Beacon Hill Roll Call: Aug. 17 to Aug. 21, 2020

Published: 8/28/2020 1:01:34 PM

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 2020 session through Aug. 21.

The House has held 125 roll call votes so far in 2020. Beacon Hill Roll Call tabulates the number of roll calls on which each representative was present and voting and then calculates 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.

In the House, 79.8 percent (127 representatives out of 159) have 100 percent roll call attendance records. Thirty-two representatives have missed one or more roll calls.

The representative who missed the most roll calls is Rep. Hank Naughton, D-Worcester, who missed 21, resulting in an 83.2 percent attendance record.

“Any missed roll calls were due to commitments with the Massachusetts National Guard and prior personal engagements,” Naughton said.

Rounding out the top five representatives who have missed the most roll calls are Reps. Rady Mom, D-Lowell, and Tom Petrolati, D-Ludlow, who each missed 14 roll calls (88.8 percent attendance record); Bruce Ayers, D-Quincy, who missed 12 (90.4 percent attendance record); and Jose Tosado, D-Springfield, who missed 11 (91.2 percent attendance record).

“This percentage is not an accurate description of my voting history,” Ayers responded. “In early March I was on an official business trip with city leaders to increase our investment in economic partnerships between the city of Quincy and County Cork, Ireland, during which time I missed 12 votes in two days.”

Reps. Mom, Petrolati and Tosado did not respond to repeated attempts over a three-day period by Beacon Hill Roll Call asking for a comment on their attendance records.

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

Rep. Natalie Blais — 100 percent (0)

Rep. Paul Mark — 100 percent (0)

Rep. Susannah Whipps — 100 percent (0)

Also up on Beacon Hill $32.9 million in remote technology grants to school districts

The Baker Administration awarded $32.9 million in remote learning technology grants to 253 school districts across the state.

The money will be used to improve the use of technology and strengthen teaching and learning by buying computers and assistive technologies to ensure sufficient internet access for students. The grants will also cover reimbursement costs to districts that have already spent money on technology during the school closures that began in March.

“Access to technology is critical for students and their education,” said Gov. Charlie Baker. “These technology grants are just one way in which we are working with districts to help them face the challenges associated with COVID-19 and keep kids focused on learning.”

“Although these grants were inspired by needs that became apparent because of COVID-19, this technology will strengthen and improve the quality of all students’ education in a sustainable way,” said Education Secretary James Peyser.

Hearing aids (H 4298)

The Senate gave initial approval to legislation that would restore the ability of otolaryngologists — commonly known as ear, nose and throat physicians — to sell and/or dispense hearing aids to their patients.

“Massachusetts is one of only two states that does not permit otolaryngologists to sell or dispense hearing aids,” said the bill’s sponsor Sen. Diana DiZoglio, D-Methuen. “Empowering them to do so would improve patient care, allow patients to see fewer doctors and specialists, and save time, treatment costs and copayments.”

Suspend MCAS test until 2023 (H 4947)

The Education Committee accepted written testimony on a bill that would suspend the requirement that a student take the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) test to graduate, beginning in the fall of 2020 through the school year ending in 2023.

“My colleagues and my constituents all agree that it makes no sense to keep planning for a high-stakes test like MCAS when the basics of how students and teachers will go back to school is in such chaos,” said the bill’s sponsor Rep. Jim Hawkins, D-Attleboro. “There would be no relevance to the data since there was no test last year to compare to, this year many parents will opt out, and there is no way the test can be administered fairly in either a hybrid or remote classroom plan. And the part we cannot ignore is that MCAS will involve an expenditure of over $33 million to the for-profit test prep corporation at the same time as the low-income portion of the Student Opportunity Act was underfunded by some $74 million.”

Dignity Alliance Massachusetts formed in response to nursing home COVID-19 deaths

Dignity Alliance Massachusetts, a coalition of disability and senior advocacy organizations across the state, has been formed in response to the death of more than 5,600 people who died in 379 Massachusetts nursing homes since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“A comprehensive effort is needed to promote the dignity of all people in the commonwealth, especially older adults and those with disabilities,” said Arlene Germain, a co-founder of the coalition. “Dignity Alliance seeks to ensure the highest possible quality of care and quality of life for all. The eagerness of so many groups to come together this quickly tells us that the time for change is now.”

According to the coalition, the 5,600 deaths equals 15 percent of all nursing home residents in the state and some 66 percent of all COVID-19 deaths. More than 24,000 nursing home residents and staff members have tested positive. The mortality rate of infected nursing home residents is more than 22 percent, three times the rate of the general population.

“The nature and function of nursing homes has remained essentially unchanged for the past half-century,” said Paul Lanzikos, executive director of North Shore Elder Services and a former secretary of the Massachusetts Executive Office of Elder Affairs. “Virtually every segment of our society has advanced to try to serve the individualized needs of people with modernized concepts, policies and practices. It is well past time for nursing homes to meet the needs and expectations of adults and persons with disabilities.”

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