By Bob Katzen
THE HOUSE AND SENATE: The final count is in and the numbers show that a total of 6,122 pieces of legislation were proposed by the state’s 160 House members and 40 Senate members by last Friday’s deadline for consideration in the new 2019-2020 session Representatives filed 3,947 while senators came up with 2,175.
That deadline is not etched in stone as many bills are filed over the next two years and are admitted late by a required two-thirds vote from the House and Senate.
There were no roll calls in the House or Senate last week.
CAMPAIGN FINANCE – Last Tuesday, January 22, was the deadline by which candidates for the Legislature were required to file their final fundraising and spending report for 2018 with the Office of Campaign and Finance.
Beacon Hill Roll Call has examined the campaign finance reports for the current 40 state senators and reports the dollar amounts for local senators.
TOTAL RAISED IN 2018
The senator who raised the most money in 2018 was Sen. Barry Finegold (D-Andover) who raised $458,009.
Sen. Cynthia Creem (D-Newton) raised the least amount of money — $6,085.
Sen. Patricia Jehlen $26,767
TOTAL SPENT IN 2018
The senator who spent the most money in 2018 was Sen. Barry Finegold (D-Andover) who spent $357,468.
Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz (D-Boston) spent the least amount of money — $8,592.
Sen. Patricia Jehlen $9,724
TOTAL STILL IN CAMPAIGN ACCOUNT AS OF DECEMBER 31, 2018
The senator with the most amount of money still in his or her campaign coffers is Sen. Mark Montigny (D-New Bedford) who has a balance of $890,463.
Sen. Rebecca Rausch (D-Needham) has the lowest balance — $734.
Sen. Patricia Jehlen $55,456
ALSO UP ON BEACON HILL
EQUITABLE COVERAGE IN DISABILITY POLICIES – In a ceremonial signing, Gov. Charlie Baker signed a bill that prohibits insurers that offer disability insurance from charging higher premiums or otherwise setting terms and conditions of coverage based solely on gender.
“Women’s rights groups have been working to eliminate gender discrimination in insurance since the 1970s when Massachusetts adopted the Equal Rights amendment to our state constitution,” the bill’s House sponsor Rep. Ruth Balser (D-Newton) stated. “Slowly and incrementally, Massachusetts has eliminated gender disparities in most insurance products including automobile, homeowners, health and annuities. Today we have eliminated the unfair practice of charging women more than men for the same disability protection. Many thanks to the large coalition of groups led by the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women, the Legislature, and the governor for insisting that Massachusetts continues to lead when it comes to ensuring equality for all.”
“On the long march to gender equality, the passage of this bill is another step forward,” said Sen. Jason Lewis (D-Winchester), the bill’s sponsor in the Senate. “Thank you to Rep. Balser and the advocates who worked tirelessly for many years to pass this legislation. It will improve fairness and lower insurance premiums for tens of thousands of women in Massachusetts.”
DRIVER’S LICENSES FOR ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS – A bill that would give immigrants the right to apply for the standard Massachusetts driver’s license is among the thousands of proposals filed for consideration in the 2019-2020 session. Co-sponsors Sen. Brendan Crighton (D-Lynn) and Reps. Tricia Farley-Bouvier (D-Pittsfield) and Christine Barber (D-Somerville) say the measure would improve public safety and potentially increase state revenue by giving all qualified immigrants the right to apply for a driver’s license.
“This is a straight-forward issue with a common-sense solution,” said Crighton. “These immigrants are our neighbors, our constituents. I can’t imagine the fear they face every time they need to get in a car. It’s time Massachusetts join the 12 other states that have already passed this humane and common-sense law.”
“[The bill] is simply good public policy,” said Farley-Bouvier. “Think about it: If you get in an accident, don’t you want the other driver to have car insurance? This bill is about public safety, our economy and protecting our immigrant friends and neighbors. This is more than a bill—it’s part of a movement to fix our broken immigration system.”
NATIONAL GRID FINED $750,000 – The Department of Public Utilities (DPU) imposed a $750,000 penalty on National Grid for inadequate storm preparation and power restoration during the October 29, 2017 windstorm that affected over 330,000 National Grid electric customers in 166 communities. The DPU said that National Grid
failed to comply with proper guidelines and regulations as well as the company’s own Emergency Response Plan.
“The Department of Public Utilities is committed to ensuring electric ratepayers across the commonwealth are provided with a high level of service, especially during times of extreme weather events,” said DPU Chair Angela O’Connor. “Following a comprehensive investigation which focused on preparations before the storm, restoration efforts after the storm and communications with affected communities, the department found that National Grid’s storm response did not meet existing protocols and did not provide the required restoration efforts to its ratepayers.”
