Beacon Hill Roll Call: May 23 to May 27, 2022

  • Karla Hailer, a fifth-grade teacher from Scituate, takes a video on July 19, 2017, where a memorial stands at the site in Salem, where five women were hanged as witches. Massachusetts lawmakers on May 26, 2022, formally exonerated Elizabeth Johnson, clearing her name 329 years after she was convicted of witchcraft in 1693 at the height of the Salem Witch Trials. AP File Photo/Stephan Savoia

  • HINDS

Published: 6/2/2022 2:39:49 PM

Beacon Hill Roll Call records local senators’ votes on roll calls from the week of May 23 to May 27. Some Senate roll calls are on proposed amendments to the $49.78 billion fiscal year 2023 budget.

Of the of the 1,179 amendments filed by senators, only 15 came to a roll call vote. Many others were approved or rejected one at a time on voice votes without debate.

To move things along even faster, the Senate also did its usual “bundling” of amendments. Instead of acting on each amendment one at a time, hundreds of the proposed amendments are bundled and put into two piles — one pile that will be approved and the other that will be rejected, without a roll call, on voice votes where it is impossible to tell which way a senator votes.

Senate President Karen Spilka, or the senator who is filling in for her at the podium, orchestrates the approval and rejection of the bundled amendments with a simple: “All those in favor say ‘aye,’ those opposed say ‘no.’ The ayes have it and the amendments are approved.” Or “All those in favor say ‘aye,’ those opposed say ‘no.’ The no’s have it and the amendments are rejected.”

Senators don’t actually vote yes or no, and, in fact, they don’t say a word. The outcome was predetermined earlier behind closed doors.

Baker vetoes allowing driver’s licenses for undocumented/illegal immigrants (H 4805)

The House, 118 to 36, and the Senate, 32 to 8, approved and Gov. Charlie Baker vetoed a conference committee version of legislation that would, starting July 1, 2023, allow undocumented/illegal immigrants to apply for a Massachusetts driver’s license. The House and Senate had approved different versions of the measure and this compromise was reached by a conference committee comprised of three senators and three representatives. The wide margin of passage by both branches means that each branch has the necessary two-thirds vote to override Baker’s veto.

The legislation requires an applicant “without legal presence” in the United States 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.

“I cannot sign this legislation because it requires the Registry of Motor Vehicles to issue state credentials to people without the ability to verify their identity,” Baker said in his veto message. “The registry does not have the expertise or ability to verify the validity of many types of documents from other countries. The bill also fails to include any measures to distinguish standard Massachusetts driver’s licenses issued to persons who demonstrate lawful presence from those who don’t.”

“We are a nation of immigrants,” tweeted Senate President Karen Spilka, D-Ashland, following the veto. “We all benefit from increased public safety. And everyone deserves to feel safe and get to work, pick up children and be a part of their communities without fear. The @ma_senate looks forward to overriding this misguided decision.”

“We are deeply disappointed that Gov. Baker has vetoed the (bill),” said Elizabeth Sweet, executive director of the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy (MIRA) Coalition. “The policy would not only make our communities safer, but benefit our economy and bolster trust between law enforcement and immigrant communities. We hope that the Legislature will waste no time in overriding the governor’s veto.”

Sen. Brendan Crighton, D-Lynn, the sponsor of the measure, said it will make the lives of the more than 185,000 Massachusetts immigrants without status easier by allowing them to earn a standard driver’s license.

“Nobody should have to fear detention or deportation over essential everyday tasks such as getting to work, school, doctor’s appointments and grocery stores,” Crighton noted.

Opponents said the bill doesn’t include any safeguards to ensure that a license to drive does not become misused for any illegal purposes, including access to voting in elections or things that could put the public at risk.

“I do not support this legislation as I believe it disincentivizes the individual from pursuing citizenship through legal means,” said Sen. Ryan Fattman, R-Sutton. “It is also counterintuitive to the strong identity laws we have passed that keep us compliant with federal REAL ID requirements where individuals need greater documentation to protect and secure one’s identity when they go to obtain a license.”

