By Bob Katzen

THE HOUSE AND SENATE. Beacon Hill Roll Call records the votes of local representatives on two roll calls and the votes of local senators on one roll call from the week of June 7-11.

ALL-TERRAIN VEHICLES (H 4744). The House approved, 143-11, a bill that would prohibit youngsters under 14 from operating off-road recreation vehicles, including all-terrain vehicles (ATVs), dirt bikes and snowmobiles. The measure would allow anyone between 14 and 16 to operate only smaller ATVs and require them to be supervised by someone over 18.

Other provisions include requiring that drivers 18 and younger complete a rider-safety program before operating an ATV; requiring the parents of an operator under 16 to complete at least one session of the safety program and imposing strict penalties upon those who ride ATVs recklessly or negligently or while under the influence of an intoxicating substance.

Supporters said that since 1980, thousands of children across the nation have died in ATV accidents and hundreds of thousands have been seriously injured. They argued that children under 14 do not have the physical or mental capacity or skill to drive these dangerous vehicles. They noted that these new restrictions will save lives and prevent serious injuries.

Some opponents said the bill goes too far and is another example of the government intruding unnecessarily into people’s lives. Others said that this was feel-good legislation that would be difficult to enforce and argued that more education about the dangers of ATVs would be more effective.

The Senate has approved a different version of this proposal. The House version now goes to the Senate for consideration.

(A “Yes” vote is for the new rules and regulations. A “No” vote is against them.)


YES: Rep. Jennifer Benson, Rep. Robert Hargraves

NO LIABILITY FOR LANDOWNERS (H 4744). The House rejected, 108-45, an amendment that would protect property owners from liability if the driver of an ATV is injured on the owner’s property. These landowners include individuals as well as the state, cities and towns. The liability protection only applies to owners who are not at fault because of their own reckless conduct.

Supporters said current law is vague and offers this liability protection to property owners who allow their land to be used for many purposes including recreational, conservation, scientific, educational, environmental, religious and charitable. They argued that it is unclear whether ATV driving is included and noted that the amendment would specifically include it. They noted that property owners would be more inclined to open their land for ATV use if they will not be liable for injuries.

Some amendment opponents said that current law already covers ATV driving and that the amendment is unnecessary. Others said the amendment might be too protective of landowners at the expense of ATV drivers.

(A “Yes” vote is for protecting property owners from liability. A “No” vote is against the protection.)


YES: Benson and Hargraves

UPHOLD RULING OF SENATE PRESIDENT ON ROTC ISSUE. The Senate upheld, 31-5, the ruling of Senate President Therese Murray that an amendment to a bill that would make it a specific crime to assault health-care workers is out of order because it goes beyond the scope of the bill. The amendment would exempt high-school instructors of the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) from being required to pay union dues.

The amendment was filed in reaction to an incident involving retired Marine Maj. Stephen Godin, an ROTC instructor at North High School in Worcester. The Education Association of Worcester has ordered Godin to start paying close to $500 in annual union dues or be fired from his job. Godin has refused to pay the dues. He says that his salary and health insurance are paid by the military and that he gets no union benefits.

Supporters of Murray’s ruling said the amendment has nothing to do with the health-care worker assault legislation. Some acknowledged they support the amendment but argued that it should be filed as separate legislation that would go through the entire legislative process including the public- hearing process.

Opponents said that both the bill and the amendment are about workers and argued that the amendment should be allowed on the floor. They said Godin has taught at the school for 14 years without ever being asked to pay union dues and should not be forced to do so now.

(A “Yes” vote supports Murray’s ruling that the amendment should not be allowed on the floor for debate. A “No” vote is against Murray’s ruling and favors debate on the amendment.)


YES: Sen. James Eldridge

DIDN’T VOTE: Sen. Jennifer Flanagan and Sen. Steve Panagiotakos.

HOW LONG WAS LAST WEEK’S SESSION? During the week of June 7-11, the House met for a total of five hours and five minutes while the Senate met for a total of three hours and 19 minutes.

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