By Bob Katzen
THE HOUSE AND SENATE. Beacon Hill Roll Call records local legislators’ votes on roll calls from the week of June 26-30.
The Senate approved on a voice vote, without a roll call, a measure (S 2092) that would prohibit drivers from using a hand-held cell phone or another device to make a call, use the device’s camera or access social media. The measure allows drivers to use only a hands-free phone.
Use of a hand-held phone would be permitted in emergencies including if the vehicle was disabled; medical attention or assistance was required; police, fire or other emergency services were necessary for someone’s personal safety; or a disabled vehicle or an accident was present on a roadway.
Violators would be fined $100 for a first offense, $250 for a second offense and $500 for a third and subsequent offense. A third offense would result in the violation being be considered a moving violation for purposes of the safe driver insurance plan.
Supporters said that the bill would save lives and prevent accidents. They noted that the measure does not ban cell phone use but simply requires the use of hands-free ones. They pointed to accidents, deaths and injuries involving hand-held cell phones.
Some opponents said that the restriction is another example of government intrusion into people’s cars and lives. Others noted that there are already laws on the books prohibiting driving while distracted.
REDUCE FINES FOR CELL PHONE VIOLATIONS (S 2092)
Senate 12-26, rejected an amendment that would reduce the proposed fines for using a hand-held telephone. The fine for a first offense would be reduced from $100 to $50; a second offense from $250 to $100; and third and subsequent offenses from $500 to $150. The amendment also eliminates the part of the bill that makes a third offense a moving violation for purposes of the safe driver insurance plan.
Amendment supporters said the fines are too high and discriminate against poor people who cannot afford them. They noted that research found 105 residents from three counties were jailed in 2015 because they couldn’t afford to pay fees and fines.
Amendment opponents said the higher fines are reasonable and are designed to discourage drivers from breaking the law and putting lives at risk. They said that reducing the fines will result in more violations.
(A “Yes” vote is for the amendment. A “No” vote is against it.)
Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes
FAIRNESS FOR PREGNANT WORKERS (S 2093)
Senate 38-0, approved the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act aimed at preventing discrimination based on pregnancy and guaranteeing reasonable accommodations and safety measures for pregnant mothers. Reasonable accommodations include time off to recover from childbirth; more frequent, longer paid or unpaid breaks; acquiring or modifying equipment or seating arrangements; obtaining a temporary transfer; and a private non-bathroom space for expressing breast milk — unless any of these would create undue hardship on the employer.
The legislation also prohibits an employer from discriminating against, refusing to employ or firing a woman because she is pregnant or has a condition related to pregnancy.
Supporters said a pregnant woman should not have to fear losing her job when she could continue working with some reasonable adjustments. They argued the bill would ensure pregnant women are treated fairly in the workplace.
The House has approved a different version of the bill. The Senate version now goes to the House for consideration.
(A “Yes” vote is for the bill.)
Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes
HEALTH OF THE BABY (S 2093)
Senate 38-0, approved an amendment that would guarantee that a pregnant woman is accommodated and allowed to take time off from work if the health and wellbeing of her baby are at stake.
Amendment supporters said the bill, without the amendment, does not go far enough and takes into consideration only the woman’s health. They cited incidents in which an ultrasound showed a cyst on a baby’s brain and the mother had to go for extra tests and to additional doctors. They argued that without the amendment, the employer would not be required to allow the mother the time to take off from work.
(A “Yes” vote is for the amendment.)
Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes
ALSO UP ON BEACON HILL
UNSOLICITED CREDIT CARDS AND CHECKS (H 169) – The House gave initial approval to a bill that would prohibit a consumer from being liable for any debt incurred by the unauthorized use, by someone other than the recipient, of unsolicited credit cards, checks and vouchers sent by banks. These items, sent to consumers by banks and other financial institutions, can be used instantly but are actually loans which must be repaid.
Supporters say that consumers should only be liable if they have personally used the check, credit cards or voucher.
