By Bob Katzen | www.lowellsun.com
THE HOUSE AND SENATE – Beacon Hill Roll Call records local representatives’ and senators’ votes on roll calls from the week of Feb. 28-March 4.
OFFSHORE WIND INDUSTRY (H 4515): House 133-12, approved and sent to the Senate a bill to further develop and expand the offshore wind industry in Massachusetts. Provisions include investing hundreds of millions of dollars over the next decade in infrastructure, innovation, job training, supply chain capacity and transmission upgrades; providing job training, tax incentives, grants and loans; investing in long-term energy storage to help the state’s transition to renewable energy; and implementing a new charge that would add an estimated $1.37 to the average gas customer’s monthly bill to raise an estimated $23 million in new revenue that would be used to fund the programs, tax incentives and grants.
“While I completely agree that we need to do something about encouraging clean energy and offshore wind development, I think we could have found the funds in the current budget and not put the costs on the ratepayers,” said Rep. Colleen Garry (D-Dracut), the only Democrat to vote against the measure. “It is the economically challenged folks who can’t afford the major rehabs of older homes to save on gas and electric heating costs who will get hit with these charges. I believe this is definitely not the time to be adding more costs to homeowners with inflation and a slow economic recovery from the pandemic.”
(A “Yes” vote is for the bill. A “No” vote is against it.)
YES: Rep. James Arciero; Rep. Kimberly Ferguson; Rep. Thomas Golden; Rep. Kenneth Gordon; Rep. Natalie Higgins; Rep. Vanna Howard; Rep. Meghan Kilcoyne; Rep. Michael Kushmerek; Rep. Rady Mom; Rep. Tram Nguyen; Rep. David Robertson; Rep. Dan Sena; Rep. Jonathan Zlotnik.
NO: Rep. Colleen Garry; Rep. Marc Lombardo. Rep. Sheila Harrington has resigned.
ELIMINATE THE ESTIMATED $1.37 PER CUSTOMER CHARGE TO FUND TAX CREDITS AND JOB TRAINING (H 4515): House 28-127, rejected an amendment that would eliminate a new charge that would add an estimated $1.37 to the average gas customer’s monthly bill. The estimated $23 million in new revenue would be used to fund training programs, tax credits and incentives for companies.
“This would amount to about a 2 percent increase in a natural gas user’s bill each month,” said amendment sponsor Kelly Pease (R-Westfield). “It does not sound like a lot, but during these inflationary times and with gas and oil prices going out of control due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, it is not the time to raise rates on the people of the commonwealth. The critics of the amendment said it would get rid of the trust fund which would do away with job training and tax credits as well. This is true. By removing the funding it would eliminate those parts of the bill, but I believe that given the commonwealth is very financially strong that the trust fund and programs should be paid for out of existing state funds and not be putting the burden onto the citizens of Massachusetts by adding a rate increase to their monthly bills.”
Rep Jeff Roy (D-Franklin), House Chair of the Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy, said that the amendment seeks to strike the meat and potatoes from all of the elements that will strengthen this industry.
“The amendment would have eliminated provisions of the bill that make crucial investments into offshore wind and other clean energy technologies,” said Roy. “Massachusetts stands to realize significant economic gains by investing in our green infrastructure and workforce, and that’s an opportunity for our constituents that we cannot pass up.”
Readers: Please read carefully what a “Yes” and “No” vote mean. The amendment was on striking the estimated $1.37 fee. Therefore a A “Yes” vote is against the fee. A “No” is vote for the fee.
YES: Rep. Kimberly Ferguson; Rep. Colleen Garry; Rep. Marc Lombardo.
NO: Rep. James Arciero; Rep. Thomas Golden; Rep. Kenneth Gordon; Rep. Natalie Higgins; Rep. Vanna Howard; Rep. Meghan Kilcoyne; Rep. Michael Kushmerek; Rep. Rady Mom; Rep. Tram Nguyen; Rep. David Robertson; Rep. Dan Sena; Rep. Jonathan Zlotnik.
FREE MENSTRUAL PRODUCTS (H 2730): Senate 40-0 approved and sent to the House a bill that would require primary and secondary schools, homeless shelters and prisons to provide free disposable menstrual products in a convenient and non-stigmatizing way.
“That we considered this bill today is a result of the leadership of so many young people, particularly high school students across the state, from Brookline to Belchertown,” said sponsor Sen. Pat Jehlen (D-Somerville). “Once you start thinking about it, the need seems obvious. As the menstrual equity coalition says, ‘non-menstruating people go into a bathroom expecting their basic bodily needs to be met—this is not the case for menstruators.’ This is now being seen as an issue because new generations are saying words out loud that used to be hidden by euphemisms, and they’re talking about needs that were unrecognized because they weren’t named.”
PREGNANT AND POST PARTUM MOTHERS (H 2731): Senate 40-0, approved and sent to the House legislation designed to ensure that pregnant and postpartum mothers get necessary and potentially life-saving health care by extending MassHealth insurance coverage to 12 months after pregnancy. MassHealth is the state’s Medicaid program that provides health care for low-income and disabled persons. .
