Beacon Hill Roll Call, Aug. 6-10, 2018

Beacon Hill Roll Call
Published: 8/14/2018 4:57:31 PM
THE HOUSE AND SENATE

Beacon Hill Roll Call records local senators’ and representatives’ votes on recent roll calls for the week of Aug.6-10.

CIVICS EDUCATION (S 2631) — House 151-0, Senate 37-0, approved and sent to Gov. Charlie Baker a bill that makes changes in the current law that all public schools must provide instruction in American history and civics.

Current law requires that the instruction include the Constitution of the United States; the Declaration of Independence; the Bill of Rights; the state Constitution; local history and government; a program on the correct use and display of the U.S. flag; and the importance of participation in the electoral process.

The bill adds several topics that are required to be in the instruction including the function and composition of the branches of local, state and federal government; the roles and responsibilities of a citizen in a democracy; the development of skills to access, analyze and evaluate written and digital media as it relates to history and civics; community diversity and historical trends in voter registration; civic participation relative to disenfranchised voter populations; opportunities to identify and debate issues relative to power, economic status; and the common good in democracy.

Other provisions include requiring each public school serving grades eight to 12 to provide at least one student-led civics project for each student; creation of a Civics Project Trust Fund to help further civics education; and requiring the state to provide information to cities and promote youth membership on municipal boards, committees and commissions.

The bill does not include language that the Senate had approved making it mandatory beginning in 2021 that all students complete one student-led civics project after eighth grade in order to graduate.

Education Committee House Chair Rep. Alice Peisch, D-Wellesley, said the bill incentivizes the robust implementation of the new civics, history and social science curriculum framework. “It also creates a Civics Project Trust Fund to assist with professional development, collaboration with institutions of higher education and other stakeholder organizations, and the creation of a competitive evaluation of student-led civics projects for all eighth-graders,” Peisch concluded.

Gov. Baker proposed amendments that he said would improve the bill.

“We must be thoughtful as to how we approach the instruction of civics, always ensuring in our classrooms that differing points of view are afforded impartial consideration,” Baker said. “When opposing positions are raised, our students should be expected to engage in a civil discourse that is both appropriate and respectful.”

Baker continued, “While we want to encourage the development of critical reasoning skills, we would never want students to feel forced to engage in student-led civic projects in the public sphere that advance positions contrary to their personal convictions. Schools, therefore, must make alternative opportunities readily available.”

(A “Yes” vote is for the bill.)

Rep. Stephen Kulik, Yes

Rep. Paul Mark, Yes

Rep. Susannah Whipps, Yes

Sen. Adam Hinds, Yes

ANIMAL PROTECTION (S 2646) — House 151-0, Senate 37-0, approved and the governor signed into law legislation designed to protect cats and dogs. Provisions double the hit and run penalty for an accident involving cats and dogs; permit animal abuse to be reported by Department of Children and Families, the Department of Elder Affairs and Disabled Persons Protection Commission employees; and add animal control officers as mandatory reporters of child abuse, elder abuse and abuse against disabled persons.

Other provisions require property owners and landlords to check their property for abandoned animals within three days following a foreclosure or termination of tenancy; prohibit the drowning of animals; remove the automatic killing of animals involved in animal fighting and instead provides that animals be evaluated individually for adoption if appropriate.

“Our commitment toward ending the cruel and inhumane treatment of innocent animals is steadfast, and with this legislation, we have taken significant action to protect their safety and welfare,” said Sen. Mark Montigny, D-New Bedford, co-sponsor of the original bill. “There is zero tolerance for such despicable brutality.”

(A “Yes” vote is for the bill.)

Rep. Stephen Kulik, Yes

Rep. Paul Mark, Yes

Rep. Susannah Whipps, Yes

Sen. Adam Hinds Yes

CLEAN ENERGY (H 4857) — House 150-1, Senate 36-0, approved and Gov. Baker signed into law a clean energy bill that increases the renewable portfolio standard (RPS) by 1 percent until the end of 2019, then by 2 percent each year until the end of 2029, and then back to 1 percent indefinitely. The RPS governs the amount of clean energy that utilities must purchase and integrate into the state’s energy system.

