Beacon Hill Roll Call: Dec. 28, 2020 to Jan. 1, 2021

Published: 1/8/2021 3:17:27 PM
Modified: 1/8/2021 3:17:13 PM

Beacon Hill Roll Call records local representatives’ and senators’ votes on roll calls from the week of Dec. 28, 2020 to Jan. 1, 2021.

Override veto of bill to increase abortion access (H 5179)

The House, 107 to 50, and the Senate, 32 to 8, overrode Gov. Charlie Baker’s veto of a bill that would allow abortions after 24 weeks in the case of lethal fetal anomalies and lower the age from 18 to 16 at which a minor can choose to have an abortion without parental or judicial consent.

“I strongly support a woman’s right to access reproductive health care, and many provisions of this bill,” Baker said in a letter that accompanied his veto. “However, I cannot support the sections of this proposal that expand the availability of later-term abortions and permit minors age 16 and 17 to get an abortion without the consent of a parent or guardian.”

“With the passing of the ROE Act, Massachusetts has codified reproductive rights, protected vulnerable populations, empowered women, created an environment for healthier families, combated racial injustice, and made it loud and clear, that Massachusetts values are contrary to the values of the current president, and the deeply conservative Supreme Court that Donald Trump and his right-wing colleagues and allies have helped create,” said Sen. Jamie Eldridge, D-Acton, Senate chair of the Judiciary Committee.

“The ROE Act was introduced nearly two years ago,” said Myrna Maloney Flynn, president of Massachusetts Citizens for Life. “Every day since then, thousands of Massachusetts Citizens for Life members, who reside in every corner of our state, used their voices to speak for those who cannot. They learned the truth about this irresponsible and dangerous legislation and bravely spread that truth within their communities — even during a pandemic. Almost as disheartening as this new law is the fact that legislators rammed this damaging bill through during COVID-19, inserting it into the state budget, knowing our opposition could not fight it in person due to quarantine restrictions.”

A “Yes” vote is for the bill expanding abortion.

Rep. Natalie Blais — Yes

Rep. Paul Mark — Yes

Rep. Susannah Whipps — Yes

Sen. Joanne Comerford — Yes

Sen. Anne Gobi — Yes

Sen. Adam Hinds — Yes

More vetoes

Gov. Baker vetoed millions of dollars in funding in the $46.2 billion fiscal year 2021 state budget. His reason for vetoing the funding was because it was not consistent with the budget he had filed.

Override supporters defended the funding and the programs, and said cutting them would be irresponsible and result in a cut in services.

Here are some of the vetoes:

$121,395 for state Commission Against Discrimination (H 5164)

The House, 144 to 11, and the Senate, 38 to 1, overrode Gov. Baker’s $121,395 veto reduction (from $4,169,189 to $4,047,794) in funding for the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD). According to its website, MCAD’s mission is to “eradicate discrimination in the commonwealth by investigating and prosecuting complaints of discrimination that occur in employment, housing, public places, access to education, lending and credit.” MCAD also offers training to help prevent discrimination from occurring.

A Yes” vote is for the $121,395.

Rep. Natalie Blais — Yes

Rep. Paul Mark — Yes

Rep. Susannah Whipps — Yes

Sen. Joanne Comerford — Yes

Sen. Anne Gobi — Yes

Sen. Adam Hinds — Yes

$191,845 for Ethics Commission (H 5164)

The House, 147 to 8, and the Senate, 38 to 1, overrode Gov. Baker’s $191,845 veto reduction (from $2,583,694 to $2,391,849) in funding for the State Ethics Commission. According to its website, the commission “administers and enforces the provisions of the conflict-of-interest law and financial disclosure law.”

A “Yes” vote is for the $191,845.

Rep. Natalie Blais — Yes

Rep. Paul Mark — Yes

Rep. Susannah Whipps — Yes

Sen. Joanne Comerford — Yes

Sen. Anne Gobi — Yes

Sen. Adam Hinds — Yes

$12,448 for Division of Local Mandates (H 5164)

The House, 126 to 30, and the Senate, 38 to 1, overrode Gov. Baker’s $12,448 veto reduction (from $381,474 to $369,026) in funding for the Division of Local Mandates. According to its website, the division “responds to requests from local government leaders to determine if a state law is an unfunded mandate on municipalities. In addition, we serve as a source of information on issues harming municipal budgets and provide recommendations to address those issues.”

