Beacon Hill Roll Call: May 2 to May 6, 2022

  • COMERFORD

  • GOBI

Published: 5/12/2022 4:09:06 PM

Beacon Hill Roll Call records local senators’ votes on roll calls from the week of May 2 to May 6. There were no roll calls in the House.

All Senate roll calls were on amendments to the bill allowing undocumented/illegal immigrants to apply for a Massachusetts driver’s license.

Undocumented/illegal immigrants can get driver’s licenses (S 2851)

The Senate, 32 to 8, approved a bill allowing undocumented/illegal immigrants to apply for a Massachusetts driver’s license. The House has approved a different version of the bill and the Senate version now goes to the House for consideration. The bills are similar and both branches approved their version by veto-proof margins. Once the two branches agree on a final version, the measure goes to Gov. Charlie Baker.

The legislation requires an applicant “without legal presence” in the United State to provide the Registry of Motor Vehicles with a foreign passport and at least one of five other documents: a driver’s license from another state, a foreign driver’s license, a birth certificate, a foreign national identification card, or a marriage certificate or divorce decree from any U.S. state.

“The (bill) makes our roads safer and, just as importantly, makes the lives of more than 185,000 Massachusetts immigrants without status easier by allowing them to earn a standard driver’s license,” said Sen. Brendan Crighton, D-Lynn. “In the absence of a robust regional public transportation system, it is impossible for many Massachusetts residents to get through their day without the use of a car. No one should fear detention or deportation over essential everyday tasks such as getting to work, school, doctor’s appointments and grocery stores. It is time for Massachusetts to join the 16 other states who have passed this common-sense legislation.”

“It was important to me to listen to my local police chiefs, many (of whom) indicated to me that they had concerns,” said Sen. Anne Gobi, D-Spencer, one of only five of the Senate’s 37 Democrats to vote against the bill. “As well-meaning as the legislation is, I do believe there will be unintended negative consequences. For one, the legislation will task the RMV with verifying documentation. You do not have to look very far to see problems the RMV continues to have, including the Brockton RMV improperly awarding 2,100 drivers licenses without a road test.”

“We are a nation of immigrants, and our commonwealth continues to be profoundly and positively shaped by immigrants from all over the world,” said Senate President Karen Spilka, D-Ashland. “They deserve to be able to safely get to work and school, care for their families and participate in the lives of their communities.”

“State-issued driver’s licenses are a primary form of identification in our society and they carry real-world consequences and responsibilities” said GOP Minority Leader Sen. Bruce Tarr, who led the opposition to the measure. “We proposed safeguards to ensure that a privilege to drive does not, under any circumstance, become misused for any purposes including access to voting in elections or anything else that could put the public at risk. The 9/11 Commission said that all layers of government should secure state-issued identification documents describing it as a national security and law enforcement imperative to combat identity fraud and illegal immigration.”

A “Yes” vote is for the bill. A “No” vote is against it.

Sen. Joanne Comerford — Yes

Sen. Anne Gobi — No

Sen. Adam Hinds — Yes

Must have distinguishing features (S 2851)

The Senate, 8 to 31, rejected an amendment that would require the license to have a background color and other features that will distinguish it from all other licenses issued by the RMV.

“(This) would have helped address issues raised by a number of local police chiefs in the district I represent who I consulted with prior to yesterday’s vote,” said Sen. Marc Pacheco, D-Taunton. “The possible corruption of our state licensing process was flagged as a significant concern.”

Amendment opponents said law enforcement officers do not need a distinctive license to identify a driver. They said the amendment could create stigma and allow someone to discriminate against its holder.

A “Yes” vote is for the amendment. A “No” vote is against it.

Sen. Joanne Comerford — No

Sen. Anne Gobi — Yes

Sen. Adam Hinds — No

Not valid for ID (S 2851)

The Senate, 7 to 32, rejected an amendment that would require that the license include the words “Not valid for identification” prominently in bold text.

Amendment supporters said that the license is meant to operate a motor vehicle and it should be made clear that it is not valid for identification purposes.

Amendment opponents said the amendment is unnecessary and will only lead to and open up opportunities to discriminate.

A “Yes” vote is for the amendment. A “No” vote is against it.

Sen. Joanne Comerford — No

Sen. Anne Gobi — Yes

Sen. Adam Hinds — No

Require RMV to provide information to city and town clerks (S 2851)

The Senate, 10 to 29, rejected an amendment that would require the RMV to provide information on the holder of a Massachusetts driver’s license to any city or town clerk requesting information to verify the identity and eligibility of any individual using a Massachusetts license to vote or to register to vote.

Amendment supporters said this would ensure that anyone who receives a Massachusetts license who is not eligible to vote is not accidentally registered to vote.

“The bill does very little to prevent the issue of an undocumented citizen using their driver’s license to register to vote,” said Sen. Ryan Fattman, R-Sutton. “This poses a challenge to the integrity of the process to register to vote, because city and town clerks will not be able to determine whether or not an individual is eligible to register. My amendment would add strength to the security of this process by ensuring that Massachusetts is in compliance with the law that enables U.S. citizens to vote.”

Amendment opponents said getting a driver’s license has nothing to do with a person’s ability to vote. They noted there are many non-citizens, such as green card recipients, who have earned a license but are not eligible to vote.

