Volume 42-Report No. 44 • October 30-November 3, 2017
Copyright © 2017 Beacon Hill Roll Call. All Rights Reserved. By Bob Katzen
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Our Legislators in the House and Senate for Somerville:

barber_webRep. Christine Barber
DISTRICT REPRESENTED: Thirty-fourth Middlesex. – Consisting of all precincts in wards 4 and 5, precinct 1 of ward 7, and precinct 2 of ward 8, of the city of Medford, precincts 1 and 2 of ward 4, and all precincts of ward 7, of the city of Somerville, both in the county of Middlesex.

Rep. Denise Provost
DISTRICT REPRESENTED: Twenty-seventh Middlesex. – Consisting of precinct 3 of ward 2, all precincts of ward 3, precinct 3 of ward 4, and all precincts of wards 5 and 6, of the city of Somerville, in the county of Middlesex.

Rep. Mike Connolly
DISTRICT REPRESENTED: Twenty-sixth Middlesex. – Consisting of all precincts of ward 1, precinct 1 of ward 2, precincts 1 and 2 of ward 3, and precinct 1 of ward 6, of the city of Cambridge, and all precincts of ward 1 and precincts 1 and 2 of ward 2, of the city of Somerville, both in the county of Middlesex.

Sen. Patricia Jehlen
DISTRICT REPRESENTED: Second Middlesex. – Consisting of the cities of Cambridge, wards 9 to 11, inclusive, Medford and Somerville, and the town of Winchester, precincts 4 to 7, inclusive, in the county of Middlesex.

THE HOUSE AND SENATE: Beacon Hill Roll Call records local representatives’ and senators’ votes on roll calls from the week of November 6-10.

PARKING FOR VETERANS (H 2763)

House 156-0, approved and sent to the Senate a bill requiring all cities and towns to designate a parking space, for veterans only parking, during regular business hours at the city or town hall. The city or town would also erect and maintain a sign designating the space as follows: “Veteran parking only. This space is reserved for those who have served.”

Supporters said this is a small but important way to honor all the veterans who have served this nation.

(A “Yes” vote is for the bill.)

Rep. Christine Barber    Yes
Rep. Mike Connolly       Yes
Rep. Denise Provost      Yes

CHECKOFF ON TAX RETURN FOR VETERANS (H 1948)
House 155-0, approved and sent to the Senate a bill allowing cities and towns to designate a check-off box on municipal tax bills or motor vehicle excise tax bills on which taxpayers can make a voluntary contribution to a new Veterans Memorial and Patriotic Celebration Fund. The money from the fund would be used by local communities for the restoration of monuments and other activities that honor the contributions and sacrifices of veterans living there. The donation would be paid in addition to the tax owed.

Supporters said this voluntary donation would go to local projects that will honor veterans. They noted that this is not unprecedented because state tax forms currently have a check-off option for donations. In 2016, the funds went to groups including Mass. Military Family Relief $237,922; Homeless Animal Prevention and Care $336,077; Endangered Wildlife Conservation $186,305; Organ Transplant $108,363; Massachusetts AIDS $89,804; and Massachusetts U.S. Olympics $40,562.

(A “Yes” vote is for the bill.)

Rep. Christine Barber    Yes
Rep. Mike Connolly       Yes
Rep. Denise Provost      Yes

FREE CONTRACEPTION (H 4009)
House 140-16, approved and sent to the Senate a bill designed to ensure free access to FDA-approved methods of birth control for women in Massachusetts. The measure allows women to get a 12-month supply of a contraceptive of their choosing after an initial 3-month prescription and mandates coverage of emergency contraception at pharmacies without a copayment or a new prescription.

The proposal was filed in response to President Trump’s executive order that exempts a wide range of employers from the requirement that they offer birth control to their employees without co-pays or deductibles. The bill exempts church or qualified church-controlled organizations who would be allowed to opt out of the requirement.

A Center for Health Information and Analysis report said the bill’s mandates will cost the health care system between $1.9 million and $5.7 million annually over the next five years, and will add between 84 cents and $2.40 to the annual premium by for a Massachusetts subscriber.

“Today, the Massachusetts House of Representatives made clear that birth control access is not up for debate in Massachusetts,” said Dr. Jennifer Childs-Roshak, president of the Planned Parenthood Advocacy Fund of Massachusetts. “While the Trump Administration is laser-focused on making it harder for people to access the care they need, Massachusetts is stepping up to protect the health and well-being of its residents by passing the … bill and keeping birth control affordable and accessible.

“This coercive measure burdens the consciences of Catholics and other pro-life citizens by forcing them, at an expanded level, to subsidize practices which they find morally objectionable.” responded Catholic Action League Executive Director C.J. Doyle. “Our constitutional tradition requires a ‘reasonable accommodation’ for citizens’ sincerely held religious beliefs. This absolutist legislation affords no such accommodation and is an affront to the beliefs of many in the state.”

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

Rep. Christine Barber    Yes
Rep. Mike Connolly       Yes
Rep. Denise Provost      Yes

HEALTHCARE CHANGES (S 2022)
Senate 33-6, at 11:59 p.m., last Thursday, approved and sent to the House a complicated 100-page bill making changes in the state’s health care system. Toward the end of debate, the Senate added an amendment that would require a study of how the costs of a single-payer health care system would compare to the state’s actual current health care spending. If the single-payer system would have cost less than the current system, the center would be required to submit a proposed single-payer health care implementation plan to the Legislature for consideration.

“The bill is really about the consumers and doing everything we can to make health care affordable to consumers,” said Sen. James Welch (D-Springfield.)

