By Bob Katzen
THE HOUSE AND SENATE. Beacon Hill Roll Call records local senators’ votes on roll calls from the week of January 15-19. There were no roll calls in the House last week.
IF YOU HAVEN’T ALREADY DONE SO, WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR? BEACON HILL ROLL CALL RECOMMENDS THAT READERS SIGN UP TODAY TO GET YOUR FREE SUBSCRIPTION TO MASSTERLIST. IT’S EASY! GO TO: www.massterlist.com/subscribe
WHAT IS MASSTERLIST? More than 15,000 people, from movers and shakers to political junkies and interested citizens, start their morning with a FREE COPY of MASSterList! MASSterList is a daily ensemble of news and commentary about the Legislature, Politics, Media and Judiciary of Massachusetts drawn from major news organizations as well as specialized publications selected by widely acclaimed and highly experienced editor Jay Fitzgerald. Jay introduces each article in his own clever and never-boring inimitable way.
Senate 39-0, approved the creation of a 7-member Senate committee to review the Federal Communications Commission’s December 14th ruling that repealed a 2015 Obama-era net neutrality regulation. The ruling overturned the regulation that required Internet service providers to treat all data on the Internet the same and barred them from blocking or slowing down traffic or offering “paid fast lanes.” The committee’s is charged with making recommendations and/or filing legislation that would protect Massachusetts consumers.
The members of the committee were quickly appointed and Sen. Cynthia Creem (D-Newton) will lead the effort.
“This special committee will give the Senate a chance to learn about the difficulties our constituents and businesses may face with the federal government’s wrongheaded net neutrality repeal,” said Senate President Harriette Chandler (D-Worcester). “It is my hope that we can respond to the federal government in a way that best serves the residents of the commonwealth.”
The first public hearing of the committee is in Room 437 of the Statehouse at 11 a.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 6.
(A “Yes” vote is for creating the committee.)
Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes
COST OF COLLEGE (S 2184)
Senate 39-0, approved and sent to the House legislation that would require all colleges in Massachusetts to give applicants who have been accepted to the college, a uniform financial aid information sheet, developed by the federal government, to assist with the financial part of the student’s decision whether to enroll in that school. Currently, an estimated 3,300 U.S. institutions across the nation, including 66 in Massachusetts, already use the information sheet.
Supporters said requiring each college to present the costs of the school per semester on the same standard form will allow potential students and their families to make apples-to-apples comparisons of the benefits and costs of attending a school. They argued it is difficult to compare costs when they are presented in a different way by each school.
“This bill represents an inexpensive solution that, starting in the 2019-2020 academic year, would help students find the colleges that will graduate them on time and with as little debt as possible,” said the bill’s sponsor Sen. Eileen Donoghue (D-Lowell). “Given our knowledge-based economy and the increasing costs of earning a degree, the commonwealth needs to empower young people and their families with easily digestible data so that students can best position themselves to pursue careers free from unnecessarily burdensome student loans.”
(A “Yes” vote is for the bill.)
Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes
ILLEGAL HUNTING (S 2248)
Senate 39-0, approved and sent to the House a bill that would increase penalties for illegal hunting, also known as poaching.
Provisions include increasing the fine for hunting bears or bobcats with the aid of a dog or bait from a range of $300 to $1,000 to a higher range of $1,000 to $5,000; raising the prison sentence from up to six months in prison to a year in prison; and increasing penalties for serial poachers who repeatedly break the law.
“As a former environmental police officer, and as an avid outdoorsman, I recognize that poaching is not only a concern for animal protection advocates and conservationists, but also law-abiding hunters,” said sponsor Sen. Michael Moore (D-Millbury). “Poachers cheat the system and gain an unfair advantage over lawful hunters. This bill will give law enforcement officers new tools to prevent poaching and to hold offenders accountable for their criminal acts.”
The measure also makes the Bay State a member of the Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact, a reciprocal agreement among 45 other states that allows state law enforcement agencies to share information with the other states.
