Beacon Hill Roll Call Volume 42 – Report No. 33 August 21-25, 2017

By Bob Katzen 
    THE HOUSE AND SENATE: There were no roll calls in the House or Senate last week.
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   This week, Beacon Hill Roll Call reports the percentage of times local representatives voted with their party’s leadership in 2017 through August 25.


   The votes of the 2017 membership of 34 Republicans were compared with those of GOP House Minority Leader Bradley Jones (R-North Reading). The votes of the 2017 membership of 122 Democrats were compared to House Speaker Robert DeLeo (D-Winthrop). Beacon Hill Roll Call uses 72 votes from the 2017 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 78 of the 123 Democrats voted with DeLeo 100 percent of the time. That means nearly two-thirds of the Democrats always voted with DeLeo. 
   The Democratic representatives who voted the lowest percentage of times with DeLeo are Reps. Colleen Garry (D-Dracut) who voted with DeLeo only 62.3 percent of the time and Jonathan Zlotnik (D-Gardner) who voted with DeLeo only 68.1 percent of the time.
   Only four of the 34 GOP members voted with Jones 100 percent of the time. That means only 11.8 percent of the Republicans always voted with Jones. The GOP representatives who voted with Jones the lowest percentage of times are Reps. Susannah Whipps (Independent-Athol) who voted with Jones only 79.2 percent of the time and Jim Lyons (R-Andover) who voted with Jones only 85.9 percent of the time.

   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 72 roll call votes. Others missed one or more of the 72 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 98.6 percent (1) Rep. Mike Connolly 91.7 percent (6) Rep. Denise Provost 91.7 percent (6)                        

   RENAME YAWKEY COMMUTER RAIL STATION (H 3887) – A late-filed bill before the Transportation Committee would create a special commission to study and make recommendations to the MBTA about changing the name of the Yawkey commuter rail station on the Worcester-Framingham line to a name that is “consistent with and reflects the values of the commonwealth.” 
   “We filed the bill because Tom Yawkey, the Red Sox owner for whom the railroad station and the street Yawkey Way are named was recognized to have made racist decisions,” said Rep. Ruth Balser (D-Newton), one of the bill’s sponsors. “The Red Sox was the last team in the major leagues to integrate. Just as the Red Sox organization is discussing leading the process of changing the name of Yawkey Way, we believe the Legislature should start the process of changing the … [name of the] station.”  
   Balser noted that the proposal sets up a process for a public discussion for selecting a name that the commission believes will better reflect Massachusetts’ history of leading the struggles for equality.
   HOME LOANS FOR FIRST RESPONDERS (S 733) – The Housing Committee held a hearing on a bill that would create a special home loan program for first responders, including police officers, firefighters and EMTs, who are working for a city or town that requires them to live within a short distance of the city or town.


   Supporters say the already difficult problem of home buying in this market is compounded by the residency requirement and limits where the first responders can work.
   $2,500 FOR FIRST-TIME HOMEBUYERS (S 751) – Also on the Housing Committee’s agenda was legislation that would create a program that would help first-time homebuyers by providing up to $2,500 to pay closing costs. 
   The measure also allows consumers to contribute up to $4,000 to a first-time home-buying account. The money would be tax-free when deposited and when taken out of the account as long as it goes toward the purchase of a home.
   CONSUMER COMMITTEE HEARING – The Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure will hold a hearing on September 12 at 1 p.m. in Room A1 at the Statehouse. Several bills are on the agenda including: 


   IMMUNITY FROM PROSECUTION (S 111) – Provides immunity from prosecution for persons under age 21 who seek medical assistance for an alcohol-related overdose, if the evidence for the charge of possession of alcohol was gained solely as a result of the person seeking medical assistance.


   Supporters say this will ensure that these underage drinkers get medical help immediately when necessary instead of delaying it because they are worried about being charged with underage drinking.
  BARS AND RESTAURANTS MUST PROVIDE FREE WATER (H 3468) – Requires restaurants and bars that serve alcohol to provide customers with free tap water when requested.
  Supporters say customers are often not given free water upon request and are forced to purchase bottled water or go without it. They argue that spacing the rate of consumption of liquor out by alternating with water significantly reduces the chances that someone will become intoxicated and helps reduce dehydration.
   ALLOW CITIES AND TOWNS TO CONTROL LIQUOR LICENSES (H 189) – Gives cities and towns the authority to decide how many liquor licenses are granted in their community. Current law determines the number of licenses that can be granted based on the population of the city or town. To obtain any additional licenses, cities and towns are required to have the request approved by the Legislature.


   Supporters argue that local communities, not the state, should have the power to decide how many liquor licenses are granted. The bill’s sponsor Rep. Joseph McKenna (D-Webster) says that almost all the requests to the Legislature are approved with no opposition, but notes the process can take months and require political connections.
   “Alternatively, in some areas, if a developer or restaurant owner is fortunate enough to have several hundred thousand dollars, they can just buy one,” said McKenna. “To me this is an arduous burden to entry that limits economic development and protects existing business. It blocks start-ups and entrepreneurs who may want to start a restaurant or store.”
  “Massachusetts has added another chapter to its history as the nation’s leader in education, becoming the first state ever with 50 percent of its workforce holding a bachelor’s degree.”
   From MassBudget’s report, “Education and State Economic Strength: A Snapshot of Current Data.”

  “As a member of the Legislature, Sen. Flanagan has been a champion and important partner with us on bipartisan efforts to enact comprehensive legislation around substance use prevention, treatment and recovery. Her experience and service will be invaluable to the Cannabis Control Commission and to the people of Massachusetts … to ensure the effective, responsible and safe implementation of the adult use of marijuana in the commonwealth.”
   Gov. Charlie Baker on his appointment of Sen. Jennifer Flanagan (D-Leominster) to the five-member Cannabis Control Commission which regulates the legalization of marijuana.
   “I think you’re going to find you’re going to be very busy this fall. Hopefully, you’ll have enough time to watch the Patriots because we’re going to be so busy.”
   House Speaker Bob DeLeo (D-Winthrop) commenting on the House schedule after Labor Day.

   “Serving as state representative while not affiliating with either major political party will allow me to more effectively utilize the relationships I have developed with the members and leadership on both sides of the aisle and will allow me to better serve all of the people of my district, without the obligation of towing any particular party line.”
   Rep. Susannah Whipps (Independent-Athol) on her leaving the Republican party to become an independent.

  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 August 21-25, the House met for a total of 40 minutes while the Senate met for a total of 46 minutes.
Mon. August 21 House 11:04 a.m. to 11:10 a.m.

                   Senate 11:05 a.m. to 11:16 a.m.
Tues. August 22 No House session

                   No Senate session
Wed. August 23 No House session

                   No Senate session
Thurs. August 24 House 11:04 a.m. to 11:38 a.m.

                   Senate 11:06 a.m. to 11:41 a.m.


Fri. August 25 No House session

                   No Senate session
Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at

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