By Bob Katzen
THE HOUSE AND SENATE. Beacon Hill Roll Call records local senators’ votes on four roll calls from the week of June 24-28. There were no roll calls in the House last week.
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ALLOW UNIONS TO CHARGE NON-UNION MEMBERS FOR SOME COSTS (S 2273)
Senate 38-1, approved a bill that would allow public sector unions to charge non-members for the cost of some services and representation. The bill was filed as a response to a 2018 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that public employees cannot be forced to pay fees or dues to a union to which he or she does not belong. Freedom of speech advocates hailed the decision while labor advocates said it was an unjust attack on unions.
“Today we protect the right of unions to be able to make the case for membership to new hires, and to be compensated for representation they offer,” said Sen. Pat Jehlen (D-Somerville). “Unions have benefited all of us. They helped build the middle class, and they are now our main protection against its erosion. This bill is an important step in the fight against the rising tide of inequality, and it will safeguard the support that unions have provided for generations to workers across the commonwealth.”
“The Boston Globe’s editorial on the Janus fix was spot on,” said Rep. Ryan Fattman (R-Webster), the only senator who voted against the bill. “I agreed with the underlying legislation, however as the Boston Globe pointed out, the Senate had the opportunity to protect private information including the personal cell phone, email, and birth dates of the employee and their family members who chose not to be part of a union. We failed to do so. I believe if you choose to opt out of union membership your personal and private information should be exactly that: personal and private. These employees should not be compelled to turn over that private information to anyone. It is because of this privacy concern that I voted no.”
“I urge my colleagues to reject all the amendments that would undermine the principles set forth in this underlying bill and adopt a bill that will, again, ensure workers can come together, can organize together, can work together,” said Sen. Marc Pacheco (D-Taunton), during Senate debate on the floor. “[And] to have a voice that will help each and every one of us as citizens of this commonwealth and, at the end of the day, help to continue to improve the economy in a way that is more equitable for all people.”
“Legislators today voted against amendments that sought to educate workers on their rights regarding union membership, to give employees control over their private and personal information, and to protect that personal information once it is in the hands of union bosses,” said Paul Craney, spokesman for the Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance. “One thing is absolutely clear—this legislation has nothing to do with protecting employees. It is entirely about protecting union bosses and advancing their power over the workers. The legitimate concerns over protecting people’s right to privacy were completely swept under the rug by lawmakers beholden to union bosses. We urge the governor to veto the bill when it lands on his desk.”
The House has approved a different version of the bill and a conference committee will likely work out a compromise version.
(A “Yes” vote is for the bill. A “No” vote is against it.)
Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes
PERSONAL INFO (S 2273)
Senate 6-32, rejected an amendment that would eliminate the requirement that employees give the union their home address, home and cell phone number and personal e-mail address. The amendment would leave in place the requirement that the employee provide his or her work telephone number and work e-mail address.
Amendment supporters said that requiring personal information is an invasion of the employee’s privacy. They noted that unions have enough ways to contact new employees without using personal information.
Amendment opponents said laws have to keep up with the times. They noted that today’s communication is done via cell phone and personal e-mail address, not home address and landline phone.
(Please read carefully what a “Yes” and a “No” vote mean. On this roll call, the vote can easily be misinterpreted. A “Yes” vote is against requiring that employees give the union their home address, home and cell phone number and personal e-mail address. A “No” vote is for requiring it.)
Sen. Patricia Jehlen No
KEEP PERSONAL INFO PRIVATE (S 2273)
Senate 7-31, rejected an amendment requiring that unions keep the personal information of an employee confidential.
Amendment supporters said this is a simple amendment that ensures privacy and guarantees that the union will not sell the employee’s information.
Amendment opponents said this is a problem in search of a solution and that this information is already kept confidential.
(A “Yes” vote is for the amendment. A “No” vote is against it.)