“Today, the Massachusetts Senate has taken another step to combat inequities in maternal health,” said sponsor Sen. Joan Lovely (D-Salem). “By extending postpartum healthcare coverage to a full year, birthing individuals will be able to access vital physical and behavioral health resources that will decrease mortality and severe morbidity and improve the overall health of parent and child, especially for our minority populations.”
Senate President Karen Spilka (D-Ashland) said: “The danger of dying during pregnancy or childbirth is still far too high in the United States, particularly for Black women, but the Senate is committed to continuing our efforts to ensure pregnant and postpartum mothers and people who give birth receive the critical care they need and deserve.”
ALSO ON BEACON HILL
STATE SANCTIONS AGAINST RUSSIA – Gov. Charlie Baker ordered all Massachusetts executive branch agencies to review their contracts and terminate any agreements with any executive department agency that is currently contracting with any Russian state-owned company or otherwise engaged in any partnership, affiliation, or exchange with any Russian state-owned company, Russian government-controlled entity or Russian governmental body. The executive order also encourages independent agencies and authorities, public institutions of higher education and all other constitutional offices to follow this policy
The order requires the Massachusetts Office for Refugees and Immigrants to work in collaboration with federal and private agencies to assist Ukrainian immigrants and refugees fleeing the conflict with finding a job, obtaining health care and locating housing in order to qualify for permanent immigration status.
Gov. Baker called the invasion an unjustified attack that violates the most basic principles of international law. “With this order, we hope to build on the sanctions the federal government has already placed on Russia for their unjustified attack on Ukraine,” said Baker. “The Commonwealth of Massachusetts condemns the actions of Russia and stands firmly with the free and democratic nation of Ukraine.”
In the meantime, House Minority Leader Brad Jones (R-North Reading) and Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester), have filed a bill that mandates the state to divest money from all public pension funds, managed by the state, that currently engage in commerce in any form by Russia.
“Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified attacks have brought nations together and Massachusetts should vigorously pursue options to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the global coalition supporting Ukraine, defending democracy and bringing an end to Putin’s ability to cause fear, death and destruction,” said Tarr. “The people of Massachusetts deserve a way to show support for Ukraine’s fight for freedom. This bill sends a clear signal that we will do our part for democracy in the world.”
“Russia’s aggressive and unwarranted military action against the citizens of Ukraine has drawn international condemnation and cannot go unchallenged,” said House Minority Leader Brad Jones. “By removing all Russian investments from our state pension fund and taking additional steps to ensure that Russia cannot benefit from state contracts or gain access to banking assets in Massachusetts, this bill sends a clear message that the commonwealth stands in solidarity with the Ukrainian people and their fight to remain part of a free and sovereign nation.”
TOWING CAR AFTER DRUG OVERDOSE (H 3433) – The House gave initial approval to legislation that allows police to tow away and keep in storage for 12 hours the vehicle of anyone who is incapacitated following the use of drugs. The measure defines “incapacitated” as “disorderly, unconscious, in need of medical attention, likely to suffer or cause physical harm or damage property.”
“This bill, if passed into law, would close a loophole that currently does not permit our first responders to prevent an individual resuscitated from a drug overdose from immediately getting behind the wheel again,” said sponsor Mike Day (D-Stoneham). “It will impose the mandatory 12-hour impoundment of a vehicle operated by an individual rescued from a drug overdose. We have seen instances when individuals are revived from the throes of a drug overdose and then immediately get back behind the wheel of their car, imperiling their own recovery and putting the public at great danger. This bill would be a step in the right direction of increased public safety and I am very happy it is moving forward. I will continue to advocate and work for its passage into law.”
EXPUNGEMENT OF RACIST “WHITE ONLY” LANGUAGE IN PROPERTY DEEDS (H 1465) – In 1947, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that racist “white only” language in property deeds prohibiting Blacks and other racial minorities from living on the property were illegal and unenforceable. However, under current Massachusetts law, there is no mechanism in place to remove these covenants from property deeds and they remain in the deeds of hundreds of homes for homeowners across the state.
Last week the House gave initial approval to a bill filed by Rep. John Barrett (D-North Adams), that would allow the state’s land courts to approve a property owner’s request to remove racist language from their property deeds. Barrett explains that some property owners in his district brought this issue to his attention when they learned that they had a “white only” covenant in their property deed. Barrett cited one covenant that states: “No persons of any race other than the white race shall use or occupy any buildings or any lot, except that this covenant shall not prevent occupancy by domestic servants of a different race domiciled with an owner or tenant.”
ICE CREAM TRUCKS (H 3623) – 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.
HOW LONG WAS LAST WEEK’S SESSION? 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 Feb. 28-March 4, the House met for a total of six hours and 24 minutes and the Senate met for a total of four hours and 28 minutes.
URL to article: https://www.wind-watch.org/news/2022/03/10/beacon-hill-roll-call-legislature-approves-bill-to-develop-and-expand-wind-industry/