Beacon Hill Roll Call: Sept. 6 to Sept. 10, 2021

  • BLAIS

  • Montague residents cast their ballots in 2018. The Transportation Committee gave a favorable report to and recommended that the House and Senate approve a bill that would require the MBTA and all 15 regional transit authorities to offer free transportation for all riders, not just registered voters, on every bus, subway and trolley service on all statewide primaries and general election days. Staff File Photo/Dan Little

Published: 9/16/2021 3:21:06 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 15 vetoes of mostly state budget items.

A two-thirds vote is required to override a gubernatorial veto. In a full 160-member House, the governor needs the support of 54 representatives to sustain a veto when all 160 representatives vote — and fewer votes when some members are absent, or a seat is vacant. Baker fell short of that goal as 35 votes was the most support he received on any veto. The House easily overrode all 15 vetoes, including one that was overridden unanimously.

It was mostly the 30 GOP members who voted with the Republican governor to sustain the vetoes, but no Republican representatives voted with Baker 100 percent of the time.

The three GOP members who voted with Baker the most times are Reps. Shawn Dooley, R-Norfolk, 14 times (93.3 percent); Norman Orrall, R-Lakeville, 13 times (86.6 percent); and Brad Jones, R-North Reading, and Donald Berthiaume, R-Spencer, who both voted with Baker 11 times (73.3 percent)

The three GOP members who supported Baker the least number of times were Reps. Jim Kelcourse, R-Amesbury; Marc Lombardo, R-Billerica; and David Vieira, R-Falmouth. All three voted with Baker only six times (40 percent).

The vetoes had little support among the 129 Democrats in the House. One hundred and twenty-five (96.9 percent) did not support the governor even once. The other four (3.1 percent) voted with Baker to sustain only one veto (6.6 percent). They are Reps. Nika Elugardo, D-Jamaica Plain; Chris Markey, D-Dartmouth; Joan Meschino, D-Hull; and David Robertson, D-Tewksbury.

The percentage next to the representative’s name represents the percentage of times the representative supported Baker on votes through Sept. 10. The number in parentheses represents the actual number of times the representative supported Baker.

Some representatives voted on all 15 roll call votes. Others missed one or more roll calls. The percentage for each representative is calculated based on the number of roll calls on which he or she 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 — 6.6 percent (1)

Also up on Beacon Hill Free public transportation for everyone on election day (H 4095, S 2915)

The Transportation Committee gave a favorable report to and recommended that the House and Senate approve a bill that would require the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) and all 15 regional transit authorities to offer free transportation for all riders, not just registered voters, on every bus, subway and trolley service on all statewide primaries and general election days. If the proposal is signed into law, Massachusetts would be the first in the nation to implement a statewide law that would require free transportation on statewide election days. Los Angeles County’s 5 million registered voters and several cities across the nation, including Dallas, San Diego and Kansas City, currently require free transportation on election days.

“One of the greatest benefits of the (bill) is that it would help make our elections more equitable and accessible,” reads a statement from MassVOTE, which, according to its website, “works to promote a culture of active political participation by providing civic organizations the tools they need to organize, register and educate voters, with an emphasis on historically disenfranchised communities.”

“As we realized in our analysis of the 2020 elections, a steep voter turnout gap along racial, geographic and socio-economic lines persists in Massachusetts,” the statement continues. “While whiter, highly educated, suburban communities traditionally experience the highest voter turnout rates, more diverse, less educated, urban communities witness lower voter turnout rates. For example, voter turnout in the Nov. 3, 2020 election reached 90 percent or higher in suburbs like Sudbury, Dover and Medfield. But in cities like Springfield, Lawrence and New Bedford, voter turnout reached 55 percent or lower. By providing communities like these easier access to the polls, we hope that the (the measure) can help close the state’s gross voter turnout gap.”

“(The bill) will guarantee that black and brown, low-income and immigrant individuals, who primarily rely on public transit, will have reliable access to their polling locations,” said co-sponsor Rep. Frank Moran, D-Lawrence. “This critical legislation will help facilitate increased voter turnout in these underserved communities and strengthen our democracy in the process.”

Guarantee newborns access to lifesaving medical care

On Sept. 1, Attorney General Martha Coakley declined to certify a one-sentence proposed November 2022 ballot question, stating that “if a child is born alive, all reasonable steps, in keeping with good medical practice, shall be taken to preserve the life of the child born alive.” Last week, Justice Dalila Wenslandt of the state Supreme Judicial Court granted a preliminary injunction, while the case works its way through the courts, to the proposal’s sponsor, the Massachusetts Newborn Protection Coalition, allowing the group to begin collecting the 80,239 signatures required by Nov. 17 to take the next step to qualify for the ballot.

Healey’s office said she is unable to certify that the measure is in proper form for submission to the people.

