Beacon Hill Roll Call Volume 42 – Report No. 47 November 20-24, 2017

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By Bob Katzen

THE HOUSE AND SENATE: Beacon Hill Roll Call records local senators’ and representatives’ votes on roll calls from earlier November sessions. There were no roll calls in the House or Senate last week.

CUT $550,000 FOR VARIOUS HEALTH-RELATED PROGRAMS (H 3800)

House 125-28, Senate 35-2, overrode Gov. Charlie Baker’s reduction of $150,000 for programs for the promotion of health and disease prevention including prevention of breast cancer, hepatitis C and colorectal cancer; and screening for prostate cancer, diabetes, ovarian cancer, multiple sclerosis and osteoporosis. The $150,000 is not earmarked for any specific program.

The governor also vetoed another $400,000 for specific programs including $100,000 for macular degeneration research into prevention and treatment of the disease; $25,000 for a diabetes prevention program; $25,000 for a program that provides peer support and education, home independence training and adaptive aids to people who are learning to cope and function safely and independently with the loss of sight; $100,000 for research to provide solid scientific evidence for the cranberry’s role in health and nutrition; and $100,000 for providing medically tailored meals to persons battling chronic illnesses and providing workforce training programs to people recovering from addiction.

(A “Yes” vote is for funding the $550,000. A “No” vote is against funding it.)

Rep. Christine Barber Yes Rep. Mike Connolly Yes Rep. Denise Provost Yes Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes

PROHIBIT CONSIDERATION OF DETAINING ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS (H 4011)

House 119-34, upheld the ruling of Acting House Speaker Patricia Haddad (D-Somerset) that prohibited consideration of an amendment that would authorize police officers, court officers and other law enforcement officers to detain a person under certain circumstances, at the request of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on the grounds that there is probable cause that such person is a removable illegal alien.

This would apply only in those cases where an individual has already been arrested and is about to be released from custody or is deemed to pose a threat to public safety because he or she has engaged in terrorism or has been convicted of a serious crime such as a felony, human trafficking or drug trafficking. The amendment also restricts the amount of time an individual can be detained to no more than 12 hours.

The amendment was filed in response to a July decision by the state’s highest court which ruled that state local law enforcement officials do not have the authority to detain a person based solely on a request from ICE.

Haddad ruled that the amendment is not properly before the House because it was not included in any earlier versions of the bill and introduction of this new subject-matter would expand upon the bill and violate House rules.

Supporters of the ruling said the ruling is appropriate and follows the rules of the House.

Opponents of the ruling said clearly the issue of arresting and holding illegal immigrants is related to a bill making changes in the criminal justice system.

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

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

PROHIBIT MORE WIRETAPPING TO BE CONSIDERED (H 4011)

House 123-34, upheld the ruling by Acting House Speaker Paul Donato (D-Medford) that prohibited consideration of an amendment that would allow law enforcement to request the authority from the courts to use wiretapping in cases of murder, manslaughter, rape, human trafficking, drug trafficking, the manufacturing or distribution of drugs, weapons trafficking, witness intimidation and use or possession of explosives or chemical weapons. Current law, which has not changed since 1968, allows wiretapping to be used only when the crime is committed in connection with organized crime.

Donato ruled that the amendment is not properly before the House because it was not included in any earlier versions of the bill and introduction of this new subject-matter would expand upon the bill and violate House rules. “Such new subject-matter in the form of an amendment from the floor of the House and thereby by-passing the deliberative steps required under our rules for the passage of a bill,” said the ruling. “That would violate the essence of the legislative process.”

Supporters of the ruling said the ruling is right on target and follows the rules of the House.

Opponents of the ruling said the issue of using wiretaps to help convict criminals is related to a bill making changes in the criminal justice system.

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

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

EXPUNGE JUVENILE RECORDS (H 4011)

A section of a proposed criminal justice bill would have allowed offenders who committed a crime before their 21st birthday to apply for expungement of certain records after 10 years for a felony or a misdemeanor if the individual has met all other qualifying criteria.

The House 127-26, approved an amendment that reduced that waiting period to seven years for a felony and three years for a misdemeanor.

Amendment supporters said research shows states with shorter expungement periods have reduced recidivism rates. They noted that the amendment will create earlier possibilities for these offenders to turn their lives around while still ensuring public safety. They argued that the amendment will reduce barriers to employment, housing and educational opportunities.

Amendment opponents said the reduction is excessive and argued that the original ten-year waiting period for both felonies and misdemeanors is fair to offenders and also in the best interest of public safety. They noted that allowing an offender who is convicted of breaking and entering and larceny under $1,000 to apply to have his or her record expunged after three years is too lenient.

