By Bob Katzen
THE HOUSE AND SENATE: There were no roll calls in the House and Senate last week. This week, Beacon Hill Roll Call reports on how often local senators voted with their party leadership.
The votes of 33 Democratic senators were compared to Senate Majority Leader Cindy Creem (D-Newton). The votes of five Republicans were compared with those of GOP Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester). Beacon Hill Roll Call uses 87 votes from the 2019 Senate session as the basis for this report. This includes all roll calls that were not on local issues.
Eighteen of the 33 Democratic senators (54 percent) voted with Creem 100 percent of the time.
The Democratic senator who voted the lowest percentage of times with Creem was Sen. Michael Moore (D-Millbury) who voted with her 94.2 percent of the time.
None of the five GOP members voted with Tarr 100 percent of the time. Two of them came close. Sens. Vinny deMacedo (R-Plymouth) and Donald Humason (R-Westfield) both voted with Tarr on all but one of the roll calls.
The GOP senator who voted with Tarr the lowest percentage of times is Sen. Patrick O’Connor (R-Weymouth) who voted with him 90.8 percent of the time.
PERCENTAGE OF TIMES SENATORS VOTED WITH THEIR PARTY’S LEADERSHIP IN 2019
The percentage next to the senator’ name represents the percentage of times the senator supported his or her party’s leadership.
The number in parentheses represents the number of times the senator opposed his or her party’s leadership.
Some senators voted on all 87 roll call votes. Others missed one or more roll call. The percentage for each senator is calculated based on the number of roll calls on which he or she voted and does not count the roll calls for which he or she was absent.
Sen. Patricia Jehlen 100 percent (0)
ALSO UP ON BEACON HILL
BUY LIFE-SAVING MEDICINE OR PAY RENT AND BUY FOOD – Sixteen percent of adults ages 18 to 64 in Massachusetts in 2016 stopped taking medications prescribed by a doctor due to the high cost of the prescriptions, according to a study by the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP).
“While prescription drug prices continue skyrocketing, Americans are being forced to choose between filling life-saving medications or paying rent and buying food,” said AARP Massachusetts director Mike Festa. “So far in 2019, 29 states have passed 46 new laws to rein in drug prices. It’s critical that state and federal lawmakers continue this momentum to stop Rx greed.”
Several bills on reducing drug pricing and increasing transparency are pending before the Legislature’s Health Care Financing Committee.
The study can be found at: https://www.aarp.org/politics-society/advocacy/info-2019/prescription-drugs-state-fact-sheets.html
ALLOW ALL IMMIGRANTS TO PURCHASE AND POSSESS MACE (S 1369) – The Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee is considering a bill that would remove immigration status as a condition for purchasing Mace and other self-defense sprays. The bill would repeal a current law that allows all citizens but only some immigrants, including permanent residents (green card holders) to purchase the sprays.
Other immigrants currently allowed to purchase the sprays are limited to certain immigrants with visas relating to their being a witness or victim of crime, human trafficking or domestic violence. Every other category of immigrant, including illegal immigrants, is currently prohibited from possessing a self-defense spray. Under this legislation, all citizens and legal and illegal immigrants in every category would be allowed to purchase the spray.
“Immigration status is irrelevant to need for self-defense spray,” said Sen. Will Brownsberger (D-Belmont) the sponsor of the measure.
MASSACHUSETTS’ ROADS RANK 46TH OVERALL – The Reason Foundation’s 2019 highway rankings were unveiled and determined that the Bay State ranked a lowly 46th in the nation in the category of overall highway performance and cost-effectiveness, a drop from 44th in the prior ranking.
The state did not do well in several categories including total costs per mile (48th), administrative costs per mile (48th), highway pavement condition (48th), traffic congestion (46th) and structurally deficient bridges (30th).
Its best rankings were in the categories of overall fatality rate (1st), rural fatality rate (1st) and urban fatality rate (12th).
“To improve in the rankings, Massachusetts needs to reduce its disbursements, improve its arterial pavement condition and reduce its traffic congestion,” said Baruch Feigenbaum, lead author of the report at Reason Foundation. “The state is in the bottom 10 for all four disbursements metrics, and the bottom five for arterial pavement condition and traffic congestion. Compared to neighboring states, the report finds Massachusetts’ overall highway performance is better than Rhode Island (48th), but worse than Connecticut (44th) and Vermont (19th).”
