Beacon Hill Roll Call Volume 44 – Report No. 27 July 1-5, 2019


By Bob Katzen

THE HOUSE AND SENATE. Beacon Hill Roll Call records local senator’s votes on roll calls from recent sessions. There were no roll calls in the House or Senate last week.

ALLOW UNIONS TO CHARGE NON-UNION MEMBERS FOR SOME COSTS (S 2273) – The House and Senate approved on a voice vote without a roll call and sent to Gov. Charlie Baker 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.

“The bill levels the playing field for organized labor in the wake of recent Supreme court decisions,” said Rep. Paul Brodeur (D-Melrose), a key sponsor of the legislation. “Gov. Baker should sign it without amendments to protect collective bargaining rights and prevent free riding.”

“The Legislature sent the governor a bill that puts the interests of union bosses ahead of workers,” said Paul Craney, spokesman for the Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance which opposes the proposal. “The government has a responsibility to protect its workers and this bill exposes workers to harassment from union bosses and without their consent, provides the personal contact info of state workers to union bosses. The governor would be wise to veto it.”

Here are three roll calls from the recent debate on the union bill:

USE OF EMPLOYEE’S E-MAIL (S 2273)
Senate 6-32, rejected an amendment that would require that all union e-mails to public employees are “consistent with any e-mail or information technology usage policies of the employer and consistent with all state and federal laws and regulations.”

Amendment supporters said it is important to avoid chaos and ensure that when unions use work e-mail addresses of employees, the union follows the same rules that the employers have instituted.

Amendment opponents said unions should be able to communicate with its members without interference by employers. They noted that nothing in the bill allows e-mail use by unions to violate state or federal laws.

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

Sen. Patricia Jehlen No

GIVE PRIOR NOTICE TO USE GOVERNMENT BUILDING (S 2273)
Senate 6-32, rejected an amendment to a section of the bill that allows unions to use government buildings to meet with union members. The amendment would require that the union give reasonable prior notice to the government entity.

Amendment supporters said this will simply make the rules on using these government buildings the same as the rules that currently must be followed for usage of a room at the Statehouse.

Amendment opponents said the amendment is not necessary because the bill already requires that any use not interfere with governmental operations.

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

Sen. Patricia Jehlen No

MAKE PROVIDING PERSONAL CONTACT INFO AN OPTION (S 2273)
Senate 6-32, rejected an amendment that would eliminate the requirement that employees give the union their home address, home and cellphone number and personal e-mail address. Instead, the amendment gives new employees the option of providing the union with that personal information. The amendment would leave in place the requirement that the employee must provide his or her work telephone number and work e-mail address.

Amendment supporters said that requiring the employee’s personal information is an invasion of privacy. They noted that unions have many other ways to contact new employees without using personal information.

“The amendment … allows a new hire to decide whether his or her personal information can be disclosed to the unions,” said Sen. Dean Tran (R-Leominster), the sponsor of the amendment. “This is an opt-in option for the new employee. “[It is] a common sense amendment simply changing the language within the bill to ensure that personal info, such as an employee’s home address, cell phone number and personal e-mail are kept private, while still allowing union representation to access key work-related contact information.”

Amendment opponents said laws have to keep up with the technology and the times. They noted that today’s communication is done via personal cellphone and personal e-mail address, not old-school home addresses and landline phones.

(Readers: 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 for deleting the requirement that an employee provide personal information and replacing it with an option for the employee to provide it. A “No” vote is for requiring the employee to provide the personal information.)

Sen. Patricia Jehlen No

ALSO UP ON BEACON HILL

ALLOW ONLINE LOTTERY SALES (S 109 and H 37) – The Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure held a well-attended hearing on legislation that would allow the Lottery to sell tickets to its games including scratch tickets, jackpot draw games and Keno.

Lottery officials have unsuccessfully filed this bill for several years and say it will boost sales and provide more local aid to cities and towns. Retailers across the state oppose the idea and say it would destroy small businesses and threaten the Lottery’s success.

State Treasurer Deb Goldberg, the sponsor of the measure, said that the Lottery must respond proactively to the challenges faced today to continue supplying reliable local aid to cities and towns.

“The gaming and entertainment environment have changed significantly since the Lottery’s inception in 1972,” said Goldberg. “A growing number of states have recognized the shift toward frictionless transactions and the competitive advantage of engaging consumers on multiple platforms, online and in stores. In fact, of the 44 states with their own lotteries, eleven now offer games online. New Hampshire started selling online last September, posting over $1.3 million in net gaming revenue in just twelve weeks from online sales alone. We know that more states will follow.”

“The Retailers Association of Massachusetts believes it should be the default position of state government officials and state public policy to incent consumers to spend their vital dollars in the local economy,” said Jon Hurst, President of the Retailers Association of Massachusetts (RAM). “[An] Online lottery doesn’t do that. The state Lottery is one of the most successful in the country with record profits. And we must start asking ourselves with [the] Lottery, casinos, and soon online sports betting, just how much gaming is too much.”

Executive Director of the Lottery Michael Sweeney compared the current Lottery to an old rotary dial telephone which he held up in front of the committee. “This device still actually does work, if it’s properly connected,” testified Sweeney. “As you know, obviously it’s a land-based device, it’s heavy and it’s also a little bit clunky. But it was revolutionary in its time, much like the Massachusetts state Lottery was when introduced in the 1970s. Times have rapidly changed and what has now occurred is we have undergone a huge consumer and technology revolution.”

