Beacon Hill Roll Call

  • The Massachusetts State House in Boston

Published: 7/26/2021 9:00:10 PM

THE HOUSE AND SENATE: Beacon Hill Roll Call records the votes of local representatives and senators from the week of July 19-23.

LEGALIZE SPORTS BETTING IN THE BAY STATE (H 3977)

House 156-3, approved and sent to the Senate a bill that would legalize sports betting on professional and college sports for Massachusetts residents over 21 years old. The betting would be regulated by the Gaming Commission, the same commission that regulates the state’s casino gambling. The commission would award in-person licenses at casinos, racetracks and simulcast racing facilities as well as mobile licenses to allow companies to accept bets online. The measure includes a 12.5 percent tax on in-person wagering and a 15 percent tax on mobile wagering.

The measure includes an amendment sponsored by Rep. Paul McMurtry (D-Dedham), House chair of the Committee on Veterans and Federal Affairs, that would permit the commission to grant licenses that would allow some veterans’ organizations to operate up to five slot machines.

Supporters said legalization will generate up to an estimated $60 million annually in tax revenue as well as up to $70 million to $80 million in initial licensing fees that are required to be renewed every five years. They noted the revenue will be distributed to cities and towns, and used for economic, workforce, education and public health programs.

“Massachusetts residents are passionate about their sports,” said Rep. Jerry Parisella (D-Beverly), the House chair of the Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies. “This bill will allow residents to bet on their favorite teams but do so in a regulated manner that promotes responsible gaming, while bringing in revenue to the commonwealth that is currently going to our neighboring states or to illegal online operators and bookies. This legislation was drafted after reviewing laws in other states, speaking with experts in the industry and takes the best practices and incorporates them into this legislation.”

“I voted no on legalizing sports betting because this bill largely benefits near-monopolistic corporations that run online gambling platforms, such as Draft Kings, by further increasing their profits,” said Rep. Erika Uyterhoeven (D-Somerville). “This bill is another example of the state Legislature prioritizing the interest of corporate lobbyists over the needs of their constituents. With all the struggles the constituents of Massachusetts are facing 16 months into the pandemic, it’s absurd that this bill was a priority for the Legislature this summer.”

“Massachusetts has the opportunity to generate job opportunities and bring millions of tax dollars annually by legalizing an industry that already exists, but in the black market and other states,” said Speaker of the House Ron Mariano (D-Quincy). “The House of Representatives has passed legislation that would make our state competitive in this industry in which dozens of states have already gotten a head start.”

“I see the value in bringing sports wagering out of the shadows, but one of the goals of the bill before us is to drive customers to casinos like the one next door in Everett—and the Somerville and Cambridge district I represent voted to oppose casinos – so I think more needs to be done to address these impacts,” said Rep. Mike Connolly (D-Cambridge) who voted against the bill. “Moreover, this bill will generate billions in corporate revenues from gambling on college athletics—and this needs a closer examination given the ongoing exploitation of college athletes. Legalized sports betting is probably inevitable in Massachusetts, but as this bill moves to the Senate, I’m hoping more will be done to address these and other concerns.”

Rep. Dan Cahill (D-Lynn) gave a simple reason he supports the bill. “Most important, it’s just fun,” said Cahill. “People are allowed to have fun and sports betting is fun.”

(A “Yes” vote is for legalized sports betting. A “No” vote is against it.)

Rep. Donald Berthiaume Yes Rep. Natalie Blais Yes Rep. Daniel Carey Yes Rep. Mindy Domb Yes Rep. Jacob Oliveira Yes Rep. Lindsay Sabadosa Yes Rep. Todd Smola Yes Rep. Susannah Whipps Yes

DIVERSITY, EQUITY AND INCLUSION (H 3977)

House 159-0, approved an amendment to a section of the sports betting bill that provides for a study by the Gaming Commission into the feasibility of allowing retail locations in the state to operate sports wagering kiosks. The amendment requires the commission to include in the study the economic impact of authorizing this method of sports wagering on businesses owned by people of color; recommendations to ensure diversity, equity and inclusion are included in this method of sports wagering; and a requirement that the commission consult retailers, convenience stores, restaurants, women and minority-owned businesses and small business owners.

“As we prepare to once again welcome a multi-billion-dollar industry into the commonwealth of Massachusetts, I humbly ask my fellow colleagues … to join me in supporting and prioritizing diversity, equity and inclusion, said Rep. Orlando Ramos (D-Springfield) on the House floor during debate. “Allowing for casinos and existing online gaming apps to monopolize yet another multi-billion-dollar industry will only help further widen the wealth and income gap because I’m certain that there are no Black and Brown-owned casinos in Massachusetts, and to my knowledge there are no major Black and Brown-owned sports apps.”