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

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

CUT ENTIRE $60,000 FOR TEACHING FINANCIAL LITERACY (H 3800)

Senate 30-7, overrode Gov. Baker’s veto of the entire $60,000 for a program that mentors and teaches financial literacy to low-income women.

(A “Yes” vote is for funding the $60,000. A “No” vote is against funding it.)

Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes

CUT $122,274 FOR PRISONER’S LEGAL SERVICES (H 3800)

Senate 30-6, overrode a reduction of $122,274 (from $1,609,465 to $1,487,191) in funding for Prisoners’ Legal Services, a program that provides legal representation for indigent and disadvantaged defendants.

(A “Yes” vote is for funding the $122,274. A “No” vote is against funding it.)

Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes

ALSO UP ON BEACON HILL

THE GOVERNOR SIGNS BILLS INTO LAW – Gov. Baker signed into law several important pieces of legislation:

CONTRACEPTION COVERAGE

Gov. Baker signed into law a bill designed to ensure free access to FDA-approved methods of birth control for women in Massachusetts. The measure allows women to get a 12-month supply of a contraceptive of their choosing after an initial 3-month prescription and mandates coverage of emergency contraception at pharmacies without a copayment or a new prescription.

The proposal was filed in response to President Trump’s executive order that exempts a wide range of employers from the requirement that they offer birth control to their employees without co-pays or deductibles. The bill exempts church or qualified church-controlled organizations who would be allowed to opt out of the requirement.

A Center for Health Information and Analysis report said the bill’s mandates will cost the health care system between $1.9 million and $5.7 million annually over the next five years and will add between 84 cents and $2.40 to the annual premium for a Massachusetts subscriber.

“All women deserve the right to affordable, reliable and safe contraceptive care,” said House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo (D-Winthrop). “This is not only a health issue, but one of equity as well. Being able to make decisions about contraception is one of the most influential factors in whether women complete their education and achieve their career goals. I’m proud that Massachusetts did the right thing in the face of shameful decisions on the federal level.”

“Under this new law, those who have moral objections to contraceptives, abortifacients, and sterilizations will be compelled, in violation of their consciences, to subsidize, at an expanded level, procedures and practices which they find abhorrent,” said Catholic Action League Executive Director C.J. Doyle. “Our constitutional and jurisprudential tradition has long maintained that a ‘reasonable accommodation’ ought to be granted to the sincerely held moral and religious beliefs of citizens. This absolutist legislation offers no such accommodation.

ENGLISH LANGUAGE LEARNERS

Gov. Baker signed into law a bill that gives 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 say that 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 argue 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 say 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.

“While the bill provides districts with new flexibilities, we will ensure programs for English language learners remain rigorous, properly staffed, and regularly evaluated,” Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito said. “Parents in several communities will have opportunities to participate on local advisory committees and have more direct input into the education of their children.”

$199 MILLION FOR NEW CHELSEA SOLDIERS’ HOME

Gov. Baker signed into law a $244 million bond authorization to support many projects across the state including $199 million to replace the long-term care facility at the Chelsea Soldiers’ Home.

“The Soldiers’ Home in Chelsea provides comprehensive, quality health care and residential services with honor, dignity and respect to the commonwealth’s veterans,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders. “The upgrades to the Soldiers’ Home ensure that the physical plant meets modern health care requirements commensurate with the needs of our veterans.”

Another provision provides $45 million to expand high-speed Internet in unserved or underserved communities in Western and North Central Massachusetts.

“With this new funding, the administration is going the extra mile to ensure we continue to build the momentum we have in closing the broadband gap for communities in Western and Central Massachusetts,” said Housing and Economic Development Secretary Jay Ash. “High-speed, broadband internet is a necessity in today’s internet-connect world, and we will continue to work with municipalities to pursue collaborative solutions that best fit the unique needs of our unserved communities.”

HANDICAPPED PARKING

Gov. Baker signed into law 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.

Other provisions include allowing the Registry of Motor Vehicles to revoke a handicapped plate or parking placard if it finds that the person was ineligible or that a placard was obtained falsely; prohibiting the obstruction of the expiration date or placard number and subjecting an offender to a $50 fine; prohibiting making a false statement on an application for a placard and imposing a fine of $500 for a first offense and $1,000 for subsequent offenses

Supporters say 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 including more than 300 cars in downtown Boston using placards issued to other people. 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 misuse of handicapped parking placards robs municipalities of much-needed revenues and prevents persons with disabilities from finding accessible parking,” said the bill’s sponsor Sen. Eileen Donoghue (D-Lowell). “This bill will benefit both disabled individuals and local governments.”

