By Bob Katzen
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THE HOUSE AND SENATE: Beacon Hill Roll Call records local representatives’ and senators’ votes on roll calls from the week of October 30-November 3.
PARIS CLIMATE AGREEMENT (H 3994)
House 146-10, approved and sent to the Senate a bill that commits the Bay State to meeting the greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals in the international Paris Climate Agreement, from which President Donald Trump withdrew several months ago. The proposal makes Massachusetts a “non-party stakeholder” to the agreement and allows state officials to document their emissions reductions efforts via a new online data-gathering tool.
“As a millennial, there is no issue that will have a greater impact on my generation and my children’s generation than climate change.” said Rep. Dylan Fernandes (D-Falmouth), the bill’s sponsor. “This legislation sends a message to the nation and the rest of the world that a handful of climate deniers in Washington D.C. do not speak for the people of Massachusetts.”
“I voted against the principal of the Massachusetts Legislature engaging in foreign policy and international diplomatic accords, especially when in direct contradiction with federal government policy,” said Rep. Joseph McKenna (R-Webster). “Furthermore, there is nothing at all preventing us as a state from achieving these high standards regardless of signing onto the Paris Accord. The argument that we cannot achieve low carbon output without tying ourselves to international policy against our own federal government’s will is false.”
(A “Yes” vote is for the bill. A “No” vote is against it.)
Rep. Christine Barber Yes Rep. Mike Connolly Yes Rep. Denise Provost Yes
PREVENT SEXUAL ASSAULT ON COLLEGE CAMPUSES (S 2191)
Senate 39-0, approved and sent to the House a bill that would require every college in the Bay State to adopt a policy on dating violence, domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking that must be made available to all applicants, students and employees.
The policy would include procedures by which students and employees can report these incidents; information on where to receive immediate emergency assistance following an incident; descriptions of the types of counseling and health, safety, academic and other support services available from the institution and the local community; interim protective measures reasonably available from the institution including options for changing academic, living, campus transportation or working arrangements; a summary of the procedures for resolving dating violence, domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking complaints; and mandatory annual training on sexual violence to new students and employees, including an explanation of consent and the role drugs and alcohol play in an individual’s ability to consent.
“As a legislator, and as a father, I recognize that there is more we should be doing to help prevent incidents of sexual assault on our college campuses,” said the bill’s sponsor Sen. Michael Moore (D-Millbury). “Through improved training, transparency and enforcement of policies, this bill supports initiatives that work to ensure our postsecondary institutions are implementing systems students can trust. The bill also helps to fill the void created by the recent rollback of federal protections.”
(A “Yes” vote is for the bill.)
Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes
OVERRIDE GOV. BAKER’S VETOES
The next four roll calls are on overriding some of Gov. Charlie Baker’s cuts of $320 million in spending in the $39.4 billion fiscal 2018 state budget. A two-thirds vote in both branches is needed for a veto to be overridden.
House and Senate Democratic leaders say the budget is balanced and that it is necessary and fiscally responsible to override Baker’s cuts that would hurt many people including the sick, seniors, children and minorities.
The governor and GOP leaders question if the state can afford to restore this funding. Some Republicans said that because of this uncertainty they voted to sustain all of Gov. Baker’s vetoes, even though it meant voting against restoring funding for many good programs they would otherwise have supported.
$200,000 FOR ONE-STOP CAREER CENTERS (H 3800)
Senate 36-2, overrode a reduction of $200,000 (from $3,960,051 to $3,760,051) for One-stop Career Centers that give unemployed individuals access to a variety of job assistance services, including working with experienced career counselors, attending workshops, training, developing a resume and writing cover letters.
(A “Yes” vote is for funding the $200,000. A “No” vote is against it.)
Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes
$40,000 FOR HOME AND HEALTHY FOR GOOD (H 3800)
Senate 32-6, overrode a reduction of $40,000 (from $2,040,000 to $2 million) for the Home & Healthy for Good program to reduce the incidence of chronic homelessness in the Bay State by providing housing and supportive services to chronically homeless individuals through a model that is less costly and more effective than managing their homelessness and health problems on the street or in a shelter.
(A “Yes” vote is for funding the $40,000. A “No” vote is against it.)
Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes
$250,000 FOR CHEFS IN SCHOOL (H 3800)
Senate 32-6, overrode the veto of the entire $250,000 for the Chefs in Schools program that brings chefs into school cafeteria kitchens to work with existing staff to create healthier meals that students would find tasty and visually appealing.
