Beacon Hill Roll Call: Aug. 24 to Aug. 28, 2020

Published: 9/4/2020 12:41:12 PM
Modified: 9/4/2020 12:41:00 PM

There were no roll calls in the House or Senate last week. This week, Beacon Hill Roll Call reports on the percentage of times local senators voted with their party’s leadership in 2020 through Aug. 27.

Beacon Hill Roll Call uses 104 votes from the 2020 Senate session as the basis for this report. This includes all roll calls that were not on local issues.

The votes of the 34 Democrats were compared to Senate Majority Leader Cynthia Creem, D-Newton, second-in-command in the Senate. We could not compare the Democrats’ votes to those of Senate President Karen Spilka, D-Ashland, because, by tradition, the Senate president rarely votes.

None of the 34 Democratic senators voted with Creem 100 percent of the time. Three senators voted with Creem all but one time: Sens. Julian Cyr, D-Truro, Sal DiDomenico, D-Everett, and Adam Hinds, D-Pittsfield.

Twenty-six (76.4 percent) of the 34 Democrats voted with Creem 90 percent or more of the time. Only eight (23.6 percent) voted with Creem less than 90 percent of the time.

The Democratic senators who voted the lowest percentage of times with Creem were Sens. Anne Gobi, D-Spencer, who voted with Creem only 81.7 percent of the time; Diana DiZoglio, D-Methuen, 83.4 percent of the time; and John Velis, D-Westfield, 84 percent of the time.

The votes of three Republican senators were compared with those of GOP Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr, R-Gloucester. None of the three voted with Tarr 100 percent of the time. The Republican senator who voted the lowest percentage of times with Tarr was Sen. Ryan Fattman, R-Sutton, who voted with Tarr 93.2 percent of the time. Sen. Dean Tran, R-Fitchburg, voted with Tarr 94.1 percent of the time and Sen. Patrick O’Connor, R-Weymouth, sided with Tarr 98.0 percent of the time.

The percentage next to the senator’s name represents the percentage of times the senator supported his or her party’s leadership. The number in parentheses represents the number of times the senator opposed his or her party’s leadership.

Some senators voted on all 104 roll call votes. Others missed one or more roll call. The percentage for each senator is calculated based on the number of roll calls on which he or she voted and does not count the roll calls for which he or she was absent.

Sen. Joanne Comerford — 97.1 percent (3)

Sen. Anne Gobi — 81.7 percent (19)

Sen. Adam Hinds — 99.0 percent (1)

Also up on Beacon Hill Sexual misconduct survey (S 736)

Almost six months ago on March 5, the Higher Education Committee gave a favorable report to and recommended that the Legislature approve legislation requiring all colleges and universities in Massachusetts to biennially conduct a sexual misconduct climate survey of all students. The bill has been stuck in the Senate Ways and Means Committee since that date. The proposal was given initial approval by both the House and Senate in 2018, but never received final approval and never made it to the governor’s desk.

The survey would be anonymous and would include the number of reported incidents of sexual misconduct at the school; students’ awareness of institutional policies and procedures related to campus sexual assault; if a victim reported the sexual misconduct; if a victim was informed or referred to local, state, on campus or other resources; and victims’ access to support services including appropriate medical care, legal support and protection from retaliation.

Sexual misconduct is defined in the bill as incidents of sexual violence, dating violence, domestic violence, gender-based violence, violence based on sexual orientation or gender identity, sexual harassment and stalking.

“It is my hope that from this, we will be able to drastically decrease the number of sexually violent acts and allow students to pursue their education without the fear of such incidents occurring to them,” said Sen. Mike Moore, D-Millbury, a sponsor of the measure. “It is discouraging that given the #MeToo movement and the many high-profile sexual assault tragedies that have occurred that we have not passed a bill that has the potential to provide desperately needed protections to our students. We have extended the session through 2020 and I am hopeful that this extra time will provide us with an opportunity to vote on and pass this bill.”

“It gives people who might otherwise have no safe way to speak out about their experience an important channel, and it will also give important feedback to educational administrators,” said sponsor Sen. Will Brownsberger, D-Belmont. “I’m disappointed we haven’t made better progress, but I continue to be hopeful.”

Raise allowance for nursing home residents (S 357)

More than a year ago on May 13, 2019, the Committee on Elder Affairs gave a favorable report to and recommended the Legislature approve a proposal raising the Personal Needs Allowance (PNA) for nursing home residents from the current $72.80 monthly to $100 monthly. It also includes a provision that gives the residents an annual cost of living increase. The PNA pays for expenses not covered by Medicaid for nursing home residents. The Legislature has not yet acted on the bill.

