Beacon Hill Roll Call Volume 43 – Report No. 45 November 5-9, 2018

By Bob Katzen

THE HOUSE AND SENATE: Secretary of State Bill Galvin announced that unofficial, incomplete results indicate that the 2018 midterm election saw 2.7 million voters cast their ballots – more in a midterm election than ever before in the Bay State. The number of voters continues to rise as local election officials count military and overseas ballots and provisional ballots cast on Election Day.

The new session of the Massachusetts Legislature that begins on January 3, 2019 will open with 127 Democrats, 32 Republicans and one Independent in the House. The Senate membership will be made up of 34 Democrats and six members of the GOP. These numbers are pretty close to the makeup of the 2017-2018 session.

Democrats defeated one incumbent Republican House member and toppled one GOP senator. Eight-year incumbent Republican Rep. James Lyons (R-Andover) lost his seat to Democrat Tram Nguyen. Democrat Rebecca Rausch defeated eight-year incumbent Republican Sen. Richard Ross (R-Wrentham). Ross had also served six years in the House before being elected to the Senate in 2011.

There were no roll calls in the House or Senate last week. This week Beacon Hill Roll Call begins a series of report on how local legislators in 2017-2018 voted on roll calls raising, lowering or creating new taxes.

First up: Part one of a two-part series of reports on House members’ votes on eight tax proposals.


House 119-38, approved a Democratic leadership-sponsored amendment indefinitely delaying a Republican proposal to establish a permanent annual two-day weekend sales tax holiday in August. The amendment would require the Baker administration to study the impact the reduction would have on the state.

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

Rep. Christine Barber Yes Rep. Mike Connolly Yes Rep. Denise Provost Yes


House 117-39, approved a Democratic-sponsored amendment indefinitely delaying a Republican-sponsored proposal that would permanently exempt diners from paying the state’s 6.25 percent meals tax each year from March 22-27. The amendment would require the state to study the impact of the tax holiday on the state’s economy.

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

Rep. Christine Barber Yes Rep. Mike Connolly Yes Rep. Denise Provost Yes


House 118-39, approved a Democratic-sponsored amendment indefinitely delaying a Republican-sponsored proposal that would reduce the state’s sales tax from 6.25 percent to 5 percent.

The amendment would require the state to study the impact of the tax reduction on the state’s economy.

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

Rep. Christine Barber Yes Rep. Mike Connolly Yes Rep. Denise Provost Yes


House 36-123, rejected an amendment reducing the income tax from 5.1 percent to 5 percent.

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

Rep. Christine Barber No Rep. Mike Connolly No Rep. Denise Provost No


House 47-110, rejected an amendment that would give adoptive parents up to a $1,000 tax credit to cover adoption expenses.

(A “Yes” vote is for the $1,000 tax credit. A “No” vote is against it.)

Rep. Christine Barber No Rep. Mike Connolly Yes Rep. Denise Provost No


House approved 105-48, approved a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow a graduated income tax in Massachusetts and impose an additional 4 percent income tax, in addition to the current flat 5.1 percent one, on taxpayers’ earnings of more than $1 million.

The proposal was supposed to go on the November ballot for voters to decide but the Supreme Judicial Court ruled that the amendment was unconstitutional because the constitution prohibits placing more than one objective in a single proposed constitutional amendment. The decision noted that the proposal imposes the tax and then stipulates how the money could be spent.

(A “Yes” vote is for the additional 4 percent tax. A “No” vote is against it.)

Rep. Christine Barber Yes Rep. Mike Connolly Yes Rep. Denise Provost Yes


House 119-30, approved and sent to the governor a measure that extends the state’s current 5.7 percent hotel and motel tax and up to a 6 percent local option room occupancy tax to short-term rentals offered by Airbnb, HomeAway and VRBO while leaving the regulation of these rentals including registration, licensing and inspections up to local cities and towns.

Gov. Baker proposed some amendments to the bill and the Legislature has not yet acted on his amendments so the bill remains unsigned.

