Beacon Hill Roll Call Volume 44 – Report No. 5 January 28 – February 1, 2019

By Bob Katzen

THE HOUSE AND SENATE. Beacon Hill Roll Call records local legislators’ votes on roll calls from the week of January 28-February 1.

POST JOINT COMMITTEE ROLL CALLS ON WEBSITE (H 2021)
House 47-101, rejected and Senate 39-0, approved a proposed joint rule that would require all joint committee roll call calls to be posted on the Legislature’s website. Current rules require committee votes to be kept in the offices of the committee and be available for public inspection upon reasonable notice and during regular office hours. Committee roll calls show whether legislators on the committee voted to give a favorable or unfavorable report to bills before they go to the House or Senate floor for consideration.

Supporters said this would simply give people quick and easy access to the committee votes of their legislators. They noted that under current rules, a person has to drive to Boston during regular business hours in order to obtain this information.

Opponents offered no arguments. Beacon Hill Roll Call asked the offices of Speaker Bob DeLeo (D-Winthrop) and Rep. Bill Galvin (D-Canton), chief author of the House rules, why they and most Democrats voted against this. Neither office responded.

(A “Yes” vote is for requiring that all joint committee votes be posted on the Legislature’s website. A “No” vote is against the requirement.)

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

POST ALL HOUSE COMMITTEE ROLL CALLS ON WEBSITE (H 2019)
House 44-113, rejected a proposed House rule that would amend a current House rule that requires all House committee roll calls to be posted on the Legislature’s website if the vote is held in person and recorded manually.

The amendment would also require that the same posting mandate apply to House committee votes taken via e-mail or other electronic means. Current rules require these electronic committee votes to be kept in the offices of the committee and be available for public inspection upon reasonable notice and during regular office hours. Committee roll calls show whether legislators on the committee voted to give a favorable or unfavorable report to bills before they go to the House floor for consideration.

Supporters said this illogical loophole must be closed in order to assure all House committee roll calls are posted on the website.

Opponents offered no arguments. Beacon Hill Roll Call asked the offices of Speaker Bob DeLeo (D-Winthrop) and Rep. Bill Galvin (D-Canton), chief author of the House rules, why they and most Democrats voted against this. Neither office responded.

(A “Yes” vote is for requiring that all House committee votes be posted on the Legislature’s website. A “No” vote is against the requirement).

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

ALLOW 72 HOURS TO READ LEGISLATION (H 2019)
House 55-103, rejected a proposed House rule that would increase from 24 hours to 72 hours the amount of time that representatives must be given a bill to read and review before it is debated on the House floor. The 72-hour rule could be suspended for an emergency if waived by a two-thirds vote.

Supporters said this will prevent bills from being rushed onto the House floor and voted upon without legislators having time to read them. They cited the uproar in the U.S. Congress several years ago, when members were not given time to read the 1,000-page health care bill. They noted the rule could be suspended by a two-thirds vote in case of an emergency.

Opponents of the rule said it goes too far and that requiring 72-hour notice would make it very difficult for the Legislature to act during an emergency. They argued members usually are given sufficient time to read bills and, in most cases, the bills have already received attention and press coverage. They said the proposed rule is well intentioned but unnecessary and may do harm.

(A “Yes” vote is for the rule requiring 72-hour notice. A “No” vote is against it.)

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

ALLOW HOUSE WORKERS TO FORM A UNION (H 2019)
House 9-149, rejected a proposed House rule that would give employees of the House of Representatives the right to form and organize into a union and benefit from collective bargaining.

Supporters said currently the 480 House employees are prohibited from forming a union. They noted these hardworking, mostly young employees should have the same rights to form a union as do hundreds of thousands of other state workers. They noted there is no one to protect these workers when harassment and mistreatment issues arise.

Some opponents said the workers could initiate and fight for a union if they wanted one. Others said the proposal should be filed as a bill and have a public hearing and a very open process and not be rushed through with no transparency and adopted as a House rule.

(A “Yes” vote is for the proposed rule allowing House employees to form a union. A “No” vote is against it.)

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

CONFLICTS BETWEEN HOUSE SESSIONS AND COMMITTEE HEARINGS (H 2019)
House 35-123, rejected a proposed House rule to reduce the scheduling conflicts between formal House sessions and committee hearings. Formal sessions are ones at which important legislation is often considered by the full House and sometimes includes roll call votes.

Current rules prohibit committee hearings “insofar as practical” from being scheduled at the same time as formal sessions of the House. The proposed rule would prohibit committee hearings from being scheduled at the same time as formal sessions unless there is an emergency and the chair of the committee submits to the House a written description of the emergency.

Supporters said the current rule is weak and vague. They argued that legislators shouldn’t have to choose between attending an important committee hearing and a key meeting of the full House.

Opponents said committee hearings are scheduled well in advance in order to give citizens adequate notice to arrange their schedules to be there. They noted that if this proposed rule is implemented, the House will inconvenience the public when it reschedules a committee hearing to another day. They argued that current rules already allow some flexibility and have been working well.

