Massachusetts State House

The Massachusetts State House on Beacon Hill in Boston.

There were no roll calls in the House and Senate last week. This week, Beacon Hill Roll Call reports on how often local representatives voted with their party leadership.

The votes of 126 Democratic representatives were compared to House Speaker Bob DeLeo (D-Winthrop). The votes of 31 Republicans were compared with those of GOP Minority Leader Brad Jones (R-North Reading). Beacon Hill Roll Call uses 81 votes from the 2019 House session as the basis for this report. This includes all roll calls that were not on local issues.

Eighty-six of the 126 Democratic representatives (68 percent) voted with DeLeo 100 percent of the time.

Another 18 Democratic representatives voted with DeLeo on all but one of the roll calls

The Democratic representative who voted the lowest percentage of times with DeLeo was Rep. Angelo Scaccia (D-Boston) who voted with him 82.7 percent of the time.

Eleven of the 31 GOP members voted with Jones 100 percent of the time. Seven members came close and voted with Jones on all but one of the roll calls.

The GOP representative who voted with Jones the lowest percentage of times is Rep. Peter Durant (R-Spencer) who voted with Jones 90.1 percent of the time.

Percentage Of Times Representative Voted With Their Party’s Leadership in 2019—The percentage next to the representative’s name represents the percentage of times the representative supported his or her party’s leadership.

The number in parentheses represents the number of times the representative opposed his or her party’s leadership.

Some representatives voted on all 81 roll call votes. Others missed one or more roll call. The percentage for each representative is calculated based on the number of roll calls on which he or she voted and does not count the roll calls for which he or she was absent.

Rep. Dylan Fernandes—98.7 percent(1)

Rep. Randy Hunt—100 percent (0)

Rep. David Vieira—94.8 perecent (4)

Also Up On Beacon Hill

Adoptee’s Medical History (H 3468)—The Judiciary Committee will hold a public hearing on September 10 between 10 AM and 1 PM in Room B-1 at the statehouse. One of the bills on the agenda is a measure known as “Patricia and Francesca’s Law.” The proposal requires biological parents, prior to an adoption, to provide the adopters with an anonymous family medical history of the child. The bill was filed by Rep. RoseLee Vincent (D-Revere) on behalf of her constituent Patricia who was adopted and years later gave birth to her daughter Francesca, who was diagnosed with Fragile X, a developmental disability caused through a genetic predisposition.

“After hearing Patricia’s story about how having access to her family medical history could have helped adequately prepare her for the pregnancy of her daughter, I felt the idea of providing an anonymous family medical history had merit,” said Vincent, “I am proud to sponsor this bill because I believe this would help adoptees know and understand their medical predispositions, which is information that I feel each individual is entitled to.”

Buy Drugs From Canada (H 1972)—Legislation that would allow Massachusetts residents to purchase drugs from Canada will have a hearing in front of the Public Health Committee on September 9th between 1 PM and 5 PM in room B-1 at the State House.

Under the provisions of the bill, Bay Staters would not actually go to Canada or buy from Canadian pharmacies online. Instead, the state would create and run a wholesale importation program in which the state is the licensed wholesaler, importing drugs from a licensed, regulated Canadian supplier and selling them to Massachusetts pharmacies at a much lower cost.

“For far too long Massachusetts consumers have paid way too much for prescription medications and that has raised our healthcare costs,” said the bill’s sponsor Rep. Lenny Mirra (R-West Newbury). “The only way to reign in drug company greed is to increase competition by opening up our markets to allow us to buy these products from other countries where they cost a lot less.”

State approval of the proposed law is only the first of many steps. The law cannot go into effect until it gets approval from the federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Federal officials have not been supportive of these laws in the past. However, President Trump has directed HHS Secretary Alex Azar to work with states that approve these laws. Whether HHS will ultimately approve the state laws is still a big question.

Recently Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) took a dozen Americans to Canada to buy cheaper insulin at one-10th the price it is sold for in the United States.

