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Volume 47-Report No. 22

If you have any questions about this week’s report, e-mail us at bob@beaconhillrollcall.com or call us at (617) 720-1562.

Beacon Hill Roll Call

Volume 47-Report No. 22

May 30-June 3, 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 through June 3. 

  

   The Senate has held 69 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-six 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; 24 in 2017; and 17 in 2016.  

 

     It’s a Senate tradition that the Senate president only votes occasionally. Current Senate President Karen Spilka follows that tradition and only voted on 21 (30.4 percent) of the 69 roll calls while not voting on 48 (69.6 percent) of them. 

   

    Only four senators, other than Spilka, missed any roll calls. Sens. Cindy Friedman (D-Arlington) and Sen.Joan Lovely (D-Salem) each missed three roll calls for a roll call attendance record of 95.6 percent. Sens. Sonia Chang Diaz (D-Boston) and Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen) each missed only one roll and scored a roll call attendance record of 98.5 percent. Beacon Hill Roll Call contacted the four senators asking why they missed some roll calls.

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

   “The senator had some significant food allergies and suffered an allergic reaction to lunch that day,” said DiZoglio aide Tom Arsenault. “However, she was grateful to have been able to get on the record with the clerk’s office regarding her position on that particular amendment and recover in time to vote in favor of the bill.” 

  

   Friedman and Chang-Diaz did not respond to repeated requests by Beacon Hill Roll Call asking them for a statement.

SENATORS’ 2022 ROLL CALL ATTENDANCE RECORDS THROUGH JUNE 3, 2022

  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. Sal DiDomenico100 percent (0)                         

   

ALSO UP ON BEACON HILL

   SHOOTING AT A HOUSE OR APARTMENT (H 1803) – The House gave initial approval to a proposal that would impose up to a five-year prison sentence and/or $10,000 fine on anyone who discharges an assault weapon, firearm, large capacity weapon, machine gun, rifle, sawed-off shotgun or shotgun into a dwelling. Under current law this crime is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a 30-day jail sentence and/or $100 fine.

  “I filed this legislation to create a criminal penalty for shooting into a house or building because at that time there was a string of shootings into houses in Lowell and I discovered that our police department did not have the necessary tools to enforce the law,” said co-sponsor Rep. Rady Mom (D-Lowell).

   “I am very pleased that we are moving forward in making what was a misdemeanor, a felony,” said co-sponsor Rep. Colleen Gary (D-Lowell). Individuals firing guns at a residential home can kill the residents inside. It is not just shooting at an inanimate object. People should be able to feel safe in their own homes.”

 

   Supporters also said that under current law the punishment is disproportionate to the severity of this type of incident. They noted this crime, primarily committed by gang members, is often used as an intimidation tactic without regard for the innocent people in the home.

   PREGNANT AND POST PARTUM MOTHERS (S 2731) – Stuck in the House Ways and Means Committee for nearly three months, since March 7, is a measure, approved  unanimously 40-0 by the Senate, designed to ensure that pregnant and postpartum mothers get necessary and potentially life-saving health care by extending MassHealth insurance coverage to 12 months after pregnancy. MassHealth is the state’s Medicaid program that provides health care for low-income and disabled persons.

  “The Massachusetts Senate has taken another step to combat inequities in maternal health,” said sponsor Sen. Joan Lovely (D-Salem), when the Senate approved the bill in March. “By extending postpartum healthcare coverage to a full year, birthing individuals will be able to access vital physical and behavioral health resources that will decrease mortality and severe morbidity and improve the overall health of parent and child, especially for our minority populations.”

   At the same time, Senate President Karen Spilka (D-Ashland) said, “The danger of dying during pregnancy or childbirth is still far too high in the United States, particularly for Black women. But the Senate is committed to continuing our efforts to ensure pregnant and postpartum mothers and people who give birth receive the critical care they need and deserve.”

