By Bob Katzen
THE HOUSE AND SENATE. There were no roll call votes in the House or Senate last week. This week, Beacon Hill Roll Call reports local senators’ roll call attendance records for the 2019 session through August 9.
The Senate has held 91 roll call votes so far in 2019. Beacon Hill Roll Call tabulates the number of roll calls on which each senator was present and voting and then calculates that number as a percentage of the total roll call votes held. That percentage is the number referred to as the roll call attendance record.
In the 40-member Senate, 36 senators (90 percent) have 100 percent roll call attendance records.
The senator who missed the most roll calls is Sen. Adam Hinds (D-Pittsfield) who missed 7 roll calls, (92.3 percent attendance record).
“Sen. Hinds did miss seven roll calls on June 27, 2019 because he was appointed by the Senate president to attend the National Conference of State Legislatures’ Budget and Tax Academy in Washington DC,” said Bethann Steiner, Hinds’ chief of staff.
Two senators missed one roll call each and have a 98.9 percent record: Sens. Ryan Fattman (R-Sutton) and John Keenan (D-Quincy).
“I was unable to be present for a single roll call due to attending my brother’s U.S. Army Aviation graduation from Fort Rucker in Alabama,” Fattman told Beacon Hill Roll Call.
“I was unable to be recorded in the first procedural roll call vote of the year because I was in Lesvos, Greece working in the Moria Refugee Camp at the time,” said Keenan … “Since then, I have maintained a 100 percent voting record on all legislation this session.”
By tradition, Senate President Karen Spilka (D-Ashland) does not vote on most roll calls so her figures are not included.
2019 SENATORS’ ROLL CALL ATTENDANCE RECORD THROUGH AUGUST 9
The percentage listed next to the senator’s name is the percentage of roll call votes for which the senator was present and voting. The number in parentheses represents the number of roll calls that he or she missed.
Sen. Patricia Jehlen 100 percent (0)
ALSO UP ON BEACON HILL
POSSIBLE 2020 BALLOT QUESTIONS – Sponsors of possible ballot questions for the November 2020 election faced their first deadline in the long process to get their proposed law or constitutional amendment on the ballot. Sponsors had until August 7 to submit the proposal and the signatures of 10 citizens.
There were 16 initiative petitions for proposed laws or constitutional amendments filed with Attorney General Maura Healey’s Office, including 13 proposed laws and three proposed constitutional amendments. Healey will decide by September 3 if the proposals pass muster and meet constitutional requirements.
If a proposal for a law is certified by Healey, the next step is for supporters to gather 80,239 certified voter signatures by December 4, 2019. The proposal would then be sent to the Legislature and if not approved by May 3, 2020, proponents must gather another 13,374 signatures by July 1, 2020, in order for the question to appear on the 2020 ballot.
Proposals for laws filed last week include requiring that all gun owners store their weapon in a gun safe and providing that all gun owners be held equally responsible for any and all actions and crimes committed by any person using unsecured weapons obtained from any residence, business or vehicle regardless of owner consent or non-consent; establishing laws to protect the rights of and require humane treatment of people with disabilities; updating the state’s 2013 law ensuring independent repair shops have access to diagnostic information for vehicles; limiting political donations from individuals and political action committees that are outside of Massachusetts; protecting whales; ensuring adequate funding of nursing homes; preventing Massachusetts from becoming a sanctuary state; limiting payouts to state workers when they leave public service; and requiring ranked-choice voting (RCV) to be used in Massachusetts elections. RCV is an electoral system in which voters rank candidates by preference and if a candidate wins a majority of first-place votes, he or she wins the election. If no candidate wins a majority of first-place votes, the candidate with the fewest first-preference votes is eliminated and the system continues until a candidate wins a majority.
One of the proposed constitutional amendments declares that corporations are not people and do not have the same rights as individuals and that money is not free speech and may be regulated. That amendment is in response to the Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission, which allows corporations to donate an unlimited amount of money to Super PACs that are formed to support or oppose candidates. The PAC is not allowed to communicate directly with the candidate or his or her campaign.
The two other proposed constitutional amendments would restore voting rights to people with felony convictions and restrict public funding of abortion.
In the 2018 election, 28 proposals for a law or for a constitutional amendment were submitted, with only three ultimately collecting sufficient signatures to make it to the ballot. A move to repeal the law prohibiting discrimination against transgender people in public accommodations was defeated, leaving the law intact. Also defeated was an attempt to place a limit on how many patients can be assigned to each registered nurse in Massachusetts hospitals.
The only question that was approved was the creation of a citizens’ commission to consider and recommend potential amendments to the U.S. Constitution to establish that corporations do not have the same constitutional rights as human beings and that corporations’ campaign contributions and expenditures may be regulated.
