Beacon Hill Roll Call, Oct. 9-13

By Bob Katzen

Beacon Hill Roll Call

Published: 10-20-2023 2:30 PM

THE HOUSE AND SENATE: Beacon Hill Roll Call records local representatives’ and senators’ votes from recent roll calls on overriding Gov. Maura Healey’s veto of several items in the $56.2 billion fiscal 2024 budget.

$2.5 MILLION HOME AND HEALTHY FOR GOOD PROGRAM (H 4040): House 153-0, Senate 37-1, overrode Gov. Healey’s veto of $2.5 million (reducing funding from $8,890,000 to $6,390,000) for the Home and Healthy for Good Program. According to its website, this is a permanent supportive housing program for chronically homeless individuals.

“I am striking language that earmarks funding not necessary for the operation of the program, and I am reducing this item to the amount projected to be necessary,” said Healey in her veto message.

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(A “Yes” vote is for the $2.5 million. A “No” vote is against it.)

Rep. Natalie Blais, Yes; Rep. Daniel Carey, Yes; Rep. Mindy Domb, Yes; Rep. Lindsay Sabadosa, Yes; Rep. Aaron Saunders, Yes; Sen. Joanne Comerford, Yes; Sen. Paul Mark, Yes; Sen. Jacob Oliveira, Yes; Sen. John Velis, Yes

$1 MILLION FOR NONPROFIT SECURITY GRANTS PILOT PROGRAM (H 4040): House 130-24, Senate 38-0, overrode Gov. Healey’s veto of $1 million (reducing funding from $2.5 million to $1.5 million) for the nonprofit Security Grant Pilot Program. According to its website, the program provides resources to assist at-risk nonprofits improve physical security at their locations.

“I am reducing this item to an amount consistent with my House [budget] recommendation,” said Healey in her veto message. “Alternate funding for this purpose was appropriated in the American Rescue Plan Act.”

(A “Yes” vote is for the $1 million. A “No” vote is against it.)

Rep. Natalie Blais, Yes; Rep. Daniel Carey, Yes; Rep. Mindy Domb, Yes; Rep. Lindsay Sabadosa, Yes; Rep. Aaron Saunders, Yes; Sen. Joanne Comerford, Yes; Sen. Paul Mark, Yes; Sen. Jacob Oliveira, Yes; Sen. John Velis, Yes

$4,988,680 FOR LOCAL BOARDS OF HEALTH (H 4040): House 152-2, Senate 37-1, overrode Gov. Healey’s veto of $4,988,680 (reducing funding from $15,050,000 to $10,061,320) for grants to local and regional Boards of Health.

“I am reducing this item to the amount projected to be necessary,” said Healey in her veto message. “$197 million is available through the American Rescue Plan Act funding to achieve the objectives of this line item to enhance the local public health system through data and performance tracking, workforce development and grants.”

(A “Yes” vote is for the $4,988,680. A “No” vote is against it.)

Rep. Natalie Blais, Yes; Rep. Daniel Carey, Yes; Rep. Mindy Domb, Yes; Rep. Lindsay Sabadosa, Yes; Rep. Aaron Saunders, Yes; Sen. Joanne Comerford, Yes; Sen. Paul Mark, Yes; Sen. Jacob Oliveira, Yes; Sen. John Velis, Yes

$1 MILLION FOR CIVICS EDUCATION (H 4040): House 151-3, Senate 38-0, overrode Gov. Healey’s veto of $1 million (reducing funding from $2.5 million to $1.5 million) for the Civics Education Trust Fund. According to the Department of Education’s website, “The purpose of this competitive grant program is to support civics teaching and learning, including … implementation of student-led, non-partisan civics projects.

“I am reducing this item to the amount projected to be necessary,” said Healey in her veto message. “This account funds a trust fund, which has a carry forward balance. The balance with the addition of the transfer proposed here is sufficient to meet projected demand.”

(A “Yes” vote is for the $1 million. A “No” vote is against it.)

