By Bob Katzen
THE HOUSE AND SENATE. Beacon Hill Roll Call records local senators’ and representative’s votes on roll calls from the week of February 12-16.
RIGHTS OF CONSUMERS ON CREDIT REPORTS (H 4232)
House 152-0, approved and sent to the Senate legislation that would prohibit consumer reporting agencies, like Equifax, Experian and TransUnion from charging fees for freezing and unfreezing a person’s credit information. Under current law, companies can and have charged up to $5 per freeze or unfreeze. A freeze makes the report inaccessible until the consumer unfreezes it. Since banks and other lenders require access to the borrower’s credit report before giving a loan, this greatly reduces identity thieves from getting a loan or credit in another individual’s name.
The proposal gained momentum following the 2017 crisis when from May to July the personal information including names, social security numbers, addresses, driver’s licenses, and credit card numbers of 145 million Americans was stolen from Equifax’s systems. Equifax didn’t reveal the breach until September and consumers lost valuable time to act.
Other provisions prohibit businesses from obtaining a consumer’s credit report without obtaining written, verbal or electronic consent from the consumer; shorten the waiting period to implement a freeze; allow consumers to request a freeze by phone or electronically; require notice of any breach to be sent out immediately even if the scope of breach has not yet been determined; require credit monitoring services to be available for one year for some consumers affected by a breach and establishes additional protections for minors and incapacitated adults.
“Every year, thousands of Massachusetts residents become victims of credit fraud, costing them millions of dollars, collectively,” said Rep. Jennifer Benson (D-Lunenburg), the sponsor of the original bill. “I filed legislation last year to make it easier to freeze consumer credit reports so that victims of fraud could more quickly regain control of their credit and their lives. After the Equifax breach, I worked with the attorney general and advocates to strengthen the bill with additional language offering further protections.”
“Massachusetts will become the fifth state to provide free credit freezes to all residents,” said Rep. Tackey Chan (D-Quincy), one of the bill’s sponsor. “[The bill] updates current laws to reflect the modernization of our world, with the addition of electronic and verbal communications procedures for consumers’ interactions with consumer reporting agencies.”
“Older adults are increasingly the target for identity theft, and one of the most effective ways to protect consumers is through a security freeze, which safeguards a person’s credit report,” said Michael Festa State Director of AARP Massachusetts. “Without access to this information, identity thieves would be unable to obtain credit in that person’s name, minimizing potential for fraud.”
(A “Yes” vote is for the bill.)
Rep. Christine Barber Yes Rep. Mike Connolly Yes Rep. Denise Provost Yes
EXPAND COMMUNITY COLLEGE TRAINING INCENTIVE PROGRAM (S 2297)
Senate 35-0, approved and sent to the House a bill expanding the Community College Training Incentive Program. According to the state’s website, the program “encourages public community college training opportunities that promote workforce development, minimize the shortage of skilled workers and raise economic opportunity. Grants are awarded through this program to expand vocationally oriented course offerings and develop partnerships with Massachusetts employers.”
Under current law the program is only available to “not-for-credit students.” The bill would expand the program to allow “for credit students” to take advantage of the program.
“While the commonwealth laudably helps not-for-credit students obtain job-related skills, no sound policy rationale exists for making a course for a biotechnology technician degree ineligible for a training incentive grant,” said bill sponsor Sen. Eileen Donoghue (D-Lowell). “Given the need to increase our talent pipeline, my legislation improves the status quo by expanding the program to include for-credit courses so that community colleges can more effectively educate our future workforce.”
(A “Yes” vote is for the bill.)
Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes
ALSO UP ON BEACON HILL
MARIJUANA SUMMIT #2 – The second Massachusetts Marijuana Summit will take place on Friday, March 2 from 8:15 a.m. to noon at the Massachusetts Continuing Legal Education Center, 10 Winter Place in Boston. The doors open at 7:30 a.m.
The event, open to the public and sponsored by the State House News Forum, features a keynote address from Cannabis Control Commissioner Shaleen Title, as well as two expert panel discussions of topics including the industry’s regulation by the state, the federal government’s threat to the industry and the financial hurdles faced by retailers and other players.
“As one of the region’s most reputable news sources, the State House News Service has truly encapsulated a forum that brings all the industry stakeholders together to discuss this burgeoning industry,” said Aaron Bluse, president and CEO of marijuana grower and retailer Altitude Organic Corporation and one of the panelists. Bluse said the first Marijuana Summit in November was a big success and that he saw the value first-hand in bringing this group together to discuss an amazing plant and its implications for the Massachusetts economy. “With twelve licenses in Colorado and as one of the nation’s longest standing licensed cannabis businesses, we look forward to sharing our unique perspective and providing substantive information,” he said.
“Anyone interested in participating directly or indirectly in the new cannabis industry would be wise to attend the March 2 summit,” said Jim Borghesani, one of the panel’s moderators and Director of Communications for “Yes on 4,” the campaign that was in the forefront of the successful effort to legalize marijuana. “The organizers have already demonstrated a knack for putting together panels with deep knowledge of current happenings in the regulatory process and practical insight into what to expect moving forward. I have no doubt that the upcoming summit will be as helpful as the first.”
Other panelists include Somerville Mayor Joe Curtatone; Meg Sanders, Managing Director of Revolution Clinics; and Jim Smith, former state representative and partner in Smith, Costello & Crawford, a consulting, lobbying and law firm specializing in regulatory and legislative policy.
