Beacon Hill Roll Call

  • The Massachusetts State House in Boston

Published: 4/12/2021 8:00:59 PM

April 5-9, 2021

THE HOUSE AND SENATE. Beacon Hill Roll Call record local senators’ votes on roll calls from prior sessions on adopting the rules of the Senate. There were no roll calls in the House or Senate last week.

48 HOURS TO FILE AMENDMENTS (S 10)

Senate 5-34, rejected an amendment that would give senators 48 hours to file amendments to any supplemental state budget. Supplemental budgets are spending bills that are approved later in the year after the state’s main budget has been approved. Current Senate rules gives senators an undefined “reasonable amount of time” to file amendments to a supplemental budget.

“We should have adequate time to be able to not only read but offer our ideas in the form of amendments to our supplemental budgets,” said the amendment’s sponsor Sen. Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen). “The reality is, especially during this COVID-19 age which we now find ourselves in, we have learned that we may need to take up several supplemental budgets instead of the general budget, or just in addition to it. Similar time is warranted in all circumstances when it comes to ensuring we effectively represent our districts.”

“Each supplemental budget is very different,” said Senate Ways and Means Chair Sen. Mike Rodrigues (D-Westport). “Oftentimes these budgets contain urgent, time-sensitive matters whose passage must occur quickly. This amendment could hamper our ability to respond to those situations.”

(A “Yes” vote is for giving 48 hours. A “No” vote is against giving 48 hours).

Sen. Joanne Comerford No Sen. Adam Hinds No Sen. Eric Lesser No

BROADCAST ALL SENATE SESSIONS (S 10)

Senate 39-0, approved an amendment that would require all formal and informal sessions of the Senate to be broadcast live online. Under current rules, only formal sessions of the Senate are required to be broadcast. Informal sessions are sessions at which there can be no roll calls and it only takes one member to stop the proceedings if he or she disagrees with anything.

Amendment supporters said that important issues are often brought up at informal sessions and argued there is no reason to exempt these from being broadcast.

“The intention behind this amendment is to increase accessibility to the workings of the Senate,” said amendment sponsor Sen. DiZoglio. “We are public servants, and we should ensure that we are working in the public eye as much as possible.”

(A “Yes” vote is for broadcasting informal sessions).

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

SUPPLIER DIVERSITY (S 10)

Senate 39-0, approved an amendment mandating that diversity and inclusion plan requirements be included in private companies’ proposals for state projects in excess of $100,000 and taken into consideration when evaluating bids.

“Diversity, equity and inclusion—we need to practice living and breathing these words daily if we hope to see a continuous, positive, cultural shift on Beacon Hill and throughout the commonwealth,” said amendment sponsor Sen. DiZoglio. This amendment will help the Senate affirm our commitment to being practitioners of these words that we use so often. It affirms that when the Senate is shopping for goods and services and requesting competitive bid proposals from vendors, that diversity and inclusion plans be required in submitted bids and considered when awarding the contract.”

(A “Yes” vote is for the amendment.)

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

ALSO UP ON BEACON HILL

$21.9 MILLION INCREASE IN EDUCATION AID - Senate Ways and Means Committee Chair Sen. Michael Rodrigues (D-Westport) and his House counterpart Rep. Aaron Michlewitz (D-Boston) announced an agreement to increase Chapter 70 aid to school districts by $219.6 million, an increase of $21.9 million over the $197.7 million hike proposed by Gov. Charlie Baker earlier this year. The agreement also creates a $40 million enrollment reserve fund targeted to stabilize school districts adversely impacted by pandemic-related enrollment changes.

“This agreement provides certainty and predictability for our cities and towns, funds the first year of the Student Opportunity Act (SOA) and ensures we get back on schedule to fully implement the SOA by fiscal year 2027,” said the pair in a joint statement. “This agreement is reflective of the advocacy of our respective members in both chambers, school districts and education stakeholders, and builds off the $2.6 billion in federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funding that school districts have received to date.”

They noted the $40 million enrollment reserve fund will help stabilize school districts experiencing higher levels of enrollment and to support district needs, including transportation, instruction and materials, in a flexible way as kids return to in-person classroom learning.

“It is disappointing that the House and Senate are failing to fully fund schools as promised in the SOA and failing to count all students,” said Vatsady Sivongxay, executive director of the Massachusetts Education Justice Alliance. “The funding is a year behind schedule, and instead of ensuring that schools have adequate funds and resources, the Legislature is shortchanging many thousands of Massachusetts students who have had their education disrupted by the pandemic and schools that have been waiting for decades for equitable support. They acknowledge that the funding they are providing will be inadequate by creating a separate pool of money from which some school districts will be allowed to withdraw additional funds.”

UP TO $9,000 IN FUNERAL EXPENSES AVAILABLE FOR COVID-19 DEATHS - Secretary of State Bill Galvin announced that he has provided a link on his website www.sec.state.ma.us to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) website which has information on getting government assistance to help pay for up to $9,000 in funeral costs of anyone whose death after January 20, 2020 is attributed to COVID-19..

“So many people have lost loved ones to this pandemic and coping with the loss of a family member is hard enough without needing to worry about the costs of laying that person to rest,” Galvin said. “I encourage anyone who has lost a loved one to COVID-19 to visit my website to learn more about the help that is available to them, even if the funeral has already been paid for.”

