Beacon Hill Roll Call: May 1 to May 5, 2023

By BOB KATZEN

Published: 05-15-2023 10:33 AM

There were no roll calls in the House or Senate last week. This week, Beacon Hill Roll Call reports on the percentage of times local representatives voted with their party’s leadership during the first four months of the 2023 session.

The votes of the 2023 membership of 24 Republicans were compared with those of GOP House Minority Leader Brad Jones, R-North Reading. The votes of the 2023 membership of 131 Democrats were compared to House Speaker Ron Mariano, D-Quincy. Beacon Hill Roll Call uses 25 votes from the 2023 House session as the basis for this report. This includes all roll calls that were not quorum calls or votes on local issues.

Rep. Susannah Whipps, I-Athol, is not affiliated with either the Republican or Democratic party. We based her voting record on how many times she voted with Democratic House Speaker Ron Mariano.

DEMOCRATS: A total of 125 (95.4%) of the 131 Democrats voted with Mariano 100% of the time. Only six Democratic representatives voted differently than Mariano on any roll calls.

The three representatives who voted the most times against Mariano were Reps. Erika Uyterhoeven, D-Somerville; Russell Holmes, D-Boston; and Colleen Garry, D-Dracut. All three voted against Mariano twice. There were only three other representatives who voted against Mariano: Reps. Mike Connolly, D-Cambridge; Danillo Sena, D-Acton; and Jeff Turco, D-Winthrop. Each one voted against Mariano only once.

REPUBLICANS: One hundred percent of the 24 GOP members voted with Jones 100% of the time.

Representatives’ support of their party’s leadership

The percentage next to the representatives’ name represents the percentage of times the representative supported his or her party’s leadership so far in 2023. The number in parentheses represents the number of times the representative opposed his or her party’s leadership.

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Some representatives voted on all 25 roll call votes. Others missed one or more roll calls. The percentage for each representatives is calculated based on the number of roll calls on which he or she voted.

Rep. Natalie Blais — 100% (0)

Rep. Aaron Saunders — 100% (0)

Rep. Susannah Whipps — 100% (0)

Also up on Beacon HillGrowing hemp (S 40)

The Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture heard testimony on a bill that would allow Massachusetts farmers to grow and sell hemp that is used to make products for commercial sale. Under current law, only industrial hemp (hemp used solely for industrial purposes) can be grown in Massachusetts.

If the bill passes, many allowable products would be made from hemp, including cosmetics, personal care and grooming products; animal and human products intended for consumption such as dietary supplements, foods and beverages; and products intended for other uses such as cloth, fiber, fuel, paint, paper, particleboard and plastics.

The measure allows land with hemp crops to be considered farmland for tax purposes and sets up a licensing system for hemp growers.

Sponsor Sen. Jo Comerford, D-Northampton, said she filed the bill to bring the state definition of hemp in line with the federal definition, to allow for the sale of edible CBD products from locally grown hemp in marijuana stores and to authorize the state Department of Public Health to regulate CBD in food.

“Hemp is a valuable agricultural crop, with many uses, but the commonwealth currently does not allow farmers to sell this product in ways that maximize its full potential,” Comerford said. “You can buy CBD products in the state of Massachusetts but they won’t be made with Massachusetts-grown hemp. That does not make sense. The hemp industry and hemp farmers deserve sensible policies.”

Raw or unpasteurized milk sales (S 43)

The Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture’s hearing also included legislation that would allow licensed raw milk farmers to deliver raw milk directly to the consumer. Current law allows only the on-farm sale of raw milk. The measure also allows raw milk farmers to sell raw milk from their farm stands even if the stand is not contiguous to their raw milk dairy.

The bill would also allow farmers to sell raw milk to consumers through third-party cooperative buying clubs. This would allow consumers to join together and have the milk delivered to a nearby location so each individual consumer does not have to travel miles to the few farms that sell on-site.

“Our farms and farmers struggle, and allowing the sale of raw milk off farm premises, such as at a farmers market, not only helps farmers economically but makes it easier for consumers,” said sponsor Sen. Anne Gobi, D-Spencer.

Choking on food (H 2130)

The Public Health Committee held a hearing on a proposal expanding the current law that requires restaurants with more than 25 seats to have on the premises an employee trained in manual procedures to remove food lodged in a customer’s throat.

The measure would make the requirements apply to all restaurants regardless of their seating capacity. The measure exempts take-out only restaurants and food trucks. It also eliminates the option of having a manual device on the premises for removing stuck food because critics say it has been determined that such devices are dangerous. Another provision prohibits any person who has been properly trained from being held liable for any civil damages as a result of any acts or omissions provided during the emergency assistance.

Supporters noted that Choke Save classes are given by the American Red Cross and are inexpensive. They are also often offered by municipal Departments of Health and Human Services.

“[This bill], known as the ‘Choke Save’ bill, removes the 25-person threshold to require choke response training for restaurant employees because someone can choke as easily in a smaller venue as a larger one,” said sponsor Rep. Ruth Balser, D-Newton. “This bill will save lives by ensuring that restaurant employees will be able to respond to a choking emergency immediately, rather than delaying a response until emergency personnel might arrive.”

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