Beacon Hill Roll Call: Jan. 29 to Feb. 2, 2024

The Senate, 37-3, approved a bill that would change some of the state’s gun laws. The House has already approved a different version of the measure and a House-Senate conference committee will hammer out a compromise version.

The Senate, 37-3, approved a bill that would change some of the state’s gun laws. The House has already approved a different version of the measure and a House-Senate conference committee will hammer out a compromise version. Staff File Photo/Paul Franz

By BOB KATZEN

Published: 02-09-2024 9:15 AM

Beacon Hill Roll Call records local senators’ votes on roll calls from the week of Jan. 29 to Feb. 2. There were no roll calls in the House.

Approve firearms bill (S 2572)

The Senate, 37-3, approved a bill that would change the state’s gun laws. The House has already approved a different version of the measure and a House-Senate conference committee will hammer out a compromise version.

Provisions in the Senate bill include cracking down on the spread of ghost guns — unserialized and untraceable firearms; codifying the state’s existing prohibition on assault weapons; making it illegal to possess devices that convert semi-automatic firearms into fully automatic machine guns; giving firearm licensing authorities access to some of a gun permit applicant’s mental health hospitalization history; prohibiting the carrying of firearms in government administrative buildings, with exceptions for law enforcement officers and municipalities that choose to opt out; allowing health care professionals to petition courts to remove firearms and licenses from patients who pose a risk to themselves or others; and creating a commission to analyze the allocation of state violence prevention funding and recommend changes to reduce gun violence in disproportionately impacted communities.

“Concern for public safety, a commitment to equity, respect for the Second Amendment, and a focus on the root causes of gun crime and gun accidents — these principles underlie each of the policies included in the bill the Senate passed today,” said Sen. Cindy Creem, D-Newton, the chief sponsor of the measure. “I’m proud of the collaborative effort that went into [the bill] and I look forward to seeing these policies signed into law by the end of [the 2024] session.”

“Today the Senate came together and acted on gun violence — rising above the divisiveness of this critical issue in the name of protecting our residents from gun crime, modernizing our laws and supporting communities who have been torn apart by unnecessary violence,” said Senate President Karen Spilka, D-Ashland. “I’m proud to lead a body that is committed to building on our commonwealth’s record as a national leader on gun safety. ”

“Despite not having a public hearing on the gun bill, which means the public didn’t have the opportunity to weigh in on it, and despite having one of the lowest gun crime rates in the country, the Massachusetts Senate voted in favor of more restrictive laws for gun owners in the commonwealth,” said Sen. Ryan Fattman, R-Sutton. “The bill went too far, infringing upon lawful gun owners’ rights while not going far enough to attack illegal firearm trafficking and unlawful possession. … I was disappointed we didn’t do more to penalize career criminals perpetrating the vast majority of gun crime in the commonwealth. We need to spend our time and effort on addressing security issues at the border that will prevent guns and substances from entering the country at rates as high as they are now.”

“I voted against this bill because I have deep concerns with a number of provisions that I feel lead us into a constitutional gray area and risk opening up our great gun laws to legal challenge in front of the Supreme Court,” said Sen. Patrick O’Connor, R-Weymouth. “In a fairly unprecedented move, this bill also did not have a public hearing, which is arguably the most important part of our legislative process.”

A “Yes” vote is for the bill.

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Sen. Joanne Comerford — Yes

Sen. Paul Mark — Yes

Send bill back to committee for a public hearing (S 2572)

The Senate, 9-31, rejected a motion to send the firearms bill to the Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security for a public hearing.

“Sending this bill to the Joint Committee on Public Safety [and Homeland Security] will allow for it to have a public hearing where industry experts and people from all walks of life can weigh in and share their perspectives,” said Sen. Patrick O’Connor, R-Weymouth. “Public hearings are one of our greatest assets as legislators, and forgoing the opportunity to hold one on this bill is a disservice to ourselves as legislators and our constituents.”

Sen. Cindy Creem, D-Newton, said that in November, the Public Safety Committee held a public hearing on 57 firearm-related bills, many of which provided the foundation of the bill under consideration.

“Given that the policies in the bill have been vetted both at the public hearing and through months of conversations with senators, gun safety advocates, gun owners’ groups, gun industry groups, police chiefs, district attorneys and health care professionals, the [bill is] ready for consideration on the Senate floor,” Creem said.

A “Yes” vote is for sending the bill back to the committee. A “No” vote is against sending it to committee.

Sen. Joanne Comerford — No

Sen. Paul Mark — Yes

Substitute new version of bill (S 2572)

The Senate, 6-33, rejected an amendment to substitute an alternative version of the firearms bill in place of the current one.

“This amendment was filed so that I could go on the record in support of commonsense gun control measures,” said sponsor Sen. Patrick O’Connor, R-Weymouth. “The provisions in this amendment maintain focus on gun violence reduction and prevention while respecting the rights afforded in the Second Amendment.”

“The proposed amendment would have removed several components of the Senate bill that will make Massachusetts a safer place, including its codification of our existing assault weapons law, its provisions ensuring that firearm licensing authorities are aware of an applicant’s history of involuntary mental health hospitalizations and its provisions empowering Massachusetts residents to hold the gun industry accountable if they are harmed due to reckless industry practices,” said Sen. Cindy Creem, D-Newton. “The Senate bill does more to prevent gun violence, gun crime and gun accidents than the amendment’s proposed alternative.”

A “No” vote is against the alternative bill.

