Beacon Hill Roll Call: March 29 to April 2, 2021

Published: 4/9/2021 2:39:53 PM

There were no roll calls in the House and Senate last week. This week, Beacon Hill Roll Call reports on the number of times each representative sided with Gov. Charlie Baker on his 151 vetoes of items in the 2020 session.

A two-thirds vote is required to override a gubernatorial veto. In a full 160-member House, the governor needed the support of 54 representatives to sustain a veto when all 160 representatives voted — and fewer votes when some members were absent, or a seat was vacant. Baker fell short of that goal as 46 votes was the most support he received on any veto. The House easily overrode all 151 vetoes, including 12 that were overridden unanimously.

It was mostly the 31 GOP members who voted with the Republican governor to sustain the vetoes. No representatives voted with Baker 100 percent of the time.

The three GOP members who voted with Baker the most times are Reps. Donald Berthiaume, R-Spencer, who voted with Baker 128 times (84.7 percent); Shawn Dooley, R-Norfolk, 119 times (78.8 percent); and David DeCoste, R-Norwell, 116 times (76.8 percent).

The three GOP members who supported Baker the least number of times were Reps. David Vieira, R-Falmouth, who sided with the governor only 41 times (27.1 percent); Timothy Whelan, R-Brewster, 60 times (40.5 percent); and Nicholas Boldyga, R-Southwick, 79 times (52.3 percent).

The vetoes had little support among the 127 Democrats in the House. Only 22 (17.3 percent) of the chamber’s 127 Democrats voted with Baker to sustain any vetoes, while the other 105 (82.7 percent) did not support the governor even once. The Democratic representative who supported Baker the most times was Rep. Mike Connolly, D-Cambridge, who sided with Baker 11 times (7.2 percent).

Here is how your representative fared in his or her support of Baker on the vetoes. The percentage next to the representative’s name represents the percentage of times he or she supported Baker. The number in parentheses represents the actual number of times he or she supported Baker.

Some representatives voted on all 151 roll call votes. Others missed one or more of the 151 votes. Each record is based on the number of roll calls on which a representative voted and does not count the roll calls for which he or she was absent.

Rep. Natalie Blais — 0 percent (0)

Rep. Paul Mark — 0 percent (0)

Rep. Susannah Whipps — 0 percent (0)

Also up on Beacon Hill Help businesses and workers (H 90)

Baker signed into law a bill that supporters said will stabilize the state’s unemployment system and provide targeted tax relief to employers and workers. The governor also returned some sections of the bill with amendments that the Legislature will consider.

Provisions exclude Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans from being taxed by the state in 2020; exclude $10,200 of unemployment compensation received by an individual with a household income of less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level from gross income for tax purposes; and create a mechanism ensuring all employees will be able to access 40 hours of paid sick time for any COVID-19-related issues, including testing positive, needing to quarantine or caring for a loved one.

Other provisions waive penalties on unemployment insurance taxes, freeze unemployment insurance rates paid by employers and extend the state’s tax filing deadline from April 15 to May 17. Businesses would also face a new surcharge, in the form of an excise tax on employee wages, through December 2022 to help repay interest due in September on the federal loans.

“Since the start of the new legislative session, my colleagues and I have been working together to put forward a bill to address these important issues, and I am proud to say that we have delivered,” said Sen. Patrick O’Connor, R-Weymouth. “People should not have to choose between putting food on the table or potentially risk spreading COVID-19 even further. Likewise, small businesses and residents should not be punished for accepting help when they needed it the most.”

“This legislation offers many important benefits for employees as well as small business owners,” said House Minority Leader Brad Jones, R-North Reading. “Massachusetts workers will now have access to COVID-related paid sick leave, and many lower-income individuals who collected unemployment will see their tax liability reduced. By mitigating the impacts of unemployment insurance rate increases and waiving state taxes on forgiven Paycheck Protection Program loans, this bill will also protect small businesses still struggling from the fallout of the pandemic from what would have been a devastating financial hit.”

More of the bills that were filed for consideration in the 2021-2022 session

Legislators have filed more than 6,500 bills for consideration in the 2021 to 2022 session. Here are some of the proposals filed by the state’s 40 senators:

LGBTQ families (SD 2478): Requires health insurers in Massachusetts to provide coverage for medically necessary expenses related to diagnosing infertility and fertility treatment, and prohibits the establishment from making any conditions to receiving these benefits based on required waiting periods, number of attempts, prior treatment, age, sexual orientation or familial status.

The bill also directs the Office of Health Equity to conduct a study to assess the affordability and accessibility of resources and services available to LGBTQ individuals and couples seeking to expand their families and make recommendations to improve access to benefits and services.

