Beacon Hill Roll Call
Volume 47 – Report No. 32
August 8-12, 2022
Copyright © 2022 Beacon Hill Roll Call. All Rights Reserved.
By Bob Katzen
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THE HOUSE AND SENATE: Beacon Hill Roll Call records representatives’ and senators’ votes on roll calls from recent sessions. There were no roll calls in the House or Senate last week.
$200,000 FOR RECYCLING CHILD PASSENGER RESTRAINTS (H 5050)
House 126-27, Senate 36-3, overrode Gov. Charlie Baker’s veto of $200,000 for a pilot program for the recycling of child passenger restraints.
In his veto message, Baker said, “I am striking language that earmarks funding for a program not recommended.”
Sen. Becca Rausch (D-Needham) said that “overriding Gov. Baker’s veto of this common-sense pilot program was a no-brainer.” “Reducing landfill waste and pollution in Massachusetts requires creative solutions,” said Rausch. “My successful budget amendment to create a statewide car seat recycling pilot program is a win for families and our commonwealth’s climate action goals, creating a way to divert up to 5,000 car seats out of landfills and into our recycling stream.”
(A “Yes” vote is for the $200,000. A “No” vote is against the $200,000.)
Rep. Joseph McGonagleYes Sen. Sal DiDomenico Yes
SKATING RINKS (H 5050)
House 133-20, Senate 39-0, overrode Gov. Baker’s veto of a provision that requires Metropolitan District Commission (MDC) skating rinks to remain open and staffed for the full rink season and that ice skating be available from September 1, 2022 to April 15, 2023. The provision also requires the MDC to prepare and submit reports to the House and Senate including the status of hiring for additional staffing levels; the staffing levels for the previous ten fiscal years; and the average staffing level at each park.
“I am striking this language because it is not consistent with my … recommendation and the required report is unduly burdensome,” said Baker in his veto message.
Supporters of overriding the veto said it is important to keep the rinks open as long as possible for the benefit of many residents who use them. They noted the required reports will ensure that there are appropriate staffing levels at the rinks.
(A “Yes” vote is for the rinks remaining open and for requiring the submission of the reports. A “No” vote is against the required rink openings and against requiring the reports.)
Rep. Joseph McGonagleYes Sen. Sal DiDomenico Yes
$125,000 TO MONITOR REFORMS AT BRIDGEWATER STATE HOSPITAL (H 5050)
House 131-32, Senate 39-0, overrode the governor’s veto of $125,000 for the Disability Law Center to monitor the efficacy of service delivery reforms at Bridgewater State Hospital and the Old Colony Correctional Center. The governor also vetoed a section that gives the Department of Corrections the authority to reduce the danger of the spread of COVID-19 in vulnerable inmate populations through the use of furloughs and home confinement.
“I am striking this language because it is not consistent with my … recommendation,” said Gov. Baker in his veto message.
Override supporters said Bridgewater State Hospital delivers poor services in some areas of treatment and noted the $125,000 the governor vetoed would ensure that the problems are identified and fixed. They also noted that the safe reduction of vulnerable inmates in prisons is necessary to reduce the cases of COVID-19.
(A “Yes” vote is for the $125,000. A “No” vote is against it.)
Rep. Joseph McGonagleYes Sen. Sal DiDomenico Yes
ALSO UP ON BEACON HILL – BILLS SIGNED BY GOV. CHARLIE BAKER
LEGALIZE SPORTS BETTING (H 5164) – Gov. Charlie Baker signed into law a bill that legalizes sports betting on professional and college sports for Massachusetts residents over 21 years old at the state’s casinos, slots parlors, simulcast centers and through mobile platforms. Betting on Massachusetts colleges and universities would not be allowed unless the school is playing in a tournament like March Madness. The betting would be regulated by the Gaming Commission, the same commission that regulates the state’s casino gambling.
“Our administration first filed legislation to legalize sports wagering in the commonwealth several years ago, and I am glad to be able to sign this bill into law today,” Gov. Baker said. “We appreciate the dedication and compromise that the Legislature demonstrated on this issue, and we look forward to supporting the work of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission on the responsible implementation of the law over the next several months.”