Rep. Natalie Blais, Yes; Rep. Daniel Carey, Yes; Rep. Mindy Domb, Yes; Rep. Lindsay Sabadosa, Yes; Rep. Aaron Saunders, Yes; Sen. Joanne Comerford, Yes; Sen. Paul Mark, Yes; Sen. Jacob Oliveira, Yes; Sen. John Velis, Yes

ALSO UP ON BEACON HILL

REVENGE PORN (H 4115) — The Judiciary Committee gave a favorable report to legislation that would prohibit the posting of sexually explicit images of another person online without their permission — commonly referred to as “revenge porn.” The practice is often used by ex-spouses or ex-partners.

“I filed [my original bill] after hearing from victims throughout Massachusetts who have had their lives torn apart and who do not have an avenue to pursue justice,” said Sen. John Velis (D-Westfield), the sponsor of an earlier version of the measure. “It is unacceptable that Massachusetts is one of the last two states to criminalize revenge porn, and I am grateful that the Judiciary Committee has included my bill to rectify this issue as part of this comprehensive redrafted legislation.”

Another provision in the bill changes current law under which minors, under 18 years of age, who share explicit images of themselves or other minors, can be charged with violating Massachusetts child pornography laws and be required to register with the Sex Offender Registry. The bill allows minors to be punished by a commitment to the Department of Youth Services or to be diverted to an educational program that would provide them with information about the consequences of posting or transmitting indecent visual depictions of minors.

Supporters say that under current law, when faced with an incident of sexting among teenagers, law enforcement officials are faced with either charging them with a felony or taking no action. They note the proposal provides law enforcement officers with a middle ground that will allow them to educate kids about the consequences of their actions without ruining their lives.

The House and Senate approved different versions of similar measures last year but the proposals eventually died in the House from inaction.

EXEMPT SOME SMALL BUSINESS OWNERS FROM JURY DUTY (H 1570) — A bill heard by the Judiciary Committee would exempt from jury duty a person who is the sole owner of a business, if their juror service would require them to close the business while serving on the jury.

Current law provides several exemptions from jury duty including if a person is under the age of 18; cannot speak and understand English; has a physical or mental disability that makes them incapable of satisfactorily rendering juror service; has been convicted of a felony within the past seven years; or is solely responsible for the daily care of a permanently disabled person living in the same household whose health would be adversely impacted due to the caregiver’s juror service.

“Jury duty is one of the most basic responsibilities of citizenship in a democracy, but the law has long recognized there are some instances in which an individual cannot carry out this duty,” said sponsor House Minority Leader Rep. Brad Jones (R-North Reading). “Small business owners help drive our economy and maintain a spirit of community. In some cases, these men and women operate their businesses completely by themselves, or with minimal assistance. [The bill] recognizes their important contributions to the commonwealth as a whole and exempts them from juror service if performing that service would require the closing of the business.”

MAKE ELECTION DAY A LEGAL HOLIDAY (H 3004) — The Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight held a hearing on a proposal that would make Presidential Election Day, every four years, a statewide holiday.

“The United States is one of the few first-world economies that does not recognize Election Day as a holiday,” said sponsor Rep. Tackey Chan (D-Quincy). “The legislation will reduce the barriers that voters who are forced to choose between voting or taking time off from work face.”

NEW TAX ON REAL ESTATE SALES (S 1771) — The Revenue Committee held a hearing on a measure that would allow cities and towns to impose a transfer tax of between .5% and 2% on real estate transactions above $1 million. The city or town would decide whether the buyer or seller pays the tax.

If the county’s median sale price for a single family home is below $750,000, the bill allows cities and towns in those counties to set their own threshold for when sales are subject to the new tax, provided that the threshold is above their county’s median single family home sales price. All funds raised by a local transfer fee would be dedicated to affordable housing production and preservation.

“Massachusetts is in the midst of an extreme housing crisis,” said Sen. Jo Comerford (D-Northampton). “We do not have enough affordable housing and we are not building enough affordable housing. This bill is a flexible tool that would allow a municipality, if it chooses, to place a fee on the sale of luxury real estate. The revenue generated would stay in that municipality and be used to develop affordable housing. Many cities and towns across the commonwealth are looking for a tool to build more affordable housing and this bill provides an effective option.”

