By Bob Katzen
THE HOUSE AND SENATE. Beacon Hill Roll Call records local senators and representatives’ votes on roll calls from the week of June 4-8.
NO ROLL CALL ON “RED FLAG” GUN BILL (H 4517)
Senate approved, without a roll call vote, a bill that would allow family or household members to petition the courts to issue an extreme risk protection order (ERPO) that would suspend a person’s license to carry a firearm and order him or her to surrender his or her firearms and ammunition if he or she is believed to be a danger to themselves or others.
It takes only seven of the Senate’s current 48 members to request a roll call vote. Not one senator made a motion to have a roll call on the bill.
Beacon Hill Roll Call e-mailed all 38 senators and asked why they didn’t request a roll call on the bill. Only four senators responded.
“It’s my understanding that there will be a roll call on the final step which is enactment,” said Sen. Barbara L’Italien (D-Andover).
“Customarily the sponsor of the bill or amendment would request a roll call base on knowing if there is sufficient support for such request,” said Sen. Dean Tran (R-Leominster).
“No senator requested a roll call but it is possible there will be one upon enactment,” responded Richard Powell, chief of staff for Sen. Cynthia Creem (D-Newton).
Sen. Kathleen O’Connor Ives (D-Newburyport) did attempt to reach us by phone but was unsuccessful.
“I applaud the Senate’s historic vote on the House ERPO legislation,” said John Rosenthal, the co-founder and chair of the group Stop Handgun Violence. “When signed by Governor Baker, this new law will save lives and countless grief from preventable gun violence and suicides in the commonwealth. Thanks to bipartisan leadership over the past 20 years, Massachusetts has enacted the most effective gun laws and has the lowest gun death rate in the nation. This new common-sense gun violence prevention law will further prove that gun laws work without any inconvenience to law abiding gun owners.”
“I’m proud of the work done with my colleagues to pass a bill which will save lives. It was important that I worked with people across the commonwealth to achieve this,” said Rep. Marjorie Decker (D-Cambridge) the original author of the bill. “The role of young people and students in advocating for the bill is not to be missed.”
“We had an historic opportunity to really address suicide and mental health,” said Jim Wallace, Executive Director of the Gun Owners Action League of Massachusetts, the local affiliate of the National Rifle Association. “I think suicide will continue to increase because we lost the opportunity to have a positive effect in reducing it and unfortunately this turned into a gun debate rather than a mental health project. Very few suicides in Massachusetts are gun-related, and lawmakers passed up a chance to actually do something about suicide. We tried in vain to put together a lot of mental health things that would have vastly improved the bill that stands before us now.”
Wallace added that there are also still several due process and property rights issues. He said he tried to fix all of those things but the proponents rejected them.
The House has approved a different version of the proposal and the Senate version now goes to the House for consideration.
INVEST $472 MILLION IN BIOTECH INDUSTRY (H 4572)
House 145-3, Senate 33-5, approved and Gov. Charlie Baker signed into law a bill that would authorize $472 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.
The bill is aimed at continued job growth through capital grants that advance education, workforce development, early-stage company growth through spaces dedicated to life sciences companies, advanced bio-manufacturing and scientific innovation.
Provisions include $47 million for an integrated biotechnology and precision manufacturing research and training facility at the University of Massachusetts Amherst; $10 million for grants to community colleges or vocational-technical schools that collaborate with the industry; an increase from $25 million to $30 million annually in the statutory cap on the Life Sciences Tax Incentive Program; and other tax incentives.
Supporters said the $650 million of state money invested in the biotech industry in the past decade has generated about $4.3 billion in economic activity and created thousands of new jobs. They said this package should result in similar economic development and jobs
Opponents said the state should be investing in education, affordable housing, transportation, human services and health care instead of the bio tech industry. They argued expanding an unnecessary corporate tax break is done at the expense of other more worthwhile programs and is not necessary for the expansion of the life sciences industry.
(A “Yes” vote is for the bill. A “No” vote is against it.)
