Beacon Hill Roll Call, April 1-5

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By Bob Katzen

Beacon Hill Roll Call

Published: 04-12-2024 4:36 PM

THE HOUSE AND SENATE: Beacon Hill Roll Call records local representatives’ votes on roll calls from the week of April 1-5. There were no roll calls in the Senate last week.

$375 MILLION FOR ROADS AND BRIDGES (H 4529): House 155-0. approved and sent to the Senate a bill that includes authorizing $200 million in one-time funding for the maintenance and repair of local roads and bridges in cities and towns across the state. The $375 million package, a bond bill under which the funding would be borrowed by the state through the sale of bonds, also includes $175 million for several transportation-related grant programs.

The programs funded by the $175 million include the municipal small bridge program; the complete streets program; a bus transit infrastructure program; and grants for municipalities to purchase electric vehicles and the infrastructure needed to support them.

“Providing funding for critical infrastructure projects through investments in the commonwealth’s public transportation, roads, and bridges is one of the most important responsibilities that we have as members of the Legislature,” said House Speaker Ron Mariano (D-Quincy). “I’m proud of the support for regional infrastructure that this legislation provides, and of the funding that it allocates for the purchasing of electric vehicles by transit authorities.”

“The Legislature continues to be responsive to the transportation needs of our towns and cities,” said Rep. Bill Straus (D-Mattapoisett), House Chair of the Transportation Committee. “This legislation demonstrates a commitment to funding for local transportation projects with again, our new program especially for funding to rural towns. I am pleased to support this important piece of legislation which provides more tools for towns to tackle their project backlog in time for the new fiscal year starting in July.”

“The … program is an important state-municipal partnership that provides a vital revenue source to help cities and towns maintain local roads and bridges,” said House GOP Minority Leader Brad Jones. “With this funding, communities can address their local transportation infrastructure needs and priorities on an annual basis. The bill also provides funding for several municipal grant programs that offer additional resources to assist cities and towns in carrying out critical transportation-related initiatives.”

Adam Chapdelaine, CEO of the Mass Municipal Association, did not respond to repeated requests by Beacon Hill Roll Call asking him if he supports the funding as is or would like to have seen it increased. Ex-CEO Geoff Beckwith often urged the House and Senate to substantially increase the amount of funding.

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(A “Yes” vote is for the $375 million package.)

Rep. Natalie Blais, Yes; Rep. Daniel Carey, Yes; Rep. Mindy Domb, Yes; Rep. Lindsay Sabadosa, Yes; Rep. Aaron Saunders, Yes

CHANGE ARCHAIC LANGUAGE REFERRING TO PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES (H 4396): House 155-0. approved and sent to the Senate a bill that would modernize and remove archaic language in state laws to reflect the evolution of terminology relating to persons with disabilities.

Changes include replacing “handicapped persons” with “persons with disabilities,” replacing “the mentally retarded” with “persons with an intellectual disability,” replacing “retarded children” with “children with an intellectual disability” and replacing “disabled American veterans” with “American veterans with disabilities.”

Supporters said the primary objective of the bill is to identify and eliminate outdated, archaic language from the General Laws of Massachusetts and replace it with more respectful, person-first language. They noted that once the archaic language was found, they contacted the relevant state agency or office to confirm that the bill would have no unforeseen consequences, such as impacting funding or access to services.

“Today with the passage of this legislation, the commonwealth is taking a critical step toward fostering inclusivity and upholding our long-held principles of dignity and respect for all who call the commonwealth home,” said Rep. Mike Finn (D-West Springfield), a lead sponsor of the bill. “We can all celebrate that it is long past time for the commonwealth to update its General Laws, ensuring that no individual is subjected to negative and harmful language.”

“Removing out-of-date, antiquated and offensive language from the Massachusetts General Laws to describe people with disabilities is an important step in ensuring that our values, as a commonwealth, are also reflected in statute,” said Rep. Jay Livingstone (D-Boston), House Chair of the Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities. “As legislators, it is our job to help make sure that people with intellectual or developmental disabilities feel included, accepted and embraced for who they are, and this is an important step in doing so.”

