THE HOUSE AND SENATE: Beacon Hill Roll Call records local senators’ votes from the week of Jan. 15-19. There were no roll calls in the House last week.
BAN DECLAWING OF CATS (S 2552) – Senate 39-0, approved and sent to the House a bill that would prohibit surgeries that declaw cats, tendonectomies and similar procedures except in cases of medical necessity in which a veterinarian determines that the surgery would address a condition that jeopardizes the cat’s health. Declawing a cat means amputating the first bone on each toe and tendonectomies involve cutting a tendon in each toe that controls the extension of claws.
The penalty for violating this ban is $1,000 for the first offense, $1,500 for a second offense and $2,500 for a third or subsequent offense. In addition, veterinarians who perform a declawing without it being medically necessary may be subject to disciplinary action by their licensure board.
Many cat owners often declaw their pets to prevent scratches or damage to household items like rugs or furniture. However, veterinarians and the Humane Society of the U.S. have said that cats who have had their claws removed are more likely to experience paw pain, back pain, infection and the inability to use their legs properly.
“Declawing is an abhorrent practice that most veterinarians view as inhumane, but it is also a procedure that is widely misunderstood and requested by owners,” said sponsor Sen. Mark Montigny (D-New Bedford). “By passing this legislation, veterinarians will no longer have to weigh the choice knowing that if they don’t provide the procedure the owner is likely to just look for someone who will.”
“This is another step in my commitment to protect animals in the commonwealth,” continued Montigny. “As a state we have done far too little to punish heartless abusers and to push back against a weak court system that has too often failed to hold them accountable. There are too many people who have committed horrendous abuses to animals that have been unpunished and are walking free to continue to do harm.”
“We thank the Senate for advancing this bill and again demonstrating their commitment to animal protection,” said Kara Holmquist, Director of Advocacy for the MSPCA-Angell. “Our animal hospital, Angell Animal Medical Center, has not performed declawing surgery for decades because it is not in the interest of the animal, often involves painful complications and can create lifelong behavior problems. We are grateful that this unnecessary amputation will be prohibited in the state.”
REPEAL ARCHAIC LAWS (S 2979) – Senate 39-0, approved and sent to the House a measure that would repeal several archaic laws, still on the books in Massachusetts, which many people no longer see as criminal and/or may be unconstitutional.
The bill would repeal archaic laws that intrude on an individual’s privacy regarding sexual activity by removing the statute that criminalizes sodomy, removing language that criminalizes “unnatural” acts and removing language pertaining to “common nightwalkers.” It would also establish a permanent law revision commission and leaves in place statutes prohibiting prostitution and statutes prohibiting sex with animals.
“This bill sends a message that Massachusetts is a place that cares about the freedom of individuals,” said Senate sponsor Sen. Will Brownsberger (D-Belmont). “I look forward to working with my House colleagues to get this on the governor’s desk.”
“Repealing homophobic and transphobic language in state law helps to build a safer and more inclusive commonwealth,” said Sen. Julian Cyr (D-Truro). “In Massachusetts, we take pride in being a welcoming state, and our laws must reflect our values. The archaic and discriminatory language found in … the General Laws dates back to 1887 and historically was deployed to criminalize LGBTQ+ people. By removing harmful, homophobic and transphobic language from our statutes, we ensure the letter of the law promotes equity and justice for all.”
“I filed this legislation with Rep. Lindsay Sabadosa to modernize the commonwealth’s statutes to better codify the social progress that has been made and have our laws reflect our values,” said Rep. Jay Livingstone (D-Boston) who along with Sabadosa filed an earlier version of the bill in the House. “The law revision commission is particularly important to ensure that Massachusetts statutes do not have discriminatory laws that infringe on … civil liberties. Given the current political climate around the country, we can no longer assume that some archaic laws are not enforceable.”
Also up on Beacon Hill
REAL ESTATE APPRAISERS (S 2550) – The Senate approved and sent to the House legislation that would require that all real estate appraisals in the Bay State be conducted by certified or licensed appraisers who are subject to regulatory oversight.
