Beacon Hill Roll Call, Nov. 21-27

  • The Massachusetts State House in Boston

Beacon Hill Roll Call
Published: 12/1/2022 2:44:51 PM
Modified: 12/1/2022 2:44:37 PM

THE HOUSE AND SENATE: There were no roll calls in the House or Senate last week. This week, Beacon Hill Roll Call presents a post-election look at legislative action from 2022 that changed the state’s election laws. Here are the five key important 2022 votes on election laws.

ELECTION LAW CHANGES (S 2924) — House 126-29, approved and Gov. Charlie Baker signed into law a conference committee version of a bill making permanent the mail-in and early voting options used in Massachusetts in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic. The House and Senate had approved different versions of the bill and a conference committee hammered out a compromise version which did not include the controversial section allowing same day voter registration that was in the Senate version but not in the House one.

The measure requires the secretary of state to send out mail-in ballot applications, with return postage guaranteed, to registered voters before each presidential primary, state primary and biennial state election. It also allows registered voters to request a mail-in ballot for all elections in a single calendar year.

Other provisions include reducing the registration blackout period from 20 days prior to an election to 10 days; electronic voting options for voters with disabilities and military service members; allowing a voter with disabilities to request accommodations including an accessible electronic ballot application, ballot and voter affidavit that can be submitted electronically; ensuring that non-felons who are incarcerated and are currently eligible to vote are provided with voting information and materials to exercise their right to vote; and requiring the secretary of state to conduct a comprehensive public awareness campaign to publicize the new voting and registration options.

“I’m proud to see the [bill] pass in the House and make its way to the governor’s desk,” said Sen. Barry Finegold (D-Andover), Senate Chair of the Committee on Election Laws and the co-sponsor of the bill. “When more people participate in voting, democracy wins.”

“I am concerned about the amount of money we are spending mailing out mail-in ballot applications when there are plenty of ways a voter can request a mail-in ballot if they want one,” said Rep. Colleen Garry (D-Dracut), the only Democrat to vote against the measure. “I would rather see these funds go to something more productive like free IDs so that everyone has an ID to vote, open bank accounts and get certain medications that require IDs. We are also putting a tremendous amount of work on our town clerks, especially in our smaller communities like in my district.”

“We are thrilled that both the House and Senate have voted in support of the [bill],” said the group MassVOTE. “Even though this version of [the bill] does lack a provision we have long supported — Election Day Registration — we are very glad to see that popular pro-voter policies like mail-in voting, expanded early voting and jail-based voting are included.”

“As a general rule, we should be promoting voting in person and on Election Day,” said Paul Craney, spokesperson for the Mass Fiscal Alliance. “Anytime a voter loses control of their ballot before it’s given to an election official, it’s possible it could be lost or altered. The Postal Service cannot guarantee a 100 percent delivery rate.”

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

Rep. Donald Berthiaume, No; Rep. Natalie Blais, Yes; Rep. Daniel Carey, Yes; Rep. Mindy Domb, Yes; Rep. Jacob Oliveira, Yes; Rep. Lindsay Sabadosa, Yes; Rep. Susannah Whipps, Yes

REPLACE SAME DAY REGISTRATION PROPOSAL WITH A STUDY (H 4359)

House 93-64, approved an amendment to a measure that would implement same day registration (SDR) that allows people to register to vote at the polls on Election Day and on any of the early voting days prior to the election. The amendment would replace SDR with a requirement that Secretary of State Bill Galvin complete a study that would analyze the cost of the proposed policy to the state, cities and towns and what it would take for local city and town clerks to implement SDR. Under House rules, the approval of the study amendment prohibits a roll call vote on the straightforward establishment of SDR.

Supporters of SDR said that the study is simply a tactic by SDR opponents to delay the implementation of SDR and also avoid a direct vote on SDR itself.

Rep. Lindsay Sabadosa (D-Northampton), the sponsor of SDR, said it is an important tool that Massachusetts can use to increase voter access to the polls. “In 2021, we had one day of overlap when voters could vote early and register. There was not a flood of applications; just a few more people across the state who were able to exercise their civic duty. That small data point shows that this can work and [this roll call] vote shows that support for same day registration, already popular with voters, is growing amongst legislators as well.”

Some supporters of the amendment to replace SDR with the study by the secretary of state said the House should not implement SDR without having sufficient facts on its effects. Others expressed concerns about the ability of cities and towns to implement SDR rules without disruption.

