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Beacon Hill Roll Call
Volume 48 – Report NO. 7
February 13-17, 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 recent February sessions. There were no roll calls in the House or Senate last week.
ALLOW 30 MINUTES BEFORE CONSIDERING NEW ITEMS (S 17)
Senate 5-33, rejected a Senate rules amendment that would require a 30-minute recess before considering new items on the Senate agenda calendar. Current rules require a recess but do not specify the minimum length of the recess
“This amendment would have ensured at least 30 minutes of time for the consideration of new matters pending before the Senate,” said Sen. Becca Rausch (D-Needham), one of only two Democrats to vote for the amendment. “Especially considering the magnitude of some of the legislation that comes to the floor, 30 minutes seemed like a reasonable amount of time to review the content.”
“I respect the intent of the … amendment to ensure sufficient time to contemplate these issues coming before us,” said Sen. Joan Lovely (D-Salem). “But [I] would suggest that we don’t need a full 30 minutes to do so in every case.”
(A “Yes” vote is for the 30-minute recess. A “No” vote is against it.)
Sen. Sal DiDomenicoNo
ELIMINATE REMOTE VOTING (S 17)
Senate 3-35, rejected a Senate rules amendment that would strike the rule that allows a senator to participate remotely, from their home, office or other location. In a Senate session. The rule was first instituted during the pandemic.
Amendment supporters said it is time to abolish remote voting and require senators to show up in person for Senate sessions. They argued that the remote voting system was reasonable and useful during the COVID epidemic but noted that remote voting ends up in senators not being able to talk and communicte with each other during the Senate sessions.
Sen. Ryan Fattman (R-Suttin), the sponsor of the amenmdent, did not responnd to repeated attempts by Beacon Hill Roll Call asking him why he filed and supported the amendment.
Amendment opponents said that remote voting is a good second option for senators who cannot be in the chamber because of illness, family matters and more. They noted remote voting increases opportunities for senators to vote instead of not being recorded on a roll call because they are not in the chamber.
(A “Yes” vote is for striking the rule allowing remote voting and is therefore against remote voting. “A “No” vote is against eliminating the rule and therefore in favor of remote voting.)
Sen. Sal DiDomenicoNo
ALLOW MINORITY REPORTS (S 18)
Senate 3-36, rejected a joint rules amendment that would allow opponents of a bill to issue a minority report on why they oppose a bill being reported out of a committee. Current rules allow senators to indicate that they oppose the bill but only the senators who support the bill are allowed to submit their reasons for supporting it.
“Those in the minority of a committee decision should be allowed to offer a published record of why they dissented from the majority,” said Sen. Patrick O’Connor (R-Weymouth). “The Supreme Court allows the dissenting justices of a decision to offer a recorded opinion and I believe this avenue has helped shape future public policy for the better.”
“As we know, members are free to cast their votes in favor or in opposition to a chair’s recommendation and such vote is recorded under the … joint rules,” said Sen. Joan Lovely (D-Salem). “The addition of a minority report could actually create some confusion for the public on trying to discern the intentions of the committee. I therefore ask my colleagues to vote no.”
(A “Yes” vote is for allowing a minority report. A “No” vote is against allowing it.)
Sen. Sal DiDomenicoNo
ALSO UP ON BEACON HILL
New bills filed for consideration in the 2023-2024 session include:
GENDER-NEUTRAL BATHROOMS (SD 316) – Would change the state building code to allow gender-neutral bathrooms in new construction and renovations of buildings.
Supporters say that sex-segregated restroom facilities fail to accommodate the needs of every person, posing special difficulty to transgender and gender nonconforming students. They note that research shows that nearly two-thirds of transgender students avoid school bathrooms because they feel unsafe or uncomfortable.
“Massachusetts strives to be welcoming to all,” said sponsor Sen. Jo Comerford (D-Northampton). “We were the first state to vote to uphold rights against discrimination for all people. This bill would strengthen those protections in a small but very important way, by reducing daily stress for transgender and gender non-conforming people.”
WARNING ON MOBILE PHONES (SD 2327) – Would require all mobile phones sold or leased to disclose, on product packaging, the following notice to consumers: “To assure safety, the Federal Government requires that cell phones meet radio frequency (RF) exposure guidelines. If you carry or use your phone in a pocket or the phone is otherwise in contact with your body when the phone is on and connected to a wireless network, you may exceed the federal guidelines for exposure to RF radiation. Refer to the instructions in your phone or user manual for information about how to use your phone safely.”