Rep. Christine Barber Didn’t Vote Rep. Mike Connolly Yes Rep. Denise Provost Yes Sen. Patricia Jehlen No
$3.8 BILLION FOR CAPITAL IMPROVEMENTS (H 4549)
Senate 38-0, House 145-3, approved and sent to the governor a $3.8 billion bond package allowing the state to borrow funds for improvements to state and local buildings, facilities and grounds across the state which would include repairs, reconstruction, demolition, remediation, rehabilitation, modernization, disposition and renovations.
Provisions include $950 million for state universities and colleges; $760 million for courts and $500 million for police stations, fire stations and other public safety-related buildings.
The package includes earmarks for hundreds of millions of dollars for hundreds of projects in legislators’ districts across the state — many of which will never be funded. The Baker administration is required to adhere to the state’s annual bond borrowing cap and ultimately decides which projects are affordable and actually get funded.
Sometimes legislators will immediately tout the inclusion of local projects in these bond bills, especially in an election year to show they “brought home the bacon.” But Beacon Hill Roll Call informs readers that none of the projects in this package have been funded and most will end up never being funded because of the debt limit.
Supporters said this package is necessary in order for the state and cities and towns to repair, renovate and modernize many aging buildings across the state. They noted that some of the courthouses across the state are literally falling apart.
Three House members voted against the bill. None of them responded to inquiries by Beacon Hill Roll Call to explain why they voted against it.
(A “Yes” vote is for the bill. A “No” vote is against it.)
Rep. Christine Barber Didn’t Vote Rep. Mike Connolly Yes Rep. Denise Provost Yes Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes
PROTECT ANIMALS (H 4565)
House 147-0, approved a bill to protect the health and safety of animals. Provisions include requiring that animal abuse be reported by employees of the Department of Children and Families, the Department of Elder Affairs and the Disabled Persons Protection Commission in the course of their work; increasing prison terms and fines for abuse of an animal; prohibiting anyone from having sex with an animal; prohibiting the drowning of animals; repealing a current requirement that animals involved in illegal animal fighting automatically be killed and instead creating other options for these animals; prohibiting insurance companies from refusing insurance coverage and housing authorities from refusing to rent to a potential renter based on a specific breed; and requiring property owners and landlords to check property for abandoned animals within three days following a foreclosure or end of tenancy.
Supporters said the bill is long overdue and will protect many animals from injury, abuse and death. “Protecting the welfare of animals is embedded in our values as a commonwealth,” said House Ways and Means chair Jeff Sanchez (D-Boston). “Animal welfare reflects the broader public safety concerns at the center of many conversations today.”
Sanchez continued, “Current research conducted by Northeastern University and the MSCPA shows compelling evidence for the link between animal abuse and violence toward humans. The study found a person who committed animal abuse is five times more likely to commit violence against people.”
The Senate has approved a different version of the bill and the House version now goes to the Senate for consideration.
(A “Yes” vote is for the bill).
Rep. Christine Barber Didn’t Vote Rep. Mike Connolly Yes Rep. Denise Provost Yes
POLICE CHIEFS RETAIN AUTHORITY (H 4539)
Senate 38-0, approved an amendment that would ensure that local police chiefs who currently have the power to grant, deny, suspend or revoke gun licenses retain that authority despite the proposed law allowing family or household members to petition the courts to issue an extreme risk protection order (ERPO).
Amendment supporters said this is an important amendment to make it clear that police chiefs still have this authority and that this proposed new ERPO law does not supersede it.
(A “Yes” vote is for the amendment.)
Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes
ALSO UP ON BEACON HILL
FLAGS AT HALF-MAST ON SEPTEMBER 11 (S 1820) – The House approved a Senate-approved bill that would require that flags be flown at half-staff each September 11 in honor of the brave Americans who perished in the terrorist attack.
“I filed this legislation to not only pay tribute to those who lost their lives on September 11, but also to emphasize to the families of all those we tragically lost that their loved ones will never be forgotten,” said sponsor Sen. Walter Timilty (D-Milton).
Additional approval in each branch is needed prior to the measure going to Gov. Baker.
