Beacon Hill Roll Call: April 19 to April 23, 2021

Published: 4/30/2021 3:44:18 PM

In keeping with tradition, there were no formal sessions of the House and Senate last week, which was April vacation week for Massachusetts students.

This week, Beacon Hill Roll Call reports on proposed amendments filed by representatives and senators to amend the state constitution. Any proposed constitutional amendment sponsored by legislators needs the votes of a majority of the 200-member Legislature in the 2021 to 2022 session and the same in the 2023 to 2024 session in order to appear on the November 2024 ballot for voters to decide. None of these proposals have yet been approved, but hearings have already been held on most of them.

Limit judicial appointments to seven years (H 81)

This proposed constitutional amendment would limit judicial appointments to seven years but would allow judges to be re-appointed by the governor for an unlimited number of years every seven years. The appointment would have to be approved by the Governor’s Council as required under current law.

“The people of Massachusetts should have the power to remove government officials in any position who are not doing or are unable to do their jobs,” said the measure’s sponsor Rep. Tom Golden, D-Lowell. “Establishing term and tenure limits would help to ensure that judges do not stay in office beyond the point at which they are effective.”

Prohibit eminent domain takings of land (H 82)

If passed, a change to the constitution would prohibit the state from taking land by eminent domain from property owners for private commercial or economic development.

“The right to own property is a widely recognized principle in the commonwealth, and one I believe should be firmly protected,” said GOP House Minority Leader Brad Jones, R-North Reading, the sponsor of the amendment. “(The bill) will ensure that eminent domain proceedings are limited to those instances where it is necessary for the good of the entire community, and not for the economic benefit of a limited class of persons. This bill strikes a balance between two competing but legitimate realities — the need of the government to acquire land to serve the public good and the rights of private citizens to own property.”

Prohibit restricting freedom, equality (S 20)

This proposed constitutional amendment would prohibit the proposal of any future constitutional amendment that would restrict the rights to freedom and equality that are in the constitution, or the right of each individual to be protected by society’s laws in the enjoyment of life, liberty and property.

“Under the current constitutional scheme there is nothing to stop a group from attempting to repeal or abridge certain constitutional rights through the initiative process,” said amendment sponsor Sen. Cindy Creem, D-Newton. “Subjecting such important rights to a popular vote or a fleeting change in political winds is unconscionable and should not be allowed.”

Equality under the law (S 21 and H 83)

If passed, a change to the constitution would expand a part of the document that currently provides that equality under the law shall not be denied or abridged because of sex, race, color, creed or national origin. The measure adds “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the section. Sen. Patrick O’Connor, R-Weymouth, and Rep. Patrick Kearney, D-Scituate, each filed the proposal at the request of one of their constituents, Sabrina Holland.

“This legislation … is deserving of a favorable report by the committee and has my full support,” O’Connor said. “This language is needed to officially prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual preference or gender identity, to perpetuate Massachusetts’ values and to create a truly equitable and safe society for all.”

Neither Kearney nor Holland responded to repeated requests by Beacon Hill Roll Call to comment on the proposal. Additionally, Kearney did not respond to a specific question as to whether he supports the bill. Sometimes a legislator will file a bill as a courtesy to a constituent even if he or she doesn’t support it.

Give governor power to appoint lieutenant governor (H 84)

This proposed constitutional amendment would grant the governor the power to appoint a lieutenant governor if the office is vacant because of the death, resignation, removal from office or incapacity of the lieutenant governor. The appointment would have to be confirmed by a majority vote of the House and Senate. Current law leaves the seat vacant until the next election.

The measure’s sponsor, Rep. Paul Mark, D-Peru, did not respond to repeated requests by Beacon Hill Roll Call to comment on the proposal.

Make constitution gender neutral (H 79)

A proposed change would make the state constitution general neutral by striking all references to “he” and replacing it with “the person.”

The measure’s sponsor, Rep. Mindy Domb, D-Amherst, did not respond to repeated requests by Beacon Hill Roll Call to comment on the proposal.

