STATE CAPITOL BRIEFS - MONDAY, MARCH 19, 2014

STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE

'DEATH WITH DIGNITY' BILL SENT TO STUDY

A proposal to allow physicians to prescribe life-ending medication for terminally ill patients was relegated to a legislative study, effectively ending its chances of moving forward this session. Rep. Louis Kafka, (D-Stoughton), who filed the bill (H 1998), said it was not unexpected that lawmakers on the Public Health Committee decided Tuesday to send it to study. Voters in 2012 narrowly rejected a ballot question similar to the bill filed by Kafka, with 51 percent opposed and 49 percent in favor, a margin of 67,891 votes. The legislation Kafka filed would give terminally ill adults with less than six months to live the option to request medication from a physician to end their own life. Kafka said did not expect the controversial issue would be something lawmakers would tackle this legislative session. He said he filed the bill mainly to "keep the issue in people's minds." He believes it will eventually be decided by voters. "Given that it was so close last time, the committee may feel it should go before the people again," Kafka said. - C. Quinn/SHNS

CATHOLIC BISHOPS BACK MINIMUM WAGE INCREASE: The state's Roman Catholic bishops stated Wednesday that the current $8 per hour minimum wage is "insufficient to support and uphold the dignity of individuals and families." The statement of support for a minimum wage increase from the clergy arrived on the eve of a planned vote by the Committee on Labor and Workforce Development for minimum wage and unemployment insurance legislation that would then make its way to the House floor.


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"The Bishops of the Commonwealth speak with one voice on this issue as pastors. We do not pretend to be economists and thus leave it to those more knowledgeable in that area to determine a just wage for the lowest paid workers," the letter stated. "In determining the level of compensation, the concerns of small and family-owned businesses must be considered as well. These businesses are naturally less able to absorb the costs of such a wage increase, unlike larger businesses that may adapt more readily." In November the Senate passed a bill (S 1925) that would raise the minimum wage to $11 per hour by 2016 and then link it to inflation. House Speaker Robert DeLeo said last week he favored a slightly smaller increase to $10.50 per hour. The signatories - Cardinal Sean O'Malley, archbishop of Boston; Rev. George Coleman, bishop of Fall River; Rev. Timothy McDonnell, bishop of Springfield; and Rev. Robert McManus, bishop of Worcester - cited Pope Francis in their statement. "Low-wage workers are often trapped in the desperate cycle of poverty. Pope Francis has recently reiterated that 'the dignity of each human person and the pursuit of the common good are concerns which ought to shape all economic policies,'" the letter said. - A. Metzger/SHNS