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Volume 47 – Report No. 25

Beacon Hill Roll Call

Volume 47 – Report No. 25

June 20-24, 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 representatives’ votes on a roll call from the week of June 20-24. There were no roll calls in the Senate last week.

$10.9 BILLION TRANSPORTATION AND INFRASTRUCTURE PACKAGE (H 4897)

   House 155-0, approved and sent to the Senate a nearly $11 billion transportation and infrastructure package that includes $400 million for the MBTA to address safety problems identified by the Federal Transit Administration’s Safety Management Inspection and $250 million for initial steps toward a western Massachusetts rail extension.

   Other provisions include $2.8 billion for projects on the interstate and non-interstate federal highway system; $82 million for rail improvements; $1 billion for transit system modernization and rail improvements; $114 million for the Airport Improvement Program; and $200 million to create an extensive electric vehicle charging infrastructure, fund programs that promote e-bikes, public transportation and carsharing; replace high-emissions vehicles; and acquire electric school buses.

   House members filed more than 300 amendments, many dealing with local projects in legislators’ home districts, but there was little debate and not a single roll call vote on any individual amendment. Instead, members made their cases behind closed doors to the leadership and all the amendments that were given the green light by the leadership ended up in one gigantic consolidated mega amendment with a price tag estimated at $500 million.

   “Ensuring that the commonwealth’s transportation infrastructure is adequately funded is a top priority for the House, which is why I’m proud of the legislation passed today,” said House Speaker Ron Mariano (D-Quincy). “In addition to significant funding for roadway and bridge projects, this bill also recognizes the importance of providing further support for the MBTA in their ongoing effort to address safety concerns and for the ever-important East-West Rail project.” 

   “This legislation sets the table for the next administration to take full advantage of the additional billions of dollars, both state and federal, for critical transportation projects throughout the state,” said Rep. Bill Straus (D- Mattapoisett), House chair of the Committee on Transportation. “The House has wisely used the bill as an opportunity to again demonstrate its commitment to roads, bridges and public transit.”

   (A “Yes” vote is for the package).

Rep. Joseph McGonagleYes                                     

   ALSO UP ON BEACON HILL

   REACTION ON BEACON HILL TO THE U.S. SUPREME COURT RULING STRIKING DOWN ROE V WADE  – There was swift reaction across the state to the Supreme Court’s ruling that the constitution does not confer the right to an abortion and that decisions about regulating abortion are now up to each of the 50 states.

 

   Gov. Charlie Baker said he was “deeply disappointed” with the decision and he quickly signed an executive order to protect access to reproductive health care services in the commonwealth. “This executive order will further preserve that right and protect reproductive health care providers who serve out of state residents,” said Baker. “In light of the Supreme Court’s ruling overturning Roe v Wade, it is especially important to ensure that Massachusetts providers can continue to provide reproductive health care services without concern that the laws of other states may be used to interfere with those services or sanction them for providing services that are lawful in the commonwealth.”

   “We are grateful for all those who never stopped fighting for the lives of the unborn,” said Andrew Beckwith, the President of the Massachusetts Family Institute. “For decades, we were told this was a ‘settled issue’ in American law and culture, but that was a lie and the tide has turned. The legalization of abortion by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1973 was one of the most egregious cases of judicial activism this country has ever seen. It resulted in over sixty million dead American children and an unending contentious public debate.

   “This dangerous and chilling decision will have devastating consequences across the country, forcing people to travel hundreds, sometimes thousands, of miles for care or remain pregnant,” said Dr. Jennifer Childs-Rosha, President of Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts (PPLM). “Abortion is health care, and access to care should not be based on one’s zip code, income level or identity. This is a dark day for our country, but we’ve been preparing for this. In Massachusetts, abortion will remain legal and protected under state law – the Court’s decision does not change this, and PPLM is here for our patients today, and always.”

