Beacon Hill Roll Call Volume 41 – Report No, 8 February 20-24, 2017

By Bob Katzen 

   THE HOUSE AND SENATE: There were no roll calls in the House or Senate last week. This week, Beacon Hill Roll Call reviews local legislators’ votes on the transgender protection law approved by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Charlie Baker in 2016. Included are some of the proposed amendments that were rejected.
   There was swift reaction last week across the state to the Trump administration’s rescinding of a 2016 Obama administration directive that schools treat students according to their gender identity rather than to their sex assigned at birth. The action does not affect the Bay State which in 2016 approved a law prohibiting discrimination against transgender people by adding “gender identity” to existing Massachusetts civil rights laws that already prohibit discrimination in public accommodations based on age, race, creed, color, national origin, sexual orientation, sex, religion and marital status.
  “This is a victory for common sense and for the privacy and safety of every student in America,” said Andrew Beckwith, president of the Massachusetts Family Institute. “Local schools know best how to implement compassionate and practical solutions to these sensitive issues. No girl should be forced to change in front of, or shower with, a boy, as the Obama policy required.”
  “With this action, President Trump, Attorney General Sessions and Education Secretary DeVos send a clear message to transgender children and their families across the country that this administration does not support them or their right to a safe learning environment,” said MassEquality’s Executive Director, Deborah Shields. “We are fortunate that in Massachusetts, all of our students are protected by anti-discrimination and anti-bullying laws, and that our public officials, educators and citizens are speaking out and showing up in support of fairness and equality for transgender students.”
    We’re thankful that the new administration has done away with the Obama administration policy that forced a one-size fits all, draconian approach to these sensitive issues on our nation’s school districts,” said Chanel Prunier, the chair of Keep MA Safe. “Keep MA Safe looks forward to informing Massachusetts voters about our efforts to restore their safety and privacy locally by repealing our state law allowing biological men into women’s showers, locker rooms, and changing areas here in our state.”
   “I was saddened to hear about the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw important federal protections for transgender students, said Rep. Lori Ehrlich (D-Marblehead). “All children in this country deserve to feel welcome and safe in their schools — it is essential to fulfilling our promise and guarantee for equal education and opportunity. Massachusetts can and must stand firmly as a leader in this country against bigotry and hatred.”
   Keep MA Safe, a group opposed to the transgender law, has collected sufficient signatures to attempt to repeal the law by putting it on the November 2018 ballot for voters to decide.
TRANSGENDER PROTECTION

  House 116-36, Senate 33-4, approved the law that prohibits discrimination against transgender people in public accommodations including allowing access to legally gender-segregated public facilities, including restrooms and locker rooms, based on a person’s gender identity rather than on their biological sex.
  Public accommodations are defined as “a place, whether licensed or unlicensed, which is open to and accepts or solicits the patronage of the general public.” This includes hotels, restaurants, retail stores, malls, theaters, parks, medical offices, libraries and public transportation.
   Supporters, noting 17 other states have approved similar laws, say this civil rights law helps many transgender people lead safe and more productive lives. They argue that transgender individuals still face the threat of discrimination in many public accommodations. They note that under prior Massachusetts law, there was no protection ensuring that transgender people cannot be turned away from a restroom, locker room, hotel, restaurant, retail store and many other places simply because they are transgender. 
    Opponents say the privacy rights of children matter and asked how youngsters might react to a transgender classmate using the same bathroom. They argue that bathroom and locker room use should be based on the gender on one’s birth certificate, not on an inner sense of feeling or expression. They say that male predators could use this law as cover to excuse their presence in women-only spaces.
   The Senate did not have a roll call on the final version of the law. The Senate roll call listed is on an earlier version.
    (A “Yes” vote is for the law. A “No” vote is against it.)