A “Yes” vote is for the $12,448.

Rep. Natalie Blais — Yes

Rep. Paul Mark — Yes

Rep. Susannah Whipps — Yes

Sen. Joanne Comerford — Yes

Sen. Anne Gobi — Yes

Sen. Adam Hinds — Yes

$19 million for MassHealth (H 5164)

The House, 124 to 31, and the Senate, 37 to 2, overrode Gov. Baker’s veto of $19 million funding for MassHealth for expanded dental benefits for adult members.

A “Yes” vote is for the $19 million.

Rep. Natalie Blais — Yes

Rep. Paul Mark — Yes

Rep. Susannah Whipps — Yes

Sen. Joanne Comerford — Yes

Sen. Anne Gobi — Yes

Sen. Adam Hinds — Yes

$2.4 million for Cannabis Control Commission(H 5164)

The House, 127 to 28, and the Senate, 37 to 2, overrode Gov. Baker’s $2,427,239 million veto reduction (from $12,400,000 to $9,972,761) in funding for the Cannabis Control Commission (CCC). According to its website, the commission honors “the will of the voters of Massachusetts by safely, equitably and effectively implementing and administering the laws enabling access to medical and adult use marijuana.”

A “Yes” vote is for the $2.4 million.

Rep. Natalie Blais — Yes

Rep. Paul Mark — Yes

Rep. Susannah Whipps — Yes

Sen. Joanne Comerford — Yes

Sen. Anne Gobi — Yes

Sen. Adam Hinds — Yes

House elects Rep. Mariano speaker

Former House Speaker Robert DeLeo resigned to take a job at Northeastern University. His second-in-command, Majority Leader Ron Mariano, D-Quincy, was easily elected as the new speaker of the House. Mariano received 123 votes. GOP Rep. Brad Jones (R-North Reading), the current minority leader, received 31 votes.

Rep. Natalie Blais, Rep. Paul Mark and Rep. Susannah Whipps all voted for Mariano.

Also up on Beacon Hill Changes in policing (S 2963)

Gov. Baker signed into law the bill making major changes in the state’s policing system. A key provision creates an independent, civilian-led commission with the power to investigate police misconduct and to certify, restrict, revoke or suspend certification for police officers and maintain a publicly available database of decertified officers. Other provisions include banning the use of chokeholds; limiting the use of deadly force; requiring police officers who witness another officer using force beyond what is necessary or reasonable to intervene; and limiting no-knock police warrants in instances where children or people over 65 are present.

“This legislation is an important step toward realizing the urgent action demanded by the movement that was energized this summer by marches in the streets and speeches in front of the Statehouse,” said Rep. Russell Holmes, D-Boston. “While we are glad this bill is now signed into law, we must now also reflect on the importance of this fight and resolve to build on these reforms in the future.”

The Massachusetts Coalition of Police (MCOP), which represents 4,300 uniformed law enforcement officers in the state, opposed much of the bill and said that Baker’s signing of it would represent him “changing the police profession in Massachusetts forever.” The coalition noted that “a lack of proper examination and study into a number of crucial portions of this bill will result in collateral damage that will have a negative impact on many of our communities.”

When the original conference committee version of the bill was approved on Dec. 1, leaders of MCOP said in a letter that the legislation leaves police “disregarded, dismissed and disrespected.” The coalition still has major problems with the new version.

“Our efforts, and those of other police organizations, made an impact in important areas, such as preserving qualified immunity for most police officers and ensuring that police training will continue to be overseen by qualified public safety personnel,” reads MCOP’s latest letter to its members. “Unfortunately, the legislative process around police reform was mostly opaque, as opposed to transparent. It almost completely excluded law enforcement, even though police officers and their families will be directly impacted more than anyone else in the commonwealth. And finally, the conference committee report completely ignored the historic consensus that had been achieved between law enforcement and the Black and Latino caucus.”

