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Beacon Hill Roll Call Volume 48 – Report No. 26 June 26-30, 2023 Copyright © 2023 Beacon Hill Roll Call. All Rights Reserved. By Bob Katzen

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THE HOUSE AND SENATE: Beacon Hill Roll Call records local senators’ votes on roll calls from the recent debate on the Senate’s version of a $55.9 billion fiscal 2024 state budget.

 

HORMONAL BIRTH CONTROL (S 3)

Senate 39-0, approved an amendment that would allow pharmacists to evaluate patients and, without a prescription from a doctor, prescribe and dispense hormonal contraceptive patches and self-administered oral hormonal contraceptives. The pharmacists would be required to complete a training program on hormonal contraception.

 

“Hormonal birth control is one of the safest and most effective ways to prevent unplanned pregnancy and support family planning, but many women find this critical medication difficult to obtain here in Massachusetts,” said sponsor Sen. Mike Moore (D-Millbury). “This amendment … will allow local pharmacists to evaluate patients and prescribe hormonal contraceptives when appropriate – something 27 states and D.C. already allow in some form. This is a great step toward lowering barriers that prevent women from getting the birth control they need and addressing disparities in contraceptive access for those in historically underserved areas.”

 

(A “Yes” vote is for the amendment.)

 

 

 

Sen. Lydia Edwards            Yes

 

$500,000 FOR COMMUNITY SAFETY GRANTS TO CITIES AND TOWNS (S 3)

Senate 39-0, approved an amendment increasing by $500,000 (from $12.3 million to $12.8 million) the funding for the Sen. Charles Shannon Community Safety Initiative grant program which funds partnerships between local law enforcement and community-based organizations to prevent gang and youth violence in cities and towns.

 

“I am proud to secure this Shannon Community Safety Initiative grant to combat gang violence, youth violence and substance through multi-disciplinary efforts,” said sponsor Sen. Sal DiDomenico (D-Everett). “By offering social intervention programs for at-risk youth, as well as education, training and employment programs for gang-involved and high-risk young adults, [these grants] play a vital role in keeping our communities safe.”

 

(A “Yes” vote is for the $500,000.)

 

 

 

Sen. Lydia Edwards            Yes

 

$1 MILLION FOR MASSACHUSETTS EMERGENCY FOOD ASSISTANCE PROGRAM (S 3)

Senate 39-0, approved an amendment increasing by $1 million (from $35 million to $36 million) the funding for the Massachusetts Emergency Food Assistance Program which provides food for the Bay State’s four regional food banks which supply most local food banks in the state.

 

“I am happy to share that I secured an additional $1 million through the amendment process for a total of $36 million allocated for the Massachusetts Emergency Food Assistance Program in the Senate budget,” said sponsor Sen. Sal DiDomenico (D-Everett.) “[This] is a critical program, as food prices are rising, for ensuring our most vulnerable residents can access food and supporting food suppliers across the state.”

 

(A “Yes” vote is for the $1 million.)

 

 

 

Sen. Lydia Edwards            Yes

 

 

ALSO UP ON BEACON HILL

 

BAN SEX OFFENDERS FROM STATE-SUBSIDIZED PUBLIC HOUSING (H 1342) – The Housing Committee held a hearing on legislation that would prohibit Level 2 and Level 3 sex offenders from being placed in public housing in Massachusetts. The bill is similar to a 1998 federal law that bans some sex offenders from federally subsidized housing.

“[The bill] is common-sense legislation that would extend the same protections that are currently in place for residents of federally-subsidized public housing to tenants living in state-subsidized public housing,” said sponsor Rep. Brad Jones (R-North Reading).

 

BULLYING IN PUBLIC HOUSING (S 887) – Another measure before the Housing Committee is designed to protect tenants from being bullied in public subsidized housing. Provisions include creating resource lists for residents and developing regulations requiring managers and owners of residences to report bullying to the appropriate authorities with the intent of preventing this type of abusive behavior and potential retaliation. In addition, all owners of these properties would be required to create a bullying prevention plan and to train staff and residents in bullying prevention.

 

“Massachusetts residents, namely low-income, elderly and disabled individuals, are among some of our most vulnerable,” said sponsor Sen. Joan Lovely (D-Salem). “They deserve to feel safe and secure at home. I am proud to file [the bill] to protect individuals and families from bullying in public housing to safeguard their peace of mind and quality of life.”

