Beacon Hill Roll Call, Feb. 26 to March 2, 2018

Beacon Hill Roll Call
Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Beacon Hill Roll Call records local senators’ and representatives’ votes on roll calls from the week of Feb. 26-March 2.

PROTECT ACCESS TO CONFIDENTIAL HEALTH CARE (H 4256) — House 139-14, approved a bill that would require health insurance companies to issue “Explanation of Benefits” (EOB) summaries only directly to the patient even if the patient is not the primary subscriber. Currently, most insurers send the forms to the primary subscriber, regardless of who the patient is.

“The … Act will give health plan members confidence in knowing that they can receive the medical treatment they need, while ensuring that their medical information remains private and will be delivered in a way that best meets their particular needs,” said Lora Pellegrini, president and CEO of the Massachusetts Association of Health Plans.

“Current law does not ensure that vulnerable women can get … birth control without an explanation of benefits being sent to, for example, an abusive partner,” said Rebecca Hart Holder, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts. “This could lead to some women choosing not to use birth control because of a lack of confidentiality. In order for Bay Staters to have true access to contraception, they must be guaranteed the right to receive that care confidentially.”

“I voted to protect parental rights,” said Rep. Geoff Diehl, R-Whitman, who voted against the measure. “As a father, I believe that parents have a right to know what medical procedures their children are receiving. They need our guidance and support.”

The Senate has approved a different version of the bill. The House version now goes to the Senate for consideration.

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

Rep. Stephen Kulik, Yes

Rep. Paul Mark, Yes

Rep. Susannah Whipps, Yes

PROTECT STATE AND LOCAL PUBLIC EMPLOYEES (H 3974) — Senate 36-0, approved and sent to Gov. Charlie Baker a bill that provides all state and municipal workers with the same protections provided to private workers under the federal Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA).

Supporters said that in the Bay State in 2017 at least six municipal workers died from workplace injuries and noted that an average of 28 municipal workers per week suffer injuries serious enough to be out of work for five days or more. They argued this protection would cover some 450,000 state and local public workers who perform jobs that are sometimes just as dangerous as private sector ones.

“Worker safety must be a top priority,” said Sen. Marc Pacheco, D-Fall River, the bill’s sponsor. “Providing safe and healthy work conditions for all of Massachusetts workers, across all sectors, should be the least we do. Extending these protections to public employees helps them return home to their families, and we must make sure they continue to do so.”

(A “Yes” vote is for the bill.)

Sen. Adam Hinds, Yes

Sen. Stanley Rosenberg, Yes

MADE IN MASS. (S 178) — Senate 36-0, approved and sent to the House a bill establishing the MassMade Program to identify, connect and support businesses that produce consumer goods in Massachusetts.

The program would provide information about qualified Massachusetts businesses and their products in a format readily available at no cost to consumers. The program would also be charged with identifying obstacles to conducting business in the Bay State and act as a resource for consumers seeking goods made here.

“MassMade will boost our economy by empowering companies and consumers alike,” said Sen. Eileen Donoghue, D-Lowell, the bill’s sponsor. No longer will the commonwealth’s manufacturers buy widgets from overseas because they did not realize that the same widget is being made 15 miles down the road. No longer will Massachusetts residents say they want to buy gifts or a specialty food locally, but, not knowing where to shop, give up and go online. MassMade supports the commonwealth’s world-class businesses and provides a key resource for those wishing to buy made-in-Massachusetts goods.”

(A “Yes” vote is for the bill.)

Sen. Adam Hinds, Yes

Sen. Stanley Rosenberg, Yes


EXEMPT STUDENT INFORMATION FROM DISCLOSURE LAWS (S 2309) — The Senate approved and sent to the House a bill that would exempt public colleges and universities from being required to disclose student education records. Under current law, these schools are required to provide this information which is considered "public record" for the purposes of complying with the state's public records laws.

Supporters said this will protect the personal information of some 300,000 students from businesses that want this information for commercial purposes. They noted that colleges are swamped with public records requests such as a student name, home and school address, date of birth, telephone and cellphone numbers, email address, area of study, graduation date, parent's names and addresses.

“At an early age, we teach our children never to speak with strangers, and yet our existing laws compel public colleges or universities to disseminate student information — clearly there’s a gap in reason,” said the bill’s sponsor Sen. Michael Moore, D-Millbury. “We have a duty to protect student information from falling into the hands of outside parties, which often seek to use the information for marketing purposes and self-gain. It’s also important for students to trust that the information disclosed to their college or university is not being publicly shared.”

CANNABIS CONTROL COMMISSION (CCC) VOTES TO DELAY MARIJUANA DELIVERY AND POT CAFES — While retail marijuana stores are scheduled to open in July, the CCC last week voted 4-1 to delay the granting of licenses to companies that plan to provide home delivery of marijuana and to open pot cafés where people could smoke marijuana socially. The commission now has until Oct. 31 to gather information on these services and until March 1, 2019 to adopt regulations and begin licensing them.