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

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

PUT AUDIT ONLINE (H 2019)
House 35-123, rejected a proposed House rule that would require the House Clerk to post copies of the annual audit of the Legislature online. The current rule only requires that copies of the audit be “made available to the members and the general public upon request.”

Supporters said the audit of the Legislature’s finances should be made available on the state’s website instead of requiring people to travel to Boston to get it. They argued this new rule would foster transparency.

Amendment opponents said individual legislators can request a copy and place it on their own website.

(A “Yes” vote is for requiring online posting. A “No” vote is against requiring it.)

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

TERM LIMITS FOR SPEAKER (H 2019)
House 43-113, voted against a proposed House rule that would prohibit any member from serving as speaker for more than eight consecutive years, with the exemption of current Speaker Bob DeLeo. The term limit was originally adopted by the House as part of a rules package that was approved in 2009 but it was repealed in 2015, thus allowing DeLeo to continue as speaker

Speaker DeLeo was a champion of the 8-year limit when it was approved during his first year as speaker in January 2009. In 2015, he said that his position on term limits has “evolved” during his tenure as speaker. At that time, he said, “I wouldn’t say I’m going back on my word as much as the fact that over six years, rightly or wrongly, I feel I have learned in terms of what the importance is of doing away with the term limits we have in the rules.” DeLeo has now been speaker for 10 years and won re-election to the post in early January.

Supporters said that lack of term limits breeds cynicism and mistrust among voters. They argued that term limits prevent anyone from becoming “Speaker for Life.” They noted that the indictments and convictions of the three prior speakers, Charlie Flaherty, Tom Finneran and Sal DiMasi, prove that too much power for too long is a problem. Some said that term limits will help facilitate turnover so that a woman can eventually become speaker.

Opponents of term limits said the voters elect their representatives and the representatives, not some arbitrary term limit, should decide who leads the House. They said this restriction would make a speaker serving his final two years a lame duck. They noted that it would reduce the speaker’s power in dealing with Gov. Charlie Baker and Senate President Karen Spilka.

(A “Yes” vote is for the 8-year term limit. A “No” vote is against the limit.)

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

EQUAL PAY FOR ALL LEGISLATORS (H 2019)
House 5-152, rejected a proposed House rule that would require the House’s director of Human Resources and the Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Officer to develop a proposal by November 15, 2020 for the equitable compensation of all House members.

Supporters said members should earn the same amount of money regardless of what leadership position they hold or what committee they chair. They noted the proposal is based on the pay structure for the U.S. Congress where only a few positions have higher salaries. They said that this pay equity will eliminate members siding with the speaker in order to get a plum committee assignment.

Opponents said the speaker and representatives in the leadership and committee chairs have a much heavier work load and deserve a higher salary. They said this issue was settled in January 2017 when the Legislature overrode Gov. Baker’s veto of some legislative pay hikes. They noted the director of Human Resources and the EEO Officer could not legally adjust the base salary of a legislator because of a constitutional amendment that increases or decreases legislative salaries to the same rate as increases or decreases in the median household income for the commonwealth for the preceding two-year period, as determined by the governor.

(A “Yes” vote is for equal pay. A “No” vote is against it.)

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

TELEVISE INFORMAL SENATE SESSIONS (S 9)
Senate 39-0, approved a joint rule requiring the Joint Committee on Rules to study and issue a report on the feasibility of online broadcasting of informal sessions of the House and Senate in the same manner and format as formal sessions are currently broadcast. Currently informal sessions are not broadcast.

Informal sessions are ones in which there are no roll call votes and everything is approved or rejected on an unrecorded voice vote. However, at an informal session, a single legislator can hold up consideration of a bill until the next formal session by doubting the presence of a quorum. A quorum is when 81 members of the House or 21 members of the Senate are present. Since only a handful of legislators attend these sessions, the session would be adjourned for lack of a quorum.

Supporters said that some informal sessions are not the brief, quiet sessions that they used to be. They said major legislation is sometimes approved at informal sessions and the public should be able to watch these online.

(A “Yes” vote is for the study.)

Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes

CONFERENCE COMMITTEE REPORTS BY 5 P.M. (S 9)
Senate 8-31, rejected a proposed new joint rule requiring that legislators receive a copy of any conference committee version of a bill by 5 p.m. on the day prior to voting on the bill. Current rules set the deadline at 8 p.m. Both rules prohibit the Legislature from voting on the bill prior to 1 p.m. the following day.

Supporters of the new rule said the 8 p.m. deadline gives members only 17 hours to read and understand what are often long and complicated bills. They argued the 5 p.m. deadline would give legislators three more hours to read the measure.

Opponents of the new rule said the 8 p.m. deadline has worked well for several years. They noted the extra three hours between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. is often when the staff completes the package of the report.

(A “Yes” vote is for the 5 p.m. deadline. A “No” vote is against the 5 p.m. deadline and favors the current 8 p.m. one.)

