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 Sept. 9-13. There were no roll calls in the House last week.


Senate 37-0, approved and sent to the House a bill that would increase the current $1,000 fine to a minimum $250,000 fine for the crime of "manslaughter by a corporation" under which a corporation could be convicted and punished for culpable conduct that leads to a person's death. The measure also allows the state to debar for up to ten years from future state business a corporation convicted of corporate manslaughter.

Supporters said this long overdue legislation would finally crack down on corporations responsible for lost lives. They noted that the $1,000 fine was established in 1819 and has not been amended since.

(A "Yes" vote is for the bill.)

Sen. Eileen Donoghue, Yes; Sen. James Eldridge, Yes; Sen. Jennifer Flanagan, Yes.


Senate 37-0, approved and sent to the House a bill that is designed to protect professionals who provide stress-management services to emergency responders in cases in which the responder has been affected by a critical incident such as line-of-duty death or death of a child. The measure prohibits any professional from being required to disclose any information he or she receives while counseling an emergency worker.


The only exceptions are if the information indicates there has been child abuse or there is an imminent danger to anyone.

Supporters said it is important that confidentiality be maintained in these situations and that emergency workers be able to talk freely without fear of a breach of confidentiality and recrimination.

(A "Yes" vote is for the bill.)

Sen. Eileen Donoghue, Yes; Sen. James Eldridge, Yes; Sen. Jennifer Flanagan, Yes.


REPEAL TECH TAX -- In a stunning reversal, Gov. Deval Patrick, Senate President Therese Murray and House Speaker Robert DeLeo have announced they will join the effort to repeal the recently approved 6.25 percent sales tax on computer system design services as well as modification of prewritten software. The support of all three essentially guarantees repeal of the tax. They have been defending the tax ever since it was approved in July. The most recent effort to repeal the tax was in April when the repeal was overwhelmingly defeated on roll call votes in the House, 54-97, and the Senate, 8-30. In recent weeks, Republican House Minority Leader Bradley Jones and GOP Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr have led a band of GOP lawmakers calling for the repeal.

HEAD INJURIES IN SPORTS (H 1928) -- The Committee on Public Health heard testimony on a bill that would require baseline concussion testing of all public and private high-school student athletes. Supporters said these test results would be compared to test results following a head injury and would help doctors and coaches determine the severity of a concussion and make an informed decision on whether the athlete should continue to play.

OTHER SCHOOL HEALTH MEASURES -- Other measures on the Public Health Committee's agenda included establishing a commission to study the public-health risks of video games (H 1892); prohibiting the Department of Public Health from collecting data on students' height, weight and body mass index (H 2024); requiring automatic external defibrillators in all public schools (S 1049); and requiring coaches of interscholastic sports to complete first-aid training courses (S 1096).

TAX SOFT DRINKS AND CANDY (H 2634) -- The Revenue Committee heard testimony on a proposal that would tax sugary soft drinks and candy, both of which are currently exempt from the state 6.25 percent sales tax. The estimated $50 million plus dollars in new tax revenue would be used to fund grants for physical-activity programs in schools. Supporters said the tax would help fight the obesity epidemic in the state and stem the rising tide of obesity-related health issues, including diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.

OTHER TAX MEASURES -- Other proposed legislation at the Revenue Committee's hearing included allowing qualified homeowners and renters to annually deduct on their tax return up to $800 of the cost of home heating oil, natural gas, propane, electricity and wood fuel (S 1362); extending to the video-gaming industry the tax credit currently offered to movie production companies (H 2511); exempting nonprofit charitable nursing homes from local property taxes (S 1412); and giving taxpayers the option to indicate on their income-tax return that they do not want their taxes to be used to pay for abortion services (H 2542). A formula would determine how much of each of those taxpayers' tax liability would be deposited in a special account separate from the state's General Fund. The account would be used to promote the state's safe havens for babies law that allows parents to leave their baby under the age of seven days at a police or fire station or hospital emergency room.

SINGLE LICENSE PLATES (S 1637) -- The Transportation Committee heard testimony at a hearing on legislation that would require passenger cars to have only one license plate that would be mounted on the rear of the vehicle. Current law requires a plate on the front and rear of the car.

Supporters say the bill would save millions of dollars by reducing by 50 percent the cost of manufacturing the plates. They note that 19 states currently require only one plate and argue studies show law enforcement has not decreased in those states. Some say front plates interfere with a car's aerodynamics and cooling system and can even reduce fuel mileage.

Opponents say the use of front and back plates is helpful to law enforcement in identifying vehicles and enforcing traffic and other laws. They noted that 31 states require the use of two plates.

OTHER TRANSPORTATION BILLS -- A Transportation Committee hearing's agenda included a bill allowing drivers to receive and put on their driver's license a special "do-not-resuscitate" decal (S 1698). Other measures would allow special decals for diabetics (S 1642) and people with autism (H 3003). The committee's list of bills also included raising the speed limit to 70 mph on roads that currently have a 65 mph limit (H 3175); exempting new motor vehicles from maintenance and emissions inspections for the first two years (H 3096); and allowing drivers to purchase "Boston Strong" license plates for an additional $50 or more (H 3503). Proceeds would benefit the One Fund that raises funds for the victims of the Boston Marathon bombings.

HOW LONG WAS LAST WEEK'S SESSION? During the week of Sept. 9-13, the House met for a total of 36 minutes while the Senate met for a total of three hours and 27 minutes.