By Bob Katzen
THE HOUSE AND SENATE. Beacon Hill Roll Call records local senators and representatives’ votes on roll calls from recent sessions. There were no roll calls in the House or Senate last week.
A note to readers from Bob Katzen, Publisher of Beacon Hill Roll Call:
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ALLOW TALK THERAPY TO ATTEMPT TO CONVERT SEXUAL ORIENTATION (H 4664)
House 34-116, rejected an amendment to 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 uses shock therapy and exposes the person to a stimulus while simultaneously subjecting him or her to a shock or some form of discomfort.
The amendment would still ban shock therapy but would also allow the provider to “utilize speech alone to assist patient in achieving his or her desired sexual orientation or gender identity.”
“I agree that aversive therapy should be eliminated,” said Rep. Jim Lyons (R-Andover), the sponsor of the amendment. “However, the bill as presented is a direct violation of both First Amendment rights and parental rights.”
Rep. Marc Lombardo (R-Billerica) said that the U.S. Supreme Court, in a recent case ruled that “professional speech” is free speech and can’t be restricted.”
Opponents said the bill is constitutional. They argued the bill does not limit free speech but simply limits an unrecognized medical practice.
(A “Yes” vote is for the amendment allowing talk therapy. A “No” vote is against it.)
Rep. Christine Barber No Rep. Mike Connolly No Rep. Denise Provost No
EARLY EDUCATION (H 4665)
House 151-0, approved and sent to the Senate a bill designed to improve early childhood education. The legislation would establish an early childhood mental health consultation grant program to provide consultation services to meet the behavioral health needs of children in early education and care programs. It also creates a scholarship program for early childhood educators to cover the cost of their education including tuition and fees. These programs have been temporarily created annually as part of the state budget for several years, but the bill would make the programs permanent.
The proposal also requires the Department of Early Education and Care to review the subsidized rate structure on a regular basis to ensure it is adequate to deliver high-quality early education.
“High quality early education has been shown to be very effective in closing the achievement gap between those with resources and those without,” said Rep. Alice Peisch (D-Wellesley), the chair of the Education Committee and the original sponsor of the bill. “Each component of this bill is designed to support improved quality in licensed early education programs in the commonwealth. The legislation builds on efforts over the past few years through the budget to stabilize the early education workforce through increased rates for providers and supports to address the challenging situations that even our youngest children encounter.”
(A “Yes” vote is for the bill.)
Rep. Christine Barber Yes Rep. Mike Connolly Yes Rep. Denise Provost Yes
BAN TOXIC FLAME RETARDANTS (S 2555)
Senate 37-0, approved and sent to the House a bill that would ban ten toxic flame retardants from children’s products, bedding, carpeting and residential upholstered furniture sold or manufactured in Massachusetts, except for inventory already manufactured prior to January 1, 2019. Another provision requires the Department of Environmental Protection to review, at least every three years, chemical flame retardants used in these products and include them on the list of prohibited chemical flame retardants that are documented to pose a health risk.
Vehicles, watercraft and aircraft are exempt from this law as are any previously owned product that contains a retardant. Violators would be fined up to $1,000 for a first offense and up to $5,000 for subsequent offenses.
Supporters explained that since 1975, manufacturers have added chemical flame retardants to a wide array of household items including products with polyurethane foam, such as sofas, car seats, strollers and nap mats. They are also incorporated into electronic products and building insulation.
They argued that the retardants, while well-intentioned, do more harm than good and have been linked to an increased risk of cancer, fertility problems, neurological disorders and other major health concerns.
“I first filed this legislation several sessions ago, after I read about the negative health consequences from foam furniture and home products like mattresses, rug pads and children’s plush toys laced with dangerous flame retardants,” said the bill’s sponsor Sen. Cindy Creem (D-Newton). “As the chemicals turn into household dust, they pose a risk particularly for small children and animals. When I refiled the bill, firefighter organizations became strong supporters because they have an even greater health risk from inhaling burning and smoldering toxics. I want to make homes safer and toxin-free to protect the next generation and our first responders now.”
