Beacon Hill Roll Call Volume 43 – Report No. 32 August 6-10, 2018

By Bob Katzen

THE HOUSE AND SENATE. Beacon Hill Roll Call records local senators and representatives’ votes on recent roll calls.

A note to readers from Bob Katzen, Publisher of Beacon Hill Roll Call:

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The Almanac should be subtitled “Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about State Government and its ‘Cast of Characters,’ And MORE!” It includes hundreds of pages of profiles of and key facts about thousands of people on Beacon Hill from Gov. Charlie Baker, his cabinet secretaries and other key executive branch officials to the state’s 200 legislators, judges, U.S. senators, congressmen, congresswomen and other key players who make decisions every day that affect your life. You’ll also have access to state senators and representatives’ key votes and each legislator’s rating by public policy groups (AKA lobbyists) including the Mass Fiscal Alliance, MASSPIRG, National Federation of Independent Businesses and Mass Audubon Society.

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CIVICS EDUCATION (S 2631)

House 151-0, Senate 37-0, approved and sent to Gov. Charlie Baker a bill that makes changes in the current law that all public schools must provide instruction in American history and civics.

Current law requires that the instruction include the Constitution of the United States, the Declaration of Independence; the Bill of Rights; the state Constitution; local history and government; a program on the correct use and display of the U.S. flag and the importance of participation in the electoral process.

The bill adds several topics that are required to be in the instruction including the function and composition of the branches of local, state and federal government; the roles and responsibilities of a citizen in a democracy; the development of skills to access, analyze and evaluate written and digital media as it relates to history and civics; community diversity and historical trends in voter registration; civic participation relative to disenfranchised voter populations; opportunities to identify and debate issues relative to power, economic status and the common good in democracy.

Other provisions include requiring each public school serving grades eight to 12 to provide at least one student-led civics project for each student; creation of a Civics Project Trust Fund to help further civics education; and requiring the state to provide information to cities and promote youth membership on municipal boards, committees and commissions.

The bill does not include language that the Senate had approved making it mandatory beginning in 2021 that all students complete one student-led civics project after 8th grade in order to graduate.

Education Committee House chair Rep. Alice Peisch (D-Wellesley) said the bill incentivizes the robust implementation of the new civics, history and social science curriculum framework. “It also creates a Civics Project Trust Fund to assist with professional development, collaboration with institutions of higher education and other stakeholder organizations and the creation of a competitive evaluation of student-led civics project for all eighth graders,” Peisch concluded.

Gov. Baker proposed amendments that he said would improve the bill.

“We must be thoughtful as to how we approach the instruction of civics, always ensuring in our classrooms that differing points of view are afforded impartial consideration,” said Baker. “When opposing positions are raised, our students should be expected to engage in a civil discourse that is both appropriate and respectful.”

Baker continued, “While we want to encourage the development of critical reasoning skills, we would never want students to feel forced to engage in student-led civic projects in the public sphere that advance positions contrary to their personal convictions. Schools, therefore, must make alternative opportunities readily available.”

(A “Yes” vote is for the bill.)

Rep. Christine Barber Yes Rep. Mike Connolly Yes Rep. Denise Provost Yes Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes

ANIMAL PROTECTION (S 2646)

House 151-0, Senate 37-0, approved and the governor signed into law legislation designed to protect cats and dogs. Provisions double the hit and run penalty for an accident involving cats and dogs; permit animal abuse to be reported by Department of Children and Families, the Department of Elder Affairs and Disabled Persons Protection Commission employees; and add animal control officers as mandatory reporters of child abuse, elder abuse and abuse against disabled persons.

Other provisions require property owners and landlords to check their property for abandoned animals within three days following a foreclosure or termination of tenancy; prohibit the drowning of animals; remove the automatic killing of animals involved in animal fighting and instead provides that animals be evaluated individually for adoption if appropriate.

“Our commitment towards ending the cruel and inhumane treatment of innocent animals is steadfast, and with this legislation we have taken significant action to protect their safety and welfare,” said Sen. Mark Montigny (D-New Bedford), co-sponsor of the original bill. “There is zero tolerance for such despicable brutality.”

(A “Yes” vote is for the bill.)

