The House And Senate—There were no roll call votes in the House or Senate last week. This week, Beacon Hill Roll Call reports local representatives’ roll call attendance records for the 2019 session.

The House held 142 roll calls in 2019. We tabulate the number of roll calls on which each representative was present and voting and then calculate that number as a percentage of the total roll call votes held. That percentage is the number referred to as the roll call attendance record.

Several quorum roll calls, used to gather a majority of members onto the House floor to conduct business, are also included in the 142 roll calls. On quorum roll calls, members simply vote “present” in order to indicate their presence in the chamber. When a representative does not indicate his or her presence on a quorum roll call, we count that as a roll call absence just like any other roll call absence.

Only 70 out of 160 representatives. (43.7 percent) of the House’s 160 members have 100 percent roll call attendance records.

The representative who missed the most roll calls was Rep. Liz Miranda (D-Roxbury) who missed 32, (77.4 percent attendance). “I never miss a vote unless I was ill or out of the country,” said Miranda. I traveled to Portugal and Cabo Verde on two occasions related to work connected to my district being largely Portuguese speaking and had surgery twice. I take my work in the Statehouse very seriously and understand the importance of voting in my role.”

Also included in the top six members who missed the most roll calls are Reps. Peter Capano (D-Lynn) who missed 26 (81.6 percent attendance); Sheila Harrington (R-Groton) and William (Smitty) Pignatelli (D-Lenox) who both missed 22 (84.5 percent attendance); Harold Naughton (D-Worcester) who missed 21 (85.2 percent attendance) and Paul McMurtry (D-Dedham) who missed 20, (85.9 percent attendance).

Beacon Hill Roll Call requested a statement from these representatives.

Rep. Capano: “I missed one day, my very first day, because I had the flu back in January. I pride myself in being at every single roll call, have testified on numerous bills affecting my constituents and have not missed one committee meeting.” (Beacon Hill Roll Call confirms that Capano was absent that one day, January 30, 2019, on which there were 26 roll calls.)

Rep. Harrington: Did not respond to repeated requests for a statement. She also didn’t respond back in August when we compiled an earlier roll call attendance record.

Rep. Pignatelli: “If I was absent from any roll call votes it was due to having to deal with multiple serious family tragedies which occurred in 2019.”

Rep. Naughton: “Any roll calls missed were due to multiple serious illnesses among family members and military commitments.”

Rep. McMurtry: “I have always prided myself on my attendance record, which has been near perfect in over a decade of my public service. Unfortunately, I was called out of town this session on personal matters beyond my control which forced me to miss votes on two occasions… [I] do not foresee missing any other votes this session.”

2019 Representatives’ Final Roll Call Attendance Record—The percentage listed next to the representative’s name is the percentage of roll call votes for which the representative was present and voting. The number in parentheses represents the number of roll calls that he or she missed.

Rep. Dylan Fernandes 99.2 percent (1)

Rep. Randy Hunt 100 percent (0)

Rep. David Vieira 97.1 percent (4)

Also Up On Beacon Hill

Sling Shots (H 2061)—The Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security held a hearing on a bill allowing sling shots to be manufactured and sold in Massachusetts. Current law allows them to be sold only to clubs or associations conducting sporting events which use sling shots.

“The sling shot bill comes at the request of a constituent who enjoys the competitive aspects of sling shots and would like to enjoy the sport freely in Massachusetts not just at designated clubs,” said Rep. Peter Durant (R-Spencer), the bill’s sponsor. “The law currently puts an undue burden on those who would enjoy the sport.

Ban Firing Of Medical Marijuana Users (S 1119)—The Committee on Labor and Workforce Development held a hearing on legislation that would prohibit an employer from firing an employee or applicant because he or she is a user of medical marijuana outside of the workplace.

“I filed this bill on the behalf of a young woman in my district who has undifferentiated tissue disease and was prescribed medical marijuana by her physician because she was allergic to many of the addictive pain killers,” said Sen. Dean Tran (R-Fitchburg), the sponsor of the measure. “Medical marijuana is an important form of pain reliever for many in my district and across the commonwealth. Patients with disabilities and chronic diseases such as Crohn’s and others need medical marijuana in their daily lives. Unfortunately, many have lost their employment due to using medical marijuana.”

Right Of Property Owner To Ban Smoking And Growing Of Marijuana (H3646)—The Cannabis Policy Committee held a hearing on a bill giving residential and commercial property owners the right to ban the growing of medical marijuana on their property.

“I believe it should be a property owner’s right to do with their property what they choose, or choose not to do,” said Rep. Joe McKenna (R-Webster), a co-sponsor of the proposal. “This should apply to an owner who wants to prohibit a tenant from growing marijuana in a rental property, the same as many landlords prohibit certain dog breeds for example. A tenant who wishes to grow in a rental property can always seek out other landlords.”

“I do not support such broad-stroke legislation governing medical cannabis, said Jim Borghesani, former communications director for the 2016 marijuana legalization campaign. “I’m not aware of such restrictions for other forms of medicine and I think regulators should explore more thoughtful solutions, such as communal grow areas and on-site ingestion options.”

The committee’s agenda also included a related bill giving residential and commercial property owners the right to ban the smoking of medical marijuana on their property. The bill’s sponsor Rep. David DeCoste (R-Norwell) did not respond to repeated requests by Beacon Hill Roll Call for a comment on his proposal.

