Volume 40-Report No. 29 • July 20-24, 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 local senators’ votes on roll calls from the week of July 20-24. There were no roll calls in the House last week.

CLIMATE CHANGE ADAPTATION (S 1973)
Senate 38-0, approved and sent to the House a bill requiring the state, led by the secretaries of energy and environmental affairs and public safety, to study, create and implement a comprehensive plan to protect and ensure the preservation, protection and restoration of the state’s “built and natural environment” from the risks of climate change. The plan, updated every ten years, also authorizes the state to buy back at-risk coastal land from current owners for preservation.

Supporters pointed to the flooding and massive damage caused by Hurricane Sandy and other disasters. They argued the state must prepare in advance and be proactive and not just reactive to similar threats and disasters.

(A “Yes” vote is for the bill.)

Sen. Patricia Jehlen    Yes

CONSIDER COST EFFECTIVENESS (S 1973)
Senate 9-29, rejected an amendment to a section of the climate change bill requiring that the climate study and plan include unilateral actions that can be taken by the governor and the executive branch to increase climate adaption, resilience and mitigation. The amendment would require the actions to be cost effective.

Amendment supporters said it is important to ensure that cost effectiveness is a consideration in these executive actions in order to guard against the bill becoming too costly.

Amendment opponents said the amendment is well intentioned but unnecessary and duplicative because the whole idea of the legislation is to develop a cost-effective plan.

(A “Yes” vote is for the cost-effective amendment. A “No” vote is against it.)

Sen. Patricia Jehlen    No

WARNING SYSTEM AT BEACHES – CALEIGH’S LAW (S 1956)
Senate 38-0, approved and sent to the House a bill creating a program that uses different colored flags to advise beachgoers of the safety conditions at their beach. This uniform warning system would be required at all public beaches maintained by the Department of Conservation and Recreation. Cities and towns would have the option of using the flags for their local beaches.

The bill was filed at the urging of Anthony Harrison, the father of Caleigh Harrison, the 2-year-old girl who went missing while at the beach in 2012 and is believed to have been swept out to sea. Supporters said the flag system might have saved Caleigh’s life and should become law in order to save the lives of others.

The Senate approved the bill in the 2013-2014 session but it died in the House Ways and Means Committee and never reached the House floor.

(A “Yes” vote is for the bill.)

Sen. Patricia Jehlen    Yes

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ALSO UP ON BEACON HILL

 TAX “JUNK FOOD” (H 2575) – The Revenue Committee held a hearing on a controversial bill that would impose the state’s 6.25 percent sales tax on the currently exempt sale of candy and soft drinks.

Supporters said this will reduce the amount of junk food eaten and will help conquer child and adult obesity. They noted junk food causes many health problems which cost the health system millions of dollars every year.

Opponents argued the tax is another example of “big brother” meddling in people’s personal lives. They noted this will open the door to new taxes on other unhealthy food and behavior.

MORE EXEMPTIONS FROM THE SALES TAX – The Revenue Committee’s hearing also included  several proposals to make certain items exempt from the sales tax including any retail sale made within 10 miles of the New Hampshire border (H 2619); blood test strips, lancet and vitamin and mineral supplements that are prescribed by a physician (S 1586); used books and other items sold as fundraisers by libraries (H 2536); gun safes and trigger locks (H 2626); original and creative work, written, composed, created and sold by a writer, composer or artist (H 2697); and medical alert services like Lifeline’s “I’ve fallen and can’t get up” pendant (H 2624).

BAN EMPLOYERS FROM ASKING FOR CREDIT REPORTS (S 123) – The Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure Committee held a hearing on a proposal that would prohibit employers from obtaining the credit reports of potential employees.

Supporters say there is no correlation between job performance and a credit score. They argue many people have bad credit because of a medical bankruptcy or an unexpected layoff.

Opponents say credit reports provide unbiased information about a person’s past behavior. They argue that poor credit often means a lack of responsibility.

BAN DISCRIMINATION BASED ON HEIGHT AND WEIGHT (H 1764) – The Labor and Workforce Development Committee held a hearing on legislation that would prohibit discrimination on the basis of a person’s height or weight.

Supporters say that overweight people are often not hired or not promoted because of their weight. They note this type of discrimination is on the rise and is more acceptable and pervasive than race, gender or sexual orientation discrimination.

Opponents say that obesity-related issues such as absenteeism and increased health insurance premiums are estimated to cost American employers billions of dollars annually.

RESTRICT IDLING CARS (S 1853) – The Transportation Committee held a hearing on a  measure reducing from five minutes to three minutes the length of time a driver is allowed to idle his or her vehicle.

Supporters say that idling an engine for only fifteen seconds uses more fuel than turning the engine off and restarting it. They argue that idling also increases maintenance costs because it leaves fuel residue that clogs fuel injectors. They note that the proposal would save millions of dollars in fuel costs for individuals and would help the environment.

Opponents say the current five-minute allowance is sufficient and argue the government should not be micromanaging this.

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QUOTABLE QUOTES

“Over the last decade it has become evident that these so-called ‘gun free zones’ have actually become ‘no defense zones.’ Tragically, they have also become targets for terrorists and murderers. The recent cowardly terrorist attack in Tennessee only makes it further clear that we must address the failed ‘no defense’ zone policy.” — Jim Wallace, executive director of Gun Owner’s Action League (GOAL), on legislation creating a commission to review policies regarding the dangers of “gun free zones” in the state.

“It has been 95 years since 1920, when women won the right to vote. 2015 seems like a good year for women to finally be paid an equal amount of money as their male peers.” — Rep. Ellen Story (D -Amherst) on the “Equal Pay” bill that would require employers to pay women the same wage that they pay men for the same work.

“… ensures that 735,000 persons with disabilities in Massachusetts may live full and participatory lives.” — Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito at the event celebrating the Americans with Disabilities Act on its 25-year anniversary.

“The memory of Caleigh’s disappearance will live with all of us for a very long time. Her family’s loss is a great tragedy and an inspiration for us to act.” — GOP Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester) on his bill to use different colored flags to advise beachgoers of the safety conditions at their beach. The measure is named after two-year-old Caleigh Harrison, who disappeared and is believed to have been swept out to sea while on Rockport’s Long Beach in April 2012.

“We’re trying to get the word out to users to say, you know what, when you go on and you click on this button, behind that click is somebody’s mother, daughter, sister [or] brother. And think about what you’re doing. — Attorney General Maura Healey calling for the website Backpage.com to remove its adult services section on which she says pimps and traffickers post listings of women and children who are forced to perform sex acts.

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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 July 20-24, the House met for a total of 30 minutes and the Senate met for a total of three hours and 56 minutes.

Mon. July 20
House 11:02 a.m. to 11:16 a.m.
Senate 11:03 a.m. to 11:05 a.m.

Tues. July 21
No House session
Senate 11:02 a.m. to 11:09 a.m.

Wed. July 22
No House session
No Senate session

Thurs. July 23
House 11:00 a.m. to 11:16 a.m.
Senate  1:03 p.m. to  4:50 p.m.

Fri. July 24
No House session
No Senate session

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Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at bob@beaconhillrollcall.com