The measure also allows local cities and towns to impose a local impact fee of up to 3 percent on operators who rent out two or more professionally-managed short-term rental units within a municipality.

Other provisions create a central state registry of short-term rentals and require that a city or town dedicate no less than 35 percent of revenue generated from the new local option fee to either affordable housing or local infrastructure needs.

(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 144-4, approved and Gov. Baker signed into law a bill imposing a $2 tax on car rentals to fund municipal police training.

(A “Yes” vote is for the $2 tax to fund police training. A “No” vote is against it.)

Rep. Christine Barber Yes Rep. Mike Connolly Yes Rep. Denise Provost Yes


CIVIC EDUCATION IN SCHOOLS (S 2631) – Gov. Charlie Baker signed into law a bill will require Massachusetts public high schools and school districts serving eighth-grade students to provide at least one individual, small group, or class wide, student-led, non-partisan civics project for each student. The projects must be designed to promote student abilities related to the analysis of complex issues; consideration of different perspectives; engagement in civil discourse; and understanding of the connections between federal, state, and local policies. Another key provision establishes a Civics Project Trust Fund which will be used to create a statewide civic infrastructure and provide professional development to teachers, prioritizing underserved communities in “school districts with high concentrations of economically disadvantaged students.”

“This bill could not have come at a better time,” said Arielle Jennings, Massachusetts Executive Director of Generation Citizen, a group that was at the forefront of the campaign to get this measure signed into law. “We are in a moment when so many young people are seeing the power of youth voice on the national stage and are eager to participate in the civic and political process. In order to do so, youth need educational experiences to help develop their civic skills and knowledge and real-world civic engagement opportunities that show them the political process is relevant to their lives.”

According to Generation Citizen, only one in four Americans can name the three branches of government and voting rates of young adults are at an historic low. Lower-income students often receive lower-quality civic learning education at school and demonstrate significantly lower levels of achievement in standardized tests of civics than their higher-income peers.

“This bill ensures that all students throughout the commonwealth will be exposed to robust civics curricula in order to prepare them to be informed and thoughtful participants in our democracy,” said Rep. Alice Peisch (D-Wellesley), House Chair of the Education Committee. “This bill, in conjunction with the Department’s new History and Social Science Curriculum Framework and a new assessment aligned with these standards, are critical to preparing students for a lifetime of civic responsibility.”

“I am incredibly proud that this bill is being signed into law because comprehensive civics education leads to more informed voters, better public policies, and a superior Commonwealth,” said Sen. Harriette Chandler (D-Worcester). “So much work went into this bill: from the legislators to the educators, to the administrators, the students and the advocates, we could not have made this effort a reality without your hard work and dedication.”

“Massachusetts has moved forward to a leadership role on civics education,” said Steven Rothstein the executive director of the John F. Kennedy Library and the co-founder of the Mass Civics Learning Coalition. “This legislation will ensure that every student is ready for civic life. This is especially important at this time.”

TRAINING TO HELP COMBAT ELDER FINANCIAL ABUSE – Secretary of State Bill Galvin unveiled a new training program to provide state and local law enforcement officials with free training and resources to help them recognize the red flags of elder financial abuse and fraud. “It is important for my office to collaborate with law enforcement throughout the commonwealth to combat elder financial abuse and securities fraud,” said Galvin.

The training highlights common schemes and hallmarks of financial abuse that harm older adults and others. It also provides law enforcement officers with resources on how to recognize warning signs and how to report suspected problems to collaborating agencies such as the Massachusetts Securities Division.

For more information or to set up a training program in your community contact the Massachusetts Securities Division at 617-727-3548.

SCHOOLS MUST REPORT ALL THREATS (H 302) – Approved by the House on June 8, 2017 and still stuck in the House Committee on Bills in Third Reading Committee is a bill that would change a current law that requires principals of all public and private school to immediately report to the local fire department any incidents involving the setting of unauthorized fires within a school building or on school grounds. The measure would expand the law and require the principals to report all threats including biological hazards, shootings or cyber threats.