Sen. Patricia Jehlen No
EMPLOYEE NOT REQUIRED TO MEET WITH THE UNION (S 2271)
Senate 5-33, rejected an amendment providing that no newly-hired employee be required to meet with the union.
Amendment supporters said the bill ensures that the union has the ability to meet with new hires. They said it is vague on whether the new employee can decide not to go the meeting. They noted that this amendment clarifies that the employee can opt out of the meeting.
Amendment opponents said the amendment is unnecessary because nothing in the bill requires an employee to meet with a union or prohibits the employee from choosing not to go to the meeting.
(A “Yes” vote is for the amendment. A “No” vote is against it
Sen. Patricia Jehlen No
ALSO UP ON BEACON HILL
PHYSICIAN-ASSISTED SUICIDE (H 1194) – The Public Health Committee held a jam-packed hearing on the controversial bill that would allow terminally ill patients with fewer than six months to live to obtain medication they can self-administer to commit suicide. The bill includes many rules and protocols that must be followed before the patient is given the medicine.
Voters defeated a similar measure on the 2012 ballot by a very slim 51 percent to 49 percent margin with 1,466,866 voting for the measure and 1,534,757 against. There were also 182,573 blank ballots of people who took a ballot but did not vote on this question.
“I first filed this bill on behalf of a constituent who was dying of stomach cancer,” said Rep. Lou Kafka (D-Sharon). “Having worked on this issue for over a decade, I have only become more passionate that this should be an option at the end of life. We can’t sit in judgement of those in such personal pain. Everyone must be allowed to make their own choice based on their own beliefs.”
“The question of assisted suicide was put before the voters of our Commonwealth in 2012, and they rejected it,” said Massachusetts Family Institute President Andrew Beckwith. “That’s because people understand that if we legalize doctors prescribing poison for certain patients to take their own lives, we would in effect codify that those lives are no longer worthy of legal protection. That would in itself be tragic, but would also set a dangerous precedent, blurring the line between natural death and medical manslaughter.”
Diane Rehm, a former National Public Radio talk show host, related her personal experience with this issue. Her husband John Rehm was afflicted with Parkinson’s Disease and sought alternatives to hospice care. His doctor told him that his only option was to stop eating, drinking, and taking his medications. “It took ten long days for him to die,” Rehm told the committee. “I was there with him watching him grimace but knowing that he did not want to be stopped on the path he was on. In the end he died a very painful elongated death which I will never ever forget.”
“This measure will replace a sanctity of life ethic with a quality of life ethic,” said Catholic Action League Executive Director C. J. Doyle. “It will deform the medical profession by making doctors participants in the death of their patients. Disturbingly, the legislation contains no requirement for the notification of family or next of kin, and no conscience clause for pharmacists. Powerful insurance companies, which already exercise a disproportionate influence on legislation and public policy, through their assets in lobbying, public relations and campaign finance, will have a financial incentive in the promotion of this practice.”
Citizens for Limited Taxation’s (CLT) Executive Director Chip Ford submitted, on his own behalf, written posthumous testimony from his partner former CLT chief Barbara Anderson who passed away in April 2016. Anderson wrote of assisted suicide in a March 2016 column, two weeks before she died following a struggle with leukemia.
“When I get angry, it’s when my own rights are attacked,” wrote Anderson. “… I want the right to choose assisted suicide should I be in a ‘ready to die’ mode. But no, despite my having left the Catholic Church 55 years ago, it still had the power to fight a ballot question that would give me personal autonomy over its religious doctrine. My own emotions don’t usually run deep, my being a rational, logical person and all, but I admit to hating the voters who said no to the recent ‘death with dignity’ ballot question. [I] hope they live long enough to regret it.”
“The end of life options act may sound good with its ideal of person in control choosing when to end their suffering, but in reality, for far too many people, it functions like a death penalty,” said John Kelly, Director of Second Thoughts Massachusetts, a group that champions disabled persons’ rights.
