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Everett – January 13, 2023 – Volume 48 – Report No. 1

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If you have any questions about this week’s report, e-mail us at bob@beaconhillrollcall.com or call us at (617) 720-1562.

Beacon Hill Roll Call

Volume 48 – Report No. 1

January 2-6, 2023

Copyright © 2023 Beacon Hill Roll Call. All Rights Reserved.

By Bob Katzen 

   With today’s edition, [insert name of newspaper] begins coverage of the 2023-2024 Massachusetts legislative session with our weekly Beacon Hill Roll Call report. This feature is a clear and concise compilation of the voting records of local state representatives and senators.

  Beacon Hill Roll Call provides an unbiased summary of bills and amendments, arguments from floor debate on both sides of the issue and each legislator’s vote or lack of vote on the matter. This information gives readers an opportunity to monitor their elected officials’ actions on Beacon Hill. Many bills are reported on in their early stages, giving readers the opportunity to contact their legislators and express an opinion prior to the measure being brought up for final action.

  The feature “Also Up on Beacon Hill” informs readers of other important matters at the Statehouse. 

  Beacon Hill Roll Call is written and provided by Bob Katzen, a former Boston radio talk show host at WRKO, WITS and WMRE. Bob has been providing this feature to hundreds of newspapers across the Bay State for 48 years, since 1975.

   Bob invented the “Bagel Route” when he was 10 years old. It’s like a paper route but Bob took pre-orders from neighbors and delivered bagels every Sunday morning.

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   THE HOUSE AND SENATE: Last week was full of activity on Beacon Hill. The Legislature approved and sent to then-Gov. Charlie Baker, before his term was up, several bills passed on voice votes, without roll calls, prior to the end of the 2021-2022 session on Tuesday, January 3. 

   The Legislature convened the 2023-2024 session on Wednesday, January 4. Much of the day’s activities were ceremonial including the swearing-in of state senators and representatives. The only roll call votes were on the election of a speaker of the House and Senate president. The day also featured a farewell speech by outgoing Gov. Charlie Baker. 

   One senator and two representatives were not present at the opening session. Beacon Hill Roll Call asked each one why they were absent.

   Rep. Patricia Haddad (D-Somerset) said she was in the emergency room with her husband.    

 Rep. Erica Uyterhoeven (D-Somerville) said she was ill. 

   A spokesman for Sen. Mike Rush (D-Boston) said that Rush had a minor medical issue.

   On Thursday, January 5,  newly elected Gov. Maura Healey and Lt. Gov. Kim Driscoll were sworn into office.

HOUSE RE-ELECTS MARIANO AS SPEAKER

   House 131-25, re-elected Rep. Ron Mariano (D-Quincy) as speaker of the House. Rep. Bradley Jones (R-North Reading) was re-elected as the GOP minority leader. 

   Here’s how local representatives voted:

Rep. Joseph McGonagleVoted for Mariano                       

SENATE RE-ELECTS SPILKA AS SENATE PRESIDENT

   Senate 36-3, re-elected Sen. Karen Spilka (D-Ashland) as Senate President. 

   Sen. Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester) was re-elected as the GOP Minority Leader.

   Here’s how local senators voted:

Sen. Sal DiDomenicoVoted for Spilka                        

ALSO UP ON BEACON HILL

   REDUCED TRAFFIC FATALITIES AND PROTECT PEDESTRIANS AND BICYCLISTS (H 5103) – Gov. Baker signed into law a bill that would protect vulnerable road users which includes pedestrians, construction workers, emergency responders bicyclists, skateboarders, roller skaters and wheelchair users. A key provision requires vehicle drivers, when passing a vulnerable user, to pass at a safe distance of not less than 4 feet.

    Other provisions include establishing a process to request the lowering of the default speed limit to 25 mph on state highways in a community; clarifying the process for modifying special limits that apply on some roads; requiring higher-visibility mirrors and lateral sideguards on certain state-owned, state-operated and state-contracted trucks; creating a uniform reporting tool for crashes involving a pedestrian or cyclist; and requiring bicyclists to have red rear lights.