Martin Luther King Jr. Plaque (H 2799)—The House approved a measure providing for the installation and maintenance of a plaque in the House chamber containing a portion of the address which Martin Luther King Jr. delivered to a joint convention of the Massachusetts House and Senate in April 1965.

“The Massachusetts Black and Latino Legislative Caucus has for several years been seeking to commemorate Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1965 address made before a joint convention of the State Senate and House,” said Rep. Russell Holmes, a member of the caucus. “The words [we chose for the plaque] in particular were selected and approved unanimously by our members after a full review of the address. Their emblazonment, front and center within the House chamber, would reverberate as a call to action for generations of advocates yet to come.”

The plaque reads as follows: “Let me hasten to say that I come to Massachusetts not to condemn but to encourage. It was from these shores that the vision of a new nation conceived in liberty was born, and it must be from these shores that liberty must be preserved; and the hearts and lives of every citizen preserved through the maintenance of opportunity and through the constant creation of those conditions that will make justice and brotherhood reality for all of God’s children.”

Task Force On Harmful Chemicals (H 4256)—The House approved and sent to the Senate a bill creating a task force of experts to study the per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) found in some drinking water across the state and to develop a comprehensive plan to help cities and towns test for and address the problem.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency’s website, PFAS are a group of man-made chemicals that includes PFOA, PFOS, GenX and many other chemicals. PFAS have been manufactured and used in a variety of industries around the globe, including in the United States since the 1940s. PFOA and PFOS have been the most extensively produced and studied of these chemicals. Both chemicals are very persistent in the environment and in the human body—meaning they don’t break down and they can accumulate over time. There is evidence that exposure to PFAS can lead to adverse human health effects.”

“I hit the ground running on this issue because I know it is a top priority for our towns, region, and state—and because the data makes clear that our capacity to tackle PFAS contamination must be bigger than any one town, region or state agency,” said Rep. Kate Hogan (D-Stow), one of the bill’s sponsors. “As towns face difficult decisions and expensive remedies navigating PFAS challenges in real-time, the stewardship this state task force will bring to solutions is critical. The PFAS task force is about purpose, partnership and accountability—charging the commonwealth’s top minds with collaborating on the policy framework that will govern our next steps and strengthen our capacity to respond with the right resources at the right time.”

Order Of Presidential Candidates On Bay State Primary Ballot—Secretary of State Bill Galvin announced the order on the ballot of the candidates in the state’s presidential primary election on March 3, 2020. Galvin drew the names at random last week.

Two former Massachusetts governors will at the top of each party’s list. Former Gov. Bill Weld will be first on the Republican ballot and former Gov. Deval Patrick has the top spot on the Democratic ballot.

Here’s the order for Democrats:

—Deval Patrick

—Amy Klobuchar

—Elizabeth Warren

—Michael Bennet

—Mike Bloomberg

—Tulsi Gabbard

—Cory Booker

—Julian Castro

—Tom Steyer

—Bernie Sanders

—Joe Biden

—John Delaney

—Andrew Yang

—Pete Buttigieg

—Marianne Williamson

And for the GOP:

—Bill Weld

—Joe Walsh

—Donald Trump

Quotable Quotes

“We encourage parents to suggest that family and friends give towards college savings instead of a traditional gift. Unless we add college savings to wish lists, holidays and birthdays are missed opportunities to invest in a child’s future and help the family achieve its college savings goals.”

—Thomas Graf, executive director of Massachusetts Educational Financing Authority.

“The way that this law has been framed is [that] it’s 1.5 billion dollars in new money over seven years, new money on top of the existing money that would be going in, which is roughly $300 million a year. So it’s a stretch on a $40 billion [annual] budget, on an incremental basis, but it’s not that big a stretch. We should be able to do it.”

—Gov. Charles D. Baker Jr. on the state’s ability to live up to the $1.5 billion commitment made to public education in a school funding reform law he signed last month.

“Since this program was first established in 1997, the state has invested $54 million, incentivizing more than $100 million in private giving. Today, those initial investments are valued at $275 million and their annual returns provide $11 million in funds that are invested back into the university.”

—UMass President Marty Meehan on a provision in the supplemental budget that funds a $5 million matching program that provides $1 in state matching funds for every $2 raised by a state university up to $5 million.

“I look forward to working with business leaders from around the commonwealth to advocate for progressive policies that will strengthen our economy, lift up our communities and make an impact in the lives of families and workers in all corners of our state.”

—Rep. Jennifer Benson (D-Lunenburg) who is resigning her seat to take over as president of the Alliance for Business Leadership which describes itself on its website as “a non-partisan coalition of CEOs, entrepreneurs, investors and business leaders at all levels who have one thing in common: we believe that social responsibility and the sustainable growth of the Massachusetts economy go hand in hand.”

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 December 16-20, the House met for a total of one hour and 15 minutes while the Senate met for a total of 30 minutes.

Monday, December 16: House 11:03 to 11:20 AM; Senate 11:15 to 11:26 AM

Tuesday, December 17: No House session; No Senate session

Wednesday, December 18: No House session; No Senate session

Thursday, December 19: House 11:01 to 11:59 AM; Senate 11:04 to 11:23 AM

Friday, December 20: No House session; No Senate session

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

Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at bob@beaconhillrollcall.com.

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