BAN TOXIC FLAME RETARDANTS (S 2555) – The Committee on Public Health has recommended passage of a bill that would ban 10 toxic flame retardants from children’s products, bedding, carpeting and residential upholstered furniture sold or manufactured in Massachusetts, except for inventory already manufactured prior to June 1, 2020. Another provision requires the Department of Environmental Protection to review, at least every three years, chemical flame retardants used in these products and include them on the list of prohibited chemical flame retardants that are documented to pose a health risk. Violators would be fined up to $1,000 for a first offense, up to $5,000 for a second offense and up to $50,000 for a third and each subsequent offense.
Motor vehicles, watercraft, aircraft, all-terrain vehicles and off-highway motorcycles are exempt from this law as are any previously owned products that contain a retardant.
The House and Senate approved the bill at the end of last year’s legislative session, but Gov. Charlie Baker did not sign it. “Massachusetts can be a leader in this area, but the specifics of the bill that emerged during the last hours of the legislative session limit its potential effectiveness,” Baker wrote to legislators. “A deliberative process involving all stakeholders and an implementation schedule that takes into account the realities of manufacturing and distribution practices are key components to any legislation. I look forward to working with the bill sponsors and stakeholders on a revised form of this legislation in the  session.”
Supporters say that since 1975, manufacturers have added chemical flame retardants to a wide array of household items including products with polyurethane foam, such as sofas, car seats, strollers and nap mats. They are also incorporated into electronic products and building insulation.
They argue that the retardants, while well-intentioned, do more harm than good and have been linked to an increased risk of cancer, fertility problems, neurological disorders and other major health concerns. They note that firefighters are exposed to flame retardants when they go into burning buildings.
“Now that the bill has once again had a very well-attended hearing and been released favorably with no changes by the Joint Committee, we are ready to take this bill all the way to enactment,” said the bill’s Senate sponsor Sen. Cindy Creem (D-Newton). “We must protect the public, including children and firefighters, by banning these dangerous chemicals from products in our homes.”
Representatives of chemical and electronics companies, makers of children’s products and mattresses testified against the bill when it had a hearing in May.
Ryan Trainer, president of the International Sleep Products Association, said that banning one specific chemical—antimony trioxide—would limit mattress manufacturers’ ability to meet federal flammability standards. He said that if the bill passed, it could force the redesign of many mattress styles, which would raise prices for consumers and businesses.
Dan Moyer from the Consumer Technology Association said other states exempt consumer electronics from the ban, but this version does not. He noted some of the banned chemicals are needed for circuit boards and other electronic parts that carry currents or are near parts that carry currents. He said other states exempt consumer electronics and that while such an exemption was in last session’s bill, it is not this year.
“I continue to be very appreciative of my House colleagues and leadership, including Chair Mahoney and Speaker DeLeo, who have continued to choose the side of science, public health and the lives of firefighters and children,” said the bill’s House sponsor Rep. Marjorie Decker (D-Cambridge).
“If this bill was a library book, the overdue bill would be astronomical,” said Janet Domenitz, executive director of MASSPIRG. “It’s well past time to enact this law which will protect our health, our safety, and our first responders.”
REQUIRE LOCKDOWN DRILLS AT SCHOOLS (H 433) – The Education Committee held a hearing on a proposal that would require each every public or private elementary and secondary school, in consultation with the local police department, to establish critical incident response protocols for the school, including protocols for active shooters and other critical incidents during classes, breaks between classes, lunch, assembly and fire alarms.
Each school would then be required to conduct at least two lockdown drills and one safety briefing for students and staff each school year. Currently, Massachusetts schools are required to conduct at least four fire drills per year, but there is no similar requirement for preparing for other critical incidents such as shooters.
“This is a very common sense bill,” said sponsor Shawn Dooley (R-Franklin). “One of my local police chiefs informed me that although some towns practice drills many do not. We mandate fire drills so children and teachers know what to do, so why wouldn’t we want to practice when our school is faced with other types of emergencies?”
