Beacon Hill Roll Call: Dec. 14 to Dec. 18, 2020

Published: 12/25/2020 5:00:22 PM

Beacon Hill Roll Call records local representatives’ and senators’ votes on roll calls from the week of Dec. 14 to Dec. 18.

Governor’s abortion amendments (H 5179)

The House, 49 to 107, and the Senate, 8 to 32, rejected Gov. Charlie Baker’s amendments to a section of the state budget approved by the House and Senate that changes some of the abortion laws in the state. The section lowers the age from the current 18 to 16 at which a minor can choose to have an abortion without parental or judicial consent. Baker’s amendment would bring the age back to 18.

Baker’s amendments also would have changed language in another section related to abortions after 24 weeks of pregnancy. The Legislature’s bill would permit abortions after 24 weeks “if it is necessary, in the best medical judgment of the physician, to preserve the patient’s physical or mental health.” The governor proposed changing the condition to “if a continuation of the pregnancy will impose, in the best medical judgment of the physician, a substantial risk to the patient’s physical or mental health.”

“(The bill) affirmatively establishes in Massachusetts law a woman’s right to access an abortion,” said Gov. Baker in his letter to the Legislature that accompanied the veto. “It also ensures that a woman can access an abortion in cases where the child will not survive after birth. These are important changes to protect a woman’s reproductive rights and autonomy in the commonwealth, and I support them. However, I cannot support the other ways that this section expands the availability of late-term abortions and permits minors age 16 and 17 to get an abortion without the consent of a parent or guardian.”

“One month ago, we stood in this chamber and took action to protect access to safe and legal abortion care for women in the commonwealth,” said Rep. Claire Cronin, D-Easton, the House chair of the Judiciary Committee. “The governor’s amendment threatens this significant progress as it would reinstate barriers and curtail protections contained in the conference committee report.”

“Nine days before Christmas, 107 legislators voted to expand late-term abortions, let 16- and 17-year-old girls get abortions without their parents even knowing and allow abortionists to refuse care to babies born alive,” said Massachusetts Family Institute President Andrew Beckwith. “This is mind-numbingly evil.”

“Gov. Baker’s proposed amendments would have completely undermined lawmakers’ efforts to protect and expand abortion access by pushing life-saving abortion care later in pregnancy out of reach and by fully maintaining our state’s racist and discriminatory, anti-choice barriers for vulnerable young people,” read a statement from The ROE Act Coalition, which includes the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Massachusetts, NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts and Planned Parenthood Advocacy Fund of Massachusetts.

A “No” vote is against Gov. Baker’s amendments.

Rep. Natalie Blais — No

Rep. Paul Mark — No

Rep. Susannah Whipps — No

Sen. Joanne Comerford — No

Sen. Anne Gobi — No

Sen. Adam Hinds — No

Doctor must use life-saving equipment (H 5179)

The House, 34 to 120, rejected an amendment to a section of the state budget approved by the House and Senate that would require the facility where a post 24-week abortion is performed to maintain life-supporting equipment but would also mandate that the doctor use the equipment to preserve the life and health of a live birth baby and the patient. The amendment was sponsored by Rep. Marc Lombardo, R-Billerica, and supported by Rep. Alyson Sullivan, R-Abington.

“In Massachusetts, we require health care be given to terrorists who are injured, like the Marathon Bomber,” Lombardo said. “We certainly should continue to require that physicians give health care to innocent babies when born. It’s shocking that Beacon Hill has become so radical that the left now supports removing the health care requirement for babies born alive surviving an abortion. It’s barbaric and it’s infanticide.”

“The Lombardo amendment is based on false claims, dangerous myths and lies,” said Rebecca Hart Holder, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts. “It has absolutely nothing to do with how abortion care actually works. The goal of their amendment is obvious — to shame women seeking abortion care, foster mistrust of physicians who provide compassionate care and put abortion care out of reach all in an attempt to control women and pregnant people’s bodies. The House overwhelmingly defeated the amendment because they know it is irresponsible and shameful to ignore science and spread medically inaccurate information.”

Rep. Claire Cronin, D-Easton, the House chair of the Judiciary Committee, opposed the amendment.

“The doctor is still bound by the requirements of good medical practice and consistency with the procedure being used that exist in the current law,” she said. “We as lawmakers are not medical doctors. We don’t know the circumstances of every situation. There may be cases where administering certain types of care is warranted, but conversely, there may be situations where it is not. We need to allow physicians to provide medically appropriate care during these heart-wrenching scenarios where the woman’s life or health is in danger or the baby will not survive outside the womb. This amendment prevents a physician from making the decisions that are medically appropriate for the woman and her family.”

A “No” vote is against the amendment requiring use of the equipment.

Rep. Natalie Blais — No

Rep. Paul Mark — No

Rep. Susannah Whipps — No

Also up on Beacon Hill Speaker to resign

The buzz at the State House last week was that House Speaker Bob DeLeo, D-Winthrop, now in his 12th year as speaker, would soon resign from the House and take a job at Northeastern University. On Dec. 16, the report was denied by DeLeo’s office.

“The speaker has had no such talks with, much less does he have any agreement with, Northeastern University,” DeLeo’s spokesperson Catherine Williams told the State House News Service in a one-sentence statement.

Two days later on Dec. 18, DeLeo filed a letter with House Clerk Steve James.

“I write to disclose that I intend to begin negotiating prospective employment opportunities with Northeastern University,” the letter reads. “As of today, I have not personally had any discussion with anyone from Northeastern University relative to any possible employment opportunities.”

