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 senators voted with their party leadership.
The votes of the 2016 membership of 33 Democrats were compared to Senate Majority Leader Harriette Chandler (D-Worcester). The votes of the 2016 membership of five Republicans were compared with those of GOP Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester). Beacon Hill Roll Call uses 430 votes from the 2016 Senate session as the basis for this report. This includes all roll calls that were not on local issues.
None of the 33 Democratic members voted with Chandler 100 percent of the time.
Three came very close. Sens. Joseph Boncore (D-Winthrop), Cynthia Cream (D-Newton) and Karen Spilka (D-Ashland) voted with Chandler all but one time.
The Democratic senator who voted the lowest percentage of times with Chandler was Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz (D-Boston) who voted with her only 72.5 percent of the time.
None of the five GOP members voted with Tarr 100 percent of the time.
The GOP senator who voted with Tarr the lowest percentage of times is Sen. Patrick O’Connor (R-Weymouth) who voted with him only 78.3 percent of the time.
SENATORS’ PERCENTAGE OF VOTES SUPPORTING THEIR PARTY’S LEADERSHIP IN 2016
The percentage next to the senator’s name represents the percentage of times the senator supported his or her party’s leadership.
The number in parentheses represents the number of times the senator opposed his or her party’s leadership.
Some senators voted on all 430 roll call votes. Others missed one or more of the 430 votes. The percentage for each senator 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.
Sen. Patricia Jehlen 99.1 percent (4)
ALSO UP ON BEACON HILL
EQUITY IN PUBLIC CONTRACTS (S 2503) – The Senate gave initial approval to a bill aimed at providing greater access to state-funded projects for minority and women business owners and workers.
The proposal would require the state and its various agencies and departments, when awarding state contracts, to seek to give the contracts based on the diverse racial, ethnic and gender makeup of the state’s population. The measure also requires the state, when deliberating upon the responsibility of a bidder, to take into consideration a bidder’s compliance with commitments made in previous bids about the employment of minorities and women.
Supporters said taxpayers are paying for these projects and it is only fair that all residents, including women and minorities, share in the employment and income these contracts create. They argued the goal is to have owners and workers on state-funded projects reflect the diversity of the state.
REDUCE THE TAX ON HARD CIDER (H 4678) – The Revenue Committee held a hearing on a bill that would essentially reduce the tax on hard cider. Under current law, the tax on cider and other beverages that contain between 3 percent and 6 percent alcohol is 3 cents per gallon. The tax on anything that contains more than 6 percent per gallon is 70 cents per gallon, the same rate as champagne.
The bill would apply the 70 cents per gallon tax only to drinks that contains more than 8.5 percent alcohol. Most hard ciders contain only up to 8 percent alcohol and would be taxed at the lower rate of 3 cents per gallon.
Supporters, including Jessica Henry and Al Snape from the North Shore cider company Far from the Tree Cider, said current law unfairly treats and taxes hard cider at the same rate as champagne. They noted the reduction will help the Bay State compete with neighboring states which have lowered the tax. They argued that the change would also put Massachusetts in line with the federal tax on hard cider which will be reduced effective January 1.
STERILIZING SURGICAL INSTRUMENTS (S 2070) – The House approved Senate-approved legislation regulating the technicians who decontaminate, inspect and sterilize reusable medical instruments or devices in a surgical facility. The measure would require any newly-hired technician to pass a nationally accredited exam and annually complete 10 hours of continuing education credits. Current technicians would be required to complete the 10 hours of continuing education each year but would be grandfathered in and would not have to take the exam
Supporters said this will regulate this currently unregulated job and ensure that well-trained people are hired for these important positions. They argued these new requirements will ensure surgical instruments are sterilized and properly cared for and will save many patients from infection or even death.
Additional approval in each branch is needed prior to the measure going to Gov. Charlie Baker.
