Beacon Hill Roll Call Volume 42 – Report No. 6 November 13-17, 2017


By Bob Katzen

THE HOUSE AND SENATE: Beacon Hill Roll Call records local representatives’ and senators’ votes on roll calls from the week of November 13-17.


Senate House 155-1, Senate 37-0, approved and sent to Gov. Charlie Baker a bill that would give public school districts the power and flexibility to offer other English Language Learner (ELL) programs in addition to or instead of the current sheltered English immersion program. The current immersion program, approved by Massachusetts voters on a ballot question in 2002, requires all students, including those not yet fluent in English, to be taught English by being taught all subjects in English and to be placed in English language classrooms.

Supporters said since the year 2000, the number of ELL students in Massachusetts has doubled to more than 90,000 students or 9.5 percent of the entire student population. They argued that schools need the flexibility to implement a program that will fit the needs of their students rather than the “one size fits all” current law. They said that the English immersion mandate is not working and noted that these students continue to lag behind their peers in high school graduation rates and going to college.

The lone opponent did not respond to a request for a comment by Beacon Hill Roll Call.

(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 Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes


House 144-9, approved a bill making some major changes to the state’s criminal justice system including repealing mandatory minimum sentences for low level drug offenders, restricting the use of solitary confinement, allowing for the expungement of juvenile records and strengthening laws against fentanyl trafficking.

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.

“The reforms made in this bill address all aspects of the criminal justice system from a person’s first contact with the criminal justice system, up until an individual leaves the system and re-enters society,” said Rep. Claire Cronin (D-Easton). “We have updated and improved our laws, made the system more equitable, and are giving people opportunities to rebuild their lives, while also ensuring public safety.”

“Our objective with this legislation is to reduce recidivism by removing the many obstacles facing justice-involved individuals after they have served their time,” said Rep. Ronald Mariano (D-Quincy). “Individuals in our communities deserve a chance to effectively transition back into productive members of society, and this bill eliminates roadblocks toward achieving that goal. We believe these changes will be instrumental in encouraging folks that mistakes of their past will not serve as a life sentence.”

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

“To get rid of minimum mandatory sentences for fentanyl drug dealers is irresponsible,” said Rep. Geoff Diehl (R-Whitman). “Larceny felony will no longer start at $250 but rather $1,000, making everything under $1,000 a misdemeanor. That says Massachusetts doesn’t consider stealing to be a serious crime. The commonwealth should be strengthening public safety, not passing a ‘soft on crime’ bill that fails to hold drug dealers accountable.”

“We are facing a drug epidemic that is killing people every day,” said Rep. Shaunna O’Connell (R-Taunton). “Drug traffickers are knowingly selling deadly fentanyl. Rather than applying harsh penalties, this bill eliminates virtually all mandatory sentences. This criminal justice bill is ‘soft on crime,’ fails to protect people, neglects victims and will exacerbate the drug epidemic we are facing.”

(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


House 117-36, approved a motion that would indefinitely delay an amendment creating a new penalty for heroin trafficking that results in a death. The motion would allow the measure to take effect only after the state has furnished a study of the legislation’s impact on public safety and the economy of the state and local cities and towns.

Delay supporters said these dealers can already be charged with manslaughter or second-degree murder under current law.

Delay opponents said it is time to crack down on these heroin dealers who peddle this dangerous substance and are responsible for many deaths across the state. They also noted that the motion made by the Democrats to delay the amendment is sneaky and is simply a way to help Democrats avoid a direct vote on the amendment.

(The vote was on delaying the amendment. A “Yes” vote is for delaying the amendment. A “No” vote is against the delay.)

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


House 110-41, approved a motion that would indefinitely delay an amendment that would impose up to a life sentence, of which a minimum of five years must be served, and a $25,000 fine on anyone who manufactures, distributes or dispenses heroin, fentanyl, methamphetamine, lysergic acid or diethylamide or phencyclidine (PCP) that causes the death of the user.

