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Beacon Hill Roll Call records local representatives’ votes on one roll call from the week of April 10 to 14. There were no roll calls in the Senate last week.

RULES FOR HOUSE BUDGET DEBATE (H 4844)

House 127-22, approved a proposed set of rules to be followed when the House considers the fiscal 2007 state budget during the week of April 24. The package allows members to propose tax hikes or tax cuts only during the first round of consideration of the budget and prohibits them from proposing that revenues from tax hikes be earmarked for specific programs. Other provisions bar members from offering amendments dealing with casino gambling, slot machines and video gaming and require members to file all proposed amendments via computer rather than paper. Supporters said that these rules would ensure that the budget is considered in an orderly and fiscally-responsible manner. They argued that the House should not consider major proposals like gambling during budget debate and noted that any gambling measure should be filed as a separate bill and go through the regular committee process including public hearings. Some opponents said that the proposed rules are restrictive and anti-democratic and would further decrease the input and power of individual members. Others argued that it is unfair to prohibit members from offering gambling amendments when amendments on any other matter are allowed. Some said they objected to the omission of a prior rule that requires any member who proposes an increase in spending in excess of $100,000 to also offer a proposal decreasing spending by an equal or greater amount. (A “Yes” vote is for the rules. A “No” vote is against the rules).

Rep. James Eldridge, Yes

Rep. Robert Hargraves, No

ALSO UP ON BEACON HILL

HEALTH CARE (H 4850) — Gov. Mitt Romney signed into law a bill making major changes in the state’s health care insurance system. The measure requires all Massachusetts residents to have health insurance coverage by July 1, 2007, or face a financial penalty. It also offers low-cost insurance based on a sliding scale to low-income individuals and families. Romney vetoed several provisions including a mandate that all businesses that have more than 10 employees and do not provide health insurance to their workers pay $295 per-employee into a state fund that provides insurance for the uninsured.

CHILD SEX ABUSE CLINICS/BAN ADULTS FROM PLAYGROUNDS (H 3867) — The Committee on Children and Families has recommended that a bill establishing eight regional medical diagnostic centers for child sexual abuse be shipped off to a study committee. The centers would provide specialized medical examinations of children who show signs of abuse and is aimed at serving children living in areas where there are no facilities that provide these services. Most measures that are shipped off to a study committee are never actually studied and are essentially defeated. The committee also recommended the same fate for a proposal banning adults from playgrounds unless they are accompanying a child. The measure would impose up to a $100 fine on violators.

BUY DRUGS IN CANADA (S 375) — The Committee on Elder Affairs has recommended sending to a study committee a bill directing Gov. Romney to request a federal waiver to allow Massachusetts to act as an agent in providing information to its residents regarding the safe purchase of prescription drugs at reduced prices from certified Canadian sources. The measure creates a state Office of Pharmaceutical Information to educate consumers and keep them informed about the advantages and any potential risks of purchasing Canadian drugs. Current federal law prohibits individuals from purchasing drugs from other nations.

KINDERGARTEN AGE (H 1040) — The Education Committee has recommended passage of legislation establishing a statewide minimum age at which children are eligible to be enrolled in kindergarten. The measure requires that a child be five years old prior to September 1 of the year in which he or she would begin kindergarten.

NOISE POLLUTION (H 3896) — The Environment Committee held a hearing on a proposal establishing a 13-member special commission to investigate and study the problem of noise pollution in the state.

FIREFIGHTERS (H 3969) — The Public Safety Committee has recommended passage of legislation prohibiting firefighting apparatus from responding to a fire alarm if there are fewer than two firefighters on board.

LONG-TERM CARE (H 2917) — The Health Care Financing Committee has recommended approval of a measure providing $150,000 for the Department of Elder Affairs to develop a program of public education designed to inform senior citizens about options for both public and private long-term care coverage. The program would be required to include information about Medicare, Medicaid, transferring of assets to qualify for state-subsidized long-term care, the state’s power to collect the costs of medical and nursing home care from the estates of state-subsidized Medicaid recipients following their death and the options for purchasing private long-term care insurance.

ID FOR LIQUOR (H 2218) — The House gave initial approval to a bill allowing establishments that sell liquor to accept an out-of-state driver’s license with a photo as a form of identification. The measure exempts from criminal liability and liquor license suspension any business or employee who “reasonably relies” on this type of ID. Current law provides this protection only if the employee or business accepts a Massachusetts driver’s license, liquor purchase identification card, U.S. military ID card or passport issued by the United States government or by a nation recognized by the United States.

Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at bob@beaconhillrollcall.com

Copyright © 2006 Beacon Hill Roll Call. All Rights Reserved.

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