Beacon Hill Roll Call Volume 42 -Report No. 43 October 23-27, 2017

By Bob Katzen

THE HOUSE AND SENATE: Beacon Hill Roll Call records local senators’ and representatives’ votes on roll calls from the week of October 23-27.


House 152-0, approved legislation cracking down on the misuse of handicapped parking placards including increasing the period of license suspension for wrongful use or display of a placard from 30 to 60 days for a first offense and from 90 to 120 days for a second offense.

Another provision would prohibit the obstruction of the expiration date or placard number and subject an offender to a $50 fine. The measure also prohibits making a false statement on an application for a placard and imposes a fine of $500 for a first offense and $1,000 for subsequent offenses.

Supporters said it is time to crack down on these offenders who are taking spaces that should be used by a handicapped person. They noted a recent report by the Inspector General revealed widespread abuse of these placards. They noted that many placards still in use belonged to people who had died and said the placards can be used to park all day at most metered spaces, resulting in millions of dollars in lost meter fees to cities and towns.

The Senate has approved its own version of the bill and the House version now goes to the Senate for consideration.

(A “Yes” vote is for the bill.)

Rep. Christine Barber Yes Rep. Mike Connolly Yes Rep. Denise Provost Yes


House 151-0, approved a bill that provides all state and municipal workers with the same protections provided to private workers under the federal Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA).

Supporters said an average of 28 municipal workers per week suffer injuries serious enough to be out of work for five days or more. They noted this protection would cover some 450,000 state and local public workers who perform jobs that are sometimes just as dangerous as private sector ones.

The Senate has approved its own version of the bill and the House version now goes to the Senate for consideration. The main difference is that the Senate bill sets an effective date of September 1, 2018, while the House sets it at July 1, 2019.

(A “Yes” vote is for the bill.)

Rep. Christine Barber Yes Rep. Mike Connolly Yes Rep. Denise Provost Yes


Senate 27-10, approved a bill making some major changes to the state’s criminal justice system including repealing mandatory minimum sentences for low level drug offenders, reducing and eliminating some fees and fines, making changes to the bail system and the juvenile justice system, allowing for compassionate release of ill inmates, raising from 18 to 19 the age at which someone can be charged in adult court and making dangerousness hearings available in more cases and allowing longer detention of defendants on a dangerousness finding.

Supporters said the bill is a balanced one that updates many laws and repeals some arcane laws while still protecting the public. They argued that the bill is a big step toward ending the vicious cycles of incarceration and crime.”

“This bill is about lifting people up instead of locking them up, while focusing attention on the most serious offenders,” said its sponsor Sen. Will Brownsberger.

Assistant Majority Leader Cynthia Creem (D-Newton) said, “I am proud to say that this bill touches on every phase of the criminal justice system, from the front end of the system, including more diversion and expansion of addiction treatment opportunities, to the back end including sentencing, prison programing and solitary confinement reforms. This bill goes a long way to modernize our system in line with our principles of rehabilitation and reduced recidivism.”

Opponents said that the bill goes too far and weakens the state’s criminal justice laws in many ways.

“There are aspects of the bill which we believe hold out promise and which we embrace, but still feel that too many aspects of the bill throw it far out of balance.” said nine of the state’s eleven district attorneys in a letter. “This undermines the cause and pursuit of fair and equal justice for all, largely ignores the interests of victims of crime, and puts at risk the undeniable strides and unparalleled success of Massachusetts’ approach to public safety and criminal justice for at least the last 25 years.”

(A Yes” vote is for the bill. A “No” vote is against it).

Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes


Under current law, a person who commits theft under $250 is charged with a misdemeanor and above $250 with a felony which carries a stiffer sentence.

A section of the criminal justice bill debated last week proposed raising the $250 threshold to $1,500.

Senate 15-22, rejected an amendment that would decrease the proposed $1,500 threshold to $1,000.

Amendment supporters said that the hike from $250 to $1,500 is excessive and argued that $1,000 is a reasonable compromise. They said the hike to $1,500 would result in serious theft being categorized as a minor misdemeanor.

Amendment opponents said the $250 threshold has not been raised since it was established in 1987. They argued that the $1,500 threshold would put Massachusetts in line with other states in the area.

(A “Yes” vote is for the hike to $1,000. A “No” vote is for the hike to $1,500.)

Sen. Patricia Jehlen No


Senate 14-23, rejected an amendment that would double fines imposed on any owner or of a vehicle who allows a person who has had his or her license revoked to drive the owner’s car; or allows a person who has an ignition interlock restricted license to drive the owner’s car without a device. The device is measure also increases the fine to $5,000 and adds an additional jail sentence for a person who violates these two laws and already has been previously convicted or assigned to an alcohol or controlled substance education, treatment, or rehabilitation program.

Amendment supporters said it is time to crack down and get tougher with both first-time and habitual drunk drivers.

Amendment opponents said the state already has very substantial penalties for drunk drivers and this amendment has not been fully vetted.

