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Malden Volume 47 – Report No. 35

Beacon Hill Roll Call

Volume 47 – Report No. 35

August 29-September 2, 2022

Copyright © 2022 Beacon Hill Roll Call. All Rights Reserved.

By Bob Katzen 

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   THE HOUSE AND SENATE: There were no roll call votes in the House or Senate last week. This week, Beacon Hill Roll Call reports local representatives’ roll call attendance records for the 2022 session. 

    The House held 165 roll calls in 2022. Beacon Hill Roll Call tabulates the number of roll calls on which each representative was present and voting, and then calculates that number as a percentage of the total roll call votes held. That percentage is the number referred to as the roll call attendance record.

   The vast majority of the 153 representatives are not in the House chamber during a session because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Most are watching the session from their Statehouse office, home or business and voting remotely.

   Here’s how the remote voting system works: Eight appointed monitors are required to be present in the House chamber and are each given the task of recording the votes of approximately 20 members who are watching the session remotely from their homes or business offices. Each monitor has their 20 members on a conference call and fills out a form indicating how each member voted. The sheets are given to the court officers who then give them to the House Clerk who verifies that the correct totals have been recorded on the sheet and that the sheet is signed by the monitor. The assistant clerk records the yeas and nays in the roll call computer, which activates the green (voted “Yes”) or red (voted “No”) lights on the electronic roll call board.

  Members participating remotely then have the opportunity to see on the broadcast how they are recorded so that they can verify that their vote is recorded accurately. The tally is then displayed on the roll call board and the presiding officer announces the totals and the result of the vote. 

 If a member wants to speak on an issue under consideration, they leave the conference call temporarily. Using a different telephone, they call into a line that patches them into the debate. Their voice is then heard in the House chamber and by those watching the broadcast online.

  In the House, 94.1 percent (144 representatives out of 153) did not miss any roll calls and have 100 percent roll call attendance records while 5.9 percent (nine representatives out of 153) have missed one or more roll calls.

   The representative who missed the most roll calls is Rep. David LeBoeuf (D-Worcester) who missed 12 roll calls (92.7 percent attendance record).

   Rounding out the nine representatives who have missed roll calls are Reps. Joan Meschino (D-Hull) who missed six roll calls (96.3 percent attendance record); Nika Elugardo (D-Jamaica Plain), Michael Moran (D-Brighton) and Alice Peisch (D-Wellesley) who each missed four roll calls (97.5 percent attendance record); Colleen Garry (D-Dracut) who missed three roll calls (98.1 percent attendance record); and Reps. Patrick Kearney (D-Scituate), Tami Gouveia (D-Acton) and John Rogers (D-Norwood) who each missed one roll call (99.3 percent attendance record).

 

   Beacon Hill Roll Call contacted these nine legislators and asked each one for a comment on his or her attendance record. Only two responded: Reps. Peisch and Meschino.

   Rep. Peisch:  “I was traveling for a significant family event that had been scheduled for some time. Had I been able to vote, I would have voted in the affirmative. At the time, I submitted a statement to the House Clerk for publication in the journal indicating my absence and how I would have voted.”

   Rep. Meschino: “I missed one day of formal session and roll call votes while traveling for a special family celebration.”

 

   Reps. LeBoeuf, Elguardo, Garry, Kearney, Gouveia, John Rogers and Michael Moran did not respond to repeated requests for a comment.

REPRESENTATIVES’ 2022 ROLL CALL ATTENDANCE RECORDS

   The percentage listed next to the representative’s name is the percentage of roll call votes on which the representative voted in 2022. The number in parentheses represents the number of roll calls that he or she missed.

Rep. Paul Donato100 percent (0)                         Rep. Steven Ultrino 100 percent (0)                         

   ALSO UP ON BEACON HILL

   $2.9 BILLION IN TAX RELIEF PENDING (H 5260) – Gov. Charlie Baker filed a $1.6 billion supplemental budget to close out the books on fiscal year 2022. A key section sets aside $2.9 billion of the state’s projected surplus to be returned to taxpayers based on the recent “discovery” of 62F, a 1986 law approved by the voters. That law requires that tax revenue above a certain amount collected by the state go back to the taxpayers. It is estimated that the 1986 law would return $2.9 billion in fiscal year 2022 revenue to Massachusetts taxpayers.

   Last week, the Department of Revenue informed Auditor Suzanne Bump that it believes that $2.9 billion is required to be returned to taxpayers. If the auditor certifies that figure by a Sept. 20 deadline, the money will be returned to taxpayers. Baker’s office said that even with the money being returned to taxpayers, the state will still have a fiscal year 2022 surplus of $2.3 billion.

   “The more time the auditor allows for the certification process, the more time she allows for outside influence by those who do not want credits sent back to the taxpayers,” said Paul Craney, spokesperson for Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance. “There is also a very strong argument to be made that since the speaker and Senate president failed to pass their tax relief package, taxpayers need this money as soon as possible to help with the rising cost of inflation. Back to school shopping is well underway and soon enough families across the state will be thinking about rising home heating costs. They need this money more than ever.”

   “In 1986, Citizens for Limited Taxation (CLT) put forth this ballot question with the expectation that Massachusetts taxpayers would one day need this law,” said Chip Ford, executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation. “Any required credit should not be delayed as a refund next year, as the original intent when CLT drafted it was to get the money back to the taxpayers expeditiously. With inflation still surging, delay will only devalue the amount returned to the taxpayers.”

   AUTO INSURANCE BILLS SENT TO A STUDY COMMITTEE – Last week, several bills affecting auto insurance rates, surcharges and premiums were sent to a study committee where bills are rarely actually studied and are essentially defeated. It is a way to kill a proposal without holding a vote on the bill itself. Here are some of the bills that were sent off to a study committee.

