There were no roll call votes in the House or Senate last week. This week, Beacon Hill Roll Call reports local representatives’ roll call attendance records for the 2021 session through Aug. 13, 3021.

The House has held 89 roll calls so far in 2021. Beacon Hill Roll Call tabulates the number of roll calls on 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 referred to as the roll call attendance record.

The vast majority of the 160 representatives are not in the House chamber during a session because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Sources tell Beacon Hill Roll Call that they have seen as few as 12 members in the chamber and as many as 40. The remainder are watching the session from their home or business and voting remotely.

Here’s how the remote voting system works: Eight appointed monitors are required to be present in the House chamber and are each given the task of recording the votes of approximately 20 members who are watching the session remotely from their home or business office. Each monitor has their 20 members on a conference call and fills out a form indicating how each member voted. The sheets are given to the court officers who then give them to the House Clerk who verifies that the correct totals have been recorded on the sheet and that the sheet is signed by the monitor. The assistant clerk records the yeas and nays in the roll call computer, which activates the green (voted YES) or red (voted NO) lights on the electronic roll call board.

Members participating remotely then have the opportunity to see on the broadcast how they are recorded so that they can verify that their vote is recorded accurately. The tally is then displayed on the roll call board and the presiding officer announces the totals and the result of the vote.

If a member wants to speak on an issue under consideration, they leave the conference call temporarily. Using a different telephone, they call into a line that patches them into the debate. Their voice is then heard in the House chamber and by those watching the broadcast online.

In the House, 88.7 percent (142 representatives out of 160) did not miss any roll calls and have 100 percent roll call attendance records while 11.3 percent (18 representatives out of 160) have missed one or more roll calls.

The representative who missed the most roll calls is Rep. Meghan Kilcoyne (D-Northborough) who missed 15, resulting in an 83.1 percent attendance record.

Rounding out the top six representatives who have missed the most roll calls are Reps. Patrick Kearney (D-Scituate) who missed eight roll calls (91.0 percent attendance record); Chynah Tyler (D-Roxbury) and David LeBoeuf (D-Worcester) who both missed four roll calls (95.5 percent attendance records); Ann-Margaret Ferrante (D-Gloucester) who missed three roll calls (96.6 percent roll call attendance record); and Michelle DuBois (D-Brockton) who missed two roll calls (97.7 attendance record.)

Beacon Hill Roll Call contacted these six legislators and asked each one for a comment on his or her attendance record. Only three responded: Reps. Kilcoyne, Kearney and Ferrante.

“I was forced to miss one full formal session because I sat for the Massachusetts Bar Exam at the end of July,” said Kilcoyne. “My absence is recorded in the House Journal along with the explanation for the missed votes on that one day. The journal also reflects how I would have voted had I been present on that day. Other than the one day I was forced to miss, I have a perfect voting record.”

“Every year, in my duties as an officer in U.S. Navy Reserve, I am required to serve at least two weeks per year,” said Kearney. “Any of the missed roll calls were due to connectivity issues from the satellite phone in the mid-Atlantic.”

“I have been undergoing treatment at Dana Farber,” said Ferrante.

Reps. Tyler, LeBoeuf and DuBois did not respond to repeated requests for a comment.


The percentage listed next to the representative’s name is the percentage of roll call votes on which the representative voted. The number in parentheses represents the number of roll calls that he or she missed

Rep. Fred Barrows 100 percent (0)

Rep. Shawn Dooley 100 percent (0)

Rep. Carolyn Dykema 100 percent (0)

Rep. David Linsky 100 percent (0)

Rep. Joseph McKenna 100 percent (0)

Rep. Jeffrey Roy 100 percent (0)


DECRIMINALIZE POSSESSION OF ALL DRUGS (S 1277 and H 2119) – The Committee on Mental Health, Substance Use and Recovery will hold a virtual hearing on September 27 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on legislation that would repeal all criminal penalties for unlawful possession of a controlled substance or illegal substance and replace the current criminal penalties with up to a $50 civil fine or participation in a needs screening to identify health and other service needs of the offender. These needs include ones that address any substance use disorder, mental health conditions, lack of employment, housing or food and any need for civil legal services.

For information on how to submit written testimony in advance of the hearing or to testify on the day of the hearing, go to:

“I am proud to sponsor this bill ... because the racist War on Drugs has been an abject failure,” said House sponsor Rep. Mike Connolly (D-Cambridge). “The public understands that it is long past time to replace punishment with a public health approach to issues surrounding substance use, and that’s exactly what our bill will do. I was particularly encouraged to see that the Maine House of Representatives recently voted to decriminalize possession of all drugs, and I’m hopeful we in the Massachusetts Legislature can take this important step toward harm reduction and racial justice this session.”

“[The bill] seeks to change the approach around drugs in our society with the idea that helping people with substance use disorder is more effective than punishing them,” said Senate sponsor Sen. Julian Cyr (D-Truro). “The bill also looks to address the social inequity that exists with disproportionate arrests and prosecutions for drug-related offenses in communities of color.”

“Although persons suffering from substance abuse disorder do need and ought to receive medical care, psychological treatment and social service assistance, decriminalizing drug possession will only make addictive narcotics more easily available,” said Catholic Action League of Massachusetts executive director C. J. Doyle. "This will make recovery more difficult and will have adverse impacts upon public health and public safety. In the context of controlled substances, civil enforcement means de facto legalization. Overburdened big city police departments will not be handing out $50 tickets for drug possession."

"If this proposal becomes law, it will be a major step towards the formal legalization of drugs, which will create a powerful, corporate capitalist industry whose profits will be gained from the exploitation of the vulnerable,” continued Doyle. “This is opposed to the common good, would be a catastrophe for public health and would likely harm the very people this legislation professes to help."

