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News

Beacon Hill Roll Call

THE HOUSE AND SENATE. Beacon Hill Roll Call records local legislators’ votes on roll calls from the week of July 17-21.

REGULATE MARIJUANA (H 3818)

House 136-11, Senate 32-6, approved and sent to Gov. Charlie Baker a conference committee compromise version of a bill changing some provisions and adding other provisions to the law, approved by voters on the 2016 ballot, legalizing the possession, growing and sale of marijuana. The House and Senate several weeks ago had approved different versions of the bill.

The measure taxes all marijuana sales with a 10.75 percent excise tax, 6.25 percent state sales tax and a local option allowing cities and towns to impose an additional tax of up to 3 percent. In addition, any agreement between a retail marijuana establishment and a host community for the first five years may include a community impact fee of up to another 3 percent paid by the seller to the city or town to cover the costs imposed upon the municipality by the operation of the establishment. Medical marijuana remains tax-free.

If a city or town voted against for the 2016 marijuana ballot question, the decision to prohibit or restrict marijuana establishments will be determined by the municipality’s governing body until December 2019. If a municipality approved the ballot initiative, the decision can only be made through a local city or town wide referendum.

Other key provisions of the new law include:

Allowing persons over 21 to give an ounce or less of marijuana to others; possess up to one ounce of marijuana outside their home and ten ounces in their home. Any quantity above one ounce in the home must be under lock and key.

Allowing each person to grow six plants per person in his or her home, with a maximum of 12 plants per household.

Prohibiting plants that can be visible by neighbors or from a public place and putting growing areas under lock and key.

Giving landlords the right to prohibit smoking or growing of marijuana on their properties.

Allowing advertising on TV, radio, billboard, print or the Internet only in markets where at least 85 percent of the audience is over 21.

Banning retail shops from being located near school zones.

Jim Borghesani, Director of Communications for “Yes on 4,” the group that led the campaign to legalize marijuana said that he favors the lower 12 percent tax that voters approved and noted that while the final 20 percent tax is higher than he wanted, it is not nearly as high as the House’s original 28 percent tax.

“We have said all along that the law passed by voters last November needed no fixes or improvement,” said Borghesani. “But the Legislature decided to change it, and we fought hard to ensure that the changes respected the will of the voters as much as possible. The final bill, thanks to the Senate’s moderate approach, did not include the damaging components of the House approach.”

“A total tax rate of up to 20 percent is necessary to help regulate this new industry and to address inevitable challenges, primarily the increased exposure of marijuana to young people, “ said Rep. Rona Mariano (D-Quincy). “The black market will be searching for new customers and this bill calls for increased funding for early intervention services and public awareness campaigns, and provides significant barriers to prevent children of our communities from being indoctrinated into this market by advertising campaigns aimed to attract them.”

“I don’t think in five years, 10 years, or 20 years from now, we’re going to look back on this decision to legalize marijuana and think it was the best decision for Massachusetts,” said Sen. Donald Humason (R-Westfield). “We’re already starting to see questions about implementation and legal implications, so I anticipate we’ll see some buyer’s remorse on this question down the road.”

“We have protected the right of adults to grow, possess and use marijuana,” said Sen. Pat Jehlen (D-Somerville), Senate chair of the Joint Committee on Marijuana Policy. “This bill increases public health and safety protections, and specifies ways to prevent products from appealing to young people. The tax rate remains among the lowest in the country, and the same as in Oregon, often seen as successful.”

Rep. Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen) said she couldn’t support the bill because it did not include a substance abuse fund to combat the opioid epidemic and to pay for overall substance abuse prevention, education, treatment and recovery initiatives. She noted that the House leadership proposed raising taxes on marijuana to 28 percent, higher than what was passed on the ballot, citing the need to create such a fund.

“When the final bill reached the floor, however, the bill had no substance abuse fund included but still raised the tax from 12 percent that voters approved to 20 percent,” said DiZoglio. “The additional marijuana revenue that was supposed to be used for a substance abuse fund will now instead be subject to appropriation and directed to the General Fund.”

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

Rep. Joseph McGonagle          Yes

Sen. Sal DiDomenico Yes

FAIRNESS FOR PREGNANT WORKERS (H 3816)

Senate 38-0, approved and sent to Gov. Baker the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act that prohibits an employer from discriminating against, refusing to employ or firing a woman because she is pregnant or has a condition related to pregnancy.

The measure guarantees reasonable accommodations and safety measures for pregnant mothers. Reasonable accommodations include time off to recover from childbirth; more frequent, longer paid or unpaid breaks; acquiring or modifying equipment or seating arrangements; and a private non-bathroom space for expressing breast milk — unless any of these would create an undue hardship on the employer.

