By Bob Katzen
THE HOUSE AND SENATE: There were no roll calls in the House and Senate last week.
This week, Beacon Hill Roll Call reports on how often local representatives voted with their party leadership.
The votes of the 2016 membership of 34 Republicans were compared with those of GOP House Minority Leader Bradley Jones (R-North Reading). The votes of the 2016 membership of 125 Democrats were compared to House Speaker Robert DeLeo (D-Winthrop). Beacon Hill Roll Call uses 319 votes from the 2016 House session as the basis for this report. This includes all roll calls that were not quorum calls or on local issues.
A total of 44 of the 125 Democrats voted with DeLeo 100 percent of the time. That means that more than a third of the Democrats always voted with DeLeo.
The Democratic representatives who voted the lowest percentage of times with DeLeo are Reps. Colleen Gary (D-Dracut) and James Dwyer (D-Woburn). Garry voted with DeLeo 90.2 percent of the time and Dwyer voted with DeLeo 91.4 percent of the time. No Democrat voted with DeLeo less than 90.2 percent of the time.
None of the 34 GOP members voted with Jones 100 percent of the time.
The GOP representative who voted with Jones the lowest percentage of times is Rep. Sheila Harrington (R-Groton) who voted with Jones 72.4 percent of the time.
The GOP representative who voted the most times with Jones was Rep. Bradford Hill (R-Ipswich) who voted with Jones 93.4 percent of the time.
REPRESENTATIVES’ PERCENTAGE OF VOTES SUPPORTING THEIR PARTY’S LEADER IN 2016
The percentage next to the representative’s name represents the percentage of times the representative supported his or her party’s leader.
The number in parentheses represents the number of times the representative opposed his or her party’s leader.
Some representatives voted on all 319 roll call votes. Others missed one or more of the 319 votes. The percentage for each representative is calculated based on the number of roll calls on which he or she voted and does not count the roll calls for which he or she was absent.
Rep. Christine Barber 99.4 percent (2) Rep. Denise Provost 98.0 percent (6) Rep. Timothy Toomey 99.1 percent (3)
ALSO UP ON BEACON HILL
TRANSGENDER RIGHTS BILLS TO BE ON 2018 BALLOT – Opponents of the new law that prohibits discrimination against transgender people in public accommodations by adding “gender identity” to existing Massachusetts civil rights laws have gathered the necessary signatures to put the law on the 2018 ballot and let voters decide whether to repeal it or not. Massachusetts law already prohibits discrimination in public accommodations on the basis of age, race, creed, color, national origin, sexual orientation, sex, religion and marital status.
Public accommodations are defined as “a place, whether licensed or unlicensed, which is open to and accepts or solicits the patronage of the general public.” This includes hotels, restaurants, retail stores, malls, theaters, parks, medical offices, libraries and public transportation. The major controversy has centered around the fact that the proposal would also allow access to restrooms and locker rooms, based on a person’s gender identity rather than on their sex.
Supporters, noting 17 other states have approved similar laws, say this new civil rights law is already helping many transgender people lead safe and more productive lives. They argue that transgender individuals will no longer have to face the threat of discrimination in many public accommodations. They note that under prior Massachusetts law, there was no protection ensuring that transgender people would not be turned away from a restroom, locker room, hotel, restaurant, retail store and many other places simply because they are transgender.
Opponents say the privacy rights of children matter and asked how youngsters might react to a transgender classmate using the same bathroom. They argue that bathroom and locker room use should be based on the gender on one’s birth certificate, not on an inner sense of feeling or expression. They say that male predators could use this law as cover to excuse their presence in women-only spaces and note that there have already been incidents reported where women’s privacy and safety in public accommodations were violated.
PRESERVE RAPE EVIDENCE FOR 15 YEARS (H 4364) – The House and Senate approved and sent to Gov. Charlie Baker a bill that would require all rape kits to be kept for a minimum of 15 years and that rape victims be notified immediately of this law.