The motion would allow the measure to take effect only after the state has furnished a study of the legislation’s impact on public safety and the economy of the state and local cities and towns.

Some delay supporters said the amendment is not necessary because under existing law the district attorney can charge the offender with second-degree murder or manslaughter. Others said addiction is a disease and often people who are selling these drugs don’t know what they are selling and are simply dealing to support their habit. They noted that recriminalizing and incarcerating a person with a drug problem does not offer any solutions to the drug problem.

Delay opponents said these dealers are killing our children and argued that they need to know that there will be major consequences if they kill the children of the commonwealth. They noted that fentanyl caused many of the more than 1,933 opioid-related deaths in the Bay State last year.They also noted that the motion made by the Democrats to delay the amendment is sneaky and is simply a way to help Democrats avoid a direct vote on the amendment.

(The vote was on delaying the amendment. A “Yes” vote is for delaying the amendment. A “No” vote is against the delay.)

Rep. Christine Barber Yes Rep. Mike Connolly Yes Rep. Denise Provost 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 $750.

House 117-36, approved an amendment that would increase the proposed $750 threshold to $1,000.

Amendment supporters said the $250 threshold has not been raised since it was established in 1987 and has not kept pace with inflation. They argued that as a result, what used to be misdemeanor thefts have been charged as felonies and Massachusetts ends up charging thefts at the felony level far more often than other states.

Amendment opponents said the hike to $1,000 would result in serious theft being categorized as a minor misdemeanor.

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

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


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.


Senate 31-6, overrode Gov. Baker’s veto of the entire $100,000 for the Partnership to Advance Collaboration and Efficiencies (PACE), a collaborative initiative of the Bay State’s nine state universities and 15 community colleges.

According to its website, the PACE mission is to “lead a systematic effort for campus collaborations which will benefit each institution, their geographic region and the commonwealth. It is designed to promote cost savings and operational efficiencies, increase productivity and improve service delivery.”

(A “Yes” vote is for spending the $100,000. A “No” vote is against spending it.)

Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes


Senate 37-0, overrode Gov. Baker’s $600,000 veto reduction (from $850,000 to $250,000) in funding for the Boston Regional Intelligence Center (BRIC) to upgrade, expand and integrate technology and protocols related to anti-terrorism, anti-crime, anti-gang and emergency response.

According to its website, “Information gathered by the BRIC pinpoints areas of crime, shootings and gang violence, as well as helping to identify major players and ex-offenders returning to neighborhoods.”

(A “Yes” vote is for spending the $600,000. A “No” vote is against spending it.)

Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes

$1,887,952 FOR STATE POLICE PATROLS (H 3800)

Senate 35-2, overrode Gov. Baker’s veto of $1,887,952 (from $281,420,645 to $279,532,693) for additional state police patrols at various locations in the state.

(A “Yea” vote is for spending the $1,887,952 A “Nay” vote is against spending it).

Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes

$635,000 FOR COUNCILS ON AGING (H 3800)

Senate 32-6, overrode Gov. Baker’s veto of $635,000 (from $14,242,900 to 13,607,900) in funding for several Councils on Aging.

(A “Yes” vote is for spending the $635,000. A “No” vote is against spending it.)

Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes


PUNISH SANCTUARY CITIES AND TOWNS (H 1107) – The Municipalities and Regional Government Committee held a hearing on legislation that would withhold local aid from any cities or towns that do not enforce federal immigration laws. The withholding would also apply to communities that have established themselves as “sanctuary” cities or towns that offer protection in a variety of ways to illegal immigrants. Massachusetts currently has five sanctuary cities and towns: Cambridge, Chelsea, Northampton, Somerville and Springfield.

Supporters of the bill say cities and towns that encourage law-breaking are hurting this nation. They argued the state should do everything it can to dissuade those who seek to come here illegally.

Opponents of the bill say it is mean-spirited and noted that some individuals are here because of political asylum. Others said they oppose sanctuary cities but do not support cutting off local aid as punishment.

