Beacon Hill Roll Call Volume 16 -Report No.26 June 27-July 1, 2016

By Bob Katzen 

   NOTE TO EDITORS: If your list of legislators includes Sens. Sal DiDomenico or Daniel Wolf, you may want to include the following explanation of “paired” voting when you publish this week’s report:
   A “pairing” process, used only in the Senate, is a procedure that allows an absent senator to express how he or she would have voted on a roll call. Under the arrangement, the absent senator contacts a senator who is present and plans to vote the opposite way. The present senator agrees to “pair” his or her vote with the vote of the absent senator. Neither vote is counted in the official total–they cancel each other out. This process allows both senators to be unofficially recorded on the roll call.
   This week’s report follows:
   THE HOUSE AND SENATE. Beacon Hill Roll Call records local representatives’ and senators’ votes on roll calls from the week of June 27-July 1.

   House 150-3, Senate 38-1, approved and sent to Gov. Charlie Baker a conference committee’s compromise version of a $39.15 billion fiscal 2017 state budget. Baker has ten days to sign the budget and to veto sections of it. It would then take a two-thirds vote of the House and Senate to override any vetoes. The conference committee version was hammered out after the House and Senate each approved different budgets.
  The conference committee reduced expected revenues by $750 million and cut $413 million in proposed spending. That action was in response to warnings about unexpected ever-decreasing revenue projections over the past several days.
      Supporters of the budget said it is a balanced one that makes vital investments in the state while continuing fiscal responsibility.
     Some opponents said that the budget does not make sufficient cuts and argued that state spending has grown too much over the past few years. Others noted they opposed spending taxpayer money on government services given to illegal immigrants.
   (A “Yes” vote is for the budget. A “No” vote is against it.)

 Rep. Christine Barber Yes Rep. Denise Provost Yes Rep. Timothy Toomey Yes Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes                                     

   House 150-0, approved and sent to the Senate a bill that makes changes in the laws surrounding non-competition agreements. These agreements prevent workers from competing with their ex-employer for a certain period of time after leaving the company.
   Provisions include establishing a 12-month duration limit for non-competes; requiring that companies provide the non-compete agreement to the future employee ten business days before the employee begins work; and prohibiting non-competes for hourly workers, college or graduate students, interns, employees that have been terminated without cause or laid off and anyone 18 and under.
   Supporters said the bill does not ban these contracts but strictly regulates them so that the conditions are fair to both sides. They noted cases in which employees signed very broad agreements and ended up not being able to take a job in their field again for years.
   (A “Yes” vote is for the bill.)

 Rep. Christine Barber Yes Rep. Denise Provost Yes Rep. Timothy Toomey Yes                                     

   Senate 34-2, approved a bill that would regulate Uber, Lyft and other Transportation Network Companies (TNCs) by establishing a new state agency, Ride for Hire Division, to oversee all matters licensing the companies and drivers, enforcing penalties and all other issues. A key provision requires drivers to pass a background check by the state.
    The measure prohibits the hiring of anyone whose name is in the National Sex Offender Registry or has been convicted of crimes of violence, sexual abuse, DUI, hit and run or felony robbery within the past seven years. In addition, anyone with one major traffic violation or five minor traffic violations within three years would be ineligible to drive; 
   Other provisions require accommodation of riders with special needs; prohibit fare increases during emergencies; set rules for insurance requirements; require drivers to be certified; and impose a 10-cent tax on each TNC ride. The tax would go into a trust fund that would provide cities and towns with funds based on the proportion of rides originating in each municipality. These funds could be used by the community for anything related to unmet transportation needs.
   Supporters said these regulations were compiled after extensive input from both the ride-hailing and taxi industries. They said the new rules will foster growth and competition while protecting consumers.
   Opponents said the bill does not include strong enough restrictions to protect consumers. They argued that consumer protection and public safety must be the high priorities.
  The House has approved a different version of the bill and the Senate version now goes to the House for consideration.

   (A “Yes” vote is for the bill. A “No” vote is against it.)

 Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes                                     

   Senate 14-24, rejected an amendment that would require all TNC drivers to be fingerprinted and require the mandatory background check include checking fingerprints with a national database.
   Amendment supporters said fingerprinting is one of the best ways to weed out potential drivers who have a criminal record. They noted that fingerprints are already required for teachers and many others in the Bay State.
   Amendment opponents said this requirement is another example of overreach by the government and noted that the bill already gives companies the option to do a fingerprint test. They argued that mandated background checks are far more useful than the fingerprinting system.
   (A “Yes” vote is for the amendment. A “No” vote is against it.)

 Sen. Patricia Jehlen No                                      

   Senate 9-30, rejected an amendment that would strike the part of the bill that requires TNCs to pay a tax of 10-cents per ride into a new Municipal Transportation Infrastructure Trust Fund. The fund would distribute the money to cities and towns to address the impact of TNCs on municipal roads, bridges, taxicabs or any other public purpose substantially related to the operation of TNCs.  
   Supporters of the tax said it was just a small assessment on these companies but will add up to an amount of money that will help communities solve some local transportation infrastructure problems. They argued this is another step in helping to repair the state’s vast transportation infrastructure.
   Opponents of the tax said it is unfair and unnecessary to suddenly tax this innovative business. They argued that the state’s roads and bridges will not be repaired with this small amount of money and noted the Legislature is working on comprehensive legislation that will repair the state’s infrastructure. They noted the Uber or Lyft driver’s car already pays an auto excise tax, gas tax and sales tax when purchased.
   (Please note: The vote was on abolishing the tax. Therefore, a “Yes” vote is against the tax. A “No” vote is for the tax.)

