By Bob Katzen
THE HOUSE AND SENATE. There were no roll call votes in the House or Senate last week. This week, Beacon Hill Roll Call reports local representatives’ roll call attendance records for the 2018 session through September 7.
The House has held 216 roll calls in 2018. We tabulate the number of roll calls on which each representative was present and voting and then calculate that number as a percentage of the total roll call votes held. That percentage is the number referred to as the roll call attendance record.
Several quorum roll calls, used to gather a majority of members onto the House floor to conduct business, are also included in the 216 roll calls. On quorum roll calls, members simply vote “present” in order to indicate their presence in the chamber. When a representative does not indicate his or her presence on a quorum roll call, we count that as a roll call absence just like any other roll call absence.
Only 67 (43 percent) of the House’s 153 members have 100 percent roll call attendance records.
The representative who missed the most roll calls is Rep. John Velis (D-Westfield) who missed 156, (27.7 percent attendance). Rep. Velis is in the military in Afghanistan and his spokeswoman Emily Swanson told Beacon Hill Roll Call. “Since June, Rep. Velis has been and is still serving with the U.S. Army in Afghanistan and has been unable to cast any votes since his pre-departure preparation and departure. Prior to being called up for active duty, he did not miss any rolls and had a 100 percent roll call attendance record.”
Also included in the top five members who missed the most roll calls are Reps. Luis Kafka (D-Sharon) who missed 102, (31.7 percent attendance); Evandro Carvalho (D-Boston) who missed 52, (75.9 percent attendance); Cory Atkins (D-Concord) who missed 32, (85.1 percent attendance); and Bill Straus (D-Mattapoisett) who missed 31, (85.6 percent attendance).
Beacon Hill Roll Call requested a statement from those four representatives. Only one responded.
Rep. Kafka: “During the formal sessions of the House of Representatives which took place on July 27, 30, and 31 (99 roll calls), I was in Israel attending the Bar Mitzvah of my grandson.”
Rep. Carvalho: Did not respond to repeated requests for a statement.
Rep. Atkins: Did not respond to repeated requests for a statement.
Rep. Strauss: Did not respond to repeated requests for a statement.
2018 REPRESENTATIVE’S ROLL CALL ATTENDANCE RECORD THROUGH SEPTEMBER 7
The percentage listed next to the representative’s name is the percentage of roll call votes for which the representative was present and voting. The number in parentheses represents the number of roll calls that he or she missed.
Rep. Christine Barber 98.1 percent (4) Rep. Mike Connolly 100 percent (0) Rep. Denise Provost 97.6 percent (5)
ALSO UP ON BEACON HILL
VOTERS OUST SANCHEZ AND RUSHING – Last week’s primary election saw the surprise ouster of two incumbent state representatives in leadership positions. Rep. Jeff Sanchez (D-Boston) was defeated by Nika Elugardo while Byron Rushing (D-Boston) lost to Jon Santiago. Sanchez is the chair of the House Ways and Means Committee — the House’s most powerful chairmanship. Rushing is the assistant majority leader. Both are expected to remain in their posts for the remainder of 2018.
For the first time in many years, the position of Ways and Means chair is open in both the House and Senate. The Senate vacancy opened up when Senate President Karen Spilka (D-Ashland) left her chairmanship of Senate Ways and Means to become the Senate President.
Spilka appointed Sen. Joan Lovely (D-Salem) to Ways and Means chair for the remainder of 2018 but has not yet announced whether Lovely will be appointed to the post in 2019.
BAN DISCRIMINATION AGAINST UNEMPLOYED (S 1027) – Approved by the Labor and Workforce Development Committee and stuck in the Senate Ways and Means Committee since March 22, 2018 is a bill that would prohibit employers and employment agencies from discriminating against any job applicant who is currently unemployed.
Supporters say it is unfair to allow discrimination against someone who is unemployed and make it difficult for him or her to get back in the workforce. They say this goes on all the time and note that when applying online, a jobless applicant’s resume is often rejected by computer programs that screen out the unemployed.
PROPERTY TAX EXEMPTION (S 1536) – Approved by the Revenue Committee and stuck in the Senate Rules Committee since May 11, 2017 is a bill that would provide up to a $2,500 property tax exemption for taxpayers who serve as volunteer call or auxiliary firefighters and emergency medical technicians. The exemption would be available only in cities and towns that adopt this local option law.
Supporters say that cities and towns should have this option to offer something in return for the services of these important volunteers.