“Every Massachusetts lawmaker should read today’s report,” said Paul Craney, executive director of Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance. It shows unequivocally that throwing more money at the issue will not solve our transportation problems. More than likely, new revenues will go to fund an ever-expanding ‘Cadillac-style’ bureaucracy. This report makes perfectly clear that the commonwealth isn’t focused on cost.”
Craney continued, “Massachusetts taxpayers should be skeptical of any lawmaker who claims we need to ‘invest’ in our transportation without offering reforms. Doing that would just be throwing good money after bad. It’s like filling up a bucket with water that has holes in it. Gov. Charlie Baker, House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senate President Karen Spilka owe it to the taxpayers to come up with a way to drive down these costs,” he concluded.
“The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) is committed to maintaining a transportation system with the highest levels of quality and safety for the traveling public and continues to make strides to maximize cost-efficiency for the commonwealth’s taxpayers,” said the department’s spokesman Patrick Marvin.
Critics say the report uses outdated spending data that is nearly a decade old and is no longer accurate because there have been many improvements made within the last decade. They note the report itself also admits that numerous outside factors including terrain, climate, truck volumes, urbanization, system age, budget priorities, unit cost differences, state budget circumstances and management/maintenance philosophies may be impacting rankings.
Critics also point out that the report notes that Massachusetts’ roads have a low fatality rate and are the safest in the country.
BAY STATE’S PENSION INVESTMENT FUND RANKING – The American Investment Council recently released its 2019 Public Pension Study, which analyzes investment returns by 165 U.S. public pension funds and highlights how private equity continues to deliver the highest returns of any asset class.
The study names the Massachusetts Pension Reserves Investment Trust (Mass PRIT) as Number 1 of the ten funds with the highest private equity returns. The Bay State’s fund earned a 10-year annualized return of 13.63 percent. Mass PRIT has topped the list four times since the study was first published in 2012.
The study also shows private equity continues to lead all asset classes in long-term investment performance, with private equity’s median 10-year annualized return of 10.2 percent surpassing public equity’s 8.5 percent and real estate’s 4.8 percent.
“Mass PRIM’s private equity program has consistently performed extremely well for the 300,000 state and municipal employees, teachers, retirees and others that count on us to deliver strong investment returns on their pension assets, said Michael Trotsky, executive director and chief investment officer of PRIM. “Our long-term commitment to this asset class enables us to partner with the industry’s top investment managers – allowing our team to access the most attractive opportunities in pension investment on behalf of our member plans and beneficiaries.”
GENDER X (H 3070) – A bill that would allow residents to choose a third gender option, “x” in lieu of “male” or “female” on an application for a driver’s license, learner’s permit, identification card or liquor purchase identification card has been stuck in the House Ways and Means Committee since April 4. No documentation would be required for the person to choose the “X” option. The measure was approved by the Transportation Committee in April which then sent it to Ways and Means.
“This issue was brought to my attention by a constituent who identifies as gender-nonbinary,” the bill’s sponsor Rep. David Linsky (D-Natick) told Beacon Hill Roll Call when the bill had a hearing in March 2019. “They were struggling with what they would do when it came time to choose a gender for their driver’s license. Applying for a driver’s license should be an exciting day for all teenagers, not overcome by stress for young people who identify as gender non-binary. This legislation is about ensuring that every person in the commonwealth of Massachusetts feels welcomed and accepted.”
“Identifying documents serve a variety of crucial purposes that help society function on a basic level,” Christopher Jay, an attorney for the Massachusetts Family Institute which opposes the measure told Beacon Hill Roll Call at the time of hearing.“ Introducing false and incomplete information into the system undermines their purpose and harms society. There is no logical boundary here. If someone can specify their gender regardless of biological fact, why not specify a different race, age, height, weight or eye color according to how the person feels?”
SOCIAL MEDIA PRIVACY PROTECTION (H 3695) – The Labor and Workforce Development Committee gave a favorable report on April 25 to a proposal designed to protect students and employees from being forced or bullied into providing schools and companies with information about and access to their social media accounts. The bill has been stuck in the House Ways and Means Committee since that date.