It recognizes the suspension of hunting, fishing and trapping licenses in all states that are members of the compact. Any person whose license is suspended in a member state would also have his or her license suspended in all other member states in which that conviction would be a violation resulting in suspension.
The Senate approved a similar bill in 2016 but the House never acted on it.
(A “Yes” vote is for the bill.)
Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes
ALSO UP ON BEACON HILL
REVIEW SEXUAL HARASSMENT POLICIES OF THE SENATE (S 2262) – The Senate approved the creation of a 9-member committee to review the sexual harassment policies and procedures of the Senate. The committee, chaired by Sen. Joan Lovely (D-Salem), has until May 15 to report its findings and make recommendations.
“The Senate has a responsibility to its members, its employees, and to all those who do business here to ensure that all are given the fullest protections
from workplace sexual harassment,” Acting Senate President Harriette Chandler said in a statement. “I have full confidence that Sen. Lovely and this committee will make certain that the Senate’s sexual harassment policies are modern, comprehensive and thorough.”
CROSSBOW HUNTING (S 2249) – The Senate approved and sent to the House a bill that would repeal the current law that allows only permanently disabled hunters to use a crossbow if their disability precludes them from using a conventional bow and arrow. If the bill is signed into law, Massachusetts would join 32 other states that currently allow crossbow hunting for non-disabled individuals.
A crossbow is mounted horizontally on a stock and fired with a trigger unlike a regular archery bow, which is held vertically. Crossbows don’t require the strength needed to use a regular bow.
Supporters said the bill is designed to help seniors and younger people who don’t have the strength to shoot a regular bow and arrow but are not disabled and under current law are not allowed to use a crossbow.
“I appreciate the support for moving this forward,” said sponsor Sen. Anne Gobi (D-Spencer). “Crossbows have been used for years and this commonsense change will allow sportsmen, who have been unable to hunt, due in part to father time, get back outdoors and do what they love.”
Opponents said a crossbow is more powerful than a regular bow and arrow and argued that expanding their use increases the possibility of accidents, injuries and even death.
REAL ESTATE APPRAISERS (S 2246) – The Senate approved and sent to the House a proposal that would allow only certified and licensed real estate appraisers to appraise property for real estate transactions. Current law allows a person who is not certified as a real estate appraiser to appraise real estate in connection with non-federally related transactions for compensation.
“This bill is primarily about consumer protection”, said Sen. Cynthia Creem (D-Newton). “Current law allows unlicensed and unregulated individuals to provide real estate appraisals to unwary consumers in a number of significant transactions such as estate settlements, divorce, or in litigation. This bill will ensure that such appraisals are provided by a professional who has met the appropriate education and training requirements and is accountable to the licensing board.”
A similar measure was approved by the Senate and House in 2016 but it died awaiting further action in the House.
EDUCATION COMMITTEE APPROVES BILLS – The Education Committee gave a favorable report and recommended passage of several bills including:
WATER BOTTLE FILLING STATIONS IN SCHOOLS (S 251) – Creates a grant program to finance the costs of purchasing and installing water bottle filling station equipment in school buildings, playgrounds and athletic fields. The measure recommends the program be funded with at least $2 million but the money is still subject to legislative approval.
Provisions include requiring schools that apply for grants to test for lead and copper and install a filtered filling station when elevated levels of those chemicals are present; requiring that grants be prioritized for school districts serving low-income communities that often have less access to safe drinking water than wealthier districts with newer infrastructure; and encouraging the proliferation of bottle filling stations in public buildings.
“The habits that children make can stick with them their whole lives,” said sponsor Sen. Jamie Eldridge (D-Acton). “Something seemingly as innocuous as a soda or sweetened juice can cause dental and health issues over time, and the kids who drink bottled water are contributing to harmful plastic pollution. I filed this bill in order to ensure that children not only have access to safe drinking water in their schools, but that the water comes from a sustainable source. Water bottle filling stations are an inexpensive way to engage children in issues of healthy hydration and environmental consciousness while helping them create healthful habits that last a lifetime.”
