Beacon Hill Roll Call Volume 44 – Report No. 7 February 11-15, 2019

By Bob Katzen

THE HOUSE AND SENATE. Beacon Hill Roll Call records local legislators’ votes on roll calls from January 30 and January 31. All roll calls are on proposed changes to House and Senate rules. There were no roll calls in the House or Senate last week.

House 47-111, rejected a proposed new House rule giving members 30 minutes to read any amendment that is proposed on the floor when the House is in session. The 30 minutes would start when all legislators and the public have electronic access to a copy of the amendment and all members also have a printed copy on their desks in the House chamber.

Supporters said it is reasonable to give members 30 minutes to read an amendment. They said currently an amendment can be proposed and voted upon before members have even had a chance to read it.

Opponents said the rule goes too far and would unnecessarily impede the movement of bills. They noted many of the amendments are technical in nature and are not controversial. They argued that printing and putting a copy of each amendment on each of the 160 members’ desk would be bad for the environment and would make extra work for the House clerk.

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

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

House 11-146 rejected a proposed new House rule that would require the Personnel and Administration Committee to establish standards for the allocation of office space as equitably as possible among the representatives, committees and their staffs. The standards would be reviewed and would have to be approved by the Director of Human Resources and the Equal Employment Opportunity Officer prior to it taking effect.

Amendment supporters said that the state should consider the standards used by the U.S. Congress in which a giant lottery is held and when a member’s name is drawn, he or she can choose any office he or she wants. They argued this would be the fairest system and also help reduce the speaker’s power by not allowing him to reward loyalists with the best offices.

“Each of us arrives in this building as equals to represent the voices of 40,000 constituents,” said the bill’s sponsor Rep. Russell Holmes (D-Boston).“We weaken that voice by enabling the speaker to use subjective processes to allocate offices, staff, and resources. The distribution of the people’s property and resources should be done in a manner that does not make the allocation susceptible to implicit bias and favoritism.”

Amendment opponents said setting standards would be impossible because it’s subjective which office has the best location and furnishings. They also noted that the random lottery would not work because chairs of committees have larger staff and would not be able to fit them in a small office.

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

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

House 36-121, rejected a proposed new House-Senate joint rule that would require broadcasting of informal sessions of the House and Senate in the same manner and format as formal sessions are currently broadcast online. 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 of the 160 members are in the chamber. Currently, informal sessions are not broadcast.

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 these sessions and the public should be able to watch these online.

Opponents said it would be expensive to broadcast these informal sessions which rarely deal with controversial matters.

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

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

Senate 39-0, approved a new rule that would prohibit any senator, officer or staff member from violating the Senate’s anti-harassment policy and require that everyone receive anti-harassment training within 90 days of the opening of the biennial session. The rule also prohibits retaliation against an individual who has complained about discriminatory harassment or retaliation against an individual for cooperating with an investigation of a discriminatory harassment complaint.

Supporters said it is vital that the Senate offer protection against sexual and identity-based assault on Beacon Hill. They argued the amendment will promote a safe and healthy workplace+ on Beacon Hill.

(A “Yes” vote is for the rule.)

Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes


SPILKA AND DELEO APPOINT THEIR LEADERSHIP TEAMS – Senate President Karen Spilka (D-Ashland) announced her leadership team which includes Sen. Cindy Cream (D-Newton) in the number two position of majority leader; William Brownsberger (D-Concord) as president pro tempore; Joan Lovely (D-Salem), Sal DiDomenico (D-Everett) and Mike Barrett (D-Lexington) as assistant majority leaders; Mike Rush (D-Boston) as majority whip and Julian Cyr (D-Truro) as assistant majority whip.

House Speaker Bob DeLeo unveiled his leadership team which includes Reps. Ronald Mariano (D-Quincy) as the second in command as majority leader; Patricia Haddad (D-Somerville) as speaker pro tempore; Joe Wagner (D-Chicopee) as assistant majority leader; Paul Donato (D-Medford) and Mike Moran (D-Boston) as second assistant majority leaders.

The most important appointments were Sen. Mike Rodrigues (D-Westport) and Rep. Aaron Michlewitz (D-Boston) to the powerful position of budget-writing Ways and Means chair in their respective chambers.

Members of the leadership team and committee chairs receive additional pay ranging from $5,200 to $75,000

INCREASE WAGE OF TIPPED WORKERS – Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier (D-Pittsfield) and Sen. Pat Jehlen (D-Somerville) unveiled their bill to raise the tipped Massachusetts minimum wage to the general minimum wage by 2028 and match any increase after that. The current tipped worker minimum wage is $4.35 per hour while the general minimum wage is $12 per hour and will rise to $15 by 2023.

