THE HOUSE AND SENATE. There were no roll calls in the House or Senate last week.
“THERE OUGHTA BE A LAW” – Massachusetts offers citizens the “right of free petition” — the power to propose their own legislation. Although Friday, January 20, was technically the deadline to file “seasonably-filed” bills for the 2017-2018 session, bills can be filed anytime. Bills filed by the deadline are automatically put into play while those filed after the deadline need a two-thirds vote of the House and Senate in order to be admitted. In most cases, these late-filed bills are admitted.
Sometimes a legislator might be opposed to legislation proposed by a citizen but will file it anyway as a courtesy. In those cases, the bill is listed as being filed “by request” — indicating that the legislator is doing so at the request of the citizen and does not necessarily support it.
Citizens who are interested in filing legislation should contact their own or any other representative or senator.
2015-2016 SESSION – Beacon Hill Roll Call’s research finds that of 177 filed by citizens in the 2015-2016 session, none became law and 134 were sent to a study committee where they died. Of the 43 that didn’t get killed in a study committee, only four of those made it to the House or Senate floor for a vote. But none of those four received final approval and was signed into law by Gov. Charlie Baker.
2017-2018 SESSION – There are 150 bills filed by citizens for the 2017-2018 session including:
NO AUTO INSURANCE SURCHARGE (S 934) – Exempts a person’s first civil motor vehicle infraction from counting as a surchargeable incident that would go on his or her records and often result in an increase in auto insurance. This exemption would not apply to violations that include charges of driving while under the influence or violations that result in bodily harm or death.
Citizen sponsor Mark Bell said he filed the legislation “predominantly as a consumer driving bill, to help put money back in people’s pockets but also out of a sense of fairness to all.” He noted that the penalties are unnecessarily steep right now for first time offenders.
“For all first-time offenders who get a moving violation: No appeals, no hearings before the insurance board, no steps, no surcharges, no increased insurance rates for years to come, no other penalties,” said Bell. “Just pay the ticket or fight it … and walk away. Done. End of story.”
PROHIBIT PARENTAL RIGHTS FOR RAPISTS – Prohibits convicted rapists from being granted the right to visit or have contact with the child born as a result of the rape. The bill is sponsored by well-known attorney Wendy Murphy, an adjunct professor of sexual violence law at New England Law Boston. Her work in state and federal courts across the nation has changed many laws to improve protections for women’s and children’s rights.
Murphy said that prior to 2014, no law gave parental rights to rapists. “The Legislature in 2014 secretly passed a law granting parental rights to convicted rapists,” said Murphy. “There was no debate and there were no public hearings … The 2014 law established Massachusetts as the worst state in the nation on this issue.”
She continued, “It also unconscionably burdens victims with the responsibility of paying for a lawyer and going to family court to prove that their attackers should lose rights they shouldn’t have in the first place, based solely on the happenstance of ovulation at the time of the crime.”
CITIES AND TOWNS MUST POST BYLAWS – Requires each city and town to make available on its website, an easily accessible, complete and updated version of the city or town ordinances and bylaws, including the zoning ordinances and bylaws. It also requires municipalities to make the same information available at their city or town hall, for those people who do not have computer access. Cities and towns that do not comply would be subject to fines imposed by the attorney general.
Citizen John Mahoney of Canton said he filed the bill because many cities and towns do not currently share their bylaws online and even worse, some refuse requests to e-mail out an electronic copy. “If this bill is passed I hope that it will allow all stakeholders in our state the ability to immediately view updated copies of the laws they need to conduct themselves and their business,” said Mahoney.
PROHIBIT USE OF NATIVE AMERICAN MASCOTS (S 291) – Prohibits the use of Native American mascots by Massachusetts public schools. Prohibited are “a name, symbol or image that depicts or refers to an American Indian tribe, individual, custom, or tradition that is used by a public school as a mascot, nickname, logo, letterhead, or team name.” The measure also specifically prohibits the use of the words Redskins, Savages, Indians, Indianettes, Chiefs, Chieftains, Braves, or Redmen. Some 40 Bay State schools currently use native American logos.
