Beacon Hill Roll Call: June 3-7

  • This Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2019 photo shows the Massachusetts Statehouse in Boston. AP PHOTO/Elise Amendola

Beacon Hill Roll Call
Published: 6/12/2019 2:10:21 PM

The House and Senate. Beacon Hill Roll Call records local representatives’ and senators’ votes on roll calls from the week of June 3-7.

Allow Unions To Charge Non-union Members For Some Costs (H 3854)

House 155-1, approved and sent to the Senate a bill that would allow unions to charge non-members for the cost of some services and representation. The bill was filed as a response to a 2018 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that public employees cannot be forced to pay fees or dues to a union to which he or she does not belong. Freedom of speech advocates hailed the decision while labor advocates said it was an unjust attack on unions.

“Today the Massachusetts House of Representatives stood up for workers,” said Massachusetts AFL-CIO President Steven Tolman. “They stood up for workers and against the right-wing special interests that forced their anti-union views across the country through the misguided and political Janus Supreme Court ruling.”

“The union bosses just got the green light to harass and intimidate state workers who are not enrolled in a union,” said Paul Craney, spokesman for the Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance. “They can flex their muscle as much as they want, to the detriment of our state workers, and Massachusetts can thank the 155 House lawmakers who voted for it.”

“This legislation is just one important step in the fight against anti-worker attacks,” said Peter MacKinnon, president of SEIU Local 509. “Even now, the labor movement is facing new legal threats designed to make their way through the courts to drain our resources and weaken our collective power. Our members, our legislators and our communities must stand united against those that attempt to divide us.”

“While I wasn’t opposed to the overall bill, I truly believe that personal privacy is a fundamental human right,” said Rep. Shawn Dooley (R-Norfolk), the only member who voted against the bill. “And for the Legislature to create a law that takes away that right from a citizen is simply wrong. All I was asking is that the employee be given a choice if they wanted to share their private, personal information with the union. Maybe it is only a couple of people, but isn’t our duty to protect their privacy rights over the wants and desires of a trade organization? Obviously, I’m alone in this thinking, but I feel this is an extremely slippery slope and sets a dangerous precedent.”

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

■Rep. Donald Berthiaume Yes

■Rep. Natalie Blais Yes

■Rep. Daniel Carey Yes

■Rep. Mindy Domb Yes

■Rep. Thomas Petrolati Yes

■Rep. Lindsay Sabadosa Yes

■Rep. Todd Smola Yes

■Rep. Susannah Whipps Yes

Personal Info (H 3854)

House 31-125, rejected an amendment that would eliminate the requirement that employees give the union their home address, home and cell phone number and personal e-mail address. The amendment would leave in place the requirement that the employee provide his or her work telephone number and work e-mail address.

Amendment supporters said that requiring personal information is an invasion of the employee’s privacy. They noted that unions have enough ways to contact new employees without using personal information.

“It is more than reasonable to expect that unions, who will be representing individuals in their work interest, should contact those prospective members at their place of work,” said Rep. Joe McKenna (R-Webster), the sponsor of the amendment. “This amendment would ensure that unions, whose reputation has not always been sterling, cannot use unnecessarily coercive or harassing tactics to impose on someone’s privacy at their home or on their cell phone in order to pressure them into union membership.”

Amendment opponents said laws have to keep up with the times. They noted that today’s communication is done via cell phone and personal e-mail address, not home address and landline phone.

(Please read carefully what a “Yes” and a “No” vote mean. On this roll call, the vote can easily be misinterpreted. A “Yes” vote is against requiring that employees give the union their home address, home and cell phone number and personal e-mail address. A “No” vote is for requiring it.)

■Rep. Donald Berthiaume Yes

■Rep. Natalie Blais No

■Rep. Daniel Carey No

■Rep. Mindy Domb No

■Rep. Thomas Petrolati No

■Rep. Lindsay Sabadosa No

■Rep. Todd Smola Yes

■Rep. Susannah Whipps No

Breach Of Info (H 3854)

House 28-128, rejected an amendment that would require unions to provide the state with a bond with sufficient surety to provide credit monitoring and identity theft protection services to all union members in the event of a data breach. The amendment also would hold the union liable for any damage or injury that results from the disclosure of any employee contact information to a third party.

