In what may be the ultimate inside story on Beacon Hill, new details are starting to emerge on why the Senate dispensed with a final roll call vote on sports betting legislation last week.
Sen. Eric Lesser of Longmeadow launched the debate on sports betting and, per standard Senate practice, asked for a call of the yeas and nays when it came time to take a final vote on the legislation. But then, as the debate came to an end, he reversed course and withdrew his motion. A voice vote was taken instead, so no senator’s position on the overall legislation was recorded.
Lesser and Senate President Karen Spilka said there was general consensus in the Senate on the bill so the decision was made to dispense with a roll call vote. “We didn’t feel it was necessary,” Lesser said of a roll call. “At that point, people felt comfortable with where the bill was. There really wasn’t any opposition.” Spilka adopted a similar position and declined to say where she stood on the bill.
Several senators contacted by CommonWealth said they had no information on the change in course and didn’t really care.
One senator, however, had a bit more information. The senator, who asked not to be identified, said there was no explanation for the decision to skip a call of the yeas and nays. “It was sort of an organic last-minute thing,” the senator said.
The senator said it was his understanding that only three senators — one of them being Sen. Barry Finegold of Andover — opposed the legislation. The senator said one of the three went to Spilka and asked her to not hold a roll call vote.
Finegold declined to comment on the roll call issue or to say where he stood on the bill.
“I really don’t have a comment. At the end of the day, there will be a vote on the final bill and we’ll see how people vote on that,” he said.
Finegold opposed casino gambling as a state senator in 2011 and a candidate for treasurer in 2014. He also was one of four senators on the Senate Ways and Means Committee to reserve his rights (meaning he took no position) on sports betting when the bill moved through that committee this year. The other three were Sens. Patricia Jehlen of Somerville, John Keenan of Quincy, and Ryan Fattman of Sutton.
A spokesman for Spilka also declined to provide any additional details. “The Senate president is pleased the Senate adopted a strong bill last Thursday that confronts the issue of problem gambling head on and that provides robust consumer protections. A consensus of the members approved of advancing the legislation via a voice vote, and so that is why the Senate adopted the legislation through that action,” the spokesman said in a statement.
The Senate and House are now trying to find common ground on their two bills, which differ in several key respects. The House bill, for example, would allow betting on college sports, while the Senate version does not. The Senate envisions a higher tax rate and additional consumer protections, like a ban on betting with credit cards. The Senate bill is estimated to raise $35 million annually in revenue, while the House bill would raise an estimated $60 million.
Post-Roe preparations: The Legislature prepares for a post-Roe v Wade world, as the Senate budget plan ups funding for abortion access and security from the $500,000 proposed in the House budget to $2 million. The Department of Public Health will ultimately determine how much money will go for access (three nonprofits that provide funding to women seeking abortions are named in the legislation) and how much will go for security at abortion providers.
– The $2 million funding level represents a significant investment of state tax dollars and is an indication that abortion services may be in greater demand in Massachusetts if Roe v Wade is struck down, as seems likely given the draft opinion that was leaked. The three nonprofits named in the legislation have a combined budget of $505,000, according to their latest tax returns.
– Kate Glynn, the co-chair of the board of the Abortion Rights Fund of Western Massachusetts, said she doubted there would be pushback if state funds were used to finance abortions for people from out of state. “People understand that where you live or how much money you make should not dictate your right to bodily autonomy,” she said.
What’s in, what’s out: The Senate budget plan closes in on $50 billion. It includes major investments in early education, mental health care, and housing, but not tax relief. The Senate is leaving that for later. Read more.
Safety issues at the T: MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak confirms the Federal Transit Agency is reviewing safety issues at the transit authority, but only after the Boston Globe was leaked a copy of the agency’s letter, which said it was “extremely concerned with ongoing safety issues” at the T. Poftak brushed aside questions on why the mid-April letter wasn’t disclosed when it was received. “We weren’t really thinking about it from a public relations strategy,” he said. Read more.
– The T has also been evasive about problems it has been having laying new track on a portion of the Blue Line. A scheduled shutdown of Blue Line service to accommodate the track work had to be extended for five days for safety reasons. Some are saying a test of the newly laid track failed. Read more.
Free school meals: Jennifer Lemmerman of Project Bread urges the Massachusetts Legislature to retain funding for free meals for all students at schools. The House provides the funding, but the proposed Senate spending plan does not. Read more.
FROM AROUND THE WEB
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The Massachusetts Department of Public Health is investigating two cases of pediatric hepatitis. (WBUR)
A federal judge in Seattle declines to order US Sen. Elizabeth Warren to retract statements she made criticizing a book that promotes misinformation about COVID. (Associated Press)
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A federal jury awards a former Springfield teacher $1 million after finding that the school district did not accommodate her medical needs and forced her out of her job. Deryl Blanks said the district placed her involuntarily in a volatile school where abuse from students exacerbated her anxiety and stress. (MassLive)
Boston announced an expansion of its Early College programs at city schools that let students earn credits toward an associate’s degree while in high schools. (Boston Globe)
The 1820s-era Elnathan Cushing House in Norwell faces possible demolition despite efforts to preserve it. (Patriot Ledger)
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The MBTA says more frequent service on the Fairmount Line is here to stay. (Dorchester Reporter)
Verizon Wireless files a federal lawsuit against the Pittsfield Board of Health, arguing the board has no power to regulate cell towers that are operating within parameters set by the Federal Communications Commission. Verizon says its Pittsfield tower, which neighbors complain is causing health problems, is well within FCC guidelines for radio frequency emissions. (Berkshire Eagle)
The Trial Court, state officials, and plaintiffs who sued to close the Roderick Ireland courthouse in Springfield reach an agreement in which the state will pay for a deep cleaning of the building; make substantial improvements to the building including remediating mold, upgrading HVAC systems, and installing air filters; and perform weekly air quality tests. (MassLive)
More trouble-causing juveniles attack shoppers in Boston’s Downtown Crossing on Monday. (Boston Herald)
Eagle-Tribune sports writer and editor Mike Muldoon of Methuen, who had a 35-year career with the newspaper and was known for his love of local sports, dies of a heart attack at 59. (Eagle-Tribune)