(Beacon Hill Roll Call urges readers to read the follow

ing carefully and understand what a “Yes” and “No” vote mean on this roll call. The roll call was on replacing SDR with a study. Therefore, a “Yes” vote is in favor of the study of SDR. A “No” vote is against the study and in most cases in favor of SDR itself.)

Rep. Donald Berthiaume, Yes; Rep. Natalie Blais, Yes; Rep. Daniel Carey, Yes; Rep. Mindy Domb, No; Rep. Jacob Oliveira, No; Rep. Lindsay Sabadosa, No; Rep. Susannah Whipps Yes

PROOF OF VACCINATION (H 4359) — House 31-127, rejected an amendment that would prohibit any city or town from requiring that a voter show proof of vaccination as a condition of entering a polling place to vote or to register to vote.

“If any voting location required a vaccination, then a sizable portion of the population would be prevented from entering the facility to exercise their constitutional right,” said sponsor Rep. Peter Durant (R-Spencer). “Since statistically the majority of people not vaccinated are minorities, a major constituency this bill sought to protect, any vaccine requirement would not only be unconstitutional, but would also be seen as an effort to suppress the minority vote.”

Amendment opponents said this is a solution in search of a problem. They noted that voters are not being asked to show proof of vaccination.

(A “Yes” vote is for the amendment banning cities and towns from requiring voters to provide proof of vaccination. A “No” vote is against the ban.)

Rep. Donald Berthiaume, Yes; Rep. Natalie Blais, No; Rep. Daniel Carey, No; Rep. Mindy Domb, No; Rep. Jacob Oliveira, No; Rep. Lindsay Sabadosa, No; Rep. Susannah Whipps, No

REQUIRE VOTER ID (H 4359) — House 32-126, rejected an amendment that would require voters to show a federal or Massachusetts picture identification at their polling places in order to be allowed to vote. The state would also be required to establish a waiver of the fee for obtaining the ID for indigent persons.

Supporters said it is illogical that all voters are not required to show identification prior to voting and noted that 24 other states have laws requiring IDs. They argued that people cannot cash a check, rent a car, fly on a plane or even enter some government buildings without showing an ID.

“I filed this amendment to protect the integrity of every U.S. citizen’s vote in Massachusetts while providing the opportunity to get a free picture ID for those who don’t have one,” said sponsor Rep. Paul Frost (R-Auburn) “A free ID avoids the issues and barriers of a so-called poll tax, while making sure each voter is who they say they are when voting.”

Opponents of the amendment said it would disenfranchise thousands of voters including people who do not have a current address because they are in a homeless shelter or domestic violence facility. Other opponents said there have been no widespread reports of voter fraud in Massachusetts.

(A “Yes” vote is for requiring a voter ID to vote. A “No” vote is against requiring it.)

Rep. Donald Berthiaume Yes Rep. Natalie Blais No Rep. Daniel Carey No Rep. Mindy Domb No Rep. Jacob Oliveira No Rep. Lindsay Sabadosa No Rep. Susannah Whipps No

RAISE PENALTIES FOR VOTER FRAUD (H 4359) — House 32-126, rejected an amendment to a current law that imposes up to a $10,000 fine and/or up to a 5-year prison sentence on anyone who knowingly engages in any type of voting fraud including illegally registering to vote; illegally voting or attempting to vote; voting more than once; and aiding and abetting a person who is illegally voting. The amendment would raise the fine to up to $20,000.

“Maintaining the integrity of our elections is of paramount importance and is not a partisan issue,” said House Minority Leader Rep. Brad Jones (R-North Reading), the sponsor of the amendment. “Expanding the existing financial penalties for those individuals who knowingly attempt to engage in voting fraud will provide a strong deterrent to help prevent this type of illegal activity.”

“We’re in agreement,” said Rep. Dan Ryan (D-Charlestown), the House chair of the Elections Laws Committee. “Of course we all want safe and secure elections. That’s why we are here … there are safeguards already in place, in Massachusetts General Law, to prevent such fraud and abuse of our electoral system. And study after study has also shown that election fraud is not as prevalent as some might think it is, or as folks purport it to be. So therefore $10,000 seems like an appropriate deterrent to election fraud. So I ask for a ‘No’ vote on the amendment, as what is in place is currently working.”

(A “Yes” vote is for raising the fine to up to $20,000. A “No” vote is against raising it.)