Another provision would require the Board of Registration in Medicine to develop a professional development training module for physicians regarding resources and services available to LGBTQ couples seeking to expand their families. The training module would include information on the prevention and elimination of discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and expression in medical settings; improving access to services for LGBTQ individuals; and options for LGBTQ individuals seeking to start or grow their family.

“When my sister and sister-in-law wanted to begin a family, finding culturally competent care and securing insurance coverage was a challenge that a heterosexual couple wouldn’t have to face,” said the measure’s sponsor Sen. Julian Cyr, D-Truro. “Fertility treatment is widely geared to conception for heterosexual couples and doesn’t envision the needs of LGBTQ people. The coverage and care is inadvertently homophobic and transphobic. This bill extends LGBTQ families the right to coverage for those services and ensures culturally competent care for anyone wanting to build a family.”

Motorcycles (SD 2297): Prohibits motorcycles from being denied access to highways, bridges or transportation facilities that are maintained or have been constructed with public funds. Under this bill, cities, towns and counties would also be required to make reasonable accommodations for motorcycle parking in lots and garages that were built or are maintained in whole or in part with public funds.

“Residents of and visitors to my district can struggle to find parking, particularly during the summer and October when many tourists visit the North Shore,” said Sen. Joan Lovely, D-Salem. “Constituents brought the issue of the lack of motorcycle parking to my attention, and I filed this bill so that cities and towns can designate parking in facilities built with public funds for these types of vehicles.”

Inform seniors of food stamps (SD 2343): Requires the Department of Transitional Assistance, working with the Executive Office of Elder Affairs and councils on aging, to provide educational programs at senior centers and other outreach to seniors to assist eligible individuals with enrolling in food stamps.

“As a result of the pandemic, food insecurity has grown across all districts and age groups in the commonwealth,” said sponsor Sen. Walter Timilty, D-Milton. “In my district, Norfolk County saw an increase of 163 percent in childhood hunger. (This bill) will ensure that seniors who are eligible for food stamps are aware of this invaluable resource and provide them with assistance in enrolling.”

Move state primaries to May (SD 2132): Moves the state primary election from September to May.

“Currently, the primary is held in September, which only allows for several weeks of campaigning before the (November) general election,” said sponsor Sen. Ryan Fattman, R-Sutton. “Moving the primary to May will allow candidates to focus more of their time, energy and resources on a general election, instead of trying to be the winning candidate of their party’s primary.”

Must have closed captioning on (SD 2383): Requires televisions that have closed captioning features and are located in “places of public accommodation” to turn on the closed captioning feature upon request.

“All we’re seeking is to ensure that TV captions get turned on upon request in places like noisy bars and restaurants,” said Sen. Mike Barrett, D-Lexington, the chief sponsor of the proposal. “It’s a simple fix that will have a big impact on people who are deaf or hard of hearing.”

After-school programs (SD 2432): Establishes the After-School and Out-of-School Time Opportunity Fund, to be administered by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to support the establishment and expansion of after-school and out-of-school programs. Revenue for the fund would come from 3 percent of the receipts of the marijuana excise tax.

“Creating an After-School and Out-of-School Time Opportunity Fund would help us further invest in critical after-school and out-of-school time programs to provide academic and socioemotional supports for our most underserved students,” said sponsor Sen. Brendan Crighton, D-Lynn. “I have seen the impact of these programs firsthand in our communities. Before and throughout the pandemic, they have created high-quality programming for students and families, and we should continue to invest in our youth across the commonwealth.”

School absences (SD 2388): Allows for school absences to be permitted for behavioral health concerns the same way they are for physical illnesses.

Sen. John Velis, D-Westfield, the bill’s sponsor, said there is currently no state law in Massachusetts mandating that schools allow such absences. He noted that many schools do this on a local basis but notes his bill would require that all schools adopt it.

“School can be an incredibly stressful time period for students and this pandemic has only exacerbated mental health concerns,” Velis said. “It is so important that students are taking care of their mental health, and they should be able to take the time to do that without any consequences.”

Forgive Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) debts: Relieves drivers of old, outstanding balances owed to the RMV. The forgiven debts would apply only to charges incurred before July 1, 2020. It would not relieve drivers or automobile owners of charges incurred after that date, or diminish the obligations to maintain a valid license and to register and insure their vehicles.

“RMV charges are set at a high level to generate income for the state,” said sponsor Sen. Will Brownsberger, D-Belmont. “For many lower-income people, they are insurmountably high. If they fall behind, they may lose their license or fail to register their vehicle. Then they get in trouble with the courts and build up further charges. We need to give people a clean slate so that they have a chance of complying with the law.”


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