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Volume 47 – Report No. 23

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. 23

June 6-10. 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 local senators’ and representatives’ votes on roll calls from the week of June 6-10.

LEGISLATURE OVERRIDES BAKER’S VETO OF BILL ALLOWING DRIVER’S LICENSE FOR UNDOCUMENTED/ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS (H 4805)

   House 119-36, Senate 32-8, gained the two-thirds vote necessary to override Gov. Charlie Baker’s veto of legislation that would allow, starting July 1, 2023, undocumented/illegal immigrants to apply for a Massachusetts standard driver’s license. 

   The legislation requires an applicant “without legal presence” in the United States to provide the Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) with a foreign passport and at least one of five other documents: a driver’s license from another state, a foreign driver’s license, a birth certificate, a foreign national identification card or a marriage certificate or divorce decree from any U.S. state.

   “I cannot sign this legislation because it requires the Registry of Motor Vehicles to issue state credentials to people without the ability to verify their identity,” Baker had said in his veto message. “The Registry does not have the expertise or ability to verify the validity of many types of documents from other countries. The bill also fails to include any measures to distinguish standard Massachusetts driver’s licenses issued to persons who demonstrate lawful presence from those who don’t.”

   “By making driver’s licenses accessible to individuals regardless of immigration status, Massachusetts will take a strong step to both strengthen our economy and strengthen relations between immigrants and law enforcement,” said Elizabeth Sweet, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition.

    “This is a victory for all, making our roads safer and allowing the 185,000 immigrants without status the ability to earn a driver’s license,” said sponsor Sen. Brendan Crighton (D-Lynn). “No one should fear deportation over essential everyday tasks, such as getting to work, school, doctor’s appointment and grocery stores.”

   “We all know the many issues our commonwealth’s RMV has had,” said Sen. John Velis (D-Westfield), an opponent of the proposal. “Just this week it was announced that 53,000 licenses sent out were missing a key fraud protection feature and will need to be replaced. My vote has nothing to do with immigration and has everything to do with the enormous ask we are making on an already underfunded and understaffed RMV. I remain concerned that RMV employees will be now tasked with reviewing hundreds of additional foreign documents, in hundreds of different languages and formats, without any additional funding or training.”

   “This commonsense legislation will improve safety for all on our roads, and ensure all drivers are licensed, registered and insured … This bill has broad support from numerous members of law enforcement, local faith and business leaders and immigrant communities statewide,” said Rep. Christine Barber (D-Somerville), a co-sponsor of the measure.

  Sen. Ryan Fattman (R-Sutton) said, “I do not support this legislation as I believe it disincentivizes the individual from pursuing citizenship through legal means … This bill does not provide a clear distinction on the driver’s licenses between an unlawfully present individual and a U.S. citizen nor does it permit the RMV to share the citizenship information with municipalities that are entrusted to register only U.S. citizens to vote. Without these protections, the chances that these individuals will be able to register to vote increases.” 

   Co-sponsor Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier (D-Pittsfield) said she was disappointed that the governor is spreading misinformation about voting access when he well knows the strong safeguards that are already in place. “Gov. Baker’s own RMV has been processing driver’s licenses for years for those already eligible to drive but ineligible to vote such as 16- and 17-year-olds, people with green cards and student and worker visas … Sixteen other states have implemented similar laws already and have seen improved safety on roads with no issues related to voting.”

    “Despite the record high overcollection of Massachusetts tax dollars being available to provide some kind of relief to families struggling with inflation and high prices, the speaker is prioritizing giving illegal immigrants driver’s licenses over Gov. Baker’s warnings that it will most likely lead to voter fraud,” said Paul Craney, spokesman for the Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance. “Just because the speaker was able to twist arms and override the governor’s veto, doesn’t mean these House members will be off the hook. With the vote taken, they will now have to face their constituents and explain why they follow their speaker’s orders instead of their constituents’ opinions.”

   (A “Yes” vote is for the bill. A “No” vote is against it.)

Rep. Joseph McGonagleYes                                     Sen. Sal DiDomenico Yes                                     

ELECTION LAW CHANGES (S 2924)

   Senate 37-3, approved and sent to the House a conference committee version of a bill making permanent the mail-in and early voting options used in Massachusetts in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic. The House and Senate had approved different versions of the bill and a conference committee hammered out this compromise version which did not include the section allowing same day voter registration that was in the Senate version but not in the House one. The measure requires the secretary of state to send out mail-in ballot applications, with return postage guaranteed, to registered voters before each presidential primary, state primary and biennial state election. It also allows registered voters to request a mail-in ballot for all elections in a single calendar year.

   Other provisions include reducing the registration blackout period from 20 days prior to an election to 10 days; electronic voting options for voters with disabilities and military service members; allowing a voter with disabilities to request accommodations including an accessible electronic ballot application, ballot and voter affidavit that can be submitted electronically; ensuring that non-felons who are incarcerated who are currently eligible to vote are provided with voting information and materials to exercise their right to vote; mandating that felons who are incarcerated but prohibited from voting are notified of their right to vote upon release and given the opportunity to fill out a voter registration form; and requiring the secretary of state to conduct a comprehensive public awareness campaign to publicize the new voting and registration options.

