By Bob Katzen

THE HOUSE AND SENATE. Beacon Hill Roll Call records local senators' votes on three roll calls from the week of March 17-21. There were no roll calls in the House last week.

HELP MILITARY FAMILIES (S 2052)

Senate 39-0, approved a conference committee version of the VALOR II Act, a bill that would expand financial and education benefits and many other services for veterans, active-duty military personnel and their families. Provisions include increasing penalties for disturbances of military funerals; allowing college students who are called to active duty the option to complete their courses at a later date or withdraw and receive a refund of all tuition and fees; and allowing private-sector employers to give preference to veterans and spouses of 100 percent disabled veterans.

Supporters noted that one in three homeless people in the nation are veterans, and that one in five Massachusetts veterans suffer post-traumatic stress and 11 percent suffer traumatic brain injuries. They said the state should provide these additional benefits and opportunities to the thousands of Bay State veterans who have served and are still serving our nation.

The proposal now goes to the House for action.

(A "Yes" vote is for the bill.)

Sen. Eileen Donoghue, Yes; Sen. James Eldridge, Yes; Sen. Jennifer Flanagan, Yes.

FEMALE INMATES (S 2063)

Senate 39-0, approved and sent to the House a bill that would prohibit the shackling of a female prisoner during pregnancy, labor and delivery except to prevent her from escaping or seriously injuring herself or others. It would also establish minimum standards for the treatment and medical care of pregnant prisoners to promote safe and healthy pregnancy outcomes, including adequate nutrition and prenatal care.

Supporters said it is outrageous that shackling a female prisoner during birth is still legal in the year 2014. They argued it is long past time to approve this prohibition.

(A "Yes" vote is for the bill.)

Sen. Eileen Donoghue, Yes; Sen. James Eldridge, Yes; Sen. Jennifer Flanagan, Yes.

ANTI-BULLYING (S 2055)

Senate 37-1, approved a bill adding some provisions to the state's 2010 anti-bullying law that requires all public and private schools to develop and implement a plan to prevent bullying and to discipline bullies. The bill requires that each plan recognize that some students may be more vulnerable to become targets of bullying based on "race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, sex, socioeconomic status, homelessness, academic status, gender identity or expression, physical appearance, pregnant or parenting status, sexual orientation, or mental, physical, developmental or sensory disability." The measure also requires schools to annually report bullying data to the state. The House and Senate have approved different versions of the proposal. The Senate version now goes to the House for consideration.

Supporters said these changes will enhance the law and save countless children from a lifetime of physical and emotional scars and worse.

The lone opponent said he agrees that bullying must be stopped but said the bill is another unfunded state mandate that stretches administrative staff with additional unnecessary paperwork.

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

Sen. Eileen Donoghue, Yes; Sen. James Eldridge, Yes; Sen. Jennifer Flanagan, Yes.

ALSO ON BEACON HILL

$177 MILLION FOR MILITARY INSTALLATIONS (H 3930): Gov. Deval Patrick signed into law a bill that would provide $177 million to make improvements at and expand the state's six military installations.

Supporters say these military installations account for a total economic impact of $14.2 billion and support more than 46,500 Massachusetts jobs. They argue defense and homeland security federal contracts collectively generate more than 130,000 jobs.

Opponents question whether state dollars should be used for a national purpose. They argue the money would be better spent on state problems like unemployment, education, health care and clean energy, some of which will help create jobs. 

POSTPARTUM DEPRESSION (H 3897): The Public Health Committee gave a favorable report to legislation that would make all MassHealth subscribers eligible for benefits that cover screening for post-partum depression for up to one year after the birth. Postpartum depression is a serious condition that can affect women following childbirth. MassHealth is the state's Medicaid program that provides health care for qualified low-income and disabled persons.

WAIVER FOR LANDLORDS (S 1954): The Committee on Public Health heard testimony on legislation that would grant local boards of health or the state Department of Public Health the power to grant a waiver relieving landlords of their obligation to provide heat during unseasonably warm outdoor temperatures. Under current law, landlords are required to provide heat between September 15 and June 15.

Supporters noted this common sense measure would allow landlords to turn off the heat and provide air-conditioning during those frequent hot May and June days. They noted that under current law, landlords' hands are tied and they are prohibited from providing air-conditioning until June 15.

TRANSGENDER PROTECTION (H 3625): The House approved and sent to the Senate a bill that would add gender identity as a group protected from discrimination in the Boston housing market. Current law prohibits discrimination in several areas, including race, color, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, religion, handicap, source of income and military status.

Supporters said it is long past the time to give transgenders equal housing protections and ensure sellers and landlords do not discriminate against them.

PET EVACUATION (S 1172): The Senate approved and sent to the governor legislation that would require cities' and towns' emergency evacuation plans during a disaster to include household pets and service animals.

Supporters say that owners are often faced with the choice of evacuating and abandoning their pets or remaining in the home and putting themselves and first-responders in danger. They note that pets left behind often meet a tragic death.

Although there was no real debate on the bill, some animal advocates question why there is no provision for the evacuation of animals that are being bred for sale and technically are not household pets.

TWO TEACHERS ON BOARD OF EDUCATION (S 226): The Education Committee has recommended passage of a bill that would put two current teachers on the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. The two members would be chosen by the governor from a list of three candidates recommended by the Massachusetts Teachers Association and three by the American Federation of Teachers.

Supporters said the two teachers would be able to provide firsthand experience and information on the challenges facing teachers today.

ALLOW LOTTERY GAMES ONLINE (S 101): The Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure recommended that a bill allowing the Lottery Commission to begin the institution of online games be shipped off to a study committee. Most measures that are shipped off to a study committee are never actually studied and are essentially defeated.

Supporters of the bill say the Lottery Commission would like to begin to experiment with online games and needs a change in the law to do so. Some supporters argue that online games will generate more revenue that the state could use.

Opponents of the bill include convenience store owners who depend on lottery sales for revenue and to bring in customers for other purchases.