Beacon Hill Roll Call, Jan. 8-12

The Massachusetts State House in Boston

The Massachusetts State House in Boston

By Bob Katzen

Beacon Hill Roll Call

Published: 01-19-2024 3:12 PM

THE HOUSE AND SENATE: Beacon Hill Roll Call records local senators’ and representatives’ votes from the week of Jan. 8-12.

DEEPFAKE IMAGES (H 4241): House 151-0, approved an amendment that would extend the restrictions on revenge porn to include “deepfake” pornography created by computer generation without a subject’s consent. Deepfake pornography typically uses some existing pornography that is digitally manipulated to replace one person’s face likeness with that of the subject’s face.

“With the continued advancements in digital technology, AI-manufactured, digitized nude photos are our latest phase of exploitation,” said sponsor Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier (D-Pittsfield). “At this time, anyone’s image can be realistically altered to create pornography and then shared without their consent. This amendment takes the critical step to filling the gap being created with this fast-advancing technology and begin to address the pervasive problem of non-consensual deepfake pornography.”

(A “Yes” vote is for the amendment.)

Rep. Natalie Blais, Yes; Rep. Daniel Carey, Yes; Rep. Mindy Domb, Yes; Rep. Lindsay Sabadosa, Yes; Rep. Aaron Saunders, Yes

USE INTEREST FROM STATE’S “RAIN DAY FUND” TO LEVERAGE FEDERAL FUNDS (S 2548): Senate 39-0, approved and sent to the House a bill that would leverage the interest from the state’s Rainy Day Fund to better compete for federal dollars, to ensure the state receives the maximum possible share of federal funds and to pay down the state’s long term debt liabilities. The Rainy Day Fund currently has a historic balance of $8.2 billion.

Supporters said the bill will require the state comptroller to transfer interest from the Rainy Day Fund to the Commonwealth Federal Matching and Debt Reduction Fund on a quarterly basis if the Rainy Day balance is of a healthy amount. The Secretary of Administration and Finance would then pursue federal funds for infrastructure, resiliency and economic development. Once federal grant opportunities expire, money in the fund will go toward reducing the state’s long-term liabilities.

“Remaining competitive, equitable and affordable entails thinking creatively about our commonwealth’s finances and funding, and that is what we accomplished today in the Senate,” said Senate President Karen Spilka (D-Ashland). “We have been fiscally prudent in building up the largest rainy-day fund in Massachusetts history, and today we are doubling down on our fiscal responsibility by using the interest on that fund to compete for federal dollars that will save our commonwealth even more in the long run.”

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“The legislation that the Senate approved today provides us with a smart accounting measure that we can utilize to effectively stretch and maximize our taxpayer dollars to place the commonwealth in the very best position to compete for these lucrative federal funds, while also ensuring we continue to protect our rainy day reserves and adhere to sound fiscal discipline,” said Sen. Mike Rodrigues (D-Westport), Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “Government is all about partnership.”

(A “Yes” vote is for the bill.)

Sen. Joanne Comerford, Yes; Sen. Paul Mark, Yes; Sen. Jacob Oliveira, Yes; Sen. John Velis, Yes

REQUIRE THE GOVERNOR TO GIVE 30 DAYS NOTICE (S 2548): Senate 38-0 and 38-0, approved two amendments to the bill that leverages the interest from the state’s Rainy Day Fund to better compete for federal dollars. Both amendments make the governor’s spending and transfers of funds subject to a 30-day advance reporting requirement to allow the Legislature and the public to know what is being considered before any actions are taken.

“This bill gives the governor and her administration the unilateral power to control what could potentially be millions of public dollars generated from the interest earned by the state’s stabilization fund,” said Sen. Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester), the sponsor of both amendments. “Power must be balanced by the transparency and accountability these amendments provide. They will ensure that the Legislature and the public know what is happening with these precious public resources before it happens.”

(Both roll calls are listed. On both roll calls, a “Yes” vote is for the amendment.)

Sen. Joanne Comerford, Yes/Yes; Sen. Paul Mark, Yes/Yes; Sen. Jacob Oliveira, Yes/Yes; Sen. John Velis, Yes/Yes

ALSO UP ON BEACON HILL 

PROHIBIT GIVING LIFE WITHOUT PAROLE SENTENCES TO 18, 19 AND 20 YEAR OLDS: A 4-3 ruling by the State Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) overruled the Legislature and ruled that life sentences without the possibility of parole for offenders who were 18, 19 or 20 when they committed their crimes violate the prohibition against cruel or unusual punishment and are unconstitutional.

“Bravo, a strong juvenile justice victory,” posted Sen. Jamie Eldridge (D-Marlborough) on X. #cjreform advocates estimate around 200 incarcerated people could be eligible for parole from the SJC ruling, with more decisions to come.”