“Seemingly weekly we read news of yet another large-scale data breach of individuals’ personal data,” said Rep. McKenna. “It is reasonable to assume that a union with whom we entrust such personal information to, shall take the necessary steps to prevent and secure against identity theft. If they violate this law and illegally share the personal information they have collected from an employee, it is only logical that they should be held liable for any damage or injury that results.”

Amendment opponents said credit monitoring and identity theft protection services would already be provided to each employee under a law passed last year that applies to not just union workers, but to all workers.

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

■Rep. Donald Berthiaume Yes

■Rep. Natalie Blais No

■Rep. Daniel Carey No

■Rep. Mindy Domb No

■Rep. Thomas Petrolati No

■Rep. Lindsay Sabadosa No

■Rep. Todd Smola Yes

■Rep. Susannah Whipps No

Employer Must Give Employee The Option to Opt Out (H 3854)

House 27-129, rejected an amendment that would require an employer to meet with a newly hired employee and inform the employee he or she has the option not to join the union.

“It is entirely possible, if not likely, that a new employee may not be aware that under [the Supreme Court decision] they have the right to choose not to join a union and to pay union dues,” said McKenna. “However, asking an employee who may not even be aware of that right to decline when sitting across the table from a union representative does not give that employee the ability to make that decision free from all pressure or coercion. It is right and fair that an employer should provide their employees with all information pertaining to their rights, and the ability to choose to opt out while not being pressured by a union rep.”

Amendment opponents offered no arguments during the debate. Despite repeated requests by Beacon Hill Roll Call for a comment from three representatives who voted against the amendment, none of them responded including Rep. Tackey Chan (D-Quincy), Dan Ryan (D-Charlestown) and Bud Williams (D-Springfield)

Chan, Ryan and Williams are very familiar with the bill since they filed their own versions of it months ago. Their versions were eventually consolidated into this new version that was being debated on the House floor.

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

■Rep. Donald Berthiaume Yes

■Rep. Natalie Blais No

■Rep. Daniel Carey No

■Rep. Mindy Domb No

■Rep. Thomas Petrolati No

■Rep. Lindsay Sabadosa No

■Rep. Todd Smola Yes

■Rep. Susannah Whipps No

Ban Hand-held Cell Phones (S 2216)

Senate 40-0, approved a bill that would prohibit drivers from using a hand-held cellphone or other electronic device to make a call or access social media. The measure allows drivers to use only a hands-free phone but allows him or her to perform a single tap or swipe to activate or deactivate the hands-free mode feature. Use of a hand-held phone would be permitted in emergencies including if emergency service is necessary for the safety of the operator, a passenger or a pedestrian; and if police intervention is necessary due to a motor vehicle being operated in a manner that poses a threat to the safety of travelers on the roadway or to pedestrians.

Violators would be fined $100 for a first offense,$250 for a second offense and $500 for a third offense and subsequent offenses. A third offense would count as a surchargeable offense that could lead to higher insurance rates for the violator.

Supporters said that the bill would save lives and prevent accidents. They noted that the measure does not ban cellphone use but simply requires the use of hands-free ones. They pointed to accidents, deaths and injuries involving handheld cellphones.

Although no one voted against the bill, some opponents say that the restriction is another example of government intrusion into people’s cars and lives. Others note that there are already laws on the books prohibiting driving while distracted and that the bill is a bonanza for insurance companies which will collect millions of dollars in surcharges.

“Studies on the effectiveness of hands-free vs. handheld cellphone operation of a motor vehicle are inconclusive at best,” said Rep. Peter Durant (R-Spencer), one of the two members who voted against a similar measure when it was up for a vote in the House a few weeks ago. “The real culprit in distracted driving is texting, which was already banned in 2010 but are still at staggeringly high levels. This bill doesn’t solve the problem of distracted driving and we could have used the money spent in this bill to provide better public awareness of the dangers and consequences of texting and driving.”