   Myrna Maloney Flynn, Massachusetts Citizens for Life’s president, said, “This is a moment that life advocates have worked tirelessly for throughout the past half-century. A grave and unjust abuse of judicial power has been corrected. The American people now have a voice, a united voice that, today, raises even louder on behalf of the voiceless. Our work is just beginning, as we aim to bridge the great cultural chasm that Roe v. Wade created. We will not stop working to save the lives of innocent unborn human beings.”

   “The court’s ruling will have an immediate and devastating impact on people seeking abortion care in nearly half of the country, taking from them a right that has been central to their ability to plan their lives, families and careers,” said Carol Rose, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Massachusetts. “These burdens will disproportionately fall on people of color, those struggling to make ends meet, young people, rural residents, immigrants and LGBTQ+ communities. And make no mistake: anti-abortion politicians won’t stop here. Extremists have made it clear that they will use this ruling to press for a nationwide ban on abortion, as well as bans on birth control, gender-affirming care, and equal marriage, among other basic civil rights and liberties. The ACLU won’t back down until every person has the freedom and ability to make these most personal and life-changing  decisions for themselves and their families.” 

   BAKER SIGNS ELECTION LAW BILL (S 2924) – Gov. Charlie Baker signed into law the bill making permanent the mail-in and early voting options used in Massachusetts in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic. This version of the bill did not include the controversial section allowing same-day voter registration.

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; and requiring the secretary of state to conduct a comprehensive public awareness campaign to publicize the new voting and registration options.

   “My office has anticipated this new law and preparations are already well underway for the September 6th state primaries,” said Secretary of State Bill Galvin. “Every voter in Massachusetts can expect to receive a pre-addressed, postage pre-paid Vote by Mail application in just a few weeks. Voters who prefer to vote in person will be able to take advantage of expanded in-person early voting or vote at their polling place on Election Day.”

    “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 co-sponsor of the measure. “In 2020, mail-in and early voting options helped generate record-breaking turnout. “[The bill] builds upon this progress and will help ensure that every voter can exercise their fundamental right to vote.”

   “The [bill] will expand voter participation in Massachusetts at a time when other states are seeking to make it more difficult to participate in our democracy,” said Senate Majority Leader Cindy Creem (D-Newton). “As the lead Senate sponsor of the [bill], I am very happy that the bill has now been signed into law.” 

   “The most secure way to vote is in person and on Election Day,” said Paul Craney, spokesman for the Mass Fiscal Alliance. “Handing over your ballot to the United States Postal Service does not guarantee your vote will count. It’s rather disappointing the governor and Democratic lawmakers are pursuing this new law which is less secure.”

   In the meantime, Massachusetts Republican Party Chairman Jim Lyons filed a lawsuit aimed at overturning the Legislature’s passage of the part of the new law that codifies universal no-fault mail-in voting. He said that the Massachusetts Constitution lists only three instances whereby citizens can vote absentee during elections: If they’re out-of-town, physically disabled or have a religious-based conflict with Election Day.

   “There’s a reason why we have three branches of government, and we’re confident that the Supreme Judicial Court will strike down and expose the Democrats’ unconstitutional permanent expansion of mail-in voting,” Lyons said.

    HIT AND RUN LAWS (H 4504) – The House gave initial approval to legislation that would change a current law that imposes a fine of between $500 and $1,000 on any all-terrain vehicle (ATV) or other recreational vehicle driver who leaves the scene, without giving information to the driver of the other vehicle, of a hit and run accident that does not result in death. The bill would impose the same fine but would also add the possibility of a one-year prison sentence. The bill also creates a new crime of leaving the scene of an accident that results in a death and imposes up to a $5,000 fine and/or 2.5 years in prison for that new crime.

   The bill, dubbed the James Ward Act, was filed in response to the tragic death of a young man in the district of sponsor Rep. Kathy LaNatra (R-Kingston). According to LaNatra’s office, James Ward was riding ATVs with his father and his brother. He collided with another driver, who told James’ father that he would go and get help but  he never returned to the scene and went back to the party which he was attending. Sadly, the young man later succumbed to his injuries.

   “I filed this legislation to prevent ATV riders from fleeing the scene of an accident and ensure that they are held accountable for their actions,” said sponsor Rep. Kathy LaNatra (R-Kingston). “I want to ensure that what the Ward family went through on that tragic day, doesn’t happen again.”

