Volume 40-Report No. 25 • June 22-26, 2015
Copyright © 2015 Beacon Hill Roll Call. All Rights Reserved. By Bob Katzen
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Our Legislators in the House and Senate for Somerville:

barber_webRep. Christine Barber
DISTRICT REPRESENTED: Thirty-fourth Middlesex. – Consisting of all precincts in wards 4 and 5, precinct 1 of ward 7, and precinct 2 of ward 8, of the city of Medford, precincts 1 and 2 of ward 4, and all precincts of ward 7, of the city of Somerville, both in the county of Middlesex.

Rep. Denise Provost
DISTRICT REPRESENTED: Twenty-seventh Middlesex. – Consisting of precinct 3 of ward 2, all precincts of ward 3, precinct 3 of ward 4, and all precincts of wards 5 and 6, of the city of Somerville, in the county of Middlesex.

Rep. Timothy Toomey
DISTRICT REPRESENTED: Twenty-sixth Middlesex. – Consisting of all precincts of ward 1, precinct 1 of ward 2, precincts 1 and 2 of ward 3, and precinct 1 of ward 6, of the city of Cambridge, and all precincts of ward 1 and precincts 1 and 2 of ward 2, of the city of Somerville, both in the county of Middlesex.

Sen. Patricia Jehlen
DISTRICT REPRESENTED: Second Middlesex. – Consisting of the cities of Cambridge, wards 9 to 11, inclusive, Medford and Somerville, and the town of Winchester, precincts 4 to 7, inclusive, in the county of Middlesex.

*THE HOUSE AND SENATE. Beacon Hill Roll Call records the votes of local representatives on roll calls from the week of June 22-26. There were no roll calls in the Senate last week.

NEWSPAPERS MUST PUBLISH PUBLIC NOTICES ONLINE (H 1566)
House 153-0, approved and sent to the Senate a bill that would require newspapers that are paid to publish official state and local public notices in the paper’s print edition to also include them on the paper’s website at no additional cost. The measure also requires the papers to include the notices, at no extra charge, on a new statewide website, created and operated by a joint venture of Massachusetts newspapers.
Supporters said that readership of print copies of newspapers is way down and public notices in these papers are never seen by the majority of people. They argued the addition of the papers’ websites and a new statewide website would result in many more people seeing these important notices.

(A “Yes” vote is for the bill.)

Rep. Christine Barber      Yes
Rep. Denise Provost        Yes
Rep. Timothy Toomey    Yes

JURY LAWS (H 1354)
House 153-0, approved and sent to the Senate a bill that would strike from the law books several sections of current jury duty laws that have simply been unenforced and/or have changed. The bill also consolidates the two chapters in current state law dealing with jury duty into one.

Supporters said having these “non-laws” on the books is confusing to potential jurors who do not know that these laws are no longer enforced and/or have been replaced. They noted that an old law on the books that is no longer valid exempts classes of people, such as doctors, students and parents of young children, from jury duty. Another limits to $40 the penalty for failing to perform juror service.

(A “Yes” vote is for the bill.)

Rep. Christine Barber      Yes
Rep. Denise Provost        Yes
Rep. Timothy Toomey    Yes

ALSO UP ON BEACON HILL

LOTTERY FOR LOW LICENSE PLATES – The Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) announced it is now accepting applications for the 2015 Low Number License Plate Lottery. This year’s batch includes 156 low license plates including Z9, 650, 7X and L91. Applications are available at all RMV branches and online at www.massrmv.com. All entries must be mailed and postmarked by August 21. No date for the drawing has been set, but it is likely to be held in September.

BURY PETS WITH OWNERS (H 3272) – The Public Health Committee heard testimony on a bill that would allow cemeteries to designate a portion of the cemetery for the burial of both people and their pets together.

Supporters said pets are like family members and it is unfair that current law prohibits this practice.