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

Rep. Natalie Blais — Yes

Rep. Paul Mark — Yes

Rep. Susannah Whipps — Yes

Sen. Joanne Comerford — Yes

Sen. Anne Gobi — No

Sen. Adam Hinds — Yes

‘Revenge porn’ (H 4498)

The House, 154 to 0, approved and sent to the Senate a proposal that would prohibit the posting of sexually explicit images of another person online without their permission — commonly referred to as “revenge porn.” The practice is often used by ex-spouses or ex-partners. Massachusetts is one of only two states that does not have a law about this crime.

Another provision changes current law under which minors, under 18 years of age, who share explicit images of themselves or other minors can be charged with violating Massachusetts child pornography laws and are required to register with the Sex Offender Registry. The bill allows minors to be diverted to an educational program that would provide them with information about the consequences of posting or transmitting indecent visual depictions of minors.

“Under current law, when faced with an incident of sexting among teenagers, the police are forced with either charging them with a felony or doing nothing,” said sponsor Rep. Jeff Roy, D-Franklin. “The bill passed today provides law enforcement officers with a middle ground that will allow them to educate kids about the consequences of their actions without ruining their lives. It will have a tremendous impact on people who have become entangled in the web and transmittal of images that can cause traumatic and lifetime harm through a diversion program that will educate them about the legal and personal consequences of ‘sexting.’”

“This bill prioritizes survivors of revenge porn by unlocking resources for them while, at the same time, closing a loophole in our criminal harassment statute that will serve to deter and punish those who engage in these horrific acts,” said Rep. Mike Day, D-Stoneham, the House chair of the Judiciary Committee. “From providing access to victim witness advocates and direct input on criminal dispositions, to enabling survivors to pursue civil remedies against their perpetrators, this approach will empower survivors to reclaim their lives in addition to providing clearly enforceable punitive measures for these crimes.”

A “Yes” vote is for the bill.

Rep. Natalie Blais — Yes

Rep. Paul Mark — Yes

Rep. Susannah Whipps — Yes

$49.78 billion fiscal year 2023 budget (S 4)

The Senate, 40 to 0, approved a $49.78 billion fiscal year 2023 state budget after adding nearly 500 amendments and $93 million in spending during three days of debate. The House has already approved a different version and a House-Senate conference committee will eventually craft a plan that will be presented to the House and Senate for consideration and sent to the governor.

Provisions include $16.5 million for grants to the Head Start program to maintain access to early education services for low-income families; $1.5 million for the Genocide Education Trust Fund to educate middle and high school students on the history of genocide; $243.8 million for charter school reimbursements; $112.5 million for children’s mental health services; $56 million for domestic violence prevention services; $30.5 million for the Massachusetts Emergency Food Assistance Program; and $24.1 million for summer jobs and work-readiness training for at-risk youth.

Supporters said the budget also codifies new protections for receiving and providing reproductive and gender-affirming health care in Massachusetts, in response to laws in other states allowing their residents to bring legal action against individuals for traveling out-of-state to receive services and against workers who provide care. It also includes $2 million for grants for improvements in reproductive health access, infrastructure and safety.

“The budget that passed the Senate today continues our commitment to funding the urgent needs of our residents, including increased funding for housing, education, child care and assistance for families,” said Sen. Cindy Friedman, D-Arlington, vice chair of the Senate Ways and Means Committee.

A “Yes” vote is for the budget.

Sen. Joanne Comerford — Yes

Sen. Anne Gobi — Yes

Sen. Adam Hinds — Yes

Tax cuts (S 4)

The Senate, 10 to 30, rejected a tax reduction amendment that would provide a three-month suspension of the 24-cents-per-gallon gas tax; reduce from 12% to 5% the short-term capital gains tax rate; double the dependent care tax credit from $240 to $480 for one qualifying individual and to $960 for two or more individuals; increase the rental deduction cap from $3,000 to $5,000; increase the threshold for “no tax status” to $12,400 for single filers and $24,800 for joint filers; and double the maximum Senior Circuit Breaker Credit.

“The Senate Republican Caucus members proposed more than 30 tax cut and credit proposals during this budget because we believe that we have an obligation to take reasonable actions to help people face the challenges they are dealing with from high housing costs, gas prices at record levels and inflation that continues to rise at alarming rates,” said amendment sponsor Sen. Bruce Tarr, R-Gloucester. “We know that with state revenues wildly exceeding what we need to operate, and a fiscal year 2023 budget spending increase of more than $2 billion, we have the capacity to help families, seniors, students, commuters and those who depend on child care.”

