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STATE CAPITOL BRIEFS – MORNING EDITION – TUESDAY, AUG. 11, 2015

STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE

AUTO INSURANCE REVIEW HEARING DRAWS LITTLE INTEREST

For the second time in a week, a Baker administration bid to draw testimony about the state’s regulatory environment landed with a thud. Only one person showed up to testify on the state’s docket of automobile insurance regulations. Last Wednesday, a reinsurance industry executive was the only person to show up for another Division of Insurance review session on financial services regulation. A Division of Insurance official last week speculated that hearings on auto and health insurance regulations may draw more interest. Baker administration communications aides have not responded to requests for testimony submitted at Friday’s hearing on health insurance. The Baker administration’s review of regulations is geared towards identifying rules that harm consumers or the state’s competitive environment. The effort is intended to flag any regulations that may no longer be necessary and to identify rules where costs exceed benefits or where state regulation exceeds federal requirements or duplicates local requirements. Deputy insurance commissioner Rob Whitney on Tuesday read through a list of 16 state auto insurance regulations, asking after each one if anyone wished to comment. After the first 11 regulations drew no comments, Whitney told those in the room, “There are only five left … I want one comment.” The president of the Alliance of Automobile Service Providers eventually rose to testify on a regulation concerning standards for repair of damaged cars. “As written, the current regulations generally remain relevant and important to consumers and the auto body repair industry as a whole,” said Molly Brodeur, of AASP-MA. After Tuesday’s brief hearing, Whitney said the DOI has received some written comments on the regulations and that many of the comments have advocated that the regulations should remain. He said DOI will post all written comments and audio of oral testimony on its website by the end of the month, and expects to “see some movement” on some regulations in September or October. – Michael Norton and Colin Young /SHNS

For the second time in a week, a Baker administration bid to draw testimony about the state’s regulatory environment landed with a thud. Only one person showed up to testify on the state’s docket of automobile insurance regulations. Last Wednesday, a reinsurance industry executive was the only person to show up for another Division of Insurance review session on financial services regulation. A Division of Insurance official last week speculated that hearings on auto and health insurance regulations may draw more interest. Baker administration communications aides have not responded to requests for testimony submitted at Friday’s hearing on health insurance. The Baker administration’s review of regulations is geared towards identifying rules that harm consumers or the state’s competitive environment. The effort is intended to flag any regulations that may no longer be necessary and to identify rules where costs exceed benefits or where state regulation exceeds federal requirements or duplicates local requirements. Deputy insurance commissioner Rob Whitney on Tuesday read through a list of 16 state auto insurance regulations, asking after each one if anyone wished to comment. After the first 11 regulations drew no comments, Whitney told those in the room, “There are only five left … I want one comment.” The president of the Alliance of Automobile Service Providers eventually rose to testify on a regulation concerning standards for repair of damaged cars. “As written, the current regulations generally remain relevant and important to consumers and the auto body repair industry as a whole,” said Molly Brodeur, of AASP-MA. After Tuesday’s brief hearing, Whitney said the DOI has received some written comments on the regulations and that many of the comments have advocated that the regulations should remain. He said DOI will post all written comments and audio of oral testimony on its website by the end of the month, and expects to “see some movement” on some regulations in September or October. – Michael Norton and Colin Young /SHNS

Somerville Mayor Joe Curtatone said he has supported a footbridge over Mystic River to Everett before, though the idea that such a bridge might lead to a casino gives him pause. On Thursday, Wynn Resorts officials discussed their hopes for building a walking and cycling bridge linking the proposed casino to Assembly Square, the newest neighborhood in a Somerville where the mayor is a major opponent of casinos. “I do have a concern,” Curtatone told the News Service. Curtatone said he favors an approach suggested by Attorney General Maura Healey for an independent traffic study of the proposed casino’s impact on traffic, as the state considers whether to award Wynn an omnibus environmental permit. Wynn won the Greater Boston casino license, but the company has regulatory hurdles to overcome before it can be built. Asked if he would want the footbridge if it led to a casino, Curtatone said, “I’m always going to support increasing mobility.” Once an out-of-the-way industrial area, Assembly Square has a new Orange Line stop, bustling shops, residences and large health care offices under construction. Train tracks and the Amelia Earhart Dam both cross the Mystic River from Somerville. Curtatone said Wynn has not proposed anything “concrete” on the footbridge, and he doubted that a footbridge would have much impact on reducing traffic caused by the casino. Casino backers tout the jobs, mitigation money and state tax revenue that the casino would generate. – Andy Metzger/SHNS