Supporters said a pregnant woman should not have to fear losing her job when she could continue working with some reasonable adjustments. They argued that no one should have to choose between a healthy pregnancy and a weekly paycheck.

(A “Yes” vote is for the bill.)

Sen. Sal DiDomenico Yes

SEX EDUCATION IN SCHOOLS (S 2113)

Senate 31-6 approved and sent to the House a bill requiring that all public schools offering a comprehensive sexual health education curriculum must “provide medically accurate, age-appropriate sexual health education.”

Under current law, public schools are not required to teach sex education and the bill does not change that but rather mandates that any schools that choose to teach sex education are required to follow a curriculum, based on age, that includes human anatomy; reproduction and sexual development; the benefits of abstinence and delaying sexual activity; the importance of effectively using contraceptives to prevent unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV and AIDS; ways to effectively discuss safe sexual activity; relationship and communication skills to form healthy, respectful relationships free of violence, coercion and intimidation; and information about gender identity and sexual orientation for all students, including recognition that people have different sexual orientations, gender identities and gender expressions.

The measure also requires any school offering sex education to notify parents about the school’s sexual health education curriculum, give parents the right to withdraw a student from the instruction and create a process for parents to inspect the program instruction materials before the start of the course.

Supporters said that under the bill, local cities and towns still have the authority and power to decide whether sex education is taught in their schools. They said the measure will ensure that schools that choose to teach sex education will have a framework to follow. They noted the bill will prepare students to make healthy decisions and will reduce teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.

Opponents said local school committees, parents, teachers and administrators should have the authority to decide what will be included in any sex education course that is offered. They noted the bill gives way too much power to the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) to mandate what kind of things are taught. They argued that the definition of “age appropriate” in the bill is vague and basically leaves that entire decision up to DESE.

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

Sen. Sal DiDomenico Yes

“OPT IN” INSTEAD OF “OPT OUT” (S 2113)

Senate 9-29, rejected an amendment that would change the provision of the bill that allows parents to opt their child out of the sex education course and instead make the course an elective into which parents can opt.

Amendment supporters said that if students go on a simple field trip, parents must opt in and it should be no different for a controversial sex education course. They said the opt in provision puts parents in control instead of having the state in control by default.

Amendment opponents said the amendment would gut the bill and noted that as written, the bill does not require schools to offer a sex education course and if they do, then parents are can easily opt out of it. They argued that schools do not have an opt in for subjects like science, math and English. They said that it would be difficult to get a response from every parent and would require school districts to chase them down.

(A “Yes” vote is for “opt in.” A “No” vote is for “opt out.”)

Sen. Sal DiDomenico No

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 17-21, the House met for a total of 14 hours and 14 minutes and the Senate met for a total of 14 hours and 39 minutes.

Mon. July 17 House 11:02 a.m. to 2:55 p.m.

Senate 11:13 a.m. to 3:24 p.m.

Tues. July 18 No House session           No Senate session

Wed. July 19 House 11:00 a.m. to 4:15 p.m.

Senate 11:11 a.m. to 4:22 p.m.

Thurs. July 20 House 11:03 a.m. to 4:09 p.m.

Senate 11:15 a.m. to 4:32 p.m.

Fri. July 21 No House session                No Senate session

Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at
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Everett students graduate from UMass Amherst

Approximately 5,500 students received bachelor’s degrees in over 100 majors at the University of Massachusetts Amherst’s 147th Undergraduate Commencement on May 12, 2017 at the Warren P. McGurik Alumni Stadium. The following Everett students earned a degree: Brianna Jinaé Anderson, Jennifer Carols Ciampi-Dugan, Jordan Michael Forget, Tiffany Mikole Gomez, Kim C Nguyen, Erika Li Oda, Eric Christopher Pham, Emila Ponikiewski, Dario L. Santiago, Jaffar Bari Shiek, Kathy Thi Tran, Catianis Cristina Valenzuela Perez.

 

   

Preliminary election called for at-Large race

Nominations closed for this year’s local election Monday, and while many seats will go unchallenged, enough contenders have entered the at-Large race to force a preliminary election to narrow the field.

In all, 11 candidates have been nominated to run for the five at-Large council seats. Under the charter, a preliminary election to get the race down to two candidates per seat, or a total of 10 candidates.

In the first round, Incumbents Wayne Matewsky, Cynthia Sarnie, Richard Dell Isola, Peter Napolitano, and John Hanlon will fight for re-election against challengers Joseph LaMonica, Catherine Tomasi-Hicks, John Whelan, Leo Barrett, and Stephanie Smith.