BAN ON NATIVE-AMERICAN SCHOOL MASCOTS (H 443) – The Education Committee’s hearing also included legislation that bans the use of any Native American mascot by a public school including names like Redskins, Savages, Indians, Chiefs, Chieftains and Braves. Currently more than 30 schools in the Bay State use Native American mascots. The measure would allow schools to continue to use uniforms or other materials bearing the banned name, logo or mascot, if they were purchased before the date of the ban, and if the school does not buy anything new with the banned logo.
Supporters say the use of these symbols is demeaning to Native Americans and stereotypes them as savages. They said this decision should not be left up to local communities and noted a statewide ban will ensure that no schools use these offensive symbols.
“The ban on Native American mascots … represents a prime opportunity for us to celebrate our collective heritage in ways that bring us together and bring healing,” said the bill’s sponsor Rep. Nika Elugardo (D-Boston) “It’s an opportunity for Massachusetts to lead once again on the cutting edge of living out our shared value of justice for all.”
Some opponents say the mascots honor Native Americans by emphasizing positive traits like a fighting spirit, bravery, pride and dedication. Others say this is a decision that should be made by individual cities and towns.
“The citizens, both native and non-native in my district, had a debate when this piece of legislation was proposed years ago and overwhelmingly supported saving the mascot from elimination, [and] instead teaching the history of the Wamesit [Native American Tribe] people,” said Rep. Dave Roberston (D-Tewksbury) an opponent of the ban. “The Greater Lowell Indian Cultural Association spoke positively on the matter, and as representative I carry their concerns with me to Beacon Hill every day. I hope the towns and cities with such mascots work with their local tribes to celebrate and educate us on those who lived here before in a shared manner.
QUOTABLE QUOTES – Environmental Edition
“As an advocate, an attorney, and a homeowner near the state’s biggest landfill, I am here today with my colleagues to say, we are heading in the wrong direction. We produce too much waste, its disposal is dirty and dangerous, and exporting our trash somewhere else is not the answer.”
—Kirstie Pecci, Director of the Zero Waste Program at the Conservation Law Center, calling on Gov. Charlie Baker to turn the upcoming 2020-2030 Solid Waste Master Plan into a Zero Waste Master Plan for Massachusetts.
“Out of the billions of plastic bags used each year in America for an average of 12 minutes, only 1 percent are recycled. Most end up in landfills or incinerators, or as litter in the environment. Plastic bags take at least 500 years or more to degrade and are ingested by wildlife and humans alike.”
—MASSPIRG Executive Director Janet Domenitz urging passage of the bill restricting single-use plastic grocery bags.
“Our potential to generate clean energy from the sun is practically limitless. But all too often, arbitrary policy barriers stand in the way of families and businesses that want to go solar.”
—Ben Hellerstein, State Director for Environment Massachusetts, advocating new policies to tap into Massachusetts’ solar energy potential.
“Municipal light plants are a true asset to the commonwealth that have leveraged their unique combination of flexibility, expertise and local decision-making authority to be early adopters in the state’s clean energy future. I commend the Massachusetts Municipal Wholesale Electric Company and their members and look forward to working with you to facilitate further opportunities to build upon your clean energy accomplishments to date.”
—Rep. Tom Golden (D-Lowell), Chairman of the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy.
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 th /e 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 June 24-28, the House met for a total of four hours and five minutes while the Senate met for a total of six hours and 56 minutes.
Mon. June 24 House 11:05 a.m. to 11:25 a.m.
Senate 11:20 a.m. to 12:33 p.m.
Tues. June 25 No House session
No Senate session
Wed. June 26 No House session
No Senate session
Thurs. June 27 House 11:06 a.m. to 2:51 p.m.
Senate 11:12 a.m. to 4:55 p.m.
Fri. June 28 No House session
No Senate session
Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org