Beacon Hill Roll Call Volume 44 – Report No. 39 September 23-27, 2019

By Bob Katzen

THE HOUSE AND SENATE. Beacon Hill Roll Call records the votes of local representatives from the week of September 23-27, 2019. There were no important roll calls in the Senate last week.

House 121-35, approved and sent to the Senate a bill making changes in the state’s campaign finance rules for candidates running for a seat in the Massachusetts House or Senate. Provisions include requiring legislators and candidates for the state Legislature to set up depository committees with a bank, similar to statewide candidates; requiring itemized disclosures to be filed quarterly for the first 18 months of the two-year election cycle, and before the primary and general elections of an election year; and increasing the number of reports for each candidate from five to nine per cycle.

The controversial part of the bill was changing how the director of the Office of Campaign and Political Finance (OCPF) is chosen. The controversy comes amidst speculation that current OCPF Director Michael Sullivan, who has held the job since 1994, may soon retire.

Under current law, the director is appointed by a 4-member committee including the state chair of the Democratic party, the state chair of the Republican party, the secretary of state and the dean of a law school located in Massachusetts to be appointed by the governor. The director must be appointed by a unanimous vote of the four members.

Under the proposed legislation, the director is comprised of a 5-member committee including the governor, the attorney general, the secretary of state and two people appointed by that preceding trio, one who must be an elected municipal official and the other an elected county official. The director must be appointed by at least a 4/5 vote of the five members and no more than three commissioners can be from the same political party.

Rep. John Lawn (D-Watertown), the House chair of the Elections Laws Committee and the Democratic leadership in the House led the fight to change the makeup of the commission and to reduce to 4/5 the current unanimous requirement necessary to appoint the director. Republicans and a handful of Democrats voted in favor of leaving the makeup of the committee intact and requiring a unanimous vote for appointment.

Lawn did not respond to repeated requests by Beacon Hill Roll Call for a statement on the legislation.

“We are supportive of any initiatives that increase election transparency and lessen the appearance of partisanship,” said Democratic party chair Gus Bickford. “As we have seen with the Trump Administration’s craven disabling of the Federal Elections Commission, voting rights should exist free of any real or perceived partisan action. I applaud the legislature for looking into ways we can protect our election process.”

“This proposal further proves that the Democrats are shameless and will stop at nothing to maintain their stranglehold on power in the commonwealth,” Massachusetts Republican Party Chair Jim Lyons said. “This is an obvious power play to eliminate any say that the minority party has when it comes to selecting the next OCPF director.”

“This is nothing more than a solution in search of a problem,” said GOP Minority Leader Brad Jones (R-North Reading) who led the unsuccessful effort to adopt several amendments. ”And it would unfairly limit or exclude the minority party’s ability to participate in the selection process.”

“There are a lot of good things in this bill that I support, including a provision to bring the campaign finance reporting requirement for state legislators in line with those who hold statewide elected office by requiring legislative candidates to designate a bank as a depository for their campaign finance funds,” Jones continued. “I would have voted for this bill if not for the ‘poison pill’ … that would severely diminish Republican input in selecting the director of the state’s Office of Campaign and Political Finance by removing the state party chair from the nominating commission.”

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

Rep. Christine Barber Yes Rep. Mike Connolly Yes Rep. Denise Provost Yes

House 46-112, rejected an amendment that would leave the current makeup of the commission intact.

“By all accounts, the existing system has worked well,” said Jones. “The current makeup of the commission ensures full participation and input by both Democrats and Republicans by requiring the state chairs of both parties to serve as voting members. If something isn’t broken, then why try to fix a problem that doesn’t exist?”

“I think taking party chairs, both Democrats and Republicans, out of the process is depoliticizing the process,” said House Speaker Bob DeLeo (D-Winthrop). “I think it’s the right thing to do.”

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

Rep. Christine Barber No Rep. Mike Connolly Yes Rep. Denise Provost Yes

House 34-124, rejected an amendment that would require a unanimous instead of a 4/5 vote of the five commissioners to appoint the director.

“Requiring a unanimous vote by the commission members to select an OCPF director offers a safeguard to prevent disenfranchising either political party,” said Jones. “Since the proposed make-up of the new commission does not explicitly guarantee minority party representation, it is important that we retain the current requirement for a unanimous vote so that every member has an equal say in the process, regardless of their party affiliation.”

