By Bob Katzen
THE HOUSE AND SENATE. There were no roll call votes in the House or Senate last week. This week, Beacon Hill Roll Call reports local senators’ roll call attendance records for the 2017 session through December 1.
The Senate has held 313 roll call votes so far in 2017. We tabulate the number of roll calls on which each senator was present and voting and then calculate that number as a percentage of the total roll call votes held. That percentage is the number referred to as the roll call attendance record.
In the 39-member Senate, 24 senators (61.5 percent) have 100 percent roll call attendance records.
The senator who missed the most roll calls is Sen. Mike Barrett (D-Lexington) who missed 37 roll calls, (88.2 percent attendance record).
Rounding out the top five worst attendance records:
Sens. Linda Dorcena Forry (D-Boston) who missed 25 roll calls, (91.7 percent attendance); Marc Pacheco (D-Taunton) who missed 10 roll calls, (96.8 percent attendance); Mike Rush (D-Boston) and Barbara L’Italien (D-Andover) who both missed 6 roll calls, (98.1 percent attendance).
Beacon Hill Roll Call requested a statement from those five senators. Here are their responses.
Barrett: “Due to my authorship of carbon pricing legislation (I truly authored it myself) and my role as Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy, I was given official observer status at this year’s U.N. Conference on Climate Change in Bonn. This is the successor meeting to the now-famous Paris Climate Talks of 2015. Attendance meant I missed the last two days of the session, chockablock with near-unanimous veto overrides, but in return I met and worked with observers and delegates from other ‘subnational’ jurisdictions around the world. Given the mounting squirreliness of national leaders, coalitions of subnational leaders are increasingly important.”
Forry: “On September 28, 2017, I was unable to be present for the entirety of the Senate’s full formal session where roll calls were held to override the governor’s vetoes to the fiscal year 2018 budget. The reason for this was a long-planned event taking place at the same time at Fenway Park. You may recall, this past Spring racial slurs were hurled at Adam Jones from the Baltimore Orioles by fans during a game in Boston. Since the incident, I’ve been working collaboratively with the Red Sox organization and Boston Chapter of the NAACP, along with the Celtics, Bruins, Patriots and Revolution teams to create the ‘Take the Lead’ Initiative. This important program works to educate the public and show racism and hate have no place in our community. The launch of the initiative was held on the same day and time as the session.”
Pacheco: “These votes took place within a 3-hour period on the night of October 26th. Senate members were told that session would end at 7:00 p.m. Unfortunately, that ended up being a drastic underestimation – the session lasted until 1:30 a.m. I had to leave the chamber around 7:30 p.m., as I had to catch a 9:15 p.m. flight for an out-of-state wedding. While I’m disappointed in the time crunch and unexpected delays of that night, these roll-calls occurred in the midst of a single 3-hour period, and my votes had no bearing on the enactment or rejection of the subject matter. I will be voting on the enactment stage of the process when the bill comes back to the Senate, and I look forward to doing so.”
Rush: “On April 5th he was speaking at the Gold Star Wives Day at the Statehouse and missed [roll call] #10,” responded John Regan, Rush’s chief of staff. “He was overseas with the Navy for his 2-week drill from April 21st to May 4th and missed #11. On September 28th and November 9th we had a Veterans Committee hearing so he was back and forth so he missed #99, #100, #101 and #270.”
L’Italien: “I was unfortunately unable to vote on six roll calls this session.”
L’Italien went on to explain that there were several reasons for missing the six votes including the unexpected death of her mother on April 3; her service as a Massachusetts legislative delegate at the Government of Canada Rising State Leaders Tour; her attendance at the Women in Government Conference in Nevada; and her convening a mediation meeting between SEIU 509 and Class, Inc. to avert a large labor strike in the city of Lawrence.
2017 SENATORS’ ROLL CALL ATTENDANCE RECORD THROUGH DECEMBER 1
The percentage listed next to the senator’s name is the percentage of roll call votes for which the senator was present and voting. The number in parentheses represents the number of roll calls that the senator missed.
Sen. Patricia Jehlen 98.7 percent (4)
ALSO UP ON BEACON HILL
STOP ARRESTING PROSTITUTES (H 3499) – The Judiciary Committee held a hearing on legislation that would repeal current criminal penalties that can be imposed on prostitutes. The measure does not legalize the illicit sex trade and still punishes pimps and johns.
