Beacon Hill Roll Call: July 22 to July 26, 2019

  • AP

Published: 7/30/2019 5:52:58 PM

Beacon Hill Roll Call records the votes of local senators and representatives from the week of July 22 to 26.

$43.1 billion fiscal year 2020 state budget (H 4000)

House 159 to 0, Senate 39 to 1, approved and sent to Gov. Charlie Baker the conference committee compromise version of a $43.1 billion fiscal year 2020 state budget. Baker has 10 days to sign the budget and to veto sections of it. It would then take a two-thirds vote of the House and Senate to override any vetoes. The conference committee version was hammered out after the House and Senate each approved different budgets. The package raises spending by $1.6 billion, or 4 percent over fiscal year 2019.

“The strategic investments that are made in this budget reflect the shared priorities of the Legislature,” said House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Aaron Michlewitz, D-Boston. “By incorporating the input from our colleagues, this document has been made stronger. I am proud that key services in the areas of education, housing, homelessness and the environment will see significant funding increases in this budget.”

“This consensus fiscal year 2020 budget strikes a balance between maintaining fiscal responsibility and making targeted investments that benefit our commonwealth’s economic well-being,” said Senate Ways and Means Chairman Mike Rodrigues, D-Westport.

“I was the sole vote against the acceptance of the conference committee report because I was concerned the report’s language on offshore wind procurement left key terms undefined,” said Sen. Mark Pacheco, D-Taunton. “I brought my concerns to the Senate floor and I hope the administration was listening. The conference committee report also did not contain language for the reauthorization of simulcasting, which will end at the close of business on July 31. Despite my concerns about the conference committee report, however, I was proud to vote along with my colleagues unanimously in favor of enacting the budget because the citizens of Massachusetts depend on the resources it provides for public education, local aid, and countless other vital functions and services.”

Beacon Hill Roll Call notes that there actually was not a roll call that was unanimous on the enactment (final approval) of the budget. Enactment was approved by a voice vote.

A “Yes” vote is for the budget.

Rep. Natalie Blais — Yes

Rep. Paul Mark — Yes

Rep. Susannah Whipps — Yes

Sen. Joanne Comerford — Yes

Sen. Adam Hinds — Yes

Amendment to allowing unions to charge non-union members for some costs (S 2273)

House 29 to 128, Senate 5 to 34, rejected Gov. Charlie Baker’s amendments to a House and Senate-passed bill that would allow public sector unions to charge non-members for the cost of some services and representation. The bill was filed as a response to the Janus v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees 2018 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that public employees cannot be forced to pay fees or dues to a union to which he or she does not belong. Freedom of speech advocates hailed the decision while labor advocates said it was an unjust attack on unions.

In his message to the Legislature, Baker said his amendments would protect the privacy rights of public employees and correct statutory inconsistencies.

“Although a portion of this bill addresses issues raised in the Janus decision … other provisions in the bill go beyond what the Janus decision required,” Baker said in a message to the Legislature. “These provisions would jeopardize the privacy rights of public employees and prevent the commonwealth and public sector unions from negotiating certain terms and conditions of employment.”

“The House and Senate engaged in a serious debate regarding the substance of the governor’s amendments, and ultimately decided on a bipartisan basis to overwhelmingly support language which did not include them,” said Rep. Paul Brodeur, D-Melrose. “Ensuring that we do everything we can in Massachusetts to protect workers’ rights continues to be a top priority. I’m eager to have these worker protections become law.”

“The governor tried to strike a balance,” said Paul Craney, spokesman for the Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance, which was in favor of the amendments. “House and Senate leaders unfortunately didn’t want to cooperate with those who raised serious privacy concerns. We are hopeful the governor will veto the legislation, it’s the only appropriate response at this point.”

A “No” vote is against Baker’s amendments

Rep. Natalie Blais — No

Rep. Paul Mark — No

Rep. Susannah Whipps — No

Sen. Joanne Comerford — No

Sen. Adam Hinds — No

$1.3 billion for GreenWorks (H 39870)

House 158 to 0 approved and sent to the Senate the GreenWorks Bill, which invests $1.3 billion in resiliency, clean energy and energy efficiency to shrink the state’s carbon footprint. The proposal establishes a $1 billion grant program for cities and towns to fund clean energy, energy efficiency and climate change measures that cut greenhouse gas emissions, fortify infrastructure and reduce municipal costs.

“The GreenWorks program is going to support economic development opportunities throughout Massachusetts by helping our cities and towns adopt Massachusetts-made clean energy technology and provide jobs through green infrastructure projects,” said Rep. Smitty Pignatelli, D-Lenox, House chairman of the Committee on the Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture. “(The bill) will help the Berkshires and our entire commonwealth save money and leave more resources for other priorities such as schools, first responders, roads and bridges.”

“GreenWorks was meant to be, and is, broad and very flexible,” said Rep. Tom Golden, D-Lowell, chairman of the Committee on Telecommunication, Utilities and Energy and the bill’s chief sponsor. “It is to allow each community to identify their problems and use GreenWorks dollars to solve their issues and their problems.

“They care about their taxes, they care about their roads, they care about many things,” said Rep. Ted Speliotis, D-Danvers, during the debate. “But when you ask them or when I’m asked in my district or here what are people talking about, they’re talking about the changes in our climate and the effects — and all in the negative. In the last month, we have been barraged to a point like never in our lifetime — people fearful of going to the beaches, people fearful of their summer homes, they’re fearful of their own property — and each and every year we spend more time recouping from the damages.”