  FUNDS FOR HOMELESSNESS – The U.S. Department of Labor announced the awarding of more than $57 million in grants nationwide to organizations that help veterans experiencing homelessness find meaningful employment and assist them in overcoming barriers to transition back successfully into the workforce. The grants include $1,506,323 for the Bay State including $501,834 For Volunteers of America of Massachusetts in Jamaica Plain; $184,489 for the Massachusetts Military Support Foundation in West Barnstable; and $820,000 for Veterans Inc. in Worcester.

   The funding will support 112 continuation grants totaling more than $37 million as well as 56 new three-year grants totaling some $20 million.

   “The pandemic further exposed the difficulties faced by our nation’s homeless veterans,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor and former Boston Mayor Marty Walsh. “The Homeless Veterans’ Reintegration Program grants announced today will fund initiatives that help our veterans—particularly those in underserved communities—get the training and support they need return to the workforce and use their skills to make valuable contributions to our society.”

   Proponents also noted that the awards will enable recipients to provide a wide range of services to homeless veterans and those at risk of homelessness including learning occupational skills, attaining apprenticeships or on-the-job training opportunities and receiving job search and placement assistance.

   STATE BUDGET DEADLINE IS JULY 1  (H 4701/S 2915) – The House and Senate each appointed three members to a conference committee to hammer out a compromise version of the different $49 billion plus versions of the fiscal 2023 budget passed by each branch. 

   Reps. Aaron Michlewitz (D-Boston), Ann-Margaret Ferrante (D-Gloucester) and Todd Smola (R-Warren) were appointed by Speaker Ron Mariano (D-Quincy). On the Senate side Senate President Karen Spilka chose Sens. Michael Rodrigues (D-Westport ), Cindy Friedman (D-Arlington) and Patrick O’Connor (R-Weymouth).

   QUOTABLE QUOTES

   “The alarm has been sounded. There is an inability of police departments to recruit and retain police officers. It’s deeply concerning because having diverse, well-trained and effective police professionals is a necessity. We need to study the issue, understand it better and focus on making sure we have police departments that are sufficiently staffed with qualified and diverse officers.” 

   —Sen. Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester) on his bill to create a special commission charged with taking stock of the  police workforce challenges experienced by cities and towns across the state.

   “It is unacceptable that we as a country continue to live in a seemingly endless cycle of gun violence. Traditional approaches are not working, and we must do what we can to potentially save lives. I implore the Legislature to support the divestment of our public pension funds from gun and ammunition manufacturers and distributors in support of the American people who are victims and survivors of preventable gun violence, just as we did recently by divesting from companies in Russia following their invasion of Ukraine.”

   —State Treasurer Deb Goldberg.

   “As we publish yet another audit revealing a lack of cybersecurity training, we continue to see a pattern across the commonwealth, as inadequate cybersecurity training practices put government agencies in a vulnerable position at this time of heightened cyber threats.”

    — State Auditor Suzanne Bump on her report on the lack of cybersecurity training in the offices of district attorneys across the state. The auditor recommended that the offices develop and implement policies and procedures which require newly hired employees to receive initial cybersecurity awareness training within 30 days of their hiring, as well as annual cybersecurity awareness training for all employees. 

   “Without METCO, diversity would be virtually nonexistent in some districts.”  

   —Dr. Ken Ardon, co-author of a study of the 56-year-old Metropolitan Council for Educational Opportunity (METCO) program under which some 3,200 mostly Black and Hispanic students from Boston and Springfield attend public schools in about three dozen surrounding communities.

   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 May 30-June 3 the House met for a total of one hour and 42 minutes and the Senate met for a total of one hour and two minutes.

Mon.   May 30      No House session

                   No Senate session.

Tues.  May 31      House  11:04 a.m. to  11:51 a.m.

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

Wed.   June 1      No House session

                   No Senate session.

  

Thurs. June 2      House  11:10 a.m. to  12:05 p.m.                   

                   Senate 11:09 a.m. to  12:05 p.m.

Fri.   June 3      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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