Opponents, led by the Massachusetts Cemetery Association, said the proposed legislation is vague but that the groups would be willing to work out a bill that is acceptable to both sides and will address sanitary, environmental and religious concerns.

STOP PET CREMATION FRAUD (H 3273) – A bill aimed at preventing fraud in the pet cremation industry was also considered on Beacon Hill. The proposal requires all pet crematoriums to register with the state and for two years maintain time-stamped digital video footage of each individual animal cremation. The video would be required to include footage that establishes the clear identification of the pet before the cremation and the removal of the remains immediately following the cremation.

Supporters said some of these companies are unscrupulous and cremate several animals at once. They hand over what pet owners think are the remains of their beloved pet when is fact it is sometimes the remains of a random pet.

BAN PLASTIC GROCERY BAGS (S 406) – The Committee on the Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture held a hearing on a bill that would ban the use of single-use carryout plastic bags in any retail store with more than 3,000 square feet of space or three locations.

Supporters said our nation uses 100 billion plastic bags per year and noted bags litter our streets and waterways and often kill marine animals who ingest them.

Opponents said public education has already resulted in widespread use of reusable bags without the state imposing a ban on plastic bags. They noted these plastic bags are often reused by consumers for cleaning up after their pets and to line wastebaskets.

JUSTINA’S LAW (H 1469) – The Judiciary Committee heard testimony on a bill that would prohibit parents from being charged with child abuse or neglect if they follow a course of treatment recommended by a medical or mental health provider, even if a different provider recommends a different course of treatment.

The bill was prompted by the 2013 case of Justina Pelletier, who was being treated at Tufts Medical Center for mitochondrial disease and then was transferred to Boston Children’s Hospital where she received a different diagnosis. Her medication was stopped and she was placed in a psychiatric unit. Her parents tried to remove her from Children’s and bring her back to Tufts but they were ordered out of the hospital. A legal and public relations battle began which ended in Justina being returned home to Connecticut to be with her parents in June 2014.

Supporters said that parents, not the government or doctors, should decide what course the treatment of their children will take.

QUOTABLE QUOTES

“I would say if there is an interest among the players, and there are many, to have a conversation on the flag I would certainly be happy to participate in that. It has been around for I think about 150 years and there is nothing wrong with taking another look.” — Gov. Charlie Baker on whether Massachusetts should consider changing its flag that currently includes a Native American holding a bow and arrow with the motto, “By the sword we seek peace, but only under liberty.” Some say the design is politically insensitive and the bow and arrow depict violence.

“Until everyone’s rights are protected, none of us have equal rights. Everyone should be safe and feel safe regardless of who they are or where they are.” — Eastern Bank’s Nancy Stager on the bank’s support of updating Massachusetts’ nondiscrimination law to include public accommodations protections for transgender individuals.

“Massachusetts is the cradle of liberty and the tech hub of the universe, so online voter registration is a marriage of two of the Commonwealth’s greatest strengths … It’s a no-brainer.” — Gavi Wolfe of the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts on the new system implemented last week allowing Massachusetts citizens with signatures on file with the Registry of Motor Vehicles to register to vote online.

“The United States is less than five percent of the world’s population, but we consume 80 percent of its opioids.” — Attorney General Maura Healey on her support of the Governor’s Working Group report aimed at eradicating opioid abuse.

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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 June 22-16, the House met for a total of 10 hours and 20 minutes and the Senate met for a total of six hours and 31 minutes.

Mon. June 22
House 11:05 a.m. to 5:20 p.m.
Senate 11:02 a.m. to 5:22 p.m.

Tues. June 23
No House session
No Senate session

Wed. June 24
House 11:04 a.m. to 3:04 p.m.
No Senate session

Thurs. June 25
House 11:02 a.m. to 11:07 a.m.
Senate 11:03 a.m. to   11:14 a.m.

Fri. June 26
No House session
No Senate session

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Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at bob@beaconhillrollcall.com