Beacon Hill Roll Call records votes of local representatives from the week of February 3-7. There were no roll calls in the Senate last week.
Protected Disabled Persons—Nicky’s Bill (H 4296)—House 154-0, Senate on a voice vote without a roll call, gave final approval to and sent to Gov. Charlie Baker a measure that would establish a registry that identifies individuals who have been found to have committed abuse against persons with disabilities. The measure was filed by Sen. Mike Moore (D-Millbury) at the request of a constituent who is the mother of Nicky, an intellectually disabled and non-verbal individual. Nicky had been inappropriately restrained and struck multiple times by her caretaker. Under current law, unless the offender is criminally convicted, no system exists to identify caretakers and prevent them from finding employment with another provider licensed by the state.
“Enacting this registry will help disrupt a cycle of abuse of individuals with disabilities and put in place common-sense protections that families in the commonwealth deserve,” Rep. Moore said. “There are clear benefits to screening prospective employees who intend to work within the licensed caretaker field and I am hopeful that the bill will advance to the governor’s desk to help protect our most vulnerable residents like Nicky.”
(A “Yes” vote is for the bill.)
Rep. Dylan Fernandes—Yes
Rep. Randy Hunt—Yes
Rep. David Vieira—Yes
Give power to the Cannabis Control Commission (H 4367)—House 122-33, approved and sent to the Senate legislation a bill that would give the Cannabis Control Commission the power to review, regulate and enforce Home Community Agreements and stop municipalities from demanding payments beyond what the law allows. Business owners have complained that cities or towns are demanding more from businesses than state laws allow.
Current law requires a business that applies for a marijuana business licenses to enter into an HCA before the CCC will consider an application. The law stipulates that those agreements cannot run for more than five years and that the community impact fee paid to the municipality by the licensee cannot exceed 3 percent of the establishment’s gross sales.
“What we heard from some of the folks where there was no clarification as to enforcement, where they could go if they felt that they were wrong and some felt that the legislation as is right now wasn’t clear enough,” said House Speaker Bob DeLeo (D-Winthrop). “So I think that this today was meant strictly, not so much to reopen the whole discussion or debate relative to, you know, marijuana sales but to clarify the powers that the Cannabis Control Commission has.”
“This legislation is clearly necessary in order to prevent municipalities from demanding cannabis operators to make payments beyond what the law allows,” said Jim Borghesani, former communications director for the 2016 marijuana legalization campaign. “I hope the Senate passes the measure and that the governor signs it. I also hope the Cannabis Control Commission uses the power that this legislation would provide.”
“ I believe that towns should be in charge of their own destiny,” said Rep. Shawn Dooley (R-Norfolk), who voted against the measure. “The elected officials of a town are much better suited to understanding the individual needs and complexities of their community than by some appointed board in Boston.”
“The bill empowers the Cannabis Control Commission to ‘review, regulate and enforce,’ all host community agreements and allows the state agency to reject certain provisions in these agreements by deeming them unenforceable even if such agreements meet the requirements of the law’ said Rep. Hannah Kane (R-Shrewsbury). The expansion of this regulatory power granted to the Cannabis Control Commission impedes on the right of parties to freely contract and for this fundamental reason – I voted against the legislation.”
(A “Yes” vote is for the bill. A “No” vote is against it.)
Rep. Dylan Fernandes—Yes
Rep. Randy Hunt—No
Rep. David Vieir—No
Also up on Beacon Hill
Allow college athletes to be paid (S 2454)—The Higher Education Committee held a hearing on legislation that would allow college student athletes in Massachusetts to have representation and receive compensation for the use of their name, image and likeness. The bill also requires each college to establish an injured athlete fund to help student-athletes who suffer a career-ending or long-term injury.
“As a former college athlete, I believe that if a school is using a student athlete’s name to make a huge profit, that student should be entitled to receive compensation,” said the bill’s sponsor Sen. Barry Finegold (D-Andover). “We’ve heard countless stories of student athletes who are household names because their school is promoting them, but who struggle to afford food or textbooks. That’s just not right. The bill would also allow students to continue to be eligible to play for their schools as they are drafted by professional teams, which allows a lot of them to graduate. At the end of the day, the majority of these student athletes don’t make it in professional sports, but by that point they’ve also given up a degree and therefore future job prospects.”
Many Bills Sent To Study Committee—Many legislative committees shipped off several bills to a study committee where bills are never actually studied and are essentially defeated. Here are some of the bills:
Pay Fine For Not Voting (H 653)—Requires eligible voters to cast a ballot in every November General Election or face a fine of $15 that would be added to the non-voter’s state tax liability for each election missed. The measure also clarifies that the voter does not have to actually vote for anyone and is allowed to leave the ballot blank.