Other provisions institute a Clean Peak Standard to pair energy storage with renewable energy in order to make renewable energy available during the most expensive and highest-emitting hours of electricity consumption; require gas utility companies to report annually to the Department of Public Utilities the company’s lost and unaccounted for gas; and establish an energy storage target of 1000 megawatt hours to be achieved by Dec. 31, 2025.

Rep. Tom Golden, D-Lowell, House chairman of the Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy, said the bill builds off of last session’s important work of finding affordable solutions to diversify the state’s energy portfolio with large-scale hydropower, offshore wind and energy storage.

“I am particularly proud of the forward-looking measures on energy storage, which include resiliency measures to prepare the state for extreme weather events. And a first-in-the-nation program to combine storage and renewables to deliver clean power into the hours of the day when our electricity is generated by expensive and polluting resources,” Golden concluded.

“Our administration is proud of our nation-leading work on climate change and renewable energy, and we are pleased to sign the clean energy legislation which will help us meet our greenhouse gas reduction goals,” Baker said.

(A “Yes” vote is for the bill.)

Rep. Stephen Kulik, Yes

Rep. Paul Mark, Yes

Rep. Susannah Whipps, Yes

Sen. Adam Hinds, Yes

CAP ON WELFARE BENEFIT FOR KIDS (H 4823) — House 37-114, Senate 30-7, rejected Gov. Baker’s amendments to a bill that repeals the current law that denies welfare benefits to children conceived while — or soon after — the family began receiving the benefits.

The governor’s amendments still repeal the current cap but would also count adult Supplemental Security Income (SSI) when determining a family’s eligibility for the Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children (TAFDC) program.

Gov. Baker said that this change would align TAFDC with the current eligibility requirements for federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and would treat SSI income the same as income like veteran benefits, retirement income and disability insurance benefits that are already counted in determining a family’s eligibility and benefit level.

“Eliminating the cap without other accompanying changes could have the perverse effect of reducing incentives for TAFDC recipients to get back to work and cause existing inequities in the TAFDC program to persist and expand,” said Baker.

Supporters of the repeal said the law currently denies an estimated 8,700 children in poverty across the state $100 per month in benefits and a clothing allowance of $300 per year. They argued the governor’s amendment would cut benefits for thousands of children with a severely disabled parent.

“We are extremely disappointed that Gov. Baker is holding hostage thousands of children excluded by the Cap on Kids in order to cut benefits for thousands of children with a severely disabled parent,” said Deborah Harris of the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute and Naomi Meyer of Greater Boston Legal Services in a joint statement. “The welfare family cap is an ineffective policy that harms children and families and does not reflect the values of the commonwealth. The governor’s amendment is an underhanded maneuver that pits one group of vulnerable children against another.”

The House and Senate sent the bill back to the governor who vetoed it. The Legislature cannot override the governor’s veto because for the rest of the year, both branches are holding informal sessions that will not act on the veto.

(On the House roll call, a “Yes” vote is for the governor’s amendments.)

(Please note: The Senate roll call was on rejection of the amendments so a “Yes” vote is against the governor’s amendments. A “No” vote is for the amendments.)

Rep. Stephen Kulik, No

Rep. Paul Mark, No

Rep. Susannah Whipps, No

Sen. Adam Hinds, Yes

FIRE AND POLICE SMOKING (S 1386) — Senate approved 37-0, House approved on a voice vote without a roll call and the governor signed into law an amendment to the 1988 law that prohibits police officers and firefighters from using any tobacco products and results in the automatic firing of anyone who violates the policy. The bill would amend the law to allow a first-time offender to remain on the force if he or she enters a smoking cessation program. If the officer violates the law a second time, he or she would be automatically fired.

Sen. Mike Brady, D-Brockton, the sponsor of the bill, was asked to file this legislation by a constituent.

“I have spoken to several public safety personnel about this,” Brady said. “There have been employees that have been terminated in the past. I believe this is a common-sense approach to give those that put their lives on the line every day a second chance.”

