Beacon Hill Roll Call

  • The Massachusetts State House in Boston

Published: 8/23/2021 8:51:24 PM

THE HOUSE AND SENATE: There were no roll calls in the House or Senate last week. This week, Beacon Hill Roll Call reports on the percentage of times local senators voted with their party’s leadership in the 2021 session.

Beacon Hill Roll Call uses 72 votes from the 2021 Senate session as the basis for this report. This includes all roll calls that were not quorum calls or on local issues.

The votes of the of 35 Democrats were compared to Senate Majority Leader Cynthia Creem (D-Newton), second-in-command in the Senate. We could not compare the Democrats’ votes to those of Senate President Karen Spilka (D-Ashland) because, by tradition, the Senate president rarely votes.

The senator who voted with Creem the least percentage of times is Sen. Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen) who voted with her only 50 times (69.4 percent). Rounding out the top 3 who voted with Creem the least number of times are Sens. Walter Timilty (D-Milton) who voted with her 56 times (77.7 percent) and Marc Pacheco (D-Taunton) who voted with her 62 times (86.1 percent)

Nineteen (54.2 percent) of the 35 Democratic senators voted with Creem 100 percent of the time in 2021.

Seven senators voted with Creem all but one time: Sens. Jo Comerford (D-Northampton), Julian Cyr (D-Truro), James Eldridge (D-Acton), Paul Feeney (D-Foxborough), Barry Finegold (D-Andover), Edward Kennedy (D-Lowell) and Jason Lewis (D-Winchester). 

All in all, 32 Democrats (91.4 percent) voted with Creem 90 percent or more of the time.

The votes of the two Republican senators were compared with those of GOP Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester). In 2021, as in 2020, none of the two voted with Tarr 100 percent of the time. In 2021, the Republican senator who voted the lowest percentage of times with Tarr was Sen. Patrick O'Connor (R-Weymouth) who voted with Tarr 84.7 percent of the time. Sen. Ryan Fattman (R-Sutton) voted with Tarr 93 percent of the time.

SENATORS’ SUPPORT OF PARTY’S LEADERSHIP IN 2021 THROUGH AUG. 20

The percentage next to the senator’s name represents the percentage of times the senator supported his or her party’s leadership. The number in parentheses represents the number of times the senator opposed his or her party’s leadership.

Some senators voted on all 72 roll call votes. Others missed one or more roll call. The percentage for each senator 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.

Sen. Joanne Comerford, 98.6 percent (1)

Sen. Adam Hinds, 100 percent (0)                           Sen. Eric Lesser, 100 percent (0)                         

Also up on Beacon Hill

COMMEMORATE NELSON MANDELA’S BOSTON VISIT — The commission created by the Legislature in 2016 to develop a way to commemorate Nelson Mandela's 1990 visit to Boston has filed its first report. The commission supports an approach that would create a walking tour, similar to the Freedom Trail, that would connect the three locations Mandela visited in the city on June 23, 1990, just months after he was released from a South African prison. The sites are Madison Park High School in Roxbury where he made a speech, the John F. Kennedy Library in Columbia Point where a luncheon took place and on the Esplanade, where a concert was held.

“After much discussion the commission favored a Mandela ‘walk’ approach which would include all three locations and would be based on the present Freedom Trail walk provided to visitors to the city,” states the report. “However, the commission also questions whether this concept might have its limitations and that, therefore, the decision should be delayed at this time by the commission since the design competition may well include all three (or perhaps two) sites (Madison Park High School and the Esplanade) and that the results of that competition should establish whether there would be just one or multiple sites.” 

The commission intends to create a new subcommittee to successfully organize and administer and arrange for a design competition; select a site (or sites); and arrange for the financing and construction of the memorial (or memorials).

MANDATORY COVID-19 VACCINE REQUIREMENT FOR EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENT EMPLOYEES — Gov. Charlie Baker issued an executive order requiring an estimated 42,000 Executive Department employees, including employees in the governor’s office, whether they work in person or remotely, to provide proof they have received either the required two doses of the Moderna or Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine or the single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine by Oct. 17, 2021. An exemption may be granted to an employee for whom vaccination is medically contraindicated or who objects to the vaccination on the grounds of religious reasons. The Baker administration will provide further guidance in the next few weeks for employees who want to seek an exemption.

“Executive Department employees who are not vaccinated or approved for an exemption as of October 17, 2021, will be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including termination,” said the Baker administration in a press release. “The administration will continue to work with its union partners regarding this policy, and specific ramifications of non-compliance for staff represented by unions will be discussed well in advance of October 17 with each employee union. Management employees not in compliance as of October 17, 2021, will also be subject to disciplinary action up to and including termination.”

“I applaud Gov. Baker for issuing a strong vaccination mandate for Massachusetts Executive Department employees,” said Senate President Karen Spilka (D-Ashland) following the release of the executive order. “It underscores the message that vaccination is our best tool for ending the disruption and suffering caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Senate working group is meeting to discuss updated hybrid work policies, including a vaccine mandate and other policies guided by public health best practices and designed to keep Senate employees safe. I expect this group to issue its recommendations very soon.”

Spilka continued, “In order for the governor’s vaccine mandate to be successful, the Legislature will work to extend emergency paid COVID leave in the commonwealth past the September 30, 2021 deadline and ensure that all workers have the opportunity to take time from work to receive the vaccine if and when they can.”

