Beacon Hill Roll Call Volume 42 -Report No. 1 January 2-6, 2017

By Bob Katzen 

   With today’s edition, (name of newspaper) begins coverage of the 2017-2018 Massachusetts legislative session with our weekly Beacon Hill Roll Call report. This feature is a clear and concise compilation of the voting records of local state representatives and senators.
   Beacon Hill Roll Call provides an unbiased summary of bills and amendments, arguments from floor debate on both sides of the issue and each legislator’s vote or lack of vote on the matter. This information gives readers an opportunity to monitor their elected officials’ actions on Beacon Hill. Many bills are reported on in their early stages, giving readers the opportunity to contact their legislators and express an opinion prior to the measure being brought up for final action.
   The feature “Also Up on Beacon Hill” informs readers of other important matters at the Statehouse. 
   Beacon Hill Roll Call is written and provided by Bob Katzen, a former Boston radio talk show host at WRKO, WITS and WMRE. Bob has been providing this feature to hundreds of newspapers across the Bay State for 42 years since 1975. Beacon Hill Roll Call is edited by Brandon L. Stanway.
   THE HOUSE AND SENATE: Last week was full of activity on Beacon Hill. The Legislature approved and sent to Gov. Charlie Baker dozens of bills passed on voice votes, without roll calls, prior to the end of the 2015-2016 session on Tuesday, January 3.  
   The Legislature convened the 2017-2018 session on Wednesday, January 4. Most of Wednesday’s activity was ceremonial with the exception of the election of a speaker of the House and Senate president.
HOUSE RE-ELECTS SPEAKER DELEO

   House 120-35, re-elected Rep. Robert DeLeo (D-Winthrop) as speaker of the House. DeLeo received the votes of 120 Democrats. Three Democratic representatives were absent and two opted not to cast a vote for speaker. 
   Rep. Bradley Jones (R-North Reading) received the votes of all 35 Republicans and was re-elected GOP minority leader.

 Rep. Christine Barber for DeLeo Rep. Denise Provost Didn’t Vote                             
SENATE RE-ELECTS SENATE PRESIDENT STAN ROSENBERG

   Senate 34-6, re-elected Sen. Stan Rosenberg (D-Amherst) as Senate president. Rosenberg received the votes of all the chamber’s 34 Democrats.
    Sen. Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester) received the votes of all six Republicans and was re-elected GOP minority leader

 Sen. Patricia Jehlen for Rosenberg                           

ALSO UP ON BEACON HILL
   On the final day of the 2015-2016 Legislature the House and Senate worked until midnight and approved several bills that they sent to Gov. Baker’s for his signature.

  

   ELECTRIC VEHICLES (H 4781) – The House and Senate approved and sent to Gov. Baker legislation that regulates and encourages the use of zero-emission vehicles. The measure prohibits owners of public electric vehicle charging stations from requiring a person to pay for a membership to use the stations but allows the stations to charge different prices for members and non-members. It also allows municipalities to designate parking spaces for use only by zero-emission vehicles and to fine and tow vehicles that violate that rule.
   Other provisions require the state to establish regulations for electric vehicle charging for residential and commercial buildings; issue a feasibility study on the electrification of state-owned vehicles; and conduct a study examining the advisability and feasibility of assessing taxes, surcharges, levies or other assessments to offset projected gas tax revenue loss from the increasing purchase or operation of zero-emission vehicles.
   Supporters said it is past time to regulate these vehicles and offer incentives for drivers to use them. They said this can help reduce U.S. reliance on imported oil, increase energy security and help save the environment.
   LICENSE AND REGULATE NATUROPATHIC DOCTORS (H 4787) – The House and Senate approved and sent to Gov. Baker a bill that would create a state board to license and regulate naturopathic doctors. The measure requires that these doctors have extensive training in a naturopathic program at an approved naturopathic medical college. 
   The American Association of Naturopathic Physicians defines naturopathic doctors as “primary care and specialty doctors who address the underlying cause of disease through effective, individualized natural therapies that integrate the healing powers of body, mind and spirit.” 
  Supporters said the bill would ensure high-quality naturopathic care in the Bay State and protect the consumer from unqualified practitioners who claim to be naturopathic doctors.
   Opponents said that naturopathy is not a branch of medicine but rather a mix of nutritional advice, home remedies and discredited treatments. They argued that licensing these imposters will legitimize them and present a danger to unwitting patients.
   WARNING SYSTEM AT BEACHES – CALEIGH’S LAW (S 1956) – The House and Senate approved and sent to Gov. Baker a bill creating a program that uses different colored flags to advise beachgoers of the safety conditions at their beach. This uniform warning system would be required at all public beaches maintained by the Department of Conservation and Recreation. Cities and towns would have the option of using the flags for their local beaches.

