By Bob Katzen
THE HOUSE AND SENATE: Beacon Hill Roll Call records local senator’s votes on three roll calls from the week of December 4-8. There were no roll calls in the House last week.
SEN. STAN ROSENBERG RESIGNS FROM SENATE PRESIDENCY – “I believe taking a leave of absence from the Senate Presidency during the investigation is in the best interest of the Senate,” said Sen. Stan Rosenberg (D-Amherst). “I want to ensure that the investigation is fully independent and credible, and that anyone who wishes to come forward will feel confident that there will be no retaliation.”
Last week saw Rosenberg’s resignation, the election of Worcester’s Sen. Harriette Chandler, the majority leader and second-in-command in the Senate, to replace him for now and the beginning of an investigation by the Senate Ethics Committee into allegations in the Boston Globe that Rosenberg’s husband, Bryon Hefner, groped three men and kissed another one against his will. The Globe story also included claims that Hefner has said he speaks for Rosenberg and talks about Senate business with legislators and their staffs.
“Choices had to be made and today we’ve chosen to move on and to move forward,” Chandler said. “What’s most important right now is that we work towards a swift and resolute conclusion to this whole sad event.” Chandler has stated that she plans only to serve as interim president and to step down when Rosenberg returns, or a new Senate president is elected.”
“I have repeatedly made clear that Bryon was to have no influence on what happens in the Senate,” said Rosenberg. “He has no influence over policy, the internal operations of the Senate, or any Senate-related business. If Bryon claimed to have influence over my decisions or over the Senate, he should not have said that. It is simply not true.”
The Senate empowered the Ethics Committee to begin the investigation of the sexual assault charges against Hefner, whether Rosenberg violated any rules of the Senate and if Hefner did have any influence over what happens in the Senate.
“I think it’s really important that this gets started,” said Gov. Charlie Baker. “It’s going to be really important for Chandler and for all of the members of the Ethics Committee to demonstrate by both who they choose and what the rules are that whoever it is that’s conducting this investigation has the latitude and the independence to provide comfort to those people who are going to come forward who were victimized — that they won’t suffer repercussions for doing so.”
“I wish to reemphasize that the most important thing is to make sure that anyone who may have been hurt has every assurance that they can turn to whatever authority they feel comfortable with, with absolutely no fear of retribution, and to restore confidence in the Senate,” said Rosenberg in a written statement. “During my leave of absence from being Senate president, I look forward to a thorough, fair, and independent investigation. I thank my colleagues for providing this opportunity and have every confidence that the Acting President will help the Senate focus on a robust agenda for 2018.”
“I am deeply disturbed by these allegations which jeopardize the integrity of the Senate,” said Sen. Michael Rodrigues (D-Westport), chairman of the Ethics Committee. “Sexual harassment and assault have no place in the Massachusetts state Senate or any workplace. I am committed to a fair and thorough review of the facts as well as a process that ensures confidentiality for any person who has any information to report on sexual harassment or sexual assaults.”
The Senate cannot bring criminal charges against anyone. However, Attorney General Maura Healey and Suffolk County District Attorney Dan Conley issued a joint statement that encourages victims to come forward.
“We ask anyone with this information to contact either office, and we remind every survivor of sexual assault that they can count on us to provide a safe, respectful, victim-centered environment, no matter what the circumstances might be.” said the two prosecutors. “Sexual assault is a crime and we want to send a clear message that harassment and assault of any kind will not be tolerated.”
No one knows if Rosenberg’s will return as Senate president or whether the Senate will elect a new permanent one. Everything hinges on the outcome of the probe. However, “just in case,” four senators are said to be already jockeying for votes for Senate President: Sens. Sal DiDomenico (D-Everett), Linda Dorcena Forry (D-Boston), Karen Spilka (D-Ashland) and Eileen Donoghue. (D-Lowell).
Here are the votes of local senators on Chandler’s election, opening the investigation and recusing Rosenberg and his staff from all decisions relating to the investigation.
