HOUSE SESSION – WEDNESDAY, OCT. 11, 2017
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CONVENES: The House convened at 11:05 a.m. with Rep. Donato of
Medford presiding. Reps. Wong of Saugus and Howitt of Seekonk
were also present.
PRAYER - BROOK FARM: Chaplain Father Walsh offered a prayer to God whose presence permeates all life and creation. We thank you for legislators and their staff whose efforts realize just and fair laws for the people of the commonwealth. We also thank you for the founders of the transcendentalist community Brook Farm in West Roxbury, who included Bronson Alcott and Nathaniel Hawthorne. The utopian community only survived six years. Massachusetts transcendentalists left a positive mark.
PLEDGE: Members, staff, and guests remained standing and recited the Pledge of Allegiance.
Time was 11:08 a.m.
RESOLUTIONS: The House adopted several congratulatory resolutions.
Chief court officer took a phone call and passed the phone to Rep. Donato. Time was 11:10 a.m.
MEDICAL COSTS: The House referred to the Committee on Health Care Financing a by-request petition filed by Rep. Tosado for legislation relative to the recovery of costs for certain medical assistance.
Rep. Kafka was seated on the rostrum. Rep. Donato turned around and kissed him on the cheek. Time was 11:12 a.m.
SUPPLEMENTAL BUDGET: The House accepted a Ways and Means Committee report H 3951 on a part of H 3869 Gov. Baker's fiscal 2017 supplemental budget bill. The House ordered H 3951 to third reading.
RECESS: On a Rep. Wong motion, the House at 11:14 a.m. recessed 'til 1 p.m.
DEMOCRATIC CAUCUS: Rep. Donato asked court officers to notify Democratic members of a caucus at 12 p.m. in Room A-1.
QUORUM CALL: At 1:13 p.m. Rep. Barber doubted the presence of a quorum. Speaker DeLeo said a quorum was not present and instructed court officers to summon the members.
At 1:18 p.m. Rep. Barber withdrew her request for a quorum roll call. There was no objection. Speaker DeLeo asked members to take their seats and court officers to clear the aisles.
MOMENT OF SILENCE - OFFICER REMIGIO: At the request of Reps. Barber, Connolly, Provost and Miceli, the House observed a moment of silence in memory of Somerville Police Officer Louis Remigio.
Speaker DeLeo said, Officer Remigio was a 30-year veteran of the Somerville Police Department who died Monday at Portsmouth Regional Hospital after a motor vehicle accident in New Hampshire. A Tewksbury resident, he was a dedicated officer known for his empathy. He will be remembered for his commitments to public safety. He is survived by two daughters.
RECESS: The House stood in recess at 1:21 p.m. and returned with Rep. Donato in the chair.
WEST NEWBURY TOWN MANAGER: The House enacted S 2161 establishing a town manager in the town of West Newbury.
PEABODY LIQUOR LICENSES: The House enacted H 3788 authorizing the city of Peabody to grant 20 additional licenses for the sale of all alcoholic beverages to be drunk on the premises.
WHATELY FIREFIGHTER: The House enacted authorizing the town of Whately to continue the employment of John Lasalle as a call firefighter.
MILFORD LIQUOR LICENSE: The House enacted H 3842 authorizing the town of Milford to grant one additional license for the sale of all alcoholic beverages to be drunk on the premises.
Mostly Republican members milled about in front of the minority leadership's seats in the second division. Reps. Cabral, Strauss and Vieira spoke in the well. A court officer dumped a bag of candy into a drawer on the rostrum.
RETURN: The House returned to order at 1:50 p.m.
SUPPLEMENTAL BILL: The question came on engrossing H 3951 making appropriations for the fiscal year 2017 to provide for supplementing certain existing appropriations and for certain other activities and projects.
Rep. Donato recognized Rep. Sanchez.
Rep. Sanchez said, Thank you. Today we are taking up the fiscal year 2017 closeout supplemental budget and this will ensure balance for FY17 and stems from working with so many of you and the administration to make sure we understand our fiscal and available resources. To achieve that balance, we authorize $123.2 million in spending, including $76.3 million to close the books on FY17 and $46.4 million previous appropriated in FY17 that will be carried over into FY18. We know these accounts: snow and ice, the sheriffs, and other programs including $4.75 million for the safe and successful youth grant program. It also contains outside policy sections, many of which are needed to close the FY17 books. Some of these are time sensitive like EMAC compliance and the gaming service employee change form. In the FY2018 budget we included a two-tier health care assessment and that must be implemented by January 2018 to balance the FY2017 budget. This applies to all employers with 6 or more employees. In order to implement the second tier, certain information must be collected from employers. The administration said they need to understand where folks are. This form will be used to determine an employer's liability as determined by the number of employees receiving MassHealth or insurance through the Connector. This information will only be used to implement tier two of the employer contribution, which will have a sunset of Dec. 31, 2019. Another time sensitive section is the gaming service employee change. This language provides the Gaming Commission the discretion to determine which gaming service employee will be disqualified for certain CORI offenses. This change was necessary because at MGM Springfield and Wynn Boston Harbor they are starting to hire up and we want them to hire people and especially the unemployed and the hard to employ. This language will help us accomplish that. I ask for your support. Thank you.
