Beacon Hill Roll Call


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Beacon Hill Roll Call

Volume 49 - Report No. 13

March 25-29, 2024

Copyright © 2024 Beacon Hill Roll Call. All Rights Reserved.

By Bob Katzen

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THE HOUSE AND SENATE: Beacon Hill Roll Call records local senators' votes on roll calls from the week of March 25-29. There were no roll calls in the House last week.


Senate 39-0, approved and sent to the House a bill that would make some changes in the current state laws about debt collection practices.

The measure includes reducing from 12 percent to 3 percent the maximum interest rate that can be charged for judgments on consumer debt; increasing from $750 per week to $975 per week the amount of a person’s wages that is protected from garnishment because of a debt; reducing from six years to five years, the time in which a company can bring suit to collect a consumer debt; and ensuring that no one is imprisoned for failure to pay a consumer debt.

"In Massachusetts, no family should have to choose between putting food on the table or making a minimum payment on a ballooning debt,” said Sen. Paul Feeney (D-Foxborough), Senate Chair of the Committee on Financial Services. "Debt collection practices can, at times, be predatory, unlawful and designed to squeeze every dime out of middle-class and low-income families, especially with the added burden of accumulating interest and additional fees that are designed to push families over a financial cliff. The [legislation] will not eliminate debt or an obligation to pay, but it will add needed guardrails to protect hard-working families from financial ruin, give a lifeline to those caught in a debt spiral and help deliver hope to those in a vicious cycle.”

“This bill aims to implement stricter regulations on debt collectors in order to prevent financial mistreatment of Massachusetts residents,” said chief sponsor Sen. Jamie Eldridge (D-Marlborough). “It seeks to safeguard consumers' economic security during debt repayment, prohibit excessively high interest rates and eliminate the possibility of consumers being sent to ‘debtor's prison’ when facing legal action.”

(A “Yes” vote is for the bill.)

Sen. Rebecca Rausch Yes Sen. Karen Spilka President rarely votes


Senate 40-0, approved and sent to the House legislation that would create a public database of violations of the state’s fire prevention laws and a public notification system to alert workers of violations.

The measure is designed to boost safety for firefighters and people conducting “hot work” including welding, plasma cutting and spark-producing construction. The proposed law has been ten years in the making and was first prompted by the March 2014 deaths of firefighters Edward Walsh and Michael Kennedy who perished while fighting a fire that was caused by welders, working without a city permit, on a building next door to the brownstone in which they died.

“This legislation represents historic regulatory reforms that the Walsh-Kennedy Commission helped institute across the hot works and welding industry in Massachusetts,” said chief sponsor Sen. Nick Collins (D-Boston). “Passing this legislation will ensure that the critical reforms, training, oversight and accountability needed to prevent tragedies like the Back Bay fire, will be the law of the land. We do this in honor of Boston Fire Lieutenant Edward Walsh and Firefighter Michael Kennedy so that their sacrifices are not in vain.”

“The heartbreaking loss of life in the 2014 Back Bay fire is a constant reminder of the importance of firefighter safety,” said Sen. Walter Timilty (D-Milton), Senate Chair of the Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security. “I am honored to have shepherded this crucial bill through the committee. Today, the Senate’s action represents an important step forward in ensuring that our remarkable firefighters have the resources that they need to keep themselves safe and protect our communities.”

(A “Yes” vote is for the bill.)

Sen. Rebecca Rausch Yes Sen. Karen Spilka Yes


HOUSE APPROVES SEVERAL BILLS – The House gave initial approval to several bills last week including:

CITY AND TOWN ASSESSORS (H 2112) – Amends current law which allows municipalities to give stipends to assessors who receive their Certified Assessment Evaluator certificate from the International Association of Assessing Officers, or their Certified Massachusetts Assessor certificate from the Massachusetts Association of Assessing Officers, Inc. The bill increases the stipend municipalities may award for these certificates from $3,000 to $5,000 for full-time assessors and also adds two new certificates which would result in the stipend.

