By Bob Katzen
THE HOUSE AND SENATE. Beacon Hill Roll Call records local senators’ and representatives’ votes on roll calls from the week of May 7-11.
RAISE AGE FROM 18 TO 21 TO PURCHASE TOBACCO (H 4479)
House 147-4, approved and sent to the Senate a bill raising from 18 to 21 the age to legally purchase cigarettes and electronic cigarettes in the Bay State. Other provisions ban e-cigarettes and other vape devices from the workplace and prohibit pharmacies and health care facilities from selling any tobacco products and vape products.
“When teens start smoking, studies show that they often become smokers for life,” said Rep. Kate Hogan (D-Stow), Chair of the Committee on Public Health. “Youth are particularly susceptible to nicotine addiction and fall victim every day to the damaging effects nicotine has on the developing brain, heart, and lungs. The legislation passed by the House aims to prevent our kids from starting a dangerous habit that can last a lifetime.”
“Today is a real victory for Massachusetts youth,” said Dr. Lynda Young, pediatrician and Chair of Tobacco Free Mass. “I see kids in my practice who are already addicted—to cigarettes, vaping, chewing tobacco. Raising the age of sale will help break that cycle.”
“… Simply changing 18 to 21 in our current state law, will have a profound and lasting impact for generations to come [by] saving thousands of lives and billions of dollars,” said Rep. Paul McMurtry (D-Dedham), the sponsor of one of the original bills that was rolled into this new version that was approved last week. “To me, there is nothing more meaningful in our role as policy makers than that. By raising the age to purchase to 21 we eliminate smoking from the high school social setting and give teenagers time to make a more informed decision about whether or not to begin the oftentimes deadly habit of smoking.”
“You can vote at 18. You can serve in the military at 18. You should be able to buy cigarettes at 18,” said Rep. Jim Lyons (R-Andover) one of four representatives who voted against the bill.
Rep. Nick Boldyga (R-Southwick) noted that supporters of the age hike stated that 90 percent of tobacco users start smoking before the age of 18, yet current laws prohibit the sale to youths under 18. “Current laws did not curb tobacco use and neither will adding yet another law to the books. We need to educate people and incentivize them to make responsible choices in life.”
“At the age of 18 in Massachusetts, one can get married, get a tattoo, get your FID [Firearms Identification Card], serve in the military and vote in elections,” said Rep. Marc Lombardo (R-Billerica). “If at 18 in Massachusetts you have the right to make these major decisions, I’m not convinced that taking away the right to purchase tobacco makes sense. In addition, the research fails to show that taking away the ability to purchase tobacco from adults will make significant impacts on stopping underaged smoking.”
(A “Yes” vote is for the bill. A “No” vote is against it.)
Rep. Christine Barber Yes Rep. Mike Connolly Yes Rep. Denise Provost Yes
CHANGES IN PUBLIC EDUCATION FUNDING (S 2506)
Senate 38-0, approved and sent to the House a bill that would make changes to the way public schools are distributed funds by the state. The bill is a response to the recommendations of the Foundation Budget Review Commission that in 2015 reported that the current funding formula and system underestimates the cost of education by $1 billion to $2 billion every year.
The 1993 Education Reform Act established a “Foundation Budget” to make sure all school districts could provide their students with a quality education.
This current proposal requires the Secretary of Administration and Finance and the Senate and House Committees on Ways and Means to hold a public hearing and then meet annually to determine an implementation schedule to fulfill the recommendations of the commission. Another provision permits the implementation schedule to be changed by the Senate and House Committees on Ways and Means chairs to reflect changes in enrollment, inflation, student populations or other factors that may affect the remaining costs in the schedule.
Supporters of the bill said that the 1993 formula is outdated and failed to consider the costs of skyrocketing health care and special education, and understated the funding to provide the resources necessary to close achievement gaps between affluent and poor students.