RECESS: The House recessed at 1:56 p.m.
Rep. Linskey spoke with Minority Leader Jones and Reps. Kane and Lombardo in the aisle between the first and second divisions. Reps. Poirier, Strauss and Whelan huddled nearby. Reps. Donato and Cusask spoke on the rostrum. Reps. Gentile, Moran and Lawn sat on the rostrum. The group around Rep. Linskey expanded to also include Reps. Hill, Tucker, Gifford, Ferguson, Muratore, Cantwell, Orrall and Whelan. Rep. DuBois, whose seat is next to Linskey's, relocated to Rep. Miceli's seat. Reps. McKenna, Smola, Muradian and Frost spoke at the rear of the chamber.
Rep. Linskey took his seat, and Reps. Kane, Orrall, Lombardo and Poirier hovered over him as he wrote or drew something on a piece of paper. Reps. Mirra, Ferguson, Tucker, Whelan, Gordon and Cantwell also stood nearby.
At 2:35 p.m., the House chamber was roughly half full. About six members remained in the first division, the Republican caucus and a smattering of Democrats remained in the second division, eight members remained in the third division and nine members remained in the fourth division. Some members were scattered around the chamber, holding one-on-one or small group conversations.
RETURN: The House returned to order at 2:41 p.m.
SUPPLEMENTAL BUDGET: The question came on engrossing H 3951 making appropriations for the fiscal year 2017 to provide for supplementing certain existing appropriations and for certain other activities and projects.
LINSKEY AMENDMENT 1 as changed -- Automatic Weapons
Rep. Linskey said, Thank you. When this matter is called for a vote, I ask that it be called with the yeas and nays.
There was consent.
Rep. Linskey said, I am offering an amendment today that will continue to make Massachusetts the safest state out of the 50 states in the union with the lowest rate of gun violence in all of the 50 states. This country faced a tragedy of unspeakable proportions when 58 innocent people lost their lives in Las Vegas and more than 500 were wounded. After that, this body, which has a record as a national leader for gun violence prevention, conducted a study to see if a particular device attached to a semiautomatic weapon in Las Vegas was legal here. Unfortunately, this device designed to increase the rate of discharge of a legal semiautomatic weapon to mimic an automatic weapon is, in fact, legal under the laws of the state and country. We as a civilized society cannot allow this type of device to be in private hands. Bump stocks or similar devices have one purpose and one purpose only: to kill or to wound as many people as possible in as short a period of time. We have to draw the line somewhere. Bills are pending in Congress but Massachusetts is once again leading the way in gun violence prevention. We have the opportunity to ban bump stocks and other similar devices. The statute I am proposing would read as follows: Whoever possesses, owns or offers for sale any device which attaches to a rifle, shotgun or firearm, except a magazine, that is designed to increase the rate of discharge of the rifle, shotgun or firearm or whoever modifies any rifle, shotgun or firearm with the intent to increase its rate of discharge, shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison by not less than 3 nor more than 20 years. This device has no place in a civilized society. By taking this action, we will be leading the way. We should be proud of the way we have handled gun violence and we are proof that strong gun laws reduce gun violence. In this country, 33,000 people a year or 93 a day die by gun violence. Here in Massachusetts, we have taken steps, led by this House and you Mr. Speaker, to reduce firearm violence as much as we can. There are always loopholes we can fill and today we are doing that. On another day we may do more, but today we have this opportunity. I ask that all of us join in supporting this amendment.
The clerk announced that the voting stations of Reps. Mariano and Madaro are locked.
BY A ROLL CALL VOTE OF 151-3, the amendment was ADOPTED. Time was 2:54 p.m.
DIZOGLIO AMENDMENT 2 -- Substance Use Prevention, Treatment and Education Funding
Rep. DiZoglio said, Thank you. In March I was so pleased, so very pleased, that you announced, Mr. Speaker, at the Chamber of Commerce that you wanted to use tax revenue from marijuana sales to combat the opioid epidemic. I want to say thank you for those words. I am here today to encourage the membership to support those words. When the marijuana bill came to us, we voted to find the substance abuse treatment fund. But the final version of the bill included no language to guarantee funding to a substance addiction fund of any kind. I know many members were as shocked as I was that there was no revenue for this fund. That was part of what we told the public, that we needed that tax rate to fund this substance and addiction prevention fund. Unfortunately, those provisions we all voted to support were taken out of the bill. For what purpose I still don't know. All the funding we said we were going to allocate was made subject to appropriation and directed to the General Fund. And guys, we know what that means, right? It means that the money we said was going to go to the prevention fund may not, it's up to whoever is in leadership in any given year. This is because the conference committee made that fund subject to appropriation. This is still the most prevalent, vile, despicable issue ravaging families across the state. How can we be OK with legalizing marijuana with no money whatsoever dedicated to addiction prevention? We dedicated $50 million to the substance addiction fund when we first voted on this bill. When I asked why the funding changed, I was told by leadership that the tax rate changed from 28 percent in the House version to 20 percent in the conference report and now we could not dedicate to addiction efforts. Mr. Speaker, that is unacceptable. The tax rate is still set at 20 percent, that's eight percent higher than what voters approved and we told voters we needed the higher tax rate to help fund addiction prevention funds. The amendment accounts for that change in tax rate but still allocated $30 million or 15 percent of total generate revenue for a substance addiction fund. It's time for us to back up our words with action. We have a very important issue on the ballot next fall, which I support, and that is the fair share tax amendment. Our constituents on the fence on that say they like the idea of a new revenue source, but they're deeply concerned this body will not allocate the money to education and transportation. We have an opportunity to prove to the voters that we mean what we say, to get this squared away and get out tax policy right before retail sales begin. I know a lot of people in this chamber wanted that funding included, so here is your opportunity to support that provision. I hope with all my heart that this lifesaving provision is included and is fought for this time. I will be relentless in my fight for this fund. The cost of doing nothing is far more expensive.