(A “Yes” vote is for the bill.)
Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes
ROAD SAFETY (S 2570)
Senate 37-0, approved and sent to the House a bill designed to make roads safer and decrease the number of fatalities.
The proposal requires bicyclists at night to use both a red rear light and a red rear reflector. Current law requires only a red light or a red reflector. Current law and the new law both require a white light in the front.
The bill classifies several groups, including pedestrians, utility workers, first responders and cyclists, as “vulnerable road users.”
The measure requires the operator of a motor vehicle that is passing a vulnerable user to maintain a distance of at least three feet when traveling at 30 miles per hour or less and an additional foot of space for every ten miles per hour above 30 miles per hour. Current law only requires motor vehicle operators to pass at “a safe distance and at a reasonable and proper speed.”
Another provision requires a vehicle that is overtaking a vulnerable user or other vehicle to use all or part of an adjacent lane, crossing the centerline if necessary, when it cannot pass at a safe distance in the same lane and only when it is safe to do so.
The legislation also requires certain large vehicles or trailers that are purchased or leased by the state after January 1, 2019 to be equipped with lateral protective devices, convex mirrors and cross-over mirrors.
“We need to keep working year after year to achieve a future in which traffic fatalities get as close as possible to zero,” said Sen. Will Brownsberger (D-Belmont), lead sponsor of the bill in the Senate. “This bill will help us move in the right direction.”
“We have seen too many unnecessary and completely preventable fatalities on our roads,” said Galen Mook, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Bicycle Coalition. “Though we have not yet finished our work, this bill goes a long way toward the goal of zero deaths on our streets.”
(A “Yes” vote is for the bill.)
Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes
ALSO UP ON BEACON HILL
GOVERNOR SIGNS “RED FLAG” GUN BILL (H 4670) – Gov. Charlie Baker signed into law the bill that allows 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.
“Massachusetts continues to lead the nation with the lowest gun fatality rates and the most sensible gun laws,” said Rep. Marjorie Decker (D-Cambridge), the sponsor of the bill. “This is yet one more step in ensuring that people have an additional avenue to help protect themselves and their family members when harm is apparent and imminent.”
“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.”
“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,” said Rep. Hal Naughton (D-Clinton). “I believe we have managed to strike a critical balance between public safety and due process. I am incredibly proud to have been able to play a small part in crafting a policy that I firmly believe will save lives.”
The Gun Owner’s Action League (GOAL) called the governor “Anti Freedom Baker.” “Reminder, in addition to signing a bill which revokes due process only for licensed gun owners, Gov. Baker will also be authorizing regulation of stun guns,” the group tweeted. “These are sold over the counter in a vast majority of countries with no issues.”
DECAL FOR DRIVERS ON LEARNER’S PERMIT (H 2761) – The House approved and sent to the Senate a bill that would require two copies of a highly-reflective decal or other symbol to be clearly visible to law enforcement officers on the window of any vehicle being operated by a driver with a learner’s permit or a junior operator’s license. The size, fee and other details would be determined by the Registry of Motor Vehicles. A violation of the requirement would result in a fine of up to $50.
“A few years ago, a constituent approached me regarding a proposal for an automotive decal which would indicate that the driver of a vehicle is the holder of a learner’s permit,” said Rep. RoseLee Vincent (D-Revere), co-sponsor of the bill. “He came up with the idea when his son was learning to drive. Other drivers would constantly beep, and were very impatient with him, which caused the young motorist to become nervous and mishandle the car. My constituent felt that if there was an official sticker from the Registry of Motor Vehicles identifying a new driver, others on the road may be more considerate.”
“With so many drivers on our roads today, hopefully having a decal that would alert people to student drivers will alleviate road rage, and maybe even save a life,” echoed co-sponsor Rep. Donald Wong (D-Saugus).