MORE OF THE 6,500 PLUS BILLS THAT HAVE BEEN FILED FOR CONSIDERATION IN 2021-2022 SESSION – Legislators have filed more than 6,500 bills for consideration in the 2021-2022 session. Here are some of the proposals filed:

CULTURAL DIVERSITY CURRICULUM (HD 4112) - Requires the education commissioner to establish a cultural diversity curriculum to be implemented in elementary and secondary schools in the state in the school year 2022. The program would promote cultural diversity awareness among the children of Massachusetts including educating students on diverse world cultures, heritages and backgrounds; highlighting the history of diverse cultures and peoples in shaping the United States of America and Massachusetts; and fostering respect for and appreciation of cultures, heritages, and backgrounds that students may otherwise not be aware of or have gained exposure to.

“Last week, we saw yet another despicable act of hate and racial violence in our country that is sadly only one of the latest examples [of] increasing racial violence over recent years,” said the measure’s sponsor Rep. Smitty Pignatelli (D-Lenox). “Diversity is our nation’s greatest strength, and these acts of racism go against everything that we aspire to be. Human beings are not born with hatred; hatred is taught. We must do all we can to ensure that the value of diversity and cultural awareness are taught instead.”

DRIVERS TRAINING AND EDUCATION (HD 4070) - Transfers driver education and training from the Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) to the Department of Education. The education and training would be financed by a combination of parent-student tuition and fees collected by the RMV as well as by automobile manufacturers and dealers and incentives provided by the insurance industry.

“Making driving affordable and accessible for low-income students is essential to providing life skills to advance their careers, for furthering their education, going to work and helping their families,” said the bill’s sponsor Rep. Carlos Gonzalez (D-Springfield).

EPINEPHRINE IN RESTAURANTS (HD 3901) - Requires each restaurant to purchase and maintain a stock supply of epinephrine auto-injectors available to all customers, to be administered in the event of an aphylactic emergency. The Department of Public Health would promulgate regulations including requiring that the injectors be stored in an easily accessible unlocked location; determining the number and type of epinephrine auto injectors required; and training for people to administer the injection.

Rep. Dan Cahill (D-Lynn), the sponsor of the bill, did not respond to repeated requests from Beacon Hill Roll Call to comment on his proposal.

PROPERTY OWNERS CAN BAN POT GROWING ON PROPERTY (HD 4042) – Allows owners of residential and commercial property to ban the growing of medical marijuana on their property. The measure also protects owners from being charged with discrimination on the basis of a medical condition or disability.

Rep. David DeCoste (R-Norwell), the sponsor of the bill, did not respond to repeated requests from Beacon Hill Roll Call to comment on his proposal.

QUOTABLE QUOTES

“The Artificial Intelligence (AI) Jumpstart Program is an example of the strong partnership between the public, private and academic sectors found in Massachusetts. Through this pilot, we look forward to MassTech and Northeastern building on 15 years of collaboration to help more businesses benefit from our robust innovation ecosystem.”

--- Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito on a $2.2 million grant for a pilot program to assist Massachusetts firms interested in deploying AI to enhance their businesses.

“We want to raise awareness among both MassHealth patients, especially those from the transgender community, and health care providers that patients cannot be required to pay out of pocket for medical care that is covered by MassHealth, including gender-affirming surgeries. We hope that by bringing attention to this matter, these surgeries become more accessible and affordable to those who need them.”

---Attorney General Maura Healey

“The commonwealth’s constant focus on developing our talent pipeline to equip the students of today with the skills of tomorrow is a critical pillar of the state’s rich tech ecosystem and a major reason why businesses come to Massachusetts. The MassTech Intern Partnership has been a successful program to provide students with paid work experience where they can learn valuable skills, grow their professional network and connect with mentors who can help them gain a full-time job after graduation.”

---Housing and Economic Development Secretary Mike Kennealy on the MassTech Collaborative now accepting 2021 applications for its program that reimburses qualified tech companies $3,200 stipends for hiring Massachusetts students as summer interns. More information can be found at www.masstech.org/intern

“For so many in our community living with opioid use disorder, the thought of recovery and the obstacles to getting there are daunting. The ‘Your Rights in Recovery Toolkit’ will help many people better understand their rights to gaining access to treatment, housing, employment and other supports.”

---Julie Burns, President of RIZE Massachusetts Foundation announcing the release of an online resource for people seeking opioid use disorder treatment and recovery services and their families and friends. More information at www.rizema.org

HOW LONG WAS LAST WEEK’S SESSION? Beacon Hill Roll Call tracks the length of time that the House and Senate were in session each week. Many legislators say that legislative sessions are only one aspect of the Legislature’s job and that a lot of important work is done outside of the House and Senate chambers. They note that their jobs also involve committee work, research, constituent work and other matters that are important to their districts. Critics say that the Legislature does not meet regularly or long enough to debate and vote in public view on the thousands of pieces of legislation that have been filed. They note that the infrequency and brief length of sessions are misguided and lead to irresponsible late-night sessions and a mad rush to act on dozens of bills in the days immediately preceding the end of an annual session.

During the week of April 5-9, the House met for a total of one hour and 29 minutes while the Senate met for a total of one hour and 10 minutes.

Monday, April 5, House 11 a.m. to 12:24 p.m.

Senate 11:18 a.m. to 12:25 p.m.

Tuesday, April 6, no House session, no Senate session

Wednesday, April 7, no House session, no Senate session

Thursday, April 8, House 11:02 a.m. to 11:07 a.m.

Senate 11:11 a.m. to 11:14 a.m.

Friday, April 9, no House session, no Senate session

A note from Bob Katzen, publisher of Beacon Hill Roll Call:

Join me this Sunday night and every Sunday night in our new time slot between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. for my talk show “The Bob Katzen Baby Boomer and Gen X Show.” Jump in my time capsule and come back to the simpler days of the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s and 1980s.

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Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at bob@beaconhillrollcall.com




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