Beacon Hill Roll Call: July 26 to July 30, 2021

  • Pictured in February 2020, Franklin County Technical School health technology students Stephanie Pearson and Jon-Curtis McDermott, at right, demonstrate CPR. The House gave initial approval to a bill that would require public high school students to study and demonstrate a general knowledge of CPR and the use of defibrillators as a prerequisite for graduation. Staff File Photo/PAUL FRANZ

Published: 8/5/2021 3:48:44 PM

Beacon Hill Roll Call records the votes of local representatives and senators from the week of July 26-30.

Reinstate charitable deduction (H 4002)

The House, 124 to 35, and the Senate, 34 to 6, voted to delay for another year a tax deduction for charitable donations made by taxpayers that Massachusetts voters approved in 2000 by a 71.9 percent to 28.1 percent margin. The deduction was in effect only for one year after its passage in 2000 and its implementation has been delayed by the Legislature since that time.

Gov. Charlie Baker is against the delay.

“This deduction was approved by voters 20 years ago and slated to go into effect when state finances allow, and the combination of strong state revenues and serious needs facing nonprofits and charitable organizations necessitates this tax deduction’s going into place,” Baker said.

“While it is true that our fiscal situation has recently improved, we are not out of the woods yet, and the charitable deduction as currently designed may not be the best use of our resources going forward,” said Senate Ways and Means Committee Chair Mike Rodrigues, D-Westport.

“There are few things that Massachusetts Democrats love more than spending other people’s money and flouting the will of the taxpaying voter,” said Massachusetts Republican Party Chair Jim Lyons. “Their actions not only hurt Massachusetts taxpayers, but also the local charities that stood over the years to receive their donations. More than two decades ago, voters approved charitable tax deductions, but the Democrats will use any maneuver they can to nullify the outcome of that vote.”

“(The delay) will allow us to debate permanent changes to the tax code not solely based on current revenues, but considering its long-term impact on taxpayers, charitable organizations and tax collection,” said House Speaker Ron Mariano, D-Quincy.

A “Yes” vote is for the delay. A “No” vote is against the delay.

Rep. Natalie Blais — Yes

Rep. Paul Mark — Yes

Rep. Susannah Whipps — No

Sen. Joanne Comerford — Yes

Sen. Anne Gobi — Yes

Sen. Adam Hinds — Yes

Early release of prisoners (H 4002)

The House, 132 to 27, and the Senate, 37 to 3, overrode Gov. Baker’s veto of a section that authorizes the commissioner of corrections, if it can be done safely, to release, transition to home confinement or furlough prisoners, with prioritization given to populations most vulnerable to serious medical outcomes from COVID-19. The section also maximizes the awarding of “good time” by eliminating mandates for participation in programming for those close to their release dates and awarding credits toward reduced sentences for time served during the pandemic.

Another provision authorizes the Disability Law Center to monitor the continuity of care for Bridgewater State Hospital patients who are discharged to county correctional facilities or Department of Mental Health facilities.

In his veto message, the governor said that he struck the section because it is not consistent with his original budget proposal.

Override supporters said the veto would eliminate important measures to ensure the state’s correctional facilities remain safe and healthy environments for all prisoners and staff.

A “Yes” vote is for the section authorizing the release and furlough of prisoners and allowing the Disability Law Center to monitor the care of prisoners transferred from Bridgewater State Hospital.

Rep. Natalie Blais — Yes

Rep. Paul Mark — Yes

Rep. Susannah Whipps — Yes

Sen. Joanne Comerford — Yes

Sen. Anne Gobi — Yes

Sen. Adam Hinds — Yes

$150,000 for analysis of COVID-19’s impact on children (H 4002)

The House, 147 to 12, and the Senate, 38 to 2, overrode Gov. Baker’s veto of $150,000 to fund an analysis of and report on the existing and anticipated future impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on children’s behavioral health. The analysis and report would be done by the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children and the Children’s Mental Health Campaign.

