Beacon Hill Roll Call, March 11-15

The Massachusetts Statehouse in Boston.  

The Massachusetts Statehouse in Boston.   AP


Beacon Hill Roll Call 

Published: 03-24-2024 10:01 AM

THE HOUSE AND SENATE: Beacon Hill Roll Call records local senators’ votes on roll calls from the week of March 11-15. There were no roll calls in the House last week.

EARLY EDUCATION AND CARE CHANGES (S 2697): Senate 40-0, approved and sent to the House a bill aimed at making early education and care money more accessible and affordable for young families across the Bay State. The bill would make high-cost state grants for early education and care providers permanent; increase the income threshold to make more families eligible for childcare subsidies; and establish recommended salary and benefit guidelines for early childhood teachers commensurate with K-12 public school teachers.

Under current law subsidies are limited to households whose incomes equal up to 50% of the state median income, or $73,000. The bill would raise the eligibility threshold to 85% of the state median income, or $124,000 for a family of four.

“Access to high-quality, affordable early education and childcare is essential for the healthy development of young children, as well as for the economic well-being of working families and employers in the commonwealth,” said Sen. Jason Lewis (D-Winchester), lead sponsor and Senate Chair of the Committee on Education. “With the passage today of the Early Ed Act, Massachusetts is demonstrating national leadership in addressing the broken early education and childcare system in our country.”

“From my first day in the Senate, I have been pushing for expanded access to early education and increasing staff salaries to ensure educators can earn a good living,” said Sen. Sal DiDomenico (D-Everett). “This critical legislation will drastically expand access to affordable, high-quality, early education and childcare and deliver significantly better pay and benefits for early educators. I am proud to support this bill which helps move our state one step closer to guaranteeing every child will receive world-class education from childhood through adulthood. We must get this bill over the finish line and keep our state a livable and welcoming home for families of all incomes.”

“An equitable and competitive commonwealth is one in which every child and family has access to affordable quality early education,” said Senate President Karen Spilka (D-Ashland). “At the same time, we must recognize the incredible work of the providers who are shaping the minds and hearts of our earliest learners. Today I’m proud that the Massachusetts Senate is once again taking action to lower costs for families, open up more opportunities for children, increase pay for our early educators and make support for providers permanent so they can keep their doors open and thrive for years to come.

(A “Yes” vote is for the bill.)

Sen. Joanne Comerford, Yes; Sen. Paul Mark, Yes; Sen. Jacob Oliveira, Yes; Sen. John Velis, Yes

CONSIDER TAX CREDIT FOR COMPANIES THAT PROVIDE EARLY EDUCATION AND CARE (S 2697): Senate 7-32, rejected an amendment that would require a study which would make recommendations on employer-supported early education and care benefits, to include possible creation of a tax credit for employers that provide these early education and care benefits to their employees.

Amendment supporters said this amendment does not create a tax credit but simply requires a study of the possibility of one. They said that all options should be looked into and put on the table in order to help support employers that provide child care.

“The bill already includes a new competitive grant program to incentivize employers to invest in additional early education and care slots for their employees,” responded Sen. Jason Lewis who opposed the amendment. “Furthermore, a federal tax credit has been available to employers since 2001 and has proven ineffective in expanding access to affordable early education and care for workers.”

GOP Minority Leader Sen. Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester), the sponsor of the amendment, did not respond to repeated requests by Beacon Hill Roll Call to comment on his amendment and its rejection.

(A “Yes” vote is for the amendment that would include the possibility of tax credits in the study. A “No” vote is against the amendment.)

Sen. Joanne Comerford, No; Sen. Paul Mark, No; Sen. Jacob Oliveira, No; Sen. John Velis, No


GOV. MAURA HEALEY MOVES TO PARDON MISDEMEANOR MARIJUANA POSSESSION: Gov. Healey has issued an executive order that would pardon misdemeanor marijuana possession convictions that occurred in Massachusetts before March 14, 2024. If approved by the Governor’s Council at its upcoming March 27 meeting, the pardons will apply to hundreds of 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 questions 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.

