Beacon Hill Roll Call: May 30 to June 3, 2022

Published: 6/9/2022 5:44:55 PM
Modified: 6/9/2022 5:42:47 PM

There were no roll call votes in the House or Senate last week. This week, Beacon Hill Roll Call reports local senators’ roll call attendance records for the 2022 session through June 3.

The Senate has held 69 roll calls so far. Beacon Hill Roll Call tabulates the number of roll calls on which each senator voted and then calculates that number as a percentage of the total roll call votes held. That percentage is the number referred to as the roll call attendance record.

Thirty-six of the 40 senators did not miss any roll calls and have 100% roll call attendance records. This high level of participation can likely be attributed to the fact that under emergency rules adopted because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the vast majority of the 40 senators are not in the Senate chamber during a session. Most are watching and listening from their home, business or Senate office, and casting their votes remotely.

Senators’ remote votes are communicated to Senate officials during the session or prior to the session if senators are informed in advance that there will be a roll call vote. If a member wants to speak on an issue under consideration, they do so on a separate “debate phone line” and their voice is then heard in the Senate chamber and by anyone watching the online broadcast.

The number of senators who had 100% roll call attendance records in the four years prior to the pandemic was lower than 2022, as follows: 28 in 2019; 20 in 2018; 24 in 2017; and 17 in 2016.

It’s a Senate tradition that the Senate president only votes occasionally. Current Senate President Karen Spilka follows that tradition and only voted on 21 (30.4%) of the 69 roll calls while not voting on 48 (69.6%) of them.

Only four senators, other than Spilka, missed any roll calls. Sens. Cindy Friedman, D-Arlington, and Sen. Joan Lovely, D-Salem, each missed three roll calls for an attendance record of 95.6%. Sens. Sonia Chang-Diaz, D-Boston, and Diana DiZoglio, D-Methuen, each missed only one roll call for an attendance record of 98.5%. Beacon Hill Roll Call contacted the four senators asking why they missed some roll calls.

Lovely responded, “I was prevented from engaging in three roll call votes while working remotely because my internet connection was interrupted. I have participated in every other roll call vote this session and submitted a letter on how I would have voted to the Senate clerk.”

“The senator had some significant food allergies and suffered an allergic reaction to lunch that day,” said DiZoglio’s aide, Tom Arsenault. “However, she was grateful to have been able to get on the record with the clerk’s office regarding her position on that particular amendment and recover in time to vote in favor of the bill.”

Friedman and Chang-Diaz did not respond to repeated requests by Beacon Hill Roll Call asking for a statement.

The percentage listed next to the senator’s name is the percentage of roll call votes on which the senator voted. The number in parentheses represents the number of roll calls that he or she missed.

Sen. Joanne Comerford — 100 percent (0)

Sen. Anne Gobi — 100 percent (0)

Sen. Adam Hinds — 100 percent (0)

Also up on Beacon HillShooting at a house or apartment (H 1803)

The House gave initial approval to 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, this crime is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a 30-day jail sentence and/or $100 fine.

“I filed this legislation to create a criminal penalty for shooting into a house or building because at that time there was a string of shootings into houses in Lowell and I discovered that our police department did not have the necessary tools to enforce the law,” said co-sponsor Rep. Rady Mom, D-Lowell.

“I am very pleased that we are moving forward in making what was a misdemeanor, a felony,” said co-sponsor Rep. Colleen Gary, D-Lowell. Individuals firing guns at a residential home can kill the residents inside. It is not just shooting at an inanimate object. People should be able to feel safe in their own homes.”

Supporters also said that under current law, the punishment is disproportionate to the severity of this type of incident. They noted this crime, primarily committed by gang members, is often used as an intimidation tactic without regard for the innocent people inside the home.

Pregnant and postpartum mothers (S 2731)

Stuck in the House Ways and Means Committee for nearly three months, since March 7, is a measure, approved unanimously by the Senate, that is designed to ensure that pregnant and postpartum mothers get necessary and potentially lifesaving health care by extending MassHealth insurance coverage to 12 months after pregnancy. MassHealth is the state’s Medicaid program that provides health care for low-income people and those with disabilities.

“The Massachusetts Senate has taken another step to combat inequities in maternal health,” said sponsor Sen. Joan Lovely, D-Salem, when the Senate approved the bill in March. “By extending postpartum health care coverage to a full year, birthing individuals will be able to access vital physical and behavioral health resources that will decrease mortality and severe morbidity, and improve the overall health of parent and child, especially for our minority populations.”

At the same time, Senate President Karen Spilka, D-Ashland, said, “The danger of dying during pregnancy or childbirth is still far too high in the United States, particularly for Black women. But the Senate is committed to continuing our efforts to ensure pregnant and postpartum mothers and people who give birth receive the critical care they need and deserve.”

Funds for homelessness

The U.S. Department of Labor announced the awarding of more than $57 million in grants nationwide to organizations that help veterans experiencing homelessness find meaningful employment and assist them in overcoming barriers to transition back successfully into the workforce. The grants include nearly $1.51 million for Massachusetts, including $501,834 For Volunteers of America of Massachusetts in Jamaica Plain; $184,489 for the Massachusetts Military Support Foundation in West Barnstable; and $820,000 for Veterans Inc. in Worcester.

The funding will support 112 continuation grants totaling more than $37 million, plus 56 new three-year grants totaling some $20 million.

“The pandemic further exposed the difficulties faced by our nation’s homeless veterans,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor and former Boston Mayor Marty Walsh. “The Homeless Veterans’ Reintegration Program grants announced today will fund initiatives that help our veterans — particularly those in underserved communities — get the training and support they need to return to the workforce and use their skills to make valuable contributions to our society.”

Proponents also noted that the awards will enable recipients to provide a wide range of services to homeless veterans and those at risk of homelessness, including learning occupational skills, attaining apprenticeships or on-the-job training opportunities, and receiving job search and placement assistance.

State budget deadline: July 1 (H 4701/S 2915)

The House and Senate each appointed three members to a conference committee to hammer out a compromise version of the roughly $49 billion versions of the fiscal year 2023 budget passed by each branch.

Reps. Aaron Michlewitz, D-Boston, Ann-Margaret Ferrante, D-Gloucester, and Todd Smola, R-Warren, were appointed by House Speaker Ron Mariano, D-Quincy. On the Senate side, Senate President Karen Spilka chose Sens. Michael Rodrigues, D-Westport, Cindy Friedman, D-Arlington, and Patrick O’Connor, R-Weymouth.


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