“This is an historic day for Massachusetts,” said Massachusetts Teacher’s Association President Barbara Madeloni. “We are hearing from a growing number of school districts that the lack of funding is taking a toll on our students. It’s time to update the funding formula to guarantee students in our low-income urban and rural districts the same opportunities as students have in our affluent suburbs.”
“Every year, schools are being forced to cut critical programs and our state has one of the worst achievement gaps in the country — one of the core problems the Foundation Budget was supposed to address when we first created it in 1993,” said Sen. Sonia Chang Diaz (D-Boston), the sponsor of the bill, on her Facebook page. “This bill will repair our 25-year-old education funding formula — to give schools the resources they need to give every student a quality education. Thanks to my colleagues for standing behind these important reforms, and all of the students, teachers, parents, administrators, school committees, education experts, and concerned community leaders who have pushed for these reforms year after year.”
(A “Yes” vote is for the bill.)
Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes
ALSO UP ON BEACON HILL
PROHIBIT BUSINESSES FROM PHOTOCOPYING DRIVER’S LICENSE (H 4479) – The Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure Committee held a hearing on a bill that would prohibit businesses from copying and retaining a copy of a customer’s ID including driver’s licenses. The bill was filed by private citizen Richard Tomczyk who testified before the committee and said the bill is designed to reduce the number of incidents in which personal information has been stolen and fraudulently used.
“Since my license has my picture, name, address and date of birth it could easily be used fraudulently,” said Tomczyk. “I’m not opposed to providing my license to be checked by the business or even have them write down my name and license number. I can understand the business might need this info to verify that I am the person requesting the services. However, I am reluctant to allow copies to be made of the actual license.”
MASS COMMISSION AGAINST DISCRIMINATION (MCAD) (S 1715) – The Senate approved and sent to the House a bill requiring the MCAD Advisory Board to include representatives of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning youth, (LGBTQ) community.
The MCAD investigates and prosecutes complaints of discrimination that occur in employment, housing, public places, access to education, lending and credit.
Current law requires that representatives of several groups be on the board including labor organizations; minority racial, ethnic and linguistic groups; women; elderly and handicapped persons; and recipients of public assistance.
“Despite the discrimination that persists against the LGBTQ community, they have been significantly underrepresented on the MCAD Advisory Board,” said sponsor Sen. Adam Hinds (D- Pittsfield). “This legislation is a logical fix, and its implementation will be significant. This simple change to the board’s membership will go a long way in ensuring these voices are included in future deliberations.”
MUSICIAN LAUREATE (S 2225) – The Senate approved and sent to the House a measure 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.
“The creation of this role further commits the commonwealth to the importance and value of music in our society,” said Sen. Patrick O’Connor (R-Weymouth) who filed the bill on behalf of his constituent Cinzi Lavin of Hull. “The position of musician laureate will allow the commonwealth to officially recognize and reward the mastery of the musical art form, while celebrating the musical history of the commonwealth.”
“This is an important time for the arts in Massachusetts, and as a musician, I’m proud to know my elected officials recognize the power of music to express the highest and best aspirations of us all,” said Lavin. “Raising the status and esteem of musicians is an important step in preserving Massachusetts’ artistic heritage and honoring the musical talent so abundant in our state’s cultural landscape.”
HOUSE GIVES INITIAL APPROVAL TO SEVERAL BILLS – The House gave initial approval to several bills last week including:
HOW TO USE A DEFIBRILLATOR (H 4396) – Adds “How to use a defibrillator” to what public high schools are required to include in their health education courses. Current law already requires instruction in administering cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).
The bill’s sponsor Rep. Patricia Haddad (D-Somerset) said that far too many individuals are not versed in use of this valuable machine and by offering instruction at an early age, people can save more lives during the critical minutes needed to survive a dire situation.
“This bill adds instruction in the use of automatic external defibrillators to what will be included in health education in the commonwealth and requires instruction be based on the most current national evidence-based Emergency Cardiovascular Care guidelines,” said Education Committee Chair Rep. Alice Peisch (D-Wellesley). “Knowledge of these life-saving practices is shown to increase the likelihood of providing help in emergency situations.”
