Beacon Hill Roll Call recorded the votes of local senators from the week of January 27 to 31. There were no roll calls in the House last week.

Next Generation Climate Package (S 2476, S 2477 and S 2478)—Senate 36-2, 36-2 and 36-2 on three separate roll calls, approved three bills known as the “Next Generation Climate Package.” Under the bills, the Baker administration would be free to choose among various market-based forms of pricing carbon—including a revenue-neutral fee or a regional “cap and trade” system similar to the Transportation Climate Initiative. It would have to do so by January 1, 2022, for transportation; January 1, 2025, for commercial, industrial and institutional buildings; and January 1, 2030, for residential buildings. Any mechanism would be implemented so as to minimize the impact on low-income households, disadvantaged communities and vulnerable manufacturing sectors.

The package includes setting a statewide greenhouse gas limit for the year 2050 of “net zero” emissions; requiring the MBTA to limit bus purchases and leases to zero-emissions vehicles beginning in 2030, and to aim for an all-zero-emissions fleet by 2040; directing state government to limit purchases and leases of vehicles to zero-emissions vehicles only, beginning in 2024; and updating Massachusetts appliance standards to improve energy and water efficiency standards for common household and commercial appliances.

Other provisions establish the Massachusetts Climate Policy Commission as an independent public watchdog to oversee government’s handling of the climate change crisis; jump-start efforts to supply low-cost solar electricity to low-income communities; and require the Department of Public Utilities to balance six priorities: reliability of supply, affordability, public safety, physical and cyber security, equity, and significantly, reductions in greenhouse-gas emissions.

“We’ve written the strongest climate statute in the nation,” said Sen. Mike Barrett (D-Lexington), Senate chairman of the Utilities and Energy Committee and author of the legislation. “The bills started out strong. Then they got better as debate went on. More protection for low- and moderate-income families. Special sensitivity to the climate challenges facing small towns and rural areas. Retraining for people who may need to change jobs as we green the economy. In the fight against climate change, this lifts Massachusetts to the next level.”

(The vote below represents the vote on each of the three separate bills. A “Yes” vote is for the package. A “No” vote is against it.)

Sen. Julian Cyr—Yes

Pilot Program For Geothermal Energy (S 2477)—Senate 37-0, approved an amendment making it clear that the Department of Public Utilities should approve gas company pilot programs to deliver renewable thermal energy. The amendment also ensures evaluation by independent third parties to determine the efficacy of the new systems.

“My amendment gives gas companies an opportunity to move away from delivering a greenhouse gas containing over 90 percent methane and toward providing renewable thermal energy for heating and cooling,” said Sen. Cynthia Creem (D-Newton), the sponsor of the amendment.

“Natural gas is not healthy for us or the planet, while geothermal energy is a path to keeping good jobs, protecting ratepayers and giving customers a choice for heating.”

(A “Yes” vote is for the amendment.)

Sen. Julian Cyr—Yes

Regional Equity (S 2477)—Senate 37-0, approved an amendment that would require that when the Secretary of Energy and the Environment submits his five-year plan for how the state will comply with the emissions limits established in the climate bill, the plans must “address the distinguishing characteristics and vulnerabilities of rural, suburban and urban households.”

“The two words that go best together are “regional equity,” said amendment sponsor Sen. Jo Comerford (D-Northampton). “What we are here saying today is yes to carbon pricing, but we cannot do that if we disproportionately burden rural communities where we drive more and where we do not have adequate access to public transportation. So yes to carbon pricing, but through a regional equity lens.”

(A “Yes” vote is for the amendment.)

Sen. Julian Cyr—Yes

Also Up On Beacon Hill

Absentee Ballots For Presidential Primary Are Now Available—Absentee ballots are now available for the presidential primary on March 3. Voters can vote in person at their city or town hall or can submit an application to have an absentee ballot mailed to them. In order to count, ballots must be completed and submitted by the time the polls close on March 3.

Voters qualify for absentee ballots if they will be away from their home on the date of the election or if they are unable to reach the polling place due to disability or religious belief. Family members can fill out applications for a loved one.

Calling All Songwriters! The Lottery Needs A Jingle And Has $5,000 For The Best One—The Massachusetts Lottery announced the “Sound of Winning” contest, in which a lucky person can win $5,000 if his or her original jingle is chosen to be used in a future lottery ad. There are also two $1,000 runner-up prizes.

Entries must be received by March 6. On March 30, the finalists will be announced and then the public will vote for the best jingle with the voting ending on April 3. The winner will be announced on April 17.

For more details and rules go tothesoundofwinning.com.

Ban Discrimination Based On Natural Hairstyle (H 4295)—The Judiciary Committee held a hearing on a bill that would prohibit discrimination against anyone in any situation because of his or her natural hairstyle. The bill states that natural hairstyle is a physical trait central to individual dignity, autonomy and personhood; that targeting a person’s natural hair and hairstyle associated with their race is racial discrimination; and discrimination against black students, employees and persons participating in public accommodations because of their hair texture and the way in which their hair grows and is styled is illegal discrimination.

“I filed this bill following the passage of similar legislation in New York and California,” said Rep. Steven Ultrino (D-Malden), the bill’s sponsor. “Discrimination against natural hairstyles is pervasive in both education and employment. My hope is that passing this bill will remove vagueness from current anti-discrimination law so that people do not get biased treatment due to the hair that grows out of their heads.”

Must Post State Jobs (S 2336)—The Labor and Workforce Development Committee’s hearing included a bill that would require every state agency and institution to post all employment opportunities, notices and postings in the statewide online employment computerized referral system.

“Transparency about state employment vacancies will allow state agencies to receive applications from more diverse and qualified candidates,” said Senate sponsor Sen. Jo Comerford (D-Northampton). “While it is easy for those close to Boston and the Statehouse to hear about state employment opportunities through word of mouth, the members of the public living outside metro Boston can be unaware of non-publicized job vacancies. The commonwealth will only benefit from this influx of new talent.”

Protect Disabled Persons—Nicky’s Bill—(S 2367)—The House and Senate have agreed on a version of a measure that would establish a registry which identifies individuals who have been found to have committed abuse against persons with disabilities. Each branch had approved their own version but now they finally agree on a version to which they will soon give final approval and send to Gov. Charles D. Baker Jr.

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,” said Sen. Moore. “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.”

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 January 27-31, the House met for a total of 16 minutes while the Senate met for a total of ten hours and 11 minutes.

Monday, January 27: House 11:01 to 11:07 AM; Senate 11:10 to 11:14 AM.

Tuesday, January 28: No House session; No Senate session.

Wednesday, January 29: No House session; No Senate session.

Thursday, January 30: House 10:59 to 11:09 AM; Senate 11:21 AM to 9:28 PM.

Friday, January 31: No House session; No Senate session.

Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at bob@beaconhillrollcall.com.

Copyright © 2020 Beacon Hill Roll Call. All Rights Reserved.

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