“After a four-year process, sports betting is now legal in Massachusetts,” said sponsor Sen. Eric Lesser (D-Longmeadow). “This new law will give residents new ways to engage with sports, generate new jobs and investment and includes some of the strongest consumer and player safeguards in the country. I’m confident this law will be a model for other states, and I look forward to seeing its full implementation in the months ahead.”
INCREASE ACCESS TO MENTAL HEALTH CARE (S 3097) – Gov. Baker signed into law a bill designed to make mental health care more accessible in the Bay State.
Provisions include mandating coverage for an annual mental health wellness exam, comparable to an annual physical; a public awareness campaign on the state’s red flag laws that limit access to guns for people at risk of hurting themselves or others; implementation of the nationwide 988 hotline to access 24/7 suicide prevention and behavioral health crisis services; mandating coverage and eliminating prior authorization for mental health acute treatment and stabilization services for adults and children; establishing an Office of Behavioral Health Promotion to coordinate all state initiatives that promote mental, emotional and behavioral health and wellness for residents; and creating an interim licensure level for licensed mental health counselors so that they can be reimbursed by insurance for their services and be eligible for state and federal grant and loan forgiveness programs.
“Today I am pleased to sign legislation that expands access to behavioral health services, enhances our understanding of behavioral health challenges and takes steps to ensure our health care system treats mental health the same way we do physical health,” Gov. Baker said. “The COVID-19 pandemic underscored long-standing challenges in this area, which is why our administration has made significant investments to increase access through our Behavioral Health Roadmap. The new law signed today will build on that work and affirms the shared commitment of our administration, the Legislature and our health care community to better support our residents’ behavioral health needs.”
“While Massachusetts has made great strides in expanding health coverage, many families still face barriers to accessing the care they need,” said Amy Rosenthal, executive director at Health Care for All. “This is especially true as the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated an already growing behavioral health crisis, especially among young adults and children. The bill also establishes enhanced reporting and monitoring of the behavioral health system and addresses the specific needs of children, adolescents and their families. We are pleased that residents will receive the essential care needed to help them thrive at home, in their workplace and in the community.”
$11.3 BILLION TRANSPORTATION AND INFRASTRUCTURE PACKAGE (H 5151) – The governor signed into law an $11.3 billion transportation and infrastructure package that includes $1.375 billion for Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) modernization and $1.27 billion for non-federally aided roads and bridges.
Other provisions include $114 million for airport improvements; $25 million for municipal road pavement improvements; $20 million for municipalities under the Complete Streets Funding Program; $25.5 million for the Mobility Assistance Program; mandating the MBTA to establish a 3-year safety improvement plan with measurable safety objectives; and directing the MBTA to contract with an independent third-party auditor to conduct annual safety audits.
Gov. Baker said the legislation supports significant investments in the state’s roads, bridges, railways, transit agencies and environmental infrastructure, including investments made possible by the historic federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Law enacted on November 15, 2021. He noted the legislation represents a crucial next step implementing critical infrastructure investments designed to modernize the state’s transportation network while supporting carbon reduction and resiliency goals.
“Overall, this legislation represents a crucial next step implementing critical infrastructure investments designed to modernize the state’s transportation network while supporting carbon reduction and resiliency goal,” said Baker. “[It] also includes funding for initial implementation efforts in support of new East-West passenger rail service. It will also enable us to increase clean energy efforts, including the expansion of our electric vehicle charging infrastructure to facilitate long- distance travel and provide additional convenient charging options.”
CLEAN ENERGY AND REDUCED EMISSIONS (H 5060) – Gov. Baker signed into law legislation that would expand the clean energy industry and reduce emissions from the transportation and building sectors across the state with the goal of reaching net-zero emissions by 2050.