CHANDLER ELECTED SENATE PRESIDENT
Senate 31-6, elected Sen. Harriette Chandler as president. The vote, as expected, was straight along party lines with all the Democrats voting for Chandler and all Republicans casting their vote for Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester).
Sen. Patricia Jehlen Voted for Chandler
AUTHORIZE INVESTIGATION (S 2228)
Senate 37-0, authorized the Senate Ethics Committee to retain a special investigator to investigate the question of whether Rosenberg violated the rules of the Senate. The investigation is in response to claims that Hefner bragged that he has influence over Rosenberg, speaks for him and talks about Senate business with legislators and their staffs.
(A “Yes” vote is for the investigation and appointment of a special investigator.)
Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes
RECUSE ROSENBERG AND HIS STAFF (S 2227)
Senate 37-0, approved an order that Rosenberg and his entire Senate staff be recused from all decisions relating to investigations of the conduct of Rosenberg or Hefner.
(A “Yes” vote is for recusal.)
Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes
ALSO UP ON BEACON HILL
PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES – The Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities Committee held a hearing on several proposals involving persons with disabilities including:
REPLACE “HANDICAP” WITH “DISABILITY” (S 50) – Strikes 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.
PROHIBIT ELECTRIC SHOCK TREATMENT (S 93) – Prohibits any state or local facilities from using electric shock therapy, hitting, pinching or any procedure which causes obvious signs of physical pain on individuals with a physical, intellectual or developmental disability.
DISABILITY AWARENESS TRAINING (H 3802) – Establishes a mandatory disability awareness training for employees of the Massachusetts House and Senate, Massport, MBTA, and all public safety agencies. Disability is defined in the measure as a person with “physical or developmental impairments blindness, deafness, and intellectual disabilities.”
SOME 2018 POSSIBLE BALLOT QUESTIONS CLEAR ANOTHER HURDLE – Sponsors of several possible ballot questions for the November 2018 election faced another deadline last week in the long process to get their proposed law on the ballot. Sponsors had until December 6 to file 64,750 valid signatures with Secretary of State’s Bill Galvin’s office. If the signatures are certified by Galvin’s office, 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.
When this process began several months ago, there were 26 initiative petitions for proposed laws filed for the 2018 ballot. Only five have made it to this semi-final stage.
In the 2016 election, 35 proposals were submitted, with only four ultimately collecting sufficient signatures to make it to the ballot. Only two of those were approved by voters and are law today. One legalized the possession, growing and sale of marijuana. The other one prohibits any farmers from confining any pigs, calves or hens in a way that prevents the animal from lying down, standing up, fully extending its limbs or turning around freely.
The sponsors of five ballot questions, certified by the Attorney General Maura Healey in September, dropped off their signatures last week. Although the secretary of state has not yet certified the signatures, proponents of the five questions are confident they have collected sufficient signatures.
HIKE MINIMUM WAGE – Increases the minimum hourly wage from $11 per hour to $12 in 2019, $13 in 2020, $14 in 2021 and $15 in 2022. Raise Up Massachusetts, the group sponsoring the question, says it has dropped off 139,055 signatures.
“Our state’s economy works best for everyone when all working people are able to meet their basic needs,” said spokesman Andrew Farnitano. “But today, a full-time worker in Massachusetts earning the current minimum wage of $11 an hour can’t afford the cost of groceries, housing, heating and other basic needs.”
FAMILY AND MEDICAL LEAVE – Creates a program to provide paid family and medical leave to Massachusetts workers. Raise Up Massachusetts is also the group sponsoring this question, and says sponsors dropped off 135,597 signatures.
“When a family medical emergency happens, or a new child is born, workers are often left to choose between taking care of the family member they love or keeping the job that puts food on the table,” said spokesman Andrew Farnitano.
