By Bob Katzen
THE HOUSE AND SENATE. There were no roll calls in the House or Senate last week. This week, Beacon Hill Roll Call’s final part of a 3-part series on the November 6 ballot questions focuses on Question 3.
In 2016, the House 118-36, and the Senate 33-4, approved and Gov. Charlie Baker signed into law a measure that prohibits discrimination against transgender people in public accommodations including restrooms and locker rooms, based on a person’s gender identity rather than on their biological sex. The Senate did not have a roll call vote on the final bill. The 33-4 Senate vote is on an earlier version of the measure.
Question 3 asks voters if they approve of that law that has been in effect for two years. The law added “gender identity” to existing Massachusetts civil rights laws that already prohibits discrimination in public accommodations based on age, race, creed, color, national origin, sexual orientation, sex, religion and marital status.
Public accommodations are defined as “any place that is open to and accepts or solicits the patronage of the general public including hotels, stores, restaurants, theaters, sports facilities and hospitals.”
Gender identity is defined as “a person’s sincerely held gender-related identity, appearance, or behavior, whether or not it is different from that traditionally associated with the person’s physiology or assigned sex at birth.”
The law also requires restrooms, locker rooms and other places that have separate areas for males and females to allow people access to and full use of those areas consistent with their gender identity.
“This needs to be repealed because no woman should be put in the position where her body is exposed in a way she doesn’t want or is uncomfortable with,” said Debby Dugan, Chairwoman Of Keep MA Safe, the organization that collected sufficient signatures to put the repeal question on the ballot. “It needs to be repealed because no woman should be forced to choose between her livelihood and being made to touch a man’s genitals. It needs to be repealed because the law allows convicted sex offenders to claim a protected class to prey upon women. As the law stands now women are forced into these very positions, which is why it needs to be repealed.”
“We are urging voters to vote Yes on 3 this Election Day to uphold the state law that protects transgender people from discrimination and harassment in public places, such as restaurants, retail shops and medical offices,” said Matt Wilder, a spokesman for the Yes on 3 Campaign.
“We all deserve to be treated with dignity and respect and that’s what this law does,” continued Wilder. “In the two years since it was passed there has been no increase in public safety incidents in public places, including restrooms and that is why the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association, the Massachusetts Major City Chiefs Association and the state’s 50 leading sexual assault prevention agencies all support upholding the law.”
“The bill was not needed to address discrimination,” said Rep. Marc Lombardo (R–Billerica). “The Mass Commission Against Discrimination said they didn’t need this bill to protect the rights of transgender people because of the previously settled Jette v. Honey Farms case heard by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. This bill was about gender identity and a radical left push to eliminate societal and scientific norms about gender. This bill allows boys to use girls’ locker room in school and if a young female student complains, she would have to go to counseling. This bill allows men to use women’s bathrooms and any father who speaks up to protects his daughter’s privacy can be subject to jail time. This bill allows 5-year-old kids to choose what gender they want to be.”
“The eyes of the nation will be on Massachusetts this November as Bay Staters across the commonwealth will decide whether to protect equality for transgender people,” said Sarah McBride, National Press Secretary of the Human Rights Campaign. “The right of transgender people in Massachusetts to access restaurants, public transportation and hospitals is on the line with Question 3. If successful in repealing protections in Massachusetts, anti-equality extremists will be emboldened to undermine equality for LGBTQ people around the nation. But by voting Yes, voters across Massachusetts will have the chance to make clear that the heart of the commonwealth is big enough to love and welcome all people.”
Here are the official arguments, published by the secretary of state.
IN FAVOR: Written by Susan Donnelly,
Freedom for All Massachusetts.
Keeps Massachusetts welcoming and fair.
Prevents discrimination in places like stores, restaurants, and hospitals.
Protects transgender youth and adults.
Lets transgender people go about their daily lives, including in restrooms, which we all need to use.
We all value safety and privacy, including transgender people. This law has been in place for two years with no increase in public safety incidents. Harassing people remains illegal, and those who commit crimes are still prosecuted.