Baker said he signed the bill to ensure the Bay State retains its standing as a national leader in securing renewable energy. “However, because the Legislature rejected virtually every meaningful amendment I put forth, this bill does not have the same shared sense of purpose that all previous climate legislation embodied, which is unfortunate,” said Baker. “We all know the commonwealth faces significant challenges in dealing with two existential threats—climate change and housing supply and affordability. This bill does not move Massachusetts in the right direction on housing. And the process by which many provisions in this bill are implemented will determine if this bill will make significant progress toward our climate goals.”
“This law builds on existing climate policy and accelerates our transition to local, clean energy, setting us on a course toward a sustainable, healthy future,” said Environmental League of Massachusetts Action Fund Executive Director Casey Bowers. “Recent heatwaves and drought conditions have made the immediate need to reduce emissions and protect vulnerable communities even clearer.”
“This new law takes some great steps on biomass and offshore wind, but it’s sorely lacking when it comes to environmental justice,” said Staci Rubin, Vice President of Environmental Justice at the Conservation Law Foundation. “For too long, these communities have been overburdened and overlooked when it comes to air quality, access to transit and toxic pollution. We need to put a much larger focus on protecting Environmental Justice neighborhoods and phasing out fossil fuels once and for all when the Legislature reconvenes.”
Mass Audubon President David O’Neill said, “This new law will propel the commonwealth’s efforts to meet its climate goals by scaling up offshore wind, stepping on the accelerator for more clean cars and clean energy buildings and making sure we create equitable access to the green jobs of the future.”
BENEFITS FOR MILITARY FAMILIES (S 3075) – Gov. Baker signed into law 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.
“The [measure] is a truly momentous bill and I am thrilled that the governor has signed it into law for our service members, veterans and military families,” said Sen. John Velis (D-Westfield), the Senate Chair of the Committee on Veterans and Federal Affairs. “From supporting our military families in their transition to Massachusetts, to creating new benefits and services for veterans and National Guard members, this law will ensure that Massachusetts continues to lead the nation in taking care of our service members and their families.”
“This is a historic bill,” said Major General Gary Keefe, Adjutant General of the Massachusetts National Guard. “This is most likely the most encompassing military and veterans bill passed in the commonwealth in the last century. This bill recognizes both the sacrifice of our military service members, as well as veterans and their families, and it establishes programs that will recruit and retain service members, attract future military missions and continue to provide for our growing veteran population. This bill will make it clear to every state in the republic that Massachusetts is unmatched in its care and support of its military members, veterans, and their families.”
MARIJUANA LAWS (S 3096) – Gov. Baker signed into law a bill that makes changes in the cannabis industry including a section that would require the state to put some of its tax and licensing revenue from the sales of marijuana revenue into a newly created Social Equity Trust Fund to provide grants and loans, including forgivable and no-interest loans, designed to assist entrepreneurs and businesses from communities disproportionately harmed by the decades of marijuana prohibition. The measure would also allow municipalities to vote by a local referendum or through a vote of the municipal government for social consumption of marijuana to take place in their community.
Supporters explained that opening an average cannabis retail shop can require up to $1.5 million. They noted that since federal cannabis laws prevent these businesses from accessing traditional bank loans, lack of capital can pose an insurmountable barrier. They noted that less than 20 (6 percent) of the 346 marijuana businesses are connected to participants in the Cannabis Control Commission’s current social equity program or economic empowerment entrepreneurs.
“I am thrilled to see this legislation become law as we continue to build a budding and more equitable cannabis industry,” said Sen. Julian Cyr (D-Truro). “Under the new law, the Cannabis Control Commission can establish guardrails on host community agreements to make sure municipalities don’t extort cannabis enterprises. The technical adjustments in the law allow for communities to pursue social consumption sites if they wish. With the signing of [this bill], we better reflect the intentions behind the voter referenda and assure an equitable and vibrant homegrown cannabis industry.”
The vision of the drafters of the legalization initiative to address the harms of the war on cannabis is now more fully realized,” said Will Luzier, former campaign manager for the 2016 marijuana legalization campaign. “The pathways to participate in the cannabis industry for those harmed by the war on drugs are clearer and the prospect of social consumption is now reachable. Cities and towns that have skirted the law by overreaching host community agreements will now be properly policed.”
