House Rejects ‘talk Therapy’ in Sexual Orientation Bill
By Bob Katzen
Beacon Hill Roll Call
Beacon Hill Roll Call records local senators and representatives’ votes on roll calls from recent sessions. There were no roll calls in the House or Senate last week.
* Allow talk therapy to attempt to convert sexual orientation (H 4664) -- House 34-116, rejected an amendment to a bill prohibiting psychiatrists, psychologists and other health care providers from attempting to change the sexual orientation or gender identity of anyone under 18. Conversion therapy uses shock therapy and exposes the person to a stimulus while simultaneously subjecting him or her to a shock or some form of discomfort.
The amendment would still ban shock therapy but would also allow the provider to “utilize speech alone to assist patient in achieving his or her desired sexual orientation or gender identity.”
“I agree that aversive therapy should be eliminated,” said Rep. Jim Lyons (R-Andover), the sponsor of the amendment. “However, the bill as presented is a direct violation of both First Amendment rights and parental rights.”
Rep. Marc Lombardo (R-Billerica) said that the U.S. Supreme Court, in a recent case ruled that “professional speech” is free speech and can’t be restricted.”
Opponents said the bill is constitutional. They argued the bill does not limit free speech but simply limits an unrecognized medical practice.
(A “Yes” vote is for the amendment allowing talk therapy. A “No” vote is against it.)
Yes: Rep. Marc Lombardo, Rep. James Lyons, Rep. Kimberly Ferguson, Rep. Sheila Harrington
No: Rep. James Arciero, Rep. Cory Atkins, Rep. Jennifer Benson, Rep. Colleen Garry, Rep. Thomas Golden, Rep. Kenneth Gordon, Rep. Stephan Hay, Rep. Natalie Higgins, Rep. Rady Mom, Rep. David Nangle, Rep. Harold Naughton, Rep. Jonathan Zlotnik.
* Early education (H 4665) -- House 151-0, approved and sent to the Senate a bill designed to improve early childhood education. The legislation would establish an early childhood mental health consultation grant program to provide consultation services to meet the behavioral health needs of children in early education and care programs. It also creates a scholarship program for early childhood educators to cover the cost of their education including tuition and fees. These programs have been temporarily created annually as part of the state budget for several years, but the bill would make the programs permanent.
The proposal also requires the Department of Early Education and Care to review the subsidized rate structure on a regular basis to ensure it is adequate to deliver high-quality early education.
(A “Yes” vote is for the bill.)
Yes: Arciero, Atkins, Benson, Ferguson, Garry, Golden, Gordon, Harrington, Hay, Higgins, Lombardo, Lyons, Mom, Nangle, Naughton, Zlotnik.
* Ban toxic flame retardants (S 2555) -- Senate 37-0, approved and sent to the House a bill that would ban ten toxic flame retardants from children’s products, bedding, carpeting and residential upholstered furniture sold or manufactured in Massachusetts, except for inventory already manufactured prior to January 1, 2019. Another provision requires the Department of Environmental Protection to review, at least every three years, chemical flame retardants used in these products and include them on the list of prohibited chemical flame retardants that are documented to pose a health risk.
Vehicles, watercraft and aircraft are exempt from this law as are any previously owned product that contains a retardant. Violators would be fined up to $1,000 for a first offense and up to $5,000 for subsequent offenses.
Supporters explained that since 1975, manufacturers have added chemical flame retardants to a wide array of household items including products with polyurethane foam, such as sofas, car seats, strollers and nap mats. They are also incorporated into electronic products and building insulation.
They argued that the retardants, while well-intentioned, do more harm than good and have been linked to an increased risk of cancer, fertility problems, neurological disorders and other major health concerns.
(A “Yes” vote is for the bill.)
Yes: Sen. Michael Barrett, Sen. James Eldridge, Sen. Cindy Friedman, Sen. Anne Gobi, Sen. Barbara L’Italien, Sen. Bruce Tarr, Sen. Dean Tran
* Road safety (S 2570)
Senate 37-0, approved and sent to the House a bill designed to make roads safer and decrease the number of fatalities. The proposal requires bicyclists at night to use both a red rear light and a red rear reflector. Current law requires only a red light or a red reflector. Current law and the new law both require a white light in the front.
The bill classifies several groups, including pedestrians, utility workers, first responders and cyclists, as “vulnerable road users.”
The measure requires the operator of a motor vehicle that is passing a vulnerable user to maintain a distance of at least three feet when traveling at 30 miles per hour or less and an additional foot of space for every ten miles per hour above 30 miles per hour. Current law only requires motor vehicle operators to pass at “a safe distance and at a reasonable and proper speed.”
Another provision requires a vehicle that is overtaking a vulnerable user or other vehicle to use all or part of an adjacent lane, crossing the centerline if necessary, when it cannot pass at a safe distance in the same lane and only when it is safe to do so.
The legislation also requires certain large vehicles or trailers that are purchased or leased by the state after January 1, 2019 to be equipped with lateral protective devices, convex mirrors and cross-over mirrors.
(A “Yes” vote is for the bill.)
Yes: Barrett, Eldridge, Friedman, Gobi, L’Italien, Tarr, Tran
Also up on Beacon Hill
Governor signs “red flag” gun bill (H 4670) - Gov. Charlie Baker signed into law the bill that allows family or household members to petition the courts to issue an extreme risk protection order (ERPO) that would suspend a person’s license to carry a firearm and order him or her to surrender his or her firearms and ammunition if he or she is believed to be a danger to themselves or others.
“Massachusetts continues to lead the nation with the lowest gun fatality rates and the most sensible gun laws,” said Rep. Marjorie Decker (D-Cambridge), the sponsor of the bill. “This is yet one more step in ensuring that people have an additional avenue to help protect themselves and their family members when harm is apparent and imminent.”
“Disappointingly, this bill did not address the issue of mental health,” said Rep. Shaunna O’Connell (R-Taunton). “This overly vague bill not only strips people of their civil rights, but it gives the public a false sense of security. More worrisome is that this legislation grants more authority to judges at a time we are learning there needs to be accountability for judges and their sentencing. We need to protect the public while protecting our rights as an individual.”
Decal for drivers on learner’s permit (H 2761) - The House approved and sent to the Senate a bill that would require two copies of a highly-reflective decal or other symbol to be clearly visible to law enforcement officers on the window of any vehicle being operated by a driver with a learner’s permit or a junior operator’s license. The size, fee and other details would be determined by the Registry of Motor Vehicles. A violation of the requirement would result in a fine of up to $50.
Some opponents say the bill is a solution in search of a problem that doesn’t exist. They note that families with more than one car would have to get two decals for each car and note that if a permanent decal is used, experienced drivers would often be driving the car with the decal and be mistaken for a novice behind the wheel. They argue that some motorists might pass student drivers illegally on a double yellow line to avoid being stuck behind someone learning to drive.
Equal pay - The new law to strengthen the Bay State’s pay equity law by closing the wage gap between men and women doing the same job went into effect at the beginning of July. The new law, approved by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Baker almost two years ago in August 2016, requires that women be paid equal pay for comparable work unless the variation is based upon mitigating factors including seniority, a system that measures earnings by quantity or quality of production, sales or revenue and education, training or experience.
The new law establishes pay transparency, prohibits screening of prospective employees based on salary history, requires fairness in hiring practices and increases fines for violations. Other provisions prohibit employers from reducing salaries in order to comply with the new law and from preventing employees from talking about their salaries.
Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at email@example.com