Beacon Hill Roll Call: May 9 to May 13, 2022

  • State Sen. Jo Comerford, D-Northampton, chops onions with Brandon Shantie at Stone Soup Café in Greenfield in April. Comerford sponsored a bill that would provide civil liability protections to individuals, restaurants and organizations that make direct food donations to those in need. The bill received a favorable report from the Judiciary Committee back on Feb. 28, 2021, but has been languishing in the House Ways and Means Committee since then. STAFF FILE PHOTO/CHRIS LARABEE

Published: 5/19/2022 3:27:41 PM
Modified: 5/19/2022 3:25:55 PM

Beacon Hill Roll Call records local representatives’ and senators’ votes on roll calls from late night sessions in May. There were no roll calls in the House or Senate last week.

Lift ban on doctors dispensing medications (4700)

The House, 6 to 149, rejected an amendment that would repeal a current law that prohibits doctors from storing and dispensing some prescription medications directly to a patient.

Amendment supporters said Massachusetts is one of only four states that still bans this practice. They argued that the amendment would save patients money by eliminating a layer of middlemen and allowing doctors to offer prescription drugs at wholesale costs. They noted that patients will save a trip to the pharmacy and argued that studies indicate that compliance rates among patients will increase.

Rep. Nick Boldyga, R-Southwick, the sponsor of the amendment, did not respond to repeated requests from Beacon Hill Roll Call for a comment.

“Direct dispensing would eliminate the vital screening and counseling services performed by pharmacists at local pharmacies,” said amendment opponent Rep. Adrian Madaro, D-East Boston. “Decentralizing the dispensing of drugs to consumers away from pharmacists to thousands of doctor and clinic locations should not occur without more careful consideration by experts. The amendment would have added unnecessary confusion to well-established policies under the current legislation.”

A “No” vote is against allowing doctors to store and dispense some prescription medications directly to a patient.

Rep. Natalie Blais — No

Rep. Paul Mark — No

Rep. Susannah Whipps — No

Diversity, equity and inclusion (S 2844)

The Senate, 14 to 26, rejected an amendment that would legalize sports betting in Massachusetts. A section of the bill establishes the application process when applying for a license to operate sports betting. The amendment would require that not less than 25% of an applicant’s score in the evaluation of their license shall be accounted for by the applicant’s diversity, equity and inclusion commitments and implementation plan; the applicant’s record of past performance on metrics related to diversity, equity and inclusion; and the applicant’s plan for inclusion of minority business enterprises and women business enterprises in development, financing, ownership, design, construction and operations.

Amendment supporters said the amendment is based on a successful licensing model that is currently used by Massport. They noted the model has opened doors to many contractors and business owners of color that previously did not get the same consideration their white counterparts did — all while preserving flexibility and competitiveness in the overall bidding process.

Amendment opponents said the bill already requires that the application’s score be based on several things about the applicant in addition to diversity, equity and inclusion. They argued that elevating the diversity requirement to account for 25% of an applicant’s score is unfair to the other important things that help develop the applicant’s score.

Sens. Mike Rodrigues, D-Westport, and Eric Lesser, D-Longmeadow, two opponents of the amendment, did not respond to repeated requests by Beacon Hill Roll Call for a comment.

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

Sen. Joanne Comerford — Yes

Sen. Anne Gobi — No

Sen. Adam Hinds — Yes

Also up on Beacon HillAdopt animals used in research (S 613)

The Senate approved and sent to the House a bill that would require research labs to take reasonable steps to offer healthy animals up for adoption rather than euthanize them when the research is done. According to supporters, more than 60,000 dogs and nearly 20,000 cats are used for animal experimentation in the United States.

“I filed the bill to give animals used in medical and product testing experiments a life after the lab,” said sponsor Sen. Bruce Tarr, R-Gloucester, who noted that Beagles are very docile and because of that they are often used in laboratories. In fact, the majority of animal testing facilities rely on dogs — the greatest portion of which are Beagles. “Dogs and other animals involved in research in Massachusetts make tremendous sacrifices to save our lives and make us healthier. We have a moral imperative to give them the opportunity for life after the lab.”

Adopt-A-Senior (S 427)

A proposal that would establish a statewide Adopt-A-Senior volunteer program to assist seniors with snow removal and property or home maintenance services received a favorable report from the Elder Affairs Committee back on Dec. 20, 2021, but has been languishing in the Senate Ways and Means Committee since then. Provisions include creation of a registry of volunteers to match and place volunteers with seniors within their community.

“The commonwealth’s seniors need support with things that many younger, able people would happily donate their time to provide,” said sponsor Sen. Mike Rush, D-Boston. “Connecting the people who need assistance with those who are willing to provide it is a no-brainer.”

“I have always felt that volunteers make a community stronger,” said Rep. Brian Ashe, D-Longmeadow. “There are many older residents who deserve to stay in their home but are no longer able to do all the maintenance that comes along with owning a home. Hiring someone can be difficult and too expensive on a fixed income. The Adopt-A-Senior program will allow seniors of any community access to the assistance they need while promoting community service — a win-win for everyone.”

Donate food (S 954)

A proposal that would provide civil liability protections to individuals, restaurants and organizations that make direct food donations to those in need received a favorable report from the Judiciary Committee back on Feb. 28, 2021, but has been languishing in the House Ways and Means Committee since then. The donor would receive a tax credit or deduction. The bill also provides Massachusetts farmers who donate locally produced excess crops to nonprofit food distribution organizations a tax credit for the year of the donation.

“This legislation would encourage the donation of food during a time in which the commonwealth continues to struggle with food insecurity as a result of the pandemic,” said sponsor Sen. Jo Comerford, D-Northampton. “Our state saw the highest rate of growth in food insecurity in the nation during the pandemic and food donations are needed to serve our most vulnerable residents. This bill will also incentivize farmers to donate food, setting up a pipeline between farms and food donation organizations, strengthening our food system, and offering farmers the opportunity for a tax credit.”


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