Rep. DiZoglio asked for a roll call vote. There was sufficient support.
Rep. Hunt said, Thank you. I also rise in support of the amendment and I am pleased to work with my colleague from Methuen to get this done. I've been asked three questions that I want to address. One is, how do we get our arms around the opiate scourge? We've done a lot of things to deal with this, but I think we need to look at this from 100,000 feet and say we need to go upstream, we need to deal with our kids and students, we need to put more effort into prevention and education so all those people will not get to the point where we're dealing with the cost of addiction treatment. Similar to what happened with tobacco, there was a stream of funding that came out of a court decision and it was a dedicated pool of funding that worked. I saw the results of one of these surveys at a high school on Cape Cod where the high school kids said that they felt that smoking cigarettes, tobacco cigarettes, was more dangerous than grabbing a random pill out of a bowl at a rave party. We're doing a pretty good job on the tobacco message, but not with the rest of it. We need a dedicated source of funding that is not subject to the whims of the budget debate. This amendment will do that and it won't overspend because it's the lower of 15 percent of revenue or $30 million. We think the revenue is between $100 million and $200 million. The second question is, how can I make sense of that? The ABCC that has a lot more outlets they deal with has an annual budget of $2.5 million and they have 30 employees. The issues about recreational and medical marijuana may be more complicated but we're spending $2.5 million a year for the entire activity of the ABCC. That brings me to the third question, if someone objects to how we're dealing with this funding that it is an unknown, $100-$200 million cannot possibly be spent -- and I say that with a little bit of tongue in cheek -- by the Cannabis Control Commission. I think it's safe to say we can spend 15 percent of what comes in. I urge everyone to vote yes so that in a generation we will hopefully have our arms around the issue.
BY A ROLL CALL VOTE OF 47-107, the amendment was REJECTED. Time was 3:14 p.m.
JONES AMENDMENT 5 as changed -- Early Voting
Rep. Jones said, Thank you. I have offered what I hope is a straightforward amendment and I appreciate the work to perfect it. Last session we offered early voting in the commonwealth and last November the auditor determined that that at least in part constituted an unfunded mandate. The Legislature had appropriated some money for that, but we need to appropriate $485,000 more to make cities and towns whole. We create a window for municipalities to submit their costs. We will eventually have to discuss this during our budget debate but this amendment I think addresses the issue for now.
Rep. Jones asked for a roll call vote. There was sufficient support.
BY A ROLL CALL VOTE OF 153-0, the amendment was ADOPTED. Time was 3:20 p.m.
SANCHEZ AMENDMENT 16 as changed -- Technical Amendment
The amendment was ADOPTED.
SUPPLEMENTAL BUDGET: The question came on engrossing H 3951 making appropriations for the fiscal year 2017 to provide for supplementing certain existing appropriations and for certain other activities and projects. A roll call vote was ordered.
NO MORE ROLL CALLS: Rep. Donato announced from the rostrum that the House does not expect further roll call votes. Members began streaming to the exits before the result of the previous roll call vote was announced. Time was 3:24 p.m.
BY A ROLL CALL VOTE OF 154-1, the bill was passed to be ENGROSSED. Time was 3:26 p.m.
SICK LEAVE: The House engrossed H 3932 to establish a sick leave bank for Amanda Rodrigues, an employee of the Trial Court.
ADJOURNMENT ORDER: The House adopted an order to meet next on Thursday at 11 a.m. in an informal session.
ADJOURN: The House adjourned at 3:28 p.m., intending to meet again at 11 a.m. Thursday in an informal session.
DISCLAIMER: Bill texts and histories are available at www.malegislature.gov. All votes are voice votes, unless otherwise noted. Bills ordered to third reading have been given initial approval. To engross a bill is to pass it and send it to the other branch. The last of three votes taken on bills that reach the governor's desk is the vote on enactment. So, it's third reading (initial approval), engrossment (passage) and enactment. The News Service coverage of legislative debate is an accurate summary of remarks, not a verbatim transcript.