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Beacon Hill Roll Call, Jan. 29 to Feb. 9, 2018



Beacon Hill Roll Call
Tuesday, February 13, 2018
THE HOUSE AND SENATE

Beacon Hill Roll Call records local representatives’ and senators’ votes on roll calls from the week of Jan. 29 to Feb. 2 and the week of Feb. 5 to 9.

$15 MILLION FOR PUERTO RICO (H 4160, S 2280) — House 153-0, Senate 38-0, approved different versions of a fiscal 2018 supplemental budget. The Senate version now goes to the House for consideration.

Both versions include $15 million to help school districts educate students who came to the Bay State from Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands following Hurricanes Maria and Irma. Another $420,000 is in both versions for the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD) to hire additional employees and to conduct training on sexual assault and harassment to address the recent rise in these complaints.

Supporters said the $15 million will help reimburse cities and towns for the additional costs of absorbing an estimated 2,400 new students who fled here with their families following the hurricanes. They argued that the additional funding for the MCAD is needed in order for it to do its job properly.

“This funding supports school districts across the state that have faced a sudden influx of new students,” said Sen. Karen Spilka, D-Ashland, Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “It is our duty to welcome these students with open arms and ensure they continue to have access to high-quality education.”

(A “Yes” vote is for the budget.)

Rep. Stephen Kulik, Yes

Rep. Paul Mark, Yes

Rep. Susannah Whipps, Yes

Sen. Adam Hinds, Yes

Sen. Stanley Rosenberg, Yes

$1,063,978 TO REIMBURSE CITIES AND TOWNS FOR COSTS OF EARLY VOTING (H 4160) — House 151-0, approved an amendment to provide $1,063,978 to reimburse cities and towns for the costs they incurred for the implementation of the state law mandating that communities allow early voting for the November 2016 election.

Amendment supporters said allowing early voting worked out very well and argued the state, not struggling cities and towns, should pay for these expenses.

(A “Yes” vote is for the $1,063,978.)

Rep. Stephen Kulik, Yes

Rep. Paul Mark, Yes

Rep. Susannah Whipps, Yes

PLAN TO COORDINATE EFFORTS TO COMBAT ALZHEIMER’S (H 4116) — House 153-0, approved and sent to the Senate a bill requiring the governor’s Executive Office of Health and Human Service to assess all current state programs that address Alzheimer’s disease and create and maintain an integrated state plan to overcome the illness.

The plan would include accelerating the development of treatments that would prevent, halt or reverse the disease; helping to coordinate the health care and treatment of individuals with the disease; ensuring the inclusion of ethnic and racial populations, who have a higher risk or are the least likely to receive care for the disease; and implementing a strategy to increase the diagnostic rate.

Another provision requires doctors, physician assistants and nurses to complete a one-time course of training and education on the diagnosis, treatment and care of patients with Alzheimer’s, dementia and other cognitive impairments.

The measure also creates an Advisory Council on Alzheimer’s Research and Treatment to work with closely with state agencies and the Legislature.

“Alzheimer’s disease is a growing epidemic. It’s impacting hundreds of thousands of Massachusetts residents,” said Jim Wessler, president and CEO of the Alzheimer’s Association, Massachusetts/New Hampshire Chapter.

Supporters said that this disease affects more than 120,000 people in the Bay State and according to the Alzheimer’s Association, that number is projected to increase by 25 percent to 150,000 by 2025. They argued deaths from Alzheimer’s have nearly doubled from 2000 to 2014 and it is time for the state to step up to the plate and lead the way in the care for people with Alzheimer’s and in the fight to eradicate it.

(A “Yes” vote is for the bill.)

Rep. Stephen Kulik, Yes

Rep. Paul Mark, Yes

Rep. Susannah Whipps, Yes

NO LONGER REQUIRE HAND-WRITTEN USED VEHICLE RECORD BOOK (S 2269) — Senate 36-0, approved and sent to the House a bill repealing the outdated current requirement that all car dealers maintain a book in which they enter extensive hand-written information about each used vehicle sold. This law was put on the books decades ago to ensure that used car sales were tracked so that police and other law enforcement could access them. The bill would allow the information to be maintained in the dealer’s online database.

