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Beacon Hill Roll Call
Volume 48-Report No. 2
January 9-13, 2023
Copyright © 2023 Beacon Hill Roll Call. All Rights Reserved.
By Bob Katzen
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THE HOUSE AND SENATE: There were no roll calls in the House and Senate last week.
“THERE OUGHTA BE A LAW” – Friday, January 20 at 5 p.m. is the “soft deadline” for legislation to be filed for consideration by the Legislature during the 2023-2024 legislative session. However, under House and Senate rules, bills filed after January 20 can still be admitted to the Legislature following the deadline if the Legislature agrees to admit it by a four-fifths vote of the members of the branch where the bill is introduced.
Massachusetts is one of a handful of states that give citizens the “right of free petition”—the power to propose their own legislation. A citizen’s proposal can be filed in conjunction with his or her representative or senator or any other representative or senator from another district. Sometimes a legislator will support the legislation and sponsor it along with the constituent. Other times, a legislator might disagree with the bill but will file it anyway as a courtesy. In those cases, the bill is listed as being filed “by request”—indicating that the legislator is doing so at the request of the constituent and does not necessarily support it. Citizens that are interested in filing legislation should contact their own or any other representative or senator. The legislator will likely help you draft the language of the bill.
Perhaps one of the most famous bills filed “by request” goes all the way back to 1969 when a constituent opposed to the Vietnam War asked the late Newton Democratic Rep. James Shea to file a bill prohibiting Massachusetts citizens from being forced to fight in an “undeclared war.” The bill challenged the constitutionality of sending Bay State men to fight without a Congressional declaration of war. It was approved by the House and Senate and signed by the late Gov. Frank Sargent. The new law made national headlines.
To comply with the new law, Massachusetts initially filed a complaint in the U.S. Supreme Court. The high court declined to hear the case, which was later refiled in the U.S. District Court federal court and dismissed—rejecting the state’s argument that President Richard Nixon had usurped the war-making powers of Congress. In a tragic footnote, Rep. Shea committed suicide in the fall of the year the legislation passed.
ALSO UP ON BEACON HILL
FOOD INSECURITY EVENT – As the costs for basic necessities rise, more Massachusetts residents living on the economic margins must choose between buying groceries and paying for housing, transportation, childcare and other basic utilities. It’s a dilemma that plays out in hundreds of thousands of Massachusetts households every day. Hunger and access to proper nutrition remain pervasive, with nearly 1 in 3 adults experiencing food insecurity in Massachusetts in 2021.
Join a State House News Service/MASSterList forum featuring leaders, advocates, and experts for a discussion of opportunities and obstacles for Massachusetts to stem food insecurity. The event is at Massachusetts Continuing Legal Education (MCLE) in Boston’s Downtown Crossing at 10 Winter Place, Suite #4751 at 8:15 a.m. on Wednesday, January 25. U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern will provide keynote remarks. All ticket proceeds benefit The Greater Boston Food Bank. Tickets are available at MASSterList.com/ending-hunger-in-massachusetts/
WRAPPING UP THE 2022 SESSION – Before the 2022 session ended on January 3, the House and Senate acted on several bills including:
REVENGE PORN (H 4498, S 3167) – The House and Senate approved different versions of a proposal that would prohibit the posting of sexually explicit images of another person online without their permission—commonly referred to as “revenge porn.” The practice is often used by ex-spouses or ex-partners. Massachusetts is one of only two states that does not have a law about this crime. The measure died in the House when the House did not take action on the Senate version of the legislation.
Another provision changes current law under which minors, under 18 years of age, who share explicit images of themselves or other minors can be charged with violating Massachusetts child pornography laws and be required to register with the Sex Offender Registry. The bill allows minors to be diverted to an educational program that would provide them with information about the consequences of posting or transmitting indecent visual depictions of minors.
Supporters say that currently law enforcement are faced with either charging offenders with a felony or doing nothing. They note the bill provides a middle ground that will allow law enforcement to sentence kids to a diversion program to educate them about the consequences of their actions without ruining their lives and giving them a criminal record.
Sen. Jamie Eldridge (D-Acton), the Senate chair of the Judiciary Committee, did not respond to repeated attempts by Beacon Hill Roll Call asking how he felt about the measure dying in the House.
“Rep. Roy is on an overseas trade mission so I am unable to provide a quote for you,” responded a spokesman for the bill’s sponsor Rep. Jeff Roy (D-Franklin). The spokesman did say that Roy plans to refile the bill in the 2023-2024 session.
DEATH OF A CHILD UNDER 2 (H 5422) – The House and Senate both approved a bill that would require that the autopsy report for a child under the age of two be reviewed and approved by the Chief Medical Examiner to determine the cause of death. Changes to the autopsy report would also have to be reviewed and approved by the Chief Medical Examiner. The bill needed a final round of approval by the House and Senate before going to the governor’s desk but neither branch acted upon it and the bill died.
Supporters said the measure addresses recent cases in which the Chief Medical Examiner’s office changed the cause of death for deaths of children under two, creating serious implications for ongoing court cases and for the families of those children. They noted that the most experienced person in the office should provide oversight to what are typically junior medical examiners without pediatric autopsy experience. They argued this will provide more confidence and peace of mind for families who have tragically lost infants.
Sponsor of the bill Rep. Marjorie Decker (D-Cambridge) did not respond to repeated attempts by Beacon Hill Roll Call asking how she felt about her measure dying, not reaching the governor’s desk and whether she will refile the bill for the 2023-2024 session.
