Beacon Hill Roll Call Volume 43 -Report No. 26 June 25-29, 2018

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 18-22.


House 133-15, Senate 36-1, approved and sent to Gov. Charlie Baker the conference committee version of the 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.

“I sleep well at night knowing this bill continues to ensure that Massachusetts is doing everything it can to lead the nation with common sense gun legislation that we know will save lives,” said Rep. Marjorie Decker (D-Cambridge), the sponsor of the bill.

“Disappointingly, this bill did not address the issue of mental health,” said Rep. Shaunna O’Connell (R-Taunton). “This overly vague bill not only strips people of their civil rights, but it gives the public a false sense of security. More worrisome is that this legislation grants more authority to judges at a time we are learning there needs to be accountability for judges and their sentencing. We need to protect the public while protecting our rights as an individual.”

”We have continued to be a leader in the nation in preventing gun violence and enhancing the quality of life in the commonwealth,” said Rep. Hal Naughton (D-Clinton). “This legislation provides a tool for families to protect loved ones from harming themselves or others by preventing them from accessing a firearm in a crisis. I believe we have also managed to strike a critical balance between public safety and due process.”

“There is nothing in this bill that is about protecting the children or going after ‘extreme risk’ individuals, said Sen. Dean Tran (R-Fitchburg). “Rather it provides a way for frivolous petitions filed against law abiding firearm owners and not holding false accusers accountable. This bill can ruin an innocent person’s life and no one would be held responsible.”

(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 Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes


House 137-14, approved and sent to the Senate a bill prohibiting psychiatrists, psychologists and other health care providers from attempting to change the sexual orientation or gender identity of anyone under 18. Conversion therapy exposes the person to a stimulus while simultaneously subjecting him or her to some form of discomfort.

“The idea of conversion therapy is that there is something wrong with being LGBTQ, and that a licensed medical professional can eliminate those feelings through practices like hypnosis, aversive conditioning or inducing nausea,” said Rep. Jeffrey Sanchez (D-Boston). “The reality of the matter is that it has been proven ineffective, is contrary to medical research, and subjects young people to the risk of suicide and other serious psychological harms. We should validate our youth for who they are, and not try to shame them by subjecting them to harmful therapies and antiquated social norms.”

The Massachusetts Family Institute (MFI) opposed the bill and any laws that restrict the ability of licensed counselors to help clients make personal life changes related to their sexuality or identity. “Denial of treatment options for children undermines their dignity and integrity,” MFI’s president Andrew Beckwith said. “The freedom for parents to seek and decide what counseling is best for their child, without interference from politicians, is a basic liberty that must be upheld.”

“Junk science has no place masquerading as mental health, said Grace Sterling Stowell, Executive Director of the Boston Alliance of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Youth (BAGLY). Stowell continued, “The House’s definitive rejection of the dangerous and discredited practice of ‘conversion therapy’ for minors is an important step forward in the legislative process of protecting LGBTQ youth and their families. BAGLY is proud to be a member of the coalition advocating for this legislation.”

“ I agree with banning aversion therapies that involve uncomfortable or painful stimuli to attempt to modify behaviors, but this bill outlaws all therapies, including doctor-to-patient discussions, that could lead to a patient’s change in in gender identity, said Rep. Randy Hunt (R-Sandwich). “In my opinion, that is unconstitutional according to a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision.

(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


House 131-20, approved and sent to the Senate a bill that would automatically register to vote a person who fills out an application with the Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) or MassHealth, unless the person opts out. Officials at the RMV and MassHealth would be required to explain to each person that the transaction automatically registers them to vote, unless they opt out; and also inform them that non-citizens are ineligible to vote.

Supporters said an estimated 680,000 eligible voters in the Bay State who are not registered to vote.

“Automatic Voter Registration will make voting more accurate, more secure and more available to all”, said Pam Wilmot, Executive Director of Common Cause Massachusetts which was part of the coalition pushing for the bill. “It’s a win for democracy, it’s a win for security, and it’s a win for voters. Utilizing existing technology to modernize the voter registration process just is basic common sense.”

“We need to preserve the integrity of our elections,” said Rep. Shaunna O’Connell (R-Taunton). “This new law is riddled with major problems from creating another unfunded mandate on cities and towns to giving felons with stolen identities the right to vote.”

(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


Senate 33-3, approved 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 or vape products.

“Kids and tobacco just don’t mix,” said Marc Hymovitz, Massachusetts director of government relations for the American Cancer Society. “Research shows that if a person does not begin smoking at a young age, they are much less likely to ever smoke. In fact, 95 percent of adults who smoke started smoking before the age of 21 and nearly all of them started by age 26.”