The doors open at 7:30 a.m. for coffee, pastries and networking and the program begins at 8:15 a.m. Tickets are $20 and can be purchased at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/mass-marijuana-summit-ii-new-regs-federal-threat-financial-hurdles-tickets-42277590411 or by contacting David Art at email@example.com or 617-992-8253.
PROTECT ACCESS TO CONFIDENTIAL HEALTH CARE (S 2296) – The Senate approved and sent to the House a bill that would require health insurance companies to issue “Explanation of Benefits” (EOB) summaries only directly to the patient even if the patient is not the primary subscriber. Currently, most insurers send the forms to the primary subscriber.
“Patient confidentiality is a foundational element of the patient-provider relationship,” said Sen. Karen Spilka (D-Ashland), the lead sponsor of the bill. “Unfortunately, young adults, minors or victims of abuse are often reluctant to seek certain types of treatment, fearing that their personal health information will be disclosed to a parent or spouse. This bill is a crucial step to ensure all Massachusetts residents can safely access the health care services they need.”
“We all deserve the right to seek medical attention without risking personal harm or stigma, and I’m proud that the Senate passed the [bill] today, which will guarantee privacy for all patients including those seeking services for sexual and reproductive health, domestic violence or sexual assault and mental health and substance use,” said Sen. Jamie Eldridge (D-Acton).
BUY LOTTERY TICKETS ONLINE (S 134) – A bill before the Senate Ways and Means Committee would allow the Lottery to sell tickets online.
Supporters say that allowing online sales would likely increase Lottery sales and reach a younger, tech-savvy market.
Opponents argue that online sales would hurt many small mom-and-pop stores that currently sell tickets and increase gambling among people who cannot afford it.
Currently, five states – Georgia, Illinois, New Hampshire, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota and Pennsylvania — sell lottery tickets online.
ASSESSMENT ON PAINT (H 4136) – The Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture held a public hearing on a bill that would create a mandatory program, run by paint manufacturers, to coordinate the collection, recycling, reuse and environmentally sound disposal of used leftover house paint purchased by consumers. The program would be funded by the manufacturers adding a fee to paint sold in the Bay State.
The bill mandates that under the plan, at least 90 percent of residents must have a collection site within a 15-mile radius and at least one collection site is established in each city and town with a population of 50,000 or more.
Supporters say this environmentally friendly and fiscally responsible program will increase the recycling of paint, save millions of dollars in paint disposal costs for cities and towns and create many green jobs.
Some opponents say the fee is nothing more than an unnecessary tax on consumers already overburdened with taxes. Others say this would create a slippery slope which could lead to this type of recovery system and tax on other items including spray cans, pillows, mattresses and tires that the government would decide are required to be handled the same way.
$15 MILLION FOR PUERTO RICO STUDENTS (H 4242) – House and Senate approved and Gov. Charlie Baker signed into law a fiscal 2018 supplemental budget.
Provisions include $15 million to help school districts educate students who came to the Bay State from Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands following Hurricanes Maria and Irma. Another $420,000 is for the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD) to hire additional employees and to conduct training on sexual assault and harassment to address the recent rise in these complaints.
Supporters said the $15 million will help reimburse cities and towns for the additional costs of absorbing an estimated 2,400 new students who fled here with their families following the hurricanes. They argue that the additional funding for the is needed in order to do its job properly.
“Our political system is completely corrupted by big money and insider politics. To change it we need principled candidates, who cannot be bought, with a bold vision and who will offer an alternative to the establishment by advocating for human dignity, environmental justice, diversity, and democracy. If you have ever thought about running for office, this is the year to step forward.”
From an appeal by the Green-Rainbow Party looking for candidates willing to run in 2018 for one of four statewide offices: attorney general, secretary of the state, treasurer, or auditor.
“I won’t promise you today that I won’t be back someday, somehow.”
Former Dorchester Sen. Linda Dorcena Forry in her farewell speech to the Legislature following her resignation to take a job with Suffolk Construction as vice president of Northeast region, diversity, inclusion and community relations
“She’s a great friend, she was a terrific partner, wonderful, wonderful family, and I think you heard from her remarks today why she is so beloved and, frankly, why we hunger for that collaboration and collegiality in this Legislature and beyond.”
Former Gov. Deval Patrick following Forry’s speech.
“Let’s face it, there’s still far too many people dealing with this horrible addiction and this epidemic and losing their lives to it, but at least after 15 years of nothing but really bad news, at least we did see a reduction.”
Gov. Baker on a report that the number of opioid-related overdose deaths in Massachusetts fell an estimated 8.3 percent from 2016 to 2017.
“Massachusetts can lead the nation with a comprehensive plan for electric vehicles that will transform how we move around. This is a critical moment to invest in electric vehicles and grow our clean energy economy.”
Attorney General Maura Healey on its use of $75 million in mitigation funds that her office helped secure for Massachusetts as part of a multi-billion settlement with Volkswagen, Porsche and Audi.
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 February 12-16, the House met for a total of eight hours and 43 minutes while the Senate met for a total of seven hours and 58 minutes.
Mon. Feb. 12 House 11:06 a.m. to 12:01 p.m.
Senate 11:05 a.m. to 11:47 a.m.
Tues. Feb. 13 No House session
No Senate session
Wed. Feb. 14 House 11:03 a.m. to 3:34 p.m.
Senate 1:08 p.m. to 4:04 p.m
Thurs. Feb. 15 House 11:00 a.m. to 3:12 p.m.
Senate 11:01 a.m. to 3:23 p.m.
Fri. Feb. 16 No House session
No Senate session
Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org