 Rep. Christine Barber Yes Rep. Mike Connolly Was not yet elected Rep. Denise Provost Yes Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes                                     
MEDICAL STANDARD

   House 11-145, rejected an amendment that would require that gender identity which is different from a person’s assigned gender at birth, must be proven by providing evidence including, medical history, care or treatment of the gender-related identity. This would replace an existing law that allows gender identity to be proven by “consistent and uniform assertion of the gender-related identity or any other evidence that the gender-related identity is sincerely held as part of a person’s core identity.”
   Amendment supporters say this will establish a medical standard instead of just allowing people to decide what they are every morning when they wake up.
   Amendment opponents say the amendment goes too far. They note that transgender people should continue to have the right to choose their identity without a doctor’s interference.
   (A “Yes” vote is for the amendment. A “No” vote is against it.)

 Rep. Christine Barber No Rep. Mike Connolly Was not yet elected Rep. Denise Provost No                                      
BAN SEX OFFENDERS

   House 58-94, rejected an amendment that would prohibit Level 2 and Level 3 sex offenders from using any sex-segregated facility, bathroom or locker room that is not consistent with his or her assigned sex at birth. Level 2 offenders are classified as posing a moderate risk of reoffending while Level 3 ones pose a high risk.
  Amendment supporters say a sex offender who is a transgender woman (a person who was assigned male at birth but whose gender identity is that of a woman) should not have access to places where women and girls expect to see only other women and girls. 
   Some amendment opponents say the bill is civil rights legislation and should not be muddied with these various amendments that fool with and water down the bill. Others say that sex offenders have an extremely low rate of recidivism.
   (A “Yes” vote is for the amendment. A “No” vote is against it.)

 Rep. Christine Barber No Rep. Mike Connolly Was not yet elected Rep. Denise Provost No                                      
IMPROPER USE PENALTY

   Senate 11-26, rejected an amendment that would impose specific penalties on any person who improperly asserts gender identity to gain access to a sex-segregated facility like a bathroom.
  Amendment supporters say the bill should include specific penalties for this improper assertion. 
  Amendment opponents say current criminal laws already cover this offense under laws prohibiting trespassing, accosting a member of the opposite sex or public indecency.
   (A “Yes” vote is for the amendment. A “No” vote is against it.)

 Sen. Patricia Jehlen No                                      
MUST HAVE PARTITIONED SHOWERS

   Senate 6-31, rejected an amendment that would exempt from the transgender bill any gender-based locker rooms and shower facilities that do not provide for separation between the users.
   Amendment supporters say this would prevent a transgender person from taking showers alongside women unless there are individual shower stalls. They argue that one of the main concerns of opponents of the bill is having a person with the male anatomy in an open shower with women.
   Amendment opponents say the amendment waters down the bill. They argue that transgender women are not trying to shower with women but are just trying to get through the day without being harassed or accosted. 
   (A “Yes” vote is for the exemption. A “No” vote is against it.)