Sen. Don Humason (R-Westfield) said he opposes the bill because it takes away personal freedom and individual responsibility. He revealed that he has never smoked cigarettes or marijuana or vaped. He said he doesn’t think people should do any of those three things but that he has a hard time when the government tries to tell adults what they can and cannot do. He said the government should provide information to help people make a decision on these matters.

“Massachusetts is poised to be the 6th state in the nation to enact legislation to raise the age of sale of tobacco products to 21,” said Jeff Seyler, Chief Division Officer of the American Lung Association. “This bill will not only protect our young people from beginning a dangerous addiction to tobacco, but it includes safeguards for public health by restricting the use of e-cigarettes and the public’s exposure to e-cigarette emissions.”

The House has approved a different version of the bill and the Senate bill now goes to House for consideration.

(A “Yes” vote is for the bill. A “No” vote is against it.)

Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes

GENDER X (S 2562)

Senate 36-1, approved and sent to the House a bill which allows the applicant on an application for a driver’s license, learner’s permit, identification card or liquor purchase identification card to designate “X” for gender, instead of male or female.

Supporters said several states including California, Oregon and Maine currently have this civil rights law that allows people to be themselves. They noted that currently a person who is non-binary or gender-fluid has no choice and must check off male or female.

“Drivers’ licenses and other forms of ID are legal documents intended to reflect objective facts, like height, date of birth, current address, and sex,” said MFI’s president Andrew Beckwith. “They are not designed to be tools for the fulfillment of someone’s sexual expression. I’m sure there are plenty of people who would rather not have their true height or age listed on their license, but that’s irrelevant. I may desire to be 6’5” or identify as a 25-year-old but I’m 6 feet zero and 41 years old, and that’s what goes on my driver’s license.”

Beacon Hill Roll Call asked Sen. Don Humason (R-Westfield), the lone opponent of the bill, why he voted against it. Humason did not respond.

(A “Yes” vote is for the bill. A “No” vote is against it).

Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes


Senate 37-0, approved and sent to the House a bill that would require the Registrar of Motor Vehicles to create a process for a person who is homeless or is an unaccompanied homeless youth under 24 years old to apply for a Massachusetts identification card at no cost. The applicant would be required to prove his status and submit proof of residency by documenting that he or she receives services from a state or private agency.

Under current law, a person who is looking to obtain a Bay State ID card must provide a proof of residence – a task that is nearly impossible for a homeless person.

Supporters said that the homeless face huge obstacles to receiving an ID card and noted this would make it easier for them. They said currently eight states have taken this important step in the battle against homelessness and noted that some human service providers estimate that half of their clients lack ID cards.

“People experiencing homelessness encounter countless barriers, trials and challenges in their daily lives, and for youth especially, access to simple educational and economic opportunities is often barred by the lack of official identification,” said Sen. Jason Lewis (D-Winchester). “I’m proud to co-sponsor this legislation, which takes straightforward, concrete steps to improve access to state services for homeless youth.”

(A “Yes” vote is for the bill).

Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes


RAISE MINIMUM WAGE, FAMILY AND MEDICAL LEAVE AND SALES TAX HOLIDAY (H 4640) – Gov. Charlie Baker signed into law a bill that would hike the minimum wage from $11 to $15 over five years; increase the wage for tipped workers from $3.75 to $6.75 over five years; phase out over five years extra pay for employees who work on Sundays and holidays; institute a permanent sales tax holiday on a weekend every August; and establish a $1 billion family and medical leave program funded by a payroll tax paid for by both employers and employees.

Dubbed the “Grand Bargain Bill” by some supporters and “Grand Theft Bill” by some opponents, the compromise is in response to the likely successful effort by the Raise Up Massachusetts coalition to get the minimum wage and paid leave questions on the November ballot; and the likely success of the Retailers Association of Massachusetts (RAM) to get a question on the ballot to reduce the sales tax from 6.25 percent to 5 percent.

Raise Up Massachusetts has agreed not to bring its family and medical question or minimum wage question to the ballot while RAM has agreed to drop its effort to reduce the sales tax to 5 percent.

RAM President Jon Hurst had mixed feelings about the compromise but ultimately embraced it. “The compromise legislation passed today contains very costly initiatives that will negatively impact the thousands of small business owners and their employees that RAM represents,” said Hurst. “The retail marketplace has never been more competitive, and the margins have never been smaller. The new payroll mandates passed today will significantly increase costs, resulting in businesses being less competitive, forcing some doors to close and good jobs to be lost. This is not rhetoric, but reality. At the same time, the results would be far worse had these measures gone to the ballot, and the Legislature deserves credit for bringing the parties together to bring a balanced resolution.”

Meanwhile, critics of the compromise say that RAM was able to extract compromises from Raise Up by using the sales tax cut as a bargaining chip. The Supreme Judicial Court had just ruled that a proposed ballot question imposing an additional 4 percent income tax on taxpayers’ earnings of more than $1 million cannot go on the November 2018 ballot. Supporters of that measure saw millions of tax dollars lost as a result of the decision and said that reducing the sales tax would cause a fiscal crisis and require cutbacks of many programs.