The letter continued, “I requested that my personal legal counsel contact the Massachusetts State Ethics Commission to discuss my status and to ensure compliance with the requirements of the Conflict of Interest Law. Although based on my current status, a disclosure is not required, I have nevertheless elected to disclose my intention to begin negotiating prospective employment opportunities with Northeastern University out of an abundance of caution.”

Part 2 of the buzz was that if DeLeo does get the job at Northeastern University and resigns, his second-in-command, House Majority Leader Ron Mariano, D-Quincy, who has been at DeLeo’s side since he became speaker, would run for speaker. That also turned out to be true.

“If Speaker DeLeo resigns, I will be a candidate for Speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives,” Mariano said on Dec. 18. “I believe I have earned the trust and confidence of my colleagues and that I have gained their support to lead the House forward.”

In the meantime, five-term incumbent Rep. Russell Holmes, D-Boston, the past leader of the Black and Latino Legislative Caucus, announced his definite plans to run for speaker if DeLeo resigns. Holmes has criticized DeLeo for years including the time he told Beacon Hill Roll Call that “the speaker is like a shepherd leading a flock of sheep.”

“I’m running because of the many conversations that I have had with members of how the power and influence in this building is concentrated in just a few people,” Holmes said in a letter to his colleagues. “I’m running because you have all worked very hard to get here and our constituents expect us to be at the forefront for change in this country. We can’t deliver to our fullest potential until we are all respected as equals and we do not operate and make decisions out of fear and thoughts of retribution.”

Sexual misconduct on college campuses (S 2580)

The Senate approved and sent to the House a bill that would require public and private institutions of higher education in the state to conduct high-quality campus sexual misconduct climate surveys at least once every four years and annually report survey results on its website.

Provisions include requiring colleges and universities to adopt policies on sexual misconduct involving students and employees and publish the policies on their websites; requiring these schools to adopt memorandums of understanding with local law enforcement agencies to establish respective roles and responsibilities for each party related to the prevention and response to on-campus and off-campus sexual misconduct; requiring schools to provide campus safety and sexual misconduct data and outreach information in an accessible format on their websites and contact information for resources available to reporting students and employees; and requiring all colleges and universities to provide free access to a sexual assault crisis service center either on-campus or off-campus by entering into a memorandum of understanding with a sexual assault crisis center and a domestic violence program.

Sens. Michael Moore, D-Millbury, Will Brownsberger, D-Belmont, and Adam Hinds, D-Pittsfield, all sponsored earlier versions of the bill and also supported the new version that was drafted by the Senate Ways and Means Committee.

“Making sure that colleges and universities in the commonwealth are as best equipped as possible to handle cases of sexual assault has been one of my top priorities,” Moore said. “By providing a comprehensive framework for our higher education institutions, we will ensure that alleged instances of sexual assault are properly handled.”

“Survivors need a channel to speak about their experiences,” Brownsberger noted. “This bill will help and will also promote safer campus environments.”

“We must create a culture and a system that supports the community members of higher educational institutions who report acts of sexual violence and thoroughly investigates those reports,” Hinds said. “I plan to work alongside the Legislature to enact a strong set of standards that college communities can rely on.”

Supplier Diversity Office (S 2937)

The House approved Gov. Baker’s proposal that would make the Supplier Diversity Office (SDO) an independent agency and transfer it from the Operational Services Division to the Executive Office for Administration and Finance.

“This legislation … establishes the SDO as an independent agency,” the governor said in a message he filed along with the measure. “This transfer will empower the SDO to be more responsive to the needs of minority, women, veteran, service-disabled veteran, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender and disability-owned businesses as well as small Massachusetts businesses, and increase opportunities for these types of businesses to seek certification, information about supplier diversity programs, training, technical assistance and capacity-building services.

Sen. Marc Pacheco, D-Taunton, Senate chair of the Joint Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight, said the transfer will re-establish SDO’s authority and provide more meaningful interagency access.

“That access is critical to the office’s mission of assisting diverse and small businesses throughout the commonwealth,” Pacheco continued. “This legislation will ensure that the office has the ability to report back trends and data that help identify issues and inform policy decisions. I look forward to its implementation for better administrative oversight and collaboration across the various agencies.”

The transfer still needs Senate approval for it to go into effect.

Ban open containers of marijuana in vehicles (H 3514)

The House sent off to a study committee — where it will never be studied and is essentially defeated — legislation that would make it illegal to have an open container of marijuana while driving, treating it the same way the state treats open containers of beer and alcohol.

“There has been a surge in drugged driving cases and unfortunately law enforcement officers don’t have all the tools they need to combat this problem,” said Rep. Nicholas Boldyga, R-Southwick. “This bill would’ve assisted law enforcement in doing their job to make our streets safer. This was a commonsense bill, simple and to the point. By sending the bill ‘to a study’ my colleagues are effectively killing it and sending a message that they aren’t serious about keeping our streets safe.”

Raise age for purchasing marijuana (H 3534)

A proposal that would raise from 21 to 25 the age at which a person can legally purchase marijuana was also sent off to a study committee, ensuring its demise.

Supporters say many neurological studies have shown that the human brain is not fully developed until age 25 and that using marijuana prior to age 25 can interfere with brain development and potentially affect important skills.

“In my opinion, the most important aspect of legalized marijuana is ensuring our young people’s safety,” said the bill’s sponsor Rep. James O’Day, D-West Boylston. “My support for this legislation is strictly due to data around brain development and how we can prevent negative impacts on young people’s memory, learning and attention skills.

“I would have preferred (the bill) to have more debate and discussion this session, but I am aware of the strong marijuana lobbying efforts,” O’Day continued. “I support legalized marijuana and understand this particular effort to change the law would go against the majority who support legal consumption at age 21. However, I do plan on filing the legislation again next session.”


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