Rep. Christine Barber Yes Rep. Mike Connolly Yes Rep. Denise Provost Yes Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes

CLEAN ENERGY (H 4857)

House 150-1, Senate 36-0, approved and Gov. Baker signed into law a clean energy bill that increases the renewable portfolio standard (RPS) by 1 percent until the end of 2019, then by 2 percent each year until the end of 2029, and then back to 1 percent indefinitely. The RPS governs the amount of clean energy that utilities must purchase and integrate into the state’s energy system.

Other provisions institute a Clean Peak Standard to pair energy storage with renewable energy in order to make renewable energy available during the most expensive and highest-emitting hours of electricity consumption; require gas utility companies to report annually to the Department of Public Utilities the company’s lost and unaccounted for gas; and establish an energy storage target of 1000 megawatt hours to be achieved by December 31, 2025.

Rep. Tom Golden (D-Lowell), House Chairman of the Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities, and Energy said the bill builds off of last session’s important work of finding affordable solutions to diversify the state’s energy portfolio with large-scale hydropower, offshore wind and energy storage. “I am particularly proud of the forward-looking measures on energy storage, which include resiliency measures to prepare the state for extreme weather events. And a first-in-the-nation program to combine storage and renewables to deliver clean power into the hours of the day when our electricity is generated by expensive and polluting resources,” concluded Golden.

“Our administration is proud of our nation-leading work on climate change and renewable energy, and we are pleased to sign the clean energy legislation which will help us meet our greenhouse gas reduction goals,” said Baker.

(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

CAP ON WELFARE BENEFIT FOR KIDS (H 4823)

House 37-114, Senate 30-7, rejected Gov. Baker’s amendments to a bill that repeals the current law that denies welfare benefits to children conceived while – or soon after – the family began receiving the benefits.

The governor’s amendments still repeal the current cap but would also count adult Supplemental Security Income (SSI) when determining a family’s eligibility for the Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children (TAFDC) program.

Gov. Baker said that this change would align TAFDC with the current eligibility requirements for federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and would treat SSI income the same as income like veteran benefits, retirement income and disability insurance benefits that are already counted in determining a family’s eligibility and benefit level.

“Eliminating the cap without other accompanying changes could have the perverse effect of reducing incentives for TAFDC recipients to get back to work and cause existing inequities in the TAFDC program to persist and expand,” said Baker.

Supporters of the repeal said the law currently denies an estimated 8,700 children in poverty across the state $100 per month in benefits and a clothing allowance of $300 per year. They argued the governor’s amendment would cut benefits for thousands of children with a severely disabled parent.

“We are extremely disappointed that Gov. Baker is holding hostage thousands of children excluded by the Cap on Kids in order to cut benefits for thousands of children with a severely disabled parent,” said Deborah Harris of the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute and Naomi Meyer of Greater Boston Legal Services in a joint statement. “The welfare family cap is an ineffective policy that harms children and families and does not reflect the values of the commonwealth. The governor’s amendment is an underhanded maneuver that pits one group of vulnerable children against another.”

The House and Senate sent the bill back to the governor who vetoed it. The Legislature cannot override the governor’s veto because for the rest of year both branches are holding informal sessions that will not act on the veto.

(On the House roll call, a ”Yes” vote is for the governor’s amendments. A “No” vote is against them.)

(Please note: The Senate roll call was on rejection of the amendments so a “Yes” vote is against the governor’s amendments. A “No” vote is for the amendments.)

Rep. Christine Barber No Rep. Mike Connolly No Rep. Denise Provost No Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes

FIRE AND POLICE SMOKING (S 1386)

Senate approved 37-0, House approved on a voice vote without a roll call and the governor signed into law an amendment to the 1988 law that prohibits police officers and firefighters from using any tobacco products and results in the automatic firing of anyone who violates the policy. The bill would amend the law to allow a first-time offender to remain on the force if he or she enters a smoking cessation program. If the officer violates the law a second time, he or she would be automatically fired.

Sen. Mike Brady (D-Brockton), the sponsor of the bill, was asked to file this legislation by a constituent. “I have spoken to several public safety personnel about this,” said Brady. “There have been employees that have been terminated in the past. I believe this is a common-sense approach to give those that put their lives on the line every day a second chance.”

