By Bob Katzen
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THE HOUSE AND SENATE: There were no roll call votes in the House or Senate last week. This week, Beacon Hill Roll Call reports local representatives’ roll call attendance records for the 2021 session. No more roll calls are planned in the House until January 2022.
The House held 121 roll calls in 2021. Beacon Hill Roll Call tabulates the number of roll calls on which each representative was present and voting, and then calculates that number as a percentage of the total roll call votes held. That percentage is the number referred to as the roll call attendance record.
The vast majority of the 159 representatives are not in the House chamber during a session because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Sources tell Beacon Hill Roll Call that they have seen as few as 12 members in the chamber and as many as 40. The remainder are watching the session from their home or business and voting remotely.
Here’s how the remote voting system works: Eight appointed monitors are required to be present in the House chamber and are each given the task of recording the votes of approximately 20 members who are watching the session remotely from their homes or business offices. Each monitor has their 20 members on a conference call and fills out a form indicating how each member voted. The sheets are given to the court officers who then give them to the House Clerk who verifies that the correct totals have been recorded on the sheet and that the sheet is signed by the monitor. The assistant clerk records the yeas and nays in the roll call computer, which activates the green (voted YES) or red (voted NO) lights on the electronic roll call board.
Members participating remotely then have the opportunity to see on the broadcast how they are recorded so that they can verify that their vote is recorded accurately. The tally is then displayed on the roll call board and the presiding officer announces the totals and the result of the vote.
If a member wants to speak on an issue under consideration, they leave the conference call temporarily. Using a different telephone, they call into a line that patches them into the debate. Their voice is then heard in the House chamber and by those watching the broadcast online.
In the House, 86.7 percent (138 representatives out of 159) did not miss any roll calls and have 100 percent roll call attendance records while 13.3 percent (21 representatives out of 159) have missed one or more roll calls.
The representative who missed the most roll calls is Rep. Meghan Kilcoyne (D-Northborough) who missed 15, resulting in an 87.6 percent attendance record.
Rounding out the top six representatives who have missed the most roll calls are Reps. Patrick Kearney (D-Scituate) who missed eight roll calls (93.3 percent attendance record); David LeBoeuf (D-Worcester) who missed six roll calls (95.0 percent attendance record); Chynah Tyler (D-Roxbury) who missed four roll calls (96.6 percent roll call attendance record); and Reps. Ann-Margaret Ferrante (D-Gloucester) and Tami Gouveia (D-Acton) who both missed three roll calls (97.5 percent roll call attendance record)
Beacon Hill Roll Call contacted these six legislators and asked each one for a comment on his or her attendance record. Only four responded: Reps. Kilcoyne, Kearney, Ferrante and Gouveia. Reps. Tyler and LeBoeuf did not respond to repeated requests for a comment.
“I was forced to miss one full formal session because I sat for the Massachusetts Bar Exam at the end of July,” said Kilcoyne. “My absence is recorded in the House Journal along with the explanation for the missed votes on that one day. The journal also reflects how I would have voted had I been present on that day. Other than the one day I was forced to miss, I have a perfect voting record.”
“As a lieutenant in the United States Navy Reserve, I report for active duty at least for two weeks a year, sometimes longer depending on the nation’s needs,” said Kearney.
“I have been undergoing treatment at Dana Farber,” said Ferrante.
“I take my role as a state representative very seriously, so when I experienced technical difficulties in dialing in during one of our formal sessions, I quickly alerted the clerk,” said Gouveia. “While my roll call vote for quorum was unable to be recorded, I did record two votes in favor of the two bills before the House that day.”
REPRESENTATIVES’ 2021 ROLL CALL ATTENDANCE RECORDS
The percentage listed next to the representative’s name is the percentage of roll call votes on which the representative voted. The number in parentheses represents the number of roll calls that he or she missed.
Rep. Joseph McGonagle 100 percent (0)
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 November 22-26, the House met for a total of 26 minutes while the Senate met for a total of 57 minutes.
Mon. Nov. 22 House 11:00 a.m. to 11:05 a.m.
Senate 11:15 a.m. to 11:41 a.m.
Tues. Nov. 23 No House session
No Senate session
Wed. Nov. 24 House 11:02 a.m. to 11:23 a.m.
Senate 11:06 a.m. to 11:37 a.m.
Thurs. Nov. 25 No House session
No Senate session
Fri. Nov. 26 No House session
No Senate session
Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org