“Information and knowledge are key to consumer safety, especially when it comes to children,” says sponsor Sen. Julian Cyr (D-Truro). “[The bill] would require disclosures on cell phone packaging that inform consumers of the potential risk of radio frequency exposure and advises cell phone users to review instructions to use their phone safely. Health should always be a priority, and as people, especially young people, spend significant time in close proximity to cell phones, this bill seeks to promote awareness around the safe use of cell phones.”
FREE DIAPERS (SD 239) – Would create a pilot program to provide free diapers to low-income families at food pantries.
“Access to new, clean diapers is necessary to preserve our babies’ health,” says sponsor Sen. Joan Lovely (D-Salem). “No parent should have to resort to reusing soiled diapers due to an inability to pay or have to undergo further economic hardships to acquire diapers. This legislation puts the well-being of our infants and families where it should be, at the forefront.”
PROHIBIT USE OF NATIVE AMERICAN MASCOTS IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS (SD 857) – Would prohibit public schools from using an athletic team name, logo or mascot which names or is associated with Native Americans, or which denigrates any racial, ethnic, gender or religious group.
“Passage of this bill is an obligation of justice, a recognition of the common humanity of all and a repair of historic wrong,” says sponsor Sen. Jo Comerford (D-Northampton). “It also addresses the deep psychological harm caused by perpetuating harmful, racist stereotypes—harm caused to both people who are of Native American heritage and those who are not. This bill says that the time has come to say loud and clear to Native Americans who had been on this land for millennia before the Pilgrims landed a mere 400 years ago: ‘You are people, not mascots.’”
“We know gun laws save lives. Massachusetts has consistently remained in the lowest three state rankings. As an urban state with the most effective gun safety laws, we treat guns like automobiles including renewable licensing, first in the nation consumer protection regulations for the gun industry and the most comprehensive assault weapon ban. It is no coincidence that once again we have the lowest gun death rate in the nation.”
— John Rosenthal, Founder and Chairman of Stop Handgun Violence on a report that shows that Massachusetts ranked 50th in the nation for gun deaths per capita.
“Protecting the environment is a fundamental responsibility of state government and partnering with private businesses like these grant recipients helps us increase and improve recycling across the commonwealth. Our administration is pleased to support these companies as they grow in their local communities and implement innovative methods and practices that allow us all to achieve our common environmental goals.”
—Gov. Maura Healey upon awarding more than $950,000 in grants to six companies under the state’s Recycling and Reuse Business Development Grant program, which will enable Massachusetts recycling companies to expand and grow their operations and increase the amount and quality of recycling in the state.
“Adding to employers’ woes is the inability to fully staff their businesses with qualified workers. Beacon Hill must proceed with caution this legislative session to avoid further increasing the cost of doing business in Massachusetts—giving small business owners yet another reason to move jobs to a state with friendlier economic conditions or worse, close their doors for good.”
— National Federation of Independent Business’ Massachusetts state director Christopher Carlozzi.
“Regional Home Care engaged in illegal practices at the expense of vulnerable consumers across Massachusetts who depend on this medical equipment for their health and livelihood. As a result of this settlement, thousands of consumers who were harmed by this company’s actions will directly benefit, and our office will continue to protect consumers from predatory practices and scams.”
—Attorney General Andrea Campbell announcing her office reached a $2.5 million settlement with Regional Home Care, resolving allegations that the company engaged in unfair, deceptive and abusive debt collection practices in violation of state consumer law and debt collection regulations and improperly collected money from members of MassHealth, the state’s Medicaid program, for balances not owed or that were already paid for by MassHealth.
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 February 13-17, the House met for a total of nine minutes while the Senate met for a total of 15 minutes.
Mon. Feb. 13 House 11:01 a.m. to 11:06 a.m.
Senate 11:06 a.m. to 11:18 a.m.
Tues. Feb. 14 No House session
No Senate session
Wed. Feb. 15 No House session
No Senate session
Thurs. Feb. 16 House 11:02 a.m. to 11:06 a.m.
Senate 11:17 a.m. to 11:20 a.m.
Fri. Feb. 17 No House session
No Senate session
Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org 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