(A “Yes” vote is for the bill.)

Rep. Natalie Blais, Yes; Rep. Daniel Carey, Yes; Rep. Mindy Domb, Yes; Rep. Lindsay Sabadosa, Yes; Rep. Aaron Saunders, Yes

ALSO UP ON BEACON HILL

GOVERNOR’S COUNCIL APPROVES GOV. HEALEY’S PARDON OF MISDEMEANOR MARIJUANA POSSESSION: The Governor’s Council unanimously approved Gov. Maura Healey’s executive order that pardons misdemeanor marijuana possession convictions that occurred in Massachusetts before March 14, 2024. The pardons will apply to thousands of people who were convicted of the offense which is no longer an offense. The Bay State decriminalized marijuana possession in 2008 and then legalized it on a ballot question in 2016.

In October 2022, President Biden issued a presidential proclamation that pardoned many federal and D.C. offenses for simple marijuana possession. In December 2023, he expanded that pardon to include more offenses and issued a call for governors to take action to pardon marijuana convictions in their states.

“Massachusetts made history today,’ said Gov. Maura Healey. “Thousands of Massachusetts residents will now see their records cleared of this charge, which will help lower the barriers they face when seeking housing, education or a job … I’m proud that Massachusetts was able to answer his call to action in this momentous way. I hope that other states will follow our lead as we work together to make our communities more fair and equitable.”

“People in every community across the state, especially Black and Brown people, who were disproportionately charged with marijuana-related crimes over the years will no longer be punished for something that is now legal in our state,” said Carol Rose, executive director of the ACLU of Massachusetts. “Let’s be clear: Tens of thousands of people in Massachusetts will now get a second chance and will face fewer barriers to housing, jobs, education, student loans and stability.”

“Massachusetts changed state laws around marijuana possession and this proposal is based on the simple premise of fairness and equity that a person should not bear the mark of conviction for an offense that is no longer a state crime,” said Suffolk County District Attorney Kevin Hayden.

ICE CREAM TRUCKS (H 3471): The House gave initial approval to legislation that would amend a four-decade old law that requires an amber dome light and the flashing orange lights on the back of ice cream trucks when the truck is parked and serving ice cream. The bill would provide that the law be enforced and would impose a $50 fine for failure to have the lights. It would also require that the operation of the lights be included as part of the truck’s annual inspection.

Supporters say that although these trucks that serve frozen desserts are required under current law to use these lights … the requirement as written includes no enforcement mechanism. They said it is time to enforce this law which saves lives and prevents injuries.

Sponsor Rep. Tom Vitolo (D-Brookline) did not respond to repeated requests by Beacon Hill Roll Call asking him to comment on why he filed the bill and how he feels about its initial approval.

INCREASE PENALTY FOR FAILURE TO STOP FOR A SCHOOL BUS: The House gave initial approval to a measure that adds a seven-day license suspension to the current $250 fine for not stopping for a school bus with flashing lights as children get on and off the bus.

According to the American School Bus Council, an estimated more than 10 million drivers illegally pass school buses every year. In addition, one-third of children who are killed outside the school bus are between five and seven years old; nearly two-thirds of bus related fatalities of school-age children occur outside the school bus; and passing vehicles are responsible for two-thirds of school bus loading and unloading fatalities.

Sponsor Rep. Susannah Whipps (I-Athol) did not respond to repeated requests by Beacon Hill Roll Call asking her to comment on why she filed the bill and how she feels about its initial approval.

FREE PARKING FOR VETERANS (H 3533): The House gave initial approval to a bill that would allow cities and towns to restrict two parking spaces in off street parking lots, large retail parking lots and parking garages to parking for veterans only – as long as the lot has more than 1,000 parking spaces. Municipalities would be required to erect a sign that reads as follows: “Veteran parking Only. This space is reserved for those who have served. Unauthorized vehicles may be removed at the vehicle owner’s expense.”

