Beacon Hill Roll Call, Nov. 6-10

By Bob Katzen

Beacon Hill Roll Call

Published: 11-17-2023 8:49 AM

THE HOUSE AND SENATE: Beacon Hill Roll Call records local representatives’ votes from the week of Nov. 6-10. There were no roll calls in the Senate last week.

FREE PHONE CALLS FOR PRISONERS (H 4051): House 132-26, (Senate on a voice vote without a roll call vote), approved and sent to Gov. Maura Healey a bill that beginning on Dec. 1, 2023, would provide free phone calls and video calls for all prisoners in Massachusetts. Healey supports the bill and is expected to sign it soon.

The vote was mostly along party lines with all Republicans and one Democrat voting against the bill and all other Democrats voting for it.

Currently there is no legal requirement for free phone calls in correctional facilities. Each facility contracts separately for telephone service.

“The telephone is a lifeline for people locked in prisons and their families, but phone company profiteering and kickbacks to prisons, have made calls unaffordable,” said Aaron Steinberg, communications director of Prisoners’ Legal Services of Massachusetts. “This landmark law will allow for precious human contact between incarcerated people and their children and other loved ones. This will help families thrive and help incarcerated people succeed when they return to our communities.”

Steinberg continued, that under current law, “each facility contracts separately for telephone service and with current contracting provisions, facilities are given kickbacks called ‘site commissions,’ with little incentive to negotiate for the lowest rate.”

Despite repeated e-mails sent by Beacon Hill Roll Call asking the 25 Republicans and one Democrat why they voted against the bill, only Rep. Nick Boldyga (R-Southwick) responded.

“Every law abiding citizen that has a job and works 40 plus hours a week has to pay for phone calls,” said Boldyga. “Why are criminals entitled to free phone calls? It’s completely ridiculous and absurd that Democrats are giving free anything to criminals. Criminals and their families should be paying for their phone calls, not taxpayers.”

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

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

$2.8 BILLION FISCAL 2023 SUPPLEMENTAL BUDGET (H 4167): House 133-25, approved and sent to the Senate a $2.8 billion supplemental budget to close out the books for fiscal year 2023. Provisions include $2.1 billion for MassHealth for caseload adjustments; $300 million for a reserve to fund collective bargaining agreements with state employees; and $10 million in additional flood relief for municipalities hit by severe rain events this summer.

Debate centered around a key controversial provision that provides $250 million for the shelter system that Healey requested nearly two months ago, before she announced that she was capping the emergency shelter system at 7,500 families. Some $50 million of the $250 million is required to go toward “the identification, acquisition and operationalization of a state funded overflow emergency shelter site or sites” for families placed on a shelter waitlist.

The $250 million also includes $75 million for supplemental school district costs associated with additional mandatory student enrollments; $10 million for resettlement agencies to connect families with housing and other services; $5 million for migrant and refugee workforce programs; $65 million for the costs associated with sheltering eligible families; $18 million for temporary emergency shelter sites; and $6 million for supplemental staffing needs at emergency assistance shelters.

“As the commonwealth’s shelter system continues to face unprecedented challenges, the funding provided in this supplemental budget, along with the mandated establishment of an overflow emergency site, will help to manage this crisis and ensure that Massachusetts does everything that it can to provide shelter for vulnerable families,” said House Speaker Ron Mariano (D-Quincy). “We continue to call on Congress to approve funds for the local management of this crisis, which is a direct result of legislative inaction on immigration reform, and we continue to urge the Biden-Harris Administration to expedite the work authorization process so that migrants can begin working and successfully exit the emergency assistance program.”

“I can’t endorse having the taxpayers of my district nor the taxpayers of the commonwealth pay hundreds of millions of their hard earned tax dollars to bail out the horrible open border policy of the Biden administration,” said Rep. Marc Lombardo (R-Billerica).

“I voted against the supplemental budget because I believe it’s crucial for my fellow lawmakers and colleagues on the other side of the aisle to prioritize accountability and fiscal responsibility,” said Rep. Marcus Vaughn (R-Wrentham). “We must halt the flow of taxpayer funding for illegal immigrants until we have a comprehensive understanding of the costs to our state and have implemented necessary policy reforms. In my districts, we have urgent needs that remain unaddressed, and a portion of the proposed $250 million could significantly alleviate the financial burdens my six towns are facing, particularly in funding critical projects like the Tri-County school build and other essential capital necessities.”