BAN LEAD IN CHILDREN’S JEWELRY (H 187) – The House gave initial approval on July 27, 2017 to legislation that would require all children’s jewelry sold in the Bay State to meet certain federal safety standards. The measure has been stuck in the Bills in Third Reading Committee since that day.
Supporters say a child who swallows or licks jewelry containing lead or cadmium is at high risk of developing very serious and potentially life-threatening health problems including kidney, bone and liver disease.
BILLS STUCK IN HOUSE WAYS AND MEANS COMMITTEE – Several bills that were given a favorable report by committees are stuck in the House Ways and Means Committee including:
REDUCE THE TAX ON HARD CIDER (S 1565) –Approved by the Revenue Committee and stuck in Ways and Means since May 10, 2017 is a bill that would apply the 70 cents per gallon tax only to drinks that contain more than 8.5 percent alcohol. Most hard ciders contain only up to 8 percent alcohol and would be taxed at the lower rate of 3 cents per gallon.
Supporters say current law unfairly treats and taxes hard cider at the same rate as champagne. They note the reduction will help the Bay State compete with neighboring states which have lowered the tax. They argue that the change would also put Massachusetts in line with the federal tax on hard cider.
NEW STATE SEAL AND MOTTO (H 1707) – Approved by the Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight and stuck in Ways and Means since February 12, 2018 is a bill that would create a special commission to examine the state seal and motto including those parts of it which have been controversial or misunderstood.
The commission would develop a revised version of the seal which currently includes a Native American holding a bow in one hand, an arrow in the other hand and a disembodied arm holding a sword above him. The motto is “By the sword we seek peace, but only under liberty.” The commission would determine whether the seal and motto accurately reflect and embody the historic and contemporary commitments of the commonwealth to peace, justice, liberty and equality, and to spreading the opportunities and advantages of education.”
Supporters of revisions say the current seal is politically insensitive and the bow and arrow depict violence. “I sincerely request that you consider our shared history and be cognizant of the genocidal accuracy of the symbolism that the seal in part portrays,” said John Peters, executive director of the Commission on Indian Affairs and a descendant of the Indians who met the Pilgrims in 1620. Peters testified in favor of the proposal at the hearing on the bill back in April 2017.
No one testified against the bill at the hearing but in the past supporters of the current seal have said that it is a sacred symbol. They argue that the depiction is appropriate and note that the arrow is pointing downward which is known as a Native American symbol signifying peace.
PROTECT TROPICAL RAIN FORESTS (H 1708) – Approved by the Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight and stuck in Ways and Means since February 12, 2018 is a bill that would prohibit the state from purchasing wood grown in a tropical rainforest or products made up substantially of wood grown in a tropical rain forest except when a public necessity exists, and no other alternative is available.
Supporters say rainforests continue to disappear at the alarming rate of 80,000 acres of rainforest per day. They noted that these forests are also home to 50 percent of the world’s species and to many natural, historical and medicinal wonders.
QUOTABLE QUOTES – Special Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) Edition – All based on an audit of the RMV by State Auditor Suzanne Bump covering the period July 1, 2014 through December 31, 2016.
“The failure to prevent individuals from obtaining identification under the names of deceased people creates a significant public safety risk to the commonwealth. Fixing this problem must be a top priority for the RMV. Recent upgrades to the computer systems at the RMV provide it with more tools; now the agency must use them in conjunction with the data sources at its disposal to address this problem.”
Bump contending that the RMV issued drivers’ licenses to 1,900 deceased individuals and that 1,840 of those five-year licenses were still listed as active in January 2018.
“The RMV rejects the findings in the auditor’s report, especially the false claim that the RMV is issuing licenses to 1,900 deceased individuals who the RMV has verified are alive. This audit is outdated, as it was conducted before the implementation of an entirely new software system which has improved management and tracking capabilities.”
RMV spokeswoman Jacquelyn Goddard.
The number of people who had drivers’ license during the audit period.
The number of people who had disability parking placards during the audit period.
1400, 2558, 4J, Y4, 55Z, 77V, and Z
Seven of the 201 low-number license plates given away in last week’s Lottery license plate drawing entered by 11,477 drivers.
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 September 3-7, the House met for a total of one hour and 17 minutes while the Senate met for a total of 55 minutes.
Mon. Sept. 3 No House session
No Senate session
Tues. Sept. 4 House 11:06 a.m. to 11:29 a.m.
Senate 11:04 a.m. to 11:49 a.m.
Wed. Sept. 5 No House session
No Senate session
Thurs. Sept. 6 House 10:59 a.m. to 11:53 a.m.
Senate 11:17 a.m. to 11:27 a.m.
Fri. Sept. 7 No House session
No Senate session
Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org