Beacon Hill Roll Call, Dec. 11-15

The Massachusetts State House in Boston

The Massachusetts State House in Boston

By Bob Katzen

Beacon Hill Roll Call

Published: 12-22-2023 3:00 PM

THE HOUSE AND SENATE: There were no roll calls in the House or Senate last week. This week, Beacon Hill Roll Call reports on the percentage of times local senators voted with their party’s leadership in the 2023 session through December 15.

Beacon Hill Roll Call uses 97 votes from the 2023 Senate session as the basis for this report. This includes all roll calls that were not on local issues.

The votes of 34 Democrats were compared to Senate Majority Leader Cynthia Creem (D-Newton), second-in-command in the Senate. We could not compare the Democrats’ votes to those of Senate President Karen Spilka (D-Ashland) because, by tradition, the Senate president rarely votes.

Nineteen (55.8 percent) of the Democrats voted with Creem 100 percent of the time. The other fifteen (44.2 percent) Democrats voted with Creem at least 90 percent of the time.

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The senator who voted with Creem the least percentage of times is Sen. Walter Timilty (D-Milton) who voted with her only 88 times (90.7 percent). Rounding out the top four who voted with Creem the least number of times are Sens. John Keenan (D-Quincy) who voted with her 91 times (94.7 percent); and Barry Finegold (D-Andover) and Becca Rausch (D-Needham) who each voted with her 93 times (95.8 percent).

Beacon Hill Roll Call contacted these four senators three times each and asked them to comment on the percentage of times, lower than the other senators, each one voted with the Creem. None of the four responded.

The votes of two of the Republican senators were compared with those of GOP Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester). Sen. Ryan Fattman (R-Sutton) voted with Tarr 85 times (87.6 percent). Sen. Patrick O’Connor (R-Weymouth) voted with Tarr 100 percent of the time.

The third Republican, former state representative and newly elected Sen. Peter Durant (R-Spencer) just joined the Senate on November 29 and was not yet a senator when the 97 roll calls in the Senate took place. Since Durant was a representative before moving onto the Senate, we based his numbers on how many times he voted with House Minority Leader Rep. Brad Jones (R-North Reading) in 2023. He voted 100 percent of the time with Jones.

SENATORS’ SUPPORT OF THEIR PARTY’S LEADERSHIP IN 2023 THROUGH DEC. 15

The percentage next to the senator’s name represents the percentage of times the senator supported his or her party’s leadership so far in 2023 through December 15. The number in parentheses represents the number of times the senator opposed his or her party’s leadership.

Some senators voted on all 97 roll call votes. Others missed one or more roll calls. The percentage for each senator is calculated based on the number of roll calls on which he or she voted.

Sen. Joanne Comerford 100 percent (0) Sen. Paul Mark 100 percent (0) Sen. Jacob Oliveira 100 percent (0) Sen. John Velis 98.9 percent (1)

ALSO UP ON BEACON HILL

GIVE WORKERS PAID TIME OFF TO VOTE (H 4217) — The House approved and sent to the Senate legislation that would require employers to give employees sufficient time off, with pay, to vote in state, city and town elections, on Election Day, if the employee does not have sufficient time to vote outside working hours. Employees would be required to give an employer three days’ notice of his or her intent to take time off to vote on Election Day. The measure also bars employers from requiring an employee to vote by mail or to vote during a designated early voting period prior to Election Day.

The proposal would replace a current law that is narrower, applies only to manufacturing, mechanical or mercantile establishments, only allows the worker to vote during the two hours after the polls open on Election Day and does not require the employers to pay the worker for the time off.

“The legislation that was advanced by the House today will help to guarantee that every Massachusetts voter has time to vote on Election Day, regardless of the constraints of their job, a critical step towards ensuring that every eligible voter has the chance to make their voice heard at the ballot box,” said House Speaker Ron Mariano (D-Quincy).

Authors of the bill and other earlier versions of it did not respond to requests by Beacon Hill Roll Call asking them to comment on this new version of the measure. Legislation. Legislators who did not respond are Sen. Brendan Crighton (D-Lynn) and Reps. John Lawn (D-Watertown) and Aaron Michlewitz (D-Boston).

PUBLIC SAFETY LEGISLATION — The Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee held a public hearing on several bills including:

RETIRED POLICE DOGS – DAKOTA’S LAW (H 2424) — Would create a Retired Police Dog Care Fund to provide grants to non-profit organizations to provide care and medical services to retired police dogs. The law is named after Dakota, a police dog who suffered PTSD following the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing.

“Dakota’s Law is based on a true life Massachusetts story which is now an award winning documentary called ‘Healing Dakota,’” said sponsor Rep. Steve Xiarhos (R-Barnstable). “Dakota’s Law is aimed at providing a lifetime of financial support to pay the medical bills of heroic police K9s injured in the line of duty and upon their retirement.”

ALLOW ADVANCED LIFE SUPPORT FOR POLICE DOGS (H 2423) — Would allow advanced life support care to be administered to an injured police dog by a licensed, trained, qualified professional. The bill is a follow up to a law, known as Nero’s Law, approved in 2022 that requires EMS personnel to provide emergency treatment to a police dog and use an ambulance to transport the dog injured in the line of duty to a veterinary clinic or hospital if there are not people requiring emergency medical treatment or transport at that time. Nero’s law does not require EMS personnel to administer treatment on the way to the hospital. This new bill adds that requirement.

