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Beacon Hill Roll Call Volume 48 – Report No. 27 July 3-7, 20023 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.



Senate 39-0, approved an amendment that would provide $300,000 for a municipal grant program for firefighter cancer screenings, including advance blood testing and imaging.


Amendment supporters say the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health undertook two large studies focused on firefighter cancer, concluding that firefighters experienced a 9 percent increase in cancer diagnoses and a 14 percent increase in cancer-related deaths, compared to the nation’s general population.


“Early screening of firefighters is so particularly important in the fight against cancer,” said sponsor Sen. Walter Timilty (D-Milton). “Quite simply, our firefighters experience a higher risk of cancer as a result of the work that they so courageously perform to both protect and care for us. Truly, firefighters both need and must have access to life-saving cancer screenings.”


“Furthermore, the chances of firefighters being diagnosed with terminal leukemia increases with the number of fire-related call responses,” continued Timilty. “In addition, the chance of a lung cancer diagnosis, an insidious disease, and subsequent death, increases with the amount of time a firefighter combats a blaze. In short, firefighting is a dangerous profession. Therefore, we must do everything we can to ensure that firefighters experience the same safety, security and protections they afford to us.”


(A “Yes” vote is for the $300,000.)




Sen. Brendan Crighton         Yes



Senate 39-0, approved an amendment that would provide $250,000 for the protection of right whales by increasing the patrols of officers to identify and remove abandoned fishing gear and to enhance their ability to enforce speed restrictions through use of drone technologies to minimize potentially harmful interactions between vessels and right whales.


Amendment supporters say more than 90 whales have either died or been injured since 2017 and that that there are fewer than 340 right whales remaining today. “Since its incorporation in 2005, the Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC) group’s North American office has run a dedicated program to save this imperiled species and implement protective measures to save right whales from those threats,” says the group’s website. “WDC has worked to develop and implement rules to reduce vessel strikes, successfully reducing the risk of a fatal collision by 80 percent to 90 percent in U.S. waters, and to increase federally designated critical habitat to cover nearly 40,000 square miles of the U.S. East Coast.”


Sen. Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester), the sponsor of the amendment, did not respond to repeated requests by Beacon Hill Roll Call asking him to comment on his amendment.


(A “Yes” vote is for the $250,000.)




Sen. Brendan Crighton         Yes



Senate 39-0, approved an amendment mandating that the state’s Department of Public Health and Department of Mental Health conduct a study on the occurrence and impact of neonatal abstinence syndrome in the Bay State. Neonatal abstinence syndrome is a treatable condition that newborns may experience as a result of prenatal exposure to opioids and other drugs the mothers might take. Babies can then go through painful and difficult drug withdrawal after birth.


Amendment supporters say this has become a big problem in the Bay State and across the nation. “Pregnant women who use drugs, smoke or drink alcohol put their unborn babies at risk for neonatal abstinence syndrome and other problems,” says Stanford Medicine Children’s Health’s website.  “Women who use drugs also may be less likely to get prenatal care. This can also increase the risks for both mother and baby.”


Sen. Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester), the sponsor of the amendment, did not respond to repeated requests by Beacon Hill Roll Call asking him to comment on his amendment.


(A “Yes” vote is for the amendment.)




Sen. Brendan Crighton         Yes





The Public Health Committee held a hearing on 54 bills including these four that deal with smoking laws in the Bay State.


PHARMACISTS AND SMOKING CESSATION MEDICINE (S 1428) – Would authorize licensed pharmacists to dispense medications to help individuals quit smoking. The pharmacist must first complete a training program which would include proper documentation, quality assurance and referral to additional services, including recommendations that the patient follows up with a medical practitioner.


“Despite decades of public health campaigns and legislation, smoking remains one of the most common causes of death in the United States,” said sponsor Sen. Mike Moore (D-Millbury). “The good news is that we have powerful tools to help individuals overcome their addiction to nicotine through several safe and effective smoking cessation medications – though access can be a key barrier for many. This critical legislation would expand access to lifesaving anti-smoking drugs by allowing trained pharmacists to dispense medications to qualifying patients looking to live longer and healthier lives.”


REPEAL THE MENTHOL BAN (S 1364) – Would repeal the state’s 2000 law that bans flavored vaping and tobacco products—including mint and menthol cigarettes.


