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The House and Senate: Beacon Hill Roll Call records local representatives’ votes on three roll calls from the week of Jan. 30 through Feb. 3. There were no roll calls in the Senate last week.

Restrict sale of mercury products (H 4665)

House 153-0, approved and sent to the Senate a bill banning the sale in Massachusetts of many products containing mercury including thermometers, barometers and electrical switches. The measure does allow the sale of some products containing the substance if they are properly labeled to reflect mercury content. Another key provision prohibits these products from being disposed of in the trash and requires manufacturers to establish a collection system for environmentally safe disposal.

Rep. James Eldridge — yes; Rep. Robert Hargraves — yes.

Mercury switches in vehicles (H 4665)

Rep. James Eldridge — yes; Rep. Robert Hargraves — yes.

Prohibit fluorescent light bulbs in trash (H 4665)

House 125-28, approved an amendment that would ban disposal in the trash of used fluorescent light bulbs that contain mercury. The amendment also requires manufacturers to establish and fund a collection system for the environmentally safe disposal and recycling of the bulbs.

Amendment supporters said that these bulbs contain mercury and should be subject to the same disposal ban and collection requirement imposed on all products containing mercury. Amendment opponents said that the disposal ban and collection system are unnecessary because the majority of fluorescent bulbs are used by businesses that already contract with companies to pick up and recycle the used bulbs. Some noted that they would be open to a establishing a safe disposal plan for households that use fluorescent bulbs.

Rep. James Eldridge — yes; Rep. Robert Hargraves — no.

Also on Beacon Hill

Sex ed in schools (H 1641): The Education Committee held a standing-room-only hearing on legislation making health education a “core” school subject and requiring the state to develop guidelines for teaching it in grades kindergarten through 12. Local schools would not be required to follow the guidelines and would still retain their power to decide which topics would be taught in their health education classes.

Some observers say that the bill is “much ado about nothing” since the Department of Education in 1999 voluntarily established these guidelines that include sex, reproduction, nutrition, family life, physical fitness and violence prevention. They note that the bill does not affect the power of schools to include or omit specific topics from their classes.

The testimony at the hearing centered on the sex education component. Supporters of the bill said that the simple act of making health education a core subject would send a powerful message and perhaps encourage schools to follow the guidelines when developing their health education classes. They said that it is time to encourage schools to address the problems of obesity, sexually-transmitted diseases and teenage pregnancies.

Healthy snacks in state buildings (S 1754): The State Administration Committee gave a favorable report to sent to the Senate for action on a bill requiring all state buildings with vending machines to have at least one machine specializing in healthy and natural snacks with low fat content and without artificial flavors, colorings or preservatives.

Commemorate former legislators (S 1749): The State Administration Committee recommended passage of legislation creating a memorial and archive at the Statehouse to commemorate former legislators. The legislation designates an office on the first floor as a repository for mementos, records, relics and historical data relating to former state senators and representatives. The archive would be operated and maintained by the Massachusetts Legislators’ Association, a group of retired and current legislators.

Longer gym classes (S 334): The Education Committee held a hearing on a proposal requiring elementary school students to take a physical education class for at least 2.5 hours per week and middle and high school students to do so for 3.75 hours. Current law requires schools to offer gym classes but allows cities and towns to determine the amount of mandated time. Sponsors of the legislation said that childhood obesity has increased 300 percent over the last three decades and led to an increase in heart disease, diabetes and other obesity-related diseases.

Asthma and pulmonary disease (H 4568): The Education Committee accepted testimony on a bill requiring schools to screen students for asthma. The state Department of Public Health would determine how often students must be screened. A group of legislators joined together in another part of the Statehouse to urge more people to be screened for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease — the fourth leading cause of death in the United States. The disease is caused primarily by smoking but can also be caused by other pollutants. Legislators and health officials said that increased education and screening for the disease through an inexpensive $52 hand-held breath test would help detect millions of cases that are currently untreated.

Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at bob@beaconhillrollcall.com. Copyright © 2006 Beacon Hill Roll Call. All rights reserved.

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