“My big concern about the Senate health care bill is that it doesn’t save the state any money,” said Gov. Charlie Baker. “One of the things we tried to do with our bill is ensure we continue to cover everybody in the commonwealth and maintain the success we’ve had as almost a virtually fully insured commonwealth. But at the same time recognizing and appreciating that if we don’t do some things to change the way our system operates, we put education spending at risk, we put transportation spending at risk, we put general local aid to cities and towns for public safety and fire protection at risk.”

“I understand the governor’s concerns,” Welch said. “He comes from the healthcare industry, comes from the insurance industry, and I’m sure obviously still has relationships in the healthcare industry that would make him concerned or that members of the healthcare industry might be concerned about. But I think the way we approached this bill is really to focus on the consumer.”

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

DISCLOSE CHARGES IN ADVANCE (S 2202)
Senate 12-26, rejected an amendment that would require hospitals and health care providers to disclose to the patient the cost of an admission, procedure or service prior to the event. The amendment would replace a section that gives the hospital and providers two working days after the request to give patients the information.

Amendment supporters said this gives more power to patients to make informed choices.

Amendment opponents said the amendment goes too far and noted that some hospitals and providers might not be able to get the information so quickly.

(A “Yes” vote is for providing the information prior to the admission, procedure or service. A “No” vote is for allowing two working days to get the information.)

Sen. Patricia Jehlen    Yes

CHECK ELIGIBILITY FOR MASSHEALTH (S 2202)
Senate 10-28, rejected an amendment that would require the state to conduct regular checks on MassHealth recipients to determine if they are still eligible for the program. MassHealth is the state’s Medicaid program that provides health care for low-income and disabled persons.

Checks would include receiving and requesting information from the Lottery, Unemployment Office and Department of Transitional Assistance (Welfare Department) to see if the financial situation of the MassHealth recipient has improved to the point where the person is no longer eligible for MassHealth.

Amendment supporters said this will help ensure that ineligible people do not remain on the plan.

Amendment opponents said MassHealth already conducts eligibility checks.

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

Sen. Patricia Jehlen    No

DO NOT LIST EMPLOYERS (S 2202)
Senate 5-32, rejected an amendment that would strike a provision that requires the state to compile and release an annual report identifying the 50 employers with the highest number of workers who get MassHealth.

Amendment supporters said this “name and shame” idea is a cheap shot. They noted that prior to Obamacare, the state did not allow income-eligible employees to go on MassHealth. The state has since reversed its policy and now allows these employees to opt into MassHealth. This has led to a migration of many employees to MassHealth, a move over which employers have no control.

Amendment opponents said compiling the list is simply a way to get more data to count how many people with access to employer-sponsored health insurance are instead enrolling in MassHealth. They argued this will allow the state to continue working toward its goal of making sure people are insured and have access to quality care.

(A “Yes” vote is for striking the requirement of the list and therefore against the list. A “No” vote is for the list.)

Sen. Patricia Jehlen    No

STUDY SINGLE PAYER HEALTH CARE (S 2202)
Senate 35-3, approved an amendment that would require the state’s Center for Health Information and Analysis to study whether a single-payer health care system would have cost less than the actual health care expenditures in the state, which is estimated to be $59 billion in 2016. Single payer health care is described in the amendment as “a system that provides publicly financed, universal access to health care for the population through a unified public health care plan.”

If the single-payer system would have cost less than the current system, the center would be required to submit a proposed single-payer health care implementation plan to the Legislature for consideration.

Amendment supporters this amendment does not create and implement single-payer health care but would simply leave all options open and give the Legislature the information it needs to consider a single-payer system sometime in the future.

Amendment opponents voiced concerns about the possible cost of a single-payer system, saying by some estimates it could double the state’s health expenditures. Some said the last thing they want is for the government to be running the entire health care system.

(A “Yes” vote is for the amendment. A “No” vote is against it.)
Sen. Patricia Jehlen    Yes

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ALSO UP ON BEACON HILL

SMOKING BY POLICE AND FIREFIGHTERS (H 1361) – The Public Service Committee held a hearing on legislation amending the current law that prohibits smoking by any police officer or firefighter hired after 1988. Current law also requires the firing of anyone who violates the ban. The bill would give violators an alternative to dismissal from their jobs by allowing them to enter a smoking cessation program and permitting their firing only upon a second offense.

BUILD MARTIN LUTHER KING MEMORIAL (H 3652) – The Senate approved a House-approved bill creating an 11-member Martin Luther King Memorial Committee which would develop plans by May 31, 2018 and make recommendations to the Legislature on the erection of an appropriate permanent memorial to the late leader of the civil rights movement. The committee’s recommendations would include the type of memorial to be erected, at least three options for the location of it, estimated costs of acquiring the land and building the monument and its perpetual care and maintenance.

PRENATAL EXPOSURE TO OPIOIDS (H 3847) – The Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities held a hearing on a bill that would require that when a physician determines that a child was exposed to opioids prenatally, the child will automatically be eligible, without an evaluation or assessment or evidence of a delay, for continuing early intervention services until the child enters kindergarten or elementary school.

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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 November 6-10, the House met for a total of six hours and 31 minutes and the Senate met for a total of 18 hours and 18 minutes.

Mon. November 6
House 11:04 a.m. to 11:48 a.m.
Senate 11:07 a.m. to 11:52 a.m.

Tues. November 7
House 11:03 a.m. to 11:17 a.m.
No Senate session

Wed. November 8
House 10:01 a.m. to 3:05 p.m.
Senate 11:06 a.m. to 4:35 p.m.

Thurs. November 9
House 11:07 a.m. to 11:36 a.m.
Senate 11:15 a.m. to 11:59 p.m.

Fri. November 10
No House session
No Senate session

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Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at bob@beaconhillrollcall.com