“After 15 years of filing and tirelessly pushing legislation to ban such dangerous behavior, Beacon Hill is finally ready to end the tragedies occurring on our roadways,” said Sen. Mark Montigny (D-New Bedford). The chief proponent of the bill in the Senate. “Today, the Senate again passed a strong bill to save lives. We can never truly understand the pain suffered by the families of distracted driving victims, but we certainly owe it to them to put this on the governor’s desk ASAP.”

The House has approved a different version of the bill and a conference committee will work out the differences.

(A “Yes” vote is for the bill.)

■Sen. Joanne Comerford Yes

■Sen. Adam Hinds Yes

■Sen. Donald Humason Yes

■Sen. Eric Lesser Yes

$200 Million in Chapter 90 Funding for Local Roads (H 69)

Senate 40-0, approved and Gov. Charlie Baker signed into law a bill authorizing $200 million in one-time funding for the maintenance and repair of local roads and bridges in cities and towns across the state. The package is a bond bill under which the funding would be borrowed by the state through the sale of bonds.

Other provisions include $200 million for rail improvements and $1.5 billion in bonding to allow for federal interstate repairs to advance. According to officials, 80 percent of the $1.5 billion would be reimbursed by the federal government.

Supporters said the $200 million would help cities and towns keep their roads and bridges safe and allow many vital municipal road projects to move forward.

“Chapter 90 funding provides cities and towns with critical resources to carry out important projects like highway construction and road paving to improve local infrastructure in communities across Massachusetts,” said Gov. Baker. “We thank the Legislature for working with our administration to pass this bill and continue our support for local officials this construction season.”

No one voted against the bill but there are some legislators and city and town officials who say the $200 million that has been given for the past few years is insufficient. The Massachusetts Municipal Association[MMA] has been seeking for several years to increase the amount to $300 million. “The MMA’s long-term goal is to work with the governor and Legislature on a shared strategy to increase Chapter 90 funding and provide a multi-year framework, so that cities and towns can improve the quality of our roadways and save taxpayer dollars,” said MMA Executive Director Geoff Beckwith.

Transportation House chairman Bill Straus (D-Mattapoisett) said the current $200 million is sufficient when combined with other state programs to help cities’ and towns’ infrastructure, including $50 million for small bridge repairs.

(A “Yes” vote is for the bill.)

■Sen. Joanne Comerford Yes

■Sen. Adam Hinds Yes

■Sen. Donald Humason Yes

■Sen. Eric Lesser Yes

Also Up on Beacon Hill

Mentoring Student-veterans (H 3228) – A bill being considered by the Veterans and Federal Affairs Committee would allow UMass, Bridgewater and Salem State Universities to establish a veteran mentoring program aimed at helping veteran students with adjusting to civilian and campus life. The program would provide enrolled veterans with independent support, advice and guidance by a mentor in order to help their academic goals; improve their personal relationships on campus; increase their retention and provide access to student-service support.

Transitioning from military service to the classroom can be a difficult and confusing process for any veteran,” said Rep. Harold Naughton (D-Worcester), the sponsor of the measure. “This bill aims to ensure that veteran students are provided with the resources necessary for their academic and social success on campus. The pilot program would also allow for civilian students and staff to learn from the experience and service of their veteran peers.”

Create Commission On The Social Status Of Men And Boys Of Color (H 131) – The Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities is considering a bill creating a 21-member permanent Commission on the Social Status of men and boys of color.

“The purpose of the commission is to arrange for an ongoing analysis and develop solutions to help remedy the social ills in society that impact black men and boys in the commonwealth,” said the bill’s sponsor Rep. Russell Holmes (D-Boston). “The ‘War on Drugs’ has had an enormous negative impact on black men and boys. It has taken men from our households and left the black community the most vulnerable it has been in this country since the end of slavery. We must eliminate the policies implemented at the federal, state and local level that persist and continue to make it difficult for black men and boys to succeed.”

