By Bob Katzen
THE HOUSE AND SENATE: Beacon Hill Roll Call records the votes of local senators on two roll calls from the week of Oct. 21-25. There were no roll calls in the House last week.
MAKE MATERNITY LEAVE GENDER-NEUTRAL (S 685)
Senate 35-0, approved and sent to the House a bill that would change the state's female-only maternity leave law to a gender-neutral one. The law gives parents of a newborn or adopted child eight weeks off, with or without pay at the discretion of the employer, and the right to return to their job after that period.
Supporters said this would bring this law into the current century. They noted it is outrageous that coverage is currently reserved for women.
(A "Yes" vote is for the bill.)
Sen. Eileen Donoghue,Yes; Sen. James Eldridge, Yes; Sen. Jennifer Flanagan, Yes.
15-DAY LEAVE FOR DOMESTIC-VIOLENCE VICTIMS (S 1892)
Senate approved 35-0, and sent to the House a bill that would require employers with 50 or more employees to allow workers who are victims of domestic violence, stalking or sexual assault to take a paid or unpaid annual 15-day leave of absence to address court, housing, health and other issues arising from the incident. Another key provision would prohibit the use of an "accord and satisfaction" agreement in domestic violence cases. These agreements allow the courts to dismiss a domestic violence charge over the prosecutor's objection, if the victim acknowledges in writing that he or she has signed an out-of-court private agreement with the offender.
Supporters said it is time to ensure that victims don't have to choose between dealing with problems from their assault and losing their jobs because of excess absences. They noted that Massachusetts is the only state that still allows "accord and satisfaction" agreements and argued banning these would protect victims from being victimized again by being coerced into signing one.
(A "Yes" vote is for the bill.)
Sen. Eileen Donoghue, Yes; Sen. James Eldridge, Yes; Sen. Jennifer Flanagan, Yes.
ALSO ON BEACON HILL
POSSIBLE BAY STATE HOSTING OF 2024 OLYMPICS (S 1840) -- The House and Senate approved and sent to Gov. Deval Patrick a measure creating an 11-member commission to study the feasibility of Massachusetts hosting the Summer Olympic Games in 2024. Supporters say this is a great opportunity that should be explored because it would shine a spotlight on Massachusetts and pump hundreds of million of dollars into the economy. Opponents say this is a misguided effort that will result in a gigantic boondoggle costing taxpayers millions of dollars.
REGULATE INTERPRETERS (S 163) -- The Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure Committee held a hearing on a bill requiring all persons providing interpreting or oral transliterating services for the deaf be licensed by Massachusetts Commission for the Deaf & Hard of Hearing. Supporters say this important service is currently unregulated and argued the bill will help ensure that interpreters are qualified.
DONATE LEFTOVER FOOD (H 1504) -- A bill allowing restaurants to donate their edible leftover cooked food and nonperishable food to local food pantries and shelters was on the Judiciary Committee's agenda. The measure gives the restaurant a tax credit or deduction for the donation and also protects it from liability if a person is harmed by eating the food. Supporters say that many restaurants want to donate the food but are discouraged by the threat of possible lawsuits if a person gets sick.
PARENTS LIABLE FOR BULLYING BY THEIR CHILDREN (S 635) -- The Judiciary Committee's agenda included a bill that would make parents of a minor over 7 but under 18 years of age civilly liable for paying up to $5,000 for damages resulting from their child's bullying of someone.
ADS ON SCHOOL BUSES (H 506) -- The Education Committee is considering a proposal that would create a commission to study the feasibility of permitting private sector advertising on city and town school buses and state websites to generate revenue.
HOW LONG WAS LAST WEEK'S SESSION? During the week of Oct. 21-25, the House met for a total of five hours and 22 minutes while the Senate met for a total of three hours and 45 minutes.