“There are two schools of thought when filing legislation,” said the bill’s sponsor Rep. Dylan Fernandes (D-Falmouth) when the bill had a hearing in June. “One is filing a bill that is rigorously vetted, that has been combed line by line and that you hope only receives marginal edits through the committee process. The other is filing an idea that you believe is worthy of a robust public debate that will reshape the bill. Although it won’t pass this session and may never pass at all, I believe mandatory voting is an idea worth debate and consideration at the State House and by thoughtful citizens across the state because it drives at questions fundamental to our society, which is whether civic participation in democracy is a duty or a right. I filed this bill to spark that debate.”
“[This] proposed further imposition upon citizens by Rep. Fernandes, would require “all eligible voters in the commonwealth . . . To cast a ballot” under threat of legal penalty,” said Chip Ford, executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation. “The First Amendment protects freedom of speech, which includes freedom from participating in speech. Voting is a right of citizenship, exercised-or not-freely.” This bill exemplifies Massachusetts’ political penchant for encroaching overreach, where everything not prohibited by law must become mandatory.”
“It’s encouraging to see that a little common sense prevailed at the State House,” said Paul Craney, executive director of the Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance. “The idea that the state government could have the power to tax you if you didn’t vote is sinister. Every voter should have the freedom to vote however he or she wishes, including having the choice of not voting. Some Beacon Hill lawmakers want to control every aspect of your life, including who you vote for.”
Allow 16- And 17-Year-Old Youths To Vote In Local Elections (H 657)—Allows cities and towns to permit people aged 16- and 17-year to vote in their local city and town elections. Current law requires that voters be 18.
The sponsors Reps. Sean Garballey (D-Arlington) and Jack Lewis (D-Framingham) did not respond to repeated requests by Beacon Hill Roll Call to comment on their proposal.
“We filed this bill because we believe in local control,” said Rep. Andy Vargas (D-Haverhill), a House co-sponsor of a similar proposal. “At least nine cities and towns have asked for the authority to lower the voting age for their municipal elections, but the state has essentially ignored these requests. If cities and towns want youth voices to be heard at the ballot box, the state shouldn’t stand in the way of their local intent. In the same fashion, no city or town will be required to lower its voting age under this bill. Cities and towns that are content with their current voting age can simply carry on.”
“Encouraging more civic engagement by allowing 16- and 17-year-olds to vote in local elections may be worth investigating, but imposing a statewide mandate is probably not the best way to go about doing this,” said House GOP Minority Leader Brad Jones (R-North Reading). “There are a myriad of ways for young people to get involved in the electoral process and advocate in impactful ways on issues of concern and importance to them.”
Smartphones For Foster Kids (H 91)—Gives foster children over age 8 a state-funded smartphone that is limited to four pre-programmed phone numbers, including 9-1-1 and the number of the foster child’s caseworker. The phone would include a limited video application that allows the child to have a face-to-face video discussion with his or her caseworker. The proposal bars the phone from having any internet browsing capability.
Massachusetts offers citizens the “right of free petition”—the power to propose their own legislation. A citizen’s proposal must be filed in conjunction with a representative or senator. Sometimes a legislator will support the legislation and sponsor it along with his or her constituent. Other times, a legislator might disagree with the bill proposed by a citizen but will file it anyway as a courtesy. In those cases, the bill is listed as being filed “by request”—indicating that he or she is doing so at the request of the citizen and does not necessarily support it.
This bill is sponsored by Bill Trabucco, a constituent of Rep. David Biele (D-South Boston.) Biele did not respond to repeated requests by Beacon Hill Roll Call asking him if he supported the bill and seeking Mr. Trabucco’s contact information.
Require Defibrillators In Assisted Living Residences (H 627)—Requires all assisted living facilities to have a defibrillator in the building.
Supporters say the requirement will help the many resident of an assisted living facility. They noted many of the residents have health and heart issues and a defibrillator could save lives. Reps. John Rogers (D-Norwood), Sean Garballey (D-Arlington) and Lou Kafka (D-Sharon), co-sponsors of the bill, did not respond to repeated requests by Beacon Hill Roll Call for a comment supporting the measure.
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 February 3-7, the House met for a total of eight hours and 21 minutes while the Senate met for a total of one hour and 41 minutes.
Monday, February 3: House 11:07 AM to 11:55 AM; Senate 11:46 AM to 12:02 PM.
Tuesday, February 4: No House session; No Senate session.
Wednesday, February 5: House 11:02 AM to 6:06 PM; No Senate session.
Thursday, February 6: House 11:02 AM to 11:31 AM; Senate 11:23 AM to 12:48 PM.
Friday, February 7: No House session; No Senate session.
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