“Our decision, as with all decisions on certification of initiative petitions, is based solely on … legal standards,” wrote Government Bureau Deputy Chief Anne Sherman in a written response to Bernadette Lyons, chair of the Massachusetts Newborn Protection Coalition. “It does not reflect any policy views the attorney general may have on the merits of the proposed law.

“The proposed law contains several highly ambiguous provisions (that) make it impossible for us to determine and inform potential voters of the meaning and effect of the proposed law,” the letter from Sherman continues. “Specifically, the proposed law does not define ‘a child born alive’ or what is required to ‘preserve the life of a child born alive,’ nor does it specify what ‘reasonable steps’ must be taken or ‘who’ shall take them.”

“There’s nothing at all ambiguous about a law guaranteeing newborns access to medical care, and we’re glad the state Supreme Judicial Court agreed to grant us a preliminary injunction so we can move forward,” Lyons responded. “Now the hard work begins and the people behind this initiative petition are eager to get started.”

“The Supreme Judicial Court acted properly in allowing the Born Alive ballot question to go forward,” commented Catholic Action League Executive Director C. J. Doyle. “As the text of the initiative petition is virtually identical to that of the 46-year-old statute repealed by the ROE Act in 2020, the attorney general’s claim that its language is ambiguous is altogether unpersuasive. Suspicion remains that special interest politics, not legal considerations, impelled the attempt to keep the Born Alive measure off the ballot.”

Create COVID-19 Remembrance Day (HD 4454)

A bill proposed last week would designate the first Monday in March as COVID-19 Remembrance Day to honor and remember people who have died or suffered from COVID-19; the frontline and essential workers; and residents of the state who volunteered to support their neighbors and local communities.

“When this pandemic is over, a sense of loss will remain,” said co-sponsor Rep. Natalie Blais, D-Sunderland. “Establishing a day of remembrance provides the space for our constituents to grieve, to heal, to express gratitude for those who have cared for us and to recognize the changes we need to consider protecting every community across the commonwealth.”

“A remembrance day offers all of us, as a commonwealth, a way to acknowledge the immense personal and collective loss of those who have died from COVID,” said co-sponsor Rep. Mindy Domb, D-Amherst. “A designated day also gives us a chance to acknowledge the many who have survived COVID-19 and those who still struggle with the effects of the virus, while recognizing those health care providers and essential workers who sacrificed so much and delivered critical services to our communities during this crisis. The pandemic is not yet over. The bill creates an opportunity for acknowledgement, shared grief and comfort, reflection and respect.”

Give Medal of Liberty to people who die during training exercises (H 3682)

A virtual hearing was held by the Veterans and Federal Affairs Committee on a proposal that would expand eligibility for the Medal of Liberty to include families of service members who died during training exercises. Current law awards the medal to Massachusetts service men and women who have been killed in action or who died in service while in a designated combat area in the line of duty or who died from wounds received in action.

“So often we see our service members suffer tragic circumstances during training exercises, accidents and other unforeseen events,” said co-sponsor Rep. Brian Murray, D-Milford. “While these situations are not necessarily combat related, the dedication of our service men and women, as well as the loss their families suffer, are no less than if they were. This bill was filed so that we have a means of recognizing their sacrifice in an appropriate and respectful manner.”

“This is a tremendously important piece of legislation for the commonwealth,” said co-sponsor Rep. Mike Soter, R-Bellingham. “All too often we lose our service men and women to training accidents. These tragedies are unfortunate and devastating for families. This bill would expand the criteria to help honor those men and women who paid the ultimate sacrifice. I look forward to making strides on this legislation this session and hope to see it on the floor for a vote.”

Create Medal of Fidelity (S 2462)

The Veterans and Federal Affairs Committee’s hearing also included a bill, filed by Gov. Charlie Baker, that would create a new Medal of Fidelity to award to service members who die from injuries or illnesses that are connected to their service but may not become known until later including post-traumatic stress disorder; conditions resulting from a service-connected traumatic brain injury; or a service-connected condition or injury related to the exposure to harmful toxins, herbicides agents or materials.

“While similar to the Medal of Liberty, the Medal of Fidelity will instead recognize service-connected injuries related to exposure to harmful substances like Agent Orange and conditions like Gulf War Syndrome, in addition to combat-related mental illness,” Baker said in a message with the bill. “The creation of a Medal of Fidelity will allow the commonwealth to recognize the enormous toll that illnesses and injuries outside of combat can take, not only on service members but also on their families and loved ones. The Medal of Fidelity represents our commitment to supporting our service members before, during and after their military service and to honoring the sacrifices they and their families make in service to the United States.”

“While the duty of administering the Medal of Liberty is an honor and a privilege, it has become apparent it is not enough to fully honor the families of Massachusetts service members who have answered the call of military duty, served the nation with honor and courage and lost their lives protecting others,” testified Maj. Gen. Gary Keefe of the Massachusetts National Guard, at the virtual hearing. “There are injuries and wounds related to military service that frequently are not immediately apparent or that do not necessarily take place on the field of battle but are no less real.”




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