Beacon Hill Roll Call Volume 43 – Report No. 16 April 16-20, 2018

By Bob Katzen

THE HOUSE AND SENATE. Beacon Hill Roll Call records local senators’ and representatives’ votes on recent roll calls. There were no roll calls in either branch last week. The House and Senate held only brief session as is the custom during Spring Break.

GARDEN OF PEACE (S 2372)

House 152-0, Senate 36-0, approved and sent to Gov. Charlie Baker a bill transferring the management and administration of the Garden of Peace to the state’s Victim Assistance Board. The Garden of Peace is a public memorial garden located on the plaza of 100 Cambridge Street near the Statehouse. The garden’s website describes it as commemorating “victims of homicide and a living reminder of the impact of violence. It is a visual testament to the need for eliminating violence. The Garden is a symbol of hope for peace and renewal in our lives, our community, and the world.”

The central feature of the memorial is a dry streambed with smooth river stones engraved with the names of the many victims of homicide.

The Victim Assistance Board’s website says the board “upholds and advances the rights of crime victims and witnesses by providing outreach and education, policy advocacy, policy and program development, legislative advocacy, grants management and service referrals.”

Supporters said the bill firms up management of the Garden of Peace by locating control of it in the Massachusetts Office of Victim Assistance.

“This bill will assure that the memories of victims are honored properly in the Garden of Peace,” said Sen. Will Brownsberger (D-Belmont), the bill’s sponsor.

(A “Yes” vote is for the bill.)

Rep. Christine Barber Yes Rep. Mike Connolly Yes Rep. Denise Provost Yes Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes

MASSACHUSETTS CRIMINAL JUSTICE REVIEW (S 2391)

House 154-0, Senate 37-0, approved a bill implementing the recommendations of the Massachusetts Criminal Justice Review which is the product of the Council of State Governments Justice Center. A key provision allows some eligible prisoners, not including drug offenders, who are serving a mandatory minimum sentence to still be eligible for good conduct deductions from their sentences, a parole permit and work release. Other provisions include enhancement to programming available in prisons, enhanced community supervision and expanded resources of behavioral health initiatives.

Supporters said the program gives more flexibility and expands good conduct deductions to more prisoners. They noted that the enhancement of programs available in prison and improved community supervision would help reduce the persistent problem of recidivism in Massachusetts. The House vote was on an earlier version of the measure.

(A “Yes” vote is for the bill.)

Rep. Christine Barber Yes Rep. Mike Connolly Yes Rep. Denise Provost Yes Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes

$149.2 MILLION SUPPLEMENTAL BUDGET (H 4366)

House 146-0, approved and sent to the Senate a $149.2 million supplemental budget for fiscal 2018 including $2.5 million to assist the residents of Puerto Rico or the Virgin Islands who have moved to Massachusetts following the impact of hurricanes Maria and Irma. The funding can be used for various needs including transportation costs of traveling to the Bay State, immediate living and related expenses and costs incurred by cities and towns as a result of the influx of new people.

Other provisions include $21 million for sheriff’s offices, $100,000 for the Massachusetts Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing and $27.7 million for welfare programs.

Supporters said the package is a balanced one that begins to close out the books on fiscal 2018 by funding necessary programs while continuing fiscal responsibility.

(A “Yes” vote is for the budget.)

Rep. Christine Barber Yes Rep. Mike Connolly Yes Rep. Denise Provost Yes

BAN DISCRIMINATION IN SHORT-TERM RENTALS (S 2381)

Senate 37-0, approved an amendment to the bill that extends the state’s current 5.7 percent hotel and motel tax and the local option room occupancy tax to short-term rentals offered by Airbnb, HomeAway and VRBO. The amendment prohibits discrimination in short-term rentals based on race, color, religious creed, national origin, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, genetic information, ancestry or status as a veteran.

Amendment supporters said this will ensure that state laws banning discrimination in home and apartment rentals also apply to these short-term rentals.

The amendment’s sponsor, Sen. Joseph Boncore (D-Winthrop) did not respond to repeated requests by Beacon Hill Roll Call for a comment on his successful amendment.

(A “Yes” vote is for the amendment.)

Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes

ALSO UP ON BEACON HILL

OFFICIAL ROCK SONG OF MASSACHUSETTS (H 1683) – The House gave initial approval to a bill making “Roadrunner” the official rock song of the commonwealth. Natick native Jonathan Richman led the group Modern Lovers who sang the tune as a 1970s ode to the joys of driving along Massachusetts’ Route 128 late at night. The bill is co-sponsored this year by Reps. David Linsky (D-Natick) and Denise Provost (D-Somerville).

“Roadrunner, roadrunner going faster miles an hour,” begins the song. “Gonna drive to the Stop ‘n’ Shop. With the radio on at night. And me in love with modern moonlight. Me in love with modern rock ‘n’ roll. Modern girls and modern rock ‘n’ roll. Don’t feel so alone, got the radio on. Like the roadrunner.”

The original backers of the campaign for “Roadrunner” were ex-legislators Bob Hedlund, now Mayor of Weymouth and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh. Hedlund took the lead. He explains that he first heard the song as a 15-year-old working at a local Hingham gas station in 1977. He immediately bonded with the song and years later although concerned that people might think this is just another frivolous bill, decided to listen to his heart and filed the proposal in 2013.

Enter current Rep. Josh Cutler (D-Duxbury) and former Marshfield Rep. Jim Cantwell, now the state director of U.S. Sen. Ed Markey’s staff. They filed a rival bill making the official state rock song the classic Boston-based Aerosmith rock ballad “Dream On” written by Stephen Tyler. Neither bill was getting traction in the Legislature and eventually Cutler and Cantwell decided to end the competition and support “Roadrunner.”

“‘Roadrunner’ is a great Massachusetts rock song and Aerosmith is a classic Massachusetts rock band,” said Cutler. “Since ‘Dream On’ is not specific to our state per se, we agreed, with sweet emotion, that it was time to come together and support ‘Roadrunner.’ We hope the bill passes this session and it’s not the same old song and dance. As a final note, I’m thankful we’ve had this fun discussion and been able to focus attention on the rich musical tradition in the commonwealth.”

“The road to passage has had as many potholes as Route 128 in the Springtime, but we are Red Sox fans and are used to overcoming adversity,” said a hopeful but cautious Linsky. “Hopefully it will not take the full 86 years.”

“The song is a teenager’s Paul Revere ride,” Hedlund said. “The lyrics capture the perfect mood and vibe about everything that’s great about rock ‘n’ roll. I am hopeful it will get through all the legislative hurdles this year and be signed by Gov. Baker.”

The measure still needs to be approved by the Senate and signed by the governor before it becomes law.

BOB COUSY WAY (H 3534) – The House gave initial approval to legislation designating the section of Causeway street in Boston running alongside TD Garden, between Portland Street and Haverhill Street, as Bob Cousy Way, in honor of 89-year-old Boston Celtics legend Bob Cousy for his role in “saving the sport of professional basketball by transforming the game into to one of crowd appeal.” Cousy played for the Celtics from 1950 to 1964.

Known as “Cooz,” “Mr. Basketball” and “The Houdini of the Hardwood,” Cousy later become the color analyst for the Celtics and in 1971 was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame.

THE GOOD AND THE BAD OF MARIJUANA – The Cannabis Control Commission has hired a research director to conduct state-mandated extensive research on the use of marijuana and how its legalization affects society. Julie Johnson, a former postdoctoral fellow at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, will head up the research which will include patterns of use, methods of consumption; general perceptions of marijuana; incidents of impaired driving and hospitalization related to marijuana use; and the economic and fiscal impact on the state.

STUDY FINDS KINDERGARTENERS IN MASSACHUSETTS ARE GETTING LESS TIME FOR FREE PLAY AND RECESS – A report by Professor R. Clarke Fowler, the chair of the Department of Childhood Education and Care at Salem State University, finds that all Bay State kindergartens have reduced the amount of time that students have for recess, free play, rest, snacks and lunch.

The survey of 189 kindergarten teachers found that high socioeconomic schools schedule these non-academic activities 30 minutes more daily and 2.5 hours more weekly than low socio-economic schools. It also revealed that school administrators with limited or no knowledge of early childhood education have placed increasing restrictions on kindergarten teachers’ control over curriculum and instruction.

