Beacon Hill Roll Call: Aug. 31 to Sept. 4, 2020

Published: 9/11/2020 3:18:30 PM
Modified: 9/11/2020 3:18:15 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 representatives voted with their party’s leadership in 2020 through Sept. 4.

Beacon Hill Roll Call uses 83 votes from the 2020 House session as the basis for this report. This includes all roll calls that were not on local issues.

The votes of the 126 Democrats were compared to House Speaker Bob DeLeo, D-Winthrop. The votes of the 30 Republicans were compared to GOP House Minority Leader Rep. Brad Jones, R-North Reading.

Democrats

Twenty-one (16.6 percent) of the 126 Democratic representatives voted with DeLeo 100 percent of the time. Seventy-six (60.3 percent) voted with DeLeo between 90 and 99.9 percent of the time. Twenty-nine (23 percent) voted with DeLeo less than 90 percent of the time.

By comparison, in 2019, a total of 82 (65 percent) of the 126 Democrats voted with DeLeo 100 percent of the time. That’s nearly four times as many who voted 100 percent of the time with DeLeo in 2020.

The Democratic representative who voted the lowest percentage of times with DeLeo was Rep. Colleen Garry, D-Dracut, who voted with DeLeo only 69.5 percent of the time. Rounding out the top five Democrats who voted with DeLeo the lowest percentage of time were Reps. Angelo Scaccia, D-Boston, 81.5 percent; John Rogers, D-Norwood, 82.0 percent; and David Robertson, D-Tewksbury, and Jonathan Zlotnik, D-Gardner, both 83.1 percent.

Republicans

Only three (10 percent) of the 30 Republican representatives voted with Jones 100 percent of the time. Twenty-three (76.6 percent) voted with Jones between 90 and 99.9 percent of the time. Four (13.3 percent) voted with Jones less than 90 percent of the time.

By comparison, in 2019, a total of two (6.4 percent) of the 31 Republicans voted with Jones 100 percent of the time. That’s just one representative less than the number who voted 100 percent of the time with Jones in 2020.

The Republican representative who voted the lowest percentage of times with Jones was Rep. Nick Boldyga, R-Southwick, who voted with Jones only 87.9 percent of the time. Rounding out the top six Republicans who voted with Jones the lowest percentage of time were Reps. Peter Durant, R-Spencer, and Marc Lombardo, R-Billerica, both 87.9 percent; Shawn Dooley, R-Norfolk, 89.1 percent; and Donald Berthiaume, R-Spencer, and David DeCoste, R-Norwell, both 90.3 percent.

Percentage of times reps voted with leadership in 2020

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

Some representatives voted on all 83 roll call votes. Others missed one or more roll call. The percentage for each representative 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.

Rep. Natalie Blais, Democrat — 96.3 percent (3)

Rep. Paul Mark, Democrat — 95.1 percent (4)

Rep. Susannah Whipps — 81.7 percent (15)

Note: Because Whipps is unenrolled, her votes were compared with both DeLeo and Jones. Interestingly, she voted 87.1 percent of the time with each one of them.

Also up on Beacon Hill Two incumbents defeated in Democratic primary

Rep. David Nangle, D-Lowell, and Sen. James Welch, D-West Springfield, lost their seats to Democratic primary challengers last week.

Nangle, indicted in February on more than two dozen federal fraud charges to which he has pleaded not guilty, has served in the House for 11 terms and was a member of Speaker Bob DeLeo’s leadership team until stepping down from that post after his arrest.

Vanna Howard from Lowell, a Cambodian refugee and an aide to former U.S. Rep. Niki Tsongas, beat Nangle and Lisa Arnold in a three-way primary. There are no other candidates on the November ballot, so Howard’s primary victory is tantamount to election.

Third-term Springfield City Councilor Adam Gomez unseated Welch, the current Senate chair of the Financial Services Committee, who has served in the Senate since 2011. Welch was previously a state representative and member of the West Springfield City Council.

Veterans’ funerals (H 3217)

On March 12, the House gave initial approval to a bill that would require funeral homes to provide veterans with information about all the funeral and burial benefits available to them. The bill has been stuck in the Bills in Third Reading Committee, chaired by Rep. Bill Galvin, D-Canton, since its passage.

“The issue was brought to my attention by a family that had a funeral of a veteran family member,” said Rep. Steven Howitt, R-Seekonk, the sponsor of the bill. “They learned about VA funeral benefits after the fact. They were not advised of benefits by the funeral home. This legislation would bring additional transparency to this industry. I am disappointed that a commonsense bill, that assists veterans and their families, is not being released out of committee. I intend to correspond with the outgoing committee chair to release this bill.”

Expungement of ‘white only’ language in property deeds (H 4944)

In 1947, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that racist “white only” language in property deeds prohibiting Blacks and other racial minorities from living on the property were illegal and unenforceable. However, under current Massachusetts law, there is no mechanism in place to remove covenants from property deeds and they remain in the deeds of hundreds of homeowners across the state.

The Judiciary Committee last week accepted written testimony on legislation, filed by Rep. John Barrett, D-North Adams, that would allow the state’s land courts to approve a property owner’s request to remove racist language from their property deeds. Barrett explained that some property owners in his district brought this issue to his attention when they learned that they had a “white only” covenant in their property deed. Barrett cited one covenant that states: “No persons of any race other than the white race shall use or occupy any buildings or any lot, except that this covenant shall not prevent occupancy by domestic servants of a different race domiciled with an owner or tenant.”

