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Revere Volume 47 -Report No. 33

Beacon Hill Roll Call

Volume 47 -Report No. 33

August 15-19, 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 senators’ roll call attendance records for the 2022 session.

  

   The Senate has held 146 roll calls so far in the 2022 session. Beacon Hill Roll Call tabulates the number of roll calls on which each senator voted 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. 

   Thirty of the 40 senators did not miss any roll calls and have 100 percent roll call attendance records. This high level of participation can likely be attributed to the fact that under emergency rules adopted because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the vast majority of the 40 senators are not in the Senate chamber during a session. Most are watching and listening to the session from their home, business or Senate office and casting their votes remotely.

   Senators’ remote votes are communicated to Senate officials during the session or prior to the session if senators are informed in advance that there will be a roll call vote. If a member wants to speak on an issue under consideration, they do so on a separate “debate phone line” and their voice is then heard in the Senate chamber and by anyone watching the broadcast online.

   The number of senators who had 100 percent roll call attendance records in the four years prior to the pandemic was lower than 2022 as follows: 28 in 2019; 20 in 2018; 25 in 2017; and 17 in 2016.  

 

  It is a Senate tradition that the Senate president only votes occasionally. Current Senate President Karen Spilka follows that tradition and only voted on 39 (26.7 percent) of the 146 roll calls while not voting on 107 (73.3 percent) of them. 

    Nine (23 percent) of the 39 senators, other than Spilka, missed one or more roll calls. Sens. Cindy Friedman (D-Arlington), Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen) and Sen. Joan Lovely (D-Salem) each missed three roll calls for a roll call attendance record of 97.9 percent. Sens. Sonia Chang Diaz (D-Boston), Harriette Chandler (D-Worcester) and Ryan Fattman (R-Sutton) each missed two rolls and scored a roll call attendance record of 98.6 percent. Finally, Sens. Mike Rush (D-West Roxbury), Adam Gomez (D-Springfield) and Nick Collins (D-Boston) each missed only one roll call for a roll call attendance record of 99.3 percent. Beacon Hill Roll Call contacted the nine senators asking why they missed some roll calls. Only two of the nine responded.

   “I was prevented from engaging in three roll call votes while working remotely because my internet connection was interrupted,” said Sen. Lovely. “I have participated in all other roll call votes this session and submitted a letter on how I would have voted to the Senate Clerk.”

   “A vote of mine was not recorded due to remote communications issue,” said Sen. Rush. “I submitted a letter [indicating how I voted] shortly after with my vote on [the roll call].”

   Sens. Friedman, Chang-Diaz, Chandler, DiZoglio, Fattman, Gomez and Collins did not respond to repeated requests by Beacon Hill Roll Call asking them for a statement.

SENATORS’ 2022 ROLL CALL ATTENDANCE RECORDS

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

Sen. Lydia Edwards100 percent (0)                         

ALSO UP ON BEACON HILL

   FILL OUT ONE APPLICATION FOR MULTI-STATE BENEFITS  – Gov. Baker signed into law a measure that would allow individuals to simultaneously apply online, on a state-sponsored website, for various state-funded benefits including MassHealth, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), childcare subsidies, housing subsidies, fuel assistance and other needs-based health care, nutrition and shelter benefits.

   Supporters say that people who need state assistance usually need it from several different programs. They noted this presents a problem because it is difficult for people without cars and childcare to go to all the different places to apply. They said a one-stop common application would help streamline the system and avoid a lot of bureaucratic red tape.

   Baker said he strongly support the measure “as it aligns with an important initiative that is currently underway in this administration.” “The agencies and secretariats included in the proposed [measure] are currently engaged in collaborative efforts to establish a common application mechanism nearly identical to the portal envisioned by this section,” said Baker.

   MEDICAL MARIJUANA USE ON SCHOOL GROUNDS – Gov. Baker vetoed and sent back to the Legislature a section of the cannabis bill that he recently signed into law. The section he vetoed would require the Cannabis Control Commission, in consultation with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Department of Public Health, to conduct a study and issue recommendations on how to remove obstacles that currently prevent students at public and private K-12 schools from possessing and consuming medical marijuana on school grounds. Baker noted that current law states as clearly as possible that possession and consumption of marijuana must remain unlawful on the grounds of any K-12 school, on school buses and in youth centers.

   “The language of the section [that I vetoed] is highly prescriptive—making it clear that the agencies charged with producing the study must identify ways to make medical marijuana widely available within schools, rather than considering whether such an allowance is advisable,” wrote Baker is his veto message. “The voter initiatives that legalized medical marijuana in 2012 and 2016 included strong measures to keep marijuana away from K-12 schools and school children. Both laws explicitly stated that marijuana would in no circumstance be permitted on school grounds. [Current law] also states as clearly as possible that possession and consumption of marijuana must remain unlawful on the grounds of any K-12 school, on school buses and in youth centers. Because the study … clearly works against these important and well-established protections and disregards the clear intentions of the voters in legalizing marijuana use, I cannot approve this part of the bill.”