FINANCIAL LITERACY (S 2343) – Approved by the Senate on March 2018 and still stuck in the House Ways and Means Committee is a bill that would require the state to develop and allow cities and towns to institute a program to teach financial literacy to students in kindergarten to grade 12. The topics covered would include understanding banking and financial services, loans, interest, credit cards, online commerce, renting or buying a home, balancing a checkbook, state and federal taxes and charitable giving.

MANY BILLS SENT TO STUDY COMMITTEE – Hundreds of bills were sent off to a study committee in the 2017-2018 session. Most measures that are shipped off to a study committee are never actually studied and are essentially defeated. Here are some of the unlucky bills:

MUST REGISTER BIKES WITH REGISTRY OF MOTOR VEHICLES (H 1832) – Requires anyone age 21 and older to register his or her bicycle biannually with the Registry of Motor Vehicles. The state would establish a fee and issue a license plate that the bicyclist would be required to attach to his or her bike.

WEAR REFLECTIVE MATERIAL (H 1854) – Requires anyone walking outdoors in an unilluminated area after dusk to wear reflective material or carry a luminescent device like a flashlight, lantern or the flashlight application on a cell phone in order to help prevent accidents.

ORGAN DONORS (H 3434) – Automatically enrolls anyone who applies for or renews a driver’s license in the state’s organ donor program. The person could opt out of the program by signing a written notice. Current law only enrolls people who voluntarily sign up for the program when applying for or renewing their driver’s license.

TAX SUGARY DRINKS (H 3329) – Taxes sugary soft drinks which are currently exempt from the state’s 6.25 percent sales tax.


“You are going to see Elizabeth Warren’s margin grow and you’re going to see Charlie Baker’s margin significantly shrink, if not disappear.”

Gus Bickford, chair of the Massachusetts Democratic Party, commenting on the large turnout on Election Day and predicting the outcome in the race for U.S. Senate and governor. Warren beat Rep. Geoff Diehl 60.29 to 36.1 percent. Third party candidate Shiva Ayyadurai received 3.4 percent. Baker beat Democratic nominee Jay Gonzalez 66.9 percent to 33.1 percent.

“I have always said that the only job in elective office I’ve ever been interested in is the one I have now. I have never had any interest in national office and there is nothing that has changed with respect to that.”

Gov. Charlie Baker when asked if he might run for president in 2024.

“Every community in Massachusetts has been affected by the opioid epidemic. Here in Massachusetts, we are committed to supporting tribal communities and equipping them with the resources and assistance necessary to prevent substance misuse.”

Public Health Commissioner Monica Bharel, on a new state program, funded by $1.2 million in federal dollars, that will provide substance misuse and prevention support services for Native American youth in the Bay State.

“Massachusetts has a long history of supporting fairness and inclusion. With yesterday’s vote on Question 3, the people decisively affirmed the values of justice and equality that are the hallmarks of our commonwealth. Thousands of voters across Massachusetts went to the polls to defend everyone’s right to use and enjoy public spaces without fear of discrimination.”

Deborah Shields, MassEquality’s Executive Director, on passage of Question 3 that asked voters if they approve of a current law 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.

“Even though our side was in the minority last night, we weren’t relegated to the cultural fringes as the LGBTQ advocates had hoped. A third of the electorate still saw through the deception and manipulation of the Yes campaign and voted with us. We can and will build off of that base, continuing to be a voice for truth on these issues.”

Andrew Beckwith, Massachusetts Family Institute President who led the fight to repeal the transgender law.

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 November 5-9, the House met for a total of 16 minutes and the Senate met for a total of three hours and 17 minutes.

Mon. November 5 House 11:07 a.m. to 11:14 a.m.

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

Tues. November 6 No House session

No Senate session

Wed. November 7 No House session

No Senate session

Thurs. November 8 House 11:03 a.m. to 11:12 a.m.

Senate 11:10 a.m. to 2:10 p.m.

Fri. November 9 No House session

No Senate session

Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at

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