"Assessors play a vital role in the financial issues of every city and town in the commonwealth," said sponsor Rep. Tom Stanley (D-Waltham). "This legislation improves the profession, enhances the assessor’s skillset and improves taxpayer efficiency and services to property owners.”

FREE PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION FOR VETERANS WHO ARE GOING TO MEDICAL APPOINTMENTS (H 3527) - Provides free transportation on the MBTA system for veterans who travel to or from a Veterans Administration hospital for medical care. The veteran must present proof of a medical appointment on the date of travel in the form of a notice from the Veterans Administration indicating the veteran’s name and the date and the location of the appointment.

“I have heard from a number of veterans who say it can be a challenge to get transportation to their medical appointments,” said sponsor Rep. Jerry Parisella (D-Beverly). “This bill would cover the cost of public transit for those seeking care at the Veterans Administration and help reduce one of the barriers, the cost of transportation, for those who have served our country with honor.”

ALLOW YOUNGER YOUTH SOCCER REFEREES (H 1852) - Would allow minors who are 12- and 13-years-old to referee youth soccer games for matches in which the age bracket of the players is younger than the 12- or 13-year-old referee.

Other provisions require the referee’s parents or guardians to provide the employer with a written consent form; require the employer to provide the parent or guardian with written policies describing the responsibilities of a referee and provide the minor with training; and mandating that an adult representing the employer is on the premise during the match.

“This legislation would benefit both the youths in question and their communities as these programs are extended,” said co-sponsor Rep. Kathy LaNatra (D-Kingston).

ALLOW SOME 17-YEAR OLDS TO VOTE IN PRIMARIES (H 705) – Would allow voters who will turn 18 and be eligible to vote in a November general election to also vote in the preceding primary election even though they will only be 17 at the time of the primary election.

Supporters said that allowing 17-year-olds olds to have a voice would establish a foundation for lifelong engagement in the democratic process and bolster civic engagement of these youths.

Rep. Joan Meschino (D-Hull) first sponsored the bill in 2020 at the request of then-16-year-old Hingham High School student Samantha Bevins, now a 21-year-old junior at Dartmouth College studying Government and Public Policy, who wanted this group to be allowed to vote in the Bay State’s March 2020 presidential primary.

Bevins said she is thrilled to learn that the bill received initial approval. “I proposed this legislation … when I was 16 because I wanted first-time voters in the commonwealth to have the same rights as my peers in 27 other states and Washington, D.C.,” said Bevins. “It is crucial that young people have the opportunity to fully participate in their first election cycle by having a say in the primaries on candidates who will ultimately be on the ballot in the general election. I am hopeful our bill will [receive further approval] soon in order to fully enfranchise first-time voters before the next Massachusetts state primaries."

“This legislation promotes a model of civic engagement and full enfranchisement that is critical to foster among our young people, who are the future of this country,” said Meschino. “Hingham resident Samantha Bevins and her peers’ continued engagement in the advocacy process during consecutive legislative sessions demonstrates that these young adults are fully equipped and ready for the opportunity to fully engage in the election process, and I commend them for their groundbreaking efforts.”

”[The bill] will lead to increased voter turnout that transcends party lines and further engages the youngest voters,” said co-sponsor Rep. Jack Lewis (D-Framingham). “This furthers our civic engagement goals and aligns the commonwealth with 27 other states including Mississippi, Wyoming, West Virginia and Maine.”

AMERICAN SIGN LANGUAGE (H 466) – Would require that American Sign Language (ASL) be taught in all Bay State public elementary and secondary schools to increase interactions between hearing persons and deaf and hard-of-hearing persons, as well as children with autism. Current law allows but does not require schools to teach ASL.

“Every student deserves access to diverse linguistic opportunities,” said sponsor Rep. Carol Doherty (D-Taunton). “By requiring that ASL courses be offered for credit alongside traditional world languages in Massachusetts public schools, we're not only fostering inclusivity for the deaf and hard-of-hearing community but also enriching our educational landscape with a vibrant and vital language.”