   “This landmark election reform bill will empower voters and strengthen our democracy,” said Sen. Barry Finegold (D-Andover), Senate Chair of the Committee on Election Laws and the co-sponsor of the bill. “In 2020, mail-in and early voting options helped generate record-breaking turnout. It is now time to build on this progress and enact long-lasting voting reforms. The [bill] is a big step in the right direction and will help ensure that every voter can exercise their fundamental right to vote.”

   “I am so proud that at a time when access to the ballot is under attack in states nationwide, Massachusetts is passing landmark voting reforms to permanently enshrine expansions to voting access in statute and further underscore the Commonwealth’s commitment to ensuring all eligible voters can exercise their right to vote,” said Senate Majority Leader Sen. Cindy Creem (D-Newton). “Although I am disappointed same-day registration was not included in the final bill, even with the Senate offering multiple compromise approaches, I will continue to push for its passage and plan to file legislation on the subject going forward.”

    

   Opponents saythe bill goes too far and does not provide sufficient safeguards to protect the integrity of the voting process. They argued that universal mail in voting was designed solely to protect voters during the pandemic. They argued that continuing this forever would cost far too much for smaller towns

   

   Despite repeated attempts by Beacon Hill Roll Call, none of the three Republican senators who voted against the bill responded to requests for a comment on the reason they voted “No.” The three non-responsive senators are: Sens. Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester), Ryan Fattman (R-Sutton) and Patrick O’Connor (R-Weymouth). 

   (A “Yes” vote is for the bill. A “No” vote is against it).

Sen. Sal DiDomenicoYes                                     

REQUIRE CERTIFICATION FOR TECHNICIANS WHO STERILIZE AND MAINTAIN HOSPITAL SURGICAL EQUIPMENT (S 2913)

   Senate 39-0, approved and sent to the House a measure that requires standardized certification of an estimated 1,800 Bay State hospital technicians, by a nationally accredited organization, of hospital technicians who are responsible for ensuring that surgical instruments are safe and sanitary to protect patients from possible infection. The measure also requires the technicians to complete an annual continuing education curriculum. It was filed as a response to several high-profile incidents across the state in which surgical tools used in operations on patients may have been improperly disinfected.

   Supporters said that technicians are currently allowed to work with a high school diploma or equivalent degree and without additional relevant training, despite being required to keep up to date with the latest practices for over 37,000 different surgical instruments. 

   “As a world leader in the healthcare industry, Massachusetts must maintain the highest standards of patient safety,” said sponsor Sen. Mike Rush (D-West Roxbury). “I’m proud of the work my colleagues in the Senate and I have done today to protect the citizens of the commonwealth as well as those who come from around the globe to seek treatment.”

   “[These] technicians play an unseen but vital role for patients undergoing surgery,” said Sen. Jo Comerford (D-Northampton), Senate chair of the Committee on Public Health. “They are responsible for ensuring that equipment and instruments used during surgical procedures are properly decontaminated, cleaned, inspected and sterilized prior to patient use. Every day, thousands of Bay Staters rely on them doing their job with perfection.”

   (A “Yes” vote is for the bill).

Sen. Sal DiDomenicoYes                                     

   ALSO UP ON BEACON HILL

   $350 MILLION FOR ROADS AND BRIDGES AND MORE (H 4638) – The Senate approved a House-approved $350 million package that includes authorizing $200 million in one-time funding for the maintenance and repair of local roads and bridges in cities and towns across the state to be distributed under the Chapter 90 program formula. Only final House and Senate approval are needed prior to the measure going to the governor.

   The  package, a bond bill under which the funding would be borrowed by the state through the sale of bonds, also includes $150 million to pay for bus lanes, improvement of public transit, electric vehicles and other state transportation projects.

   “The commonwealth’s overall transportation system relies on the health of our roads, bridges, and other critical infrastructure,” said Sen. Brendan Crighton (D-Lynn), chair of the Senate Committee on Transportation. “The bill … represents a $350 million investment that will help cities and towns make the improvements they need so that residents can travel safely and efficiently.”

   Geoff Beckwith, the executive director of the Massachusetts Municipal Association, is one of the biggest advocates for increased Chapter 90 funding. “With the local road construction season underway, passage of the Chapter 90 bond bill is an important priority so that communities can maximize the number of projects that can be completed this year,” said Beckwith. 

   

   Many local officials across the state continue to advocate for additional money to increase the funding and argue that the cost of repairing roads has increased by up to 40 percent while the state has kept this funding flat at $200 million for the past 11 years.

   EXPANDED USE OF MEDICAL MARIJUANA (H 4537) – A bill that would add Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and opioid use disorder to the current list of conditions for which a doctor could prescribe medical marijuana, is stuck in the Committee on Health Care Financing which gave it a favorable report on March 24. The bill is a redrafted different version of an earlier bill, sponsored by Rep. Michael Soter (R-Bellingham), designed to expand access to medical marijuana for veterans.

