victim’s health records including all prescription drugs that he or she uses. They said that accident victims are often injured or unconscious and thus unable to communicate information verbally to a first responder.
OTHER TRANSPORTATION-RELATED BILLS – The Transportation Committee’s hearing also included legislation that would require that all vehicles in a funeral procession to turn on their emergency flashers (H 3082); mandate that rental car companies allow renters the option to return a vehicle anytime on a Saturday or Sunday to any rental company branch office where vehicle returns are accepted during regular business hours, even if the location is closed (H 3065); require the formation of a special commission to study the cost and feasibility of implementing a ferry service that goes from Boston Harbor to Long Island. (H 3311); and require that all vehicles have their headlights on at all times (H 3090). Current law requires headlights to be turned on during the period of one-half hour after sunset to one half-hour before sunrise, when visibility is reduced to less than 500 feet or when the windshield wipers are being used.
WHOOPING COUGH (S 1993) – The House approved and sent to the Senate a proposal that would require hospitals to provide parents of newborns with educational information on whooping cough and the availability of a vaccine to protect against it.
Supporters said that a re-education effort for parents of newborns about the disease is needed because whooping cough has re-emerged in recent years and the number of cases in the United States has risen from 2,000 per year in the 1970s to 32,000 in 2014.
CONDO RECORDS (S 713) – The House approved and sent to the Senate a bill requiring condo associations to reimburse legal fees incurred by any unit owner in his or her efforts to obtain records or documents required by law to be provided by the association to its owners. Under current law, established in 1974, if an association refuses to provide such records, the only recourse available to owners is to hire an attorney.
Supporters said it is unfair to have the owner of a unit pay his or her attorney’s fees if a court rules that the owner is entitled to the documents and the association did not provide them in a timely way. They noted that documents are usually requested by an owner who wants to sell or refinance his or her unit.
$15 PER HOUR MINIMUM WAGE FOR AIRPORT WORKERS (H 3923) – The Committee on Labor and Workforce Development held a hearing on a measure that would raise the minimum wage from $10 per hour to $15 per hour over three years for baggage handlers, janitors, non-TSA security and screening personnel, airplane cleaners, wheelchair assistants, skycaps, ticket agents and certain other employees at Logan Airport. The wage would be hiked to $12 this year, $13.50 next year and $15 in 2018.
REWARD FOR WHISTLE-BLOWERS (H 3943) – The Committee on Labor and Workforce Development’s agenda also included a measure that would reward any person who reports that an individual is participating in the state’s “underground economy.” The whistle-blower would receive 10 percent of any tax revenue recovered.
The underground economy is a term commonly understood to include people working “under the table” for cash that is not reported to the IRS and Massachusetts Department of Revenue. It also includes many other illegal activities including concealment or misrepresentation by individuals or businesses of the actual number of their employees to avoid payroll taxes, insurance, licensing, safety or other regulatory requirements.
CHILD’S TERMINAL ILLNESS (H 84) – The Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities held a hearing on legislation that would create a pilot program to provide a one-time $10,000 low-interest loan to 30 individuals to assist them in paying the expenses directly resulting from terminal illnesses suffered by their children.
“[The marijuana proponents] tried to make it appear as though if marijuana were legal, a lot of our alcohol problems would go away because people would choose marijuana rather than alcohol. We have seen no evidence of that.”
Jim Gerhart, vice president of the Colorado Narcotic Enforcement Officers Association, warning Bay State officials about the many problems the legalization of recreational marijuana has caused in Colorado.
“Getting perspective on marijuana prohibition from these career prohibitionists is like getting perspective on veganism from cattle ranchers.”
Jim Borghesani, Communications Director of the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana like Alcohol.
“You are a group of five unelected appointees, relatively unknown to the public, being given sole voting power on a tax increase.”
Caroline Casey, a T Riders Union organizer, to the MBTA Fiscal and Management Control Board which is considering fare hikes on the T.
“I know she’s ready for her TV to go back to looking normal.”
Gov. Charlie Baker, noting that his wife Lauren has seen commercials for presidential candidates many times in the days before the New Hampshire primary.
“It’s important for us to learn more about what state government can do to promote policies that help engage millennials. Together, we can make progress on specific issues that most directly impact my generation.”
Thirty-year-old Sen. Eric Lesser (D-Longmeadow), the Senate’s youngest member, on the “Millennial Engagement Initiative” designed to create a dialogue with millennials across Massachusetts about the issues that matter most to them, including student debt and social media privacy.
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 8-12, the House met for a total of 28 minutes and the Senate met for a total of one hour and 15 minutes.
Mon. February 8 House 11:01 a.m. to 11:03 a.m.
No Senate session.
Tues. February 9 No House session
Senate 11:12 a.m. to 11:21 a.m.
Wed. February 10 No House session
No Senate session
Thurs. February 11 House 11:00 a.m. to 11:26 a.m.
Senate 11:03 a.m. to 12:09 p.m.
Fri. February 12 No House session
No Senate session
Clarification: There was only one roll call in the Senate in this week’s report that you received a few minutes ago. The original copy we sent to you uses the plural “roll calls.”
The corrected copy should read as follows: (correction is in red).
THE HOUSE AND SENATE: Beacon Hill Roll Call records local senators’ votes on the only roll call from the week of February 8-12. There were no roll calls in the House last week.
Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org