A “Yes” vote is for the bill.

Rep. Natalie Blais — Yes

Rep. Paul Mark — Yes

Rep. Susannah Whipps — Yes

Ban child marriage (S 2294)

Senate 39 to 0 approved and sent to the House a bill that would ban the marriage of anyone under the age of 18. Current law allows minors to get married if they have parental consent.

“It’s a good day in Massachusetts,” said Fraidy Reiss, founder and executive director of Unchained At Last, the group behind the ban. “The Legislature just moved one step closer to eliminating a human rights abuse that destroys girls’ lives.”

During the debate, the bill’s sponsor Sen. Harriette Chandler, D-Worcester, said that the Legislature has the power to stop child marriages in Massachusetts. She noted that Delaware and New Jersey passed similar legislation last year, making them the first states in the nation to completely ban child marriage. She noted that means that Massachusetts still has the chance to be on the forefront of justice.

“Unfortunately, 1,231 underage youth were married in Massachusetts between the years 2000 and 2016,” Chandler said. “This is a problem, because young people who marry under the age of 18 are not afforded the tools to protect themselves or to remove themselves from an abusive relationship or a forced marriage.

A Yes” vote is for the bill.

Sen. Joanne Comerford — Yes

Sen. Adam Hinds — Yes

Must update database of medical providers (S 2295)

Senate 39 to 0 approved and sent to the House legislation designed to make it easier for patients to access health care, both behavioral and physical, by requiring health insurance companies to do monthly updates of their provider databases that tell patients which doctors and other medical resources are available to them.

“Many families and individuals seeking health care are unable to find a provider that meets their needs because of outdated and unclear provider directories,” said Sen. Jason Lewis, D-Winchester, the sponsor of the proposal. “Accurate provider directories are critical to improving access to timely and appropriate care to reduce disparities, to improve health outcomes and to decrease unnecessary utilization of emergency and inpatient care. We are proud that the Senate took this important step forward today.”

A “Yes” vote is for the bill.

Sen. Joanne Comerford — Yes

Sen. Adam Hinds — Yes

Also up on Beacon Hill Prohibit taxpayer-funded abortions

The Alliance to Stop Taxpayer Funded Abortion kicked off its campaign to place a question on the 2022 ballot that simply states, “Nothing in this Constitution requires the public funding of abortion.”

Chairman of the group Tom Harvey filed the paperwork with signatures of the first 10 signers of the petition and began the long journey to get the question on the ballot. The amendment would overturn a 1981 Supreme Judicial Court ruling that found a substantive right to an abortion under the Massachusetts Constitution, paving the way for taxpayer-funded abortions.

“The annihilation of babies in the womb should not be paid for by Massachusetts taxpayers.” Harvey said. “For good reason, national polls show overwhelming opposition to taxpayer funded abortions. Instead of trying to make abortion quick, cavalier and free, we as a society owe it to women to help them choose life instead.”

“Denying people with low incomes the same access, and dignity, to make personal health decisions that people with private insurance can make runs counter to the values of our commonwealth,” said Tricia Wajda, vice president of external affairs of Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts and Planned Parenthood Advocacy Fund of Massachusetts. “Like the extreme measures passed in Alabama and Georgia, this ballot effort is part of the larger coordinated campaign to take away people’s rights and outlaw safe, legal abortion entirely. Massachusetts voters do not want political operatives wedging themselves between any person and their doctor and they reject this dangerous agenda.”

Consumer legislation

The Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure held a hearing on several proposals including:

Raffle prizes (H 287)

Requires organizations, churches and clubs to retain any unclaimed raffle prize worth more than $600 for one year and provide public notice of the winning ticket for a year.

“In the interest of consumer protection, any individual who generously contributes for the greater good of a charitable or nonprofit organization via a raffle or drawing should be allowed the opportunity to claim that prize for up to one year of the drawing date.” said Rep. Paul McMurtry, D-Dedham, the sponsor of the measure.

Allow retail stores to refuse to accept cash (S 181)

Repeals a 1978 law requiring retail stores to accept both cash and credit cards.

“With the advent of e-commerce, technological advances and corresponding changes in consumer preferences and expectations, the retail shopping experience has evolved dramatically amid a worldwide move toward cashless payments using cards or mobile devices,” said the bill’s sponsor Sen. Michael Rodrigues, D-Westport. “Right now, with Massachusetts being the only state in the country with a statute that requires retailers to accept cash (the bill) would simply strike this requirement and allow retail establishments, if they choose, to allow cashless transactions only.”

Investigate the Bay State’s minimum pricing laws (H 207)

Creates a commission to investigate the economic impact of the state’s minimum pricing laws on businesses and consumers.

“The minimum pricing laws for tobacco, alcohol and milk have existed for many years,” said sponsor Rep. Tackey Chan, D-Quincy, chairman of the Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure. “As such, it is good public policy to periodically review the impact of these laws to make sure that they are still in the best interest of Massachusetts consumers and businesses.”

A summary of the measure provided by Chan’s office says that after World War II, many minimum pricing laws were instituted as protections to prevent wholesalers and retailers from using any products as “loss leaders.”

“Technology and advances in federal law eventually made minimum pricing laws obsolete,” reads the summary.

Opponents of minimum pricing laws say they create an artificial profit subsidy for businesses and hurt retailers and consumers by making the price of some products naturally higher in Massachusetts than in neighboring states. They note that many residents go to neighboring states to purchase alcohol, milk or tobacco products at a lower price and say that the rise of internet commerce has allowed many residents to simply purchase some of these items online.

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