By Bob Katzen
THE HOUSE AND SENATE. There were no roll call votes in the House or Senate last week. Beacon Hill Roll Call reports local senators' roll call attendance records for the 2012 session through August 24.
The Senate has held 179 roll call votes in 2012. Beacon Hill Roll Call tabulates the number of roll calls on which each senator was present and voting and then calculates that number as a percentage of the total roll call votes held. That percentage is the number referred to as the roll call attendance record.
Only 13 of the Senate's 39 members have 100 percent roll call attendance records.
The worst roll call attendance record belongs to Sen. Frederick Berry (D-Peabody), who missed 101 roll calls (43.5 percent attendance) because of an illness.
The second worst record belongs to Sen. Barry Finegold (D-Andover), who missed 52 roll calls (70.9 percent attendance) because of the death of his sister.
SENATORS' 2012 ROLL CALL ATTENDANCE RECORDS
The percentage listed next to the senator's name is the percentage of roll call votes for which the senator was present and voting. The number in parentheses represents the number of roll calls that the senator missed.
Sen. Eileen Donoghue : 90.5 percent (17)
Sen. James Eldridge: 99.4 percent (1)
Sen. Jennifer Flanagan: 95.5 percent (8)
ALSO ON BEACON HILL
Supporters said the current loophole allows a person who threatens someone when the case is closed to be charged with only a misdemeanor. They argued it is not fair to have this loophole that jeopardizes the safety of witnesses once a case is closed.
PARENTS WHO KILL THEIR SPOUSES (H 454) -- The House gave initial approval to a bill that would terminate the parental rights of any person convicted of killing their spouse unless there is proof of past physical, sexual or psychological abuse committed by the deceased parent against the convicted parent. The rights could also be granted to the convicted parent if the child is deemed "competent" and wants to continue to have a relationship with the parent.
Supporters said it is outrageous to require children to continue an unwanted relationship with a parent who killed the other parent. They argued these kids are traumatized enough and should not be forced to visit the killer in jail.
ALLOW DOMESTIC VIOLENCE VICTIMS TO BREAK THEIR APARTMENT LEASE (S 2402) -- The House gave initial approval to a bill allowing victims of domestic violence to break their apartment lease without a penalty if they notify the owner in writing that they or a member of their household is a victim of domestic violence, rape, sexual assault or stalking.
Supporters said the measure is designed to help victims move if their assailant knows where they are living. The measure also requires owners to change the tenant's exterior locks if the tenant or occupants reasonably believe they are in danger.
REDUCE DRUG ABUSE (S 2122) -- Gov. Deval Patrick signed into law a bill aimed at cracking down on the abuse of prescription drugs in Massachusetts. The measure requires all doctors to register with the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program, a statewide electronic database that collects data on prescriptions dispensed in the state. Currently, participation is voluntary, and only 1,700 of 40,000 prescribers have signed up.
Supporters say the program is aimed at preventing potential abusers from "doctor shopping" -- obtaining multiple prescriptions from several doctors who are unaware that another physician has already prescribed the medication.
Other provisions include requiring pharmacies to notify local police when reporting theft or loss of drugs; requiring doctors to use tamper-proof pads to write prescriptions; and banning possession, distribution and manufacture of "bath salts," synthesized stimulants disguised as a therapeutic mineral.
VIOLATIONS OF MINIMUM WAGE LAW (S 924) -- The Senate approved and sent to the House a bill that would increase from two years to three years the statute of limitations for bringing a suit against an employer for violating the minimum wage or overtime pay law. This change would match the state's current three-year statute of limitations for filing suit for nonpayment of wages.
Supporters said this pro-worker bill would further protect the rights of employees and bring Massachusetts into line with current federal laws.
"These investigations act as a deterrent to criminals and help agencies and vendors better manage public assistance programs so that benefits are available for those who need them most."
-- State Auditor Suzanne Bump announcing that her office has uncovered $5.5 million in fraudulently obtained public assistance benefits and services in fiscal year 2012.
"By making Charlie one of the most ubiquitous figures in Greater Boston, more and more people will experience the benefits of using a CharlieCard ... the CharlieCard offers customers the lowest bus and subway fare."
-- Acting MBTA General Manager Jonathan Davis on a Boston publicity tour by Charlie, the official mascot of the MBTA, promoting the CharlieCard and the MBTA's new CharlieCard Store at Downtown Crossing.
"If I was 21, I would probably be very for it, because I remember going to Boston University and living in Allston and having a great time. There's only one reason someone goes to Happy Hour and that's to get drunk."
-- Steve DiFillippo, owner of Davio's Northern Italian Steakhouse, opposing the idea of reinstituting discounted Happy Hour drinks in bars across the state.
"One of these teens could be Boston's next great chef."
-- Boston Mayor Tomas Menino on the two dozen teenagers who prepared a healthy meal for the mayor and Boston Red Sox catcher Ryan Lavarnway to raise awareness about healthy eating for young people.
"It's bad enough to steal from a system that provides crucial care for thousands of residents, but to take advantage of MassHealth by using the name of a woman who passed away is unconscionable."
-- Attorney General Martha Coakley on the sentencing of a man who pleaded guilty to defrauding the state's Medicaid program of more than $10,000 by claiming he provided personal care attendant services to a chronically ill woman for three weeks after she passed away.
"Each year, tomato growers come together for a friendly competition, celebrating one of the season's most anticipated crops."
-- Department of Agricultural Resources Commissioner Gregory Watson on the state-sponsored 28th Annual Tomato Contest.
"Favored by voters 58 percent to 27 percent."
-- The results of a Public Policy Polling poll asking voters if they favor passage of upcoming Ballot Question 3 that would allow medical use of marijuana.
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 Aug. 20-24, the House met for a total of one hour and 19 minutes while the Senate met for a total of 51 minutes.
-- Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at email@example.com