The bill would raise the minimum wage for tipped workers incrementally over several years to $13.95, and then in 2028 require that all workers be paid the full minimum wage under the minimum wage law.

“There are thousands of food service workers in Massachusetts who struggle to make ends meet for themselves and their families because they are living off tips,” said Jehlen. “And if you’re dependent on tips, you depend on your manager for good shifts, you depend on cooks and other staff members to help you do your job, and you depend on customers’ whims. The sub-minimum wage creates too many opportunities that can be exploited by predators. This needs to end.”

“The women who put food on our tables cannot afford to put food on their own family’s tables,” said Rep. Farley-Bouvier. “This is an issue that disproportionately affects women, as well as people of color and immigrants.”

COSTS OF TRAFFIC CONGESTION IS THE HIGHEST IN BOSTON – The INRIX 2018 Global Traffic Scorecard was released and ranked Boston as the most congested city in the U.S. The average Boston driver lost 164 hours to peak traffic in 2018, worth about $2,291 in additional costs based on federal Department of Transportation estimates. Nationally, Americans lost an average of 97 hours a year due to congestion, costing them nearly $87 billion in 2018, an average of $1,348 per driver.

The runner-up was Washington D.C. (155 hours). The top ten included Chicago (138
hours), Seattle (138 hours), New York City (133 hours), Los Angeles (128 hours), Pittsburgh (127 hours), Portland (116 hours), San Francisco (116 hours) and Philadelphia (112 hours).

“Congestion costs Americans billions of dollars each year,” said Trevor Reed, transportation analyst at INRIX. “It will continue to have serious consequences for national and local economies, businesses and citizens in the years to come. If we’re to avoid traffic congestion becoming a further drain on our economy, we must invest in intelligent transportation systems to tackle our mobility challenges.
“We didn’t really need a report from INRIX to tell us that congestion is a growing problem in Massachusetts, particularly in Boston,” said Bay State Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack. “I think our goal is to understand why. Why is congestion worse? Because then for every why, there’s something we can do differently.”

HEALTHY FOOD IN VENDING MACHINES IN GOVERNMENT BUILDINGS – Rep. Natalie Blais (D- Sunderland) has filed a bill requiring all foods or beverages sold through vending machines located in government buildings be limited to items that comply with the nutritional standards established by the state’s commissioner of public health.

The bill also requires items that items that meet these nutrition standards be placed in the prime selling positions in the machine and be available at prices equal to or less than the prices for similar products that are available and that do not meet the nutrition standards. The measure also requires that food and beverage items that do not meet the nutrition standards options are banned from be promoted through discounted prices, bundled meals or promotional signs.

Blais did not respond to Beacon Hioll Roll Call’s request for a statement on her bill.

REPEAL “ESTATE/DEATH” TAX – Rep. David DeCoste has filed a proposal that would repeal Massachusetts’ estate tax, also known as the death tax — a tax on the value of the decedent’s estate before distribution to any beneficiary. Most Republicans are against the tax and coined the name death tax to imply that the government taxes you even after you die. Most Democrats support the tax and call it an estate tax to imply that this tax is only paid by the wealthy.

The first $1 million is exempt from this tax and the tax on anything over $1 million is a graduated one that according to the Department of Revenue’s website ranges from .8 percent to 16 percent.

Repeal supporters said this regressive tax is unfair and noted that Massachusetts is losing many residents, who move to Florida and other states where this tax does not exist.

Repeal opponents said the tax is a fair one and argued the state cannot afford the revenue loss.

DeCoste did not respond to Beacon Hioll Roll Call’s request for a statement on his bill.

QUOTABLE QUOTES – A chat with Sen. Mike Rodrigues (D-Westport), the newly-minted Senate Ways and Means Chair.

“20 minutes ago.”

On when the Senate President’s office informed him that he was going to be Ways and Means chair.

“I’m not saying yes or no to anything right now. Because I don’t even know what to say yes or no to.”

On whether he will support a tax increase.

“I’m concerned but I’m not panicked as of yet.”

On whether he is concerned about declining state revenues.

“We go way back. We served in the House together. She knows me and she knows I can do this job.

On his relationship with Senate President Karen Spilka (D-Ashland).

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 February 11-15, the House met for a total of one hour and 31 minutes while the Senate met for a total of one hours and 42 minutes.

Mon. February 11 House 11:02 a.m. to 12:29 p.m
Senate 11:11 a.m. to 12:48 p.m.

Tues. February 12 No House session
No Senate session

Wed. February 13 No House session
No Senate session

Thurs. February 14 House 11:01 a.m. to 11:05 a.m.
Senate 11:05 a.m. to 11:10 a.m.

Fri. February 15 No House session
No Senate session

Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at

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