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Everett – March 4, 2022

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By Bob Katzen

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  THE HOUSE AND SENATE: As is customary during the February school vacation week, the Legislature met in only brief informal sessions and there were no roll call votes in the House or Senate last week.



  Several bills have received unanimous or near-unanimous approval in the Senate as far back as September 2021 and are still stuck in the House Ways and Means Committee which has not acted on them and has not sent them to the full House for debate and a vote.

  Beacon Hill Roll Call asked House Speaker Ron Mariano (D-Quincy) and House Ways and Means chair Aaron Michlewitz (D-Boston) for a comment on the four Senate-approved bills being stuck in the House and Means Committee.

  “They’re under review,” was the brief three-word response from Ana Vivas, Mariano’s spokesperson. Mariano’s office also cited five bills that have been approved by the House and are currently stuck in the Senate Ways Means Committee.

  Despite repeated requests from Beacon Hill Roll Call, no one in House Ways and Means Chair Aaron Michlewitz’s office responded to our request for a comment.

  Here are the four bills and how local senators voted on them:


  On September 23, the Senate 39-0, approved a bill that would allow people to change their gender on their birth certificate, driver’s license, learner’s permit, identification card or liquor purchase identification card, including to a non-binary option other than male or female. The possible designations include “female,” “male” or “X” which would indicate that the person is another gender or an undesignated gender. The gender can only be changed by an adult, an emancipated minor or the parent or guardian of a minor.

  No documentation is required but the person changing the gender must submit an affidavit executed under the penalty of perjury attesting that the request is to conform to the person’s gender identity and is not made for any fraudulent purpose. The bill also directs the state to develop a plan for allowing a non-binary option on all state forms and instances where a gender choice is required.

  “People know what gender they are,” said sponsor Sen. Jo Comerford (D-Northampton) at the time the measure was approved. “This bill simply allows for gender identification and IDs as diverse as our people. The Legislature must ensure that all of our constituents have access to IDs with nonbinary gender markers as beautifully diverse as they are.”

  (A “Yes” vote is for the bill.)

Sen. Sal DiDomenico Yes



  On October 21, the Senate 39-0, approved legislation that would support military families who relocate to the Bay State by providing career stability for the spouses of service members and education for their children.

  Provisions include making it easier for military personnel and their spouses who move to the Bay State to get a Massachusetts professional license, if their job requires one, so that they can continue their civilian careers and provide for their families without interruption; requiring the Commissioner of Education to issue a military spouse a valid certificate for teaching if he or she holds a valid teaching license from another state; allowing children of military members to register and enroll in a school district at the same time it is open to the general population by waiving the proof of residency requirement until the student actually begins school; creating a purple-star campus designation for certain schools that are military-kid friendly and show a major commitment to students and families connected to the nation’s military; and requiring that a child or spouse of an active-duty service member in Massachusetts continue to pay the in-state less expensive tuition rate at state universities even if the service member is assigned to move out of the state.

  “Our commonwealth has always led from the front in terms of taking care of our active-duty service members and veterans, but I strongly believe that there is more we can do for the spouses and children of service-members who also call Massachusetts their home,” said sponsor Sen. John Velis (D-Westfield) at the time the proposal was approved. “Anyone who has worn the uniform or has a family member who has worn the uniform knows that the sacrifice of military service goes far beyond the individual service member. By passing this legislation, we are saying to these families that we understand their challenges, that we recognize the great sacrifices that they have made and that we are committed to doing everything we can to support them.”

  (A “Yes” vote is for the bill.)

Sen. Sal DiDomenico Yes



  On November 17, the Senate 39-0, approved a measure known as the Mental Health Addressing Barriers to Care (ABC) Act that will make mental health care more accessible in the Bay State.

  “Today, the Massachusetts Senate took vital strides toward transforming mental health care in Massachusetts,” said sponsor Sen. Julian Cyr (D-Truro) at the time the bill was approved. “By unanimously passing [this bill], we affirm that mental health is just as essential as physical health and take a leap forward to ensure that all people in Massachusetts can access the mental health care they need and deserve.”

  (A “Yes” vote is for the bill).


Sen. Sal DiDomenico Yes



  On September 23, the Senate 38-1, approved legislation that would require that all public schools offering a comprehensive sexual health education curriculum “provide medically accurate, age-appropriate sexual health education.”

  Under current law, public schools are not required to teach sex education and the bill does not change that but rather mandates that any schools that choose to teach sex education are required to follow a curriculum, based on age, that includes human anatomy, reproduction and sexual development; the benefits of abstinence and delaying sexual activity; the importance of effectively using contraceptives to prevent unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV and AIDS; ways to effectively discuss safe sexual activity; relationship and communication skills to form healthy, respectful relationships free of violence, coercion and intimidation; and information about gender identity and sexual orientation for all students, including recognition that people have different sexual orientations, gender identities and gender expressions.

  The measure also requires any school offering sex education to notify parents about the school’s sex education curriculum and gives parents the right to withdraw a student from the instruction. Another provision creates a process for parents to inspect the program instruction materials prior to the start of the course.

  Supporters said that under the bill, local cities and towns still have the authority and power to decide whether sex education is taught in their schools. They said the measure will ensure that schools that choose to teach sex education will have a framework to follow. They noted the bill will prepare students to make healthy decisions and will reduce teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.

  “I am very proud that the Massachusetts Senate has once again reaffirmed our commitment to this commonsense healthy policy that will ensure our youth have the tools needed to protect their health and form respectful relationships,” said sponsor Sen. Sal DiDomenico (D-Everett) at the time the legislation was approved. “This legislation makes it clear that sex education in the commonwealth must be inclusive for all students and emphasize the importance and necessity of consent.

  “This is a highly controversial bill, as demonstrated by the fact that it has failed to pass for multiple sessions,” said Sen. Ryan Fattman (R-Sutton) at the time the measure was approved. He was the only senator who voted against the bill. “If this legislation is to pass into law, it would be a direct usurpation of the local school district’s decision-making abilities. Each community has different needs based on their specific demographics, which is why they should have the ability to decide their curriculum. By mandating a statewide sex education curriculum, you directly take away the ability of a community to decide how sensitive topics like sex education are taught.”

  “It is quite troubling that our elected officials think taking local control away from school districts and parents regarding sex ed curriculum is a good idea,” said Andrew Beckwith, executive director of the Massachusetts Family Institute. “And even worse is the type of graphic content they want to push on students in the curriculum they are sanctioning. In what reality does normalizing high risk sexual activity like anal and oral sex for teens or teaching young vulnerable girls how to obtain abortions without their parents’ knowledge or consent result in healthy youth?”

  (A “Yes” vote is for the bill. A “No” vote is against it.)


Sen. Sal DiDomenico Yes

 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 21-25, the House met for a total of 31 minutes and the Senate met for a total of 30 minutes

Mon. Feb. 21 No House session

                       No Senate session


Tues. Feb. 22 House 11:00 a.m. to 11:13 a.m.

                        Senate 11:05 a.m. to 11:22 a.m.


Wed. Feb. 23 No House session

                       No Senate session


Thurs. Feb. 24 House 11:01 a.m. to 11:19 a.m.

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


Fri. Feb. 25 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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