FINGERPRINT UBER AND LYFT DRIVERS (H 535) – A bill before the Joint Committee on Financial Services would require the state to conduct fingerprint checks of the state and national criminal history databases for applicants looking to drive for Uber and Lyft.

Sponsor Rep. Danielle Gregoire (D-Marlborough) said while there are current laws that go a long way toward fairly regulating these services, there is more the state can do to protect the public safety.

“Massachusetts residents should be able to utilize these services with the knowledge that lawmakers have done everything possible to ensure their safety,” said Gregoire. “It is our job to ensure that the playing field is level for all ride for hire services and this bill is an attempt to further that goal.”

COUNTERFEIT AIRBAGS (H 1803) – The Committee on Transportation held a hearing on legislation that would make it illegal to import or sell counterfeit airbags in Massachusetts. Over the past few years, thousands of counterfeit airbags have made their way into the Bay State through purchases on the Internet.

“I filed this bill to protect Massachusetts drivers from being injured and killed when counterfeit airbags fail to deploy properly,” said Rep. Jennifer Benson (D-Lunenburg).

FINES FOR JAYWALKING (H 1834) – The Transportation Committee’s hearing also included a bill allowing cities and towns to fine pedestrians for jaywalking. Violators would be fined $25 for a first offense, $50 for a second offense and $100 for subsequent offenses. The fines would be doubled for pedestrians using a smartphone or similar device as well as for those wearing earbuds or headphones.

HOME CARE REGISTRY (H 3821) – The House and Senate approved and sent to Gov. Charlie Baker 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.


“It is a privilege that we allow individuals to hold onto something that causes harm and death.”

Rep. Marjorie Decker (D-Cambridge), calling it a privilege to own guns.

“One of the problems that we face here in Massachusetts is that the Second Amendment is barely recognized in the state as a whole and certainly not as a civil right. I could not have asked for a better witness to that than the previous legislator [Decker] who actually described our civil rights as a privilege. I am aghast that an elected official would actually say that.”

Jim Wallace, executive director of the Gun Owners’ Action League (GOAL) on Decker’s comment.

“I think you’d have to drill down in those 100-plus communities to really figure out what their motivation is and what they’re doing. And I’ll bet you’ll find a significant number of those communities will eventually have facilities. They just want to get it right.”

Senate President Stan Rosenberg (D-Amherst) on the growing number of communities that have banned or delayed marijuana retail shops.

“We said when we got into this that the first goal was to break the back of the trend, break the back of the trend of prescribing, break the back of the trend on overdoses and break the back of the trend on deaths. I would say that we’re starting to make progress on that. But let’s face it. No one here, and I certainly don’t think anybody in Massachusetts, is going to view this as mission accomplished.”

Gov. Baker on his new legislation to fight against opioid addiction.

“When we get together for Thanksgiving and you sit around the table — and trust me, the kids are listening and everybody’s watching — talk about single-payer and why it’s important. I got that crazy uncle, everybody’s got that crazy uncle — ‘You’re a socialist, it doesn’t work, Paul.’ Now he says, ‘You’re a socialist, it doesn’t work, Senator.'”

Newly-elected Sen. Paul Feeney (D-Foxborough) commenting on the Senate’s recent passage of an amendment requiring the Baker Administration to compare the state’s current health spending to the projected spending under a single-payer system, and to develop a single-payer implementation plan if that route proves less expensive.

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 November 13-17, the House met for a total of 26 hours and 58 minutes and the Senate met for a total of 16 hours and 53 minutes.

Mon. November 13 House 11:01 a.m. to 6:36 p.m.

Senate 11:15 a.m. to 4:56 p.m.

Tues. November 14 House 12:01 p.m. to 9:09 p.m.

Senate 1:13 p.m. to 4:51 p.m.

Wed. November 15 House 11:59 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.

Senate 1:11 p.m. to 8:40 p.m.

Thurs. November 16 House 11:05 a.m. to 11:19 a.m.

Senate 11:05 a.m. to 11:10 p.m.

Fri. November 17 No House session

No Senate session

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