Provisions prohibit any school from requiring a student or applicant and an employee or applicant to disclose photographs, videos, a user name, password or other means of access to a personal social media account; prohibit requiring an individual to “friend” a coach, school administrator, other school employees or employer as a condition of employment or participation in school activities; allow an aggrieved student or applicant to bring a civil suit against the school for violating these new laws; and permit schools to disclose lawfully obtained information from a student’s personal social media account to law enforcement.
Supporters say that a growing number of employers and schools are demanding access to the social media account of students and employees and prospective students and employees. They argue this is an invasion of privacy that should not be allowed in the Bay State. They say that demanding access to a social media account is the same as demanding offline access to a person’s diary, regular mail, photo albums and conversations the person has with family and friends—offline things that would never be demanded by a school or employer.
SUPPORT THE GOVERNMENT OF EL SALVADOR – The House approved, without debate, resolutions “extending its support to El Salvador’s President Nayib Bukele and the country of El Salvador.”
The resolutions state that Bukele is battling violence, poverty and corruptions and aiming to alleviate the causes that generate its citizens’ migration. They also pledge to support the El Salvador’s investment policies aimed at increasing economic development, creating more jobs and stimulating the economy.
Rep. Joseph McGonagle (D-Everett), the sponsor of the resolutions, did not respond to repeated requests by Beacon Hill Roll Call for a comment on the resolutions including responding to critics who say the Massachusetts House should not be voting on international issues when there is much work to be done at home.
“What else do Bay State legislators have to do?” asked Chip Ford, Executive Director of Citizens for Limited Taxation. “The alleged-fulltime ‘Best Legislature Money Can Buy’ is on its well-paid month-long vacation, and this is what happens when too much idle time seeks justification and relevance. I guess we should be thankful the resolution isn’t being hand-delivered by a legislative delegation on a taxpayers-paid junket. It’s not, is it?”
“Gone are the days where someone with an opposing viewpoint would sit across the table, listen to the perspective of the other side and weigh their position with the facts to reach a compromise. Our political discourse has become so polarized that many conversations dissolve into accusations, insults and degrading retorts via social media. Misinformation continues to serve as a convenient tool to tell half-truths and to spread inaccuracies.”
—Sen. Michael Moore (D-Millbury)
“Now large, profitable corporations and their lobbyists are calling for working people to pay more, and they think they deserve a big round of applause for letting the rest of us pay higher taxes! Business organizations across the state are discussing transportation financing plans that would have road users pay even more, without taking any responsibility for businesses themselves to chip in.”
—From a statement from the group Raise Up Massachusetts arguing that it is time for businesses to pay more taxes to fund education and transportation needs. Raise Up is the same group that is leading the charge to pass a 2022 ballot question imposing an additional 4 percent income tax, in addition to the current flat 5.10 percent one, on taxpayers’ earnings of more than $1 million in order to fund education and transportation needs.
“Thousands of hard-working Massachusetts employers, from software startups to corner grocery stores, spend every day paying their fair share to the commonwealth by providing economic opportunity and prosperity from Boston to the Berkshires. These employers understand better than anyone the need to address issues such as transportation and education, but they also understand that the recent examples provided by Connecticut and New Jersey prove that you cannot solve these problems by punitively taxing business.”
—Chris Geehern, Executive Vice President of Public Affairs and Communications for Associated Industries of Massachusetts.
“While the federal government fails to develop effective solutions, state and local leaders are working to ensure Americans’ safety and quality of life with modern, well-functioning infrastructure. During the summit, governors, private-sector experts and other attendees will engage in panel discussions, a thought-provoking site visit, as well as peer-to-peer exchanges and networking opportunities.”
—National Governor’s Association announcing that Gov. Charlie Baker will host the governors of Rhode Island, New Hampshire and Maryland in Boston to talk with transportation technology experts and policy advisors about ways to reduce traffic congestion and boost economic competitiveness.
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 19-23, the House met for a total of 17 minutes while the Senate met for a total of 17 minutes
Mon. Aug. 19 House 11:05 a.m. to 11:15 a.m.
Senate 11:11 a.m. to 11:20 a.m.
Tues. Aug. 20 No House session
No Senate session
Wed. Aug. 21 No House session
No Senate session
Thurs. Aug 22 House 11:03 a.m. to 11:10 a.m.
Senate 11:11 a.m. to 11:19 a.m.
Fri. Aug. 23. No House session
No Senate session
Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org