Citizen sponsor Linda Thomas, the woman who leads the group of citizens who filed the bill, said that public schools must stop perpetuating racial stereotypes. “Native Americans have been calling on schools and teams to cease using these names and images since the late 1960s,” said Thomas. “Their history, heritage and culture should not be reduced to caricatures or to images that fix them in some mythical past. Our schools should not be teaching that this type of language and imagery is acceptable. It is not.”
Thomas also cites the 2001 U.S. Commission on Civil Rights resolution on the issue of Native American mascots: “The use of stereotypical images of Native Americans by educational institutions has the potential to create a racially hostile educational environment that may be intimidating to Indian students. American Indians have the lowest high school graduation rates in the nation and even lower college attendance and graduation rates. The perpetuation of harmful stereotypes may exacerbate these problems.”
REQUIRE HOOKS IN BATHROOMS (S 1229) – Requires all public bathrooms to contain a hook to hang personal belongings like jackets, purses and backpacks.
Citizen sponsor Gino Dalasio, Jr. said that when he goes into public bathrooms, 90 percent of the time he must put his jacket and backpack on the floor because the bathroom does not have hooks next to mirrors or in the stalls. He said it is especially dangerous in the winter cold and flu season. “There must be countless women out there that use the mirrors and have to put their pocketbooks on the wet germ-infested counters and then they go home and put them on the kitchen table or on the furniture and spread disease to their families,” said Dalasio. “This simple bill would probably save countless thousands of man-hours per year from people getting sick by the transference [of germs] that happens because of this.”
TAX CREDIT FOR TEACHING LITERACY (S 1557) – Gives a tax credit of $750 to $2,200 to volunteers who tutor people to who want to become literate. The volunteers would follow a Literacy Training Lesson Program that would be established by the state. Appropriate standards used to approve the tutors would be set by the Massachusetts Department of Education.
Citizen sponsor Vince Dixon said that the credit will provide an incentive for individuals, to join a generalized effort, to help individuals become literate in English and receive a modest tax credit. “Bright young high school, college, other students, young professionals and many senior citizens all would be very interested in participating in this idea,” said Dixon.
ALSO UP ON BEACON HILL
MAKE DAYLIGHT SAVINGS TIME PERMANENT – The special legislative commission charged with studying the practical, economic, fiscal and health-related impacts of the state remaining on Daylight Saving Time (DST) throughout the calendar year held its second meeting last week. Currently, the Bay State switches to DST when we push the clocks ahead during the period of the second Sunday in March to the first Sunday in November. That move shifts an hour of available daylight from the morning to the evening each day in the spring, and back to the morning in the fall.
Supporters of permanent DST say that it delivers more sunlight in the evening after work and school when people can enjoy it, rather than during the morning rush. They argue that studies show it helps businesses, saves energy and improves physical and mental health.
University of Virginia professor Jennifer Doleac, the author of the study “Under the Cover of Darkness: How Ambient Light Influences Criminal Activity,” testified by teleconference. She said that adding an extra hour of daylight to the end of the day leads to less street crime in the evening hours without a corresponding rise in morning crime.
Peter Shattuck, Director of Clean Energy at the Acadia Center, testified that permanently adopting DST could slightly reduce electricity consumption.
Opponents question the energy savings and say that studies have shown that DST increases risk of a heart attack. Some farmers say the practice leaves them with an hour less sunlight to get crops to market and tampers with the milking schedules of cows which often do not adapt easily to a sudden shift. Many parents and schools oppose DST because it makes sunrise times much later and results in children being out on dark streets on their way to school.
“I’d rather [err on the side of] caution for the kids than take a chance and all of a sudden we’re experimenting and kids are getting hurt,” said Rep. Paul Frost (R-Auburn).