$165.5 MILLION TO MODERNIZE THE STATE’S COURTHOUSE AND COURT TECHNOLOGY SYSTEM AND A CHANGE IN GUN LAWS (H 5163) – The governor signed into law a bill providing $165.5 million to modernize the state’s courthouses and technology system. The measure also includes a section dealing with state’s gun laws.
Provisions include $95 million to allow courts to go digital; $35 million to ensure the safety of the courts’ employees and guests; and another $35 million for the technological modernization of court administrative operations.
Another key provision included is in response to a recent New York Supreme Court decision in the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association, Inc. v. Bruen that took away local police chiefs of significant discretion about who is allowed to possess and carry a firearm. The provision amends Massachusetts law to bring gun licensing provisions into compliance with the court decision and to ensure that individuals seeking a license to carry are first interviewed personally by their local police chief.
“This bill authorizes up to $165.5 million in spending, which will enable the Judiciary to address information technology needs through future capital investment plans,” said Gov. Baker. “Specifically, this bill supports key investments that will enhance the virtual and physical security infrastructure of court facilities, increase the efficiency of courts systems, modernize administrative processes, and improve court proceedings for the many stakeholders in our justice system.”
“When courts do not have proper communication systems, let alone access to a reliable internet connection, it limits the Judiciary’s ability to serve the people,” said Rep. Mike Day (D-Stoneham), House Chair of the Judiciary Committee. “I am proud to have advanced this bill which promises to enhance the courts efficiency. This will improve our residents’ access to justice by providing a more equitable approach to the law, In addition to this historic investment, we also take action to strengthen our gun safety measures, so the commonwealth can continue to be one of the safest places in America.”
“The … bill makes a significant financial investment in critical technology upgrades that are needed to help modernize our state’s court system,” said Rep. Todd Smola (R-Warren). “Providing for digital document management and the electronic filing of legal documents and signatures will help streamline administrative operations and ensure that the courts are more user-friendly, open and accessible to the public.”
“I will try to explain this without slipping and falling.”
—Senate Ways and Means chair Sen. Mike Rodrigues (D-Westport) on the Senate floor while debating a measure requiring MDC skating rinks to remain open for the full rink season.
“We are committed to supporting childcare providers across the commonwealth who have worked tirelessly to care for children and support Massachusetts’ families. We know that investments in early education and care settings are vital for children and families through providing high-quality early childhood education and out-of-school time programs in enriching and engaging settings.”
—Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito on The Baker administration awarding $3.9 million in Early Education and Out-of-School Time capital improvement grants to organizations to renovate childcare facilities that serve primarily low-income families.
“The best ideas for clean energy often start at the local level. If we want to have cleaner air, healthier communities and a safer future for us and our children, we must transition to 100 percent renewable energy. These cities and towns are showing how to get it done.”
— Ben Hellerstein, state director for the Environment Massachusetts Research and Policy Center on the center’s report that Massachusetts’ cities and towns are taking action to reduce their reliance on fossil fuels and transition to clean energy.
“If Massachusetts is to remain a desirable place for individuals, families and businesses, then we need to confront the housing crisis together. This law is not a housing production mandate. It is all about setting the table for more transit-oriented housing in the years and decades ahead— which is not just good housing policy, but good climate and transportation policy, too.”
— Transportation Secretary Mike Kennealy releasing the final set of multi-family zoning rules that half of all municipalities in Massachusetts will soon have to meet if they want to preserve their access to important sources of state funding.
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 period of August8-12, the House met for a total of 23 minutes and the Senate met for a total of 51 minutes.
Mon. Aug. 8 House 11:03 a.m. to 11:18 a.m.
Senate 11:11 a.m. to 11:44 a.m.
Tues. Aug. 9 No House session
No Senate session
Wed. Aug. 10 No House session
No Senate session
Thurs. Aug. 11 House 11:02 a.m. to 11:10 a.m.
Senate 11:07 a.m. to 11:25 a.m.
Fri. Aug. 12 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.