“The tax break package presented by my colleagues and I would have eased the burden on working families and provided urgently needed financial relief from the economic challenges we continue to face,” said Sen. Patrick O’Connor, R-Weymouth. “With record prices for gas, housing, child care and basic necessities, we need to act immediately to enact tax reforms to ease the blow on our residents and protect those who simply cannot afford the looming changes our economy will experience.”

“The Joint Committee on Revenue is reviewing tax reduction bills and the full Senate has committed to consideration of a comprehensive and thoughtful revenue proposal, including tax reductions,” said Sen. John Keenan, D-Quincy, who voted against the amendment.

“The Senate president has already announced that the Senate is taking up a tax relief package shortly,” said amendment opponent Sen. Adam Hinds, D-Pittsfield. “That is what we prefer to focus on. We want to be absolutely certain that tax cuts go to those who need it most, not just giveaways to the most wealthy.”

A “Yes” vote is for the tax cuts. A “No” vote is against the tax cuts.

Sen. Joanne Comerford — No

Sen. Anne Gobi — Yes

Sen. Adam Hinds — No

Additional $750,000 for ‘Hey Sam’ program (S 4)

The Senate, 38 to 0, approved an amendment providing an additional $750,000 to fund “Hey Sam” — an anonymous peer-to-peer mental health texting program staffed by young people. The service, available to people up to 24 years old, gives youths the opportunity to reach peers if they are suicidal, lonely, depressed, overwhelmed, struggling or need any kind of support.

Amendment sponsor Sen. Becca Rausch, D-Needham, noted the Samaritans continue to save lives and combat the commonwealth’s youth mental health crisis. She noted the Samaritans successfully deescalated 90% of imminent risk conversations, avoiding the need for emergency intervention.

“For 47 years, the Samaritans has provided lifesaving suicide prevention and mental health services in Massachusetts,” Rausch said. “Each year, they respond to tens of thousands of calls and texts from individuals experiencing mental illness and low levels of mental health.”

A Yes” vote is for the $750,000.

Sen. Joanne Comerford — Yes

Sen. Anne Gobi — Yes

Sen. Adam Hinds — Yes

‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ (S 4)

The Senate, 40 to 0, approved an amendment requiring that LGBTQ service members who were forced out of the military with anything other than an honorable discharge under the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’” policy that barred openly gay, lesbian or bisexual persons from military service from 1994 to 2011 be eligible for state benefits from the Massachusetts Department of Veterans Services.

‘“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ represents a truly dark point in the history of our nation and the tragic truth is that so many of our LGBTQ veterans are still feeling the effects of the policy to this day,” said Sen. John Velis, D-Westfield, Senate chair of the Legislature’s Veterans Committee and a current Major in the U.S. Army Reserve, the sponsor of the amendment. “For far too long, thousands of courageous individuals have been told that they are not worthy of the same benefits that their comrades and counterparts earned, all because of who they are and who they love. These veterans served and fought alongside us, they bled the same color and this amendment will ensure that they receive the benefits and services they have earned in service to our nation.”

A “Yes” vote is for the amendment.

Sen. Joanne Comerford — Yes

Sen. Anne Gobi — Yes

Sen. Adam Hinds — Yes

New Americans (S 4)

The Senate, 39 to 0, approved an amendment increasing by $500,000 (from $1,033,019 to $1,533,019) funding for the “Citizenship for New Americans Program” to assist eligible low-income legal permanent Massachusetts residents to become citizens of the United States.

Supporters said the program would provide instruction in English and civics, and assistance to help immigrants fill out the 22-page application. They noted that these programs enjoy high rates of success on the naturalization exam. They argued that one in six Massachusetts residents is foreign born, and more than 200,000 people in Massachusetts are currently eligible for citizenship.

Amendment sponsor Sen. Jamie Eldridge, D-Acton, said the funding will enable these programs to meet continued high demand for services.

“I am proud to represent a district with many vibrant immigrant communities throughout it,” Eldridge said. “Recently, I have been assisting Neighborhood Support Teams in the town of Harvard and the city of Marlborough resettle Afghan evacuees who aided in our country’s fight against the Taliban. I look forward to the day that these people who risked their lives for our nation become citizens.”

A Yes” vote is for the additional $500,000.