“Nobody should face barriers to getting a job, housing or an education because of an old misdemeanor marijuana conviction that they would not be charged for today,” said Healey. “We’re taking this nation-leading action as part of our commitment to using the clemency process to advance fairness and equity in our criminal justice system. We’re grateful for President Biden’s leadership on this at the federal level and proud to answer his call to take action in the states.”

“Marijuana laws have significantly changed over the past decade, and it’s essential that our criminal justice system adjusts with them,” said Lt. Gov. Kim Driscoll. “Gov. Healey’s proposed pardon represents an important step toward righting historic wrongs, particularly around our country’s misguided War on Drugs. We thank the Governor’s Council for their careful consideration of this recommendation and look forward to continuing our progress to make Massachusetts a more fair and equitable home for all.”

“Because of this pardon recommendation, many people in Massachusetts may get a second chance,” said Carol Rose, Executive Director of the ACLU of Massachusetts. “It means people will no longer be punished for behavior that is now legal in our state, and will face fewer barriers to housing, jobs, education, student loans, and stability. We thank Gov. Healey for her leadership on this life-changing issue.”

BAN EMPLOYERS FROM ASKING FOR CREDIT REPORTS (H 1434): The House approved and sent to the Senate legislation that would prohibit employers from obtaining the credit reports of existing or potential employees except in certain circumstances including hiring for a position that requires national security clearance; a position for which a person is required by federal or state law to obtain a consumer report; and some executive or managerial positions at a financial institution.

The [bill] reduces barriers to employment by limiting the use of personal credit reports in the hiring process,” said sponsor former Duxbury representative Josh Cutler who is now Gov. Maura Healey’s Undersecretary of Apprenticeship, Work-based Learning and Policy in the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development. ”Credit scores were never intended to be used for employment purposes and pre-employment credit checks can create needless barriers for otherwise qualified workers. Eleven other states already taken similar steps.”

Sen. Mike Barrett (D-Lexington), the Senate sponsor of the bill, did not respond to repeated requests from Beacon Hill Roll Call to comment on the bill and its passage.

NATIVE AMERICAN GRAVES PROTECTION AND REPATRIATION ACT (H 3248): The House gave initial approval to a bill that applies the federal law known as the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act to any museums and state agencies that receive state or local funding in the state of Massachusetts.

The federal law, according to the National Park Service’s website, requires that federal agencies and museums receiving federal funds take inventory of Native American human remains, funeral-related and sacred objects and provide written summaries of other cultural items. The agencies and museums must consult with Indian Tribes and Native Hawaiian organizations to attempt to reach agreements on the repatriation or other disposition of these remains and objects. Once lineal descent or cultural affiliation has been established, and in some cases the right of possession also has been demonstrated, lineal descendants, affiliated Indian tribes or affiliated Native Hawaiian organizations normally make the final determination about the disposition of cultural items.

Co-sponsors of the bill, Reps. Dave Rogers (D-Cambridge) and David Biele (D-South Boston) did not respond to repeated requests by Beacon Hill Roll Call to comment on their proposal.

ASSAULT A TRANSIT WORKER (H 4355): The House gave initial approval to a bill that imposes a prison sentence of between 90 days and 2.5 years or a fine of between $500 and $5,000 on a person who assaults a transit worker while the transit worker is performing his or her duties. The measure also expands the definition of assault to cover flinging a bodily substance including blood, saliva, mucous, semen, urine or feces.

“Before the Carmen’s Union approached me with this issue, I had no idea how bad these experiences were,” said sponsor Rep. Joe McGonagle (D-Everett). “Seeing the statistics, hearing the stories, it is very hard to ignore. It is imperative that our transit workers are able to perform their jobs safely, knowing they have support and protection.”

$500 STIPEND FOR NON-PROFIT BOARD MEMBERS (H 4358): The House gave initial approval to a bill that amends a current law which provides that a non-profit group lose its civil liability protection if it pays any amount of stipend to a board member. The bill would allow the non-profit to retain its civil liability protection as long as the stipend is not more than $500.

