By Bob Katzen
THE HOUSE AND SENATE: There were no roll calls in the House or Senate last week. Last week was April vacation week for most schools across Massachusetts. The House and Senate treat this April vacation week as their own “Spring Break” and for years, have only scheduled brief informal sessions during this week.
The House met for only 12 minutes last week while the Senate met for only 20 minutes.
Hey, Beacon Hill Roll Call Readers:
Keep your eyes on the 2019 Legislature and the rough and tumble political scene in the Bay State with something that you will read every weekday morning.
INTEREST GROUPS RATE YOUR LEGISLATORS – This week, Beacon Hill Roll Call looks at the ratings senators and representatives received from three interest groups which measured legislators’ support or opposition to the group’s legislative agenda in the 2017 and/or 2018 session.
This week’s report features the scores received from the Gun Owners’ Action League, the National Federation of Independent Business and the Environmental League of Massachusetts.
GUN OWNERS’ ACTION LEAGUE (GOAL)
From the Massachusetts Political Almanac: GOAL is the official state firearms association of Massachusetts and believes in the basic civil right of firearm ownership for all lawful purposes. GOAL is currently the second-largest voluntary organization in the state with a dues-paying membership. GOAL lobbies to defend the civil rights of gun-owners and related interests and is an important source of information for the state’s lawful gun owners. It also sponsors many educational activities on firearm issues for youth, voters, public officials and the general public.
“For over 40 years GOAL has provided a leading voice for sportsmen and women, gun owners and conservation efforts, on Beacon Hill and across the state,” according to GOAL’s website.
Key to scorecard:
A: Consistently voted to support Second Amendment rights
B: Usually voted to support Second Amendment rights
C: Sometimes voted to support Second Amendment rights
D: Voted to restrict Second Amendment rights
F: Proactively worked to restrict Second Amendment rights, via voting,
supporting legislation to restrict Second Amendment, etc.
NR: No Rating – Did not file or support any legislation on either side of the
More details on the scorecard are at https://goal.org/ma-house-representative-ratings-legislature-goal/
Here are the grades given to local representatives and senators by GOAL:
Rep. Christine Barber D Rep. Mike Connolly D Rep. Denise Provost F Sen. Patricia Jehlen F
NATIONAL FEDERATION OF INDEPENDENT BUSINESS (NFIB)
From the Massachusetts The Political Almanac: NFIB is the nation’s leading small-business advocacy association, with offices in Washington, D.C. and all 50 state capitals. Founded in 1943 as a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, NFIB gives small and independent business owners a voice in shaping the public policy issues that affect their business and in supporting America’s free enterprise system through their member-only ballot process. NFIB’s mission is to promote and protect the right of its members to own, operate and grow their businesses.
“We represent all types of businesses such as auto shops, retail stores, restaurants and manufacturers—all of them small and independently owned,” said Christopher Carlozzi, State Director. “We poll our members on issues that arise in the Legislature and we use that to determine the positions we take supporting or opposing legislation. Then we tell their stories and become their voice here on Beacon Hill, because many people, including lawmakers, don’t realize what it takes to run a small business.”
Key to rating: NFIB tracks the key legislative issues identified by small business members every session and then tabulates a score for each Massachusetts legislator. The NFIB voting record provides a critically important evaluation of a legislator’s attitude toward small business based on floor votes.
More details on the scorecard are at
Here is the percentage of time local representatives and senators voted with NFIB:
Rep. Christine Barber 0 percent Rep. Mike Connolly 0 percent Rep. Denise Provost 0 percent Sen. Patricia Jehlen 20 percent
ENVIRONMENTAL LEAGUE OF MASSACHUSETTS (ELM)
From the Massachusetts Political Almanac: The Environmental League of Massachusetts (ELM) is the oldest environmental advocacy organization in Massachusetts. Established in 1898, ELM is a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to protecting the air, land, and water for the people of the commonwealth.
ELM voices citizens’ concerns, informs the public, advocates for strong environmental laws and ensures that state laws are implemented and enforced. ELM works on a broad array of issues including energy and climate change, smart growth, transportation, recycling and toxics, among others.
Key to rating:
Champion: Clearly led and/or supported many of our priorities
Ally: Supported several of our priorities
Supporter: Voted with us and supported one or two of our priorities
Straggler: Voted against one of our priority bills or sponsored a bill or
amendment we opposed.
Not rated: House Speaker Bob DeLeo, Senate President Karen Spilka and ex-Senate President Harriette Chandler did not receive a rating from ELM. Legislators in these top leadership positions rarely sponsor legislation and sometimes do not vote on roll calls. That makes it difficult for them to earn points in ELM’s rating system so they are not given a rating.
More details on the scorecard are at:
Here are the ratings of local representatives and senators on their support for ELM.
Rep. Christine Barber Champion Rep. Mike Connolly Champion Rep. Denise Provost Champion Sen. Patricia Jehlen Champion
ALSO UP ON BEACON HILL
HOLD NURSING HOME BED FOR RESIDENT (S 371) – A bill before the Committee on Elder Affairs would require a nursing facility to preserve and keep empty, a MassHealth resident’s bed for either a medical leave of up to 20 days or a nonmedical leave of absence for ten days.
