By Bob Katzen
THE HOUSE AND SENATE: There were no roll calls in the House and Senate last week.
This week, Beacon Hill Roll Call reports on how often local representatives voted with their party leadership.
The votes of the 2017 membership of 34 Republicans were compared with those of GOP House Minority Leader Bradley Jones (R-North Reading). The votes of the 2017 membership of 125 Democrats were compared to House Speaker Robert DeLeo (D-Winthrop). Beacon Hill Roll Call uses 289 votes from the 2017 House session as the basis for this report. This includes all roll calls that were not quorum calls or votes on local issues.
A total of 69 (55.2 percent) of the 125 Democrats voted with DeLeo 100 percent of the time. That means that more than half of the Democrats always voted with DeLeo.
The Democratic representatives who voted the lowest percentage of times with DeLeo are Reps. Colleen Garry (D-Dracut) and James Dwyer (D-Woburn). Garry voted with DeLeo 89 percent of the time and Dwyer voted with DeLeo 89.6 percent of the time. No Democrat voted with DeLeo less than 89 percent of the time.
None of the 34 GOP members voted with Jones 100 percent of the time. The GOP representative who voted with Jones the most times was Rep. Jay Barrows (R-Mansfield) who voted with him 98.9 percent of the time.
The representative who voted with Jones the lowest percentage of times was Rep. Timothy Whelan (R-Brewster) who voted with Jones only 76.8 percent of the time.
Rep. Susannah Whipps (Unenrolled-Athol) is the only unenrolled or independent member of the House following her switch from the Republican party in August. At that time, she said, “Serving as state representative while not affiliating with either major political party will allow me to more effectively utilize the relationships I have developed with the members and leadership on both sides of the aisle and will allow me to better serve all of the people of my district, without the obligation of towing any particular party line.”
PERCENTAGE OF TIMES REPRESENTATIVES VOTED WITH THEIR PARTY’S LEADERSHIP IN 2017
The percentage next to the representative’s name represents the percentage of times the representative supported his or her party’s leadership.
The number in parentheses represents the number of times the representative opposed his or her party’s leadership.
Some representatives voted on all 289 roll call votes. Others missed one or more of the 289 votes. The percentage for each representative is calculated based on the number of roll calls on which he or she voted and does not count the roll calls for which he or she was absent.
Rep. Christine Barber 99.6 percent (1) Rep. Mike Connolly 97.2 percent (8) Rep. Denise Provost 96.8 percent (7)
ALSO UP ON BEACON HILL
AUTO AND HOME INSURANCE DISCOUNTS (H 4081) – The House and Senate approved and sent to Gov. Charlie Baker legislation waiving, for two years, a law that requires businesses and groups to have a 35 percent participation rate in order to qualify for group auto and home insurance discount rates. The measure permits groups with less than the 35 percent participation to take advantage of group rates, which save members between 5 percent and 8 percent. The law, has been waived every two years since 1997. The 35 percent requirement was first included in a 1973 law.
Supporters said if the bill is not approved, insurance discounts for 322,000 vehicles and 142,000 homes in the Bay State would disappear on January 1, 2018 and consumers will pay millions of dollars more for insurance.
RAISE ALCOHOL TAXES AND FINES – State Treasurer Deb Goldberg’s Alcohol Task Force that she formed in February issued its report with 37 recommendations, including raising the excise tax on beer, wine and liquor; increasing the fines for violations of laws relating to alcohol; spending an additional $3.1 million per year for hiring 30 new investigators and 15 staff members for the Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission (ABCC); and making some operational changes to the ABCC.
“Studies provide consistent evidence that higher alcohol prices and alcohol taxes are associated with reductions in both excessive alcohol consumption and related harms,” the task force report stated.
The task force noted that the ways to purchase alcohol, including online, are changing with technology. “Buying habits of younger generations are evolving, and the market itself is changing as evidenced by increasing numbers of craft and farmer breweries, wineries, and distilleries in Massachusetts and across the country,” the task force reported.
Other changes recommended by the commission include increasing the maximum alcohol content for cider from 6 percent to 8.5 percent; allowing bars to accept out-of-state photo IDs; and eliminating the limit on the number of alcohol licenses grocery store chains can hold.
DECAL FOR DRIVERS ON LEARNER’S PERMIT (H 2761) – The House Ways and Means Committee has recommended passage of a bill that would require two copies of a highly-reflective decal or other symbol to be clearly visible to law enforcement officers on the window of any vehicle being operated by a driver with a learner’s permit or a junior operator’s license. The size, fee and other details would be determined by the Registry of Motor Vehicles. A violation of the requirement would result in a fine up to $50.
Supporters say this would warn other motorists that the driver is inexperienced and encourage them to take extra caution. They say the requirement would likely reduce the frustration of other motorists, reduce unnecessary honking, prevent injuries and maybe even save lives.