Sponsor Rep. Alice Peisch (D-Wellesley) noted that federal law currently allows this $500 stipend. “This change would allow nonprofits to provide board members with this modest stipend, facilitating their service and improving board representation,” said Peisch.

DEBT COLLECTION PRACTICES (H 4429): The House gave initial approval to a bill that would make some changes in the current state laws about debt collection practices.

The measure includes increasing from 85% to 90% the percentage of a person’s wages that is protected from garnishment. Another provision reduces from the current 12% to 3% the maximum interest rate that can be charged for judgements issued after 2024.

Supporters said the bill would help people to eventually pay off their debts without being overburdened by them and will ensure that no one in Massachusetts will be imprisoned for failure to pay a consumer debt.

“The [measure] creates common-sense consumer protections to prevent wage garnishment, reduce interest rates on debts and keep more money in the pockets of working families,” said co-sponsor Rep. Christine Barber (D-Somerville.)

Co-sponsor Rep. Tram Nguyen (D-Andover) did not respond to repeated requests by Beacon Hill Roll Call asking her to comment on the passage of her bill.

SEAL EVICTION RECORDS (H 4356): The House gave initial approval to a bill that would allow a person with certain eviction records, including no-fault eviction, eviction for non-payment of rent, fault eviction or eviction resulting in dismissal or judgment in favor of the defendant, to petition for the sealing of those records under certain circumstances.

Supporters said the measure is aimed at providing individuals with certain eviction records opportunities to seal those records under specific circumstances and promotes housing opportunity and mobility by reducing barriers faced due to past evictions.

“I believe that everyone deserves a fair chance to access stable housing and rebuild their lives without being haunted by past mistakes,” said Senate sponsor Sen. Lydia Edwards (D-Boston). “The … bill isn’t just about sealing eviction records. It’s about offering hope and opportunity to individuals and families facing housing insecurity. By giving people the chance to move forward without the shadow of eviction looming over them, we’re not just promoting housing opportunity and mobility – we’re restoring dignity and second chances, essential elements of a just and compassionate society.”


“Hosting the inaugural ClimaTech summit is an incredible opportunity to show global climate leaders how Massachusetts is uniquely qualified to be the climate innovation lab for the world. We’re pioneering new industries and developing cutting-edge technologies that will power a healthier future, create high-quality jobs and ensure a sustainable future for our community.”

-- Massachusetts Clean Energy Center CEO Dr. Emily Reichert announcing that in June, Massachusetts will host the inaugural edition of ClimaTech, a new, global leadership conference focused on innovation and bringing new technologies to market to combat the climate crisis and spur economic growth.

“Consumer skepticism of autonomous vehicles is not surprising, given the recalls and well-publicized incidents that occurred last year. It’s critical that drivers understand both the capabilities and limitations of technology in their cars and how, when and where to use the systems properly.”

-- Mark Schieldrop, Senior spokesperson for AAA Northeast on a new survey from AAA on self-driving vehicles which shows 66 percent of U.S. drivers express fear about these vehicles.

“From day one, our mission … has been simple: to honorably serve those who have served us. With the leadership of Gov. Maura Healey and the support of our partners and stakeholders in the veteran community, our Executive Office is incredibly proud of our significant milestones, but we know there is much more work to do. We are just getting started and look forward to many years of making a difference in the lives of those who have bravely served our nation.”

-- Secretary Jon Santiago on the 1-year anniversary of the creation of the state’s first-ever cabinet level Secretary of Veterans Services to focus on veteran care.

“Cities and towns are on the front lines of climate change. They are playing a leading role but they can’t do it alone. The Healey-Driscoll Administration is here to help our municipal partners reduce reliance on fossil fuels, energy costs and emissions. These grants provide critical resources such as technical assistance for planning, design and data collection when implementing new clean energy projects.

-- Department of Energy Resources Commissioner Elizabeth Mahony announcing $268,000 in grants to cities and towns across Massachusetts to develop clean energy projects.

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