Volume 42-Report No. 31 • July 31-August 4, 2017
Copyright © 2017 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. Mike Connolly
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 prior Senate sessions in July. There were no roll calls in the House or Senate last week.
Senate 39-0, approved a bill that would give public school districts the power and flexibility to offer other English Language Learner (ELL) programs in addition to or instead of the current sheltered English immersion program that requires all students, including those not yet fluent in English, to be taught English by being taught all subjects in English and to be placed in English language classrooms. The current law was approved by Massachusetts voters on a ballot question in 2002.

Another key provision establishes a Seal of Biliteracy, an award given by a school to recognize students who have attained proficiency in more than one language.

Supporters said schools need the flexibility to implement a program that will fit the needs of their students rather than the “one size fits all” current law. They argued that the English immersion mandate is not working and noted that these students continue to lag behind their peers in high school graduation rates and going to college. They expressed concern that Massachusetts students will quickly be left behind when applying for jobs that require bilingual skills in the growing global market.

(A “Yes” vote is for the bill.)

Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes

Senate 38-0, approved an amendment creating a 20-member special commission to determine the feasibility of establishing local option property tax deduction programs for persons with an intellectual or developmental disability and family or friends providing care for them at home.

Amendment supporters said the commission would determine how a property tax reduction can help disabled individuals or families taking care of them by freeing up this money to remodel the home to better accommodate the person and to buy necessities like medical equipment, ramps and guards.

(A “Yes” vote is for the amendment.)

Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes

Senate 39-0, approved an amendment allowing local cities and towns to give volunteer, call or auxiliary firefighters and emergency medical technicians up to a $2,500 property tax exemption for doing volunteer work in their city or town which has opted into this program. Local cities and towns are not required to offer the volunteer program.

Amendment supporters said these people work hard without pay and local communities should have the right to offer them property tax relief.

(A “Yes” vote is for the amendment.)

Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes



POSSIBLE 2018 BALLOT QUESTIONS – Sponsors of possible ballot questions for the November 2018 election faced their first deadline in the long process to get their proposed law or constitutional amendment on the ballot. Sponsors had until August 2 to submit the proposal and the signatures of ten citizens.

There were 26 initiative petitions for proposed laws filed with Attorney General Maura Healey’s Office. Healey will decide by September 6 if the proposals pass muster and meet constitutional requirements.

If a proposal for a law is certified by Healey, the next step is for supporters to gather 64,750 voter signatures by December 6, 2017. The proposal would then be sent to the Legislature and if not approved by May 2, 2018, proponents must gather another 10,792 signatures by July 4, 2018, in order for the question to appear on the November 2018 ballot.

Proposals for laws filed last week include prohibiting any state facilities from using electric shock therapy on individuals with a physical, intellectual or developmental disability; requiring presidential candidates to release the last six years of their tax returns in order to be on the Massachusetts presidential primary ballot beginning in 2020; increasing the minimum hourly wage to $12 in 2019, $13 in 2020, $14 in 2021 and $15 in 2022; and reducing the state’s sale tax from 6.25 percent to 4.5 percent.

In the 2016 election, 35 proposals were submitted, with only four ultimately collecting sufficient signatures to make it to the ballot. Only two of those were approved by voters and are law today. One legalized the possession, growing and sale of marijuana. The other one prohibits any farmers from confining any pigs, calves or hens in a way that prevents the animal from lying down, standing up, fully extending its limbs or turning around freely.

Two proposals to amend the state’s constitution were also filed. The procedure for getting proposed constitutional amendments on the ballot is different than the one for getting a proposed law on the ballot. Sponsors must still gather 64,750 voter signatures by December 6, 2017. The proposal then goes before the Legislature and goes on the 2020 ballot only if approved by 25 percent (50 members) of the 2017-2018 Legislature and the 2019-2020 Legislature.

One proposed constitutional amendment declares that nothing in the Massachusetts Constitution requires the public funding of abortion. The other one declares that corporations are not people and do not have the same rights as individuals and that money is not free speech and may be regulated. The proposal is in response to the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. In that decision, the court ruled that the First Amendment prohibits the government from restricting corporations, unions and individuals from donating unlimited funds to Super Political Action Committees (PACs) that do not donate directly to candidates or political parties.

A complete list and summary of each of the petitions filed for the 2018 ballot can be found online by clicking on “Petitions Filed” at http://www.mass.gov/ago/government-resources/initiatives-and-other-ballot-questions/

BAKER SIGNS EMPLOYER TAX AND FEE HIKE – Gov. Charlie Baker signed into law a measure, approved by the Legislature, that raises from a maximum $51 to a maximum $77 per year the per-employee assessment paid by employers with six or more employees,

known as the Employer Medical Assistance Contribution. The bill also penalizes these employers with up to a $750 per employee penalty if their non-disabled workers enroll in MassHealth or ConnectorCare instead of an employer-sponsored health insurance plan. The hike and the penalty would last two years.

Another provision would reduce scheduled increases in the unemployment insurance tax paid by employers to fund the Unemployment Trust Fund that provides benefits to laid-off workers.

Baker had hoped to combine these proposals with his plan to make major changes in MassHealth, the state’s Medicaid program that provides health care for approximately 1.4 million qualified low-income and disabled persons. The Legislature defeated those changes.

Baker and legislative leaders have agreed to take up MassHealth reforms soon. “Gov. Baker signed this bill into law to advance the process of reforming MassHealth and to ensure the program can become financially sustainable,” said the governor’s Communications Director Lizzy Guyton. “Now that the Legislature has made their intentions clear to take up additional reforms in the near future, the Baker-Polito Administration is going to take them at their word and continue discussing these critical reforms.”

Baker is being attacked by some critics for agreeing to these hikes after he had campaigned for the corner office against any tax or fee hikes. “Yet again Beacon Hill has found a way to penalize the business community,” said National Federation of Independent Business Massachusetts State Director Chris Carlozzi. “It’s incredibly disappointing to learn that all substantive reforms have fallen by the wayside and a tax on job creators in Massachusetts will remain. Small business owners were hoping that Gov. Baker would have used this as an opportunity to send a strong message to the Legislature but unfortunately, any reform needed to rein in out of control MassHealth spending has yet to materialize.”



“One year ago today, Massachusetts took an important step toward closing the pay gap in our state by enacting the most comprehensive equal pay law in the country … This new law makes vital updates that reflect our modern economy, balances the needs of the business community, and ensures economic security for Massachusetts women and families.”— Attorney General Maura Healey on the one-year anniversary of the passage the equal pay law.



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 31-August 4, the House met for a total of 38 minutes while the Senate met for a total of one hour and 41 minutes.

Mon. July 31
House 11:03 a.m. to 11:18 a.m.
Senate 11:07 a.m. to 11:24 a.m

Tues. August 1
No House session
No Senate session

Wed. August 2
No House session
No Senate session

Thurs. August 3
House 11:02 a.m. to 11:25 a.m.
Senate 11:13 a.m. to 12:37 p.m.

Fri. August 4
No House session
No Senate session


Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at bob@beaconhillrollcall.com