REDUCE SALES TAX TO 5 PERCENT AND ESTABLISH SALES TAX HOLIDAY – Reduces the state’s sale tax from 6.25 percent to 5 percent and at the same time establishes 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.
“There exists significant support for reducing the state sales tax and creating an annual sales tax holiday with the voters, as evidenced by recent public polls and the ease at which we were able to collect signatures,” said Jon Hurst, Chairman of the coalition and President of the Retailers Association of Massachusetts. “Voters support reducing the sales tax because it hits seniors and low-income families disproportionately and is making it more difficult for our small business to compete with the tax-free New Hampshire and online sellers.”
LIMIT THE NUMBER OF PATIENTS PER NURSE – Limits how many patients can be assigned to each registered nurse in Massachusetts hospitals and certain other healthcare facilities. The maximum number of patients per registered nurse would vary by type of unit and level of care. Sponsors say they dropped off more than 100,000 signatures.
“Nurses are tasked with addressing life or death scenarios every single day, and are the critical line of defense protecting your loved ones,” said Jeffrey Crosby of the Committee to Ensure Safe Patient Care. “There are safe staffing limits for so many other fields, like daycare providers and children, pharmacists and support staff, nursing home care providers and residents. Study after study after study shows that safe staffing limits are a no-brainer.”
CAMPAIGN CONTRIBUTIONS – Creates a citizens’ commission to consider and recommend potential amendments to the U.S. Constitution to establish that corporations do not have the same constitutional rights as human beings and that corporations’ campaign contributions and expenditures may be regulated. Sponsors say they delivered more than 85,000 signatures.
The proposal is in response to the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. In that decision, the court ruled that the First Amendment prohibits the government from restricting corporations, unions and individuals from donating unlimited funds to Super Political Action Committees (PACs) that do not donate directly to candidates or political parties.
“Since that decision, more than $46 billion from corporations, unions, the wealthy, super PACs, and it now appears, foreign intelligence operations, has been spent to influence the outcome of American elections,” says Jeff Clements, President of the sponsor American Promise. “The 28th Amendment is the only way to combat a corrupt political system dominated by money.”
“I fully expect the Legislature’s going to come back in January and get down to the business of all of the things that are pending before the body.”
Gov. Baker letting legislators know that despite the Rosenberg case, the Legislature has plenty of work to do.
“We know that health care is under attack in this country because of the Trump administration. We know that the health care of Massachusetts residents is at risk because of cutbacks that are occurring in Washington. And we also know that even here in Massachusetts various legislative efforts threaten the security of our health care.”
Secretary of State Bill Galvin.
“As a noted New York economist, Yogi Berra, once said, ‘It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.'”
Gov. Baker’s Administration and Finance Secretary Michael Heffernan at a hearing on projections of how much revenue the state will collect in fiscal 2019.
“I know we’re fighting over where it’s going to live, but I think I have a little leverage. It will be in my office after it tours the state. Its name is Lucky. I welcome all of you to come visit it.”
State Treasurer Deb Goldberg on one of the many old Lottery machines that are being put out of service. The machine was the one in Chicopee that generated a $758.7 million Powerball ticket in August.
“At a time when the voices of bigotry and xenophobia threaten our country’s basic values, Massachusetts is taking a stand that we will do what’s right for all children, including immigrant children, and that we’ll put evidence and facts ahead of ideology.”
Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz (D-Boston) on the new law that gives public school districts the power and flexibility to offer other English Language Learner programs in addition to or instead of the current sheltered English immersion program.
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 December 4-8, the House met for a total of 59 minutes while the Senate met for a total of eight hours and 53 minutes.
Mon. December 4 House 11:04 a.m. to 11:11 a.m.
Senate 11:09 a.m. to 8:02 p.m.
Tues. December 5 No House session
No Senate session
Wed. December 6 No House session
No Senate session
Thurs. December 7 House 11:07 a.m. to 11:59 a.m.
Senate 11:11 a.m. to 11:37 a.m.
Fri. December 8 No House session
No Senate session
Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org