“We are deeply disappointed in this executive order,” said the Massachusetts Correction Officers Federated Union (MCOFU) in a memo to its members. “We feel this executive order fails to uphold your individual rights and is unconstitutional. The MCOFU Executive Board has begun the process of pursuing all legal and legislative remedies at our disposal, up to and including an injunction in court. While we know there is anger and outrage, and we share it, we do have time to continue meeting this mandate with opposition before it takes effect on October 17th, 2021. This fight is not over. It is just the beginning. We urge the governor to reconsider this mandate, and at worst, to continue with a plan that allows for voluntary vaccination or regular testing.”

For more on the COVID-19 vaccine from the state and where to get vaccinated, go to: www.mass.gov/COVIDvaccine

GOV. BAKER FILES $1.568 BILLION SUPPLEMENTAL BUDGET ON HOW TO SPEND THE STATE’S SURPLUS – Gov. Baker filed a $1.568 billon supplemental budget that would provide $1 billion in unemployment insurance relief for employers. It also cancels a planned withdrawal of $1.1 billion from the state’s Rainy Day Fund to cover the state’s expenses, and instead deposits $1.1 billion in tax revenue into the Rainy Day Fund, pushing its balance to a highest ever $4.63 billion.

Other provisions include $405 million to fund collective bargaining agreements; $39 million for rate increases for the human service workforce; $20 million to support the workforce in Chapter 766-approved special education schools; $17 million for 800 temporary individual shelter beds; and $5 million for an evidence-based permanent supportive housing model for individuals experiencing homelessness designed to create fast and sustainable pathways out of homelessness.

Another provision would implement a tax deduction for charitable donations made by taxpayers. Massachusetts voters approved the deduction in 2000 by a 71.9 percent to 28.1 percent margin. The deduction was in effect only for one year after its passage in 2000 and its implementation has been delayed by the Legislature since that time. The proposal is probably dead on arrival since, a few weeks ago, the House 124-35 and the Senate 34-6, voted to delay the deduction for another year.

“Thanks to careful management of the commonwealth’s tax revenues and strong economic activity, Massachusetts has an unprecedented surplus at the close of fiscal year 2021, and this legislation ensures those resources are put to work to support local economies and small businesses,” said Gov. Baker. “Our proposal to provide employers with unemployment insurance relief is fiscally responsible and would provide much-needed support for businesses and workers across the commonwealth. By combining this bill with our $2.9 billion plan to spend a portion of Massachusetts’ federal funds on urgent priorities like homeownership, environmental infrastructure and job-training, the commonwealth has an opportunity to leverage significant resources to promote further economic growth and support our hardest-hit communities.”

AND THE WINNER IS - Some 2,000 Massachusetts residents 21 and older will be the judges in High Times Magazine’s Cannabis Cup competition to sample, rate, review and vote for the best cannabis products in the Bay State across a wide range of categories including indica, sativa and hybrid flower; pre-rolls and infused pre-rolls; indica and sativa concentrates; vape pens and cartridges; edibles, gummies and non-gummies. 

Judges are the first 2,000 people who purchase a judging kit, ranging in price from $119 to $239 depending on the category.of cannabis products in the kit.  The kits are now available at 16 locations of participating retail cannabis shops across the state. Judging will end on October 17 and the winners will be announced on October 24. High Times has sponsored this contest in the past but there were only 20 judges—all selected by High Times which began publication back in 1974.

To see a list of retailers selling the kits, go to: https://www.cannabiscup.com/massachusetts-2021/ 

Quotable quotes

Top Five Bills Edition: According to the Legislature’s website, here are the top five bills at which visitors to the site are looking.

#1 - HD 4416 – Prohibits requiring a person be vaccinated against COVID-19 as a condition of entry to state itself; all state or local public buildings; all private and public K-12 schools; universities; and all businesses.

#2 - H 2808 – Adds three years to age or years of service for state or city and town employees who have volunteered to work or who have been required to worked at their worksites outside of their personal residence during the COVID-19 state of emergency declared by the governor on March 10, 2020 through December 31, 2020.

#3 - S 185 – Creates a guaranteed minimum income for everyone in the Bay State by enhancing the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit so that it covers more households delivers more cash benefits and guarantees that every family earning up to $70,000 per year receives a minimum of $2,400 per year.

#4 - H 428 – Aims to end housing discrimination by increasing mandatory fair housing training for real estate brokers and streamlining the system under which real estate brokers who discriminate can have their license suspended.

#5 - SD 2723 – Requires all teachers, students aged two and older and child care workers, when inside the building, to wear a mask or face covering that covers the mouth and nose, except while eating and drinking. Individuals are also exempt if they are unable to wear masks due to physician-verified medical conditions, disability or other health and safety factors.

HOW LONG WAS LAST WEEK'S SESSION? Beacon Hill Roll Call tracks the length of time that the House and Senate were in session each week. Many legislators say that legislative sessions are only one aspect of the Legislature's job and that a lot of important work is done outside of the House and Senate chambers. They note that their jobs also involve committee work, research, constituent work and other matters that are important to their districts. Critics say that the Legislature does not meet regularly or long enough to debate and vote in public view on the thousands of pieces of legislation that have been filed. They note that the infrequency and brief length of sessions are misguided and lead to irresponsible late-night sessions and a mad rush to act on dozens of bills in the days immediately preceding the end of an annual session.

During the week of Aug. 16-20, the House met for a total of 35 minutes while the Senate met for a total of 46 minutes.

Monday,  Aug. 16, House, 11:02 to 11:22 a.m.

Senate 11:16 a.m. to 12:03 p.m.

Tuesday, Aug. 17, no House session, no Senate session

Wednesday, Aug. 18, no House session, no Senate session

Thursday, Aug. 19, House 11:01 to 11:05 a.m.; Senate 11:14 to 11:17 a.m.

Friday, Aug. 20, no House session, no Senate session

Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at bob@beaconhillrollcall.com


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