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THE HOUSE AND SENATE. Beacon Hill Roll Call records local representatives’ votes on one roll call and local senators’ votes on three roll calls from the week of July 2-6.

$26.8 billion fiscal 2008 state budget (H 4141)

House 154-0, Senate 35-0, approved and sent to Gov. Deval Patrick a 300-page, $26.8 billion fiscal 2008 state budget to operate the state through June 30 of next year. The budget was approved on July 2, two days after the fiscal year officially began. The final price tag is an estimated 4 percent higher than last year’s budget. The spending plan provides an increase of $238 million in local aid and relies on an estimated $600 million in reserve funds and other one-time solutions to balance it. Supporters said that the budget is a fiscally responsible one that funds necessary programs, increases local aid and offers new initiatives without raising taxes. Although the votes were unanimous in favor of the budget, some members said that it does not provide sufficient new local aid or tax cuts that would help families across the state. Patrick now has 10 days to review the budget and veto any sections with which he disagrees. The House and Senate are then allowed to vote to override or sustain his vetoes. (A “yes” vote is for the $26.8 billion budget).

Rep. Eldridge, Yes; Rep. Hargraves, Yes; Sen. Antonioni, Yes; Sen. Panagiotakos, Yes; Sen. Resor, did not vote.

Safe haven for babies (S 2177)

Senate 35-0, approved and sent to the House a bill extending indefinitely the current law allowing parents to leave their babies under the age of 7 days at a police or fire station or hospital emergency room without facing criminal prosecution. The current law expires on June 30, 2008, unless it is renewed by the Legislature. Supporters said that 46 other states have similar laws and argued that making the law permanent would continue to save lives and give young, scared mothers a choice. They argued that without this new law, unsafe abandonment or even the killing of babies would continue and noted that the law has resulted in five babies being safely abandoned at hospitals. (A “yes” vote is for the bill making the law permanent).

Sen. Antonioni, Yes; Sen. Panagiotakos, Yes; Sen. Resor, did not vote.

Cost of living adjustments for local retirees (H 4125)

Senate 35-0, approved an amendment requiring local retirement boards to make it a priority to provide annual cost of living adjustments (COLAs) to retired public employees. Supporters said that it is important for boards to focus on increased COLAs for retirees and noted that the average public pension in Massachusetts is only $20,146. They argued that many of these retirees are senior citizens who can barely make ends meet on their current pensions. A legislative committee is currently considering a proposal increasing these COLAs by raising from the first $12,000 to the first $16,000 of earnings the amount on which annual COLAs are based. (A “yes” vote is for requiring local retirement boards to make it a priority to provide annual COLAs to retired public employees).

Sen. Antonioni, Yes; Sen. Panagiotakos, Yes; Sen. Resor, did not vote.


Water at events (H 147) — The Committee on Consumer Protection held a hearing on legislation requiring entertainment venues to sell clean water at a fair price if the venue prohibits outside food and beverages. Private citizen Maura McCarthy Sardella of Billerica sponsored the proposal.

Strike references to mental retardation (H 1899) — The Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities held a hearing on legislation that would strike out the words “mental retardation” each time they appear in the state’s law books and replace them with the words “developmental disabilities.”

Inspect automatic doors (H 262) — A bill before the Committee on Consumer Protection would require local inspectors to annually perform inspections and safety tests on all power-operated doors in their city or town. These doors are the ones that open automatically at thousands of locations including airports, hospitals, restaurants and retail stores.

Deduct school fees from income tax (S 1696) — The Revenue Committee held a hearing on a measure allowing taxpayers to annually deduct from their taxable income all fees paid to a city or town for their children’s transportation to or from a public school and participation in sports, academic or other student activities.

Require packages to open easily (H 266) — The Committee on Consumer Protection is considering a measure requiring all packaged goods to be packaged in a manner so that they can be manually opened by the use of perforations, tabs or other means. Translation: Stores would not be allowed to sell DVDs, DVD players, headphones and hundreds of other products if they are packaged in those plastic containers that are welded shut and do not open easily like a clamshell. Supporters say that these packages are annoying, difficult and dangerous to open. Opponents say that the packaging is designed to make it difficult for thieves to remove it in the store and steal the item.

Jail for parents of absent students (h 416) — A controversial measure heard by the Education Committee would allow the imposition of up to a 30-day jail sentence and/or $1000 fine on a parent whose child is absent from school for more than seven days during a six-month period. The proposal allows a court to order the sentence to be served only during evenings, weekends and holidays. Current law holds parents responsible but imposes only up to a $20 fine without a jail sentence.

Notify all parents of incidents (H 570) — The Education Committee is considering legislation requiring schools to notify the parents of all students when certain incidents occur on school grounds, on the way to and from school-sponsored events or at school events. The measure applies to incidents “that would be chargeable as a felony if committed by an adult or subject to treatment as a youthful offender if committed by a juvenile.”

Prohibit communities from banning motorcycles (H 3424) — A bill before the Transportation Committee would prohibit cities and towns from banning the use of motorcycles on any public way.

HOW LONG WAS LAST WEEK’S SESSION? During the week of July 2-6, the House met for a total of five hours and 38 minutes while the Senate met for a total of three hours and 55 minutes.

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