By Bob Katzen
THE HOUSE AND SENATE. This week, Beacon Hill Roll Call records local senators’ votes on two roll calls from prior legislative sessions. There were no roll calls in the House or Senate last week.
DAM SAFETY (S 1895): Senate 37-0, approved and sent to the House a bill that would establish a Revolving Loan Fund, funded by the Water Pollution Abatement Trust, to provide low-interest, long-term loans to private dam owners and cities and towns to inspect, repair and remove some of the more than 3,000 dams in the Bay State.
Other provisions require the development of emergency-action plans for all hazardous dams and an inspection schedule that includes inspecting high-hazard dams every two years; and an increase in the fines imposed on dam owners who violate state safety regulations from $500 to $5,000.
Supporters said the dam repairs would be funded by about $14.5 million in Water Pollution Abatement Trust money that is not being used. They said the bill would help improve the safety of cities and towns with neglected and vulnerable dams.
(A “Yes” vote is for the bill.)
Yes: Sens. Kenneth Donnelly, Eileen Donoghue, James Eldridge, Susan Fargo, Barry Finegold, Jennifer Flanagan, Bruce Tarr .
DNA EVIDENCE (S 1987): Senate 37-0, approved and sent to the House a bill that would allow individuals who have been convicted of a crime to request access to DNA evidence for forensic testing that would grant a new trial.
Supporters said 48 other states have similar laws and it is time for Massachusetts to make it easier for wrongfully convicted individuals to prove their innocence. They argued it would also lead to law enforcement pursuing the real offenders and would save the state the cost of incarcerating innocent citizens.
(A “Yes” vote is for the bill.)
Yes: Sens. Donnelly, Eileen Donoghue, Eldridge, Fargo, Finegold, Flanagan, Tarr.
ALSO UP ON BEACON HILL
TWO-DAY SALES TAX HOLIDAY IN AUGUST (S 156): Gov. Deval Patrick signed into law a bill that will allow consumers to buy most products that cost under $2,500 without paying the state’s 6.25 percent sales tax on Saturday, Aug. 13, and Sunday, Aug. 14.
Supporters say the holiday would boost retail sales and save taxpayers an estimated $20 million.
Some opponents argue the holiday is too narrow and actually generates little additional revenue for stores because consumers would buy the products even without the tax-free days. Others said there should not be a tax holiday when funding has not yet been restored for all the local aid and other important program cuts made in recent budgets.
BAN SALE OF CIGARETTES IN PHARMACIES (S 1094): The Public Health Committee has recommended approval of a measure that would ban the sale of cigarettes in all pharmacies and gift shops in hospitals and other health care institutions.
Supporters say it is immoral for these health entities to peddle dangerous tobacco products. They noted the ban would send yet another message to smokers that they should not smoke.
Opponents argue the measure is unfair to retailers who depend on tobacco sales to generate revenue. They noted that smokers who go to a retail store often stay and buy other products.
SOME POSSIBLE 2012 BALLOT QUESTIONS CLEAR FIRST HURDLE – There are 31 possible ballot questions that were filed with Attorney General Martha Coakley’s office by the Aug. 3 deadline. These measures include proposed laws giving new and used car buyers three days to cancel their purchase; repealing the current restraining order law; limiting the amount by which water and sewer rates may be raised; allowing medical use of marijuana; allowing terminally ill patients with fewer than six months to live to obtain medication they can self-administer to commit suicide; establishing a 15-member citizen’s commission to investigate the Sept. 11 attacks; allowing local cities and towns to permit grocery stores to sell beer and wine; allowing three casinos to be built in the Bay State; and expanding the state’s existing bottle bill law that requires a deposit on beer and soda containers. The measure would also require deposits on bottles of water, tea, juice and sports drinks.
If their proposal is certified as constitutional by the attorney general, sponsors must gather 68,911 voter signatures by Dec. 7. Those proposals would then be sent to the Legislature and if not approved by May, proponents must gather another 11,485 signatures by July for the question to appear on the 2012 ballot.
A complete list and summary of each of the petitions can be found online by clicking on “Current Petitions Filed” at www.mass.gov/ago/ballotquestions.
CHANGES IN TRIAL COURT AND PROBATION DEPARTMENT (H 3644): Gov. Patrick signed into law a bill that would overhaul the management of the Trial Court and the hiring process for the Probation Department.
The measure divides up the tasks performed by the Chief Justice for Administration and Management between a newly created “civilian” Office of Court Management and a Chief Justice of the Trial Court.
HOW LONG WAS LAST WEEK’S SESSION?
During the week of Aug. 1-5, the House met for a total of 20 minutes while the Senate met for a total of 21 minutes.
Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org