SUICIDE PREVENTION HOTLINE ON STUDENT IDS (H 1999) – Would require all public schools with grades 6 to 12, and all public and private colleges to include on their student identification cards the telephone and text number for the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. The bill includes a provision that allows any schools and colleges which have a supply of old ID cards without the 988 line to continue to distribute those IDS until the supply is gone.

Supporters said that while suicide is a leading cause of death for people of all ages in the United States, young people are particularly at risk. They noted that according to a study published by the National Center for Health Statistics at the end of last year, suicide was the second leading cause of death for Americans aged 15-24, representing a 56 percent increase in the previous decade. They argued that there are significant disparities in these numbers, with LGBTQ+ youth being at greater risk, and Black youth seeing a 73 percent increase in youth suicide rates in that same time period.

“It can be difficult for someone to reach out for help even in the best of times and it is essential that we seize every opportunity to provide the necessary resources for our children,” said co-sponsor Rep. Jack Lewis (D-Framingham). “[The bill] is a vital step in connecting those in their most vulnerable years with the lifesaving help and assistance they need and put the commonwealth in line with the 19 states including Arkansas, Louisiana and New York who have passed similar legislation.”

“This legislation is one simple way we can make sure our students have the resources they need to help themselves and their friends in a time of crisis,” said co-sponsor Rep. Natalie Higgins (D-Leominster). “The 988 Helpline is a critical support for our community, and ensuring all of our youth learn about it will help all future generations get the mental health support they need when they need it most.”


“It might be a gray, rainy week, but progress on updating the state’s Bottle Bill is a ray of sunshine for everyone who wants to reduce litter and waste.”

--- Janet Domenitz, Executive Director of MASSPIRG on the reporting out of committee a bill that would increase the deposit from 5 cents to 10 cents and expand it to include water bottles, vitamin drinks and other beverages that were not on the market when the Bottle Bill first passed in 1982.

“Because Massachusetts has entered a new era with sports betting now literally available at your fingertips, it is critical that we raise awareness of the public health risks associated with this activity, particularly for young people. This coalition brings together the business, professional sports, nonprofit and responsible gaming communities to best achieve one common goal: better protect and educate young adults across the commonwealth.”

---Attorney General Andrea Campbell on formation of a new public-private partnership, the Youth Sports Betting Safety Coalition, to raise awareness of the laws, risks and public health harms associated with sports betting and gambling among young people.

“Expanding low-income fares will help to ensure that our transportation system is more equitable and more affordable, which supports the mission to give everyone greater access to mobility options, especially community members depending on transit.”

---Transportation Secretary and CEO Monica Tibbits-Nutt commenting on the MBTA board vote to approve a reduced fare program for low-income riders across most services.

“Park Serve Day exemplifies the Healey-Driscoll Administration’s goals of promoting stewardship and conservation of our state’s green and open spaces. Encouraging the public to take an active role in protecting our environment is one way that we can foster the next generation of environmentalists who will take up the mantle of protecting these important natural resources.”

---Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Rebecca Tepper announcing that registration is now open for the Department of Conservation and Recreation’s 18th annual Park Serve Day on Saturday, April 20, 2024, at which volunteers help clean coastlines, clear trails, pick up litter, plant flowers or take part in other restorative projects

More information at


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 March 25-29, the House met for a total of one hour and 10 minutes and the Senate met for a total of two hours and 48 minutes.

Mon. March 25 House 11:02 a.m. to 11:44 a.m.

Senate 11:04 a.m. to 11:23 a.m.

Tues. March 26 No House session

No Senate session

Wed. March 27 No House session

No Senate session

Thurs. March 28 House 11:01 a.m. to 11:29 a.m.

Senate 11:20 a.m. to 1:49 p.m.

Fri. March 29 No House session

No Senate session

Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at

Bob founded Beacon Hill Roll Call in 1975 and was inducted into the New England Newspaper and Press Association (NENPA) Hall of Fame in 2019.

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