Some opponents say the bill is a solution in search of a problem that doesn’t exist. They note that families with more than one car would have to get two decals for each car and note that if a permanent decal is used, experienced drivers would often be driving the car with the decal and be mistaken for a novice behind the wheel. They argue that some motorists might pass student drivers illegally on a double yellow line to avoid being stuck behind someone learning to drive.
EQUAL PAY – The new law to strengthen the Bay State’s pay equity law by closing the wage gap between men and women doing the same job went into effect at the beginning of July. The new law, approved by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Baker almost two years ago in August 2016, requires that women be paid equal pay for comparable work unless the variation is based upon mitigating factors including seniority, a system that measures earnings by quantity or quality of production, sales or revenue and education, training or experience.
The new law establishes pay transparency, prohibits screening of prospective employees based on salary history, requires fairness in hiring practices and increases fines for violations. Other provisions prohibit employers from reducing salaries in order to comply with the new law and from preventing employees from talking about their salaries.
Supporters note that women comprise 50 percent of the workforce yet make only 80 cents for every dollar earned by men.
“I am pleased now that the law is fully in effect and that employers in Massachusetts can no longer ask employees about salary history — the first such ban of its kind in the United States — and that companies are now incentivized to evaluate their salary structure and fix issues prior to facing a lawsuit,” said House sponsor Rep. Jay Livingstone (D-Boston). “I am hopeful that the gender wage gap will close at a much faster rate so that people will earn what they deserve.”
“We are very happy that many companies are responding to the law by auditing their pay policies and adjusting pay scales to ensure equity,” said Senate sponsor Sen. Pat Jehlen (D-Somerville). “And the ban on asking for pay history is now being adopted in other states. The next step is to raise the pay of skilled but underpaid workers in traditionally ‘women’s’ jobs, like caring for children, elders and people with disabilities, as well as tipped workers.”
“There should never be a tax on speech and assembly. The event organizers and American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) alike are concerned about the impact of the city’s practices on the exercise of free speech of all who seek permits for the Cambridge Common and other public parks.”
Ruth Bourquin, senior attorney at the ACLU of Massachusetts, on the ACLU’s lawsuit challenging Cambridge’s policy of charging event organizers for public safety services as a condition for granting permits for rallies and demonstrations in Cambridge parks.
“Across the commonwealth, districts and teachers have welcomed students impacted by these hurricanes to our classrooms so they can continue getting a good education with minimal disruptions.”
Gov. Baker announcing that an additional $8.2 million in state education funds is being released to school districts that enrolled students who evacuated from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
“Not only will an increase in renewable energy diversify our energy mix which will help make our businesses more resilient to extreme weather and less vulnerable to electricity price hikes, but it will also send the right market signal to clean energy industries, such as solar, energy storage and offshore wind, that the commonwealth is the place to invest.”
From a letter signed by heads of 10 local chambers urging the Legislature to support an increase in the renewable portfolio standard.
“We’re very excited to be the first, and with this exciting industry ahead, we all feel it’s going to be tremendous for the commonwealth. The amount of jobs that this is going to create for the local community, especially our town, and the amount of tax revenue is going to be a huge help.”
Sam Barber, president of Cultivate Holdings in Leicester, on his company being the first to be granted a provisional license to operate as a retail marijuana shop, conditional upon additional background checks and facility inspections. He hopes to open his store in the next few weeks.
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 July 2-6, the House met for a total of 44 minutes while the Senate met for a total of one hour and 46 minutes.
Mon. July 2 House 11:02 a.m. to 11:14 a.m.
Senate 11:46 a.m. to 1:12 p.m.
Tues. July 3 House 11:02 a.m. to 11:27 a.m.
No Senate session
Wed. July 4 No House session
No Senate session
Thurs. July 5 House 11:00 a.m. to 11:07 a.m.
Senate 11:07 a.m. to 11:27 a.m.
Fri. June 6 No House session
No Senate session
Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at email@example.com