RESTORE BAN ON EVICTIONS AND FORECLOSURES (H 1434 and S 891) – The Housing Committee held a virtual hearing on legislation that would restore a state ban on evictions and foreclosures until June 15, 2022. The original state ban expired on October 17th, 2020. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control recently imposed a new federal eviction moratorium that will last through October 3 but only applies to counties experiencing substantial and high levels of COVID-19 transmission. It is also being challenged in court.

Other provisions of the legislation include requiring landlords to pursue and cooperate with rental assistance programs before pursuing eviction; requiring the state to simplify the application process for rent and mortgage assistance and speeding up the distribution of the funds.

“Ever since the governor allowed the eviction and foreclosure moratorium to expire on October 17th, renters and homeowners have been subject to a patchwork of temporary protections that has left many confused and many unprotected,” said Senate sponsor Sen. Pat Jehlen (D-Somerville). “This bill will ensure that rental assistance gets in the hands of tenants and landlords faster, protect homeowners from foreclosure and make sure that landlords are participating in the rental assistance process before they can evict a tenant. What we need are comprehensive solutions that will protect renters and homeowners from losing their housing as a result of this pandemic, and that’s what this bill provides.”

The Greater Boston Real Estate Board (GBREB) submitted written testimony against the bill: “The best way to keep renters housed and ensure that owners have enough to pay their property taxes ... and maintain the quality of housing for residents is through the distribution of emergency rental assistance and more investment in existing housing subsidies like Section 8.”

GBREB said the bills are in effect a state mandated waiver of rent and would prohibit a court from ordering a tenant to make full or partial payments toward rent unless the court holds a full evidentiary hearing. “Even where a tenant has the ability to pay all or even a portion of rent during the pendency of an action, or pending a jury trial, the court cannot issue an order requiring any payment until it both holds a full evidentiary hearing and finds no potential COVID-19 defense,” continued the testimony.

INCREASE SALARIES AND BENEFITS FOR HOUSE AND SENATE EMPLOYEES – Sen. Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen) and Rep. Erika Uyterhoeven (D-Somerville) last week filed a package of bills aimed at raising the salary and benefits of state employees who work in the Legislature. This does not include senators and representatives.

The bills include setting a minimum salary of $55,000 for full-time House and Senate employees, increasing other legislative workers’ salary tiers accordingly and requiring annual pay raises equal to the increase in the statewide median household income (HD 4386); giving a lump sum one-time bonus compensation equal to 6 percent of the worker’s salary from the COVID-19 emergency period of March 13, 2020 through May 23, 2021 (HD 4387); providing annual cost-of-living (COLA) adjustments to legislative staff salaries similar to the one provided to legislators (HD 4388); eliminating the waiting period for health insurance coverage to begin for legislative staff (HD 4389); and creating for each branch an independent officer who shall serve as representative regarding employment matters, including compensation, benefits, work environment, hours, position title, position duties and performance reviews and firings (H 4390).

“State workers deserve to live with a standard of dignity in the communities they work so hard to serve ... We always hear about the need for diversity, equity and inclusion, yet don’t recognize outdated policies that make it difficult for those who don’t already come from a position of privilege to get a seat at the table,” said co-sponsor DiZoglio. “Many in low-income and gateway communities can’t afford to take a job that isn’t offering basics like health care coverage on day one—especially on the heels of the pandemic.”

“Those who currently work on Beacon Hill have repeatedly expressed their concerns that every single decision regarding staff compensation, titles and benefits lies solely in the hands of the powerful speaker or Senate president and has nothing to do with their work performance, education or experience,” continued DiZoglio. “Workers have stated they are afraid to speak out about working conditions for fear of retaliation from the most powerful on Beacon Hill. Staff should not fear retaliation for simply raising concerns about inequities—but they do. Our hope is this legislation will help to change the culture on Beacon Hill to one of equity and inclusion.”

Rep. Uyterhoeven did not respond to repeated requests by Beacon Hill Roll Call for a comment on her bill.

CREATE CENTER ON CHILD WELFARE AND TRAUMA (H 238) – The Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities held a virtual hearing on a measure that would create the Center on Child Wellness and Trauma (CCWT) to focus on guiding and supporting all organizations that interact with children and their caregivers, including organizations addressing child welfare, juvenile justice, healthcare, child caregiver support and healthy childhood development, to address traumatic stress of children and youth throughout the state.

“I filed this bill because every organization that works with children likely works with children who have experienced trauma,” said sponsor Rep. Kay Khan (D-Newton). “Trauma can have a significant impact on a child’s development, with long-term consequences for physical, mental and emotional health that can last into adulthood. With the right supports, however, many who experience trauma will recover and thrive.”

“The CCWT would ensure that Massachusetts systems that interact with children are trauma-informed and are working together to provide a coordinated response to trauma by providing child-serving systems with training, technical assistance, coordination and government agencies advancement support,” continued Khan. “In doing so, efforts would be moved upstream by identifying trauma earlier, addressing it more effectively and redesigning systems to reduce trauma infliction and re-traumatization.”


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 Aug. 9-13, the House met for a total of 35 minutes while the Senate met for a total of 46 minutes.

Monday, Aug. 9

House 11:02 a.m. to 11:04 a.m.

Senate 11:11 a.m. to 11:21 a.m.

Tuesday, Aug. 10

No House session

No Senate session

Wednesday, Aug. 11

No House session

No Senate session

Thursday, Aug. 12

House 11:03 a.m. to 11:36 a.m.

Senate 11:05 a.m. to 11:41 a.m.

Friday, Aug. 13

No House session

No Senate session

Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at