 

EDUCATOR DIVERSITY (H 549) – The Education Committee held a hearing on a proposal that would create a 5-year pilot program to develop a process for granting educator certification as an alternative to the current testing requirements to be a teacher is public schools.  The alternative certification method would be limited to schools and districts that demonstrate a demographic dispiriting between educators and students, a shortage of teachers who serve English language learners or a similar critical need.

 

The alternative certification must be limited to schools and districts that demonstrate a demographic dispiriting between educators and students, a shortage of teachers who serve English language learners or a similar critical need. Other provisions would require district and charter school to establish a diversity plan and have either a DEI officer or team – to advise the school committee or board of trustees on matters related to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) in the district.

 

Supporters say research consistently shows that students learn better when their educators reflect the diversity of the communities in which they live.  They note it is crucial that students from diverse backgrounds are taught by educators who reflect their experiences and are reflective of the communities in which they grow up.

 

“While it’s true that Massachusetts remains a leader in educational outcomes, we know that we need a much more diverse educator workforce to match the diversity of our students,” said sponsor Rep. Alice Peisch (D-Wellesley). “The Massachusetts Legislature has shown its clear commitment to educator diversity, as we saw with new budget allocations in fiscal year 2023 and progress on the Educator Diversity Act. I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues to get the bill passed.”

 

MENTAL HEALTH GRANTS TO SCHOOLS (H 3573) – Another bill before the Education Committee would establish a school mental health professional grant program to increase the number of mental health professionals employed by school districts to provide mental health support to students.

 

“I firmly believe that the establishment of a school mental health professional grant program is of utmost importance for the betterment of our educational system and the overall welfare of our students,” said sponsor Rep. Marcus Vaughn (R-Wrentham).  “By providing access to mental health support for students, we can proactively address their emotional and psychological needs, fostering a conducive learning environment and ensuring their long-term success.”

 

QUOTABLE QUOTES

 

“To see a person who’s quite, in my perspective, quite visibly dead all of a sudden, in a few moments, sit upright and then with assistance stand up, and then they talk, it’s truly incredible. Having it [Naloxone] as readily available as possible is something that we should absolutely guarantee.”

—Sen. John Keenan (D-Quincy) at a gathering of legislators, legislative staffers and advocates to learn about how to administer Naloxone, a life-saving medication that reverses overdoses.

 

“Our audits serve as a tool for state agencies to help ensure greater transparency, accountability and equity. It is unacceptable that due to a lack of appropriate oversight by MassHealth, nearly $85 million in overpayments went to managed care organizations for out-of-state residents who were concurrently enrolled in another state’s healthcare program. Taxpayers deserve better and I strongly urge MassHealth to adopt this audit’s recommendations.”

— State Auditor Diana DiZoglio after releasing an audit that showed that MassHealth did not take sufficient steps to ensure that Medicaid recipients resided in Massachusetts – resulting in MassHealth overpaying $85 million to managed care organizations for individuals residing out of state.

 

“Every barrier to voting keeps us from realizing what our democracy can become. We celebrate the steps the Legislature took a year ago to remove some of the barriers. Here’s to more progress this session.”

— Janet Domenitz, director of MASSPIRG on the one-year anniversary of the signing of the VOTES Act, voting rights legislation that advocates say made Massachusetts elections more accessible and equitable.

 

“We are proud to appoint Mark William as the new executive director and strongly support his efforts in this new role. He has extensive leadership experience and knowledge about the standards, goals and operations of the Lottery, ensuring the continued integrity of the industry while maximizing local aid for our cities and towns.

— State Treasurer Deb Goldberg upon appointing the new executive director of the Lottery.

 

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 June 26-30, the House met for a total of one hour and four minutes while the Senate met for a total of 49 minutes.

 

Mon.   June 26   House  11:02 a.m. to 11:57 a.m.

Senate 11:09 a.m. to 11:53 a.m.

 

Tues.  June 27   No House session

No Senate session

 

Wed.   June 28   No House session

No Senate session

 

Thurs. June 29   House  11:00 a.m. to 11:09 a.m.

Senate 11:21 a.m. to 11:26 a.m.

 

Fri.   June 30   No House session

No Senate session

 

 

Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at bob@beaconhillrollcall.com

Bob founded Beacon Hill Roll Call in 1975 and was inducted into the New England Newspaper and Press Association (NENPA) Hall of Fame in 2019.

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