 Sen. Patricia Jehlen No                                      

ALSO UP ON BEACON HILL
   MANY BILLS IN 2015-2016 DIED IN STUDY COMMITTEES – The 2015-2016 Legislature shipped dozens of bills off to a study committee. Most measures that are shipped off to a study committee are never actually studied and are essentially defeated. Most of the proposals have been refiled for consideration in the 2017-2018 Legislature.
   The 2015-2016 batch that died in study committees included:
  REQUIRE COURSES – Several bills attempted to require high schools to teach specific courses to their students. Included were the history of working people and the labor movement (H 373); recycling (S 276); methods of resolving interpersonal disputes in productive and effective ways and discourage the use of violence and/or other forms of abuse in the resolution of disputes (S 341); and acts of genocide around the world including the Holocaust, the Famine-Genocide in Ukraine, the Armenian Genocide, the Pontian Greek Genocide and atrocities in Cambodia, Bosnia, Rwanda and Sudan (H 473).
   Another measure requires students to complete a course in civics in order to receive their high school diploma. The course would educate students in the composition and functioning of local, state and federal government, responsibilities and duties as an American citizen, opportunities for voter participation and exposure to current events and identification of government officials.
   CAP SALARY OF CHARITY EXECUTIVES (S 875) – Caps at $500,000 the compensation of any executives working for a public charity that takes in $1 million or more in annual gross revenue. The bill also prohibits any members of a public charity board of directors from being paid. It allows charities to seek a waiver on the compensation question “only if deemed in the public interest of the commonwealth.”
   EXTENDED UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS FOR LOCKED OUT WORKERS (S 2172) – Extends unemployment benefits for 26 weeks to workers whose employers have locked them out of their workplace. The proposal was filed in response to Allegheny Technologies’ decision to lock its workers out of some of its nationwide facilities including a 6-month lockout for 120 workers at its New Bedford plant. 
   TEACH DOCS ABOUT EATING DISORDERS (H 201) – Requires all doctors and physician assistants to complete a one-hour online course on the early recognition of eating disorders. The proposal also prohibits a hospital from granting or renewing professional privileges to a physician or physician assistant who has not completed the training.
   AFTERMARKET PARTS (H 3810) – Requires car dealers to inform car buyers, in writing, that federal law makes it illegal for motor vehicle manufacturers or dealers to void or deny coverage under a motor vehicle warranty solely because an aftermarket part was installed or someone other than the dealer performed service on the vehicle.
   REWARD FOR WHISTLE-BLOWERS (H 3943) – Rewards any person who reports that an individual is participating in the state’s “underground economy.” The whistle-blower would receive 10 percent of any tax revenue recovered.
   “Underground economy” is a term commonly understood to include people working “under the table” for cash that is not reported to the IRS and Massachusetts Department of Revenue. It also includes many other illegal activities, for example, the misrepresentation by individuals or businesses of the actual number of their employees to avoid payroll taxes, insurance, licensing, safety and other regulatory requirements.
   PROHIBIT DISCRIMINATION AGAINST FAMILY CAREGIVERS (H 1682) – Prohibits workplace discrimination against family members who provide medical or supervisory care to a family member with a serious health condition. 
  Sponsors say these workers are sometimes treated less favorably than other employees and are passed over for promotion, demoted or even terminated because their employers make personnel decisions based on stereotypical notions of how their caregiving would interfere with work.
QUOTABLE QUOTES
   “I think there were voodoo dolls with my head on them.”
   Senate President Stan Rosenberg (D-Amherst) on how the retail industry reacted to the Legislature not approving the traditional two-day tax-free holiday last year. Rosenberg has not said if he will support a holiday this year.

  “I’m running for re-election. I think that my job as attorney general, it’s never been as important as it is now to do my job and do my job well. Certainly, we have our hands full, so that’s what I’m focused on.”
  Democrat Attorney General Maura Healey on rumors that she will run for governor in 2018.

  “Exposing high school students to college-level material and allowing them to earn credit for their work is a worthy investment in both our students and future workforce.”
   Gov. Charlie Baker upon awarding $695,000 to some state universities and community colleges to launch new programs to allow high school students to take college courses before graduating from high school.

   “Immigrants are vital to Massachusetts’ economic success. Twenty-one percent of entrepreneurs in Massachusetts are immigrants, 58 percent of Fortune 500 companies based here were founded by immigrants or the children of immigrants and immigrants make up 18 percent of all people employed in our state.”
   Jesse Mermell, President of The Alliance for Business Leadership.

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 20-24, the House met for a total of 31 minutes and the Senate met for a total of 43 minutes.
Mon. February 20 No House session

                     No Senate session

.

Tues. February 21 House 11:03 a.m. to 11:27 a.m.

                     Senate 11:02 a.m. to 11:28 a.m.
Wed. February 22 No House session

                     No Senate session

.

Thurs. February 23 House 11:04 a.m. to 11:11 a.m. 

                     Senate 11:09 a.m. to 11:26 a.m.

 

Fri. February 24 No House session

                     No Senate session.  

 
   

  Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at bob@beaconhillrollcall.com

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