Supporters said that the current system, under which prostitutes are often imprisoned, causes further harm to women who are already the victims of human trafficking. They said these victims are arrested and imprisoned much more often than the people who exploit them.
SEX OFFENDERS – The Judiciary Committee’s hearing also included these bills:
BAN SEX OFFENDERS FROM LIVING TOGETHER (H 858) – Prohibits Level 3 sex offenders (that is, those judged to have a high risk of reoffending) from living together in the same house or apartment unless they are married, blood relatives or relatives by adoption. Violators would be sentenced to 2.5 years in jail and/or a $1,000 fine.
REPORT SEX OFFENDER (H 735) – Requires the owner of group homes for alcoholics to notify the owner of any residence or daycare facility within 1,000 feet of the group home when the home admits a sex offender. The home would also be required to provide a picture and description of the offender.
NO SEX OFFENDERS WITHIN 500 FEET OF SCHOOLS (H 787) – Prohibits sex offenders at Level 2 (those judged to have a moderate risk of reoffending) or Level 3 (those judged to have a high risk) from living or working within 500 feet of any school or day care center.
INCEST (H 787) – Expands the definition of incest to include sexual relationships with adoptive parents and stepparents. The measure was first proposed in 2004 in response to a court ruling that a stepfather could not be charged with incest for having intercourse with his stepdaughter. It has not yet been approved by the Legislature and signed into law.
LIFE WITHOUT PAROLE FOR SOME SEX CRIMES (H 993) – Imposes a life sentence without parole on people who are convicted three times of certain sex crimes. Those crimes include rape, indecent assault and battery on a child under the age of 14, indecent assault and battery on a senior citizen or on a person with a disability, inducing a minor into prostitution, and the manufacture or distribution of child pornography.
BURY PETS WITH OWNERS (S 1237) – The Public Health Committee held a hearing on legislation that would give cemeteries the authority to allow the burial of people and their pets in the same location.
Supporters say people often consider their pets as members of their families and the current law prohibiting joint burial is unfair.
Opponents say that joint burial presents sanitary, environmental and religious concerns.
CANNABIS CONTROL COMMISSION TO RECEIVE ANOTHER $2.7 MILLION – The House and Senate approved and sent to Gov. Charlie Baker a bill providing an additional $2.7 million for the state’s Cannabis Control Commission, including $534,167 for the five commissioners’ salaries and $470,834 for senior agency staff. The commission’s current budget is $2.3 million, so if the governor signs it, the new legislation would raise it to $5 million. The 5-member commission’s job is the implementation and administration of the laws that legalized adult recreational and medical use of marijuana.
“At a time when businesses and residents are already struggling with high energy costs, the Department of Public Utilities chooses unjustified corporate profits over Eversource’s 1.4 million customers. The department has allowed Eversource to raise rates by hundreds of millions of dollars, instead of imposing the decrease that customers deserve.”
Attorney General Maura Healey on the increasing of electric rates for Eversource’s 1.4 million customers by $37 million in the first year and $220 million over a five-year period.
“What makes this national accreditation special and unique is [that] it recognizes the sum of our work as a state public health department. It is a stamp of approval that signals to the state and the nation that our programs and services represent the gold standard for public health.”
Massachusetts Public Health Commissioner Monica Bharel on the news that the Massachusetts Department of Public Health has been awarded national accreditation status by the Public Health Accreditation Board, a non-profit, non-governmental organization.
“The lieutenant governor and I had said for quite a while we would make a decision sometime this fall about whether or not to seek re-election and we have made that decision. We are going to seek re-election.”
Gov. Charlie Baker while visiting the new Table Talk Pie processing plant in Worcester.
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 27-December 1, the House met for a total of two hours and 46 minutes and the Senate met for a total of two hours and 34 minutes.
Mon. November 27 House 11:03 a.m. to 11:11 a.m.
Senate 11:06 a.m. to 11:10 a.m.
Tues. November 28 No House session
No Senate session
Wed. November 29 No House session
No Senate session
Thurs. November 30 House 11:05 a.m. to 1:43 p.m.
Senate 11:23 a.m. to 1:53 p.m.
Fri. December 1 No House session
No Senate session
Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org