 Sen. Patricia Jehlen No                                      

   Senate 39-0, approved and sent to the House a bill that would require cities and towns to reduce their solid waste to no more than 600 pounds per capita by July 2018 and no more than 450 pounds per capita by July 2022. The measure also requires the Department of Environmental Protection to establish performance standards for municipal solid waste reduction by July 1, 2017.
   Supporters said the bill would decrease pollution, save money and protect the environment. They noted that this is another major step toward preserving the environment for future generations.
   (A “Yes” vote is for the bill.)

 Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes                                     

   Senate 39-0, approved and sent to the House a bill that would prohibit persons from leaving their pet in a car when high or low temperatures could endanger the animal’s health and safety. Violators would be hit with up to a $150 fine for a first offense, $300 for a second offense and $500 for any subsequent offense. The bill also leaves open the possibility of criminal animal cruelty charges being brought against the offender in the most egregious cases. 
   Other provisions prohibit leaving a dog outdoors during harsh weather conditions and prohibit a dog from being chained or tethered outside for more than five hours per day or between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. for more than 15 minutes. Violations under the tethering law include penalties of up to $500 or relinquishment of ownership of the dog.
   Supporters said it is time to crack down on irresponsible and cruel dog owners. 
   (A “Yes” vote is for the bill.)

 Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes                                     
ENERGY (S 2372)

   Senate 39-0, approved a bill requiring electric distribution companies to solicit and agree to long-term contracts for at least 2,000 megawatts of offshore wind by 2027. The companies would also be required to purchase a minimum of 12,450,000 megawatt-hours of clean energy from hydropower and other resources such as onshore wind and solar.
   Supporters said the bill provides power without pollution and will diversify the state’s energy portfolio and replace some of the power the state will be losing from dirtier sources that will eventually be shut down. They noted that the offshore wind requirements will enhance a new industry in Massachusetts, help the economy and create jobs.
   The House has already approved a different version of the bill and the Senate version now goes to the House for consideration.
   (A “Yes” vote is for the bill.)

 Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes                                     

   MUST CHECK FOR ABANDONED ANIMALS (S 942) – The Senate approved and sent to the House a bill that would require landlords and owners who are foreclosing on a property to check each vacated unit within three days to look for abandoned animals and to report any to the animal control officer. The measure imposes up to a $500 fine for a first offense and up to $1,000 for each subsequent offense. The money collected from the fines will be deposited into the Homeless Animal Prevention and Care Fund.
   Supporters cited several cases of animals being abandoned including a 2-year-old Labrador who was found dead after being left in a vacated home for several weeks. They said the bill will help protect animals and save lives.
   PROTECT CATS AND DOGS (S 2370) – The Senate approved and sent to the House a bill that strengthens the Massachusetts “Puppy Lemon Law” to give pet owners more options if they unknowingly purchase a sick pet. Other provisions prohibit the sale of puppies and kittens younger than eight weeks old; establish safety and breeding standards to protect pets; and allow a veterinarian to declare an animal suffering from a significant adverse health condition “unfit for purchase.”
   Supporters said that Massachusetts is one of a handful of states that does not regulate puppy mills and other commercial breeders. They argued the bill would ensure that puppies and kittens are bred and sold in a safe and healthy environment in the Bay State.
   DOUBLE SPEEDING FINES (H 3033) – The House approved and sent to the Senate a bill that would double fines for speeding in a breakdown lane when the breakdown lane is allowed to be used for regular travel. 
    Supporters said speeding in breakdown lanes can endanger police officers and emergency personnel.
   PARENTS CAN’T BE FORCED TO TESTIFY AGAINST THEIR CHILDREN (H 1245) – The House approved and sent to the Senate a bill that would protect biological parents, adoptive parents, stepparents and legal guardians of a child from being forced to testify against the child. Current law only protects children from being forced to testify against their parents.  
   Supporters said it is time to get rid of this double standard and to have an even playing field.
   SEXUAL ASSAULT OF DISABLED PERSON (H 1549) – The House approved and sent to the Senate a bill imposing up to a life sentence on anyone convicted of raping a disabled person. 
   Supporters said it is time to make this heinous crime a separate offense and to punish the offender accordingly. 
   REAL ESTATE APPRAISERS (S 2377) – The Senate approved and sent to the House a bill that would allow only certified and licensed real estate appraisers to appraise property for real estate transactions. Current law allows a person who is not certified as a real estate appraiser to appraise real estate in connection with non-federally related transactions for compensation.
   Supporters said this new law will ensure that only trained and educated real estate appraisers are allowed to do this important job which is a key component of the real estate market.
   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 June 27-July 1, the House met for a total of 13 hours and six minutes and the Senate met for a total of 17 hours and 36 minutes.
Mon. June 27 House 11:05 a.m. to 11:38 a.m.

                     Senate 11:07 a.m. to 11:46 a.m.
Tues. June 28 No House session

                     Senate 1:02 p.m. to 3:16 p.m.
Wed. June 29 House 11:03 a.m. to 4:26 p.m.

                     Senate 1:06 p.m. to 6:49 p.m.


Thurs. June 30 House 11:04 a.m. to 6:14 p.m.

                     Senate 11:01 a.m. to 8:01 p.m.


Fri. July 1 No House session

                     No Senate session
Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at

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