   FEES FOR PAYING AUTO PREMIUMS IN INSTALLMENTS (H 1127) – Would prohibit auto insurance companies from charging a fee for processing an electronic payment by a customer without first giving written notification.

   “I filed this legislation on behalf of a constituent who was charged a processing fee for paying his automobile insurance bill electronically but was never notified by the insurer that such a fee existed,” said sponsor Rep. Brad Jones (R-North Reading). “[The bill] will add an extra layer of consumer protection and promote greater transparency by requiring insurance providers to notify consumers in writing if they charge a fee for processing an electronic payment. I’m disappointed this bill was placed in a study order, but I plan to re-file it for the upcoming session so consumers will be able to make a more informed decision on how they choose to pay their bills.” 

   PROHIBIT EXPIRED INSPECTION STICKER FROM BEING A SURCHARGEABLE OFFENSE (H 1128) – Would prohibit driving with an expired inspection sticker from being counted as a surchargeable offense. Under Bay State law, surchargeable offenses can lead to temporary higher insurance premiums. In additional the state will immediately suspend or revoke a learner’s permit or driver’s license for 60 days if a driver has accumulated seven surchargeable offenses or moving violations within a 3-year period. A driver with three surchargeable offenses within a 2-year period will have their license or learner’s permit revoked in 90 days unless he or she completes a mandatory Massachusetts Driver Retraining Program before the revocation takes effect.

   “Auto insurance premiums should reflect an individual’s actual driving experience and safe vehicle operating habits and should not be adversely impacted by simple errors such as failing to get an inspection sticker on time,” said sponsor Rep. Brad Jones. “Operating without a valid inspection sticker should not be treated on the same level as speeding or failure to stop, which represent much more serious and potentially dangerous moving violations. Driving with an expired sticker is a relatively minor offense and should be treated as such.” Jones has refiled the bill for consideration in the 2023-2024 session. 

   ALLOW INSURANCE DISCOUNTS FOR DRIVERS WHO TAKE A COURSE IN MARIJUANA IMPAIRMENT (H 1130) – Would allow insurance companies to offer discounts to drivers who complete a marijuana impairment education course offered by driving schools and insurance companies.

  “This legislation provides a critical financial incentive for drivers to educate themselves on the dangers of operating a motor vehicle under the influence of marijuana,”  said sponsor Rep. Hannah Kane (R-Shrewsbury). “It will not only benefit those who complete the course and receive the discount, but in educating drivers, make every resident of the commonwealth safer. I am disappointed this bill has been sent to study and will plan to refile it next session.” 

   RAISE THRESHOLD FROM $1,000 TO $2,500 (H 1117) – Under current law, in order for an accident to trigger a surcharge, there must be at least $1,000 worth of damage. This bill would raise the minimum to $2,500.

 

  “This exemption is outdated at $1,000,” said sponsor Rep. Steve Howitt (R-Seekonk) who plans to refile the bill next year. “Cars are now costing tens of thousands of dollars [and] no longer have bumpers, but integrated facias that are part of the car’s body.  A scratch can cost well over $1,000 to repair and paint. Paint body shop supplies and replacement automotive parts have outpaced inflation. By raising the points threshold to $2,500, it better conforms to these costs and does not cause additional financial burdens to our Massachusetts drivers with additional insurance premiums. This legislation is fair not only to the insurance industry, but to our consumers as well.”

   REBATES (H 1033) – Would allow auto insurance companies to give rebates to any policy holder who is considered a safe driver under state regulations and who was not involved in any surchargeable incidents during the period the policy was in effect.

   “I believe people should be rewarded for safe driving,” said sponsor Rep. Bruce Ayers (D-Quincy). “This is a bill I plan on re-filing next legislative session.”

QUOTABLE QUOTES

   “The industry has grown rapidly since the voters legalized recreational cannabis in 2016, topping $3 billion in sales this past spring. While the law was intended to create new economic opportunities for diverse communities and those previously harmed by harsh drug laws, this promise has not been fully achieved, leaving many aspiring equity entrepreneurs with a very challenging pathway to achieve the success that larger corporate interests have enjoyed.”

   —Former State Treasurer Shannon O’Brien on her appointment as chairperson of the Cannabis Control Commission.

    “It is shameful for the first public transportation system in our country to have reached this entirely preventable point, where deep service cuts and wholesale shutdowns of subway lines are deemed necessary to get the T back on track. It is unacceptable that the MBTA has forced riders to carry the burden of the Baker administration’s failures.”

   —U.S. Sens. Ed Markey and Liz Warren in a joint statement.

    “Obviously the most shocking being our instant ticket numbers being down $22.2 million. And that is a trend that we have seen both nationwide and into this current month of August as well that we’ll be discussing at the next commission meeting, as well as our Keno sales being down $5.5 million which is also a trend nationwide. Plus, we did happen to have a very warm August which, generally speaking, keeps people outside and less in restaurants and liquor establishments. So that’s contributing to somewhat of that decrease.”

   — Interim Lottery Executive Director Mark William Bracken.

   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 August 29-September 2, the House met for a total of 45 minutes and the Senate met for a total of 26 minutes.

Mon.   Aug. 29     House  11:01 a.m. to  11:06 a.m.                   

                   Senate 11:15 a.m. to  11:20 a.m.

  

Tues.  Aug. 30     No House session

                   No Senate session

Wed.   Aug. 31     No House session

                   No Senate session

Thurs. Sept. 1     House  11:01 a.m. to  11:41 a.m.                   

                   Senate 11:21 a.m. to  11:42 a.m.

Fri.   Sept. 2     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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