  

   The bill was filed at the urging of Anthony Harrison, the father of Caleigh Harrison, the 2-year-old girl who went missing while at the beach in 2012 and is believed to have been swept out to sea.
   Supporters said the flag system might have saved Caleigh’s life and should become law in order to save the lives of others.
   EYE DROPS (H 4195) – The House and Senate approved and sent to Gov. Baker a bill that would require insurance plans to cover refills of prescription eye drops under the same guidelines used by Medicare Part D. Plans in the Bay State currently restrict patients from refilling eye drops and other medications earlier than the 30-day or 90-day refill date. The bill would allow patients to get a refill if they run out of drops a few days prior to the allowed refill date.
   Supporters explained that unlike pills, eye drops are difficult to administer and patients often use more than one drop at a time because the first drop misses. They said this leads to patients either taking a twice daily eye drop only once a day or discontinuing their use of drops until the next allowable refill under their health plan. They argued that this can cause their condition, like glaucoma, to worsen and presents serious health and vision risks. 
   The Senate also added language that would allow some optometrists to treat anaphylactic reactions by injecting epinephrine or adrenaline. Under current law, only ophthalmologists are allowed to do so.
   PROTECT BICYCLISTS (S 2534) – The House and Senate approved and sent to Gov. Baker a bill that bill prohibiting drivers from parking in bike lanes and from placing their vehicle in a manner that would interfere with the safety and passage of bicyclists. Violators would be fined up to $50.
   Supporters said currently cities and towns pass local ordinances addressing this issue and the result is a patchwork of inconsistent rules and enforcement. They noted that when drivers park in these lanes they endanger bicyclists who are forced to merge into traffic.  
   REQUIRE DEFIBRILLATORS IN SCHOOLS (H 4719) – The House and Senate approved and sent to Gov. Baker a measure requiring automatic external defibrillators (AED) in all public schools. The measure also mandates that each school have on duty a person who has completed a course on CPR and the use of an AED. It allows a school to get a hardship waiver if it can’t comply with this new law but requires they file a timetable for accomplishing the task.

Another provision protects the operator of the AED from liability other than gross negligence or willful or wanton misconduct when using it on a patient.

 

   Supporters said this common-sense requirement will save lives and argued this type of legislation should have become law years ago.
QUOTABLE QUOTES
   “We know that strong schools enrich our Commonwealth, and we will continue to look for ways to strengthen schools in every neighborhood. I am thankful for everyone whose work contributed to the success that [the publication] ‘Education Week’ is recognizing today.”
   Education Secretary Jim Peyser, on the publication “Education Week” announcing that for the third year in a row the Bay State was chosen first in the nation in overall quality education.

   “While I am pleased with today’s passage, it is unfortunate that it has taken this long for the legislature to act … Too many families have suffered immense loss and tragedy that could have been prevented with an AED.”   
   Sen. Mark Montigny (D-New Bedford) on passage of his measure requiring automatic external defibrillators (AEDs) in all public schools.

    “This would be too much for the small business community to absorb. You’ll lose many small businesses. The Massachusetts Legislature should concentrate on cutting costs and make Massachusetts a more affordable place to live.”
   From one employer’s response to a survey by Associated Industries of Massachusetts about the proposal to hike the minimum wage from $11 per hour to $15 per hour.

   “Since the last minimum wage bill was passed in June 2014, the Massachusetts economy has added more than 150,000 jobs, and unemployment is at its lowest rate since before the Great Recession. To build upon that progress, we must continue the wage increases we’ve seen over the last three years until all workers can earn $15 an hour.”
   Response from “Raise Up Massachusetts” the group spearheading the hike to $15 per hour.

   “Obviously, I think we’re going to be spending some time dealing with the marijuana issue, certainly during the first couple of months anyway,”
   Gov. Baker on what’s ahead in the 2017-2018 legislative session.

   “Transportation is the single largest contributor to Massachusetts’ greenhouse gas emissions. More electric cars mean better air quality, fewer climate emissions, and cost savings for families – that’s good for our economy, for our climate and for our health.”
   Conservation Law Foundation attorney Megan Herzog on the passage of a bill that regulates and encourages the use of zero-emission vehicles in the Bay State.
   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 January 2-6, the House met for a total of 16 hours and 47 minutes while the Senate met for a total of 15 hours and 45 minutes.
Mon. January 2 No House session

                  No Senate session
Tues. January 3 House 11:00 a.m. to 11:56 p.m.

                  Senate 11:08 a.m. to 11:48 p.m
Wed. January 4 House 11:11 a.m. to 2:06 p.m.

                  Senate 11:05 a.m. to 1:41 p.m.
Thurs. January 5 House 11:30 a.m. to 12:24 p.m.

                  Senate 11:19 a.m. to 11:40 a.m.
Fri. January 6 No House session

                  No Senate session
Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at bob@beaconhillrollcall.com

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