Volume 42-Report No. 6 • February 6 – 10, 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 the votes of local representatives on roll calls from February 2. There were no roll calls in the House or Senate last week.

All these roll calls are on proposed new rules to a package of rules under which the House will operate for 2017-2018.

ALLOW VOTE ON TERM LIMITS FOR SPEAKER (H 2017)
House 123-33, upheld the decision of the acting speaker of the House, filling in for Speaker Robert DeLeo (D-Winthrop), that a rule that would limit to eight the number of years the House speaker and minority leader can serve was beyond the scope of the rules package and should not be allowed on the floor for consideration by the full House. The rule would have made the limit on DeLeo retroactive to 2009 while the limit on GOP Minority Leader Brad Jones (R-North Reading) would begin this year.

In 2009, the House voted to impose an 8-year term limit on the speaker. The House repealed that rule in 2015 and there are currently no term limits on serving as speaker. Speaker DeLeo was a champion of the 8-year limit when it was approved in 2009. In 2015, however, he said that his position on term limits has “evolved” during his 6-year tenure as speaker that began in 2009. “I wouldn’t say I’m going back on my word as much as the fact that over six years, rightly or wrongly, I feel I have learned in terms of what the importance is of doing away with the term limits we have in the rules,” said DeLeo at the time.

The elimination of the limit in 2015 allowed DeLeo to run again for speaker in the 2017-2018 session and beyond. If the term limit had remained in place, the 2015-2016 session would have been DeLeo’s last as speaker.

Supporters of banning consideration of the rule noted that adoption of it would create a vacancy in the speakership, which is not within the scope of a proposal establishing permanent House rules.

Opponents of the ban said that if the ban was reinstated, the House would simply follow current rules and declare the position vacant and hold an election for a new speaker. They asked why an amendment changing a House rule is not allowed during debate on adopting House rules.

Supporters of term limits said voting to approve the 8-year limit in 2009 and then voting to rescind it in 2015 was a step backwards and a complete flip-flop that lead to cynicism and mistrust among voters. They argued that term limits prevent anyone from becoming “Speaker for Life.” They noted that the indictments and convictions of the three prior speakers, Charlie Flaherty, Tom Finneran and Sal DiMasi, prove that too much power for too long is a problem.

Opponents of term limits said the restriction would make a speaker serving his final two years a lame duck. They argued that rank and file members should have the right to re-elect a current speaker or elect a new one. They said voters already can impose term limits when they vote at the polls.

Rep. Geoff Diehl (R-Whitman), the sponsor of the amendment, explained to Beacon Hill Roll Call why DeLeo’s ban is retroactive to 2009 and Jones’ ban is not. He noted that the retroactivity would allow DeLeo to remain true to his commitment to an 8-year term limit in 2009. He noted that Jones made no such commitment to term limit himself and he should have the chance to serve under the new conditions without retroactivity.
(A “Yes” vote is for the ruling of the chair banning the consideration of the proposed rule. A “No” vote is against the ruling of the chair and supports allowing the rule to be considered by the full House.)

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

ALLOW 24 HOURS TO READ LEGISLATION (H 2017)
House 35-124, rejected a proposed rule that would require 24-hour notice, not including weekends and holidays, between the release of a bill from an executive session or the Rules Committee and its consideration on the House floor. The 24-hour rule could be suspended for an emergency if waived by a two-thirds vote.

Supporters of the rule said this will prevent bills from being rushed onto the House floor and voted upon without legislators having time to read them. They cited the uproar in the U.S. Congress several years ago, when members were not given time to read the 1,000-page health care bill.

Opponents of the rule said it goes too far and that requiring 24-hour notice would make it very difficult for the Legislature to act during an emergency. They argued members usually are given sufficient time to read bills and in most cases, the bills have already received attention and press coverage.

(A “Yes” vote is for the rule requiring 24-hour notice. A “No” vote is against it.)

Rep. Christine Barber    No
Rep. Mike Connolly       No
Rep. Denise Provost      No

LIMIT TOPICS AT INFORMAL SESSIONS (H 2017)
House 34-124, rejected a proposed rule that would allow only non-controversial bills to be considered during informal sessions. The amendment defines non-controversial as bills relating to the establishment of sick leave banks, granting of municipal liquor licenses, relating to a specific city or town or person that has received local approval, resolutions, or bills that have already been unanimously passed by the Senate and House in a formal session. Current rules allow many more types of amendments to be introduced at an informal session including any bills reported out by a committee, all bills sent from the Senate and all bills up for final approval.

Informal sessions are ones in which there can be no roll call votes and everything is approved or rejected on an unrecorded voice vote. However, at an informal session, a single legislator can hold up consideration of a bill until the next formal session by doubting the presence of a quorum. A quorum is when 81 members of the House are present. Since only a handful of legislators attend these sessions, the session would be adjourned for lack of a quorum.

Supporters of the rule said it is unfair to allow important legislation to be brought up at these lightly attended sessions. They pointed out that in December, the House and Senate, in an informal session, approved a delay in the implementation of the law allowing retail sales of marijuana.

Opponents said the rule is unnecessary because any single member who shows up at a lightly attended informal session can doubt the presence of a quorum at which point the session would end because there is not a quorum.

(A “Yes” vote is for further limiting the type of bill that can be brought up during an informal session. A “No” vote is against further limitations.)

Rep. Christine Barber    No
Rep. Mike Connolly       No
Rep. Denise Provost      No

REQUIRE ROLL CALL VOTES BY COMMITTEES (H 2017)
House 41-118, rejected a rule that would require that a roll call be held on all bills acted upon by House committees when the committee gives the measure a favorable or unfavorable report. Current rules only allow a committee member to request a roll call vote.

Supporters of the rule said this would make the House more transparent and ensure that constituents know how their representative voted in committee. They said giving members the option to ask for a roll call does not go far enough.

Opponents of the rule said the requirement that a roll call be held if requested by one person is sufficient and offers more flexibility.

“Yes” vote is for requiring a roll call vote. A “No” vote is against requiring it.)

Rep. Christine Barber    No
Rep. Mike Connolly       No
Rep. Denise Provost      Yes

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ALSO UP ON BEACON HILL

PRESERVE RAPE EVIDENCE FOR 15 YEARS (H 4364) – In January, a new law that would require all rape kits to be kept for a minimum of 15 years and that rape victims be notified immediately of this law went into effect. Prior law allowed the kits to be kept for 15 years but initially only required they be kept for six months unless the victim files a request for an extension. Supporters said this long overdue change will empower rape victims and lead to more convictions.

“NON-EMERGENCY” VS. “NON-ESSENTIAL” STATE WORKERS –  Gov. Charlie Baker announced last week that because of the storm, state offices would be closed one day for non-emergency executive branch state employees. Up until a few years ago, governors often used the term “non-essential” employees. Those governors were often criticized and asked why “non-essential” employees were hired in the first place.

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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 February 6-10, the House met for a total of three hours and 21 minutes and the Senate met for a total of 18 minutes.

Mon. February 6
House 11:08 a.m. to 2:01 p.m.
Senate 11:06 a.m. to 11:15 a.m.

Tues. February 7
No House session
No Senate session

Wed. February 8
House 11:00 a.m. to 11:20 a.m.
No Senate session

Thurs. February 9
No House session
No Senate session

Fri. February 10
House 11:02 a.m. to 11:10 a.m.
Senate 11:06 a.m. to 11:15 a.m.

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Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at bob@beaconhillrollcall.com