Volume 40-Report No. 46 • November 16-20, 2015
Copyright © 2015 Beacon Hill Roll Call. All Rights Reserved. By Bob Katzen

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 representatives’ and senators’ votes on roll calls from the week of November 16-20.

House 157-0, approved and sent to the Senate legislation designed to update state and local municipality public records laws and enhance accountability measures. Provisions include establishing a timeframe and process under which any requested documents must be produced, including giving cities and towns 75 days to produce records and state agencies 60 days; ensuring that judicial remedies are available if the request is turned down or not fulfilled in a timely fashion; requiring cities and towns and state agencies to designate a public records officer to assist the public and facilitate timely responses;  establishing guidelines for the fees associated with obtaining documents; and creating a standardized process through which the public can access records. The bill also creates a special legislative commission to examine the constitutionality and practicality of subjecting the Legislature, the governor’s office and the judicial branch to the public records law.

Supporters said this is the first update to the state’s public record laws in 40 years and noted it would make state and local government more transparent. They argued this is balanced legislation that improves access to public records while also protecting local municipalities from unreasonable procedures and unfunded mandates.

While no one voted against the bill, some critics say it does not go far enough. Others say the bill is flawed because it continues to exempt the Legislature from the public records laws.

(A “Yes” vote is for the bill.)

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

House 122-34, upheld the ruling of the chair that prohibited consideration of an amendment that would make the Legislature subject to the state’s public records law. The amendment would have repealed the current law that exempts the Legislature. The chair ruled that the amendment is not properly before the House because the House a few minutes ago already addressed this issue by creating a special legislative commission to examine the constitutionality and practicality of subjecting the Legislature to the public records law.

Supporters of the ruling said the ruling is appropriate because rules prohibit the House from considering an amendment on an issue that contradicts a previous one already approved by the House.

Opponents of the ruling said the making the Legislature subject to the public records law is different from just setting up a commission to look at the matter.

(A “Yes” vote is for the ruling. A “No” vote is against it.)

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

The Senate last week approved several pro-veteran bills and sent them to Gov. Charlie Baker’s desk for his signature. Supporters said the state’s veterans are heroes who deserve to be treated, respected and helped. There were no opponents of any of the bills.
The first three roll calls below are on veterans bills.

Senate 39-0, approved a bill that would make it a crime for a person to misrepresent himself or herself as a veteran. Violators would be subject to a one-year prison sentence and/or a $1,000 fine.

(A “Yes” vote is for the bill.)

Sen. Patricia Jehlen    Yes

Senate 39-0, approved a bill that would make it a crime to destroy, mutilate or deface an American flag, veteran’s commemorative flag holder or a commemorative flag holder representing service in either the police or fire department. Offenders would be sentenced to up to five years in prison. This law currently applies only to tombs, monuments, gravestones, trees, shrubs and plants.

(A “Yes” vote is for the bill.)

Sen. Patricia Jehlen    Yes

Senate 39-0, approved a bill that would provide Purple Heart recipients free access to state parks, state forest recreation areas and state reservations. Currently free access is provided for disabled veterans and handicapped persons.

(A “Yes” vote is for the bill.)

Sen. Patricia Jehlen    Yes

Senate 39-0, approved and sent to Gov. Charlie Baker a bill that would create the crime of trafficking of the drug fentanyl in amounts greater than 10 grams and impose a prison sentence of up to 20 years for those convicted of the crime. Under current law a person can only be charged with manufacturing, distributing or possessing fentanyl, but not with trafficking.

Supporters said use of this dangerous drug is accelerating and is estimated to be 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine and 30 to 50 times more potent than heroin. They noted traffickers sometimes mix fentanyl with heroin, often without the knowledge of the buyer.

(A “Yes” vote is for the bill.)

Sen. Patricia Jehlen    Yes

Senate 32-6, approved a bill that would require schools that offer sexual health education to include “medically accurate, age-appropriate” information for students regardless of gender, race, disability status or sexual orientation. The measure also requires that the program include the benefits of abstinence and delaying sexual activity; the importance of effectively using contraceptives and barrier methods to prevent unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, including HIV/AIDS; ways to effectively discuss safe sexual activity; and relationship and communication skills to form healthy, respectful relationships free of violence, coercion and intimidation. Another provision strengthens a current law that gives parents the right to withdraw a student from all or part of the instruction.

Supporters said the bill does not require that sex education be taught and in fact retains the current law that gives local schools the option of whether to teach a course or not and gives parents the power to opt their children out. They said the measure simply mandates some fair and reasonable specific topics the course must provide.

Some opponents said the definition in of “age appropriate” in the bill is open to interpretation and might result in younger students being taught topics that might be “age inappropriate.” Others argued they prefer that the course have an “opt in” provision rather than an “opt out” one.

