Beacon Hill Roll Call Volume 41 -Report No. 7 February 13-17, 2017

By Bob Katzen 
   

THE HOUSE AND SENATE: Beacon Hill Roll Call records the votes of local representatives on three roll calls from February 2. There were no roll calls in the House or Senate last week.
  All three roll calls are on proposed new rules to a package of rules under which the Legislature will operate in 2017-2018.
CONFERENCE COMMITTEE REPORTS BY 5 P.M. (H 2019)

   House 37-122, rejected a proposed new joint rule requiring that legislators receive a copy of any conference committee version of a bill by 5 p.m. on the day prior to voting on the bill. Current rules set the deadline at 8 p.m. Both rules prohibit the Legislature from voting on the bill prior to 1 p.m. the following day.

 

   Supporters of the new rule said the 8 p.m. deadline gives members only 17 hours to read and understand what are often long and complicated bills. They argued the 5 p.m. deadline would give legislators three more hours to read the measure.
   Opponents of the new rule said the 8 p.m. deadline has worked well for several years.
  (A “Yes” vote is for the 5 p.m. deadline. A “No” vote is against the 5 p.m. deadline and favors the current 8 p.m. one.)

 Rep. Christine Barber No Rep. Mike Connolly No Rep. Denise Provost No                                      
REQUIRE ROLL CALL VOTES BY COMMITTEES AND POSTING ON WEBSITE (H 2019)

   House 38-121 rejected a proposed new joint rule that would require that a roll call automatically be held on all bills acted upon by joint committees when the committee gives the measure a favorable or unfavorable report. Current rules only require a roll call if two members of the committee request it. 
   The proposal also requires that the roll calls be posted on the Legislature’s website within 48 hours. The current rule is vague and requires committee votes to be kept in the committee’s offices at the Statehouse and “be available for public inspection upon reasonable notice and during regular office hours.”
   Supporters of the new rule said giving legislators the option to ask for a roll call vote does not go far enough. They argued the new rule would simply give the public quick and easy access to the committee votes of their legislators. They noted under current rules, a person must go to the Statehouse in Boston during regular business hours in order to obtain this information.
   Opponents of the new rule said the current requirement that a roll call must be held if requested by two members is sufficient and offers more flexibility.
   (A “Yes” vote is for requiring a roll call vote and posting the roll calls on the website. A “No” vote is against requiring and posting.)

 Rep. Christine Barber No Rep. Mike Connolly No Rep. Denise Provost No                                      
MAKE TEXTS OF BILLS AVAILABLE (H 2017)

  House 34-124, rejected a proposed new House rule that would require typed, printed copies of each bill being considered by the House be made available to members when the bill is being considered by the House. Current rules allow the speaker of the House to determine the format of the bills.
  Supporters of the new rule said that currently a single copy of the bill is kept in a small metal box, commonly called “the can,” on the rostrum and made available to 160 members before a House session begins. They noted that once the session gets underway, rank and file members are restricted from having access to the rostrum and can’t see amendments and later versions of the bill. They argued that this system is impractical and results in many representatives not having an up-to-date copy of the bill or amendment that is being debated. They noted that sometimes later versions of the bill are not available online.
  Opponents of the new rule said Wi-Fi is available in the House chamber. They noted that the new rule is unnecessary and a costly waste of time when members can get the text of any bill or amendment at any time during the session from his or her laptop or smartphone.
   (A “Yes” vote is for the amendment. A “No” vote is against it.)