“Why?” asked Rep. Josh Cutler (D-Duxbury). “Just means we could have gridlock like the Federal Elections Commission. Four-fifths is still a high bar.”

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

Rep. Christine Barber No Rep. Mike Connolly No Rep. Denise Provost No

House 39-119, rejected an amendment requiring at least one Democrat and one Republican on the commission.

“By default, the proposed five-member commission would include at least one Republican, namely Gov. Baker,” said Jones. “However, in the future, we could have a Democratic governor, which would alter the equation. Even though the bill prohibits more than three commissioners from being enrolled in the same political party, this does not guarantee a Republican will hold a seat because the remaining two commissioners could be unenrolled or affiliated with some other political third party. By stipulating that at least one member be a Republican and at least one member be a Democrat, we can guarantee that the majority party and the minority party continue to have a role to play in the process.”

“The point of the bill is to take political party leaders out of the process,” said Cutler. [There is already] a requirement that one party can’t dominate. [We need] elected accountable leaders making choices, not party insiders chosen only by their partisans.”

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

Rep. Christine Barber No Rep. Mike Connolly No Rep. Denise Provost No

House 42-116, rejected an amendment requiring a background investigation to be conducted into the financial stability, integrity and responsibility of each candidate of the commission, including the candidate’s reputation for good character and honesty. The amendment also would make anyone who has been convicted of a felony ineligible to serve on the commission.

“The OCPF serves an important purpose by enforcing campaign finance laws and making sure elected officials and candidates for public office are fully transparent in reporting all of their campaign fundraising activities and expenditures,” Jones said. “Because the commission is entrusted with nominating the director of OCPF, it is important that all of its members be held to a high moral and ethical standard, and that anyone convicted of a felony be excluded from serving as a commissioner.”

“These things are certainly important but there is already a vetting process in place,” Cutler said. “And there are already ethics compliance steps in place.”

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

Rep. Christine Barber No Rep. Mike Connolly No Rep. Denise Provost No

House 155-0, approved an amendment that would establish a special legislative commission to examine the feasibility of authorizing the use of campaign funds to pay for childcare services by candidates for state, county and municipal elected office.

“As they currently exist, Massachusetts’ campaign finance laws may discourage individuals, particularly based on gender and socioeconomic status, from running for office,” said the amendment’s sponsor Rep. Joan Meschino (D-Hull). “Childcare is a professional expense that unlocks economic potential, and in this case, opens the door to broader civic engagement and public service. I am grateful for the special legislative commission as a mechanism to create opportunities to support a more diverse pool of candidates for public office.”

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

Rep. Christine Barber Yes Rep. Mike Connolly Yes Rep. Denise Provost Yes


BAKER ANNOUNCES 4-MONTH BAN ON SALE OF ALL VAPE PRODUCTS – Gov. Charlie Baker declared a public health emergency in response to confirmed and suspected cases of severe lung disease associated with the use of e-cigarettes and marijuana vaping products. The governor instituted a temporary 4-month statewide ban on the sale of flavored and non-flavored vaping products in both retail stores and online. The sales ban applies to all vaping products and devices, including tobacco and marijuana and takes effect immediately and lasts through January 25, 2020.

“The use of e-cigarettes and marijuana vaping products is exploding and we are seeing reports of serious lung illnesses, particularly in our young people,” said Baker. “The purpose of this public health emergency is to temporarily pause all sales of vaping products so that we can work with our medical experts to identify what is making people sick and how to better regulate these products to protect the health of our residents.”

“Not so fast.” said opponents of the ban. “While we share Gov. Baker’s concern for public safety and his desire to address the epidemic of lung illnesses, we are fearful of the unintended consequences of a ban on the sale of state-regulated cannabis products used in vaporization devices,” the Cannabis Trade Federation (CTF) said in a release. “By banning cannabis vape products that are produced according to state regulations, it significantly increases the likelihood that individuals will seek to purchase those products from unregulated sources. Yet media reports suggest that unregulated products containing THC may be a primary source of the epidemic. Already, our members have heard from patients suffering with cancer, PTSD, and other conditions who are panicked about how they will obtain the medicine they need in an ingestion method that they have found to be helpful. Their needs should not be ignored.”

“Vaping is a public health crisis and it is imperative that we understand its impact at both the individual and overall health care system level,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders. “As a result of the public health emergency, the commonwealth is implementing a statewide standing order for nicotine replacement products, like gum and patches, which will allow people to access these products as a covered benefit through their insurance without requiring an individual prescription, similar to what our Administration did to increase access to naloxone.