(A “Yes” vote is for the bill. A “No” vote is against it.)

Sen. Patricia Jehlen    Yes


BAN CELL PHONES UNLESS HANDS-FREE (H 3315) – The House, on a voice vote without debate, gave initial approval to a bill that would prohibit all drivers from using a hand-held cell phone but allow them to use a hands-free one.

Supporters say the bill would save lives and prevent accidents. They noted that the measure does not ban cell phone use but simply requires the use of hands-free ones. They pointed to accidents, deaths and injuries involving cell phones.

Opponents say the restriction is another example of government intrusion into people’s cars and lives. Others note that there are already laws on the books prohibiting driving while distracted.

The bill still needs further approval in the House and then must be approved by the Senate before it goes to Gov. Baker.

COURT MUST REFUND FEE (S 739) – The Judiciary Committee held a hearing on a bill that would require the court to refund the $25 court filing fee to a driver who successfully challenges a non-criminal traffic violation in court. Under current law, the driver is not entitled to a refund of the fee even if he or she wins his or her case.

The fee itself was challenged in 2011 on the basis that people appealing a non-criminal motor vehicle infraction unfairly are forced to pay a filing fee while those contesting other types of civil violations do not. The case ended up in the Supreme Judicial Court, which ruled that charging filing fees to residents appealing traffic tickets does not violate equal protection.
PRIMARY SEAT BELT LAW (H 1187) – The Judiciary Committee also heard testimony on a primary enforcement bill allowing police officers to stop and issue $25 tickets to a driver and passengers solely for not wearing seat belts. Current law is a “secondary enforcement” one that prohibits drivers from being stopped solely for not wearing a seat belt and allows an officer to issue a ticket only if the driver is stopped for another motor vehicle violation or some other offense. The legislation also prohibits police officers from searching the vehicle, its contents, the driver or passengers solely because of the seat belt violation and leaves intact a current law that bans the offense from being considered a moving violation that would impose a surcharge on the driver.

Supporters said that secondary enforcement is not working well that the bill would increase seat belt usage, save lives, prevent serious injuries and save millions of dollars in medical and other costs. They cited a study that concluded that states with primary enforcement of a seat belt law have a 17 percent lower rate of motor vehicle deaths involving crashes than states that do not.

Although no one testified against the bill, in the past opponents have said the bill is government intrusion into citizens’ private lives and cars and argued that drivers and passengers should have the freedom to decide whether they want to wear seat belts. They argue that this new power is tantamount to establishing roadblocks and would lead to random stops and unfair racial profiling. Some ask if the next step is to “protect” people by banning junk food and mandating daily exercise.


“Millions of dollars are being made on the backs of Logan Airport workers … They often work day and night, sometimes under extreme conditions and in sensitive areas, for little pay and without access to affordable health benefits. These hard working men and women are simply looking for a fair and livable wage to support themselves and their families.” — Sen. Sal DiDomenico (D-East Boston) on his bill to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour for baggage handlers, airplane cleaners, wheelchair assistants and other employees at Logan Airport.

“One of our most important obligations is to honor and protect those who have fought for our country. The veterans’ legislation we passed today ensures we are doing all we can to make Massachusetts a leader when it comes to supporting our vets.” — Senate President Stan Rosenberg (D-Amherst) on Senate passage of several bills helping veterans.

“[It] is about keeping young people healthy and safeguarding them from the dangers of inadequate or misleading sexuality education. This is the kind of public health policy that will help communities keep their students in school and combat issues like sexual assault at its roots.” — Planned Parenthood Advocacy Fund of Massachusetts Director of Public Affairs Tricia Wajda, on the bill that would require schools that offer sexual health education to include specific “medically accurate, age-appropriate” information for students.

“These reforms will significantly enhance accountability, access to public records and enforcement. Our greatest asset in Massachusetts is our civic-minded citizenry and it is my hope that this bill will foster increased and productive engagement from the public.” — House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo (D-Winthrop) on a bill to make government more transparent and provide easier and less costly access to public records.


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 November 16-20, the House met for a total of 14 hours and 21 minutes while the Senate met for a total of ten hours and 15 minutes.

Mon. November 16
House 11:02 a.m. to 11:14 a.m.
Senate 11:04 a.m. to 11:17 a.m.

Tues. November 17
House 11:01 a.m. to 5:04 p.m.
No Senate session.

Wed. November 18
House 11:04 a.m. to 6:39 p.m.
Senate 11:04 a.m. to 8:52 p.m.

Thurs. November 19
House 11:04 a.m. to 11:35 a.m.
Senate 11:04 a.m. to 11:18 a.m.

Fri. November 20
No House session
No Senate session


Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at bob@beaconhillrollcall.com