(A “Yes” vote is for funding the $250,000. A “No” is against funding it.)
Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes
$350,000 FOR ZOOS (H 3800)
Senate 31-7, overrode a reduction of $350,000 (from $4,350,000 million to $4 million) in funding for the nonprofit Commonwealth Zoological Corporation that runs the Franklin Park Zoo in Boston and the Stone Zoo in Stoneham. The $350,000 cut also included a cut of $100,000 for the Lupa Zoo and Game Farm in Ludlow.
(A “Yes” vote is for funding the $350,000. A “No” is against funding it.)
Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes
ALSO UP ON BEACON HILL
BAN PLASTIC GROCERY BAGS (H 2121) – A bill before the Committee on the Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture would ban the use of single-use carryout plastic bags in any retail store with more than 3,000 square feet of space or with three locations.
Supporters say the nation uses 100 billion plastic bags per year and noted bags litter our streets and waterways and often kill marine animals who ingest them.
“Fifty-five cities and towns in Massachusetts have already passed plastic bag bans, recognizing the environmental and public health risks they pose,” said sponsor Rep. Lori Ehrlich (D-Marblehead). “We need to take the next step at the state level, clarifying the patchwork of plastic bag regulations with a singular, statewide ban on plastic bags, which threaten our own health in our drinking water and kill fish and wildlife en masse.”
Opponents say public education has already resulted in widespread use of reusable bags without the state imposing a ban on plastic bags. They note these plastic bags are often reused by consumers for cleaning up after their pets and to line wastebaskets.
NO STATE FUNDS FOR BOTTLED WATER (H 2817) – A bill before the State Administration and Regulatory Oversight Committee would prohibit state funds from being used to purchase bottled water for use in state buildings that are served by a public water supply or potable well water, except when required for safety, health or emergency situations.
Supporters say that Massachusetts spent more than $1 million in fiscal year 2017 on bottled water for various government entities, offices and agencies around the state. They note that production of bottled water uses more energy than the production of public drinking water and bottled water generates large amounts of waste and is simply bad for the environment.
“It makes no sense to purchase and throw away water bottles,” said private citizen Janet Rothrock in her testimony before the committee. “First of all, they are expensive. A one-liter bottle costing $1.50 is 1,850 times as expensive as a liter of tap water. This is a wasteful use of taxpayer money, and secondly, it can be unhealthy. Bottled water is tested only by the manufacturer, test results are not made public and water sold within its state of origin is not required to be tested.”
REVEAL HOW LAWS APPROVED BY THE LEGISLATURE AFFECT LOCAL CITIES AND TOWNS (S 1712) – Another bill before the State Administration and Regulatory Oversight Committee would require that an estimate of the fiscal impact on the state and local communities over the next five years be included with any law approved by the Legislature and signed by the governor.
“I hear the term ‘unfunded mandates’ routinely when I ask town officials about their top concerns,” said the bill’s sponsor Sen. Anne Gobi (D-Spencer). “Knowing what the potential financial impact would be of any new law for the year it becomes law and the next four years so proper planning can take place would be extremely beneficial as well as seeing if the mandate is truly necessary.”
SLOT MACHINES IN VFW HALLS (H 214) – The Economic Development and Emerging Technologies Committee held a hearing on legislation that would allow up to ten slot machines in VFW clubs and any other property owned or rented by a veteran’s organization. The bill was filed in response to a move by the Alcohol Beverage Control Commission (ABCC) that ordered an American Legion Post in Plymouth to shut down the five slot machines it had installed several years ago. The post had automatic amusement device licenses from the town of Plymouth and the proceeds were used to help veterans and their families and fund local scholarships.
“Veteran organizations provide vital service and support to our deserving veterans who have sacrificed so much for all of us,” said the bill’s sponsor Rep. Tom Calter (D-Kingston). “This legislation would give those organizations needed support to sustain operation and allow them to continue to be a resource for veterans and their local communities.” Calter noted that without the machines, the amount of money raised to fund scholarships has fallen from up to $15,000 to a mere $500.
REPLACE “HANDICAP” WITH “DISABILITY” (S 50) – The Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities Committee held a hearing on a measure that would strike all references in the state’s General Laws to “handicap” and replace them with “disability.”
Supporters said over the years, the word “handicap” has developed a negative connotation and is commonly perceived as being offensive by implying that persons with disabilities are somehow lesser than their able-bodied peers
“Words matter,” said the measure’s sponsor Sen. Pat Jehlen (D-Somerville). “Language changes. People in the disability community prefer this language, and we should respect that.”