(A “Yes” vote is for the increased penalties. A “No” vote is against them.)

Sen. Patricia Jehlen No


Senate approved 25-13 and then approved by a wider 31-6 margin, an amendment imposing a 1-year mandatory minimum sentence on anyone who commits assault and battery that causes serious injury on a police officer.

Amendment supporters said police officers are our first line of defense and risk their lives every day. They said anyone who causes serious injury to an officer should serve at least a mandatory year in jail.

Amendment opponents said they appreciate the work and sacrifices of police officers but generally hesitate to single out specific groups for special treatment because it is difficult to decide where to draw the line.

Both roll calls are listed. Some senators changed their vote on the second roll call. Senate President Stan Rosenberg explained that on the first roll call, some senators were unclear on what the amendment would do because of excessive chatting by senators and staff in the temporary chamber which to begin with has poor acoustics. The Senate has been holding its sessions in Gardner Auditorium while the regular Senate chamber is being renovated.

(A “Yes” vote is for the 1-year mandatory sentence. A “No” vote is against it.)

Sen. Patricia Jehlen No/No


Under current law, anyone who disrupts an assembly of people meeting for a legal purpose is subject to up to one month in prison and a $50 fine. A section of the criminal justice bill debated last week would exempt students from being charged or convicted of this type of violation if the alleged disruption is within the school building or at a school-sponsored event.

Senate 11-27, rejected an amendment that would eliminate the proposed student exemption and keep the current law in place.

Amendment supporters said current law has worked well. They argued that schools should have the flexibility whether to charge students or not.

Amendment opponents said the change is aimed at encouraging use of the criminal justice system for school discipline issues only if there is no other tool available. They noted that under current law students can still be charged with other more serious offenses.

(A “Yes” vote is for not exempting students. A “No” vote is for exempting students.)

Sen. Patricia Jehlen No


Current law imposes a mandatory jail sentence on drug dealers who sell drugs within 300 feet of a public or private school or within 100 feet of a playground. The sentence is in addition to the sentence for selling the drugs. A section of the criminal justice bill debated last week proposed eliminating that current law.

Senate 15-23, rejected an amendment that would re-instate current law that establishes school and playground zones.

Amendment supporters said dealers often target school zones and playgrounds because they know that there are impressionable young people there who can easily get hooked on a dangerous drug. They said keeping the additional mandatory sentence will show that the state will remain tough on drug dealers.

Amendment opponents said the school and playground zone restriction is a defunct ineffective way of dealing with the drug problem. They noted that a review of each drug-dealing case in a handful of cities indicated that a not a single school zone case had anything to do with selling to children but was simply the place where a dealer was selling to an adult.

(A “Yes” vote is for creating school and playground zones. A “No” vote is against these zones.)

Sen. Patricia Jehlen No


HOME CARE REGISTRY (H 3821) – The House approved a proposal requiring the Department of Elder Affairs to establish a home care worker registry that would list everyone, employed by a home care worker agency, who provides personal care, homemaker, companion or chore services.

POTHOLE DAMAGE (H 2255) – The Judiciary Committee held a hearing on a bill that would allow plaintiffs to bring a suit in small claims court against a city or town for damage to their tires or rims because of potholes. Current law requires the suit to be filed in district court.

HEARINGS ON MANY BILLS BEFORE THE STATE ADMINISTRATION AND REGULATORY COMMITTEE – The Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight held a hearing on several bills including:

REQUIRE TRAINING AND EDUCATION FOR LOCAL BOARDS (S 1746) – Requires members of local boards of health, conservation commissions, planning boards and zoning boards of appeal to take an annual free education and training course developed by the state.

LIVE OPERATOR (S 1769) – Requires that any telephone answering system used by any state offices, boards and agencies give all callers the option of speaking with a live operator.

REVIEW ALL BAY STATE LAWS (H 1680) – Creates a 13-member Legislative Sunset Advisory Commission to conduct a review of all the Massachusetts General Laws and make recommendations, if any, to improve them. The commission may also recommend the repeal of obsolete laws and the correction of mistakes, inconsistencies and imperfections found in the General Laws.

NO GPS WITHOUT COLLECTIVE BARGAINING (H 1658) – Prohibits the state and local cities and towns from using a GPS to track or monitor their public employees unless the use is mutually agreed to in a collective bargaining agreement.

NO FEE FOR USING STATEHOUSE (H 1679) – Prohibits the state from charging a fee to advocacy and non-profit groups that hold meetings, receptions or exhibitions at the Statehouse as long as it is for engaging or informing elected or appointed state officials in the Statehouse during business hours.

“Many non-profit groups cannot easily afford the onerous fees charged for use of State House facilities, making it difficult for these groups to reach out to state officials,” said sponsor Jay Kaufman (D-Lexington). “This bill would ensure all groups have equal opportunity to hold Statehouse events and advocate for their causes before the officials elected that are appointed to represent and serve them.”

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