Some opponents say the bill is a solution in search of a problem that doesn’t exist. They note that families with more than one car would have to get two decals for each car and note that if a permanent decal is used, experienced drivers would often be driving the car with the decal and be mistaken for a novice behind the wheel. They argue that some motorists might pass student drivers illegally on a double yellow line to avoid being stuck behind someone learning to drive.
MUSICIAN LAUREATE (S 2225) – The agenda for the Tourism, Arts and Cultural Development’s hearing at the Statehouse in Room A-2 at 10 a.m. on January 10 includes creating the new position of the State Musician Laureate. The laureate, appointed by the governor biennially, would write and/or perform music to commemorate important events, such as ceremonial occasions, celebrations and state anniversaries; act as the governor’s adviser in musical matters; and represent the state’s musical legacy.
“I am always impressed by the artistic and musical talent that is displayed by the commonwealth’s residents,” said Sen. Patrick O’Connor (R-Weymouth) who sponsored the bill on behalf of Hull resident Cinzi Lavin. “This position would allow us to recognize excellence in musical talent while continuing Massachusetts’ commitment to promoting the arts.”
POSSIBLE 2018 BALLOT QUESTIONS CONFIRMED – Secretary of State Bill Galvin’s office announced that sponsors of seven ballot questions have met the signature and all other requirements to take the next step to get on the 2018 ballot. These proposals now go 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.
The seven questions include:
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.
FAMILY AND MEDICAL LEAVE – Creates a program to provide paid family and medical leave to Massachusetts workers
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 tax.
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.
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. 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.
4 PERCENT TAX HIKE ON MILLIONAIRES – Proposes a constitutional amendment that would allow a graduated income tax in Massachusetts and impose an additional 4 percent income tax, in addition to the current flat 5.10 percent tax, on taxpayers’ earnings of more than $1 million.
REPEAL TRANSGENDER RIGHTS – Repeals the new law that prohibits discrimination against transgender people in public accommodations by adding “gender identity” to existing Massachusetts law which already prohibits discrimination in public accommodations on the basis of age, race, creed, color, national origin, sexual orientation, sex, religion and marital status.
When former Senate President Stanley Rosenberg resigned from the presidency, Worcester’s Sen. Harriette Chandler was elected by her fellow senators to replace him temporarily. The Senate Ethics Committee is looking into allegations reported in the Boston Globe that Rosenberg’s husband, Bryon Hefner, groped three men and kissed another man 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.
Here are some quotes from Chandler from a recent interview on WCVB’s “On the Record,” hosted by Ed Harding and Janet Wu:
“This is only the beginning. I believe that before we’re through we’ll see more than the four that have already thrown their hat in the ring.”
When Chandler was asked to comment on four senators who have expressed an interest in running for Senate president if Rosenberg does not regain the position.
“I do not want it. It’s an enormous amount of work, it’s an enormous amount of responsibility. It’s not the work. I’ve always worked hard. It’s the responsibility. You’re running a very venerable chamber, and I am not 20 years old, as you all know. The world knows it.”
When Chandler was asked why she does not want to become the permanent president of the Senate.
“I never hid my age, but clearly I didn’t expect to turn 80 in front of the world. And I did. And it’s better than the alternative of not turning 80 at all.”
When Chandler was wished a happy birthday.
“The world is walking around on tiptoes, on eggshells right now, because we’re in a conversation across the country on the whole issue of sexual harassment, sexual assault and it’s really talking about power. Men, women, power, and that’s where we seem to be as a country right now.”
When Chandler was asked about the issue of sexual harassment and assault.
“We are gonna see a lot more legislation coming out now. We are going into the last year of our biennial. We need to make sure that people understand that we work and work hard.”
When Chandler was asked about legislation pending in the Legislature.
“I don’t think it makes any difference whether it’s a male or a female, to be honest with you. Hopefully the best person will rise to the presidency, with the decision made by my colleagues in the Senate.”
When Chandler was asked how important it is that the next Senate president be a woman.
“I really don’t think it’s that smothering. It’s a terrible cloud over our heads, there’s no question about it. But I serve with very able people who are very dedicated to the institution we serve and we feel very strongly that in spite of this problem, we must go forward.”
When Chandler was asked if the “Rosenberg Cloud” hanging over the Senate is smothering.
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 25-29, the House and Senate both met for a total of four hours and 43 minutes.
Mon. December 25 No House session
No Senate session
Tues. December 26 House 11:04 a.m. to 11:54 a.m.
Senate 11:08 a.m. to 12:05 p.m.
Wed. December 27 No House session
No Senate session
Thurs. December 28 House 11:03 a.m. to 2:56 p.m.
Senate 11:04 a.m. to 2:50 p.m.
Fri. December 29 No House session
No Senate session
Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org