SOME 2018 POSSIBLE BALLOT QUESTIONS CLEAR ANOTHER HURDLE – Sponsors of several possible ballot questions for the November 2018 election faced their second deadline in the long process to get their proposed law or constitutional amendment on the ballot. Sponsors had until November 22 to gather signatures and file them with local city and town clerks who then certify the valid signatures. Petitioners then must file 64,750 valid signatures with the secretary of state’s office by December 6, 2017. The proposal would then be sent to the Legislature and if not approved by May 2, 2018, proponents must gather another 10,792 signatures by July 4, 2018, in order for the question to appear on the November 2018 ballot.

Supporters try to gather a lot more than the 64,750 signatures required in order to ensure that they have 64,750 certified ones. Proponents of three of the most controversial proposed ballot questions were all confident that they have gathered enough signatures to satisfy this next step.

The proposals would increase the minimum hourly wage to $12 in 2019, $13 in 2020, $14 in 2021 and $15 in 2022; create a program to provide paid family and medical leave to Massachusetts workers; and reduce the state’s sale tax from 6.25 percent to 4.5 percent and at the same time establish an annual two-day permanent sales tax holiday in August that allows consumers to buy most products that cost under $2,500 without paying the state’s 6.25 percent sales tax.

“We are very confident that when our signatures are submitted to the secretary of state in two weeks our initiative to roll back the sales tax to 5 percent and to bring back the sales tax holiday will qualify for the ballot … the total number [of signatures] will certainly be more than the 64,750 threshold,” said Jon Hurst, President of the Retailers Association of Massachusetts.

“We’ve collected 270,500 combined signatures. 137,000 for the $15 minimum wage and 133,500 for paid family and medical leave,” said Andrew Farntiano, the spokesman for Raise Up Massachusetts, the group behind the $15 minimum wage and paid family and medical leave ballot questions. “Our signature collection totals exceeded our already high expectations.”

QUOTABLE QUOTES

“Our dedicated first responders and highway construction crews work every day to ensure public safety and improve the reliability of road conditions for the millions of people traveling between our communities. This legislation encourages responsible and safe driving habits, while holding accountable those who put our work crews, law enforcement, school children and families in harm’s way.”

Lt Gov. Karyn Polito urging the Legislature to approve the bill banning the use of hand-held cell phones for all drivers but allowing them to use a hands-free cell phone with voice-activated dialing.

“We appreciate the time and thoughtfulness of all those who came out to share ideas and comments that will help shape the future of this new industry in our commonwealth. Our mission now is to make sure we reflect those concerns and suggestions in our draft regulations that will be presented to the public later this winter.”

Steven Hoffman, Chairman of the Cannabis Control Commission, on the recently completed eight Statewide Listening Sessions held by the commission.

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“These workers provide critical health care services to seniors and others and they deserve to be paid properly, not cheated by their employer. With this settlement, hundreds of home health aides will now be paid the money they are owed.”

Attorney General Maura Healey announcing a settlement with Lawrence-based Maestro-Connections Home Health Systems which has agreed to pay $1,007,717 in restitution and penalties for failing to pay employees overtime and failing to keep true and accurate payroll records between June 2013 and October 2016.

“Whether it’s working with our colleagues in local government, or our colleagues in the Legislature, or our colleagues in the community, we’ve made clear over and over again that [in] Massachusetts there’s no place for discrimination of any kind and especially no place for violence. And I don’t support the question that’s going to be on the ballot in the fall if it makes it to the ballot, and expect that I and others will be working hard to ensure that it’s defeated.”

Gov. Baker on the 2018 ballot question asking voters if they want to repeal the law that prohibits discrimination against transgender people in public accommodations by adding “gender identity” to existing Massachusetts civil rights laws. The major controversy has centered around the fact that the law allow access to legally gender-segregated public facilities, including restrooms and locker rooms, based on a person’s gender identity rather than on their sex.

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 20-24, the House met for a total of 34 minutes and the Senate met for a total of 27 minutes.

Mon. November 20 House 11:02 a.m. to 11:17 a.m.

Senate 11:09 a.m. to 11:21 a.m.

Tues. November 21 No House session

No Senate session

Wed. November 22 House 11:00 a.m. to 11:19 a.m.

Senate 11:08 a.m. to 11:23 a.m.

Thurs. November 23 No House session

No Senate session.

Fri. November 24 No House session

No Senate session

Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at bob@beaconhillrollcall.com

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