(A “Yes” vote is for the bill that gives a second chance.)

Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes

ALSO UP ON BEACON HILL

Gov. Baker signed into law several other pieces of legislation last week including:

SALES TAX HOLIDAY (H 4732) – Allows consumers to buy most products that cost under $2,500 on Saturday, August 11 and Sunday, August 12 without paying the state’s 6.25 percent sales tax.

OPIOIDS (H 4866) – Aimed at combatting the opioid problem in the Bay State by addressing opioid addiction, prevention and treatment.

The measure establishes a statewide standing order for Narcan, expanding access to this opioid overdose-reversing drug without an individual prescription; establishes a statewide program to provide remote consultations with primary care practices, nurse practitioners and other healthcare providers for persons over the age of 17 experiencing chronic pain; establishes a community-based behavioral health promotion and prevention trust fund to promote positive mental, emotional and behavioral health among children and young adults and to prevent substance use disorders among children and young adults; and establishes a center for police training in crisis intervention to serve as a clearinghouse for best practices in police response to people with mental illness and substance use disorders.

Other provisions require most prescriptions for controlled substances be provided electronically; permit a patient to partially fill a prescription for a schedule II substance and return to the original dispensing pharmacy for the remaining amount of the prescription and prohibit the use of drug coupons for opiate drugs.

“The Massachusetts Legislature has been steadfast and unwavering in the face of the relentless disease of addiction,” said Rep. Denise Garlick (D-Needham), House Chair of the Committee on Mental Health, Substance Use and Recovery. “This disease is a reality that people face every single day, but we are pouring our best expertise and resources into this fight,” “We are in this for the long haul and we are not backing down – we are in this battle together to save lives.”

“Through collaboration with the Legislature and several stakeholders, this legislation will increase access to treatment and recovery services like recovery coaches and help us continue to reduce the number of opioid prescriptions that too often result in a deadly addiction,” said Gov. Baker.

AUTOMATIC VOTER REGISTRATION (H 4667)

Automatically registers 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.

“We are thrilled with the legislation,” said Pam Wilmot, Executive Director of Common Cause Massachusetts, which was part of the coalition pushing for the bill. “It is one of the strongest in the country and will make our voter registrations system more efficient, accurate, and secure while at the same time improving voter participation. In these times, all of these goals are particularly important.”

“The FBI just arrested dozens of illegal immigrants who easily obtained Mass driver’s licenses with stolen identities,” said Rep. Shaunna O’Connell (R-Taunton). “Under this law, those felons would be automatically registered to vote. Furthermore, this law creates a burdensome unfunded mandate on cities and towns.”

ALZHEIMER’S (H 4817) – Requires the Executive Office of Health and Human Services to conduct an assessment of all state programs that address Alzheimer’s disease and to create and maintain an integrated state plan to address and assist in the treatment of Alzheimer’s.

The measure requires doctors, physician assistants and nurses to complete a onetime course of training and education on the diagnosis, treatment and care of patients with Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and other cognitive impairments.

The goal is to accelerate the development of treatments that would prevent, halt or reverse the course of Alzheimer’s disease; coordinate the health care and treatment of individuals with the disease; and ensure the assessment includes ethnic and racial populations who have a higher risk for Alzheimer’s, with the goal of decreasing health disparities in the diagnosis and treatment of the disease.

“I am immensely proud that Massachusetts has passed a first in the nation, comprehensive piece of legislation that will require medical professionals and elder services agents to have requisite training,” said Rep. Danielle Gregoire (D-Marlborough), the author of the bill. “And with the passage of this legislation we create a state plan, and an advisory council so as the rate of Massachusetts residents with Alzheimer’s continues to grow, we can continue to address their ever-changing needs.”

“Almost everyone we meet these days has a personal connection to Alzheimer’s,” said Barbara L’Italien (D-Andover), the Senate chair of the Committee on Elder Affairs whose mother Claire Sullivan L’Italien died from Alzheimer’s last April. “Thousands of seniors and many younger adults suffer from the disease across our commonwealth. For me it was my mom, who lived in our home with us for seven of the last ten years of her life as she struggled with Alzheimer’s. Navigating her diagnosis and care taught me just how difficult it can be even for the most informed families.”