Supplier Diversity Office (S 2937)

The Senate 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. The House has already approved the proposal.

Sen. Marc Pacheco, D-Taunton, the 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 inter-agency access.

“That access is critical to the office’s mission of assisting diverse and small businesses,” 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.”

Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (H 2948)

The House gave initial approval to a bill that applies the federal law known as the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act to any museums and state agencies that receive state or local funding in Massachusetts.

The federal law, according to the National Park Service’s website, “requires that federal agencies and museums receiving federal funds inventory holdings of Native American human remains, funeral-related and sacred objects, and provide written summaries of other cultural items. The agencies and museums must consult with (Native American) tribes and Native Hawaiian organizations to attempt to reach agreements on the repatriation or other disposition of these remains and objects. Once lineal descent or cultural affiliation has been established, and in some cases the right of possession also has been demonstrated, lineal descendants, affiliated (Native American) tribes or affiliated Native Hawaiian organizations normally make the final determination about the disposition of cultural items.”

“The fundamental concept of the proposed state law is to build on the protections set forth under federal law … to explicitly incorporate such protections into Massachusetts state law,” said the bill’s co-sponsor Rep. John Rogers, D-Cambridge.

Zero newborn abandonments in 2020

Baby Safe Haven New England announced that Massachusetts had zero baby abandonments in 2020. In 2004, the Legislature passed a law that allows a parent to surrender newborn infants seven days old or younger at a hospital, police station or manned fire station without facing criminal prosecution.

Before the law, there was an average of 3.2 newborn abandonments in the state per year, with half of them resulting in death. In the past eight years, there has only been one abandonment. The United States is averaging 100 deadly abandonments every 18 to 22 months.

The group says this best-in-the-nation record is attributed to its youth-led awareness program and protocols.

“It’s so important that we spokespeople continue making connections,” said Madelyn Paquette, spokesperson for Baby Safe Haven New England. “Peer-to-peer is the most successful way to impact young people because it’s like an open conversation between friends, instead of older folks potentially coming off as lecturing. We can’t wait for concerts and porch fests to resume so we can spread our message through music again.”

$4 million for electric vehicle charging

The Baker Administration announced that an additional $4 million has been made available to support new and enhanced electric vehicle charging infrastructure programs. These programs, part of the Massachusetts Electric Vehicle Incentive Program, are funded by the 2017 settlement of the Volkswagen diesel emissions court case. The funds include $1.5 million for fast-charging stations, $1.5 million for public-access charging stations, and $1 million for workplace and fleet charging station infrastructure. These funds are in addition to $5 million that has already been made available.

“Our administration is investing in the electrifying the transportation sector to combat climate change while protecting public health and boosting the commonwealth’s economy,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Kathleen Theoharides. “These programs will help build upon Massachusetts’ existing charging infrastructure with faster technology to support thousands of drivers who will be able to charge their vehicles in a matter of minutes.”

$1.24 million in pay hikes per year for legislators, governor, others

A total of $1.24 million per year is the annual estimated price tag for the salary hikes given to the governor, lieutenant governor, treasurer, secretary of state, attorney general, auditor, 40 senators and 160 representatives.

Gov. Baker announced the 200 members of the Legislature will get a 6.46 percent pay hike for the 2021 to 2022 legislative session that began Jan. 6. The hike will increase the base salary of each senator and representative by $4,280 per year — from the current $66,257 to $70,537. The total cost of the hike for all 200 legislators is $856,000 per year.

Baker is required under the state constitution to determine the amount of a pay raise or cut that state legislators would receive. All Massachusetts governors are obligated to increase or decrease legislative salaries biennially under the terms of a constitutional amendment approved by the voters in 1998. The amendment requires legislative salaries to be “increased or decreased at the same rate as increases or decreases in the median household income for the commonwealth for the preceding two-year period, as ascertained by the governor.”

Baker said he used the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey to calculate that median household income in Massachusetts for that two-year period had grown $5,208 from $80,633 to $85,841 (or 6.46 percent).