FINANCIAL LITERACY (S 249) – Requires the state to develop and allow cities and towns to institute a program to teach financial literacy to students in pre-kindergarten to grade 12. The topics covered would include understanding banking and financial services, loans, interest, credit card debt, online commerce, renting or buying a home, saving, investing and planning for retirement, balancing a checkbook, state and federal taxes and charitable giving.
SCHOOL RESOURCE OFFICERS (H 2021) – Promotes local control, increased funding and effective training of School Resource Officers (SROs). These officers are police officers and other law-enforcement officers who work directly in schools and provide law enforcement and security services to all public-school students.
Supporters said studies show that students who feel safe in school are more focused in class, have higher academic achievement and have fewer absences
Provisions include creation of an SRO Training Program with the focus on topics including adolescent development, school building security and conflict resolution; strict limits on SRO involvement in traditional school discipline issues, including non-violent disruptive behavior; and an increase in some motor vehicle violations in order to increase funding of SROs which is totally funded out of existing fines.
“This bill clarifies local agreements between schools and police, funds critical SRO training, and promotes a positive school environment,” said House sponsor Rep. Jim Cantwell (D-Marshfield). “We entrust our SROs with securing the safety of our children and schools, and so we have a duty to provide these officers with the tools they need to be successful.”
Ben Thomas, a legislative aide to Cantwell, is the co-author of a national report “School Resource Officers: Steps to Effective School-based Law Enforcement,” on which Cantwell’s bill is based.
“School Resource Officer (SRO) programs that are implemented and sustained through an organized and comprehensive process can help prevent school-based violence, connect at-risk students to needed services, divert youth from juvenile court; and create safe, secure and peaceful school environments,” concluded the report.
QUOTABLE QUOTES – Special Amazon Edition
Amazon announced that Boston and Somerville made the cut from 238 to 20 in Amazon’s high stakes search for the city in which to build its second headquarters, create an estimated 50,000 jobs and boost the local economy.
“Choose Boston and next year when you leave your tiny $4,000-a-month apartment only to sit in two hours of traffic trying to make your way to an overburdened [Logan] airport, you’ll be wishing you were in New Hampshire. “
One of New Hampshire’s zingers aimed at the Bay State as part of the Granite State’s pitch for the headquarters back in October. New Hampshire did not make the cut.
“Today we are announcing the communities that will proceed to the next step in the HQ2 process. Getting from 238 to 20 was very tough – all the proposals showed tremendous enthusiasm and creativity.”
A statement from Amazon announcing the 20 finalists including Boston and Somerville.
“This is a great statement about the quality of life, the quality of the workforce and the quality of the people and the institutions that make up Massachusetts.”
Gov. Charlie Baker.
“I am proud that Boston is on Amazon’s short list for its second North American headquarters. As a thriving city with a talented and diverse workforce, culture of innovation and opportunity for all, I see no better city than Boston for Amazon to call their second home.”
Boston Mayor Marty Walsh.
“With a highly educated, technology-friendly workforce, Boston is the perfect place for Amazon to put down roots. The Legislature has focused on providing a stable and predictable environment for business.”
House Speaker Bob DeLeo.
“Boston is a great option for Amazon to locate its HQ2, in large part, because our state laws ensure that industry giants like Amazon are able to attract talented employees of all backgrounds who know they are fully protected under the law here.
Phil Sherwood, campaign manager for Freedom for All Massachusetts, the group working against the ballot question that would repeal the Bay State’s law that prohibits discrimination against transgender people in public accommodations.
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 January 15-19, the House met for a total of three hours and 18 minutes while the Senate met for a total of four hours and 37 minutes.
Mon. January 15 No House session
No Senate session.
Tues. January 16 House 11:03 a.m. to 2:05 p.m.
Senate 11:15 a.m. to 11:27 a.m.
Wed. January 17 No House session
No Senate session
Thurs. January 18 House 11:01 a.m. to 11:17 a.m.
Senate 11:10 a.m. to 3:35 p.m.
Fri. January 19 No House session
No Senate session
Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org