In his veto message, the governor said, “I am vetoing this section because the Behavioral Health Roadmap, which is the product of a multi-stakeholder process, is the most comprehensive approach to identifying behavioral health needs and implementing services to provide the most effective care for all Massachusetts residents, including children.” The roadmap was developed and released by the Baker administration a few months ago.

Override supporters said this $150,000 analysis will help children whose mental health suffered as a result of the pandemic and hopefully prevent these problems during any future pandemic.

A “Yes” vote is for the $150,000 and the analysis.

Rep. Natalie Blais — Yes

Rep. Paul Mark — Yes

Rep. Susannah Whipps — Yes

Sen. Joanne Comerford — Yes

Sen. Anne Gobi — Yes

Sen. Adam Hinds — Yes

$1 million for police training (H 4002)

The House, 159 to 0, and the Senate, 40 to 0, overrode the governor’s veto of $1 million (from $4,577,545 to $3,577,545) in funding to help cities and towns pay for officer training requirements that were mandated by the 2020 law that changed the state’s policing system.

In his veto message, the governor said he reduced the funding by $1 million to provide the amount of funding that is consistent with his original budget proposal.

Override supporters said it is important for the state to fund police training that it essentially mandated in the law.

A “Yes” vote is for the $1 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

Also up on Beacon HillBring back the paper route (H 2050)

The Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development held a virtual hearing on legislation that would require all newspapers to hire newspaper delivery boys and girls to deliver newspapers on foot or by bike. The measure requires the establishment of newspaper depots to facilitate pick-up of the newspapers by the delivery boys and girls, exempts them from being required to deliver newspapers in adverse weather and requires all newspaper publishers to make alternative arrangements for delivery if the weather is a problem. Currently in Massachusetts, newspapers are delivered by adults, and paper routes for kids are a thing of the past.

The bill is proposed by Chad Widelo, a constituent of Rep. Lindsay Sabadosa, D-Northampton, who filed the bill at the request of Widelo. Massachusetts is one of a handful of states that give citizens the “right of free petition” — the power to propose their own legislation. A citizen’s proposal must be filed in conjunction with his or her representative or senator or any other representative or senator. Sometimes a legislator will support the legislation and will sponsor it along with the constituent. Other times, a legislator might disagree with the bill or be undecided about the measure but will file it anyway as a courtesy. In those cases, the bill is listed as being filed “by request” — indicating that the legislator is doing so at the request of the constituent and does not necessarily support it.

“I feel it’s time we give those looking for a good, fun, yet hard-working job that teaches responsibility, money management, interpersonal/social skills and a host of lifelong skills to the youth of the state, including myself,” Widelo said in written testimony. “I want to be a paperboy, too. Only a small part of America has paperboy delivery and it’s my sincere hope that this bill will allow all 50 states to follow suit. It’s time to bring a beloved piece of American history back to stay. This bill will bring thousands of solid jobs to the state. … With positive fitness and environmental benefits, (there is) nothing better than lowering vehicle emissions, carbon footprint and having a great job that has the potential of helping the planet, all while helping our youth be more physically fit and making lifelong memories and friendships along the way.”

Rep. Sabadosa did not respond to repeated requests by Beacon Hill Roll Call asking her if she supports or opposes the legislation.

Repeal archaic laws (S 930)

The Judiciary Committee held a virtual hearing on legislation that would repeal 27 archaic laws, still on the books in Massachusetts, which many people no longer see as criminal and/or may be unconstitutional including laws punishing sodomy; punishing people who do not observe the Lord’s day; punishing “tramps, “vagrants” and “vagabonds”; mandating religious education and reading of the Bible in public schools; prohibiting blasphemy; declaring the Communist Party a “subversive organization”; knowingly permitting a building to be used by the Communist Party; playing or singing any portion other than the entire “Star Spangled Banner” or using the song as dance music; prohibiting anyone other than a doctor from tattooing a person; prohibiting spitting, selling candy containing alcohol and misuse of the American or Massachusetts flag; and “willfully killing pigeons except on land lawfully occupied by the person.”