Feminine Hygiene Products (H 565) – The Education Committee held a hearing on a proposal that effective August 1, 2020 would require all public schools from grade 6 through grade 12 to provide free feminine hygiene products in the restrooms. Schools would also be required to ensure that the products are available in a convenient manner that does not stigmatize any student who takes them.

Medway High School student Caroline Williams asked Rep. Jeff Roy (D-Franklin) to file the bill for her. She had written a paper on the topic for her English class paper and decided to take the next step.

“I recognized a significant gap in access to feminine hygiene products at school, and as a student, a girl, and a citizen I found it necessary to do something about it,” said Williams. “For women and girls, pads and tampons are just as essential as toilet paper and this bill will ensure that these products are provided for students in the same way. Menstruation is not an illness but a crucial component of female health and it is important that menstrual products not be located in nurse’s offices but as regular sanitary supplies in bathrooms where they belong.”

“The time has come to recognize the need to offer these products in the restrooms at our schools,” said Roy. “We provide other paper products (toilet paper and hand towels) in the bathrooms as a matter of routine and with no charge. The fact that we would charge people money to use products that are no different than toilet paper or paper towels is clearly a wrong practice. I’m thankful and grateful that a young person came along and gave me an opportunity to help her achieve the necessary change in practice.”

Require Suicide Hotline on School ID Cards (S 250) – Another bill heard by the Education Committee would require that beginning August 1, 2020 all public schools that teach grades 7 to 12 and all state colleges that issue student ID cards to include the telephone number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, the Crisis Text Line and the school’s campus police or security telephone number. If the school does not have a campus police or security telephone number, the local nonemergency telephone number would be provided.

“Suicide is the second leading cause of death for 10-to 24-year-olds in the United States,” said the bill’s sponsor Sen. Jo Comerford (D-Northampton). “Suicide rates in Massachusetts have increased by over 35 percent in the past 20 years. The risk is especially high for LGBTQ youth, who are more likely to experience suicidal thoughts and attempt suicide than their straight peers.”

“Students report not knowing that school-based support is available, perceive them as difficult to access, or are concerned about stigma that may follow if school employees know they are struggling,” continued Comerford. “Putting crisis phone numbers on the back of ID cards would ensure that every student is aware of free, confidential resources available to them at any time.”

Gun Violence Prevention Training Center for Excellence – The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) has awarded a two-year $700,000 grant to UTEC Inc. of Lowell to establish a Gun Violence Prevention Training Center for Excellence to address gun violence through both a public health and racial equity lens. According to their website, UTEC’s “mission and promise is to ignite and nurture the ambition of our most disconnected young people to trade violence and poverty for social and economic success.”

UTEC will help ten community organizations that were recently funded to create gun violence prevention pilot programs in neighborhoods with higher rates of gun violence by helping them develop strategies that can be applied to their communities and other communities across Massachusetts.

According to the DPH, the Bay State has the lowest firearm death rate in the nation but gun violence is the leading cause of death for 17-24-year-olds in the state.

“Massachusetts’ approach to addressing gun violence is a model for the nation, and our administration is proud to support innovative efforts to address gun violence in our most at-risk neighborhoods,” said Gov. Charlie Baker. “This new center will help us expand our support for the vital community organizations who are working every day to reduce gun violence among youth and young adults.”

Quotable Quotes

The Legislature’s website has a daily list of “The Most Popular Bills.” A calculation is performed daily and measures the number of hits each bill gets.

Here are the top five for June 6, 2019:

H3097 An Act prohibiting the practice of coal rolling.

H1345 An Act to require sexual harassment prevention training.

H2580 An Act relative to charges associated with condominiums in tax title.

H545 An Act relative to sun safety.

H2470 An Act providing for a means tested senior citizen property tax exemption.

To see the details of the bills, go to www.malegislature.gov and in the search box, type the number of the bill (without any spaces.)

During the week of June 3-7, the House met for a total of six hours and 12 minutes while the Senate met for a total of three hours and 33 minutes

Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at bob@beaconhillrollcall.com


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