PROVIDE HOMELESS CHILDREN WITH TRANSPORTATION TO SCHOOL (S 344) – The Education Committee is considering a bill that would provide school transportation to homeless students. The schools would be reimbursed by the state for any costs that aren’t covered by federal funding.
Supporters cited a 2018 report that says over 3,000 students in Massachusetts experience homelessness in a given year.
“One of the biggest factors for determining positive life outcomes for a child is education, and the quality of that education is an equally important determinant,” said Sen. Dean Tran (R-Fitchburg), the sponsor of the proposal. “Fortunately for those of us who live in the commonwealth, we have the ability to take advantage of the best educational system in the country. Unfortunately, the overall quality of our education system is meaningless if our children cannot get to class.”
WOMEN ON BOARDS OF DIRECTORS (S 1879) – A bill being considered by the State Administration and Regulatory Oversight Committee would require that corporate boards of directors of large Massachusetts-based firms include at least one woman on their board of director by January 2022. In January 2024, boards of directors with six or more directors would be required to have three female board members and boards of directors with five or fewer directors must have two female members.
“Increasing diversity in our state’s workforce and leadership, in the public and private sectors, is both a moral and economic imperative for our commonwealth,” said the bill’s sponsor Sen. Jason Lewis (D-Winchester). “In Massachusetts, women only make up 21 percent of the directors on the boards of the 100 largest public companies. Eleven of these companies have only men serving on their boards. We can and must do better to ensure that our business and civic leadership reflects the gender and racial diversity of our commonwealth.”
HIGHER EDUCATION FINANCIAL LITERACY COUNSELING (H 1224) – The Higher Education Committee is considering a measure that authorizes the Board of Higher Education to require that all public colleges and universities provide students with financial literacy counseling once the student is accepted to the school. The bill also authorizes the board to provide students with a financial aid shopping sheet developed by the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the United States Department of Education. The sheet would include the full estimated cost of attending college, including tuition and fees, housing and meals, books and supplies, transportation and other education costs as well as grants, scholarships, work-study and loan options.
“There are more than 45 million student loan borrowers in the United States with an average debt per borrower of $27,975,” said the bill’s sponsor House Minority Leader Brad Jones (R-North Reading.) “To reduce the likelihood of significant financial stress after their postsecondary education is completed, students need to clearly understand their borrowing options. By making currently available data more accessible, easier to understand, and easier to compare, [the proposal] will help students better identify colleges that provide the best value and fit based on their individual circumstances, needs and goals.”
“The Trump Administration is shamefully putting industry interests above the health of our children and the environment. We are asking the court to order the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to do its job and ban this toxic pesticide from our food.”
—Attorney General Maura Healey announcing her suit against the EPA for failing to ban the use of a toxic pesticide chlorpyrifos which is widely used on food consumed by infants, young children and pregnant women.
“Teacher training is critical to ensure teachers throughout the commonwealth are prepared to lead effective civics education lessons for the one million students.”
—Steven Rothstein, John F. Kennedy Library Foundation’s executive director on the $1.5 million allocated to the Civics Project Trust Fund to ensure equitable and effective implementation of Massachusetts’ landmark civics education law enacted in November 2018.
“Congestion is a complicated problem with a complicated and interconnected set of causes. There is no silver bullet. There is no one thing the commonwealth can do that will make congestion better here. But there are a lot of things that we have to do if we take congestion seriously.”
— Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack on release of “Congestion in the Commonwealth,” a Baker administration report about traffic in the Bay State indicating congestion has gotten worse largely because the state and regional economy are doing so well, and the population and labor force are growing.
“While there are several meaningful and positive ideas included in the governor’s congestion report, it’s hard to take seriously any proposal that recommends adding highway capacity in 2019. We have known for decades that building new highway lanes, even if they are tolled, doesn’t fix congestion — it encourages more driving, which increases air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.”
Matt Casale, MASSPIRG’s Staff Attorney and Transportation Campaign director on the congestion report.
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 August 5-9, the House met for a total of one hour and 13 minutes while the Senate met for a total of one hour and 10 minutes.
Mon. Aug. 5 House 11:02 a.m. to 11:07 a.m.
Senate 11:21 a.m. to 11:31 a.m.
Tues. Aug. 6 No House session
No Senate session
Wed. Aug.7 No House session
No Senate session
Thurs. Aug 8 House 11:01 a.m. to 12:09 p.m.
Senate 11:13 a.m. to 12:13 p.m.
Fri. Aug. 29 No House session
No Senate session
Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at email@example.com