That’s why experts who support the law include:
Law enforcement, including the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association and Massachusetts Major City Chiefs of Police.
Women’s organizations and the Massachusetts Coalition Against Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence.
The Massachusetts Parent-Teacher Association.
Transgender people are our neighbors, co-workers and friends who contribute to our thriving communities. A Yes vote upholds basic values of fairness, dignity and respect for all.
AGAINST: Written by Debby Dugan of Keep MA Safe.
Voting No repeals the “Bathroom Bill” law and prevents men from entering women’s bathrooms, locker rooms, dressing rooms and intimate spaces. The law violates the privacy and safety of women by allowing any man identifying as a woman, including convicted sex offenders, to share women’s facilities. Under the law, any attempt to block a man from entering the women’s locker room, dressing room, or bathroom could result in individual penalties of up to $50,000 and a year in prison. Businesses are also affected, like a female spa owner who faced a discrimination claim for declining to wax the genitals of a man identifying as a woman. No law should make women and girls feel unsafe and exploit their privacy and security. The Legislature passed a law that goes too far, even refusing to include a provision to exclude convicted sex offenders. A No vote protects women’s privacy.
2016 VOTE ON TRANSGENDER RIGHTS
The House 117-36, Senate 33-4 approved the law that prohibits discrimination against transgender people.
The Senate did not have a roll call vote on the final bill. The 33-4 Senate vote is on an earlier version of the measure.
(A “Yes” vote is for the law that prohibits discrimination. A “No” vote is against it.)
Rep. Christine Barber Yes Rep. Mike Connolly Not yet elected Rep. Denise Provost Yes Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes
ALSO UP ON BEACON HILL
DYSLEXIA SCREENING (S 2607) – Gov. Charlie Baker signed into law a bill that would require the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to issue guidelines to assist districts in developing screening procedures or protocols for students that demonstrate one or more potential indicators of dyslexia and other neurological learning disabilities.
“Children with dyslexia are bright and capable but frequently struggle in school because they lack access to the services they need to learn to read,” said Sen. Barbara L’Italien (D-Andover), the sponsor of the original bill. “This bill helps ensure that children with dyslexia can access research-based reading strategies so that they can learn to read and succeed just like their typically developing peers.”
“Literacy is a critical skill for all students in the commonwealth. This screening will help teachers identify students at risk for dyslexia, who will need early intervention before they fail, and target instruction diagnostically in the areas proven to help these students succeed,” said Nancy Duggan, Executive Director of Decoding Dyslexia Massachusetts.
EARLY VOTING UNDERWAY – Although Election Day is not until November 6, voters have been casting their ballots since the state’s Early Voting Program began on October 22. Under a recent state law, each city and town is required to offer voters the opportunity to vote between October 22 and November 2 in at least one location in the community during the local election official’s regular business hours. Unlike requesting an absentee ballot, a voter does not have to have a reason or excuse to vote during this early voting period.
Some cities and towns have also opted to be open for a limited number of hours on the weekend. Each city and town’s early voting days and times are at http://www.MassEarlyVote.com or call 1-800-462-VOTE (8683)
$541 MILLION SUPPLEMENTAL BUDGET (H 4930) – Gov. Baker signed into law a supplemental budget designed to close out the books on the fiscal year that ended on July 30. The funds are from the state’s surplus leftover as a result of higher than expected tax revenue.
The package puts $240 million in the state’s Rainy Day Fund, boosting its total to more than $2 billion. Other provisions include $7.5 million in grants to invest in security-related infrastructure upgrades at public schools; $40 million for road and bridge repairs; $1.5 million to administer the state’s new paid family and medical leave law; $7.5 million for increased access to mental and behavioral health in public schools; $10 million for a neighborhood and community-based gun and violent crime prevention program targeting youths aged 17 to 24.
“This bill will invest additional resources to address the mental health needs of students and make important upgrades to school infrastructure,” said Gov. Baker. “Since taking office, we have worked with the Legislature to protect and rebuild the state’s reserves, and I am pleased that this supplemental budget will also result in us nearly doubling the Rainy Day Fund over the past four years.”
