THE HOUSE AND SENATE. Beacon Hill Roll Call records local senators’ votes on two roll calls from the week of March 27 to 31. There were no roll calls in the House last week.

Toxic Use Reduction Act (S 2250)

Senate 38-0, approved and sent to the House a bill making changes in the Toxic Use Reduction Act (TURA) that was signed into law in 1989. TURA requires that Massachusetts companies that use large amounts of toxic chemicals submit reports to the state listing the types and quantities of the chemicals and develop plans for reducing their use. Supporters said that the bill makes several changes designed to streamline the reporting process, coordinate the state law with the federal one and update the dangers of chemicals based on current information. They noted that the bill is supported by a wide range of parties including many businesses and environmental groups and argued that the revisions would ensure the continued reduction in the release of dangerous toxins into the environment while simultaneously saving millions of dollars for businesses. (A "Yes" vote is for the bill).

— Sen. Robert Antonioni: Yes

— Sen. Steven Panagiotakos: Yes

— Sen. Pamela Resor: Yes

Restrict sale of mercury products (S 2464)

Senate 38-0, approved a bill banning the sale in Massachusetts of many products containing mercury including thermometers, thermostats, switches, barometers and new motor vehicles with mercury-added switches. A key provision prohibits any mercury-added products from being disposed of in the trash and requires manufacturers to establish a collection system for their environmentally-safe disposal. Supporters said that the bill would help remove this dangerous toxin from the state’s waste stream and vastly improve the health of the state’s citizens. They noted that mercury is a dangerous neurotoxin that enters the air and water, contaminates fish and causes birth defects in children and disease in adults. Some argued that mercury-related health problems also drive up the costs of special education and health care. The House has approved a different version of the measure and the Senate version now goes to the House for consideration. (A "Yes" vote is for the bill).

— Sen. Robert Antonioni: Yes

— Sen. Steven Panagiotakos: Yes

— Sen. Pamela Resor: Yes

Also up on Beacon Hill

Gang violence and witness intimidation (H 4626) — Gov. Mitt Romney signed into law a bill aimed at curbing gang violence. Provisions include increased penalties for witness intimidation, $1.5 million for the establishment of a statewide witness protection program and increased penalties for illegal gun possession.

College textbooks (H 1261) — The Higher Education Committee has recommended that a bill aimed at lowering the cost of textbooks purchased by students at state colleges be shipped off to a study committee. Many publishers offer students only so-called "bundled" textbooks that are shrink-wrapped with additional instructional materials including CD-ROMs and workbooks. The bill requires publishers to give students the less expensive option of buying only the textbook. Most bills that are shipped off to a study committee are never actually studied and are essentially defeated.

Rapes on college campuses (S 2460) — The Senate approved and sent to the House a bill creating a campus rape and sexual assault prevention advisory council to establish uniform guidelines for state colleges to assist rape and sexual assault victims.

Garter snake (H 3453) — The Senate approved and sent to the House legislation designating the garter snake as the state’s official reptile.

Public safety proposals — The Public Safety Committee has recommended that several bills be shipped off to a study committee — most often the equivalent of defeat of the bills. The proposals include allowing the purchase of self-defense sprays like Mace and pepper spray without a Firearm Identification Card (S 1349); protecting the privacy of a person who calls 911 to report an emergency by exempting the name, address and phone number of the caller from the state’s public records law (S 1357) and outlawing the carrying of a machete — defined as a heavy knife at least 18 inches in length and having a blade at least 1.5 inches wide (S 1384). The bill would allow possession of a machete used for the purpose of cutting vegetation only if the person registers it with the local police department and pays an annual fee.

”Thumbs up” for two election law proposals — The Elections Laws Committee recommended passage of a bill allowing candidates’ political committees to conduct raffles to raise money for the candidate (S 460). The measure limits a prize to $500, requires the listing of ticket purchasers as campaign contributors and limits a committee’s annual proceeds from a raffle to $10,000. The committee also gave the nod to a proposal allowing campaign contributions to be made through the use of a debit card (S 2340). A committee’s favorable report on a proposal is one of the first steps in the effort to get a bill approved by the Legislature and eventually signed into law.

”Thumbs down” for other election law proposals — The Elections Laws Committee recommended rejection of several bills — a move that generally leads to defeat of the measures. The proposals include requiring ballots and voting instructions to be printed in the language of any minority group that makes up five percent or more of a city or town’s population (S 464); providing a $25 tax credit to any Massachusetts resident who casts a vote in the state’s general election (S 448) and requiring that all candidates for public office be required to sign a form indicating that they subscribe or refuse to subscribe to a Massachusetts Code of Election Ethics that includes a promise that the candidate will avoid demeaning references to and personal attacks on an opponent (S 453).

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