DELAY ANY NEW TAX FOR ONE YEAR (H 1599) – The Revenue Committee’s hearing included a proposal that would require a 1-year waiting period before a new tax can be implemented and collected.
“This legislation gives businesses time to either adjust or educate the Legislature, said the bill’s sponsor Rep. Shaunna O’Connell (R-Taunton.) “Requiring the 1-year waiting period will give the small business community a level of certainty so that they may plan for the future, grow their business and create jobs.”
“The oath of office that I raised my hand for this afternoon is reflective of everything that is right about our democracy and I do not take it lightly.”
Sen. Paul Feeney (D-Foxborough) who was sworn in as the new senator to replace ex-Sen. Jim Timilty.
“There was a fair amount of meeting around the Hill, and some wine involved in that, which made the project that much more fun.”
Cheryl Bartlett, friend of ex-Senate president Therese Murray on how she and others convinced a reluctant Murray to sit for the official portrait that was unveiled at the Statehouse.
“I am confident this language will effectively ban bump stock devices while protecting the rights of law-abiding gun owners, and closing any loopholes that could be exploited by gun manufacturers.”
Rep. David Linksy (D-Natick) on House and Senate approval of his proposal banning the sale, purchase or ownership of “bump stock” devices that are attached to rifles, shotguns or firearms to increase the weapon’s rate of fire and mimic a fully automatic weapon that can fire hundreds of shots in succession.
“The opioid and heroin epidemic knows no boundaries and is tragically claiming the lives of our loved ones every day, and our administration urges Washington to act quickly on our bipartisan recommendations, many of which have already yielded positive results at the state level, to break the cycle of addiction.”
Gov. Baker on the final report of President Donald Trump’s opioid commission on which he served.
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 October 30-November 3, the House met for a total of 17 hours and eight minutes and the Senate met for a total of 20 hours and 13 minutes.
Mon. October 30 House 11:03 a.m. to 11:39 a.m.
Senate 11:04 a.m. to 2:12 p.m.
Tues. October 31 House 11:02 a.m. to 3:27 p.m
Senate 11:13 a.m. to 3:48 p.m
Wed. November 1 House 10:59 a.m. to 4:02 p.m.
Senate 11:09 a.m. to 4:45 p.m.
Thurs. November 2 House 11:02 a.m. to 6:06 p.m.
Senate 11:14 a.m. to 6:08 p.m.
Fri. November 3 No House session
No Senate session
BAN BUMP STOCKS (H 4008) – The House and Senate approved and acting Gov. Karyn Polito signed into law a ban on bump stocks — devices that are attached to rifles, shotguns or firearms, other than a magazine, to increase the weapon’s rate of fire and mimic a fully automatic weapon that can fire hundreds of shots in succession. The measure was filed in response to the recent massacre in Las Vegas where the shooter used 12 of these devices, allowing him to shoot, kill and injure more victims. The ban was included as part of a $129 million supplemental budget designed to close out the books on fiscal 2017.
The law makes Massachusetts the first state to ban these devices. “In this budget, Massachusetts will once again be a leader in gun violence prevention by banning bump stocks,” said House Ways and Means Chair Jeff Sanchez (D-Boston).
“I am confident this language will effectively ban bump stock devices, while protecting the rights of law-abiding gun owners, and closing any loopholes that could be exploited by gun manufacturers,” said Rep. David Linsky (D-Natick), the sponsor of the proposal. “I am proud of our commonwealth for continuing to enact some of the strongest gun laws in the country, and we will continue to vote to protect our citizens and make our laws even stronger.”
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 Savings Time (DST) throughout the calendar year issued its long-awaited report. Currently, the Bay State is on DST only when we push the clocks ahead during the period of the second Sunday in March to the first Sunday in November. During DST, evening daylight lasts an hour longer while sunrise is an hour later.
After weighing the pros and cons, the commission concluded that under certain circumstances the state could make a data-driven case for year-round DST. “Although appreciable costs associated with making this change would result, on balance the commission finds that doing so could have positive benefits that largely stem from the absence of a spring transition to DST and the additional hour of winter evening light,” the report explained.
The commission also warned that “any move to year-round DST should be regional, because acting alone would make Massachusetts a significant outlier, and could disrupt commerce, trade, interstate transportation, and broadcasting.” The commission recommended that the state take the plunge only if a majority of other Northeast states – possibly including New York – do so as well.”
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, reduces robberies and improves physical and mental health.
Opponents question the energy savings and say that studies have shown that DST increases the 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.