Supporters said that under current law, anyone — without having to meet any standards of education or experience—can perform valuations for proceedings including estate settlements, divorces, business dissolutions and litigation. An unlicensed and uncertified person may prepare unsupportable valuations that expose consumers to considerable risk, and they are not subject to any regulatory oversight or accountability.
“People are surprised to learn that under current Massachusetts law, anyone can conduct a real estate appraisal, even if they don’t have the appropriate education and experience,” said sponsor Sen. Cindy Creem (D-Newton). “By mandating that real estate appraisals be conducted by certified and licensed professionals, we are protecting Massachusetts consumers from sham or inaccurate appraisals that can have serious financial consequences.”
PET CEMETERIES (H 4206) – The Agriculture Committee held a hearing on legislation that would require the owner of any property used or to be used for a pet cemetery to file in the Registry of Deeds a dedication restricting the property to be used only for the operation of a pet cemetery.
Supporters said the bill would preserve existing pet cemeteries by preventing the construction and development on the property that is or holds out to be a pet cemetery.
“Our pets hold a special place in our hearts, and the places where they are laid to rest deserve the same level of reverence and protection as any other memorial site,” said sponsor Rep. Rodney Elliott (D-Lowell). “This legislation ensures that pet cemeteries are upheld with the dignity and respect they deserve.”
ADOPT A SHELTER DOG MONTH (H 2984) – The House gave initial approval to a bill designating October as Adopt a Shelter Dog Month, to increase public awareness and encourage the adoption of shelter and rescue dogs in Massachusetts.
“Last year alone, over 22,000 pets entered Massachusetts animal shelters in need of a home,” said sponsor Rep. Bruce Ayers (D-Quincy). “By establishing October as Adopt a Shelter Dog Month annually, this bill will create greater public awareness of the need for pet adoption and will encourage people to give these dogs a forever home in a safe and loving environment.”
SIKH APPRECIATION MONTH (H 3026) – The House gave initial approval to legislation designating the month of April as Sikh Appreciation Month in recognition of the significant contributions Sikhs have made to the state and to the nation.
“Both Rep. Barber and I represent vibrant Sikh communities and seek to honor their values and contributions to our cities,” said Rep. Patricia Duffy (D-Holyoke), who sponsored the bill along with Rep. Christine Barber (D-Somerville). We … will continue to advocate for this legislation’s passage.”
“We set high goals for our first year in office. I stood here a year ago and made promises. And because we came together, and we acted with urgency, we delivered results. We met every one of our goals. Today, Massachusetts is more affordable, more competitive and more equitable than it was a year ago. And the state of our commonwealth, like the spirit of our people, is stronger than ever.” – Gov. Maura Healey from her State of the State” address last week.
“Gov. Healey also needs to address the elephant in the room, which is the immigration crisis precipitated by our open southern border, as well as the budget and housing crises that have accompanied it. Massachusetts desperately needs our governor to confront the Biden-Harris administration for failing to secure our southern border.” – Paul Craney, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance.
“No we’re not going to raise taxes, we just lowered taxes. We’re not schizophrenic. We’ve chosen the course of action and we think the competitiveness that the tax cut gets us is an important fact.” – House Speaker Ron Mariano when asked if he would consider tax hikes to pay for some of the proposals in Gov. Healy’s “State of the State” address.
“It’s in the bag. Plastic bag bans work to reduce waste and pollution.” – Janet Domenitz of MASSPIRG on its new report, which estimates that, on average, plastic bag bans similar to those studied can eliminate almost 300 single-use plastic bags per person, per year.
HOW LONG WAS LAST WEEK’S SESSION?
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 Jan. 15-19, the House met for a total of three hours and 29 minutes and the Senate met for a total of six hours and 21 minutes.
Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at [email protected]. Bob founded Beacon Hill Roll Call in 1975 and was inducted into the New England Newspaper and Press Association (NENPA) Hall of Fame in 2019.