A second pay hike for close to 70 percent of the state’s 200 legislators also took effect Jan. 6. An estimated 139, or 69.5 percent, of the state’s 200 legislators receive a stipend for their service in Democratic or Republican leadership positions, as committee chairs or vice chairs, and as the ranking Republican on some committees. All 40 senators and 99 of the 160 representatives receive this bonus pay ranging from $16,245 to $86,640.

A pay raise approved by the Legislature in 2017 requires that every two years the stipends of these 139 legislators are increased or decreased based on data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) that measures the quarterly change in salaries and wages. This year, Treasurer Deb Goldberg’s office said that based on that formula, these stipends will increase by 4.89 percent, and in 2021 to 2022 will range from $17,039 per year to $90,876 per year. That means the total of the stipends will increase by $165,104 per year.

The highest legislative increases will go to newly-elected House Speaker Ron Mariano, D-Quincy, and Senate President Karen Spilka, D-Ashland, who currently earn $152,897 made up of the $66,257 base salary and an $86,640 bonus for being House speaker and Senate president. Mariano and Spilka’s annual salary increases to $161,413.

The 2017 law also requires that every two years the salaries of the governor and the other five constitutional statewide officers be increased or decreased based on the same data from the BEA. This 4.89 percent bump hikes the governor’s salary by $9,797, from $200,355 to $210,152. Add Baker’s $60,000 housing allowance and the total rises to $270,152.

Other hikes include the lieutenant governor, auditor and secretary of state by $8,738, from $178,695 to $187,433; and the state treasurer and attorney general by $9,267, from $189,525 to $198,792.

The 4.89 percent hike also applies to the general expense allowance each senator and representative receives. Members whose districts are within a 50-mile radius of the State House currently receive $16,250 per year while members beyond the 50 miles receive $21,660 per year. The $16,250 will increase by $794 to a total of $17,044. The $21,660 will increase by $1,059 to a total of $22,729. The estimated grand total of the hike for the 200 legislators is $172,050.

This allowance is used at the discretion of individual legislators to support a variety of costs including the renting of a district office, contributions to local civic groups, and the printing and mailing of newsletters.

Beacon Hill Roll Call reached out to dozens of legislators from both parties to comment on the hikes but received no responses.

Critics of the hikes were quick to respond.

“This is a great illustration of the divide among us,” said Paul Craney, executive director of the Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance. “Politicians and the professional government class shut down countless businesses while never missing a paycheck, and in this case, giving themselves unjustified pay raises.”

Health care and telehealth (S 2984)

Gov. Baker signed into law a bill that requires behavioral health treatment delivered via telehealth to be permanently reimbursed by insurers at the same rate as in-person services. A similar reimbursement structure will also be implemented for primary care and chronic disease management services delivered via telehealth for two years. All other telehealth services will be reimbursed at the same rate as in-person services for the duration of the COVID-19 state of emergency, and 90 days after its expiration.

The new law also eliminates “surprise billing,” the much-criticized practice of charging patients who received health care services outside of their insurance plan’s network for costs that insurers refuse to pay.

Other provisions would allow registered nurse practitioners, nurse anesthetists and psychiatric nurse mental health specialists who meet specific education and training standards to practice independently; recognize pharmacists as health care providers, enabling them to integrate more fully into coordinated care teams; allow Massachusetts optometrists to treat glaucoma; and ensure that critical services related to treatment of COVID-19 will be covered by insurance carriers, including MassHealth, at no cost to consumers.

Ban toxic flame retardants (S 2338)

Gov. Baker signed into law legislation that bans 11 toxic flame retardants from children’s products, bedding, carpeting and residential upholstered furniture sold or manufactured in Massachusetts, except for inventory already manufactured prior to Dec. 1, 2021. Another provision requires the Department of Environmental Protection to review, at least every three years, chemical flame retardants used in these types of products and include them on the list of prohibited chemical flame retardants that are documented to pose a health risk. Violators will be fined up to $5,000 for a first offense, $25,000 for a second offense and up to $50,000 for third and subsequent offenses. Motor vehicles, watercraft, aircraft, all-terrain vehicles, off-highway motorcycles and electronic devices are exempt from this law as are any previously owned products that contain a retardant.




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