   “This bill reflects over 10 years of collaborative effort among people who care about road safety,” said sponsor Sen. Will Brownsberger (D-Belmont). “I’m so glad we could get it to governor’s desk again. I feel the final bill is as strong as what we originally submitted. It will save lives on the roads.”

   THEFT OF CATALYTIC CONVERTERS (S 3169) – Gov. Baker signed into law legislation that would create a “chain of custody” for used catalytic converter sales. A catalytic converter is a device that converts the environmentally hazardous exhaust emitted by a vehicle’s engine into less harmful gases. The measure requires the buyer to keep records of each converter purchased, which vehicle it was removed from and who the seller was. These records would be made available upon request to law enforcement.

   Supporters explained that several communities have seen a rise in catalytic converter thefts because the converters use platinum, palladium or rhodium to operate. According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, the values of these precious metals contained inside catalytic converters have skyrocketed and is staggering. As of March 2022, rhodium is valued at $20,000 per ounce; palladium at $2,938 per ounce; and platinum at $1,128 per ounce. For thieves, this means a catalytic converter might be a better score than the average wedding band or gold watch.

   “Catalytic theft is an epidemic,” said House sponsor Rep. Steve Howitt (R-Seekonk). “It is not only very costly to the vehicle owner, if they do not have comprehensive insurance, it creates an inconvenience to have repairs done. I’m very pleased that the House and Senate worked together for this timely and important bill that benefits all the citizens of the commonwealth.”  

   “Many scrapyards and black-market buyers have an open call out for catalytic converters, which they turn around and sell to metal recyclers,” says the Cavallo and Signoriello Insurance Agency in Massachusetts. “Ten years ago, a thief could earn between $20 and $200 per stolen converter. Today, thanks to the spike in the value of these metals, that range is more like $300 to $850, for just a few minutes of work.” 

   PREGNANT AND POSTPARTUM (S 2731) – Gov. Baker signed into law a bill that would ensure that pregnant and postpartum mothers get necessary and potentially life-saving health care by extending MassHealth insurance coverage to 12 months after pregnancy. MassHealth is the state’s Medicaid program that provides health care for low-income and disabled persons.

   Supporters said that according to a recent report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of women identified as having died of maternal causes in the United States climbed from 658 in 2018 to 861 in 2020, with the maternal death rate for Black women reaching an alarming 55.3 deaths per 100,000 live births. 

   “I am proud that Massachusetts has taken another step to combat inequities in maternal health,” said Sen. Joan Lovely (D-Salem), the lead Senate sponsor of the measure. “By extending postpartum healthcare coverage to a full year, parents will be able to access vital physical and behavioral health resources that will decrease mortality and severe morbidity and improve the overall health of parent and child.”

  PROHIBIT REVOCATION OF PROFESSIONAL LICENSES (H 5195) – The House and Senate on November 21, approved and sent to then-Gov. Baker legislation that would repeal a current state law which creates professional licensure consequences for anyone who defaults on their student loan. Under current law, a borrower’s state-issued professional or occupational certificate, registration or license can be suspended, revoked or canceled if the borrower is in default on an education loan. 

   “This draconian approach prevents an individual from access to the profession for which he or she has trained and has the perverse result of further hindering their ability to earn a living and making it more difficult to make loan payments,” said co-sponsor Rep. Kate Lipper-Garabedian (D-Melrose). “And as families work to recover from the financial fallout of the pandemic, the last thing the state should do is deny them access to their professional pursuits because of student loan defaults.”

   Baker proposed an amendment to the bill on December 1. Baker’s amendment would allow the Division of Banks to consider student loan defaults in order to ensure that the Division will retain the discretion it has always applied when assessing an applicant’s fitness to provide consumer financial services to prospective borrowers.