“The state menthol ban was put in place as a reactionary measure for the rare occasion where it was deemed harmful, without much thought to the potential implications of the legislation,” said sponsor Sen. Ryan Fattman (R-Sutton). “With my legislation to repeal the menthol ban, it would make the sale of current menthol products legal and subject to the regulatory and taxation requirements of the state, ensuring that the product is made and distributed according to our standards. It would also benefit small businesses that lost out on a significant portion of their income when the initial ban was hastily passed into law.”


SALE OF CIGARETTES TO 21 AND OVER (S 1397) – Would  allow cigarettes and other tobacco products to be sold only in Adult-Only Retail Tobacco Stores or smoking bars. The stores are defined as an “establishment that is not required to possess a retail food permit whose primary purpose is to sell or offer for sale but not for resale, tobacco products and tobacco paraphernalia, in which the sale of other products or offer of services is merely incidental.” No one under age 21 is allowed in these stores.


Supporters said current law says people must be 21 years of age to buy tobacco but tobacco is still sold in hundreds of convenience stores and gas stations across the state. They said this is inconsistent and noted that these stores are sometimes lax and sell cigarettes and other tobacco products to people under 21.


Sen. Jason Lewis (D-Winchester), the sponsor of the measure, did not respond to repeated requests by Beacon Hill Roll Call asking him to comment on his proposal.


REQUIRE RETAILERS THAT SELL TOBACCO TO ALSO SELL PRODUCTS TO HELP SMOKERS QUIT (S 1341) – Would require any retailer that sells tobacco products to also sell at least one type of nicotine replacement therapy drug or device that has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for assisting with helping people quit tobacco use. Violators would be fined $100 for the first offense, $200 for a second offense and $300 for a third or subsequent offense.


Supporters say that this might result in more people buying these drugs or devices  to help them stop smoking and ultimately lead to a reduction in smoking. They argue it is important to have these drugs and devices readily available.


Sen. Brendan Crighton (D-Lynn), the sponsor of the measure, did not respond to repeated requests by Beacon Hill Roll Call asking him to comment on his proposal. The same measure filed by Crighton last year was shipped off to a study committee where it died, as do most bills that are sent to a study committee.




“There is nothing more important than helping people get back up on their feet and 4 Housing is doing great work.”

—Sen. Will Brownsberger (D-Belmont) upon visiting the housing nonprofit Justice 4 Housing that works to empower formerly incarcerated people in their reentry to society.


“Massachusetts residents rely on local government to deliver core services daily and information technology plays a significant role in making that happen. This grant program is one of the many ways we partner with cities and towns to better serve residents, and we are proud to be able to help them improve their municipal broadband infrastructure.

—Gov. Maura Healey announcing $4 million in grants to help municipalities and school districts across the state to support the construction or completion of their municipal fiber networks.


“Even as Bay Staters are back to enjoying the fresh sea breeze and splash of waves at the beach, pollution is still plaguing too many of the places where we swim. While past infrastructure investments have resulted in cleaner water in many places, we still have work to do to stop the flow of pathogens at some of our beaches.”

— John Rumpler, Clean Water Director at Environment Massachusetts Research and Policy Center on the report that indicates that in 2022, 274 Massachusetts beaches were potentially unsafe for swimming on at least one testing day.


“These wildfires are continuing to rage, burning millions of acres of land and blowing smoke into Massachusetts that’s polluting our air. I’m proud that we are sending another crew of well-trained and dedicated firefighters to help our friends and partners in Quebec battle these intense blazes and stop further destruction of forests.”

— Department of Conservation and Recreation Commissioner Brian Arrigo announcing that the state has sent additional state wildland firefighters to Quebec, Canada, to help battle some of the more than 70 wildfires that have continued to burn since the beginning of June


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 3-7, the House met for a total of 18 minutes while the Senate met for a total of 51 minutes.


Mon.   July 3    House  11:02 a.m. to 11:06 a.m.

Senate 11:23 a.m. to 12:46 p.m.


Tues.  July 4    No House session

No Senate session


Wed.   July 5    No House session

No Senate session


Thurs. June 6    House  11:06 a.m. to 11:20 a.m.

Senate 11:24 a.m. to 11:52 a.m.


Fri.   July 7    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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