Supporters said dealers switched to online record-keeping years ago but under this antiquated law are still required to also maintain this hand-written book which duplicates what is online and is a waste of the dealer’s time. They said they don’t know of a single case in the past few decades in which a law enforcement official has asked to see this book.

(A “Yes” vote is for the bill.)

Sen. Adam Hinds, Yes

Sen. Stanley Rosenberg, Yes

CHANDLER WILL BE SENATE PRESIDENT FOR ALL OF 2018 (S 2298) — Senate 37-0, approved a motion to remove the adjective “Acting” from Acting Senate President Harriette Chandler’s title and make the Worcester senator the permanent Senate president for the remainder of 2018. Chandler, 80, was majority leader and second in command in the Senate before former Senate President Stan Rosenberg resigned on Dec. 4. Rosenberg’s resignation came after allegations in the Boston Globe that his husband, Bryon Hefner, groped three men and kissed another one against his will. The Globe story also included claims that Hefner has said he speaks for Rosenberg and talks about Senate business with legislators and their staffs. The Senate Ethics Committee is currently investigating the matter.

Following Rosenberg’s resignation, Chandler was elected to fill the spot temporarily until the investigation was over and Rosenberg or another senator is elected president. Chandler has said repeatedly she does not want to be the permanent Senate president for a long period of time and will not be a candidate for the position in January when the new Senate, following the November 2018 election, is scheduled to elect a new Senate president. Four senators are said to be already jockeying for votes for Senate president: Sens. Sal DiDomenico, D-Everett, Linda Dorcena Forry, D-Boston, Karen Spilka, D-Ashland, Eric Lesser, D-Longmeadow, and Eileen Donoghue, D-Lowell.

Both Chandler and Rosenberg intend to run for re-election in November.

(A “Yes” vote is for making Chandler the president through the end of 2018.)

Sen. Adam Hinds, Yes

Sen. Stanley Rosenberg, Yes

$3.65 BILLION FOR REPAIRS AND IMPROVEMENTS (S 2279) — Senate 37-0, approved authorizing up to $3.65 billion in bonds for repairs and improvements of capital facilities across the state including $475 million for improvements to state university and community college campuses; another $475 million for campus improvements to UMass; $85 million for clean energy and efficiency programs at state-owned facilities; $675 million for trial court facility improvements; and $500 million for public safety and security facilities.

“This bill invests in capital projects across the state, to ensure our state facilities are well-maintained and well-equipped to best serve our residents and communities,” said Sen. Karen Spilka, D-Ashland, chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “These bonds are a strong step in our continued work with the governor and the House to support projects in a range of areas, including health, safety and education, that are critical for our cities and towns.”

“Long-term capital investment in these facilities is critical, and this bond ensures that necessary planning and investment will continue without interruption,” said Sen. John Keenan, D-Quincy, chair of the Senate Committee on Bonding, Capital Expenditures and State Assets.

The House approved a different version of the package in November. A House-Senate conference committee will work out a compromise.

(A “Yes” vote is for the $3.65 billion in repairs and improvements.)

Sen. Adam Hinds, Yes

Sen. Stanley Rosenberg, Yes

MARIJUANA BILLS

The Committee on Marijuana Policy held a hearing on 28 bills last week including:

REPEAL LEGALIZATION OF MARIJUANA (S 1060) — Completely repeals the law, approved by voters on the 2016 ballot, that legalized the recreational use of marijuana.

URGE CONGRESS TO LIFT THE FEDERAL BAN ON MARIJUANA (H 3196) — Urges Congress to repeal the federal law that makes marijuana illegal in order to put a stop to the conflict between the federal government’s ban and the Bay State which has legalized it.

Supporters of the repeal cited a recent statement by U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts Andrew Lelling that he would not rule out prosecution of any of the many players in the state’s marijuana industry.

Congress has unambiguously made it a federal crime to cultivate, distribute and/or possess marijuana,” said Lelling. “As a law enforcement officer in the Executive Branch, it is my sworn responsibility to enforce that law, guided by the Principles of Federal Prosecution. Deciding, in advance, to immunize a certain category of actors from federal prosecution would be to effectively amend the laws Congress has already passed, and that I will not do. The kind of categorical relief sought by those engaged in state-level marijuana legalization efforts can only come from the legislative process.”