   “Precluding the Division of Banks from reviewing credit reports as part of its evaluation of an individual’s financial responsibility for a financial services license could ultimately result in harm to consumers,” said Baker.

   The House and Senate had more than a month to act on the governor’s amendment but did ot do so.. As a result, the bill died on January 3, the final day of the 2021-2022 session.

   “This is a common-sense bill that not only helps a student practice their profession but it is also likely to help a student earn enough money to pay off any outstanding student debt,” said co-sponsor Sen. Jamie Eldridge (D-Acton). “I was hoping the bill would make it to the governor’s desk, and wish he had not filed an amendment to the already-passed bill.”   

   EXPAND CIVIL SERVICE OPTION FOR CITIES AND TOWNS (S 1661) – The House and Senate both approved a bill that would allow legislative governing bodies of cities and towns the option to expand the definition of local residency for civil service hiring preference to include anyone who received a high school diploma from a school in that city or town. Neither branch gave the measure final approval.

   “This legislation could aid municipalities in their efforts to draw from a diverse pool of applicants for police and fire department jobs, and provide additional career opportunities for students who become part of a local community by attending and graduating from its high school,” said sponsor Sen. Will Brownsberger (D-Belmont) who plans to refile the bill in the 2023-2024 session.

   Supporters gave an example that a student enrolled in the METCO program who graduated from high school in another city or town could be considered a local resident for civil service purposes if the city council or town meeting voted to expand the residency definition under the proposed legislation.

   QUOTABLE QUOTES – Excerpts from Gov. Maura Healey’s inaugural speech

   “I thank Gov. Baker, who has led this commonwealth with a steady hand. He has governed with integrity and care—eager to study problems and work together on solutions. The example he set for eight years was in the best traditions of public service, and it now becomes his legacy. Gov. Baker, I thank you, and our state thanks you.”

  “My grandparents met on the fishing docks in a Gloucester summer. She was in nursing school; he worked at the GE factory. Later, when I was to be born at a naval hospital in Maryland, they worried that I wasn’t starting my life on Massachusetts soil. So she dug up a little dirt from the woodlot, caught a plane, sneaked into the hospital  room, and put the little bag under the delivery table.”

   “Our state Constitution recognized our natural and essential rights and declared them to the world. The people of Massachusetts have always believed in protecting these rights, and dedicating them to a higher purpose. We were the first to guarantee that health care is universal, and twenty years ago now, that love is, too. It is in that spirit of common humanity that I stand before you today, representing another historic first.”

   “The strength of Massachusetts is its families. And they sorely need our help. Our state has some of the highest childcare costs in the country. Our care workers don’t make a livable wage. So today, let us pledge to be the first state to solve the childcare crisis. Let’s finally pass legislation in line with Common Start to make sure every family pays what they can afford, and that care workers are paid what they deserve.”

   “But I’m even more excited about tomorrow. Because tomorrow we get to work. We get to work in the greatest state, for the greatest people, at a moment when we can make the greatest difference—now and for a generation to come. So with great optimism and pride, I thank you all, and now let’s come together and get this done. God bless you, and God bless this commonwealth.”

   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 January 2-6, the House met for a total of 18 hours and 24 minutes and the Senate met for a total of 18 hours and eight minutes.

Mon.   Jan. 2    No House session

                 No Senate session 

Tues.  Jan. 3    House  11:05 a.m. to  12:29 a.m. (Wednesday morning)                   

                 Senate 11:21 a.m. to  12:33 a.m  (Wednesday morning) 

 

Wed.   Jan. 4    House  11:04 a.m. to   2:07 p.m.                   

                 Senate 11:09 a.m. to   1:49 p.m

   

Thurs. Jan. 5    House  11:38 a.m. to   1:35 p.m.                

                 Senate 11:19 a.m. to   1:35 p.m. 

Fri.   Jan. 6    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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