Beacon Hill Roll Call: April 5 to April 9, 2021

Published: 4/16/2021 2:20:21 PM

Beacon Hill Roll Call records local senators’ votes on roll calls from prior sessions on adopting the rules of the Senate. There were no roll calls in the House or Senate last week.

48 hours to file amendments (S 10)

The Senate, 5 to 34, rejected an amendment that would give senators 48 hours to file amendments to any supplemental state budget. Supplemental budgets are spending bills that are approved later in the year after the state’s main budget has been approved. Current Senate rules give senators an undefined “reasonable amount of time” to file amendments to a supplemental budget.

“We should have adequate time to be able to not only read but offer our ideas in the form of amendments to our supplemental budgets,” said the amendment’s sponsor Sen. Diana DiZoglio, D-Methuen. “The reality is, especially during this COVID-19 age that we now find ourselves in, we have learned that we may need to take up several supplemental budgets instead of the general budget, or just in addition to it. Similar time is warranted in all circumstances when it comes to ensuring we effectively represent our districts.”

“Each supplemental budget is very different,” said Senate Ways and Means Chair Sen. Mike Rodrigues, D-Westport. “Oftentimes these budgets contain urgent, time-sensitive matters whose passage must occur quickly. This amendment could hamper our ability to respond to those situations.”

A “No” vote is against giving 48 hours.

Sen. Joanne Comerford — No

Sen. Anne Gobi — No

Sen. Adam Hinds — No

Broadcast all Senate sessions (S 10)

The Senate, 39 to 0, approved an amendment that would require all formal and informal sessions of the Senate to be broadcast live online. Under current rules, only formal sessions of the Senate are required to be broadcast. Informal sessions are sessions at which there can be no roll calls and it only takes one member to stop the proceedings if he or she disagrees with anything.

Amendment supporters said that important issues are often brought up at informal sessions and argued there is no reason to exempt these from being broadcast.

“The intention behind this amendment is to increase accessibility to the workings of the Senate,” said amendment sponsor Sen. DiZoglio. “We are public servants, and we should ensure that we are working in the public eye as much as possible.”

A “Yes” vote is for broadcasting informal sessions.

Sen. Joanne Comerford — Yes

Sen. Anne Gobi — Yes

Sen. Adam Hinds — Yes

Supplier diversity (S 10)

The Senate, 39 to 0, approved an amendment mandating that diversity and inclusion plan requirements be included in private companies’ proposals for state projects in excess of $100,000 and taken into consideration when evaluating bids.

“Diversity, equity and inclusion — we need to practice living and breathing these words daily if we hope to see a continuous, positive cultural shift on Beacon Hill and throughout the commonwealth,” said amendment sponsor Sen. DiZoglio. “This amendment will help the Senate affirm our commitment to being practitioners of these words that we use so often. It affirms that when the Senate is shopping for goods and services and requesting competitive bid proposals from vendors, that diversity and inclusion plans be required in submitted bids and considered when awarding the contract.”

A “Yes” vote is for the amendment.

Sen. Joanne Comerford — Yes

Sen. Anne Gobi — Yes

Sen. Adam Hinds — Yes

Also up on Beacon Hill $21.9 million increase in education aid

Senate Ways and Means Committee Chair Sen. Michael Rodrigues, D-Westport, and his House counterpart Rep. Aaron Michlewitz, D-Boston, announced an agreement to increase Chapter 70 aid to school districts by $219.6 million, an increase of $21.9 million over the $197.7 million hike proposed by Gov. Charlie Baker earlier this year. The agreement also creates a $40 million enrollment reserve fund targeted to stabilize school districts adversely impacted by pandemic-related enrollment changes.

“This agreement provides certainty and predictability for our cities and towns, funds the first year of the Student Opportunity Act (SOA) and ensures we get back on schedule to fully implement the SOA by fiscal year 2027,” the pair said in a joint statement. “This agreement is reflective of the advocacy of our respective members in both chambers, school districts and education stakeholders, and builds off the $2.6 billion in federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funding that school districts have received to date.”

They noted the $40 million enrollment reserve fund will help stabilize school districts experiencing higher levels of enrollment and to support district needs, including transportation, instruction and materials, in a flexible way as children return to in-person classroom learning.

“It is disappointing that the House and Senate are failing to fully fund schools as promised in the SOA and failing to count all students,” said Vatsady Sivongxay, executive director of the Massachusetts Education Justice Alliance. “The funding is a year behind schedule, and instead of ensuring that schools have adequate funds and resources, the Legislature is shortchanging many thousands of Massachusetts students who have had their education disrupted by the pandemic and schools that have been waiting for decades for equitable support. They acknowledge that the funding they are providing will be inadequate by creating a separate pool of money from which some school districts will be allowed to withdraw additional funds.”

Up to $9,000 in funeral expenses available for COVID-19 deaths

Secretary of State William Galvin announced that he has provided a link on his website,, to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) website that has information on getting government assistance to help pay for up to $9,000 in funeral costs of anyone whose death after Jan. 20, 2020 is attributed to COVID-19.

“So many people have lost loved ones to this pandemic, and coping with the loss of a family member is hard enough without needing to worry about the costs of laying that person to rest,” Galvin said. “I encourage anyone who has lost a loved one to COVID-19 to visit my website to learn more about the help that is available to them, even if the funeral has already been paid for.”

More bills that were filed for consideration in the 2021-2022 session

Legislators have filed more than 6,500 bills for consideration in the 2021 to 2022 session. Here are some of the proposals filed:

Cultural diversity curriculum (HD 4112): Requires Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Jeffrey Riley to establish a cultural diversity curriculum to be implemented in elementary and secondary schools in the 2022 school year. The program would promote cultural diversity awareness among the children of Massachusetts, including educating students on diverse world cultures, heritages and backgrounds; highlighting the history of diverse cultures and peoples in shaping the United States and Massachusetts; and fostering respect for and appreciation of cultures, heritages and backgrounds that students may otherwise not be aware of or have gained exposure to.

“Human beings are not born with hatred; hatred is taught,” said the measure’s sponsor Rep. Smitty Pignatelli, D-Lenox. “We must do all we can to ensure that the value of diversity and cultural awareness are taught instead.”

Driver training and education (HD 4070): Transfers driver education and training from the Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) to the Department of Education. The education and training would be financed by a combination of parent-student tuition and fees collected by the RMV, as well as by automobile manufacturers and dealers and incentives provided by the insurance industry.

“Making driving affordable and accessible for low-income students is essential to providing life skills to advance their careers, for furthering their education, going to work and helping their families,” said the bill’s sponsor Rep. Carlos Gonzalez, D-Springfield.

Epinephrine in restaurants (HD 3901): Requires each restaurant to purchase and maintain a stock supply of epinephrine auto-injectors available to all customers, to be administered in the event of an aphylactic emergency. The Department of Public Health would promulgate regulations including requiring that the injectors be stored in an easily accessible unlocked location; determining the number and type of epinephrine auto-injectors required; and training for people to administer the injection.

Rep. Dan Cahill, D-Lynn, the sponsor of the bill, did not respond to repeated requests from Beacon Hill Roll Call to comment on his proposal.

Property owners can ban marijuana growing on their property (HD 4042): Allows owners of residential and commercial properties to ban the growing of medical marijuana on their property. The measure also protects owners from being charged with discrimination on the basis of a medical condition or disability.

Rep. David DeCoste, R-Norwell, the sponsor of the bill, did not respond to repeated requests from Beacon Hill Roll Call to comment on his proposal.


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