WINDOW GUARDS (H 2500)- The House gave initial approval to legislation that requires landlords to install window guards in all units of their buildings that have a window higher than six feet off the ground and in which a child under ten years of age lives.
The measure also prohibits landlords from discriminating against potential renters who have children under ten and fines them from $250 to $500.
PROHIBIT HIDDEN COMPARTMENTS (H 1266) – The House gave initial approval to a proposal that would prohibit the sale or equipping of motor vehicles with hidden compartments to conceal drugs or other illegal contraband.
EDUCATION LEGISLATION -The Higher Education Committee will hold a hearing on July 13 at 10 a.m.in Room A-2 at the Statehouse. Among the proposals on the agenda are:
FREE COLLEGE TUITION FOR ALL (H 633) – Provides free tuition to Massachusetts residents to attend state community colleges and all other state universities.
$5,000 TO BABIES FOR COLLEGE (S 691) – Gives $5,000 to all newborn babies to be used toward a college education at a community college or university in Massachusetts.
WAIVE COLLEGE TUITION FEES FOR VETERANS (H 636) – Provides tuition and fee waivers at state universities for veterans. The cost would be paid by the state rather than the university.
To qualify, a veteran must be honorably discharged from the U.S. Armed Services after at least one year of active service; designate Massachusetts as his or her intended home, and then move to and successfully establish residency in the Bay State within one year of beginning his or her college education.
“A woman who is pregnant is no less equal and no less valued as a member of the workforce. The protections included in this legislation are commonsense and simply prevent mistreatment of pregnant employees.”
Sen. Jason Lewis (D-Winchester) on Senate passage of the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act aimed at preventing discrimination based on pregnancy.
“Distracted driving due to the unnecessary use of mobile devices has led to too many tragic injuries and loss of life. Hands free technology is readily accessible, affordable and easy to use.”
Sen. Mark Montigny (D-New Bedford) on Senate approval of a bill prohibiting drivers from using a hand-held cell phone.
“The system would give the nearly 700,000 eligible Massachusetts citizens that are not registered to vote an opportunity to have their voices heard through our election process.”
Pam Wilmot, Executive Director of Common Cause Massachusetts, on her support for Automatic Voter Registration that would establish a system for eligible citizens in Massachusetts to automatically register to vote when they interact with a state agency like the Registry of Motor Vehicles.
“The entire public education system in the Commonwealth owes a debt of gratitude to Commissioner Chester for his contribution to making our K-12 public schools the envy of the nation.”
UMass President Marty Meehan on the death of Mitchell Chester, Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education.
“Massachusetts encourages women to abort their babies by spending our tax dollars to cover the procedure. show the best way to reduce the abortion rate is to stop subsidizing it. Instead of trying to make abortion quick and easy and free, we as a society owe it to women to help them choose life instead.”
Tom Harvey, Chairman of the Alliance to Stop Taxpayer Funded Abortions, on the group’s drive to collect the signatures to place a question on the 2020 ballot amending the state’s constitution and giving the Legislature the power to fund or not fund abortions under MassHealth, the state’s Medicaid program that provides health care for qualified low-income and disabled persons.
“Any effort to block MassHealth insurance plans from covering abortion care is an attempt to create unnecessary, discriminatory, and costly barriers that jeopardize women’s health to make a political point.”
Dr. Jennifer Childs-Roshak, the president of the Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts.
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 26-30, the House met for a total of xxx hours and xxx minutes and the Senate met for a total of xxxx hours and xxxxx minutes.
Mon. June 26 House 11:00 a.m. to 12:47 p.m.
Senate 11:03 a.m. to 12:47 p.m.
Tues. June 27 No House session
No Senate session
Wed. June 28 No House session
No Senate session
Thurs. June 29 House 11:02 a.m. to 8:54 p.m.
Senate 11:14 a.m. to 8:48 p.m.
Fri. June 30 House 11:04 a.m. to 11:47 p.m.change
Senate 11:09 a.m. to 12:06 p.m.change
Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org