At one point, Sanders held up a vial of insulin that would cost around $340 in the US but costs only $38 in Canada. He decried greed, corruption and excessive profits of the drug companies.

“Over last 20 years, the pharmaceutical industry has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on campaign contributions,” said Sanders. “They buy and sell politicians—Republicans and Democrats. In the last 20 years, they have spent billions of dollars on lobbying Congress to make sure they can continue to charge the America people any price they want.”

Kathy Sego who rode up on the bus is an Indiana mother whose 22-year-old son has Type 1 diabetes. “$1,000 today got me six months of insulin for my son,” Sego said, tears flowing down her face. “That’s [way] less than what we pay for one month in the United States.”

Access To Prescriptions During An Emergency (H 1931)—The Public Health Committee’s September 9th hearing will also hear testimony on a measure requiring the state to develop and publicize a statewide plan for ensuring the availability of prescription medications during a state of emergency.

The plan would include allowing early refills of prescriptions; ensuring that vehicles delivering medications to pharmacies and hospitals be treated as emergency vehicles; and establishing a toll-free telephone number and a website for citizens to get assistance in locating prescription medication if none are available to them locally.

“After Hurricane Sandy hit in 2012, a constituent brought to my attention that we narrowly escaped a disaster,” said Rep. Lou Kafka (D-Sharon), the sponsor of the proposal. “His concern was that anyone who was at the end of their prescription medication would have run out before the pharmacies were once again accessible. The ‘100-year storm’ is now a yearly event. We need to be better equipped to deal with hurricanes, blizzards, or now even tornadoes, and this legislation is an important part of that preparation.”

Free Online College Courses For Veterans (H 3229)—The Veterans and Federal Affairs Committee will hear testimony on a bill that would require state colleges to offer online courses free of charge to any veteran in Massachusetts. Rep. Hank Naughton (D-Worcester), the bill’s sponsor, says that currently, members of the National Guard are eligible for full fee and tuition waivers, while veterans are eligible for at least partial tuition waivers at public colleges in the commonwealth.

“I think that it is essential that we make every possible educational opportunity available to our veterans in the commonwealth,” said Naughton. “By reducing costs for higher education for veterans, we can better enable our veterans to further their military or civilian careers.”

Quotable Quotes—The Lighter Side

2019 Massachusetts Tomato Contest—The state’s annual Tomato Contest was held last week and the winners were: Slicing Category–MacArthur Farm, Holliston; Cherry Category–Freedom Food Farm, Raynham; Heirloom Category–Sienna Farms, Sudbury; and Heaviest Category–Kimball Fruit Farm, Pepperell.

“The annual Massachusetts Tomato Contest is a highlight of the summer growing season and provides growers across the commonwealth the opportunity to showcase the delicious tomato varieties grown in Massachusetts,” said Department of Agricultural Resources Commissioner John Lebeaux. “I encourage all residents to visit their local farmers’ market or farm stand to find local, high-quality tomatoes and other fruits and vegetables at their peak.”

The 2019 Tomato Contest by the numbers; there are 7,241 farms statewide; of these—

The number of farms that produce tomatoes in Massachusetts: 517;

The number of acres used by these farms: 569;

The weight of all the tomatoes produced annually by these farms: 7.3 million pounds;

and the “street value” of the tomatoes: $13.6 million.

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 26 through 30, the House met for a total of one hour and 16 minutes while the Senate met for a total of one hour and 13 minutes

Monday, August 26: House 11:01 AM to 11:09 AM; Senate 11:05 AM to 11:09 AM.

Tuesday, August 27: No House session; no Senate session.

Wednesday, August 28: No House session; no Senate session.

Thursday, August 29: House 11 AM to 12:08 PM; Senate 11:02 AM to 12:11 PM.

Friday, August 30. No House session; no Senate session.

Beacon Hill Roll Call, Copyright 2019. All Rights Reserved.

Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at bob@beaconhillrollcall.com.

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