TOWN, TREASURERS, COLLECTORS AND ASSESSORS (H 1832) – The House approved and sent to the Senate a bill that would authorize a city or town, acting through its board of selectmen, city council or mayor with the approval of the city council, to enter an employment contract for a specified period of time to provide for the salary, fringe benefits and other conditions of employment for the city or town’s assessor, treasurer and collector.
Current law only allows cities and towns to enter into a contract for the town manager, town administrator, executive secretary, administrative assistant to the board of selectmen, town accountant, city auditor and city manager.
Supporters said that these three added positions should not be treated differently and that communities should have the right and power to sign a contract with them.
HANDLING HAZARDOUS DRUGS IN HOSPITALS (H 3995) – The House approved and sent to the Senate a bill requiring the state’s Department of Public Health to establish regulations for the safe handling of hazardous drugs including those used in chemotherapy. Hazardous drugs are defined as toxic ones that pose a potential health risk to health care workers who may be exposed during their preparation or administration.
Supporters said it is time for the state to get involved in this important matter and noted any new state regulations must be consistent with current federal ones adopted by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. They argued that nurses who administer chemotherapy and other hazardous drugs risk exposure to aerosol or droplets of the drugs that are generated during administration. They noted that body fluids of patients who receive hazardous drugs are another potential source of exposure.
STATE ANNOUNCES ENERGY SAVINGS WEBSITE – The Baker Administration unveiled Commonwealth Energy Tool for Savings (energyCENTS), a website for energy ratepayers to search available energy saving opportunities including energy rebates, incentives, loans and tax credits. Currently, there are over 250 incentives and rebates available to Massachusetts electric and natural gas ratepayers from the state and federal governments and utility companies.
“This is a great opportunity for citizens of the Commonwealth to save energy, save money and help our environment in one convenient location,” said Rep. Bradley Jones, (R-North Reading). The site can be accessed at http://web1.env.state.ma.us/Doer/mesa/#/home
“Every citizen has the right to vote without interference or discrimination. The Department of Justice is committed to preventing fraud on Election Day in polling locations throughout Massachusetts in order to aggressively protect the integrity of the election process.”
U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz on her plans to monitor the upcoming November 8 General Election.
“We are making strides toward breaking the two-party monopoly and America will be stronger when we do. But given the position of the Commission on Presidential Debates, the deck is still stacked against even a credible third party ticket with two proven former governors.”
Former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld on the Gary Johnson-Bill Weld Libertarian presidential ticket.
“This is our chance to invest in reliable clean technology that will reduce pollution now and point Massachusetts towards a zero emissions future. We urge our state to seize the opportunity to invest the maximum allowed, or 15 percent of the environmental mitigation funds, into electric vehicle charging stations and the rest into electric buses.”
Deirdre Cummings, Consumer Program Director at MASSPIRG Education Fund, on what the state should do with the $69 million it will receive from Volkswagen’s admission and settlement that 11 million of its vehicles were equipped with software that cheated on emissions tests.
“The only fatal newborn abandonment in Massachusetts in the last 9.75 years was in Fall River in April of 2014. The Commonwealth has the best record in the nation.”
From a statement by Baby Safe Haven New England on the 12th anniversary of the law that allows parents who want to surrender their baby seven days old or younger to leave them at a police or fire station or hospital emergency room.
“Everyone is a winner when food is sourced locally. Our diets are healthier, our food is tastier, and our farmers are busier.”
Sen. Anne Gobi (D-Spencer) on last week’s Massachusetts Food Day to raise awareness about eating a healthier diet buying locally.
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 24-28, the House met for a total of 25 minutes and the Senate met for a total of 24 minutes.
Mon. October 24 House 11:02 a.m. to 11:16 a.m.
Senate 11:08 a.m. to 11:23 a.m.
Tues. October 25 No House session
No Senate session
Wed. October 26 No House session
No Senate session
Thurs. October 27 House 11:01 a.m. to 11:12 a.m.
Senate 11:04 a.m. to 11:13 a.m.
Fri. October 28 No House session
No Senate session
Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org