Some legislators said the court overstepped its boundaries and violated the constitution’s separation of powers. “Passing laws that make crimes and set sentences is the province of the Legislature, and if the majority of the court wants to get into that business, then they ought to resign from the court and run for the Legislature,” said Rep. Jeff Turco (D-Winthrop).

“Today’s ruling underscores the importance of our legal system acknowledging the ongoing brain development of young people in order to improve public safety, reduce recidivism and deliver justice,” said Attorney General Andrea Campbell. “The science emphatically demonstrates that young people have an extraordinary capacity to change and mature, and our justice system should provide them the invaluable opportunity to turn their lives around and fulfil their potential.”

ZERO EMISSIONS BY 2040 (S 2488): The Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy Committee held a hearing on legislation that would accelerate the decrease of carbon emissions by requiring the state to achieve net zero emissions by 2040, instead of current law which sets the goal for 2050.

“I filed this legislation because the latest scientific consensus indicates the worst effects of our climate crisis have begun to unravel,” said sponsor Sen. Marc Pacheco (D-Taunton). “In terms of our collective progress toward net zero emissions, we are crawling when the science clearly demonstrates we need to be sprinting. We have now already reached the point where you don’t need to look at the science, just look out your window.”

REQUIRE INTERNET SERVICE PROVIDERS TO GET CUSTOMER’S CONSENT (H 3179): Another measure heard by the Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy Committee would prohibit telecommunications or internet service providers from collecting personally identifiable information from a customer as a result of the customer’s use of the telecommunications or internet services, without the customer’s express written approval.

“[The bill] seeks to empower consumers by allowing them to take control of how their personal information is collected and disseminated,” said sponsor Rep. Brad Jones (R-North Reading). “At a time of growing privacy concerns, this bill will help to ensure that no personally identifiable information is shared by a telecommunications or internet service provider without the customer’s explicit written consent and will give the customer the power to revoke that consent at any time.”

STUDENTS MUST TAKE A FINANCIAL LITERACY COURSE (H 4199): The Education Committee held a public hearing on legislation that would require the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to develop and assist in the implementation of curriculum on personal financial literacy to equip students with the knowledge and skills they need to become self-supporting and to enable them to make critical decisions regarding personal finances. All students in grades 9-12 would be required to take the course.

The components of the curriculum would include the understanding of loans, borrowing money, interest, credit card debt and online commerce; the rights and responsibilities of renting or buying a home; saving, investing and planning for retirement; banking and financial services; balancing a checkbook; state and federal taxes; charitable giving; preventing identity theft; avoiding online scams; and learning a basic understanding of cryptocurrencies.

“Far too many of our young people are thrust into life after high school with limited education on basic financial skills and habits,” said sponsor Rep. Ryan Hamilton (D-Methuen). “This is unacceptable in a world where ever-increasing college costs lead to high student debt burden and inflated rent and living costs make finding a stable job and place to live challenging for our young people especially. Ensuring that all students in Massachusetts receive financial literacy education prior to graduation is critical to both empowering the next generation and spreading greater information on healthy money practices throughout our communities.”

QUOTABLE QUOTES

“I am proud to support the Equality Model Bill as it acknowledges the lived reality of trafficking survivors and the inherent exploitation of prostituted persons. My Office’s Human Trafficking Division is a proud member of the Commonwealth’s Anti-Trafficking Task Force, a statewide, collaborative approach for combatting both labor and sex trafficking in Massachusetts. We will continue to work with survivors, law enforcement, community organizations and elected officials to elevate this critical work and ensure protections for survivors.”

-- Attorney General Andrea Campbell as local sex trade survivors joined advocates and lawmakers at the Massachusetts State House to recognize National Human Trafficking Awareness Day.

“The application looks very similar to the ones that were sent out in 2022 and 2020. These official mailings have the state seal printed on the outside, to help voters distinguish them from any political mailings they may also be receiving.”

-- Secretary of State Bill Galvin telling voters to be on the lookout for their Official 2024 Vote by Mail Application, as the March 5 Presidential primary gets closer.

“Our audits help to identify where there may be deficiencies, a lack of oversight, or a need for greater accountability across state government. We commend the [the National Guard] for taking responsibility for addressing the areas of concern raised in our audit to ensure they are making necessary improvements.”

-- State Auditor Diana DiZoglio releasing an audit of the Massachusetts National Guard indicating some flaws by the guard including that the guard did not keep adequate records for service members enrolling in state colleges and universities through the Massachusetts Army and Air Force National Guard Tuition and Fee Reimbursement Program.

“This new program seeks to provide funding for women students, who may not be able to access scholarship and grant funding typically available to more traditional students, to continue their education and path to economic success.”

-- Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women Commissioner Denella Clark announcing a new scholarship program.

 Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at bob@beaconhillrollcall.com.