Sen. Joanne Comerford — No

Sen. Paul Mark — No

Marketing guns to people under 18 (S 2572)

The Senate, 37-2, approved an amendment that would allow firearm companies to “design, advertise, market, import or sell at wholesale or retail a firearm industry product in a manner that recommends or encourages persons under the age of 18 to participate lawfully in hunting or shooting sports.”

Under Massachusetts law, applicants for a Firearms Identification Card (FID) must be 18 years old or older — or can be 14 to 17 years of age with parental consent. While applicants who are 14 years old may apply, a card will not be issued until they reach age 15.

“Sponsoring this amendment enables us as a Legislature to implement laws that respect the constitutional right to bear arms and instill the importance of firearm safety to our youth when they engage in lawful activities such as hunting and competitive shooting sports,” said sponsor Sen. Adam Gomez, D-Springfield. “This approach balances the interests of a variety of stakeholders and sets a precedent for responsible participation.”

“I have consistently opposed the advertising or marketing to minors of dangerous products, whether they be vaping, alcohol, marijuana, sports betting or guns,” said Sen. John Keenan, D-Quincy, who opposed the amendment.

A “Yes” vote is for the amendment.

Sen. Joanne Comerford — Yes

Sen. Paul Mark — Yes

‘Legacy’ guns (S 2572)

The Senate, 39-0, approved an amendment to clarify that certain guns legally bought prior to 2016 are “legacy” weapons, and can still be legally held, though this new Senate bill would make new purchases of such weapons illegal.

“The Senate’s intention, in codifying our existing assault weapons ban, was to enshrine the current law without changing the status of any firearms that are currently legally owned in the commonwealth,” said sponsor Sen. Cindy Creem, D-Newton. “This … amendment removes any ambiguity on that point, making absolutely clear that a firearm that is legally owned in Massachusetts today will still be legally owned when [this bill] becomes law.”

A “Yes” vote is for the amendment.

Sen. Joanne Comerford — Yes

Sen. Paul Mark — Yes

Also up on Beacon HillBan employers from asking for credit reports (H 2372)

The House gave initial approval to a proposal that would prohibit employers from obtaining the credit reports of existing or potential employees except in certain circumstances, such as hiring for a position that requires national security clearance; a position for which a person is required by federal or state law to obtain a consumer report; and some executive or managerial positions at a financial institution.

“Massachusetts has moved one step closer to ending employment credit check discrimination,” said former Rep. Josh Cutler, D-Duxbury, chair of the Committee on Workforce Development, who resigned from the House to become Gov. Maura Healey’s undersecretary of apprenticeship, work-based learning and policy in the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development. “I’m proud of the progress we’ve made toward eliminating needless barriers to employment for otherwise qualified employees and am confident my colleagues will see this bill through to the finish line.”

“Credit reports should not be a part of the hiring process,” said Chi Chi Wu, senior attorney at the National Consumer Law Center. “They don’t predict job performance, they are riddled with errors, and the scores blatantly reflect racial inequities and injustices,”

Illegal fireworks (H 3634)

The Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee held a hearing on a bill that would amend current law that imposes a fine between $10 and $100 on anyone convicted of illegal possession or use of fireworks. The bill would increase the penalty, in areas with a population density of 1,000 or more persons per square mile, to a fine of between $200 and $500 and/or a prison sentence or up to six months.

“The misuse of fireworks poses a significant threat to public safety, property and the well-being of our communities,” said sponsor Rep. Rodney Elliott, D-Lowell. “Fireworks, when used improperly, can cause devastating fires, severe injuries and significant distress to individuals, pets, etc. There have been 979 fires and explosions involving illegal fireworks in Massachusetts in the past 10 years. By escalating penalties, we enforce accountability and discourage reckless behavior that endangers lives and property. Protecting our communities and upholding the values of safety and consideration for all is key to having sustainable neighborhoods.”

Regulate rides at mobile carnivals (H 3896)

Another measure heard by the Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee would require that mobile carnival rides that use enclosed pods, cabins, compartments or other enclosed passenger areas as part of a ride have a safety restraint system that includes seat belts. Violators would be subject to up to a $1,000 fine and/or one-year prison sentence.

“The goal of this bill is to protect children and families who use these amusement park rides at fairs and carnivals,” said sponsor Rep. Jim Arciero, D-Westford.

“Several years ago, a young girl in my district was severely injured on such a ride, which resulted in temporary paralysis and months of physical therapy and recovery following her passing out on such a ride [that] did not have a restraint,” Arciero continued. “While improvements have been made in regulations regarding amusement rides over the years, I believe a simple change in state law will ensure that this dangerous and unfortunate situation is never repeated again.”

Toxic chemicals in children’s toys (S 2564)

The Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure Committee has recommended passage of a bill that would direct the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), in consultation with the Toxics Use Reduction Institute, to create and publish a list of toxic chemicals in children’s products; a list of high-priority chemicals in children’s toys and other products; and a list of safer alternative chemicals that can replace chemicals on the high-priority chemical list.

Manufacturers who make children’s consumer products that are for sale in the state would be required to report detailed information to DEP about the inclusion of toxic chemicals in their products. The information would then be made public on DEP’s website. DEP would be required every three years to report and make recommendations on additional ways to reduce exposure to toxic chemicals in children’s products. The bill would also ban PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) in children’s products, subject to rules and regulations promulgated by the department.

“We know that these forever chemicals are in our everyday products and the harm that they pose to our health, especially the health of our children,” said sponsor Sen. Cindy Friedman, D-Arlington, who said she hopes to see the legislation move to the floor for a vote soon.