VETERANS’ BILLS TO STUDY COMMITTEE – Several veterans-related bills have been sent off to a study committee. Most measures that are shipped off to a study committee are never actually studied and are essentially defeated.
FREE ONLINE COLLEGE COURSES FOR VETERANS (H 2771) – Requires all state universities and colleges to offer online courses free of charge to all veterans.
ALLOW FAMILY MEMBER TO BE CARETAKER (H 2772) – Allows a family member to be the paid caretaker for a member of his or her family with a traumatic brain injury received while in military service.
AGE FOR POLICE AND FIRE (S 2011) – Exempts all veterans from the law that prohibits anyone 32 or older from being appointed as a police officer or firefighter. The bill does not establish any age limit. Current law only allows veterans to be appointed up to age 36 by using one year for each year, up to four years, that they served in the military.
DIVEST PENSION FUNDS FROM COAL COMPANIES (H 3281) – The House sent off to a study committee legislation requiring the state’s $67 billion pension fund to divest itself of all thermal coal holdings. The measure would also create a commission to study divestments from other fossil fuel companies including oil and gas and require the pension fund to follow the recommendations made by the commission.
Most measures that are shipped off to a study committee are never actually studied and are essentially defeated.
TIME TO COUNT THE TURKEYS – MassWildlife is asking residents to help with its annual Wild Turkey Brood Survey to estimate the number of turkeys in Massachusetts. The survey helps the state’s biologists determine productivity and compare long-term reproductive success while providing an estimate of fall harvest potential.
“Citizen involvement in this survey is a cost-effective means of gathering useful data and can be a fun way for people to connect with nature,” said a notice on MassWildlife’s website. “Be sure to look carefully when counting turkey broods, the very small ones may be difficult to see in tall grass or brush. MassWildlife is interested in turkey brood observations from all regions of the state, including rural and developed areas.”
For more information go to https://www.mass.gov/service-details/masswildlife-monthly-june-2018 and click on Report “Wild turkey sightings.”
MARIJUANA FORUM – As retail marijuana stores get closer to opening in the Bay State, a new trade group, the Massachusetts Cannabis Business Association (MassCBA), has been formed to provide focus on education, best practices and broader appreciation for the emerging industry. The group, in conjunction with the State House News Forum, will hold a forum on Wednesday, June 20 from 7:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. at the Massachusetts Continuing Legal Education center, 10 Winter Place, Boston to hear from industry leaders who will explore the marijuana business and the potential of the Massachusetts cannabis economy.
The forum features Sean Collins, executive director of the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission (CCC) and other players in the industry who will moderate or serve on panels. Panelists include Shaleen Title, a commissioner with the CCC; Keith Cooper, CEO of Revolutionary Clinics; and Rob Hunt, founder of Shingle Hill, a cannabis business consultant
To purchase tickets and for more information, go to https://www.eventbrite.com/e/massachusetts-expanding-cannabis-economy-tickets-45934798218 or call 617-992-8253
QUOTABLE QUOTES – Bumper Sticker Edition – Bumper stickers seen around the Statehouse and around the state.
Any functioning adult 2020
A liberal is a person who will give away everything he doesn’t own
Actually, guns DO kill people
I thought socialism made sense. And then I turned nine
Think outside the FOX
Think. It’s not illegal (yet)
He won so shut up and get over it.
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 June 4-8, the House met for a total of five hours and 23 minutes while the Senate met for a total of 13 hours and 13 minutes.
Mon. June 4 House 11:03 a.m. to 11:37 a.m.
Senate 11:16 a.m. to 5:12 p.m.
Tues. June 5 No House session.
Senate 11:12 a.m. to 11:36 a.m.
Wed. June 6 House 11:01 a.m. to 3:42 p.m.
Senate 11:18 a.m. to 2:29 p.m.
Thurs. June 7 House 11:03 a.m. to 11:11 a.m.
Senate 11:13 a.m. to 3:19 p.m.
Fri. June 8 No House session
No Senate session
Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org