Skip to content




By Bob Katzen

THE HOUSE AND SENATE. There were no roll call votes in the House or Senate during the week of December 14-18.

Beacon Hill Roll Call reports local representatives’ final roll call attendance records for the 2009 session.

The House in 2009 held 274 roll call votes. Beacon Hill Roll Call tabulates the number of roll calls for which each representative was present and voting and then calculates that number as a percentage of the total roll call votes held. That percentage is the number commonly referred to as the roll call attendance record.

Several quorum roll calls, used to gather a majority of members onto the House floor to conduct business, are also included in the 274 roll calls. On quorum roll calls, members simply vote “present” in order to indicate their presence in the chamber. When a representative does not indicate his or her presence on a quorum roll call, we count that as a roll call absence just like any other roll call absence.

Only 21 percent or 33 of the 160 House members have perfect 100 percent roll call attendance records, including 23 of the 144 Democrats and 10 of the 16 Republicans.

Some representatives may have poor attendance records because of a variety of reasons including health problems or military service. Beacon Hill Roll Call does not ask each individual representative why he or she missed roll call votes.

The five worst roll call attendance records belong to Reps. David Flynn (D-Bridgewater) who missed 88 roll calls (67.8 percent attendance record); Harold Naughton (D-Clinton) missed 48 roll calls (82.4 percent attendance record); Geraldine Creedon (D-Brockton) and Daniel Bosley (D-North Adams) missed 46 roll calls (83.2 percent attendance record); Cheryl Coakley-Rivera (D-Springfield) missed 45 roll calls (83.5 percent attendance record) and Colleen Garry (D-Dracut) and William Lantigua (D-Lawrence) missed 44 roll calls (83.9 percent attendance record). Lantigua is also the mayor-elect of Lawrence and has created controversy by stating that he will keep his job as state representative even after he is sworn in as mayor in January.


The percentage listed next to the representative’s name is the percentage of roll call votes for which the representative was present and voting. The number in parentheses represents the number of roll calls that the representative missed.

Rep. Jennifer Benson 100% (0); Rep. Robert Hargraves, 97.0 % (8).


FUNDS FOR HOMELESS SHELTERS (H 4935) – The House and Senate gave final approval to and sent to Gov. Deval Patrick a $42 million supplemental spending bill. Most of the funds are for homeless shelters across the state where beds are increasingly in demand because of the recession. The measure also includes a $100,000 payment to the family of a slain Weymouth police officer.

Supporters say that quick action is needed in order to keep more than 3,000 homeless families off the streets.

DIMASI’S SHADOW – Approval of the $42 million budget had been delayed by a group of legislators who have taken the offensive against some recent actions by House Speaker Robert DeLeo.

DeLeo held a caucus of House Democrats to “clear the air” about his recent firing of some legislators’ staffers and the controversy over $378,000 in state money that was used for the House’s legal bills in the case of indicted former Speaker Salvatore DiMasi.

A small group of legislators, led by Rep. Lida Harkins (D-Needham), delayed action on the budget as a way of focusing attention on the $378,000 payment and demanding an explanation and breakdown of the spending from DeLeo.

Critics question whether the money was used to help defend DiMasi. DeLeo insists that the money was not used to defend the former speaker but rather to assist in obtaining documents relating to the federal prosecutor’s corruption case against him. He also contends that federal prosecutor have requested that the House keep the information private for the time being.

Harkins’ backers have been pushing for an independent audit of the House’s finances in order to determine the purpose for which the $378,000 was used. DeLeo finally agreed to appoint an attorney to conduct the audit. Harkins’ group questioned the independence of someone appointed by the speaker and is now pushing for the state auditor or inspector general to make the appointment.

KAYAKS (S 974) – The House gave initial approval to a bill that would require any person aboard a kayak to wear a Coast Guard-approved personal flotation device (PFD). The measure also gives the state’s Department of Fisheries and Wildlife the power to mandate that other safety equipment be aboard. Other provisions require that kayak instructors receive certification as an instructor from the American Canoe Association or American Red Cross and also take first aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) training.

The Senate has already approved the bill. Additional approval is needed in both branches prior to the measure going to Gov. Patrick.

Supporters say that present law is too loose and does not sufficiently regulate kayaks. They note that currently Massachusetts requires that PFDs be worn on kayaks only from September 15 to May 15. Some cite the recent case of two kayakers who were lost because they had inadequate safety equipment on board.

Opponents say that the bill goes too far and gives excessive power to the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife to set all kinds of rules about kayaking. They argue that the Legislature itself should study the situation and then establish any new safety rules.

CALLAHAN CALLS FOR OPEN BALLOT FOR ATTORNEY GENERAL – Rep. Jennifer Callahan (D-Sutton) is leading the charge to require an open roll call vote if and when the House and Senate choose an interim attorney general should Martha Coakley win the U.S. Senate race in January.

The appointee would serve out the remaining 11 months of Coakley’s term and then would have to run for re-election in the 2010 election.

Under the state Constitution, a vacancy in the attorney general’s office would be filled by a “joint ballot” vote of the state’s 160 representatives and 40 senators. The Constitution does not specify whether the ballot would be a secret ballot or an open roll call vote.

Callahan says that a secret ballot would make it appear that the choice is part of a backroom deal instead of being appointed in an open and accountable manner.

Opponents of requiring a roll call vote say that the nation’s electoral system is based on a secret ballot. They note that a secret ballot for selection of an attorney general would make it easier for legislators to resist political pressure and considerations and be free to vote their consciences.


“I’m done after a second term. I need to (go back) and earn some money.” — Gov. Patrick during an interview with GateHouse Media newspaper group.

“Some of these members are now claiming to be the victims of the same heavy handed political maneuvers they were once responsible for while serving in leadership under previous speakers.” — Republican House Minority Leader Bradley Jones’ (R-North Reading) comments on some of former Speaker DiMasi insiders and lieutenants who are now backbenchers complaining about current Speaker DeLeo’s tactics.

“It’s an imperial leadership. This is an exercise to restore democracy.” — Rep. Matthew Patrick (D-Falmouth) criticizing DeLeo and advocating that the appointment of an independent auditor be made by the state auditor or inspector general rather than by DeLeo.

“Use reusable boxes, fun tote bags and/or colored pillowcases, instead of purchasing reams of expensive wrapping paper.” — A memo from the state’s Department of Environmental Protection on how to be friendly to the environment during the Christmas season.

“We’re also facing probably about a $3 billion deficit in next year’s budget.” — Speaker DeLeo projecting the fiscal 2010 budget deficit.


Beacon Hill Roll Call tracks the length of time that the House and Senate were in session each week. Many legislators say that legislative sessions are only one aspect of the Legislature’s job and that a lot of important work is done outside of the House and Senate chambers. They note that their jobs also involve committee work, research, constituent work and other matters that are important to their districts. Critics say that the Legislature does not meet regularly or long enough to debate and vote in public view on the thousands of pieces of legislation that have been filed. They note that the infrequency and brief length of sessions are misguided and lead to irresponsible late night sessions and a mad rush to act on dozens of bills in the days immediately preceding the end of an annual session.

During the week of December 14-18, the House met for a total of seven hours and 12 minutes, while the Senate met for a total of seven hours and 7 minutes.

Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at