STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE

STATE ESTIMATES NEARLY $26M IN FOREGONE REVENUE FROM TAX HOLIDAY

Consumers saved an estimated $25.9 million in foregone sales tax during last weekend's sales tax holiday, according to the Department of Revenue, which will issue a report on the impacts as part of a December certification process. The foregone sales tax revenue was greater last weekend than the $24.6 million in 2013 or any year prior, according to data provided by spokeswoman Maryann Merrigan. Some form of tax free holiday has occurred every year since 2004, except 2009. DOR is also planning a tax amnesty program in December. The program was ordered in the annual budget, and proponents say they hope it will bring an influx of revenues without the need to raises taxes. Eligible individual or business taxpayers will receive a notice in the mail and will have a window from Sept. 1 through Oct. 31 to pay back taxes with interest, while avoiding penalties. Though the sales tax holiday has become something of an annual tradition, policymakers have expressed concern that neither the tax amnesty program nor the sales tax holiday should be seen as a given or else consumers and taxpayers could plan ahead for it, timing purchases they would have made anyway and relying on amnesty as a fallback.

PATRICK SIGNS $1.8M IN SPENDING ON BRIDGEWATER STATE HOSPITAL

Gov. Deval Patrick signed a new spending bill Thursday only hours after it first hit the floor in the House, sending $1.


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8 million to Bridgewater State Hospital to increase staffing. Bridgewater has come under criticism for allegedly treating mental health patients as prisoners when they are housed at the institution. The legislation (H 4418), which was filed as part of a larger spending bill by Patrick in July, moved through the House and Senate Thursday during sparsely attended informal sessions. Executive Office of Public Safety and Security spokesman Terrel Harris said increasing staffing is "the first step in the Governor's $10 million plan for improvements" at the facility. The bill also requires the Department of Correction to report by this October on the positions hired with the additional funding and "the results of any accreditation applications."

GUV SENDS SHOPLIFTING BILL BACK TO HOUSE WITH TECHNICAL CHANGE

A bill that limits what stores can demand of shoplifters and creates a new crime of organized shoplifting has been shipped back to the Legislature by Gov. Deval Patrick for a technical change. "Actually, we had asked him to address it," said Sen. William Brownsberger, the Senate chairman of the Judiciary Committee who worked on the bill. He said, "It's just a drafting error." A House aide said the same thing. The bill (H 1474) criminalizes the sale of coated bags used in shoplifting, the use of fraudulent store receipts in shoplifting and organized shoplifting where the intent is to sell the stolen goods onto another market. Patrick amended one section of the bill that would give prosecutors discretion whether to seek a state prison sentence or a lesser house of corrections sentence for receiving stolen property. In addition, the bill sets limits on what stores can demand of a shoplifter as damages. A Belmont Democrat, Brownsberger said right now lawyers for major retailers routinely demand $500 in damages even if the item was worth much less. The bill creates a sliding scale allowing stores to demand an additional $50 for stolen property worth less than $50 and $500 if the stolen property is worth more than $250. Brownsberger said he hoped the bill would return to the governor's desk to be signed into law. "Hopefully we'll be able to just turn that around," Brownsberger said.