By Bob Katzen
THE HOUSE AND SENATE: Beacon Hill Roll Call records local senators’ votes on roll calls from the week of May 2-6. There were no roll calls in the House last week.
SUPPORT FARMERS (S 2258)
Senate 36-1, approved and sent to the House a bill that would increase the access and availability of locally grown food products and invest in educational and agricultural programs to encourage further growth of the industry.
The measure allows farmer brewers and distillers to sell their products at farmers markets. Other provisions prohibit vendors at farmers markets from providing customers with single-use plastic carryout bags; establish a regulatory framework to allow off-premise raw milk distribution; create the Massachusetts Veterans and Warriors to Agriculture Program Fund to integrate veterans into the field of agriculture and support veterans currently working in the industry; and allow state-owned land to be used for non-commercial community gardens and farmers markets.
Supporters said this long overdue bill would benefit farmers and consumers. They noted it would help ensure that jobs are secure for the state’s thousands of farm workers.
The lone opponent supported the intent of the bill but opposed it because it prohibits sellers at farmers markets from providing customers with single-use plastic carryout bags. He argued that it is unfair for the state to ban these bags at farmers markets while still allowing grocery stores and other establishments to use an unlimited number of them.
(A “Yes” vote is for the bill. A “No” vote is against it.)
Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes
BAN PLASTIC BAGS AT FARMERS MARKETS (S 2258)
Senate 24-12, approved an amendment that would prohibit vendors at farmers markets from providing customers with single-use plastic carryout bags.
Amendment supporters said the ban would help the environment. They noted that Americans annually use more than 380 billion bags and argued that most of them end up as litter or trash.
Opponents said it is unfair to ban these bags only at farmers markets when there is no statewide ban in effect. They noted plastic bags are legal and are widely used responsibly.
(A “Yes” vote is for the ban. A “No” vote is against it.)
Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes
ALSO UP ON BEACON HILL
KEEP SIBLINGS TOGETHER (S 2257) -The Senate approved and sent to the House a bill that would require the Department of Children and Families (DCF) and state courts to keep siblings and half siblings who are removed from their parents’ home together in foster care. The requirement could only be waived if DCF shows to the court by convincing evidence that a joint placement is contrary to the safety or well-being of any of the siblings. In those cases, DCF would be required to arrange frequent and ongoing interaction between the siblings, unless DCF shows the visits and interaction would endanger their safety or well-being.
STOP CIVIL COMMITMENT OF WOMEN (H 3956) – A new law prohibiting the civil commitment of women facing substance abuse disorders to MCI-Framingham took effect at the end of April. The new law provides addiction treatment services at Shattuck and Taunton State Hospitals,
Supporters say addiction is a disease and it is time to end the practice of sending women struggling with addiction to jail instead of to a facility where they can get the treatment they need.
BILLS APPROVED BY THE HOUSE – The House gave initial approval to several bills last week including:
HIKE FINES FOR MISUSING HANDICAPPED PLACARDS (H 11) – Increases the fines for illegal use of a handicapped placard from $500 to $1,000 for a first offense and from $1,000 to $2,000 for subsequent offenses. Other provisions include increasing the license suspension for a first offense from 30 days to 60 days and from 90 to 120 days for subsequent offenses; making it a crime to display a placard belonging to a deceased person and for failure to return a placard.
Supporters said the increased fines would reduce the incentive to misuse a placard in order to save money on parking. They cited recent studies by the Inspector General showing widespread misuse of placards. They noted that misuse hurts the disabled who cannot find parking because it is being used by those who do not need it.
USED MATTRESSES (H 241) – Requires the labeling of any mattress, box spring, studio couch or futon mattress that has been used by a consumer and returned to the store for resale. The required wording on the label would indicate that “this mattress, box spring, studio couch or futon mattress has been previously sold, delivered, used and returned and is being offered for resale.”
NO CIVIL LIABILITY FOR PROVIDING INFORMATION (H 315) – Protects from civil liability an employee of a public or private Bay State school who in good faith provides information to a prospective employer about a current or former employee’s job performance and professional conduct.
ABSENTEE VOTING (H 604) – Expands a current law that allows voters with a physical disability to vote by absentee ballot. The bill would expand that to include voters with a mental disability.
NO ROBOCALLS TO CELL PHONES (H 4181) – Prohibits robocalls to cell phones and other mobile electronic devices. The measure exempts messages from school districts to students, parents or employees; from companies advising employees of work schedules; from correctional facilities advising victims of the release of an offender; from municipalities and state government; from public utilities; and from persons concerning the care, services or supplies related to the health of an individual.
It also would fine companies up to $10,000 if they make an illegal robocall and allow an individual who is called more than once in a year to sue a company for $10,000 in damages.
MANDATE TO CARRY $100,000 INSURANCE (H 928) – Requires Bay State drivers to carry a $100,000 death benefit to be paid to the estate of any person killed by the negligence of the driver.
Currently, the minimum amount of “bodily injury” insurance coverage used to compensate the families of those killed in fatal automobile accidents is $20,000
Supporters said that $20,000 is often not enough to meaningfully support surviving family members once legal and medical fees are paid. They argued that the $100,000 will give more support to surviving family members to address their immediate needs under tragic circumstances.
VEHICLE AUCTIONS (H 246) – Allows an agent from cities and towns to attend any motor vehicle auction to buy vehicles for the municipality. Under current law, only those with Class 2 vehicle sales licenses or car dealer licenses can attend these auctions.
QUOTABLE QUOTES – Special Farm Edition
The Senate approved a farm bill that increases the access and the availability of locally grown food products and invests in educational and agricultural programs to encourage further growth of the agriculture industry.
The number of farms in the state.
The total number of acres used by farmers.
Percent of farms that are family-owned.
The number of farm workers.
Ranking among the 50 states for the number of farms with Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). CSAs are a way for consumers to create a relationship with a local farm and to buy a weekly basket of produce.
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 May 2-6, the House met for a total of three hours and four minutes and the Senate met for a total of nine hours and four minutes.
Mon. May 2 House 11:01 a.m. to 11:38 a.m.
Senate 11:07 a.m. to 4:07 p.m.
Tues. May 3 No House session
No Senate session
Wed. May 4 No House session
No Senate session
Thurs. May 5 House 11:03 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
Senate 11:06 a.m. to 3:10 p.m.
Fri. May 6 No House session
No Senate session
Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at email@example.com