In Ward 2, incumbent Stephen Simonelli will face off against challenger Stephanie Martins

Ward 1 Councillor Fred Capone, Ward 3 Councillor Anthony DiPierro, Ward 4 Councillor John Leo McKinnon, Ward 5 Councillor Rosa DiFlorio, and Ward 6 Councillor Michael McLaughlin are running unopposed.

The citywide preliminary election will be held sometime in September.

By Brendan Clogston


   

DiDomenico’s “Healthy Youth Bill” passes the Senate

Last week, the Massachusetts Senate passed Senator Sal DiDomenico’s bill An Act relative to healthy youth. This bill will ensure that school districts in the Commonwealth that elect to provide their students with sex education provide age-appropriate and medically accurate information.

“The amount of information that students have access to today through technology and the media is almost overwhelming. This bill provides for age-appropriate and medically accurate sexual education for students in a school setting to give them the best information available through a trusted source,” said Senate President Stan Rosenberg (D-Amherst). “The bill also requires parental notification and allows for review of all materials presented in the classroom. We need our students to make the best decisions based on the most accurate information.”

“Massachusetts students deserve an education that will prepare them for the future and help them make smart and informed decisions,” said Senator DiDomenico (D-Everett). “As legislators, it is our job to ensure that young people receive comprehensive education on every subject they learn in school, and these standards should also apply to sex education. This commonsense bill not only guarantees that students receive accurate information to help them make healthy decisions, but also ensures that parents remain informed and are a part of their child’s education along the way.”

“Congratulations to my friend and colleague Senator Sal DiDomenico on his dogged work in support of healthy youth,” said Senator Sonia Chang Díaz (D-Boston), Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Education. “The bill passed by the Senate today will ensure that health education in our schools is medically accurate and age-appropriate, promoting healthy relationships and healthy bodies.”

Currently, when Massachusetts public schools provide their students with health education that covers sexual activity, there is no guarantee that the information provided is age-appropriate or medically accurate. This legislation changes this by requiring school districts that choose to offer sex education to follow certain guidelines to ensure that students are provided with age-appropriate and medically accurate information. Under the bill, sexual health education must include but not be limited to the following subjects:

• the benefits of abstinence, delaying sexual activity, and the importance of effectively using contraceptives;

• ways to effectively discuss safe sexual activity;

• relationship and communication skills to form healthy, respectful relationships free of violence, coercion and intimidation; and to make healthy decisions about relationships and sexuality;

• physical, social and emotional changes of human development;

• human anatomy, reproduction and sexual development; and

• age-appropriate information about gender identity and sexual orientation for all students.

Sex education programs have repeatedly been shown to work best when they emphasize the value of abstinence while also teaching students about the importance of protecting themselves from unintended consequences. This type of comprehensive curriculum is proven to be more effective at delaying sexual activity among young people and increasing the rate in which young people use contraception, while also lowering rates of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and teen pregnancy.

The bill does not require schools to provide sexuality information. Local school boards and schools still make all decisions about whether to offer sex education. This legislation also maintains existing state law that allows parents to remove their children from sex education programs and gives school districts clearer guidance on how to notify parents about these programs.

School districts that provide a sexuality curriculum must adopt a written policy to give parents and legal guardians notification and inform them of the right to withdraw their child from all or part of the instruction. Notification to parents and guardians must be in English, as well as any other commonly spoken languages by parents. Districts must also have a process for parental review of the program instruction materials prior to the start of the program, if a parent requests it.

On July 24 this bill was referred to the Ways and Means Committee of the House of Representatives for consideration.

   

Business Leaders Gather to Support Stephanie Martins

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“I’m excited to fight for what we have now and what we can have in the future”

Everett City Council candidate Stephanie Martins called for protecting the traditions of the city combined with inclusion for a very bright future at a gathering of supporters Tuesday evening. The event was held at the new enVision Hotel in Everett.

“The city is changing and there is so much that can be done. I believe my personal and professional experience can add so much to what’s going to happen,” Martins said. “I’m excited to fight for what we have now and what will have in the future.”

Holding the event at the enVision Hotel was symbolically significant for Martins’ campaign. The new boutique hotel which opened earlier this year combines all the modern amenities for travelers with a strong nod to Everett’s past as the building is a renovated sewing and shoe factory.

Martins was introduced to the gathering by Everett Kiwanis Club President David LaRovere. “The hard work Stephanie has put in, the way she communicates, her genuine ability to listen to people, those attributes are going to make her a great city councilor.”

Martins has made accessibility to City Hall for all residents a hallmark of her campaign. She has also stressed keeping the city affordable, supporting seniors and creating the best possible opportunities for young people as priorities.

The general election is November 7th. See Stephanie’s story. Join Stephanie’s team.

www.StephanieMartins.com

   

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