Supporters say that the money, half of which is reimbursed with federal dollars, helps residents pay for clothing, shoes, phone calls, medicine, transportation, haircuts and other personal needs that help them maintain their dignity and well-being. They noted the $72.80 monthly allowance has not been raised in 20 years.

“I filed this bill to increase the amount to $100 and index it to inflation,” said the bill’s sponsor Sen. Pat Jehlen, D-Somerville. “People in rest homes have to stretch their PNA even more. One man testified about using it not only for medication copays but (for) Depends.

“As with so many other bills, consideration of this one has been delayed during the emergency,” Jehlen continued. “I will continue to advocate for it and will certainly refile if we’re not successful in the next three months.”

Reduce packaging waste (H 743)

More than a year ago on July 29, 2019, the Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture Committee recommended that the Legislature approve legislation that would require that beginning on Jan. 1, 2021, all retail food establishments using any food serviceware for any food prepared or packaged on the premises use biodegradable, compostable, recyclable or reusable products. The measure remains stuck in the House Ways and Means Committee.

Supporters say that most people assume that all food serviceware already meets these commonsense requirements. They note that is not true and that the problem is worsening with the advent of single-stream recycling, which allows more material to be accepted, but does not mean that all food containers put into recycling bins are actually recycled.

“I filed this bill as part of the movement to promote environmental sustainability and help limit unnecessary waste, including waste from non-biodegradable sources such as plastics and Styrofoam that typically are found in food serviceware,” said co-sponsor Rep. Mike Connolly, D-Cambridge. “Given that the COVID-19 pandemic, the immediate need for housing stability, and efforts to address police brutality and systemic racism emerged as our top areas of focus so far this year, I can appreciate that it’s been a challenge to move this bill forward at this time, but I remain committed to advancing it and will continue to advocate for it this fall.”

‘My Local MA’ campaign

The Baker Administration unveiled “My Local MA,” a new $2 million four-month campaign that will run through December, designed to encourage Massachusetts residents to support their local economies by shopping at local businesses and attractions. The campaign, directed by the Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism, will include print, broadcast, billboard and digital ads, along with social media.

“Local businesses bring out the charm and character in our neighborhoods,” notes the campaign’s website. “But they do a lot more. By choosing local, you are creating jobs in your community, fostering growth and doing good for the environment.”

The website points out that 99.5 percent of businesses in the state are small businesses, employing 1.5 million people; in 2019, small businesses created 53,980 net new jobs; and 46 percent of Massachusetts employees work for a small business.

For more information go to findmylocalma.com.

Honda to pay Massachusetts $1.7 million

Attorney General Maura Healey announced the vehicle manufacturer Honda has agreed to pay $85 million in a settlement with 48 states and territories and that Massachusetts will receive $1.7 million. The settlement is the result over allegations that the company concealed safety issues related to defects in the frontal airbag systems in certain Honda and Acura vehicles that have resulted in at least 14 deaths and more than 200 injuries in the United States.

The settlement concludes a multi-state investigation into Honda’s alleged failure to inform regulators and consumers that the airbags posed a significant risk of rupture that could cause metal fragments to fly into the passenger compartments of many Honda and Acura vehicles.

“Honda’s failure to notify consumers of defects in its vehicles’ airbags endangered thousands and put lives at risk,” Healey said. “This settlement ensures that Honda takes the necessary steps to protect consumers and fully informs them of any safety issues with Honda vehicles in the future.”

Honda or Acura vehicle owners are encouraged to visit Honda’s airbag recall website at hondaairbaginfo.com or call its customer service toll-free number at 888-234-2138, to see if their vehicle is subject to a recall and free repairs.

$13 million in Green Communities grants to cities and towns

Gov. Charlie Baker announced the awarding of $13 million in Green Communities competitive grants to 103 cities and towns across Massachusetts to fund clean energy projects.

“The Green Communities program continues to make significant progress in helping municipalities reduce their carbon footprint and save on energy costs,” Baker said. “Our administration is committed to supporting clean energy and energy efficiency efforts that make the commonwealth’s cities and towns cleaner, healthier and more affordable places to live.”

“The … program helps cities and towns make important investments at the local level to combat climate change by reducing emissions,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Kathleen Theoharides. “Air-source heat pumps, ventilation system upgrades and electric vehicle charging stations are just some of the exciting new projects that these grants will fund.”

Check out if your municipality received a grant at bit.ly/2QLKhoX.




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