“Not many were aware when they bought their homes that the covenant language was included in the deed,” said Barrett. “Knowing this language is there is unsettling, to say the least. As one homeowner said to me, ‘It is not who we are.’ This is an issue that impacts the entire commonwealth, especially where homes and developments were built prior to 1945.”

Continue the commission

The Committee on Veterans and Federal Affairs voted in favor of a bill that would extend the work of the 15-member commission created by voters via a ballot question in 2018, to research and advocate for a constitutional amendment overturning the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 ruling in Citizens United. That decision allowed corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money supporting or opposing a candidate as long as they do not coordinate directly with the candidate. The bill extends the duration of the commission until a constitutional amendment is ratified that formally overturns the Citizens United decision.

The commission’s first report, released in December 2019, said its members believe there is an abundance of evidence, and widespread concern, that there is a serious problem with the influence of money in federal, state and local elections.

The commission concluded that the degree of spending related to elections has gotten out of hand; the influence of money has eroded the principle of fairness in the electoral process; it is not fair that candidates cannot compete unless they can raise huge sums of money or have others spend in a manner that aligns with their interests; and it is not consistent with principles of republican self-governance when concentrated money distorts and overwhelms public discourse.

“We expect the commission’s second report to be released later in September,” said the bill’s sponsor Rep. Carmine Gentile, D-Sudbury. “I look forward to swift passage by the House and Senate in furtherance of the voters’ 2018 mandate to regulate campaign finance and allow limitation or prohibition of campaign spending by corporations.”

“Millions of Massachusetts residents voted to not only study the impacts of corporate funding in elections, but also to advance measures at the state level to overturn Citizens United,” said Rep. Linda Dean Campbell, D-Methuen, House chair of the Committee on Veterans and Federal Affairs. “I have heard from hundreds of voters who want to strengthen our democracy through campaign finance reforms. … I am proud to stand with these residents to take every measure we can at the state level to overturn Citizens United.”

“Citizens United allows for more speech and more voices in the political process. It should be protected at every turn,” argued Paul Craney, executive director of the Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance. “Even hard-left politicians who preach against it such as U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey are now exercising their rights under Citizens United. Gov. Charlie Baker and newly-elected Congressman Jake Auchincloss, along with Congressman Richard Neal and outgoing Congressman Joe Kennedy, have relied on it during their elections. In essence, this commission looking to overturn Citizens United is a solution in search of a problem.”

Bills sent to study committee

Most bills that are shipped off to a study committee are never actually studied and are essentially defeated. Here are three of these bills from the current session:

Allow family members to be paid caregivers for veterans (H 3227): Allows a family member to be the paid caretaker for a member of the family with a traumatic brain injury (TBI) that was sustained during military service.

“Having suffered a moderate TBI just before my redeployment from Afghanistan in 2012, I became familiar with the needs of those who were injured much more severely, and the needs of their loved ones,” said the bill’s sponsor Rep. Hank Naughton, D-Worcester. “Caring for a family member who suffered a TBI while in service to our nation and keeping that individual in the home deserves as much support we, as a state and society, can possibly provide.

“Although I will not be serving in the House’s next legislative session,” Naughton continued, “I am confident that my colleagues will continue to provide our changing veteran population with tremendous support and attention.”

Prohibit publishing names of veterans who owe taxes (H 3224): Prohibits cities and towns from publishing the name of a veteran who owes the municipality taxes. Instead, the veterans’ service officer (VSO) of the city or town would contact the veteran privately and provide him or her with information regarding their overdue tax situation. Many cities and towns publish the names of their taxpayers who owe the municipality back taxes.

“The least we can do is have our VSOs make a personal visit to the residences of those who wore the uniform of our country to inform them of any outstanding municipal tax obligations, honoring their service and maintaining their dignity,” said the bill’s sponsor Rep. Paul McMurtry, D-Dedham. “In today’s world of technology and connectivity, public notifications via newspaper is a tool of the past. There are a lot of competing legislative priorities and I do intend to re-file the legislation next session, as I have for the previous two sessions.”

Prevent first use of nuclear weapons by the U.S. (H 3211): Calls on Congress to approve legislation that would make it the policy of the United States not to start a nuclear war and not to use nuclear weapons first.

The resolution notes that the president has sole authority to order a nuclear attack without any consultation or input, and that a policy renouncing the first use of nuclear weapons would severely constrain the ability of the president to order a nuclear attack, allowing only attacks in response to a nuclear attack.

Another provision says that an estimated 14,000 nuclear weapons still exist in the world and pose an intolerable risk to humanity. The resolution also states that the United States maintains nearly 1,000 nuclear weapons on high alert, so they are ready for launch within minutes of a presidential decision to do so, making them vulnerable to accidents, unauthorized use, cyberattacks and miscalculations, and increasing the risk of nuclear war.

“I filed the bill to call on the Massachusetts congressional delegation to support No First Use legislation,” said the sponsor, Rep. Natalie Higgins, D-Leominster. “While I am disappointed that the legislation was sent to a study, I do plan to refile the legislation and continue to bring attention to this matter and build a stronger coalition in the next session.”




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