“There was hesitance and lack of confidence in how the process will play out,” said Commissioner Shaleen Title, the sponsor of the delays. “It’s important for our commission to develop relationships where people feel they can trust us … so if the delay allows us to do that without hurting marginalized communities, then I think everybody wins.”

“We hope that the governor, attorney general and other prohibition supporters show the proper respect for the sensible compromise fashioned by the commission today, and that they avoid all future pressure tactics,” said Jim Borghesani, director of communications for “Yes on 4” the group that spearheaded the campaign to legalize marijuana. “The commission must be allowed to implement the will of the voters without additional delays or interference.”

SENATE PRESIDENT CHANDLER APPOINTS NEW MAJORITY LEADER — Senate President Harriette Candler announced the appointment of Sen. Cynthia Creem, D-Newton, to the position of majority leader, the second most powerful position in the Senate. The spot, previously held by Chandler, became vacant when she was elected to take over the reins of the Senate during the ongoing Ethics Committee investigation into sexual assault charges against Rosenberg’s husband, Bryon Hefner, whether Rosenberg violated any Senate rules and whether Hefner had any influence over the business of the Senate, as he has claimed to others.

“I am excited and honored by this appointment,” said Creem. “I look forward to working with Senate President Chandler and all of my colleagues to ensure that we have a productive session dealing with those issues that matter most to our individual constituents and to the commonwealth.”

The appointment of Creem, the former assistant majority leader, had a ripple effect that led to the appointment of Sens. Sal DiDomenico, D-Everett, to fill Creem’s position; Jason Lewis, D-Winchester, as assistant majority whip; and Joan Lovely, D-Salem, as vice chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means.

“As we continue to fight for the future of Massachusetts families, the Massachusetts Senate has never had more energy or purpose than it has today,” said Chandler. “This team is dynamic, experienced, diverse in viewpoints, and represents the best of our goals as Democrats and legislators. In making these decisions, it was critical to me to bring together a team of fresh, strong voices, as well as some of our most respected, long-serving members.”

ADD THREE NEW COMMISSIONS ON WOMEN AND GIRLS (H 1110) — The House and Senate have agreed on a version of a bill creating three new regional commissions, in addition to the existing eight, on the status of women and girls: Eastern Regional Commission, Upper Middlesex Commission, and Plymouth County Commission.

The commissions review the status of women in the communities and then make recommendations regarding policies and programs that would increase opportunities and equalities and ensure that women and girls are equal participants in all areas including economics, health-care, civil rights, education and business development.

“For nearly 20 years, the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women (MCSW) and its regional commissions have done a tremendous job advocating for women’s equality,” said Rep. Elizabeth Poirier, R-North Attleboro, the sponsor of the bill. “The three new regional commissions … will help to further the MCSW’s mission and make certain that the specific needs and concerns are addressed for women residing in the Eastern Massachusetts, Upper Middlesex and Plymouth County areas.”

“CASINO UNIVERSITY” — MGM Springfield, the $950 million resort casino under construction and expected to open in September in Springfield, opened the Massachusetts Casino Career Training Institute Gaming School last week to train potential dealers to work in the casino. MGM plans to hire some 450 dealers.

“Soon, local residents will be trained and ready to start a successful new career path in an exciting industry,” said MGM Springfield General Manager Alex Dixon. “But time is of the essence. We will begin hiring very soon and the earlier candidates are trained, the sooner they can audition for our team.”

The institute, a partnership between MGM, Holyoke Community College and Springfield Technical Community College, has hired 15 professional dealers who will train candidates to deal several games including poker, roulette, craps, mini baccarat and blackjack. MGM announced it will reimburse the fee, ranging from $199 to $599 per course, to applicants who are hired and remain employed at MGM for at least one year.

MARCH MAPLE MADNESS (H 4246) — The Senate approved a House-approved bill designating March as Massachusetts Maple Month in recognition of the vital role maple sugaring plays in the agriculture industry, our culture, heritage and economy. The measure “commends the maple syrup producers that create a natural native sweetener and a versatile ingredient that adds unique flavor enhancing qualities to many dishes.”

The original version of the bill, filed by Rep. Stephen Kulik, D-Worthington, included a section that designated pure Massachusetts maple syrup as the state’s official sweetener.

The House dropped it from the bill via an amendment by Rep. Ted Speliotis, D-Danvers, whose committee reported the bill out to the House for action. “I personally don’t know enough about the sweetener industry to know if maple is the best sweetener,” Speliotis told the State House News Service. The bill needs final House and Senate approval before being sent to Gov. Baker.