Violators would be fined $100 and cities and towns would be allowed to tow the offending vehicles at the owners’ expense.

“Supporting veterans is a fundamental duty and reserving parking spaces for them through this bill is a modest way to show our gratitude” said sponsor Sen. Pavel Payano (D-Lawrence). “It’s a small step, but it reflects our ongoing commitment to honor their service.”

BAN COAL ROLLING (H 1698): The House gave initial approval to a proposal that would prohibit anyone driving a diesel-powered vehicle from releasing significant quantities of soot, smoke or other particular emissions that obstruct or obscure another driver’s view of the roadway. The measure also bans anyone from retrofitting a diesel-powered vehicle with a device, smokestack or other equipment that enhances the vehicle’s capacity to emit these pollutants. Violators would be fined from $100 to $1,000.

“Coal rolling … is the practice of deliberately emitting soot from the modified exhaust pipes of a diesel-powered truck that can be directed at other vehicles, bicycles and pedestrians and pose a serious danger as the black smoke can intentionally impair visibility” said sponsor Rep. Brian Murray (D-Milford). “It serves no useful purpose and is clearly harmful to the environment, as well as associated with known health risks and respiratory issues. This bill would make it unlawful to add equipment to a vehicle for coal rolling and subject those who may continue this practice to a penalty of not less than $100 or more than $1,000.”

USE OF BREAKDOWN LANE (H 3370): The House gave initital approval to legislation that would double fines for motor vehicles speeding in the far-right lane, or “breakdown” lane in areas where travel in that lane is permitted during peak commuting hours.

“While allowing travel in the far-right lane is essential on some highways in the commonwealth to temporarily provide traffic relief during peak hours, many motorists use this lane as a high-speed passing lane, risking the safety of disabled motor vehicles, emergency personnel and themselves,” said sponsor Rep. David Linsky (D-Natick). “Numerous accidents and fatalities have occurred due to excessive speed in the breakdown lanes. This legislation will not only further protect those who dedicate their lives to our safety but will protect motorist safety as well.”

A speeding ticket fine imposed on a driver is $100 for any speed up to 10 miles per hour above the speed limit. An additional $10 fine is added for each additional mile per hour above the first ten. The legislation doubles the total fine. For example, if you are traveling 25 miles above the speed limit, the fine would be $250 ($100 for the first ten miles above and $150 for the additional 15 miles above).

QUOTABLE QUOTES

Our administration is deeply committed not only to preventing overdoses in our state, but also providing the incredible organizations doing the work in communities with the tools they need to improve health outcomes and save lives. By investing in these diverse organizations now, we are laying the foundation for them to have the resources they need to address the overdose crisis appropriately and quickly in the future.”

— Gov. Maura Healey announcing the awarding of $2.9 million to 20 organizations led by Black, Indigenous and people of color to address substance use in the communities they serve, which continue to be disproportionately impacted by increases in overdoses.

“We see the impact of the overdose epidemic every day — thousands are dying every year in Massachusetts from preventable overdoses, and we need to utilize every tool we have to address the crisis. Overdose prevention centers are proven, evidence-based facilities that can save lives and connect people to health care, treatment and recovery and their community.”

— Dave Foley, President of SEIU Local 509 announcing support for establishing overdose prevention centers in the Bay State.

“We urge everyone to be vigilant when performing transactions or providing information online for RMV-related services. Customers should avoid using any unofficial third-party websites claiming to assist with RMV services and inform their relatives and friends about this as well.”

— Registrar of Motor Vehicles Colleen Ogilvie.

“Solar power is clean, local and abundant and is already playing a leading role in Massachusetts’ transition away from dirty energy sources. Gov. Healey’s leadership in setting an ambitious yet achievable goal of 1 million solar roofs by 2030 will help turbocharge solar in Massachusetts.”

— Johanna Neumann, Acting Director of Environment Massachusetts, urging Healey and Climate Chief Hoffer to make solar energy a key part of Massachusetts’ strategy to address climate change.

Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at bob@beaconhillrollcall.com