   Supporters of the study say they understand the governor’s concerns but note that this is only a study to get more information. They point out that the District of Columbia as well as 10 states—California, Colorado, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Washington—allow students to take medical marijuana on school grounds during the school day as part of their daily treatment. They say that just because a student is in school at the time, he or she should take his or her dose does not mean that the dose should not be given.

   BOARD OF EDUCATION RAISES THE MCAS SCORE HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS WILL NEED IN ORDER TO GRADUATE – The State Board of Education voted to raise the minimum score that future high school students must receive on some of their MCAS tests in order to graduate including English language arts, math and science and technology/engineering. The higher score requirement will apply to students entering high school as freshmen beginning in the 2022-2023 school year.

   “Raising the … standard is critical, as is the message that we believe students are capable of meeting the higher standard and the commonwealth and its educators will support them to do that,” said Education Commissioner Jeff Riley.

   “This evidence underscores the importance of raising the standard and also highlights the need to articulate clearly to students, parents, educators and other stakeholders how the different levels of achievement on the MCAS tests signal whether a student is on track for success beyond high school, whether in postsecondary education, the military, the workplace, or independent and productive community life,” Riley continued. 

   Sen. Pat Jehlen (D-Somerville) spoke against the regulations and said raising the passing score for English MCAS “will harm children who are English learners.” “These children will be the ones most affected by raising the English passing scores because, by definition, they don’t yet read and write English fluently,” said Jehlen. “They can have bright futures as important members of our community and contributors to our economy if they can get a high school diploma.”

   The most outspoken critic of the proposal was Max Page, president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association. “You’ve fetishized an approach to education that is, at the very least, outdated and, at the most, destructive of our schools and communities,” said Page. “You know, somewhere a little before the ed reform bill in 1983, I had a shiny object I too thought was magical. It was called a mood ring and I thought it was capturing my every change of emotion. I also thought that REO Speedwagon’s first album was really the height of pop music. Then I grew older and I grew up. The board is still fidgeting with your mood rings and spinning their REO Speedwagon albums, obsessed with a test invented some 20 years ago and repeatedly shown to do little more than prove the wealth of the student and the community where it is taken.”

   PLASTIC POLLUTION ACTION DAY (H 3122) – The House approved and sent to the Senate a bill designating September 14 as Plastic Pollution Action Day, in recognition of the need to address the environmental impact of plastic pollution. House sponsor Rep. Marjorie Decker (D-Cambridge) did not respond to repeated requests by Beacon Hill Roll Call to comment on the bill’s passage.

   Sen. Sal DiDomenico (D-Everett), the Senate sponsor of the measure, said he is encouraged that the bill passed the House. “It is a very simple bill that would designate a date for plastic pollution awareness and action,” said DiDomenico. “Plastic consumption is something every consumer can work towards reducing and eventually eliminating. With the passage of this bill I hope it will broaden our community awareness of the impact of plastic pollution.”

   QUOTABLE QUOTES

   “Mayor Wu’s announcement demonstrates that the new climate law is already working. Cities and towns are lining up to do their part in the transition from fossil fuels to clean energy.”

   —Ben Hellerstein, state director for Environment Massachusetts, on Boston Mayor Michelle Wu’s announcement that she will lobby to have Boston included among the 10 cities and towns authorized under the new climate law to set fossil-fuel-free requirements for new buildings.

   “Gov. Baker talks a good game about supporting workforce development. But when he had the chance to help women and people of color build their skills and gain more access to state construction jobs, he vetoed a 20 percent apprenticeship requirement for projects over $1 million in the recently approved transportation bond bill. The 20 percent provision is modeled after the 2008 stimulus bill, which successfully increased diversity and brought new apprentices into the building trades.”

   —Massachusetts Building Trades Unions president Frank Callahan.

   “I will say this: she and her team have been terrific partners on a lot of this stuff around the Orange Line. They’ve been great.”

   —Gov. Baker on Mayor Wu.

   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 15-19, the House met for a total of 30 minutes and the Senate met for a total of 35 minutes.

Mon.   Aug. 15     House 11:01 a.m. to 11:13 a.m.

Senate 11:03 a.m. to 11:07 a.m.

 

Tues.  Aug. 16     No House session

No Senate session

Wed.   Aug. 17     No House session

No Senate session

Thurs. Aug. 18     House 11:03 a.m. to 11:21 a.m.                   

Senate 12:20 p.m. to 12:51 p.m.

Fri.  Aug.  19     No House session

No Senate session

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