“This bill will provide additional support to our partners in the commonwealth’s cities and towns to address their security, education and infrastructure needs,” said Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito. “We are thankful to the Legislature for passing a supplemental budget that invests the surplus funds from Fiscal Year 2018 in a responsible and meaningful way.”
BILLS SENT TO STUDY COMMITTEES – The Legislature sent hundreds of bills to a study committee in 2018. Almost every measure that is shipped off to a study committee is never actually studied and is essentially defeated. Here are six tax reduction bills that have been shipped off to a study committee in 2018.
SENIOR CITIZEN TAX REDUCTION (H 1512) – Increases from $700 to $1,200 the income tax exemption for seniors over age 65.
FOR ELDERLY RELATIVES (H 1519) – Gives an income tax credit of up to $4,000 for families caring for elderly relatives at home if the taxpayer provides more than one-half of the support of the relative over age 70. The relative must live with the taxpayer at least six months per year and have an annual income of less than $30,000.
EXEMPT SENIORS FROM AUTO EXCISE TAX (H 1568) – Exempts seniors over 65 with income below the federal poverty line from the automobile excise tax. The current federal poverty line is $12,060 for a single person and $16,240 for a married couple.
PROHIBIT TAX AUDITS OF TAXPAYERS OVER 80 (H 1584) – Prohibits the state from conducting tax audits on anyone over the age of 80 who earns less the $400,000 per year.
PROPERTY TAX CEILING FOR LOW-INCOME SENIORS (H 3332) – Allows cities and towns to place a cap on the property tax paid by single seniors over 65 who are earning under $50,000 and married seniors who are earning under $60,000. To qualify, seniors would not be allowed to have assets of over $75,000, not counting their primary residence and automobile.
“It is fair game to criticize a judge’s decision. And if you do not think judges hear and are sensitive to such criticism and to being reversed by an appellate court, I can tell you from personal experience that you are wrong. But threatening judges with removal solely because of a mistake or an unpopular decision threatens the independence of the judiciary and, more importantly, threatens our constitutional obligation to apply the law equally and fairly to every litigant.”
Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Ralph Gants commenting on some legislators who sought the removal of Judge Timothy Feeley for his controversial rulings that they say are too light.
“Unlike the federal government, Massachusetts relies on a flat income tax and sales taxes. Those with the least income end up paying the greatest portion of it in state and local taxes. It’s like Robin Hood in reverse.”
Phineas Baxandall, Senior Policy Analyst of Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center and author of the report “Who Pays.”
“In a 1927 U.S. Supreme Court decision, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. said: ‘Taxes are what we pay for civilized society.’ Of course this was only fourteen years after the Sixteenth Amendment was adopted establishing a federal income tax and a tax rate of between one to three percent. Apparently maintaining a civilized society has become far more expensive. But what can possibly be fairer than each member of that society contributing the same percentage of their income — large or small — to remain civilized; in other words, ‘from each according to their ability'”
Chip Ford, Executive Director of Citizens for Limited Taxation responding to Baxandall’s study.
“The Small Business Administration (SBA) is strongly committed to providing the people of Massachusetts with the most effective and customer-focused response possible to assist small businesses with federal Economic Injury Disaster Loans. Getting businesses and communities up and running after a disaster is our highest priority at SBA.”
SBA Administrator Linda McMahon announcing loans that are available to Massachusetts small businesses affected by the natural gas line explosion on Sept. 13, 2018.
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 October 22-26, the House met for a total of three hours and 17 minutes and the Senate met for a total of three hours and 51 minutes.
Mon. October 22 House 11:05 a.m. to 11:23 a.m.
Senate 11:04 a.m. to 11:27 a.m.
Tues. October 23 No House session
No Senate session
Wed. October 24 No House session
No Senate session
Thurs. October 25 House 11:01 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
Senate 11:04 a.m. to 2:32 p.m.
Fri. October 26 No House session
No Senate session
Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at email@example.com