   EXTEND TAX BREAKS TO MORE FARMERS (H 3059) – The House approved and sent to the Senate a bill that would expand current law and make more farmers eligible for a favorable valuation of property process that results in a tax break. Under current law, to be eligible for the favorable valuation and the resulting tax break, a farmer must own and be farming a minimum of five contiguous acres of land. The bill would reduce the required number to two and not require the acres to be contiguous. The bill also reduces the required acres to two in cities or towns with a population of more than 50,000.

   Supporters said that farming practices have been modernized and farmers no longer need vast contiguous acreage to grow crops and manage their livestock. They noted that in Eastern Massachusetts, contiguous land is getting harder to acquire.

   “Farming is changing and it is growing exceedingly difficult for new farmers to find land and for existing farmers to keep the land they have,” said the measure’s sponsor Rep. Paul Schmid (D-Westport). “This bill would extend the benefits of a favorable valuation to small plots effectively preserving far land in Massachusetts.” 

  QUOTABLE QUOTES – BAY STATE GUBERNATORIAL ELECTION EDITION

   Sen. Sonia Chang Diaz (D-Boston) dropped out of the race for the Democratic nomination for governor. Her name will still remain on the September Democratic primary ballot as June 10 was the last day a candidates can withdraw their name from the ballot. Her exit leaves Attorney General Maura Healey as the only Democrat actively campaigning for the Democratic nomination. Former Sen. Geoff Diehl and Chris Doughty are vying for the Republican nod.

  Here are some quotes from Chang-Diaz upon her exit from the campaign:

  “I know my announcement about this campaign will feel like an ending to many of you, but I don’t see it that way. I got into this race because Beacon Hill has taken too long to address our commonwealth’s biggest challenges due to a lack of courage from our political leaders. We don’t overcome that by winning one election. We overcome it by winning a handful and then dozens and then hundreds of elections.”

   —Chang-Diaz.

   “The reality is this race has always been about more than just me. It’s been about all of us coming together and building a movement for courage and urgency in this state. A good leader calls the question and focuses resources not just on themselves—but on the best way to build our power and win real change for the long-term.”

   —Change-Diaz

   “I am going to be spending my time campaigning and marshaling my supporters and the movement we’ve built for these Courage Democrats down ballot, candidates who walk the walk when it comes to our values. I have no doubt that they will fight to put courage over politics in our state, and I am going to be using my energy to help put them into office.”

   —Chang-Diaz

   Here’s what the candidates still in the race said:

  “I’m deeply grateful to Sen. Sonia Chang-Díaz for her many years of service to Massachusetts and her inspired leadership during this campaign. The legacy of her campaign will live on through the young girls who finally saw themselves represented in a candidate for the highest office in the state. I look forward to continuing to partner with Sen. Chang-Díaz to bring people together and make Massachusetts work for all of our families.”  

   —Maura Healey

 

   “I would like to thank State Sen. Sonia Chang-Díaz for her candidacy for governor and I wish her all the best. Her departure from the race makes this now a clear contest between my vision to make Massachusetts a better place to live and work, and the policies of Maura Healey which would drive more families and businesses to leave our state in search of better opportunities elsewhere. I look forward to a spirited campaign that provides contrast between these two different visions over the next several months.”   

   —Geoff Diehl

   Chris Doughty  did not respond to repeated requests from Beacon Hill Roll Call for a comment on Chang-Diaz’s withdrawal.

   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 20-24, the House met for a total of eight hours and 50 minutes and the Senate met for a total of one hour and 28 minutes.

Mon.   June 20     No House session

                   No Senate session

Tues.  June 21     House  11:01 a.m. to  12:27 p.m.

                   Senate 11:22 a.m. to  11:45 a.m.

Wed.   June 22     No House session

                   No Senate session.

 

Thurs. June 23     House  11:02 a.m. to   6:26 p.m.                   

                   Senate 11:26 a.m. to  12:31 p.m.

Fri.   June 24     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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