‘Affirm’ rather than ‘solemnly swear’ (H 80)

If passed, this proposal would amend a current section of the constitution that gives Quakers the option to change the oath a person must take upon taking office from the current: “I do solemnly swear, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the commonwealth of Massachusetts and will support the constitution thereof. So help me God.” Currently Quakers are allowed to change the word “swear” to “affirm” and the words “So help me God” with “under the pains and penalties of perjury.” The amendment would give that same option to anyone, not just Quakers.

Rep. Mindy Domb, D-Amherst, the measure’s sponsor, did not respond to repeated requests by Beacon Hill Roll Call to comment on the proposal.

Change ‘selectman’ to ‘selectboard’ (SD 2564)

This proposal, if approved, would change all references in the constitution to a town’s “selectman” to “selectboard.”

“This bill would recognize that both men and women can lead in local government by updating antiquated references to ‘selectmen’ in the constitution,” said sponsor Sen. Will Brownsberger, D-Belmont.

Also up on Beacon Hill Reduce greenhouse gas emissions at state facilities

Gov. Charlie Baker signed an executive order, named “Leading by Example: Decarbonizing and Minimizing Environmental Impacts of State Government.” The order sets goals and requirements to accelerate the state’s decarbonization efforts in state agencies and public institutions of higher education with a focus on the electrification of buildings and transportation.

Provisions require all new construction at state agencies and campuses to meet stringent energy performance standards and to install high-efficiency heating and cooling systems; require all state fleets to buy zero-emission vehicles starting next year; require the doubling of electric vehicle charging stations installed at state facilities by 2030; and establish specific and measurable emission reduction targets associated with building and vehicle fossil fuels consumed by state entities.

“The Leading by Example program empowers state government entities to continue leading and innovating on clean energy and energy efficiency,” said Lt. Governor Karyn Polito. “This executive order will support these continued efforts, reduce emissions, and lead to cost savings for many of our public universities and buildings.”

“Thanks to the commitment of our public servants and state agencies, the commonwealth continues to lead by example on clean energy and climate action, helping us to achieve our ambitious emissions reduction goals,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Kathleen Theoharides. “The executive order signed by Gov. Baker will make our state government more sustainable, resilient, and lead to environmental benefits in cities and towns throughout Massachusetts.”

Schools must request info about sexual misconduct (SD 2260)

A bill that would require schools, as part of their hiring process, to request information from the applicant’s prior employers regarding allegations of sexual misconduct has been filed by Sen. Joan Lovely, D-Salem.

“This bill would take important preventative measures to provide additional protection for children and staff from any potential future offenses,” Lovely said

.Ban manufacture of assault weapons (SD 2588)

A bill filed by Sen. Cindy Creem, D-Newton, would prohibit the in-state manufacturing of assault weapons that are banned in Massachusetts except for sales to the military or law enforcement.

“We often speak proudly of our tough gun laws in Massachusetts, including our ban on assault weapons,” Creem said. “However, we can no longer ignore the fact that assault weapons built here in Massachusetts are being exported and used to murder our fellow citizens and law enforcement officers in other states. These weapons increase the likelihood of multiple murders. They are designed for military use, and do not belong in the hands of civilians. We have banned them from being sold here in Massachusetts and now we need to acknowledge our further responsibility to reduce gun violence by prohibiting their manufacture.”

Hate crime based on sex of victim (SD 2553)

Sen. Will Brownsberger, D-Belmont, has filed legislation that would add sex to the list of categories in the hate crime statute that currently includes race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity and disability.

Brownsberger said his legislation will make additional penalties available when men who are biased against women use violence against women to intimidate them.

“The horrible shootings in Georgia of Asian women appear to have been motivated by both anti-Asian bias and by misogyny,” Brownsberger said. “This crime made clear to everyone that some crimes against women are driven by hatred of women and we need to attach special penalties to that kind of crime.”

‘Petite treason’ (S 998)

Sen. Sal DiDomenico, D-Everett, filed a bill that would repeal the current archaic law that provides that “petite treason” be prosecuted and punished as murder. Petite treason dates back to the 1700s and 1800s, and is the crime of a subordinate killing a superior including a servant or slave killing his “master.”

“Such archaic and racist laws, even if no longer enforced, have no place in Massachusetts General Laws, and this bill has been filed to remove this language,” DiDomenico said.


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