Retailers Association of Massachusetts President Jon Hurst revealed the results of a survey of his members on their preferences. The survey showed that 34 percent of retailers support the idea of switching to EDT year-round; 24 percent favor switching to Standard Time year-round and 19 percent support staying with the current system.
The commission has not yet scheduled its next meeting, but expects it to be April 10 or 11. All meetings are open to the public. You can find out the date of the exact next hearing or offer your opinion via e-mail to the committee’s chair Sen. Eileen Donoghue at email@example.com or by regular mail at: State House, Room 112, Boston, MA 02133.
R.I.P – BILLS DIE IN STUDY COMMITTEES – The 2015-2016 Legislature shipped dozens of other bills, filed by legislators rather than citizens, off to a study committee. Most measures that are shipped off to a study committee are never actually studied and are essentially defeated. Most of the proposals have been refiled for consideration in the 2017-2018 Legislature.
The 2015-2016 batch that died in study committees included:
MUST CHECK FOR ABANDONED ANIMALS (H 1865) Requires landlords and owners who are foreclosing on a property to inspect the property within three days of the tenant’s departure and request that an animal control officer takes charge of any abandoned animal he or she may find.
TAXES – Several tax bills including providing a tax credit of up to $20,000 for taxpayers who purchase a new vehicle, that is primarily fueled by an alternative fuel including electricity, liquid petroleum gas, natural gas or hydrogen fuel (H 2435); exempting seniors 75 or older from the portion of their local property taxes that is devoted to local education (H 2437); allowing an income tax credit of up to $600 for a taxpayer who is caring for elderly relatives over 70 or victims of Alzheimer’s disease at home (H 2441); and allowing self-employed taxpayers to deduct their health insurance premiums on their state taxes (H 2444).
REGULATE KENNELS AND DOGGY DAY CARE (H 630) – Requires the state to establish rules and regulations for boarding kennels and daycare facilities for dogs. The Department of Agricultural Resources would establish regulations establishing qualifications of personnel, the ratio of providers to dog, group sizes, minimum housing and care requirements, indoor and outdoor physical facility requirements, dog handling, body language, interpretation, breed familiarity, emergency response training and insurance.
HOSPITALS MUST HOLD AN ANNUAL PUBLIC MEETING (H 1904) – Requires all hospitals to hold an annual public meeting to give the public an opportunity to discuss issues and to ask questions about the operation of the hospitals.
QUOTABLE QUOTES – Special Gov. Baker Edition
“There are other ways that would be more appropriate if your effort here and your goal is to make the country safer. The travel ban is not a good thing for Massachusetts.”
Baker on President Trump’s second travel ban.
“It’s not just bad for Massachusetts. It’s bad for the country.”
Baker on Trump’s federal budget proposal including budget cuts to the National Institutes of Health.
“We are actively monitoring the winter storm expected to impact much of Massachusetts tomorrow with the potential for up to 18 inches of quickly falling snow, high winds and minor to moderate coastal flooding.”
Baker’s statement last week prior to the storm.
“On this particular one, I guess I would say as one of their customers I’m disappointed.”
Baker on the National Weather Service’s inaccurate prediction last week of 18 inches of snow in Boston and two feet in some other areas of the state. The service has admitted that it knew the day before the storm that there would not be as much snow as that but didn’t change the forecast for fear people would mistakenly think it was no longer going to be very dangerous.
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 March 13-17, the House met for a total of two hours and 59 minutes and the Senate met for a total of 17 minutes.
Mon. March 13 House 11:02 a.m. to 1:44 p.m.
Senate 11:00 a.m. to 11:14 a.m.
Tues. March 14 No House session
No Senate session
Wed. March 15 No House session
No Senate session
Thurs. March 16 House 11:03 a.m. to 11:20 a.m.
Senate 11:10 a.m. to 11:13 a.m.
Fri. March 17 No House session
No Senate session
Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org