WALSH TARGETS REC VEHICLES WITH ORDINANCE

Popping a wheelie, seating a passenger on the handle bars of a dirt bike or surfing on a four-wheel ATV would all be prohibited in public areas in Boston if the City Council agrees to Mayor Marty Walsh’s proposed crackdown on the use of recreational vehicles in the city. With one city councilor describing recreational vehicle use as a “nuisance on our neighborhoods,” Walsh filed an ordinance Tuesday that would allow police officers to issue immediate fines or impound a vehicle if someone is caught in the act of “hazardous operation and storage” of recreational and motorized vehicles, including the unauthorized congregation of riders on a person’s property without their knowledge. City Councilor Stephen Murphy said the ordinance would “keep the public safe and the streets peaceful.” “Recreational vehicles have become both a nuisance on our neighborhoods disrupting the quality of life and genuine public safety hazard,” Murphy said in a statement. In the ordinance, recreational vehicles are described, but not limited to, all-terrain vehicles, off-highway motorcycles, dirt bikes and recreation utility vehicles. Prohibited activities would include “riding with the front, side or rear wheels raised from the surface of the road or ground, riding with a passenger’s feet or knees planted on the seat, and operating a vehicle with a passenger riding on the handle bars.” A first offense would carry a $250 fine and subsequent offenses would carry a $300 penalty. – Matt Murphy/SHNS

VETERAN NEWSIE SCHIEFFER AT HARVARD THROUGH ’16 ELECTION

Veteran reporter Bob Schieffer, who worked at CBS News for 46 years and anchored both the Saturday CBS Evening News and “Face the Nation,” is joining Harvard’s Kennedy School as a fall fellow. The Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy announced Schieffer’s appointment on Tuesday, along with incoming fall fellows David Ensor, former director of the government broadcasting entity Voice of America; Marie Sanz, bureau chief of Agence France Press in Lima, Peru; and BBC correspondent Paul Wood, who was most recently based in Beirut. Schieffer, who has covered the White House, Congress, the State Department and the Pentagon, plans to be in residence for three semesters, or through the 2016 election, and will meet with students and faculty and speak at Harvard events. At the Shorenstein Center, Ensor plans to write about international state media, Sanz will write about changing relations between Cuba and the U.S. “through the lens of the media,” and Wood plans to “explore the moral dilemmas facing journalists and policymakers in Syria, especially in relation to the Islamic State.” – Michael Norton/SHNS

JULY TAX COLLECTIONS UP 4.8 PERCENT

Gov. Charlie Baker and legislative leaders agreed earlier this year to a tax revenue forecast calling for revenues to grow 4.8 percent in the fiscal year that began July 1. According to new data, the state hit that target on the nose during the first month of fiscal 2016. Tax collections last month totaled $1.673 billion, a $77 million increase over August 2014 receipts, according to the Department of Revenue. Corporate and business taxes missed their monthly benchmark by $23 million while withholding collections were $27 million above benchmark. Overall tax collections in July were $7 million above benchmark. – Michael Norton/SHNS

GOLDBERG CHALLENGES AIDES TO TAKE ICE BUCKET CHALLENGE

Fresh off participating in the Ice Bucket Challenge on the State House steps Monday, Treasurer Deborah Goldberg has challenged her deputy treasurers, department chiefs and other staff. The Treasury staff will dump icy water on their heads to support ALS research at 3:30 p.m. in Ashburton Park on Wednesday. Goldberg reported on her and First Deputy Treasurer James MacDonald`s participation in Monday’s event at the Pension Reserves Investment Management Board on Tuesday morning. “We are going to do it again because the idea is to keep knowledge going,” Goldberg told the board. She said, “It’s actually a wonderful feeling.” – Andy Metzger/SHNS