Sen. Patricia Jehlen No

MATTERS ALLOWED AT INFORMAL SESSIONS (S 8)
Senate 6-33, rejected a rule that would prohibit tax hikes from being considered at an informal session of the Senate. Informal sessions are ones in which there can be no roll call votes and everything is approved or rejected on an unrecorded voice vote.

Supporters of the rule said it is unfair to allow tax hikes to be brought up at these lightly attended sessions often without informing members of the agenda.

Opponents said the rule is unnecessary because any single member who shows up at a lightly attended informal session can doubt the presence of a quorum, and at which point the session would end because there is not a quorum.

(A “Yes” vote is for prohibiting tax hikes from being brought up at informal sessions. A “No” vote is against the restriction.)

Sen. Patricia Jehlen No

SESSIONS BEYOND MIDNIGHT (S 8)
Senate 6-33, rejected a rule requiring a unanimous vote in order for any Senate session to continue beyond midnight. Current law requires a two-thirds vote to go past midnight.

Supporters said requiring unanimous consent will virtually put an end to post-midnight sessions. They argued it is unnecessary and irresponsible to work while legislators are exhausted and taxpayers are asleep.

Opponents said the rule is undemocratic and will allow one legislator to end Senate debate and action.

(A “Yes” vote is for requiring a unanimous vote to continue beyond midnight. A “No” vote is against requiring it.)

Sen. Patricia Jehlen No

ALSO UP ON BEACON HILL

ALL-RENEWABLE ELECTRICITY BY 2035 – A bill that would require the state to use 100 percent renewable electricity by 2035 and 100 percent clean power for transportation and heating by 2045 was unveiled by its sponsors. Rep. Sean Garballey (D-Arlington), one of the bill’s authors, described it as “the most important bill” that will be taken up this year. “The goal is to be ambitious,” Garballey said. “We believe it’s an achievable goal. We have a moral obligation to our country and our world.”

“If you live in a coastal community, if you live in a dry, arid community, people’s lives are being destroyed and people are being killed today for issues that are directly linked to climate change,” said Rep. Marjorie Decker (D-Cambridge), another sponsor of the bill. “Climate change is already impacting the way we live.”

6.3 PERCENT FARE HIKE AT MBTA – The MBTA has proposed that bus, subway and commuter rail fares be hiked by an average 6.3 percent. The public will have an opportunity to comment on the proposed hikes which ultimately must be approved by the Fiscal and Management Control Board.

The price of a bus ride would increase by 10 cents (from $1.70 to $1.80); a subway trip by 15 cents (from $2.25 to $2.40); and a monthly link pass, which allows unlimited subway and bus trips by $5.50 (from $84.50 $90). A monthly link pass for seniors, students and person with disabilities would be hiked by $2 (from $30 to $32).

“Fare hikes are an unpleasant bit of this business, but they are an important part of the MBTA’s funding stream,” said MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak. “This is, I think, a modest fare increase. It keeps pace with inflation and I also think doing it on a periodic basis where the rise is not quite so dramatic, I’m hopeful this lands a little bit easier than in the not-so-distant past when the fare increases were larger.”

Information on the date and location of the public hearings and how to submit comments by e-mail are at: https://mbta.com/fare-proposal-2019

TEXT EMERGENCIES TO 911 – Public Safety and Security Secretary Tom Turco announced that cell phone users can now text an emergency to 911 if they are unable to place a call.

“This is a significant improvement to our 911 system that will save lives,” said Turco. “By giving those requiring emergency services this option we are greatly expanding the ability of first responders to provide critical assistance to those in need.”

“Having the ability to contact a 911 call center by text could help those being held against their will or victims of domestic violence unable to make a voice call,” said Frank Pozniak, Executive Director of the State 911 Department. “Text to 911 also provides direct access to 911 emergency services for the deaf, hard of hearing and speech-impaired, which is a service that these communities did not have access to until now.”

HARASSMENT PREVENTION TRAINING FOR REPRESENTATIVES – State representatives of both parties attended a mandatory harassment training session last week. The session lasted slightly under an hour and went over the policy and procedures in place to address sexual harassment issues and allegations. It also outlined the resources available to an aggrieved party.

“It was a helpful and informative introductory session to the new policies and procedures in place to deal with the variety of issues that sexual harassment presents,” said House Republican Minority Leader Brad Jones (R-North Reading.) “It will be the first of many such training/educational sessions with future offerings designed to cover the entire legislative staff.”

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 28-February 1, the House met for a total of nine hours and 12 minutes while the Senate met for a total of four hours and 31 minutes.

Mon. January 28 House 11:02 a.m. to 11:06 a.m
Senate 11:05 a.m. to 11 09 a.m.

Tues. January 29 No House session
No Senate session

Wed. January 30 House 11:01 a.m. to 8:05 p.m.
No Senate session

Thurs. January 31 House 11:04 a.m. to 11:08 a.m.
Senate 11:18 a.m. to 3:45 p.m.

Fri. February 1 No House session
No Senate session

Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at bob@beaconhillrollcall.com

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