(A “Yes” vote is for the bill that gives a second chance.)

Sen. Adam Hinds, Yes

ALSO UP ON BEACON HILL

Gov. Baker signed into law several other pieces of legislation last week, including:

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT PACKAGE (H 4868) — Includes a “sales tax holiday” that allowed consumers to buy most products that cost under $2,500 on Saturday and Sunday without paying the state’s 6.25 percent sales tax.

Other provisions include $50 million for a grant program targeting coastal communities and creating jobs in the maritime economy sector; $250 million for the MassWorks Infrastructure Program, which provides a one-stop shop for municipalities and other eligible public entities seeking public infrastructure funding; and $12.5 million in capital dollars for MassVentures to continue providing competitive grants to Massachusetts-based companies commercializing technologies.

Tax breaks in the package include tax credits to businesses to occupy vacant storefronts in downtown areas and the establishment of a $2.5 million Apprenticeship Tax Credit program for apprenticeships in computer occupations, health care and the manufacturing industry.

“Our administration is proud to sign our second economic development bill to provide more opportunities to workers, strengthen Massachusetts’ economy and enhance workforce development programs,” Baker said.

“The economic development bill will put thousands of people to work rebuilding our roads and bridges, and will help prepare the next generation by making strategic investments in workforce training and technical education programs,” said one of the architects of the package, Sen. Eric Lesser, D-Longmeadow.

Another key provision places restrictions on an employer’s use of non-compete agreements that prevent workers from competing with their ex-employer for a certain period of time after leaving the company.

“In addition to the investments in this bill, reforms to our commonwealth’s non-compete laws will help workers and make our state’s companies more competitive,” Lesser said. “It has been a decade-long effort to achieve this reform, and with it, we have rebalanced the scales to benefit employees in an economy where companies compete for the best talent.”

Baker vetoed a section of the bill that enforced a ban on making bad faith assertions of patent infringement, a practice known as “patent trolling.” The trolls are patent holders who often do not manufacture products or supply services based upon the patent but make money and wreak havoc by suing alleged infringers beyond the patent’s actual value.

Baker said he vetoed that section because it creates a new cause of action against patent owners in a manner that is too broad and likely to have unintended consequences for Massachusetts residents, companies and universities.

“While I agree that states have a role to play in deterring bad faith assertions of patent infringement outside of the context of federal patent litigation, I believe that the Legislature should revisit this topic in a future session and draft a more focused solution to this problem,” Baker said.

“I am disappointed that Gov. Baker chose to veto an important safeguard against patent trolling,” Lesser said. “This provision was widely supported in the tech and startup communities as a way to protect entrepreneurs and inventors from patent trolling tactics. These shakedown operations sap resources from new startups and scare people out of inventing things here in Massachusetts, costing us thousands of jobs and potentially billions of dollars in new investment.”

OPIOIDS (H 4866) — Aimed at combatting the opioid problem in the Bay State by addressing opioid addiction, prevention and treatment.

The measure establishes a statewide standing order for Narcan, expanding access to this opioid overdose-reversing drug without an individual prescription; establishes a statewide program to provide remote consultations with primary care practices, nurse practitioners and other health care providers for persons over the age of 17 experiencing chronic pain; establishes a community-based behavioral health promotion and prevention trust fund to promote positive mental, emotional and behavioral health among children and young adults and to prevent substance use disorders among children and young adults; and establishes a center for police training in crisis intervention to serve as a clearinghouse for best practices in police response to people with mental illness and substance use disorders.

Other provisions require most prescriptions for controlled substances be provided electronically; permit a patient to partially fill a prescription for a schedule II substance and return to the original dispensing pharmacy for the remaining amount of the prescription and prohibit the use of drug coupons for opiate drugs.

“The Massachusetts Legislature has been steadfast and unwavering in the face of the relentless disease of addiction,” said Rep. Denise Garlick, D-Needham, House chair of the Committee on Mental Health, Substance Use and Recovery. “This disease is a reality that people face every single day, but we are pouring our best expertise and resources into this fight. We are in this for the long haul and we are not backing down — we are in this battle together to save lives.”




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