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 14-18.
GARDEN OF PEACE (S 2372)
House 151-0, Senate 37-0, 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.
Supporters said the bill firms up management of the non-profit 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
LIFE SCIENCES (H 4501)
House 149-3, approved and sent to the Senate a bill that would authorize $462 million in bonds for the Massachusetts Life Sciences Investment Fund with an emphasis on capital grants to increase diversity and opportunity in the Bay State life sciences and biotech industries.
Other provisions require that half of the consolidated net surplus in budgetary funds, up to $10 million, be directed to the Massachusetts Life Sciences Investment Fund; raise the annual ceiling on the Life Sciences Tax Incentive Program from $25 million to $30 million; require that funding and internship consideration be given to support minority populations in the life sciences industry; and extend the Life Sciences Tax Incentive Program through 2028. The incentive was due to expire at the end of 2018.
Chief House sponsor Rep. Joseph Wagner (D-Chicopee) said that the proposal builds on the success of the state’s past investments through the 2008 life sciences initiative. “This bill represents our continued efforts to support workforce development across all regions of the commonwealth and to ensure Massachusetts remains a global leader in the life sciences, biotechnology and advanced manufacturing industries,” said Wagner.
House Ways and Means Chair Jeff Sanchez (D-Boston) said on his Facebook page that the bill will facilitate job growth through capital grants that advance education, workforce development and early-stage company growth.
“These investments, combined with internship opportunities for high school students, improved facilities, loans, capital grants and tax credits, will ensure Massachusetts remains the health sciences hub not only of the United States, but of the world,” Sanchez said.
Rep. Nick Boldyga (R-Southwick) was one of only three representatives who voted against the bill. He was the only one who responded to Beacon Hill Roll Call’s request for a comment.
“The Democrats continue to give millions of dollars to corporations while allowing the most important priorities like infrastructure, education, and public safety to go unfunded,” said Boldyga.
(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
BIOMETRICS (S 95)
Senate 37-0, approved and sent to the House a bill, sponsored by Sen. Mike Barrett (D-Lexington), that would add biometrics to the Security Breach Law that the Legislature approved in 2007. That law requires the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation to regulate the use and protect the security of personally identifying information including passwords and social security numbers. It also imposes a duty on third parties who hold such information to report breaches in security.
Biometric indicators are unique biological attributes or measurements that can be used to authenticate the identity of a person including fingerprints, genetic information, iris or retina patterns, voice recognition, facial characteristics and hand geometry.
Supporters said the 2007 law has worked well and has resulted in the identification of thousands of breaches and the protection of millions of Massachusetts residents, including 947,000 Target customers whose information was compromised in 2013. They argued the law must be updated to keep up with new and changing technology and to protect consumers.
“This bill is disarmingly straightforward,” said Barrett. “If you have biologically-based records or data on me and your data system is breached or hacked, you have to let me know. Nothing could be simpler.”
(A “Yes” vote is for the bill.)
Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes
ALSO UP ON BEACON HILL
“RIGHT TO DRY” (S 1117) – The Senate approved a local option proposal that would prohibit a city or town from outright banning any homeowner or tenant from using a clothesline to dry clothing. The law would only take effect in cities or towns that opt into it. Condominium associations and landlords would be allowed to place reasonable restrictions on the placement and use of clotheslines but could not ban them completely.
Supporters said that using a clothesline in place of energy-intensive automatic dryers is a low-tech way of cutting energy use, reducing pollution and saving on bills. They noted the bill will protect the aesthetic and safety interests of homeowners by allowing homeowners’ associations to impose reasonable location and manner restrictions on clothesline use.
PROHIBIT SEX WITH SUSPECT (H 4472) – The Judiciary Committee held a hearing on legislation that would impose a prison sentence of up to five years and/or a $10,000 fine on any police officer who engages in sexual relations with anyone who is under arrest by the officer or another officer. The measure states that a person is incapable of consenting to sexual relations with officers under those circumstances. This law currently applies to prison guards and this bill expands it to police officers.
“Given the power imbalance of the situation, a person in police custody is unable to give genuine consent free of coercion,” said the bill’s sponsor Rep. Kay Khan (D-Newton). “Hopefully this legislation, in addition to our existing sexual assault statutes, will eliminate ambiguity around issues of consent and help victims of such abuse feel more empowered to come forward.”