Sen. Joanne Comerford — Yes

Sen. Anne Gobi — Yes

Sen. Adam Hinds — Yes

Also up on Beacon HillCreating Women’s Rights History Trail Program (S 2802)

The House and Senate approved and sent to Gov. Baker a bill that would require the state to develop and implement a Women’s Rights History Trail Program. The measure includes requiring the state to designate properties and sites that are historically and thematically associated with the struggle for women’s rights and women’s suffrage.

Another provision provides that the state promotes education and awareness of the struggle for women’s rights in the state. A 13-member Women’s Rights History Trail Task Force would research, solicit public input and make recommendations for sites, properties and attractions to be included in the trail.

“Women have played a pivotal role in shaping the policies of our commonwealth, and this bill will ensure that those contributions are known and celebrated,” said Senate sponsor Sen. Joan Lovely, D-Salem. “The history of Massachusetts women is our history, and we must continue to make that history known.”

“The many women from our commonwealth who contributed to the fabric of our nation, who held an integral role in shaping and advancing American democracy, and who courageously led the women’s suffrage movement are central figures in our commonwealth’s narrative,” said House sponsor Rep. Hannah Kane, R-Shrewsbury. “With so many notable women and historic sites connected to these women here in our commonwealth, we have a unique opportunity to celebrate and tell their stories by encouraging and promoting tourism and dispersing the economic gains by crafting an inclusive, geographically and historically diverse trail that is promoted broadly.”

Clearing name of Elizabeth Johnson

The Senate approved an amendment clearing the name of Elizabeth Johnson who was the last person convicted of witchcraft in 1693, at the height of the Salem Witch Trials. Johnson was sentenced to death by hanging but was never executed.

The state approved legislation in the 1900s that cleared the names of those who were executed and had not been exonerated, but that excluded Johnson. She never had children so there has never been a group of descendants pushing for exoneration.

Sen. Diana DiZoglio, D-Methuen, filed the bill on behalf of middle school civics students in North Andover. Johnson lived in the part of Andover that is North Andover today.

“This legislation would not have been possible without the tireless efforts of (teacher) Carrie LaPierre and her students,” DiZoglio said. “They are to be celebrated for stepping up to the plate and having the courage to be a voice for someone who hasn’t had a voice for so long. We will never be able to change what happened to victims like Elizabeth, but at the very least, can set the record straight. If we do not right the wrongs of the past, history is destined to repeat itself. I am so proud that these students stood up and spoke out for justice — setting an example for us all.”

“My students have worked extremely hard over the past two years to draw attention to the long-overlooked issue of justice for this wrongly convicted woman,” LaPierre said. “Passing this legislation will be incredibly impactful on their understanding of how important it is to stand up for people who cannot advocate for themselves and how strong of a voice they actually have.”

“The Last Witch,” a documentary featuring Johnson’s story, is in production.

Sexual assault under false medical representation (H 1661)

The House gave initial approval to a bill that makes it a criminal offense when a medical or health care professional induces a patient to engage in sexual intercourse or touching by falsely representing that the act is necessary for a legitimate medical purpose. The measure adds sections to the existing rape and indecent assault and battery statutes to criminalize behavior by medical professionals where there has been a fraudulent representation of the necessity and propriety of conduct and adds these crimes to the law on the statute of limitations for other sexual assaults.

Supporters said that under existing law, the offender cannot be criminally punished.

“I filed this bill alongside Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan to protect susceptible patients and prohibit this unacceptable conduct,” said sponsor Rep. Kate Hogan, D-Stow. “The lack of a legal remedy in this area is particularly egregious given that a patient or client may be in an especially vulnerable state. A person in need of treatment, and without medical knowledge, will out of necessity rely on the recommendations made by a professional who is entrusted with caring for them and treating them.”

Launch of Massachusetts Data Hub

The Baker administration announced the launch of the Massachusetts Data Hub, a new data search tool that allows users to search state resources and data by topic and keyword and to browse featured data published by the state government.

“The Massachusetts Data Hub brings additional organization and transparency to the commonwealth’s vast and varied data landscape,” said Gov. Baker. “This tool’s launch represents an important step in making state data more readily available and easy to access.”

“It is critical that state data is available to municipal leaders so that they can make better informed decisions in tackling the many challenges their communities and constituents face,” said Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito. “The Massachusetts Data Hub will work toward these goals by making state government more inclusive and providing more intuitive access to agency data.”


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