Beacon Hill Roll Call: Aug. 30 to Sept. 3, 2021

  • The Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure held a virtual hearing on 27 alcohol-related bills last week. File photo

Published: 9/9/2021 3:26:18 PM

There were no roll calls in the House or Senate last week.

This week, Beacon Hill Roll Call reports on the number of times in the 2021 session each senator sided with Republican Gov. Charlie Baker and voted to sustain the governor’s 15 vetoes of items, mostly in the fiscal year 2022 state budget. A vote to sustain means the senator supports Baker’s veto. A vote to override means the senator voted to fund the item despite the governor’s veto.

The current makeup of the Senate is 37 Democrats and three Republicans.

A two-thirds vote is required to override a gubernatorial veto in a full 40-member Senate when there are no vacancies. The governor needed the support of 14 senators to sustain a veto if all 40 senators voted — and fewer votes if some members were absent or there were vacancies.

Baker fell far short of that goal as six votes was the most support he received on any veto. The Senate easily overrode all 15 vetoes, including three that were overridden unanimously.

The Democrat who voted the most times with Baker to sustain his veto is Sen. Walter Timilty, D-Milton, who voted with Baker twice. Sens. Sonia Chang-Díaz, D-Boston, Diana DiZoglio, D-Methuen, Jason Lewis, D-Winchester, Marc Pacheco, D-Taunton, and Mike Rodrigues, D-Westport, each voted with Baker once.

None of the three Republicans voted with Baker 100 percent of the time. The Republican senator who voted the greatest number of times with Baker was Sen. Ryan Fattman, R-Sutton, who voted with Baker 11 times (73.3 percent of the time). Sen. Patrick O’Connor, R-Weymouth, voted with Baker only once (6.6 percent), the least number of times among Republicans. Even Republican Minority Leader Bruce Tarr, R-Gloucester, only supported Baker nine times (60 percent).

Here is how your senator fared in his or her support of Baker on vetoes through Sept. 3. The percentage next to the senator’s name represents the percentage of times the senator supported Baker. The number in parentheses represents the actual number of times the senator supported Baker.

Sen. Joanne Comerford — 100 percent (0)

Sen. Anne Gobi — 100 percent (0)

Sen. Adam Hinds — 100 percent (0)

Also up on Beacon HillAG certifies 16 possible ballot questions

Attorney General Maura Healey has determined that 16 of the 28 possible ballot question proposals have met the requirements outlined in the Massachusetts Constitution and are authorized to proceed to the next step in the process to get their question on the ballot in November 2022.

The petitions cleared include declaring Uber and Lyft and all app-based drivers to be independent contractors and granting them access to some minimum pay guarantees, sick leave and other benefits; legalizing the sale of consumer fireworks; permitting restaurants and bars to hold “happy hours” during which some alcoholic drinks are free or the price is reduced; requiring voters to show an ID before voting; and providing a tax credit for taxpayers who buy zero-emission vehicles, heating systems or home solar-powered electricity.

The next step is for supporters to gather 80,239 certified voter signatures by Dec. 1. The proposal would then be sent to the Legislature and if not approved by May 4, 2022, proponents must gather another 13,374 signatures by July 6, 2022, for the question to appear on the November 2022 ballot.

Proposed laws that were not certified include requiring paper ballots to be used and hand-counted in all Massachusetts elections; banning smoking of tobacco products, marijuana, electronic and/or battery operated cigarette or vaping devices in multi-living units; requiring that if a child is born alive, all reasonable steps, in keeping with good medical practice, must be taken to preserve his or her life; making it a felony to target a person’s ability to make a living by posting on social media and or other media platforms; and banning the teaching of critical race theory in schools by “prohibiting any teacher from presenting the nation’s history to his or her students with the specific intent of making students feel personally responsible, at fault or liable, either individually or as a member of a racial or ethnic group, for the actions or omissions of others.”

See the complete list of ballot questions and their fate at bit.ly/3yOaxnm.

Hearing on alcohol-related legislation

The Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure held a virtual hearing on 27 alcohol-related bills last week including:

Allow restaurants to offer discounted drinks (H 408): Allows restaurants that are licensed to serve alcohol to offer discounted prices on alcoholic beverages for three consecutive days between Sunday and Wednesday of each week. Under current law, passed in 1984, restaurants have been prohibited from holding “happy hours” during which some alcoholic drinks are free or the price is reduced. The 1984 law was sparked by the September 1983 death of Kathleen Barry, a 20-year-old from Weymouth, when Barry and her friend won free pitchers of beer at Braintree Ground Round. After leaving the bar, Barry and a friend climbed on top of a drunk friend’s car for a ride around a Braintree parking lot. Barry fell under the car and was dragged 50 feet to her death.

“(The bill) will give local restaurants another option to help draw in customers on days when business is typically slower,” said sponsor House Minority Leader Brad Jones, R-North Reading. “This bill does not reinstitute ‘happy hour’ policies, but is designed to avoid situations that could lead to dangerous drinking while also helping restaurants as they try to regain some of the business they’ve lost during the pandemic.”

Allow alcohol sales on Thanksgiving (H 422): Repeals a current law that requires liquor stores to be closed on Thanksgiving Day.

“Prohibiting alcohol sales on Thanksgiving likely dates back to the Blue Laws in the colonial times, when drinking alcohol on holidays was seen as unholy,” said sponsor Rep. David Linsky, D-Natick. “Massachusetts is one of only 11 states that do not offer any alcohol sales on Thanksgiving. The number of last-minute shoppers is appreciable, and because supermarkets are open, there is a consumer expectation that liquor stores are as well. Thanksgiving is not a blanket retail closure holiday and this legislation would not require that a liquor store be open on Thanksgiving, but rather give them that option.”

Allow an out-of-state driver’s license to be used to buy alcohol (S 248): Allows liquor store clerks to accept a valid photographic, non-duplicate motor vehicle license issued by other states as a valid form of ID to purchase liquor in Massachusetts.

“Currently, out-of-state licenses are not considered to be acceptable forms of identification in Massachusetts for the sale of alcohol at a retail store,” said sponsor Sen. John Velis, D-Westfield. “This can create issues for many businesses, especially in areas that rely on tourism heavily. People flock to Massachusetts for many reasons and this bill would help businesses cater to such tourists.”

Prohibit buying alcohol at self-checkout (H 363): Prohibits customers from buying alcoholic beverages in a self-checkout line at retailers and requires the sale be conducted through a face-to-face transaction with a store employee over the age of 18.

“This bill will make sure people who are purchasing alcohol are of the legal age,” said sponsor Rep. Mike Finn, D-West Springfield. “The automated or self-checkout line does not have the checks in place to make sure those buying alcohol are of age and gives minors the ability to bypass presenting ID. Having the transaction take place with the customer and … employee allows them to check for proper identification and prevent the sale of alcohol to minors.”

Liquor license suspension (H 392): Current law suspends the liquor license of and closes down for a period of time any package store that is found guilty of selling to a minor or an intoxicated individual. However, in big box stores, supermarkets, gas stations and other places where liquor sales is not their primary business, a violation results only in the closing of the liquor department. A bill, sponsored by Rep. Steven Howitt, R-Seekonk, would amend current law so that the entire establishment is closed down.

Supporters said current law creates an unfair disadvantage to the liquor stores and argued this bill levels the playing field.

“We need to protect our mom-and-pop ‘packies’ from being consumed by the big chain stores who are gobbling up licenses as the number of these licenses keeps increasing,” Howitt said.


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