“You may also be wondering what does a freshman rep from Springfield knows about sports betting?” continued Ramos. “And I’ll be the the first one to admit that I am no expert in the field of sports wagering but what I do know and what I am very intimately familiar with is what it’s like to be a person of color. And I know what it’s like to be shut out of an opportunity. I learned at an early age that there were certain places where I was welcome and there were other places where I was not welcome. I humbly ask you to join me in making sure that we tell every Black and Brown business owner … and entrepreneur everywhere that they are welcome in this new industry and that we will not shut them out from this opportunity. This amendment accomplishes exactly that and is a step in the right direction to help create new opportunities for businesses of color and opens the door for them to be successful in this new space.”

(A “Yes” vote is for the amendment).

Rep. Donald Berthiaume Yes Rep. Natalie Blais Yes Rep. Daniel Carey Yes Rep. Mindy Domb Yes Rep. Jacob Oliveira Yes Rep. Lindsay Sabadosa Yes Rep. Todd Smola Yes Rep. Susannah Whipps Yes

$261.6 MILLION FISCAL 2021 SUPPLEMENTAL BUDGET (H 3973)

Senate 40-0, approved and House, on a voice vote without a roll call, approved and sent to Gov. Charlie Baker a $261.6 million fiscal 2021 supplemental budget to begin to close out the books on the fiscal year that ended on June 30, 2021. A key provision extends until December 15, 2021, the practice of voting early by mail that was implemented during the 2020 election held in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Other provisions in the bill include $12.5 million to cover costs related to the implementation of last year’s law making major changes in the state’s policing system; $27.9 million for one-time payments, ranging from $525 to $580 per child, to families that receive Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children benefits; $13 million for National Guard activations, including COVID-19-related activations; $7.8 million for home health aide rate increases; $5.4 million for the Chelsea and Holyoke Soldiers’ Homes for pandemic-related expenses; and the establishment of a new MBTA Board of Directors which replaces the current Fiscal Management and Control Board.

“This budget allows us to pay our bills and address time sensitive needs, while meeting the immediate challenges facing our commonwealth by investing in our early educator workforce, helping vulnerable families and fulfilling our funding obligations to ensure timely implementation of the police reform law,” said Senate Ways and Means chair Sen. Mike Rodrigues (D-Westport).

“The voting provisions put forward in the supplemental budget will allow cities and towns to offer safe, accessible election options this fall while we continue to work on their permanency,” said Rep. Dan Ryan, House Chair of the Committee on Election Laws (D-Charlestown).

The measure was approved in the House during an informal session at which there can be no roll calls, but where it only takes one member to stop the proceedings if he or she disagrees with anything. Any representative who was against the voting by mail extension or any other part of the bill could have objected to taking up the measure and postpone its consideration until a formal session when there could be a roll call vote. But no one did.

Although no legislators spoke against the extension or the entire bill on the floor, there were critics following the House vote. The Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance said that “important policies that fundamentally change the way Massachusetts holds elections should go through the scrutiny of the normal legislative vetting process and not be bundled into an unrelated bill with little public transparency.”

“Even without the pandemic related vote by mail program, the regular law in place allows any voter who cannot vote in person on Election Day to request an absentee ballot and vote,” added the group’s spokesman Paul Craney. “Massachusetts also continues to have several weeks of early voting available. There’s simply no reason to put potentially millions of ballots in the mail, expanding room for error. As the Legislature continues to keep the Statehouse locked down and play games with the process to change the way elections are held, they will continue to erode trust in our election system.”

“Rather than make the Democrats come in and actually have to vote on this legislation, [GOP House Minority Leader] Rep. Brad Jones, as he has done time and time again, stood by and did nothing,” said Massachusetts Republican Party Chairman Jim Lyons. “The GOP has to stand up and be an effective opposition party. Anyone with even minor concerns about mail-in voting should be outraged by this maneuver. Election integrity is one of the most important issues in America right now and based upon our experience with Boston election officials massively undercounting votes in 2020, our concerns are 100 percent valid.”

“Chairman Lyons seems to have forgotten or been distracted by the referral of his campaign finance activities to the attorney general for investigation to recognize that on June 10, the entire House Republican Caucus voted unanimously to oppose an amendment to make mail-in voting permanent in Massachusetts,” responded Rep. Jones. “Introducing such a significant change to our election laws will have far-reaching implications and therefore deserves to be vigorously debated and vetted by the House and Senate. The final language contained in the supplemental budget is very narrow in scope and simply responds to concerns raised by multiple communities to provide for a temporary extension through December 15 so they can have more flexibility in conducting municipal elections this fall on the same basis as communities with elections on June 30 or prior.”

(A “Yes” vote is for the bill.)