“According to MassHealth, there were 120,411 medical leave of absence days in fiscal year 2018 alone,” said the measure’s sponsor Sen. Mark Montigny (D-New Bedford.) “Without adequate legal protections, such leaves of absence can lead to the loss of his or her bed, and lead to significant stress and hardship resulting in depression or physical decline. A resident’s place at a nursing facility is regularly considered much more than just a bed; it is their home and a safe haven.”
Montigny added that allowing residents to return to their bed after a medical stay or important family event encourages them to access necessary medical care and maintain relationships with their loved ones.
SEXUAL MISCONDUCT SURVEY (S 736) – The Higher Education Committee’s agenda includes legislation requiring all colleges and universities in the Bay State to biennially conduct a sexual misconduct climate survey of all students. The bill was approved by both the House and Senate last year but never received final approval and a trip to the governor’s desk.
The survey would be anonymous and would include the number of reported incidents of sexual misconduct at the school; students’ awareness of institutional policies and procedures related to campus sexual assault; if a victim reported the sexual misconduct; and if a victim was informed or referred to local, state, on campus or other resources and victims’ access to support services including appropriate medical care, legal support and protection from retaliation.
Sexual misconduct is defined in the bill as incidents of sexual violence, dating violence, domestic violence, gender-based violence, violence based on sexual orientation or gender identity, sexual harassment and stalking.
“This legislation would shine a light on the sexual assault climate in different institutions and so motivate a stronger response to the problem of campus sexual assault,” said Sen. Will Brownsberger (D-Belmont), the Senate sponsor of the measure. “It will also give all students a safe way to express their feelings about their experiences.”
RAISE ALLOWANCE FOR NURSING HOME RESIDENTS (S 357) – The Committee on Elder Affairs held a hearing on a proposal raising the Personal Needs Allowance (PNA) for nursing home residents from the current $72.80 monthly to $100 monthly. It also includes a provision that gives the residents an annual cost of living increase. The PNA pays for expenses not covered by Medicaid for nursing home residents.
Supporters say that the money, half of which is reimbursed with federal dollars, helps residents pay for clothing, shoes, phone calls, medicine, transportation, haircuts and other personal needs which help them maintain their dignity and well-being. They noted the $72.80 monthly allowance has not been raised in 20 years.
“It is heartbreaking to hear from people living in rest homes who can’t afford a phone, a used winter coat or birthday cards to their grandchildren,” said the bill’s sponsor Sen. Pat Jehlen (D-Somerville).
BAN HAND-HELD CELL PHONES (H 3149) – The Transportation Committee gave a favorable report to a bill that would prohibit drivers from using a hand-held cell phone or other device to make a call, use the device’s camera or access social media. The measure allows drivers to use only a hands-free phone. Use of a hand-held phone would be permitted in emergencies including if the vehicle was disabled; medical attention or assistance was required; police, fire or other emergency services were necessary for someone’s personal safety; or a disabled vehicle or an accident was present on a roadway.
Supporters say that the bill would save lives and prevent accidents. They note that the measure does not ban cell phone use but simply requires the use of hands-free ones. They pointed to accidents, deaths and injuries involving hand-held cell phones.
Some opponents say that the restriction is another example of government.
QUOTABLE QUOTES – Massachusetts Farms by the Numbers
CENSUS OF AGRICULTURE IN THE BAY STATE – The U.S. Department of Agriculture released its findings from the 2017 U.S. Census of Agriculture last week. Key findings about Massachusetts farms include a 514 drop in the number of farms in Massachusetts — from 7,755 in 2012 to 7,241 today; and a decrease of 31,864 in the acres covered by farms from 523,517 in 2012 to 491,653 today. This census is done every five years.
“We were disappointed, but not surprised, to learn that the number of farming operations in Massachusetts has decreased from 2012 to 2017 by about 500 farms,” said Massachusetts Farm Bureau Federation President Mark Amato. “With a crippling drought a few years ago, increasing expenses and increasingly tough regulations, agriculture in the commonwealth has been hard hit.”
“However, there were still some bright spots to this report, including that there are 1,238 young producers under the age of 35 who farm 73,389 acres in the commonwealth,” continued Amato. “While this hasn’t been measured before, it is refreshing to see this large number of young folks interested in farming.”
Here are some other numbers from the census of the Bay State’s farming industry:
The number of new and beginning producers in Massachusetts who farm 126,026 acres.
Number of female producers who farm 284,208 acres in Massachusetts
The number of organic farms in Massachusetts
The dollar increase in the sale of organic products
The value per acre of Massachusetts farmland
The number of operations that are harvesting renewable energy. This is an increase of 970 from the 2012 total of 465
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 April 15-19, the House met for a total of 12 minutes while the Senate met for a total of 20 minutes.
Mon. April 15 No House session
No Senate session
Tues. April 16 House 11:02 a.m. to 11:07 a.m.
Senate 11:12 a.m. to 11:17 a.m.
Wed. April 17 No House session.
No Senate session
Thurs. April 18 House 11:01 a.m. to 11:08 a.m.
Senate 11:11 a.m. to 11:26 a.m.
Fri. April 19 No House session
No Senate session
Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org