PROTECT DISABLED (H 933) – The House gave initial approval to a bill creating the crime of rape of a person with a physical disability and imposing up to a life sentence on anyone convicted of this crime.
Supporters said it is important to recognize the increased vulnerability of a disabled person to predatory conduct and noted this proposal is similar to what already exists for those who are intellectually disabled.
“I was approached personally by the family of an individual for whom this has happened to and have been endeavoring this for several years,” said sponsor Rep. Elizabeth Poirier (R-North Attleboro). “There needs to be more protections in place for physically disabled individuals in a situation like this. I have high hopes that there will be favorable passage of this bill and the family will ultimately find some peace.”
ASSAULT ON HEALTH CARE WORKERS (H 795) – The House gave initial approval to a bill that would make it a felony and increase from 2.5 years to five years the maximum prison sentence that could be imposed on offenders convicted of assault or assault and battery on an emergency medical technician (EMT), ambulance operator, ambulance attendant or health care provider including doctors, nurses, social workers and chiropractors. The bill also abolishes the current 90-day mandatory sentence for the crime.
Supporters said that by eliminating the current mandatory three-month sentence but widening the range of options available to judges upon sentencing to include terms of up to five years in state prison, the bill expands judicial discretion while acknowledging the serious and violent nature of many of these crimes.
They noted that between 2011 and 2013, workplace assaults ranged from 23,540 and 35,630 annually, with some 70 percent occurring in healthcare and social service settings.
“The healthcare settings of today are complex and increasingly volatile and violent as statistics prove,” said the bill’s sponsor Rep. Denise Garlick (D-Needham). “Employers must be held accountable to develop and implement workplace violence prevention plans. When a nurse is stabbed … or EMT is beaten or ambulance operator is punched and kicked it is not part of the job, it is a crime.”
SCHOOL RESOURCE OFFICERS (H 4378) – The Education Committee held a hearing on a proposal that would allow cities and towns to hire retired state and local police officers to be full-time safety resource officers at local schools. Under current law, there is a 960-hour limit on the number of hours these officers can work in municipal or state government. That translates into approximately 120 eight-hour days.
Massachusetts school resource officers are certified only if they complete a 40-hour course that provides instruction in ethics, social media, diversity, informal counseling and mentoring, understanding teen development, understanding special needs students, youth trends, drugs, crime prevention, school safety and threat response.
“As a legislator and father, I know the protection of our children has to be our number one priority,” said the bill’s sponsor Rep. Jim Arciero (D-Westford). “The safety of our children has become a major focus of concern given several recent school tragedies around the nation. This legislation seeks to further enhance the safety of our schools and ensure a secure learning environment for our students.”
Arciero filed the bill following his recent meetings with Westford Chief Thomas McEnaney and Westford Public Schools Superintendent Everett Olsen.
“This legislation will allow local school districts to access a highly-trained pool of applicants for these important public safety positions,” said McEnaney. They generally will have decades of experience and, in most cases, be very knowledgeable about the communities and schools they will be working in.”
QUOTABLE QUOTES – By the Numbers Edition
According to State Comptroller Thomas Shack, the number of views on CTHRU, Massachusetts’ cloud-based transparency platform that provides detailed information on how tax dollars are spent. http://www.macomptroller.org/cthru
The number of physicians who signed a letter urging the Legislature to pass a statewide paid family and medical leave program.
The six-month rate cut proposed by Eversource for its customers who are on the company’s Basic Service supply option.
The final price paid by UMass for its controversial acquisition of Mount Ida College last week.
The number of Super Bowl rings won by Tedy Bruschi who was on Beacon Hill last week lobbying for three bills including the one raising the legal age to purchase tobacco from 18 to 21.
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 14-18, the House met for a total of four hours and two minutes while the Senate met for a total of four hours and four minutes.
Mon. May 14 House 1:04 p.m. to 1:25 p.m.
Senate 11:16 a.m. to 11:26 a.m.
Tues. May 15 No House session
No Senate session
Wed. May 16 House 11:01 a.m. to 2:33 p.m.
No Senate session
Thurs. May 17 House 11:07 a.m. to 11:16 a.m.
Senate 11:07 a.m. to 3:01 p.m.
Fri. May 18 No House session
No Senate session
Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org