Sen. Joanne Comerford Yes Sen. Adam Hinds Yes Sen. Eric Lesser Yes

Also up on Beacon Hill

LOCAL OPTION 2 PERCENT TAX ON PURCHASE OF HOMES FOR MORE THAN $1 MILLION (H 2895) - The Revenue Committee held a virtual hearing on legislation that would allow cities and towns to impose a fee of up to 2 percent on homebuyers who purchase property for more than $1 million dollars. The funds would be used “for the creation and preservation of affordable housing in municipalities for the benefit of low- and-moderate income households or for the funding of community housing.”

The tax would require approval by the city council in cities and by town meeting in towns. The tax would be only on the amount above $1 million. Municipalities would also have the option to raise the $1 million dollar threshold to any higher amount and/or reduce the tax to any percentage.

“Massachusetts is in the midst of a profoundly unaffordable housing crisis where ultra-wealthy homebuyers are displacing lifelong residents and not enough units exist to house working families,” said the bill’s sponsor Rep. Dylan Fernandes (D-Falmouth). “This bill gives communities the option, if they choose to enact it, to impose a small fee on ultra-rich people buying luxury homes and properties to fund affordable housing across the state and create a lasting solution to our housing crisis.”

“[This bill is] another tax scheme that would extract an additional 2 percent tax on homes sold for over $1 million, a price that through market appreciation alone is closing in on many properties and home buyers in the high cost-of-living Bay State,” said Chip Ford, executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation. “When is enough enough? I very much doubt it ever will be so long as voters keep re-electing the same politicians.”

MANDATORY DIAPER CHANGING STATIONS (S 2035) – The State Administration and Regulatory Oversight Committee held a virtual hearing on a bill that would require all new and substantially renovated buildings “reasonably expected to be open to the public” to have at least one diaper-changing table in bathrooms regardless of gender. Supporters said examples include grocery stores, movie theaters, restaurants and retail stores.

“This legislation was drafted in partnership with my constituent Josh Polonsky,” said sponsor Sen. Brendan Crighton (D-Lynn.) “While visiting a family restaurant with his one-year-old daughter, Josh and his wife discovered that the establishment had no changing table in either restroom. We hope this bill will help ensure no parent should have to go out with their child having to worry about finding a safe and clean place to change their child’s diaper, resorting to changing their baby’s diaper on their laps, benches or dirty bathroom floors.”

SPECIAL COMMISSION ON POST TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER (H 2112) – The Mental Health, Substance Use and Recovery Committee held a virtual hearing on a proposal establishing a 15-member Special Commission to study and investigate Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) including prevention and treatment of the disorder and an assessment of the impact of a PTSD diagnosis and treatment on access to health insurance, retirement benefits and disability benefits. The study would also include an examination the issue of PTSD related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The need to consider services, treatments, policies and programs related to PTSD … is even more needed as we tentatively prepare for a long recovery from the [COVID-19] pandemic,” said sponsor said Rep. Kate Lipper-Garabedian (D-Melrose). “Among those who have suffered the most are our health care heroes, neighbors who have been on the front lines, tirelessly fighting the disease day-in and day-out. In their professional roles, these individuals have seen unprecedented suffering and death. Often, they were the only people to be with dying residents in their final hours, given prohibitions on family and friend visitation. Many caught the deadly virus themselves. Our health care providers now face a high risk of PTSD.”

PROVIDE RECALL NOTICES TO VEHICLE OWNERS DURING STATE INSPECTION (S 245) – The Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure Committee held a virtual hearing on a measure that would require Massachusetts vehicle inspection facilities to provide, as part of the inspection process, a notice to vehicle owners of any manufacturer recalls to their vehicle. The notice would inform the vehicle owner that the manufacturer will remedy the defect free of charge and that, with some exceptions, the vehicle registration will not be extended by the state unless the defect is remedied.

“Ensuring that vehicles that have been recalled are taken off the roads and repaired is of the upmost importance, for the driver and for our general public safety,” said sponsor Sen. John Velis (D-Westfield). “The inspection process is a clear opportunity to make vehicle owners aware of possible recalls and defects to their vehicle prior to any road accidents happening. This legislation will ensure that vehicle owners are getting this critical information in a timely manner and that recalled vehicles do not continue to be operated in our commonwealth.”

LOTTERY FOR LOW LICENSE PLATES – The Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) announced it is now accepting applications for the 2021 Low Number License Plate Lottery. This year’s batch includes 200 low license plates. The lowest plates available are F1, P3, X6, 1H and 1Z. The highest plate is 9987. And in between are dozens of 3-digit and 4-digit plates.

Applications are available only online at www.mass.gov/rmv. The deadline to apply is August 27, 2021, and the virtual drawing will take place on September 8, 2021.