“[This bill] is also a true life Massachusetts story involving the murder of my fellow Police Officer Sean Gannon and the shooting of his devoted partner K9 Nero,” said sponsor Rep. Steve Xiarhos (R-Barnstable). “Nero’s Law Phase 2 enhances the current Nero’s Law [by] offering specially trained Massachusetts first responders the option to provide Advanced Life Support for police K9s injured in the line of duty.”

HELP POLICE OFFICERS AFTER A CRITICAL INCIDENT (H 2355) — Would require all police department and other law enforcement agencies to develop and maintain a program for supporting law enforcement officers who have been involved in a critical incident. A critical incident is defined as a traumatic event that may cause powerful emotional reactions in people involved or exposed to the event. These events could include a line of duty death of an officer, the suicide of an officer, multiple casualty incidents, an event involving children, an officer involved shooting, as well as any other event that elicits an emotional response.

“This legislation acknowledges the emotional impact that traumatic events have on law enforcement officers and ensures that every officer involved in a critical incident receives the necessary support they need to maintain their mental well-being,” said Rep. Kathy LaNatra (D-Kingston). “Untreated trauma weighs down on officers, and as each officer encounters more and more critical incidents, that trauma builds on the last incident, similar to adding rocks to a backpack and asking the officers to just continue marching despite the extra weight. This bill will ensure that every officer has access to support after an incident, to help them remove the rocks from the backpack before returning to service. This legislation takes a significant step toward prioritizing the well-being of those who dedicate their lives to serving our communities.”

PRIMARY ENFORCEMENT OF THE SEAT BELT LAW (H 2395, H 2340) — Would allow police officers to issue tickets for seat belt violations even if the driver is not first stopped for another violation as required under current law.

“Seatbelts offer the best defense from injury or death in car crashes,” said Rep. Jeff Roy (D-Franklin), sponsor of H 2395. Seat belts promote safety, save lives and save money. We could save 45 lives, prevent 500 injuries, and save $525 million over 5 years with a primary seat belt law in effect. According to a recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine, the single greatest opportunity to improve health and reduce premature deaths lies in personal behavior and seat belt use is yet another form of impaired driving that must be addressed.”

“There are so many highway deaths in the news where people have been ejected from their cars,” said Rep. Jim Hawkins (D-Attleboro), sponsor of H 2340). “It’s not so corny to say seatbelts save lives. This bill makes not wearing seatbelts a primary offense meaning that you can be pulled over for that. There would have been issues with the possibility of racial profiling but those issues were taken care of recently when we passed the hands free driving law.”

Supporters of the bill have been trying to get it passed for years and have been unsuccessful. The original secondary enforcement law was approved in 1985, repealed on a ballot question in 1986 and then reimposed in 1994.

Opponents of the primary enforcement bill say that they have warned for years that creeping incrementalism would inevitably lead to these attempts to impose primary enforcement.

They say this bill is another example of unnecessary government intrusion and argue people should have the personal freedom to make their own decisions. They express concern that primary enforcement will result in racial profiling and more minorities being pulled over for suspected violations of the law.

MASSACHUSETTS LAW ENFORCEMENT MEMORIAL FUND (H 2417) — Would establish the Massachusetts Law Enforcement Memorial Fund to maintain the Massachusetts Law Enforcement Memorial in Ashburton Park outside of the Statehouse. The memorial honors Massachusetts law enforcement personnel killed in the line of duty.

“I sponsored [this bill] to provide for the sale of specialty license plates with the proceeds directed towards the stewardship and upkeep of the memorial,” said sponsor Rep. Tom Walsh (D-Peabody). “Having attended the annual Massachusetts Law Enforcement Memorial Foundation ceremony for fallen officers, I can attest to the deep appreciation the commonwealth has for our law enforcement families as well as the need for this legislation to provide a stable, off-budget funding source to properly maintain this monument to our police officers.”

QUOTABLE QUOTES

“Farmers are on the front lines of an increasingly volatile climate. When the farming community is hurting, we are hurting. Our administration has been committed to helping these farms in their time of need. The agricultural industry is instrumental in our food system and the overall economy. We hope this funding will go a long way towards ensuring this sector remains resilient.”

<sbull value="sbull"><text xmlns="urn:schemas-teradp-com:gn4tera"></text></sbull> Lt. Gov. Kim Driscoll announcing $20 million in grants to Massachusetts farms that experienced significant crop losses due to a deep February freeze, a late May frost event and catastrophic flooding in July.

“The disruption of the pandemic hurt students in every corner of the Commonwealth, and the data is clear: if we do not act with urgency to mitigate that learning loss, its negative impacts will be with us for years and generations to come.”

<sbull value="sbull"><text xmlns="urn:schemas-teradp-com:gn4tera"></text></sbull> Jay Ash, president and CEO of Massachusetts Competitive Partnership, on recent data that has found significant learning loss since the start of the pandemic, with Massachusetts student achievement scores falling by 12 percent in reading and 8 percent in math.

“Every year, vehicle emissions are linked to thousands of deaths in the Northeast. Large bus companies must be held accountable for ignoring idling laws designed to limit toxic emissions and protect public health.”

<sbull value="sbull"><text xmlns="urn:schemas-teradp-com:gn4tera"></text></sbull> Heather Govern, Director of Conservation Law Foundation’s Clean Air and Water program.

“Cash has to be accepted everywhere.”

<sbull value="sbull"><text xmlns="urn:schemas-teradp-com:gn4tera"></text></sbull> Attorney General Andrea Campbell on reports that some businesses have refused to accept cash for payment for services or items.

Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at bob@beaconhillrollcall.com