Current law allows the kits to be kept for 15 years but initially only requires they be kept for six months unless the victim files a request for an extension.
Supporters said this long overdue change will empower rape victims and lead to more convictions.
WELDING SAFETY (H 4455) – More than two years after the March 2014 deaths of Back Bay firefighters Edward Walsh and Michael Kennedy, the House and Senate approved and sent to Gov. Baker a proposal that would create a special commission to study welding regulations in Massachusetts and report back to the Legislature with recommendations by June 1, 2017.
The legislation was prompted by the deaths of Walsh and Kennedy who perished while fighting a fire that was caused by welders, working without a city permit, on a building next door to the brownstone in which they died. The commission would study current regulations and recommend whether changes and new regulations are warranted.
PROPERTY TAX REDUCTION FOR INSTALLING A FIRE PROTECTION SPRINKLER SYSTEM (H 4523) – The Revenue Committee sent off to a study committee a bill that would provide a property tax reduction to owners of a two-family or multifamily residence who pays for the installation of a fire protection sprinkler system. The one-time credit would be equal to 30 percent of the price of installation. The proposal is a local option one that would only apply to cities and towns that vote to opt into the measure.
Most measures that are shipped off to a study committee are never actually studied and are essentially defeated.
VIDEOTAPE MEDICAL PROCEDURES (H 4099) – The Public Health Committee sent to a study committee legislation that would allow a patient to videotape his or her doctor, without permission, performing any medical procedures. Current Massachusetts law allows doctors to refuse to be taped. That is part of a law that makes it illegal to tape any person without his or her consent.
Supporters of the bill say that patients should have this right in order to have a recording that can be useful if the patients bring a malpractice suit against the doctor. They noted the videos can also help hospitals learn from mistakes.
Opponents of the bill say doctors, like any other workers, should have a right to do their work in private. They argued the bill is an unnecessary invasion of privacy.
“As voters began to learn about the full impact of this law, we saw them often move from alarm to action. We look forward to spending the next two years continuing to raise awareness about the dangers of this law and making sure voters are fully educated on what is at stake.”
Andrew Beckwith of Keep MA Safe, the group that has gathered sufficient signatures to put the law on the 2018 ballot and let voters decide whether to repeal it or not.
“The people of Massachusetts have a deep and long history of promoting fairness and inclusion. If the question of whether to continue to treat transgender people as equal members of our society ends up before Massachusetts voters in 2018, we are confident they will vote to retain the law and affirm the values of justice and equality that are the hallmarks of our Commonwealth.”
MassEquality’s Executive Director, Deborah Shields.
“This report draws a clear connection between weak state gun laws and higher levels of gun violence. I am proud to live and work in Massachusetts, where we have proven that effective, sensible gun laws save lives – period, and you don’t need to ban guns in order to prevent most gun violence.”
Stop Handgun Violence founder John Rosenthal on a new report by the Center for American Progress that shows Massachusetts was ranked as the state with the most effective gun violence prevention laws and lowest rate of gun violence.
“Finding the lowest price, even among generic drugs, is tough terrain for consumers to navigate. Consumers need to consult coupon websites, call stores, shop, compare and try to find the best price at a time they are already in a vulnerable position.”
Barbara Anthony, Senior Fellow in Healthcare at the Pioneer Institute on its just-released report on the difficulty consumers have in finding prescription drug price information.
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 October 10-14, the House met for a total of 14 minutes and the Senate met for a total of 23 minutes.
Mon. October 10 No House session
No Senate session
Tues. October 11 House 11:01 a.m. to 11:08 a.m.
Senate 11:19 a.m. to 11:32 a.m.
Wed. October 12 No House session
No Senate session
Thurs. October 13 House 11:02 a.m. to 11:09 a.m.
Senate 11:05 a.m. to 11:15 a.m.
Fri. October 14 No House session
No Senate session
Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at email@example.com