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THE HOUSE AND SENATE. Beacon Hill Roll Call records local senators’ votes on three roll calls from prior legislative sessions. The roll calls are from debate on the Senate version of an estimated $28 billion fiscal 2008 budget. There were no roll call votes in the House or Senate last week.

Create council to streamline and reduce the costs of state government (S 2600)

Senate 6-33, voted mostly along party lines and rejected an amendment creating a Commonwealth Cost Containment Council to examine the operations of state government on a regular basis. Only one Democrat joined GOP senators and voted for the amendment. The 11-member council would be charged with finding ways to reduce the costs of state programs and operations and to eliminate unnecessary costs or expenditures that are duplicative, redundant or ineffective. At least one public hearing would be held annually to allow citizens to offer their ideas on how to make government more efficient. The members of the council would include the state auditor and a person appointed by him, the state treasurer, the secretary of Administration and Finance, the inspector general and six legislators. Amendment supporters said that this fiscally responsible initiative would help root waste out of state government. They argued that it is time to streamline a bloated state government and run it more efficiently. Some amendment opponents said that proponents have not put a price tag on the creation and operation of the council. Others noted that the existing Senate Committee on Ways and Means Committee is in effect a cost-containment council. (A “yes” vote is for creating a Commonwealth Cost Containment Council. A “no” vote is against creating it).

Sen. Antonioni, No; Sen. Panagiotakos, No; Sen. Resor, No.

Web site for citizens to find information on government contracts (S 2600)

Senate 10-29, voted mostly along party lines and rejected an amendment requiring the state to set up a free, easily searchable state Web site that lists all businesses and nonprofit organizations that receive grants, contracts, loans or other state funds of $25,000 or more. Four Democrats joined GOP senators and voted for the creation of the new site. Amendment supporters said that this proposal is modeled after a similar federal Web site supported by Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama. They noted that this information is currently not readily available to the public on a single Web site and argued that citizens have a right to know where their hard-earned tax dollars are going. Amendment opponents said that the amendment is well intentioned but noted that Gov. Deval Patrick’s administration has expressed concerns about making some of this classified and highly sensitive information public. Some argued that the idea has merit but needs further study to ensure that certain information is protected. The Senate defeated the same amendment in 2007, strictly along party lines, on a 5-31 roll call vote. Six Democratic senators changed their votes on the 2008 roll call. (Both roll calls are listed. The first is from 2007 and the second is from 2008. On both roll calls, a “yes” vote is for creation of the Web site. A “no” vote is against it).

Sen. Antonioni, No/No; Sen. Panagiotakos, No/No; Sen. Resor, No/No.

Change the name of Department of Mental Retardation (S 2600)

Senate 39-0, approved an amendment that would change the name of the state’s Department of Mental Retardation to the Department of Developmental Services. Amendment supporters said that it is time to remove the words “mental retardation” from the name of this department and noted that only five other states still use this offensive phrase. They argued that the words stigmatize people and said that their removal would have a positive impact on countless people’s lives. (A “yes” vote is for changing the name of the state’s Department of Mental Retardation to the Department of Developmental Services).

Sen. Antonioni, Yes; Sen. Panagiotakos, Yes; Sen. Resor, Yes.

ALSO UP ON BEACON HILL

$1 billion for life sciences (H 4554) — Gov. Patrick signed into law legislation expanding life sciences research in Massachusetts. Key provisions include $500 million for new research facilities and labs, $250 million for research grants and $250 million in tax credits to private companies involved in the life sciences industry. Supporters say the bill would make the Bay State the world leader in biotechnology, create thousands of jobs and find cures for many diseases. Following the bill signing, Patrick, Senate President Therese Murray and House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi went to San Diego to tout the new law at an international biotechnology convention.

State will no longer pay providers for serious medical errors — The Patrick administration announced that state health agencies, which collectively insure or purchase health care for an estimated 1.6 million residents, would no longer pay hospitals and other providers for the costs of “28 serious reportable events.” This means that the state will no longer pay for a long list of medical errors including surgery on the wrong body part or wrong patient; the wrong surgical procedure; retention of a foreign object following surgery; use of contaminated drugs; care ordered by or provided by someone impersonating a physician or nurse; artificial insemination by the wrong donor and discharge of an infant to the wrong family.

Want a chance at a low license plate? — Newly appointed Registrar of Motor Vehicles Rachel Kaprielian announced the start of the 2008 Low License Plate Lottery. This year’s lottery gives all Massachusetts drivers a chance to obtain 166 sought-after low-number license plates. Many prime plates are up for grabs this year including P7, R3, U7, X12 and S13. A list of all the available plates and an application to enter the lottery can be found online by going to www.mass.gov/rmv and clicking on the link “166 Prized License Plates Up for Grabs.” The deadline to submit an application is Aug. 8.

Ballot questions — Leaders of three groups spearheading campaigns to place questions on the November 2008 ballot said that they have collected the 11,099 signatures required to qualify their questions for the ballot. The Secretary of State has not yet certified that sufficient signatures have been gathered. The proposals would abolish the state’s 5.3 percent income tax, replace the criminal penalties for possession of one ounce or less of marijuana with a new system of civil penalties and ban dog racing.

QUOTABLE QUOTES

“Senator O’Leary approves landmark life sciences bill.” “Senator Hart secures landmark life sciences bill.” “Governor Patrick signs groundbreaking life sciences legislation.” — The titles of dueling press releases issued by the office of Sen. Robert O’Leary, D-Cummaquid, Sen. John Hart, D-Boston, and Gov. Patrick touting passage of the $1 billion bill designed to make Massachusetts the global leader in biotechnology.

“Another reason to come to Massachusetts. What other state has winning teams like we have?” — From a State House News Service story about Senate President Therese Murray referring to the Celtics, Red Sox and Patriots during a breakfast meeting with biotechnology executives in San Diego. Murray was in California to pitch Massachusetts following the Legislature’s approval of the Life Sciences bill that pumps $1 billion into the biotechnology field.

“Massachusetts residents have a long history of fascination with their license plates, ever since the first registration was issued in 1903. This lottery helps assure that any licensed and registered driver has a fair shot at getting a low number or eye-catching plate.” — Registrar of Motor Vehicles Rachel Kaprielian announcing the start of the 2008 Low License Plate Lottery.

“House, No. 4758, a joint petition of Thomas A. Golden Jr., Susan C. Fargo and others relative to affordable housing in the town of Chelmsford.” — According to the Legislature’s Web site, this is the only legislation that had a public hearing last week on Beacon Hill.

HOW LONG WAS LAST WEEK’S SESSION? During the week of June 16-20, the House met for three hours and 38 minutes while the Senate met for three hours and 37 minutes.

Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at bob@beaconhillrollcall.com.

Copyright © 2008 Beacon Hill Roll Call. All rights reserved.

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