FOSTER PARENTS (S 2954) – The House and Senate approved and former-Gov. Charlie Baker signed into law a bill establishing a foster parents’ bill of rights, which will govern the Department of Children and Families’ (DCF) relationship with, and responsibilities to foster parents, and would be publicly available on the department’s website.
Provisions include requiring foster parents to be treated with dignity, respect, privacy and consideration; prohibiting foster parents from being discriminated against on the basis of religion, race, color, creed, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, age or disability; requiring the department to give the foster parents information about the foster child, prior to placement, including the child’s physical and behavioral health history, any history of trauma or high-risk behavior and his or her education needs.
Another provision requires DCF to provide a current foster parent, with the permission of the previous foster parent, the name and phone number of the previous foster parent if DCF determines that contact between the current foster parent and previous foster parent would promote the foster child’s best interest.
“I am thrilled that the House and Senate passed the Foster Parents Bill of Rights legislation,” said sponsor Sen. Jo Comerford (D-Northampton). “Foster parents are true unsung heroes, providing unmatched dedication, commitment, compassion and love to those who need it the most. This bill creates a framework for foster parents to be honored with dignity, respect, privacy and consideration in caring for children, so they can provide nurturing, loving homes. As a foster parent myself, I filed this bill to strengthen our vital foster care system.”
INFLAMMATORY BREAST CANCER (H 3147) – The House and Senate approved, and former-Gov. Baker signed into law, a bill that would establish the second Tuesday of every October as “Inflammatory Breast Cancer Awareness Day” in the Bay State.
“This designation will go a long way to increase awareness and strengthen efforts to provide education about this rare and aggressive disease,” said sponsor Rep. Sean Garballey (D-Arlington). “Inflammatory Breast Cancer is the most aggressive form of breast cancer and the least understood. Many women receiving this diagnosis have never heard of Inflammatory Breast Cancer or its presentation. Inflammatory Breast Cancer accounts for 1 percent to 5 percent of all breast cancer cases yet represents 10 percent of all deaths due to breast cancer.”
RIGHT WHALE DAY (H 3869) – The House and Senate approved and former Gov. Baker signed into law a bill that designates April 24 as Right Whale Day to promote the preservation of the critically endangered North Atlantic Right Whale.
“The North Atlantic right whale is part of our rich maritime history and yet our official state marine mammal is at risk of extinction,” said sponsor Rep. Josh Cutler (D-Duxbury). “Establishing this annual day to celebrate right whales will help promote education and protection efforts.”
Rep. Cutler credited his constituent Matt Delaney of Pembroke for coming up with this idea.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has caused immense financial harm to millions of families and borrowers. The Biden Administration’s debt cancellation plan will help prevent student loan borrowers from needlessly suffering even more pandemic-related economic harm, including the devastating cascade of harms that follow from default. We are calling on the Supreme Court to uphold the Secretary’s authority to provide much-needed relief to people across the country who have been affected by this unprecedented pandemic.”
—Acting Massachusetts Attorney General Elizabeth “Bessie” Dewar, on joining 21 other state attorneys general in submitting a 48-page brief to the nation’s high court, arguing that the Biden administration operated within the limits of its power when it moved last year to cancel up to $10,000 of student loan debt per person eligible borrowers and up to $20,000 for those who received Pell Grants.
“The governor has committed to electrifying the public fleet and will be evaluating the best methods and timeline for that transition.”
—Gov. Maura Healey’s press secretary Karissa Hand when asked why Gov. Healey is still being driven by state police in a 17 to 20 mile-per- gallon Ford Expedition that she used as attorney general.
“There’s a reason that people are paying so much in heating bills and electric bills. It’s because we’ve been hostage to the fossil fuel industry for so long.”
“We thought it was important for this, the first meeting, that it just be a meeting among the four of us. We have known each other and worked together, but in different capacities over the last many years and I think it is appropriate for this initial meeting, as we sit down and talk about the future and what we all want to accomplish together, for us to sit together. I certainly look forward to continued conversation and communication with minority leadership.”
— Gov. Healey on why she and Lt. Gov. Kim Driscoll met with Senate President Karen Spilka and House Speaker Ron Mariano and did not include Senate and House Republican Minority Leaders Sen. Bruce Tarr and Rep. Brad Jones. Former Gov. Baker included the two minority leaders in the group’s semi-weekly meetings.
“Regular, bipartisan leadership meetings have been one of the distinguishing hallmarks of a state government that operates in a collaborative way, with effective communication between its leaders. They have served us well during very challenging times and are as important now as ever. We look forward to the continuation of these conversations, which are powerful in symbol and substance, and to taking part in them as before. We stand ready to do whatever is necessary to facilitate that continuity.”
—Tarr and Jones in a joint statement in response to being left out of the meeting.
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 9-13, the House met for a total nine minutes and the Senate met for a total of 17 minutes.
Mon. Jan. 9 House 11:02 a.m. to 11:07 a.m.
Senate 11:09 a.m. to 11:25 a.m.
Tues. Jan. 10 No House session
No Senate session
Wed. Jan. 11 No House session
No Senate session
Thurs. Jan. 12 House 11:03 a.m. to 11:07 a.m.
Senate 11:19 a.m. to 11:20 a.m.
Fri. Jan. 13 No House session
No Senate session
Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at email@example.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.