Repeal supporters also noted that 18 medical marijuana dispensaries have ceased to take debit cards and have become cash-only operations. The debit card companies that process payments for the dispensaries severed their relationship with the shops out of fear they could be prosecuted for their participation in the sale of marijuana.

EXPUNGE PRIOR MARIJUANA ARRESTS (S 1075) —Allows the courts to expunge the criminal record of anyone who has been arrested, charged or convicted of possession of less than an ounce of marijuana.

“People shouldn’t be unduly penalized for non-violent minor offenses that are now legal behaviors,” said the bill’s sponsor Sen. Jason Lewis, D-Winchester. “This legislation was written to provide an avenue for appropriate redress.”

REQUIRE EFFICIENT USE OF ENERGY AND WATER BY MASSACHUSETTS POT GROWERS (S 1076) — Requires the secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs, in consultation with the commissioners of Energy Resources, Environmental Protection and Agricultural Resources, to make recommendations for energy and water use efficiency for licensed marijuana cultivators in Massachusetts. The Cannabis Control Commission would then develop and implement regulations based on these recommendations.

ALSO UP ON BEACON HILL

AUTOMATIC VOTER REGISTRATION — The Election Laws Committee gave a favorable report to legislation that would establish a system under which eligible voters would automatically be registered to vote when they interact with a state agency like the Registry of Motor Vehicles or MassHealth.

“We’re very excited to see Automatic Voter Registration (AVR) take the next step towards passage in our state,” said Pam Wilmot, executive director of Common Cause Massachusetts which is the leader of the Election Modernization Coalition. “We are grateful to the legislators who share our passion for giving all Bay Staters a voice in elections, and for making our election system more accurate, secure and inclusive by supporting AVR.”

Supporters note that an estimated 680,000 eligible Massachusetts voters are currently not registered. They said that in Oregon, the first of 10 states to implement this system, more than 230,000 voters registered in its first six months, and more than 265,000 inaccurate registrations were updated.

SAFE BABY SLEEP (H 4074) — The Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities Committee held a hearing on a proposal that would require the Department of Children and Families to establish a safe sleep program that provides infant safety information on its website for expecting and new parents. An online training course would also be offered to educate them on infant safety and safe sleep techniques.

The measure also provides free safe sleep boxes for infants and additional infant care necessities for anyone who has completed the training course to the satisfaction of the department. These baby boxes are made from durable cardboard and include a firm mattress and a collection of products including diapers, breastfeeding accessories, baby clothes and other items.

INCREASE THE STORAGE CHARGE FOR TOWED VEHICLES (H 2509) — The House gave initial approval to a bill increasing from $35 per day to $42 per day the maximum storage charge that can be charged by private storage lots that store cars that are ordered towed by police in a city or town.

“The last increase to this rate was in 2010,” said bill sponsor Rep. Aaron Vega (D-Holyoke) “Everything has gone up since then in regard to running any business including, property taxes, property insurance and all related expenses to property maintenance.”

CHILD PASSENGER RESTRAINTS (H 12434) — The House gave initial approval to a bill requiring that children under the age of 2 or weighing less than 30 pounds, ride in a federally approved child passenger restraint that is facing backwards.

Current law is more general and requires children under 8 to ride in a federally approved child passenger restraint but does not mandate that it face backwards.

“Research has shown that children up to 2 years old are less likely to be seriously injured when their car seat is rear-facing,” said Rep. Claire Cronin, D-Easton, the sponsor of the bill. “This bill reflects the current research and increases child safety at no additional cost to the consumer.”

THREE POSSIBLE 2018 BALLOT QUESTIONS GET A HEARING — Three possible 2018 ballot questions were the subject of hearings last week.

The proposals would increase the minimum hourly wage to $12 in 2019, $13 in 2020, $14 in 2021 and $15 in 2022; create a program to provide paid family and medical leave to Massachusetts workers; and reduce the state’s sale tax from 6.25 percent to 5 percent and at the same time establish an annual two-day permanent sales tax holiday in August that allows consumers to buy most products that cost under $2,500 without paying the state’s sales tax.

If the Legislature does not approve the proposed laws by May 2, 2018, proponents must gather another 10,792 signatures by July 4, 2018, in order for the question to appear on the November 2018 ballot.