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

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

RESIDENCY REQUIREMENT (H 4167): House 28-128, rejected an amendment that would amend the state’s Right to Shelter Law which requires the state to provide shelter and other necessities to homeless parents with young children, pregnant women and recently the many migrant families arriving in the Bay State. Homeless individuals are not covered by the Right to Shelter law.

The amendment would require that people provide proof that they have lived in the state for at least one year to qualify for the program. It also exempts from the requirement a victim of domestic violence or a person whose living situation has been affected by a fire or other natural disaster that occurred in Massachusetts.

Amendment supporters said the current interpretation of residency in Massachusetts by the Healey administration is that the person can be in the state for a matter of minutes to qualify to get services.

“Massachusetts is the only state in the nation with a Right to Shelter Law, so out of state groups and organizations are intentionally sending families at our U.S. Southern Border to Massachusetts with no support, services or notice because of that,” said amendment sponsor Rep. Paul Frost (R-Auburn). “Creating a 1-year residency requirement to qualify will stop these groups from sending migrants en masse to the commonwealth. It will protect families who have resided in Massachusetts for years from being denied services because they will be competing with those from out of state who have been on Massachusetts soil for five minutes. There are 49 other states who can also be helping with asylum seekers or refugees as Massachusetts cannot afford to continue do it on its own, especially in this uncontrolled fashion.”

“I think that’s a fair amount of time to say that you’ve been here, that you’ve been participating in the community and that if you do need emergency shelter, then you could have it,” Frost continued. “And if you want to discuss or further amend or debate lowering that figure to six months or whatever, I’m willing to talk. But the fact is it can’t be 45 minutes, it can’t be a day, because it won’t stop. They’ll continue to come and be sent here. And it’s not their fault, I understand that. They’re going where they’re told, they’re going where other groups are sending them because they’re told they will be taken care of.”

“Given the humanitarian crises that are driving migrants here, it is unlikely that a 1-year residency requirement would reduce the flow, so the practical impact would be families with young children and pregnant women on the street with no shelter during the winter months likely resulting in emergency rooms and public spaces being overwhelmed at no small cost,” said Rep. Alice Peisch (D-Wellesley). “Such a residency requirement would undoubtedly fail if challenged in the courts as both the [state’s] Supreme Judicial Court and US Supreme Court have ruled that states cannot restrict benefits based on ‘alienage,’ which this residency requirement is doing, if not in law, then most certainly in fact. ”

(A “Yes” vote is for the 1-year requirement. A “No” vote is against it.)

Rep. Natalie Blais, No; Rep. Daniel Carey, No; Rep. Mindy Domb, No; Rep. Lindsay Sabadosa, No; Rep. Aaron Saunders, No

ALSO UP ON BEACON HILL

NARCAN IN SCHOOLS (S 1274): The Mental Health, Substance Use and Recovery Committee held a hearing on legislation that would allow school districts the option of creating a Narcan overdose prevention program. The measure would require every school nurse to be trained in Narcan assistance and to have Narcan in the nurse’s office. Narcan is an emergency treatment used for the complete or partial reversal of opioid overdose.

“It is critical that all of our schools have access to Narcan and have the trained personnel to administer this life-saving medicine,” said sponsor Sen. John Velis (D-Westfield). “In several of my rural school districts, waiting for first responders to arrive and administer Narcan can mean precious time is lost. Expanding access to Narcan is so important for reversing overdoses and this legislation is squarely focused on that goal.”

ANIMAL LEGISLATION

The Environment and Natural Resources Committee held a hearing on several bills including:

REGULATE DOG SHELTERS AND DAYCARE (H 835): Would require the Department of Agricultural Resources to establish rules and regulations for boarding kennels and day care facilities for dogs, including home-based kennels and day care facilities — including staff to dog ratios group sizes and supervision, minimum housing and care requirements, indoor and outdoor physical facility requirements, dog handling, insurance and penalties for violations.