   “This legislation is the result of a collaboration with a constituent of mine, Stephen Mandile, who is a veteran, local elected official and father,” said Soter. “The initial intent of the bill was to expand access to medical marijuana for veterans. However, I am disappointed to say that specific veteran-related pieces of the original bill were removed during the committee process, the scope of the bill has changed and the current language works to benefit a broader population while straying away from the initial intent of a strong veteran-centric bill.   

   Beacon Hill Roll Call asked Soter several times whether he supports the new version of the bill since his version is now essentially dead. Soter’s “non-answer” came from his chief of staff Eric Eisner. ““The representative stated that he is disappointed that the veteran-centric language within the bill has been stripped out during the committee process,” said Eisner. Further, this is not the first session that this legislation has been presented. “

   SEVERAL BILLS ON THEIR WAY TO A “STUDY” COMMITTEE – The  Committee on Cannabis Policy recommended that several bills be shipped off 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 will soon be sent off to a study committee:

   

   PREVENT YOUTH SUBSTANCE ABUSE (S78) – Would direct 1 percent of the state tax revenue generated from the cannabis excise tax toward a fund that would be responsible for supporting programs dedicated to prevention of youth substance use.

   “A report released this week by the Department of Public Health indicated the rate of opioid-related overdose deaths increased 8.8 percent in 2021 compared to 2020,” said sponsor Sen. Patrick O’Connor (R-Weymouth). “With the continued rise in substance use deaths, I believe we need to provide as much support as possible to ensure we do not lose any more of our neighbors. The state currently financially benefits a great deal from the legalization of cannabis, and I believe this legislation provides us with an opportunity to educate young people on the dangers of addiction. I am looking forward to filing the bill again next session.”

   PROHIBIT TESTING FOR MARIJUANA USE WITHOUT CONSENT (H 4026) – Would prohibit doctors and health care facilities from testing a patient for the presence of marijuana without first obtaining written consent from the patient. If written consent is given, the measure prohibits the release of the results to anyone except for the patient unless the patient gives written consent.

   Sponsor Rep. Russell Holmes (D-Boston) said he filed the bill after hearing from a constituent who was tested for marijuana, without her consent, by her primary care physician during a routine physical that included standard urine and blood work. Holmes noted she was under federal probation and marijuana, while legal in Massachusetts, is still prohibited federally and a positive test could have forced her again away from her family and back to federal prison.

   “My constituent changed her primary care physician because she could no longer trust her,” said Holmes. “That was the only recourse she had. The bill will be filed again next  term because more protection is needed.”

   FINE FOR OPEN CONTAINER OF MARIJUANA IN VEHICLE (H 149) – Would apply the current alcohol open container law to marijuana. This would impose a $100 to $500 civil penalty on anyone who is driving with an open container of marijuana or any marijuana products in the passenger area of a motor vehicle. 

    Sponsor Rep. Shawn Dooley (R-Norfolk) said the bill doesn’t criminalize anything but it simply imposes a civil fine—the same as having an open container of beer. He noted that police have a very hard time enforcing impaired driving under the influence of marijuana use due to lack of a Breathalyzer-type test. 

   “As dispensaries become more popular and accessible—there will naturally be more of a chance for use while driving,” said Dooley. “And while I believe the vast majority of users are responsible—this is meant to hopefully incentivize those few who might partake while driving—just like with alcohol to not do it and wait till they are not behind the wheel.” 

   

  QUOTABLE QUOTES

   “I think on this matter I will turn it over to  [Sen. Brendan Crighton] the real expert on this subject matter, the gentleman from Lynn, the Senate chair of the Joint Committee on Transportation. Because he truly is the expert on this and so many other issues before this body.”

   —Ways and Means chair Sen. Mike Rodrigues (D-Westport) when asked during floor debate to comment on the bill providing $350 million for local roads and bridges and other transportation projects. 

   “I want to say thank you to the chair of Ways and Means for his very kind and exaggerated remarks.”

   —Sen. Crighton responding to Sen. Rodrigues.

   “I’m finding I’m being introduced these days in the past tense, which is actually a little nerve-wracking. But I suspect the closer we get to January, the more it’s going to sound that way.”

   —Gov. Baker who is not seeking re-election and will leave the governor’s office in January.

   “I’m not going to go away quietly, and I’m certainly not going to — I am not going to retire. My wife would never let me. That would cause all kinds of issues. I think I’ll end up doing a bunch of different things. Some of them will be related to government, some will be related to traditional private sector-type stuff.”

   —Gov. Baker on his future plans.

   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 June 6-1,. The House met for a total of three hours and 12 minutes and the Senate met for a total of five hours.

Mon.   June 6      House  11:02 a.m. to  11:13 a.m.

                   Senate 11:32 a.m. to  11:43 a.m.

Tues.  June 7      No House session

                   No Senate session

Wed.   June 8      House  11:06 a.m. to   1:52 p.m.

                   No Senate session.

  

Thurs. June 9      House  11:01 a.m. to  11:16 a.m.                   

                   Senate 11:16 a.m. to   4:05 p.m.

Fri.   June 10     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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