A “Yes” vote is for the amendment. A “No” vote is against it.

Sen. Joanne Comerford — No

Sen. Anne Gobi — Yes

Sen. Adam Hinds — No

Promise not to use license to register to vote or for ID (S 2851)

The Senate, 7 to 31, rejected an amendment to a section of the bill that requires the applicant to attest, under the penalties of perjury, that their license to operate has not been suspended or revoked in another state or country. The amendment would also require the applicant to attest that he or she will not use his or her license for the purpose of registering to vote, voting or for identification.

Amendment supporters said this is simply another safeguard to ensure that the license will not be misused with the intent to vote illegally.

Amendment opponents said there are sufficient safeguards in the bill to ensure there will not be improper use of this license.

A “Yes” vote is for the amendment. A “No” vote is against it.

Sen. Joanne Comerford — No

Sen. Anne Gob — Yes

Sen. Adam Hinds — No

Also up on Beacon HillAre there tax cuts in your future?

On the heels of April tax revenue coming in more than $2 billion ahead of the amount expected, the push for tax relief was the buzz on Beacon Hill last week.

“The commonwealth of Massachusetts is awash in revenue and we’ve been saying since January … a piece of this needs to go back to the taxpayers,” said Gov. Charlie Baker, whose $700 million tax cut package lingers without any action by the House or Senate. “And I really do anticipate that there will be some sort of tax cut that makes it through the process between now and the end of the legislative session.”

House Speaker Ron Mariano, D-Quincy, and Senate President Karen Spilka have not committed to any tax cuts but the pressure on them to do so has increased.

Require sprinkler systems (H 2417)

The House gave initial approval to legislation that would allow cities and towns with a local option to require the installation of an automatic sprinkler system in every newly-constructed one- or two-family home.

Co-sponsor Rep. Ruth Balser, D-Newton, said that today’s new homes burn hotter and faster than those of the past because of modern construction techniques and synthetic furnishings. She noted that as a result, residents have less than three minutes to flee the average home without sprinklers.

“Approximately 50 people die in home fires every year in Massachusetts,” Balser said. “Research indicates that the risk of dying in a home fire is reduced by 80% because of sprinklers, which can suppress and often extinguish a fire before the fire department arrives, giving residents the needed time to escape. Sprinklers also reduce firefighters’ exposure to the toxic products of combustion that cause cancer.”

“This legislation will provide increased fire protection to new dwellings across the commonwealth,” said co-sponsor Rep. Paul Donato, D-Medford. “I sponsored the bill as the safety of our citizens is always my No. 1 priority.”

Use of breakdown lane (H 3519)

The House approved and sent to the Senate legislation that would double fines for motor vehicles speeding in the far-right lane, or “breakdown” lane, in areas where travel in that lane is permitted during peak commuting hours.

“While allowing travel in the far-right lane is essential on some highways in the commonwealth to temporarily provide traffic relief during peak hours, many motorists use this lane as a high-speed passing lane, risking the safety of disabled motor vehicles, emergency personnel and themselves,” said sponsor Rep. David Linsky, D-Natick. “Numerous accidents and fatalities have occurred due to excessive speed in the breakdown lanes. This legislation will not only further protect those who dedicate their lives to our safety but will protect motorist safety as well.”

A speeding ticket fine imposed on a driver is $100 for any speed up to 10 miles per hour above the speed limit. An additional $10 fine is added for each additional mile per hour above the first 10. The legislation would double the total fine. For example, if you are traveling 25 miles above the speed limit, the fine would be $250 ($100 for the first 10 miles above and $150 for the additional 15 miles above).

Default on student loans (H 4339)

Back on Jan. 18, the House approved and sent to the Senate a bill that would repeal a current law, passed in 1990, which created professional licensure consequences for anyone who defaults on their student loan. Under existing law, the Massachusetts Educational Financing Authority and the American Student Assistance can request that a borrower’s state-issued professional or occupational certificate, registration or license be suspended, revoked or canceled for default on educational loans made or administered by either group. The Senate has not yet acted on the measure.

Supporters say that Massachusetts is one of only a handful of states in which a person can lose their professional license if he or she defaults on student loans.

“This is an old, misguided policy that is not currently being enforced,” said sponsor Rep. Natalie Higgins, D-Leominster. “Student loan borrowers who fall behind on their student loans should not be further penalized and lose their ability to work and continue to repay their student loan debt. Sen. Jamie Eldridge has been a fantastic partner on student debt issues and is helping to shepherd this bill through the Senate.”

Must post state job openings (S 1189)

The Senate Committee on Labor and Workforce Development has recommended that a proposal that would require all state agencies and institutions to submit job listings on a state-wide computerized referral system, be shipped off to a study committee. Most bills that are shipped off to a study committee are never actually studied and are essentially defeated. It is another way to kill a bill instead of holding a vote on the bill itself.

“Transparency about state employment vacancies will not only garner greater trust from the public in government hiring processes but will also benefit state agencies, which will receive applications from more diverse and qualified candidates,” said sponsor Sen. Jo Comerford, D-Northampton. “I’m disappointed to see this bill sent to a study order but I will continue to push for these much-needed improvements in subsequent legislative sessions.”


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