The complete report is at:

https://www.deyproject.org/uploads/1/5/5/7/15571834/ma_kindergartens_final.pdf

JUDICIARY BILLS SENT TO STUDY – Over the past two months, various committees shipped several bills off to a “study committee.” Most measures that are sent to a study committee are never actually studied and are essentially defeated. Here are some of the bills that were sent to a study committee by the Judiciary Committee:

HONOR OATHS OR BE PROSECUTED (S 772) – Requires the prosecution of any public employee who has violated his or her oath of office, including the state’s 200 legislators, the governor and other constitutional officers. The measure provides for automatic job suspension of the offender. Another provision provides for prosecution of any person who induces or encourages any public employee to violate his or her oath. The bill is not sponsored by any legislator and was filed by private citizen Mark Thomas of Boston.

NO PARENTAL RIGHTS FOR RAPISTS (S 780) – Bans the establishment of parental rights for all convicted rapists. The measure is sponsored by private citizen Wendy Murphy, an attorney and adjunct professor of sexual violence law at New England Law School in Boston. She is known across the nation as a champion of women’s and children’s rights.

Murphy says that other bills filed this session are weak and create parental rights even for convicted rapists and only provide mechanisms for taking rights away under certain conditions. “All the other bills burden victims with the responsibility of having to take legal action against their rapists and then prove that parental rights should be terminated,” Murphy told Beacon Hill Roll Call.

“I also know that bills filed by individuals are dead the day they get filed,” continued Murphy. “My hope is that the public will learn from the filing of my bill that they are being duped into supporting laws that are being propagandized as good for victims, when in fact the proposals … affirm and create parental rights for convicted rapists.”

FEMALE GENITAL MUTILATION (S 788) – Makes it a crime to perform female genital mutilation.

Supporters say that it is estimated that more than 200 million girls and women alive today have been the victims of this barbaric act.

They note that the procedure has no health benefits for women and girls and in fact can cause all kinds of health problems including bleeding, urinary problems and complications in childbirth sometimes leading to the death of the child.

PROFIT FROM CRIMINAL ACT (S 797)- Restricts the ability of convicted criminals to profit from their notoriety. The measure provides that any profits from the criminals’ books, movie rights and other profit endeavors be given to the victim as restitution.

REPEAL ARCHAIC LAWS (H 950) – Abolishes some archaic laws that are still on the books in Massachusetts. These laws include prohibiting adultery, anal sex, blasphemy and being a vagabond.

QUOTABLE QUOTES – All Quotes from Gov. Baker – Special Edition.

“State government is a very big enterprise. It’s $40 billion, it’s 40,000 employees. The Executive Branch is a big place. Stuff that goes on on my watch belongs to me, and what I would hope people would do is respect the fact that I can’t possibly know everything about everything, but that once issues are raised we will do whatever we can to fix them and address them.”

On taking responsibility for the recent State Police scandals.

“We’ll need to hire new staff, purchase new equipment and software, update computer systems, and in some cases build new lab space.”

On his estimate that the new criminal justice bill will cost the state $15 million this year and up to $40 million next year.

“Well, 150,000 trips without a major incident and with eight very small and relatively minor ones – however, I will say that the issue that was raised in that report is a good one, and I’d like to see the Federal Rail Administration (FRA) give us, give Keolis, [the company that operates and maintains the MBTA’s commuter rail system] and give the T the authority to look at and to incorporate more information than they currently can into making decisions about who drives trains.”

On his request to the FRA asking for a change in federal rules to enable the Massachusetts passenger rail service to make greater use of its employees’ driving records when hiring. Baker was responding to a Boston Globe report that nearly 50 engineers have had their driver’s licenses suspended and about 110 engineers have driving records that experts say are cause for concern.

“I had the chance to meet former First Lady Barbara Bush on several occasions & also watched her interact with rooms full of people. Tons of grace & charm. Thank you for your service to our country. Rest in Peace.”

Posted by the governor on Facebook.

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 April 16-20, the House met for a total of 51 minutes while the Senate met for a total of two hours and 32 minutes.

Mon. April 16 No House session

No Senate session

Tues. April 17 House 11:03 a.m. to 11:36 a.m.

Senate 11:15 a.m. to 11:31 a.m.

Wed. April 18 No House session

No Senate session

Thurs. April 19 House 11:06 a.m. to 11:24 a.m.

Senate 11:04 a.m. to 1:20 p.m.

Fri. April 20 No House session

No Senate session

Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at bob@beaconhillrollcall.com

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