Rep. Dylan Fernandes (D-Barnstable) filed a similar bill (H 2788) in the House. It applies only to sales of more than $1 million. “The housing crisis in Massachusetts is eroding our communities, hurting our economy and making our state less competitive,” said Fernandes. “Allowing cities and towns to have a mansion tax on multi-million dollar home sales to support housing will raise the capital necessary to meet the scale of the crisis. For the ultra-rich, paying a 1 or 2 percent fee on a multi-million dollar home is a rounding error. But for the middle class, it is a lifeline.”

RAISE AGE AT WHICH A PERSON CAN ENTER A POLICE FORCE (S 1712) — The Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight held a hearing on a bill that would raise from age 32 to 40, at the time of their entrance exam, the maximum age that an applicant may enter the police force.

“Simply put, people in their late 30s are in proficient physical and mental condition to serve and protect their communities,” said sponsor Sen. Patrick O’Connor (R-Weymouth). “Today, police departments across the commonwealth face staffing challenges, and [by] allowing for a broader range of applicants, we hope to help remedy these challenges.”

MUST LEARN HOW TO USE AN AED AND TRAIN IN CPR IN ORDER TO GRADUATE HIGH SCHOOL (H 492) — A bill heard by the Education Committee would require public high school students to be trained in the use of an automatic external defibrillators (AED) and have training in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) as a prerequisite for graduation.

“No one has died because they couldn’t add a column of numbers, spell a word or punctuate properly,” said sponsor Rep. Pat Haddad (D-Somerset). “But people die every day because people don’t know the basic hands only CPR or they don’t feel confident to use an AED.

RESTAURANTS MUST HAVE WRITTEN MENU (H 196) — The Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities Committee held a hearing on legislation that would require restaurants to have available on the premises and provide, upon customer request, a set of photographic or visual menus which contain a written description accompanied by a photo of each food and drink item.

“I was inspired to file the bill after a student from Leicester Middle School and her mother visited my office hours,” said sponsor Rep. David. Leboeuf (D-Worcester). “The student expressed how she noticed how difficult it was for non-verbal individuals to order at a restaurant and her mother, who worked in human services, also shared some anecdotes. This bill would make it easier for our nonverbal citizens to patronize local businesses by requiring restaurants to have one version of a picture menu available.”

QUOTABLE QUOTES

“Protecting the people of Massachusetts is my highest priority, and the best way to accomplish that goal is to forge close working relationships with our state and local partners. Federal resources like this are invaluable in the support they provide for comprehensive public safety solutions and resources specific to the unique needs of Massachusetts communities.”

— Acting U.S. Attorney Levy announcing that $118.3 in federal grants has been allocated to Massachusetts to support public safety and community justice initiatives.

“Lack of access to menstrual care is a deal breaker for women. Without these items they can’t attend class, go to work, or take care of their families during their period. Many of these students have overcome incredible barriers to get to college, and we won’t let period poverty be the one that holds them back.”

— Founder and Executive Director of Dignity Matters, Kate Sanetra-Butler on celebrating the two-year anniversary of the organization providing free period products to students who are fighting “period poverty” – the inability to pay for period supplies.

“With ResilientMass, our administration is leading by example in preparing for mounting extreme weather events. This summer brought dangerous weather impacts to our communities and the impacts have been devastating. ResilientMass ensures that Massachusetts is well positioned for federal funds, while continuing our nation-leading work on climate.”

— Gov. Healey unveiling a Statewide Hazard Mitigation and Climate Adaptation Plan, known as ResilientMass, detailing 142 actions across state agencies including establishing an Office of Climate Science, making the state building code more resilient and updating MBTA design standards.

“Folks are coming in through the border because they’re fleeing horrific circumstances. But when you have this many people in a shelter, in a motel, or in an unsafe setting, it’s just not something that we want, we can continue. So we’re really hopeful that we’ll get some assistance.”

— Lt. Gov. Kim Driscoll predicting the Bay State is going to run out of places to shelter newly arriving immigrants and other families without housing very soon.

Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at bob@beaconhillrollcall.com