Prior to the establishment of this lottery several years ago, these plates were given away under the old-school system which gave the plates to “well-connected” drivers.

PROTECTION FOR VICTIMS OF HUMAN TRAFFICKING – Sen. Mark Montigny (D-New Bedford) filed the first comprehensive bill in the country to combat human trafficking in 2005. Success came in 2011 when the Legislature approved and the governor signed legislation that criminalized human trafficking for commercial and sexual exploitation of people, including severe punishments ranging from 5 years to life imprisonment. It also provided survivors with protections and created a fund to benefit survivors, fueled by assets seized from convicted traffickers.

Montigny has been the leader in the Bay State’s effort to stop this horror and had another big successful effort this year. When Gov. Charlie Baker signed the $48.1 billion fiscal 2022 state budget into law, it included Montigny’s new 2021 law that will provide victims of violent crime and human trafficking enhanced protections.

“Human trafficking remains an insidious problem across the entire commonwealth and United States,” said Montigny. “No community is immune from this criminal activity, and many victims are vulnerable women or children in our own neighborhoods with very few financial resources who have been lured into trafficking with false promises of economic opportunity and prosperity. Victims and survivors who happen to also be immigrants face a double threat of abuse and deportation as a form of retaliation from their trafficker should they seek to report the crime to law enforcement.”

“These protections for victims and survivors are long overdue,” continued Montigny. “We know from talking with advocates and community partners that this type of violence has thrived during the pandemic, which has inflicted intense financial pressures, family illness, heightened workplace demands, and increased levels of isolation. I hope that our action within this budget will provide enhanced access to the resources and protections necessary to escape such abuse, especially at a time when immigrants have been the target of intense fear mongering and attacks in our political discourse.”

Quotable quotes

“I remember what was going on on the roads in Massachusetts when we had Happy Hours and there were some awful, horrible, terrible experiences on a very regular basis that came with happy hours back in the day. I know that probably makes me a stick in the mud to say such a thing, but I would start as a skeptic of going back to the way we ran Happy Hours.”

Gov. Baker on his opposition to legislation that would revive Happy Hour specials that reduce the cost of alcoholic beverages at restaurants and bars during certain hours. The Bay State was the first state to ban Happy Hours in 1984 following several deadly alcohol-involved crashes which were tracked back to people who had been overserved during Happy Hours.

“There has to be a balance between what aid you give to bars and restaurants and the public safety issue that is a real concern for many people, but it is worth giving it thought.”

House Speaker Ron Mariano (D-Quincy) saying he is open to discussing a reversal of the 1984 ban on Happy Hours but that he does not yet either support or oppose the idea.

“We are losing monies to every other state that sells these forms of fireworks especially New Hampshire where thousands of residents go to purchase their goods. With some oversight by the state through passage of this bill, we could educate people on the safety of using sparklers thus decreasing the injuries caused by illegal use which is happening now.”

Rep. Brad Hill (R-Ipswich) on his legislation that would remove novelty sparklers, including snakes, sparklers, fountains, cylindrical or cone fountains that emit effects up to a height not greater than twelve feet above the ground, from the list of fireworks currently banned in Massachusetts.

“As fire chiefs, we see the results and injuries related to firework accidents. In 2019, sparklers were the leading cause of firework injuries to children younger than five, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Need we say more?”

Michael Winn, president of the Fire Chiefs Association of Massachusetts on his opposition to removing novelty sparklers from the ban.

“I promised the people of Massachusetts that the opioid crisis would be a top priority, that we would hold the bad actors accountable, and that the billion-dollar companies who got rich off the suffering in our communities would pay. Today’s announcement is another step forward in that work. This money will benefit every city and town in every part of our state … We will continue to pursue justice for the people who were hurt and secure resources for prevention, treatment and recovery.”

Attorney General Maura Healey on her successful $26 billion lawsuit, with $500 million expected to go to Massachusetts, filed with other attorneys general across the nation that will hold accountable several corporations including Cardinal, McKesson, AmerisourceBergen and Johnson & Johnson that flooded Massachusetts with dangerous opioids.

Last week’s session

During the week of July 19-23, the House met for a total of nine hours and 58 minutes while the Senate met for a total of one hour and ten minutes.

Monday, July 19, House 11:04 a.m. to 11:28 a.m.; Senate 11:10 a.m. to 11:15 a.m.

Tuesday, July 20, no House session, no Senate session

Wednesday, July 21, House 11:01 a.m. to 1:13 p.m.; Senate 12:12 p.m. to 1:14 p.m.

Thursday, July 22, House 11 a.m. to 6:22 p.m.; Senate 12:19 p.m. to 12:22 p.m.

Friday, July 23, no House session, no Senate session

Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at bob@beaconhillrollcall.com


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