“I believe it is important that we continuously update the laws that are in place in the commonwealth,” said co-sponsor Sen. Mike Moore, D-Millbury. “Just like how we introduce new laws when the times call for it, we must also be willing to remove laws when they are no longer relevant to the world we live in.”

Baker signs $261.6 million supplemental budget (H 3973)

Gov. Baker signed into law a $261.6 million fiscal year 2021 supplemental budget to begin to close out the books on the fiscal year that ended on June 30. A key provision extends until Dec. 15, in time for local city and town elections, the practice of voting early by mail and of extended early voting in person that was implemented during the 2020 election held in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Other provisions in the bill include $12.5 million to cover costs related to the implementation of last year’s law making major changes in the state’s policing system; $27.9 million for one-time payments, ranging from $525 to $580 per child, to families that receive Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children benefits; $13 million for National Guard activations, including COVID-19-related activations; $7.8 million for home health aide rate increases; $5.4 million for the Chelsea and Holyoke Soldiers’ Homes for pandemic-related expenses; and the establishment of a new Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) board of directors that will replace the current Fiscal Management and Control Board.

Must learn CPR to graduate high school (H 610)

The House gave initial approval to a bill that would require public high school students to study and demonstrate a general knowledge of CPR and the use of defibrillators as a prerequisite for graduation. The bill does not require public high school students to become CPR-certified.

“As a former educator, I believe our schools will be able to integrate the new requirement into their curriculum with ease,” said co-sponsor Rep. Pat Haddad, D-Somerset. “When I last filed this bill during the 2017 to 2018 legislative session, 12 states imposed similar requirements. The number of states has since grown to 37, according to the American Heart Association. It is time we do the same here in Massachusetts.”

Shooting at a house or apartment (S 1064)

The Judiciary Committee held a virtual hearing on a proposal that would impose up to a five-year prison sentence and/or $10,000 fine on anyone who discharges an assault weapon, firearm, large capacity weapon, machine gun, rifle, sawed-off shotgun or shotgun into a dwelling.

Under current law, a person who fires in a residential area can only be prosecuted for the misdemeanor of discharging a firearm within 500 feet of a dwelling.

“This charge is disproportionate to the severity of any incident in which gunfire is directed at a home,” said co-sponsor Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Lowell. “Acts of this nature leave people living in a constant state of anxiety that innocent family members will be seriously injured or even killed in their homes.”

Kennedy said this crime, primarily perpetrated by gang members, has become an epidemic in cities across the state. He noted that shooting at or into a home is often used as an intimidation tactic without regard for the innocent people on the other side of those walls.

“As lawmakers, it is our duty to equip law enforcement officials and prosecutors with the means to protect the communities we all serve,” Kennedy continued. “This bill creates a new felony charge for intentionally striking a home with gunfire, punishing those convicted of that crime with up to five years in prison. This is an important tool that will help public safety and law enforcement officials disrupt gang violence and protect our neighborhoods.”

“Sadly, Lowell continues to experience random acts of gun violence,” said co-sponsor Rep. Rady Mom, D-Lowell. “Within days of this hearing, Lowell had another violent shooting into a house where two young children and their parents resided. Luckily the children were not physically hurt, but the trauma of the attack will be lasting. Punishments must be tougher to deter future incidents.”

Free menstrual products in schools (H 690)

The House gave initial approval to a measure that would require all public elementary, junior high and high schools in Massachusetts serving students from grade six through grade 12 to provide, at no cost, disposable menstrual products including tampons and sanitary napkins in the restrooms of the school buildings.

“Requiring schools to provide free menstrual products will not only reduce distractions throughout the day, but will also reduce embarrassment by guaranteeing that essential health items are readily available when needed,” said sponsor Rep. Jeff Roy, D-Franklin. “Such access ensures that students can attend classes and participate in extracurricular activities without interruption. Toilet paper and paper towels are available free of charge at high schools and middle schools, and menstrual products are no less essential to a student’s well-being. No student should face any barrier, financial or otherwise, to accessing basic health essentials.”


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