 Rep. Christine Barber No Rep. Mike Connolly No Rep. Denise Provost No                                      

ALSO UP ON BEACON HILL
   ROSENBERG AND DELEO APPOINT LEADERSHIP AND GIVE OUT COMMITTEE ASSIGNMENTS – Senate President Stan Rosenberg (D-Amherst) and House Speaker Bob DeLeo (D-Winthrop) appointed their leadership teams, committee chairs and vice-chairs. They also gave out committee assignments.
   “JOINT” COMMITTEE ON MARIJUANA – The brand new Joint Committee on Marijuana will be chaired by Sen. Pat Jehlen (D-Somerville) and Rep. Mark Cusack (D-Braintree). In December, the Legislature approved and Gov. Charlie Baker signed into law a controversial bill that delays by six months, from January 2018 to July 2018, the earliest possible date for the opening of retail recreational marijuana stores in the Bay State. The January 2018 date was approved by voters in November as part of the ballot question legalizing the use of pot for recreational use.
   Use of marijuana by adults is now legal in the state but many legislators and others have expressed an interest in modifying some aspects of the law. Jehlen and Cusack will be in the forefront of those battles.
   SENATE APPROVES A NEW LEADERSHIP POSITION WITH $35,000 STIPEND – Senate President Stan Rosenberg has added a new position to his leadership team at the cost of $35,000. The addition was approved by the Senate and allows for a second assistant majority whip on Rosenberg’s leadership team. Current rules allow him to appoint only one assistant majority whip.

 

   Rosenberg later appointed Sens. Linda Forry (D-Boston) and Joan Lovely (D-Salem) to the two positions. Each will receive a $35,000 bonus on top of their regular $62,547 base salary – a total of $97,547.
  HAPPY BIRTHDAY JFK – The late President John F. Kennedy would turn 100 years old on May 29. The House and Senate commemorated and honored the 35th president at a joint session last week. 
  Kennedy’s niece, former Maryland Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, was the featured speaker. Gov. Baker, House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senate President Stanley Rosenberg each reflected on the former president’s legacy and impact.
  “Unlike some who have made it big and then forget where they come from, he remembered that immigration was a great way to create a wonderful future,” said Townsend.
  Gov. Baker said, “I think he would remind us that in his day he asked us to focus not on what our country can do for us but to instead remember what we can do for our country. I call those words to live by, now more than ever.”
  The celebration also includes the playing of a recording of Kennedy’s January 9, 1961, famous “City Upon a Hill” speech he gave to the Massachusetts Legislature.

   

   BAY STATE SCHOOLS DRINKING WATER IS GRADED A “D” – Massachusetts was graded on protecting children from lead in water at schools and received a grade of “D.”
   Environment Massachusetts Research & Policy Center and MASSPIRG Education Fund last week issued “Get the Lead Out,” a 31-page report that examines lead laws in 16 states. Neighboring states Connecticut and Maine both received an “F.”
   The report confirmed that 49.7 percent of more than 40,000 tests have confirmed lead in the Bay State’s schools’ water.
   ENCOURAGE DOCTORS TO DISCUSS GUNS WITH PATIENTS – ENCOURAGE DOCTORS TO DISCUSS GUNS WITH PATIENTS – Attorney General Maura Healey has partnered with the Massachusetts Medical Society (MMS) to develop informational brochures and an online training program to support doctors in their efforts to prevent gun-related accidents, self-harm and violence by talking to patients about it.

   “Most medical professionals believe that they can have an important role in preventing gun-related injury and death, and yet screening and counseling about guns remain uncommon,” Healey said. “While the vast majority of gun owners are responsible and deeply committed to gun safety, this remains a public health issue, and conversations between patients and health care providers are critically important to preventing gun-related injury and death.”

   “Medical professionals play an essential role in ensuring the safety of their patients,” said Liam Lowney, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Office for Victim Assistance. “The private and uninterrupted discussions doctors and nurses have with patients allow an opportunity to identify violence in the home and offer critical support and resources.”
   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 February 13-17, the House met for a total of three hours and 39 minutes and the Senate met for a total of 10 hours and 52 minutes.
Mon. February 13 No House session

                     Senate 11:07 a.m. to 4:06 p.m
Tues. February 14 House 11:02 a.m. to 11:15 a.m

                     No Senate session
Wed. February 15 House 10:31 a.m. to 1:46 p.m. 

                     Senate 10:31 a.m. to 1:37 p.m.
Thurs. February 16 House 11:00 a.m. to 11:11 a.m. 

                     Senate 11:06 a.m. to 1:53 p.m.

 

Fri. February 17 No House session

                     No Senate session.  

 
   

  Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at bob@beaconhillrollcall.com

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