“I originally sponsored this legislation in response to a horrific incident in which a local family’s two small dogs, in the care of a dog kennel, were mauled to death,” said sponsor Rep. Hannah Kane (R-Shrewsbury). “I subsequently learned this had happened to other beloved pets. This bill helps ensure that dogs are responsibly cared for in these types of facilities.”

NEW PET SHOPS CAN ONLY SELL SHELTER OR RESCUE DOGS AND CATS (H 826): Would allow new pet shops to sell only dogs and cats from shelters or rescue organizations and prohibit them from selling these animals from breeding facilities. Current pet shops would be exempt from the new law.

“Typically, pet shops obtain animals from substandard breeding facilities, which results in consumers unknowingly purchasing sick or genetically compromised pets,” said House sponsor Rep. Natalie Higgins (D-Leominster). “Puppy mills are not permitted in Massachusetts, and this legislation would not only protect our pets, but also our families from costly veterinary bills.”

BAN SALE OF FUR PRODUCTS (H 849): Would make it illegal to sell a new manufactured fur product in Massachusetts and impose a fine between $500 and $5,000 per fur product for anyone convicted of the sale.

The measure exempts used fur products and fur products used for traditional tribal, cultural or spiritual purposes by a member of a federally recognized or state-recognized Native American tribe.

Supporters say that more than 100 million undomesticated animals like foxes, raccoons, dogs and mink are confined to small wire cages and then subjected to cruel killing methods that are not regulated by federal humane slaughter laws. They say that animal protection organizations have documented animals being gassed, electrocuted, bludgeoned to death and skinned alive. They noted that there are many fur alternatives available and urged Massachusetts to end its complicity in this truly horrible industry.

“Massachusetts has been a world leader in animal welfare, and it is only proper that we continue that tradition,” said sponsor Rep. Jack Lewis (D-Framingham). “With the wide availability of alternative products, this legislation is essential to end the notorious cruelty of the fur industry and further expand animal welfare practices.”

QUOTABLE QUOTES

“We are grateful to these 12 companies for choosing our state as their new home and are thrilled to welcome them to Team Massachusetts. These companies represent sectors where Massachusetts is leading, like life sciences and healthcare, innovation and technology, and clean energy and climate tech. We’re excited to see how these businesses will create new jobs and foster economic growth within our state and our administration stands ready to partner with them to ensure they succeed.”

— Secretary of Economic Development Yvonne Hao welcoming 12 new companies, from four countries and several other states, at Massachusetts MassEcon’s Corporate Welcome Reception.

“The success of Massachusetts small businesses is essential to the health and prosperity of our state and the vibrancy of our local and regional economies. This investment through the SBTA Grant Program will help even more small businesses in our state develop new skills, overcome barriers to success and access much-needed capital to drive job creation and growth across Massachusetts.”

— Gov. Maura Healy announcing $5 million in grants to 65 organizations across the state through the Massachusetts Growth Capital Corporation Small Business Technical Assistance (SBTA) Grant Program, which provides funding to nonprofits to help entrepreneurs start, grow and sustain successful small businesses in Massachusetts.

“While Statehouse lawmakers may prefer to ignore the problem, countless Massachusetts taxpayers are not and they are fleeing our state at a record pace. The governor, speaker and Senate president need to understand that Massachusetts saw the largest loss of taxpayers with $200,000 or more in adjusted gross income in New England and 4th highest in the country.”

— Paul Craney, spokesman for Mass Fiscal Alliance on the release of a report by the Tax Foundation that looks at how taxes affect interstate migration and found Massachusetts ranks as the 4th worst state in the country and the worst in New England.

“I am honored by the overwhelming support we received from so many people. This is a great win for the taxpayers of Massachusetts. I am going to work around the clock to make a positive difference and be their commonsense voice in the Senate.”

— Rep. Peter Durant (R-Spencer) on his victory over Democrat Rep. Jonathan Zlotnik (D-Gardner) in the special election to fill the Senate seat of former Sen. Anne Gobi who left the Senate in June to take the job as the first ever Massachusetts Director of Rural Affairs.

Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at bob@beaconhillrollcall.com.