As part of its investigation, the DPU found that National Grid did not properly classify the severity of the storm, and as a result, fewer resources were available for customers and communities which ultimately affected the restoration efforts. Additionally, the DPU found that the company did not adequately communicate with its customers or public officials. These communications problems hampered restoration efforts and, among other things, kept customers from having accurate information about expected restoration times.
DRIVING HIGH – Gov. Baker filed legislation to implement the recommendations made by the Cannabis Control Commission’s Special Commission on Operating Under the Influence and Impaired Driving. Creation of the commission was part of the controversial law to legalize recreational marijuana.
Several of the recommendations simply treat marijuana-impaired driving the same as drunk driving. A driver suspected of driving under the influence of marijuana who refuses to take a chemical test for impairment would lose his or her license for a minimum of six months, the same as the current penalty imposed on a suspected drunken driver who refuses to take a breathalyzer test.
Driving with unsealed packages of marijuana in the vehicle would be treated the same as a person under current law who drives with open containers of alcohol in the car.
Other provisions include adoption of a law authorizing courts to take judicial notice that ingesting THC, the active chemical in marijuana, can and does impair motorists; development of educational materials and programming on drug impairment to share with trial court judges; and directing the Municipal Police Training Committee to expand the training of drug recognition experts, and allow them to testify as expert witnesses in civil and criminal cases.
“Today’s proposal includes important changes that will make Massachusetts safer and improve how police officers train for detecting the influence of intoxicating substances like marijuana, how they interact with motorists who show signs of impairment, and eventually how these cases are tried in a courtroom,” said Gov. Baker. “Our administration views these improvements as the next deliberative step for the commonwealth and the Cannabis Control Commission to continue implementing the legalization of recreational marijuana safely and responsibly, and we look forward to working with our colleagues in the Legislature to pass this bill into law.”
“With the legalization of adult-use marijuana establishments here in the commonwealth since 2016 and with the recent approval by the Cannabis Control Commission of new licensees this past fall, it is absolutely essential that police officers stand ready to address the potential dangers posed by some motorists who choose to operate a motor vehicle while impaired after consuming marijuana,” said Brian Kyes, Chelsea Police Chief and President of the Massachusetts Major City Chiefs.
QUOTABLE QUOTES – Response to Gov. Baker’s filing of a $42.7 billion fiscal 2020 budget.
“We applaud Gov. Baker for his efforts to address the vaping epidemic that Big Tobacco has brought on our youth. While we would like to see a higher excise tax on all electronic cigarettes and other vaping products than the one the governor proposes, this is a great first step in the discussion.”
Tobacco Free Mass’ Executive Director, Gwendolyn Stewart.
“I am encouraged to see so many of the Senate’s shared priorities included in the governor’s budget proposal, such as implementing the recommendations of the Foundation Budget Review Commission, reining in prescription drug prices, reducing health care costs for low income seniors and lifting the cap on kids.”
Senate President Karen Spilka (D-Framingham).
“Gov. Baker’s proposal to force certain drug manufacturers to pay additional, supplemental rebates on incredibly effective drugs that MassHealth deems too expensive sends a message across the industry that government is going to punish success and that only it can be the final arbiter of drug pricing.”
Massachusetts Biotechnology Council President and CEO Bob Coughlin.
“Our environmental agencies support a robust economy and a healthy public. We commend the governor for recognizing the important work these agencies do every day amongst growing responsibilities to address the effects of climate change.”
Elizabeth Henry, President of the Environmental League of Massachusetts.
“Gov. Baker’s budget proposal charts a fiscally responsible path for the commonwealth by limiting spending increases to 1.5 percent over projected fiscal year 2019 levels and depositing another $297 million to shore up the state’s Rainy Day Fund account. Both steps are prudent given the downturn in revenue numbers we’ve seen so far for the month of December and the first half of January.”
House Republican Minority Leader Brad Jones (R-North Reading).
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 January 21-25. the House met for a total of five hours and 32 minutes while the Senate met for a total of three hours and nine minutes.
Mon. January 21 No House session
No Senate session
Tues. January 22 House 11:01 a.m. to 11:04 a.m.
Senate 11:40 a.m. to 11 43 a.m
Wed. January 23 No House session
No Senate session
Thurs. January 24 House 11:04 a.m. to 4:33 p.m.
Senate 11:08 a.m. to 2:14 p.m.
Fri. January 25 No House session
No Senate session
Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org