Rep. Donald Berthiaume, Yes; Rep. Natalie Blais, No; Rep. Daniel Carey, No; Rep. Mindy Domb, No; Rep. Jacob Oliveira, No; Rep. Lindsay Sabadosa, No; Rep. Susannah Whipps, No

ALSO UP ON BEACON HILL

ALLOW PHARMACISTS TO GIVE INSULIN IN AN EMERGENCY (S 691) — Shipped off to a study committee was a bill that would permit pharmacists to issue insulin to patients in emergency situations, which is described as an event in which authorization for the dispensing of insulin may not be readily obtained from a doctor or other practitioner. The pharmacist would be limited to providing the insulin every six months per individual.

“In Massachusetts, it is unconscionable to think any person living with diabetes could lose their life because they are rationing insulin or unable to access this life-saving medication,” said sponsor Sen. Anne Gobi (D-Spencer). “I look forward to refiling this legislation. Data shows that diabetes is on the rise in our communities. The time to take action is now.” Gobi also noted that many states currently have similar laws.

PROHIBIT REVOCATION OF PROFESSIONAL LICENSES (H 5195) — The House and Senate gave final approval to and sent to Gov. Baker legislation that would repeal current state laws which create professional licensure consequences for anyone who defaults on their student loan. Under existing law, a borrower’s state-issued professional or occupational certificate, registration or license can be suspended, revoked or cancelled if the borrower is in default on an education loan.

“This draconian approach prevents an individual from access to the profession for which he or she has trained and has the perverse result of furthering hindering their ability to earn a living and making it more difficult to make loan payments, said co-sponsor Rep. Kate Lipper-Garabedian (D-Melrose). “And as families work to recover from the financial fallout of the pandemic, the last thing the state should do is deny them access to their professional pursuits because of student loan defaults.”

“Student loan debt disproportionately affects young, low-income individuals who are making the kinds of investments in their future that we should be encouraging,” said Senate President Karen Spilka (D-Ashland). “Revoking professional licenses that they obtained with a student loan does nothing to solve the problem of loan defaults, and it actively makes the problem worse by preventing new professionals from having the means to pay off their loans.”

“Nearly one million Massachusetts residents are struggling because of student loans. As the federal moratorium approaches its end, we must recognize COVID-19’s continuous impact on employment and borrowers’ financial situations,” said Sen. Jamie Eldridge (D-Acton), Senate Chair of the Judiciary Committee. “The bill will ensure that borrowers, who are heavily burdened by student loans, can still continue their career and work towards repayments of their educational loans.”

QUOTABLE QUOTES

“As energy costs go up this winter, we want to make sure families know that help is out there to put food on the table and keep the lights on in their homes. We’re grateful to Project Bread and our regional food banks and pantries for partnering with us to educate residents on how they can access the financial assistance and support they need.”

Governor-elect Maura Healey on collaborating with Project Bread and the state’s regional food banks and pantries on a campaign to educate residents about assistance available to help pay their monthly energy bills this winter.

“Governor-elect Healey and I are thrilled with the engagement we’re seeing from people across the state who want to contribute to our administration and help us move Massachusetts forward. We are carefully reviewing every application and idea submitted to us, and we strongly encourage people to keep them coming. We also continue to do outreach to local, state and federal officials, business groups, advocacy organizations and other key stakeholders to make sure we are reaching the best talent.”

Lieutenant Governor-elect and Transition Chair Kim Driscoll on the hundreds of people applying for jobs in the new administration.

“Urban communities suffer disproportionately from toxic, polluted air. Holyoke and Worcester are two of the cities most burdened by negative health impacts like asthma because of this type of pollution. Durham School Services must own up to its role in this problem, stop violating anti-idling laws, and commit to reducing pollution from its buses.”

Heather Govern, director of the Conservations Law Foundation’s (CLF) Clean Air and Water program, on the lawsuit that CLF has filed again Durham School Services for polluting environmental justice neighborhoods in Holyoke and Worcester with harmful tailpipe emissions in violation of the Clean Air Act.

“These awards will help equip Massachusetts sheriffs with the resources they need to treat substance abuse among inmates. Our ability to address the opioid crisis relies on the availability of services to those struggling with addiction, and we see high need among those who are incarcerated.”

Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito on the administration’s awarding $243,000 in federal funding that will be distributed to Massachusetts sheriffs, allowing them to deliver substance use treatment to incarcerated individuals across the state as part of continuing efforts to address the harm of substance use disorder while ensuring safety in cities and towns.

Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at bob@beaconhillrollcall.com


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