“This new law is a result of great collaboration among legislators, hospitals, advocates, and doctors and years of hard work,” continued L’Italien. “It will make a huge difference in the lives of the growing number of families struggling to understand and navigate life with dementia. Today, we are making Massachusetts a national leader for those families.”

$2.2 BILLION FOR CLIMATE ADAPTATION AND ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION (H 4835) – Allows the state to borrow up to $2.2 billion for climate change adaptation, environmental and natural resource protection and investment in recreational assets.

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 ultimately decides which projects are affordable and actually get funded, but it cannot fund most of them because the governor’s office is also required to adhere to the state’s annual bond borrowing cap.

Provisions include $105 million for dam and flood control projects; $160 million for roads and bridges; $60 million for the Massachusetts Clean Water Trust to improve water by providing low-interest loans to municipalities; $45 million for hazardous waste cleanup; and $15 million for the Electric Vehicle Incentive Program that gives grants to cities and towns, state agencies, and state universities to purchase electric vehicles and install charging station.

“By signing the environmental bond bill, our administration can make strategic investments in climate resiliency and environmental protection across the commonwealth and provide communities with the tools they need at the local level,” said Gov. Baker.

“Over the last month or so, the House has approved nearly $10 billion in bond spending,” said Rep. Marc Lombardo (R-Billerica). “We are already at the top of the list for states with the highest debt per capita. We can’t continue to saddle our children with enormous debt.”

BENEFITS AND SERVICES FOR VETERANS (H 4525) – Expands benefits and increases access to a range of services for veterans, active-duty military personnel and their families. Provisions include reducing from five years to two years the residency period required for some veteran’s property tax exemptions; increasing coverage for funeral expenses for indigent veterans from $2,000 to $4,000; allowing cities and towns to designate a reserved parking space for veterans at city and town halls; and waiving certain training requirements for EMT certification for military trained medical professionals.

“We met with many different parties to ensure that our veterans would be receiving the best treatment possible.” said Rep. John Lawn (D-Watertown), the House chair of the Committee on Veterans and Federal Affairs. “This bill aims to continue to keep Massachusetts as the nation’s leader in veterans’ benefits.”

QUOTABLE QUOTES

“The longer these 3D-printed gun files are available online, the greater the risk they will fall into the hands of terrorists and violent criminals. The Trump Administration is responsible for this public safety threat and must act immediately to remove these files from the internet.”

Attorney General Maura Healey and 22 state attorneys general in a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions demanding that the Department of State take immediate action to remove from several websites downloadable plans for 3D-printed guns that were illegally posted online.

“I’m going to be really, really careful because I do not want to see this on the front page of the paper about exactly when a final license is going to be issued because I am not making a forecast about that.”

Steven Hoffman Chairman of the Cannabis Control Commission on when the first license for the retail sale of marijuana will be approved.

“Never know what Mother Nature will do … lightning strike Wednesday. But we are all OK. That’s the only thing that matters. Big thanks to Ashland’s Finest You are the best!”

Senate President Karen Spilka (D-Ashland) tweeting that her home suffered some damage last week when it was hit by a bolt of lightning.

“When adults ages 21 and older decide to use cannabis, they must educate themselves about the consequences of impaired driving. We’ve heard time and time again the messages about impaired driving with alcohol and the same remains true about the messages about impaired driving with cannabis.”

Cannabis Control Commissioner Jennifer Flanagan on the state’s launching of a public awareness campaign to urge drivers to find alternate transportation if they have been drinking or using marijuana.

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 August 6-10, the House met for a total of 41 minutes while the Senate met for a total of 33 minutes.

Mon. August 6 House 11:03 a.m. to 11:17 a.m.

Senate 11:14 a.m. to 11:25 a.m.

Tues. August 7 No House session.

No Senate session

Wed. August 8 No House session.

No Senate session

Thurs. August 9 House 11:00 a.m. to 11:27 a.m.

Senate 11:11 a.m. to 11:33 a.m.

Fri. August 10 No House session

No Senate session

Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at bob@beaconhillrollcall.com

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