PROTECT SERVICE ANIMALS (S 2165) – Makes a person who uses an assistance animal eligible for victim compensation if his or her animal is injured or killed by a person. The compensation would include veterinary medical expenses and the replacement cost of an equally trained assistance animal if the animal dies or is too injured to return to work.
Sponsor Sen. Richard Ross (R-Wrentham) tells the story of a constituent who was living with lupus and multiple sclerosis and relied on her service dog Alex to provide physical stability, identify warning signs of an oncoming seizure and many other physical tasks. Alex was poisoned by a neighbor to the tune of $3,000 in veterinarian bills.
“Service animals play an essential role in the lives of their companions and must be protected from malicious action,” said Ross. “I filed this legislation to provide a small measure of relief for individuals who may be suffering due to injury or death of their service animal. My hope is to reduce the burden on service animal owners and their families during such a trying time.”
ALLOW 12- AND 13-YEAR-OLD KIDS TO REFEREE SOCCER (H 1000) – Allows 12- and 13-year-old boys and girls to referee and get paid to referee an official youth soccer game with only players younger than 12. Games would be limited to intraclub/intown scrimmages with no results or standings. The employment would be allowed only with written parental consent, written communications to the parents from the employer about the minor’s responsibilities, the youth’s completion of a job training program and an adult representing the employer at the game.
According to the bill’s sponsor, former Rep. Jim Cantwell (D-Marshfield), currently children under the age of 14 are not permitted to be employed, except in the fields of theatrical acting, newspaper delivery services, family business and volunteer work. “This bill would add soccer referee as an accepted type of paid youth employment, enabling youth to engage in valuable leadership and extracurricular experiences while expanding the strained pool of referees,” said Cantwell in written testimony last year.
RULES FOR KAYAKING (H 1312) – Regulates the increasingly popular sport of kayaking. The measure would require kayak instructors to take basic water rescue, first aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) training. It also requires instructors to receive certification from the American Canoe Association and be certified by the American Red Cross in small craft safety. Other provisions require each kayak to carry a Coast Guard-approved personal floatation device and require students to be taught safety procedures including “wet exit training” (the practice of escaping from a capsized kayak).
Supporters said current law is too loose and does not sufficiently regulate kayaks.
“This legislation is very important in preventing future accidental drownings by ensuring all kayakers enrolling in a course are safely and properly educated,” said Rep. William Straus (D-Mattapoisett), the sponsor of the proposal.
QUOTABLE QUOTES – “Special ‘Shoosh’ Edition”
One of the most annoying tasks for the Senate president during a session is to quiet senators down so that the senator speaking at the microphone can be heard. This is made worse by the fact that the acoustics are poor in Gardner Auditorium where the Senate is temporarily meeting while renovations are being made to the regular Senate chamber. Here are some of the ways that Senate President Harriette Chandler tried last Thursday to get senators to quiet down.
“Members will take their seats and subdue their conversations.”
“I don’t think you heard me. Please take you seats.”
“Court officers will lock the doors and call the members.”
“Subdue your conversations. There should be no conversation. This is a maiden speech [by Sen. Tran].”
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 May 7-11, the House met for a total of five hours and 48 minutes while the Senate met for a total of 13 hours and 23 minutes.
Mon. May 7 House 11:00 a.m. to 11:23 a.m.
Senate 11:01 a.m. to 2:31 p.m.
Tues. May 8 No House session
No Senate session
Wed. May 9 House 11:00 a.m. to 4:11 p.m.
Senate 11:11 a.m. to 4:09 p.m.
Thurs. May 10 House 11:00 a.m. to 11:14 a.m.
Senate 11:22 a.m. to 4:17 p.m.
Fri. May 11 No House session
No Senate session
Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at email@example.com