“In addition to making it more difficult for the more than 750,000 adult smokers in Massachusetts to quit traditional cigarettes, such a ban would have a meaningful adverse economic impact on an industry that contributes more than 2,500 jobs and more than $130 million in wages to the state of Massachusetts,” said the Vapor Technology Association, a trade group representing the vapor and e-cigarette industry. “We stand ready to work with Gov. Baker on thoughtful and effective regulation.”

PROHIBIT ELECTRIC SHOCK TREATMENT (H 123) – The Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities held a hearing on a bill that would prohibit any state or local facilities from using electric shock therapy, hitting, pinching or any procedure which causes obvious signs of physical pain on individuals with a physical, intellectual or developmental disability. The measure also bans any procedure which denies these individuals reasonable sleep, food, shelter, bedding, bathroom facilities and any other aspect expected of a humane existence.

5 PERCENT OF PARKING SPACES FOR HANDICAPPED (H 1794) – The Committee on Municipalities and Regional Government held a hearing on legislation that would require that at least 5 percent of the parking spaces regulated by a city or town be spaces for the handicapped and identified by the use of above-grade signs with white lettering against a blue background and shall bear the words “Handicapped Parking: Special Plate Required.”

NO SMOKING (H 3475) – A bill heard by the Judiciary Committee would prohibit smoking within 100 feet of a public monument or memorial.

NO ROBOCALLS TO CELL PHONES (H 352) – The Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure Committee will hold a hearing on October 7 at 1 p.m. in the Statehouse’s Gardner Auditorium on a bill that would prohibit robocalls to cell phones and other mobile electronic devices. The measure exempts messages from school districts to students, parents or employees; from companies advising employees of work schedules; from correctional facilities advising victims of the release of an offender; from municipalities and state government; from public utilities; and from persons concerning the care, services or supplies related to the health of an individual.

The measure would fine companies up to $10,000 if they make an illegal robocall and allow an individual who is called more than once in a year to sue a company for damages.

The House gave initial approval to the bill in the 2017-2018 session but it died when the session ended.


“Every day, we have attacks. Just to give you a frame of reference, we have implemented new technology in the state where we are kind of able to analyze everything that comes into the state network and I will say as of today on a daily basis we receive about 525 million probes a day from foreign soil. They’re pinging our network, they’re scanning our commonwealth network trying to find a vulnerability.”
—Secretary Curt Wood of the state’s Executive Office of Technology Services and Security Secretary. Commenting on hacking into state computers.

“Let us please preserve their memory and not allow any other families to experience our excruciating and agonizing pain. Please, help us make these senseless deaths a thing of the past.”
—Jerry Cibley, whose son, Jordan, was killed in a crash., urging the Legislature to approve the 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.

“First of all, I didn’t know about it … It’s a lottery. It runs the same way the regular lottery does. It’s a public drawing. Media is invited. The rest of the public can be there. ”

—Gov. Baker on James and Nancy Coghlin of Shrewsbury winning two low license plate numbers in the state’s annual lottery which received 13,652 applications for 231 available plates this year. The couple has contributed to Baker’s campaign and many other Massachusetts campaigns. In this year’s lottery, officials received 13,652 applications for 231 available plates.

“No working person should have to choose between the job they need and caring for the family they love. Massachusetts workers are now one step closer to accessing job-protected paid time off from work to take care of themselves or a family member after a medical emergency or the birth or adoption of a new child. Massachusetts now has the most comprehensive, worker-friendly paid leave program in the nation – that’s something to celebrate! “
—Deb Fastino, executive director of the Coalition for Social Justice on the state’s Family Leave Act thich starts in October.

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 September 23-27, the House met for a total of seven hours and 8 minutes while the Senate met for a total of one hour and 53 minutes.

Mon. Sept. 23 House 11:01 a.m. to 11:19 a.m.
Senate 11:05 a.m. to 11:48 a.m.

Tues. Sept. 24 No House session
No Senate session.

Wed. Sept. 25 House 11:03 a.m. to 5:39 p.m.
No Senate session

Thurs. Sept. 26 House 11:00 a.m. to 11:12 a.m.
Senate 1:25 p.m. to 2:35 p.m.

Fri. Sept. 27 No House session
No Senate session

Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at

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