“I am thankful that all parties came together, compromised and found common ground to produce a better set of policies than what the ballot questions represented,” said Gov. Charlie Baker. “The Massachusetts workforce continues to grow with more and more people finding jobs and our administration is committed to maintaining the Commonwealth’s competitive economic environment.”

“I fundamentally disagree with the premise that we have to give up some workers’ rights in order to gain new workers’ rights,” said Sen. Kathleen O’Connor-Ives (D-Newburyport).

“Regardless of what happens in Washington D.C., this law demonstrates that in Massachusetts we can come together to create policies which benefit working families, employers, and the commonwealth as a whole,” said Rep. Paul Brodeur (D-Melrose). “While this process took months, I am proud that this law strikes the right balance in delivering improved wages and expanded benefits for millions of hard working residents while providing key protections for small businesses.”

“Gov. Baker can try to spin this so-called ‘grand bargain’ any way he wishes, but a new $800 million payroll tax is a huge new tax,” said Chip Ford, executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation. “Unfortunately for taxpayers, Charlie Baker is the best Democrat we can hope to elect from the field running for governor. He’s not as conservative as Democrat Ed King was, but he’s head and shoulders above Mike Dukakis.”

UPDATE ON BALLOT QUESTION – AND THEN THERE WAS ONE (MAYBE THREE) – It started months ago with dozens of questions being submitted for possible inclusion on the November 2018 ballot. Only seven were certified as qualified questions, collected sufficient signatures in the first round, made it through all the obstacles and had one more step to get on the ballot – gathering another 10,792 signatures.

Now the dust has settled and only one question will definitely be on the ballot and two others might appear if supporters collect enough signatures.

Here’s the status of the Final Seven:

REPEAL TRANSGENDER RIGHTS (Definitely on ballot) – Repeals the new law that prohibits discrimination against transgender people in public accommodations by adding “gender identity” to existing Massachusetts law which already prohibits discrimination in public accommodations on the basis of age, race, creed, color, national origin, sexual orientation, sex, religion and marital status.

LIMIT THE NUMBER OF PATIENTS PER NURSE (Possibly on ballot if enough signatures are collected) – Limits how many patients can be assigned to each registered nurse in Massachusetts hospitals and certain other healthcare facilities. The maximum number of patients per registered nurse would vary by type of unit and level of care.

CORPORATE CAMPAIGN DONATIONS (Possibly on ballot if enough signatures are collected) – Creates a citizens’ commission to consider and recommend potential amendments to the U.S. Constitution to establish that corporations do not have the same constitutional rights as human beings and that corporations’ campaign contributions and expenditures may be regulated.

The proposal is in response to the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United v. the Federal Election Commission. In that decision, the court ruled that the First Amendment prohibits the government from restricting corporations, unions and individuals from donating unlimited funds to Super Political Action Committees (PACs) that do not donate directly to candidates or political parties.

HIKE MINIMUM WAGE (Not on the ballot) – Increases the minimum hourly wage from $11 per hour to $12 in 2019, $13 in 2020, $14 in 2021 and $15 in 2022.

FAMILY AND MEDICAL LEAVE (Not on the ballot) – Creates a program to provide paid family and medical leave to Massachusetts workers.

REDUCE SALES TAX TO 5 PERCENT AND ESTABLISH A PERMANENT SALES TAX HOLIDAY (Not on the ballot) – Reduces the state’s sale tax from 6.25 percent to 5 percent and at the same time establishes an annual two-day permanent sales tax holiday in August that allows consumers to buy most products that cost under $2,500 without paying the sales tax.

4 PERCENT TAX HIKE ON MILLIONAIRES (Not on the ballot) – Amends the state constitution to allow a graduated income tax in Massachusetts and impose an additional 4 percent income tax, in addition to the current flat 5.10 percent tax, on taxpayers’ earnings of more than $1 million.

In the 2016 election, only four questions ultimately made it to the ballot. Only two of those were approved by voters and are law today. One legalized the possession, growing and sale of marijuana. The other one prohibited any farmers from confining any pigs, calves or hens in a way that prevents the animal from lying down, standing up, fully extending its limbs or turning around freely.

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 25-29, the House met for a total of 12 hours and 42 minutes while the Senate met for a total of ten hours and one minute.

Mon. June 25 House 11:01 a.m. to 1:08 p.m.

Senate 11:05 a.m. to 4:22 p.m.

Tues. June 26 No House session

No Senate session

Wed. June 27 House 11:04 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

No Senate session

Thurs. June 28 House 11:00 a.m. to 3:39 p.m.

Senate 11:07 a.m. to 4:01 p.m.

Fri. June 29 No House session

No Senate session

Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at

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