Mostly victories in Mass. Legislature's end-of-session frenzy to push through bills before Aug 1 deadline
Certainly not as bad as it could have been
POSTED: Aug 4, 2010
Midnight Saturday night, July 31, marked the end of the formal sessions of the 2009-2010 session of the Massachusetts Legislature. And as we reported in our last email, there was a huge scramble to push through legislation that had been bottlenecked or otherwise delayed. Much that had been due to the incompetence of the current leadership to manage the legislative process -- as well as our legislators' urge to control way too many aspects of our lives!
A lot of really bad bills were on the line, being pushed by one special interest or another. When the smoke finally cleared, here's how the major ones fared:
Bad bills that were still in contention that luckily didn't make it:
- Transgender bill. Despite the fact that over half the Legislature were co-sponsors -- supposedly guaranteeing passage -- and that it was the declared number-one priority of the homosexual lobby, the Transgender Rights and Hate Crimes bill (H1728) never made it out of committee. We chalk that up to the full court press by MassResistance and other pro-family groups exposing the horrors of this extremely radical legislation. In particular, hats off to Amy Contrada for her foresight in spotting it early on, and her 125-page detailed analysis of this extensive bill, which gave us the tools to confront it, describe it, and stop it.
- Other bad "culture war" bills: Three other bills that failed in the final days are bills to legalize physician assisted suicide (H1468), remove parental consent on abortions for minors (H1746) and repeal the sodomy ban and other morality laws (H3536 and S1656). These were still alive in the Judiciary Committee, but MassResistance was on top of them right up to the end!
- Expanded gambling. This actually passed the Legislature (and we'll be publishing the roll call vote). But the Governor in effect vetoed it because of a disagreement regarding slot machines, which caused a stalemate of sorts. There was intense pro-gambling pressure from unions, both Boston newspapers, and some "conservative" morning talk show hosts. And the Legislature bought into the empty promise that bringing in gambling casinos is the answer to our budget problems. That's because it's easier than attracting real business, industry, jobs (which are now fleeing the state) by making Massachusetts more business-friendly instead of welfare-state friendly.
- Pandemic bill. Early last year the Senate passed an unbelievable bill that would give the State broad powers to declare an "emergency" and then enter and search homes, take property, detain people without warrants, require vaccinations, and much more. MassResistance wrote a full report on it, and with the help of others it became a national media outrage. Last October, the House passed a less aggressive version, and it went to a conference committee to sort out the differences. But we kept up the pressure, and the conference committee never released it. So it finally has died.
Bills that passed -- rushed through in the final hours of session:
- CORI Reform. This bill was lobbied hard by convicted criminals and their families and was opposed by businesses. It limits employers' access to much of the criminal records of prospective employees, and makes it illegal for employers to ask about criminal offenses on employment applications! It also seals criminal records sooner than currently. This also raises the penalty to $5,000 for revealing to an employer an applicant's criminal past. And at the last minute they also slipped in an unrelated section giving police the right to consider people carrying guns -- even done so legally -- as dangerous people and hold them. This has been severely criticized by Second Amendment advocates, and praised by liberals.
- Health insurance mandate to cover autism services. Massachusetts already has the most expensive health insurance premiums in America, mostly because of government-imposed mandates. And it's about to get more expensive. As State House News described, "Insurers will be required to cover autism services and will be prohibited from implementing coverage limits that are less than those for physical conditions, under legislation Gov. Deval Patrick signed into law Tuesday. The law would also prohibit limits on the number of visits a person may make to an autism services provider." It's estimated this will add at least $340 million per year to the cost of health insurance in Massachusetts.
For most purposes, the legislative session is done. It's about time. Formal sessions could theoretically be called up again before December 31, but that's very unlikely. Let's hope all the damage is done, at least until next year.