Robert Mellion, executive director of the Massachusetts Package Stores Association testified against the bill. “We were earlier in this hearing compared to a telephone, essentially,” said Mellion. “That’s what brick-and-mortar was compared with and this is what retailers across the state were just compared to. I’ll say this about a telephone, it works. It works in a snowstorm, it works when it’s sunny out, it works in a hurricane. So it’s not necessarily a bad thing.”

ALLOW LOTTERY WINNERS TO REMAIN ANONYMOUS (H 299) – The Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure Committee also held a hearing on a bill that would allow Lottery winners to remain anonymous.

Sponsor Rep. Paul McMurtry (D-Dedham) did not respond to repeated e-mails from Beacon Hill Roll Call to comment on his bill.

Supporters say winners should have the option of remaining anonymous to avoid all the visits, phone calls and e-mails from family, friends and strangers seeking some of the money.

Opponents say the publicity for the winner and the Lottery when someone wins a big jackpot helps boost overall Lottery sales.

LIMIT FEE FOR CASHING CHECKS (H 277) – The Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure is considering legislation that would set a cap on the fees check-cashing stores and outlets are allowed to charge. The maximum charge would be 5 percent of the value of a personal check or $5, whichever is greater, plus a $1 service charge; 1.5 percent of a government check plus a $1 service charge; 3 percent of a payroll check of $100 or less; 2.25 percent of a payroll check of more than $100; and 3 percent of all other checks including traveler’s check, cashier’s check and certified check plus a $1 service charge.

Supporters said of the 34 states that regulate check cashing, Massachusetts is one of eight that do not regulate the fees that may be charged. They argued these check-cashing “stores” are often located in low-income neighborhoods and take advantage of vulnerable residents.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Kay Khan (D-Newton) said the proposal will provide protections for the “unbanked” — people who do not have a checking, savings or money market account anywhere. “As a consequence of not participating in mainstream banking institutions, such consumers rely heavily on alternative financial services and are charged exorbitant fees that substantially reduce their net annual income in the long-term,” said Khan.

FREE LIMITED SMARTPHONES TO FOSTER CHILDREN (H 91) – The Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities Committee’s hearing included legislation that would give a smartphone, without Internet browsing capability, to every child over age six in the state’s foster care system. Each phone would be limited to four pre-programmed phone numbers, including 911 and the number of the foster child’s caseworker. The phone would include an application which allows the child to have a face-to-face video discussion with his or her caseworker.

Supporters say that the phones are intended to provide additional oversight and protection to foster children and is not a substitute for services and care currently rendered by the state.

Rep. David Biele (D-South Boston) who filed the bill at the request of a constituent, did not respond to repeated e-mails from Beacon Hill Roll Call to comment on the bill and to put us in touch with the sponsor.

QUOTABLE QUOTES

“Good morning to everyone except for Gov. Baker and everyone in the Massachusetts Legislature who has resisted raising the money we need to have a functioning transit system.”
—Facebook post by Progressive Massachusetts, an organization that promotes progressive issues and candidates in Massachusetts.

“All of our children should be protected equally. I’m just pleading that this doesn’t happen to more children.”
—Marquita Kelley testifying before the Education Committee in favor of a bill that would impose health and safety standards for license-exempt private child care programs. Kelley’s 10-week-old son died in April 2017 after he was left alone sleeping on his stomach at a church daycare center.

“Now the public has the opportunity to grapple with some of the complex issues we have considered as we continue working together to build a safer, more equitable, and more effective industry in Massachusetts.”
—Cannabis Control Commission (CCC) chairman Steve Hoffman announcing public hearings on August 14 and 15 on proposed rules authorizing social or public use of marijuana and home delivery of non-medical marijuana. Details are at https://mass-cannabis-control.com/notice-of-public-hearings-7_2_19/

“For the past 20 years, we’ve known about the maintenance backlog, we’ve known about the funding issues with the MBTA, and I’m sorry to say, friends, but Republicans and, I will admit, Democrats have had the chance to do something and it hasn’t happened. Change needs to start now.”
—Rep. Mike Connolly (D-Cambridge) at an event protesting fare hikes for the MBTA’s rail and ferry services that recently went into effect.

“Late budgets are a sign of governance weakness which, in extreme cases, can be negative for state credit quality. Late budgets can also expose local governments and other downstream entities to an interruption in state payments.”
— Moody’s Investor Services criticizing Massachusetts and six other states for not yet having a final fiscal 2020 budget in place.

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 July 1-5, the House met for a total of eight hours and 42 minutes while the Senate met for a total of nine hours and 23 minutes.

Mon. July 1 House 10:59 a.m. to 4:02 p.m.
Senate 11:09 a.m. to 4:24 p.m.

Tues. July 2 House 11:00 a.m. to 12:59 p.m.
Senate 11:05 a.m. to 1:33 p.m.

Wed. July 3 House 11:04 a.m. to 12:44 p.m.
Senate 11:07 a.m. to 12:47 p.m.

Thurs. July 4 No House session
No Senate session

Fri. July 5 No House session
No Senate session

Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at bob@beaconhillrollcall.com

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