By Bob Katzen
THE HOUSE AND SENATE: Beacon Hill Roll Call records the votes of local senators on one roll call from the week of March 25-29. There were no roll calls in the House last week.
MERCURY RECYCLING (S1758)
Senate, 36-0, approved and sent to the House a bill that would prohibit the sale and installation of mercury thermostats, and require all thermostat manufacturers to make collection containers available to wholesalers, retailers and local government for the proper disposal of older mercury-filled thermostats. Currently, the disposal program is voluntary. The measure also requires the manufacturers to participate in an education and outreach program to inform the public about this program.
Supporters said mercury pollution can cause serious health problems for people and wildlife. They noted that even a few drops of mercury have the potential to contaminate a huge number of fish.
(A Yes vote is for the bill.)
Yes: Sen. Eileen Donoghue, Sen. Jennifer Flanagan.
Didn't vote: Sen. James Eldridge.
ALSO ON BEACON HILL
CHEMICALS AND TOYS (S400): The Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture heard testimony on a proposal that would ban the manufacture and sale of toys and child-care articles intended for use by a child under 3 years of age if that product contains bisphenol-A (BPA). Supporters testified that 130 studies suggest BPA exposure even at very low doses is linked to many health problems, including prostate and breast cancer, obesity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, brain damage and altered immune system. Opponents questioned the toxicity of BPA in small doses and urged the Legislature to wait for a study of the chemical by federal regulators before considering the ban.
TAXES: The Revenue Committee held a hearing on a bill that would establish a payroll tax to increase funding of Massachusetts transportation projects (S1454). Employers would pay a tax of 0.75 percent of their payroll of all employees who earn more than $100,000 per year. Other measures on the hearing's agenda included providing an income-tax credit of up to $300 that a taxpayer pays in the state's 6.25 percent sales tax (H2768); allowing up to a $1,000 income-tax credit for individuals and $2,500 for businesses for the cost of renewable motor fuel or biofuel (H2666); and imposing the state's 6.25 percent sales tax on retail-store food products that have limited nutritional value (H2489).
BLUE-ALERT SYSTEM (S1114): The Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee held a hearing on a measure to implement a statewide blue-alert system to be activated when law-enforcement officials are searching for someone who is wanted in the serious injury or killing of a police officer, state trooper or other law-enforcement official.
AT-LARGE SENATORS: An Election Laws Committee hearing agenda included proposed constitutional amendments that would provide that the state's 40 senators be elected at-large by all voters (S10) and create a nonlegislative redistricting commission to draw Massachusetts legislative and congressional districts every 10 years (S11). Currently, the Constitution simply gives the Legislature itself the power to draw the districts.
SEVERAL LAWS GO INTO EFFECT
Several laws approved in early January go into effect at the beginning of April. Here are three of them.
ALLOW VICTIMS OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE TO BREAK THEIR APARTMENT LEASE: Allows victims of domestic violence to break their apartment lease without a penalty if they notify the owner in writing that they or a member of their household is a victim of domestic violence, rape, sexual assault or stalking. The new law also requires property owners to change the tenant's exterior locks if the tenant or occupants reasonably believe they are in danger.
ORAL CANCER DRUGS: Requires insurers to provide the same coverage for oral cancer drugs that they currently provide for intravenous chemotherapy. Prior to the law taking effect, many insurance companies covered the two treatments differently. They covered intravenous chemotherapy like many other treatments, with plan members paying a flat co-pay. However, oral chemotherapy drugs were considered a pharmacy benefit and the patient pays a percentage, depending on the plan, of the cost of the drug.
SABBATICALS (H4295): Reduces from seven years to six years the period of time a faculty member must work at a state university before being eligible for a sabbatical. Supporters said this would make faculty sabbatical qualifications at state universities consistent with those used by private colleges.
House Speaker Robert DeLeo's reaction to Gov. Deval Patrick's $1.9 billion tax hike at a private political caucus with Democrats, according to multiple sources in a State House News Service story.
"No parent who drops their child off at day care should have to worry about the safety of their son or daughter. The presence of registered sex offenders in such proximity to groups of children is information parents, providers and the Department of Early Education and Care must have and act upon."
State Auditor Suzanne Bump on her audit revealing 119 instances in which sex offenders lived in different units of the same building as licensed child-care providers.
"Countless votes were lost because some people could not wait an hour or two hours to vote."
Rep. Aaron Michlewitz (D-Boston), referring to the November 2012 election at a hearing on legislation to allow expanded absentee or early voting.
"Whenever the Legislature asks the residents of Massachusetts for more of their hard-earned tax dollars, the manner in which we do so needs to be open to the public. If we, as legislators, can't follow the process, there is no way the public will be able to follow the process."
Rep. Steven Howitt (R-Seekonk), urging Speaker Robert DeLeo to hold a public hearing on the governor's $1 billion transportation proposal.
"The Joint Committee on Transportation has held two hearings totaling more than seven hours on the question of transportation finance and heard testimony from witnesses across the ideological spectrum."
DeLeo spokesman Seth Gitell, responding to Howitt.
HOW LONG WAS LAST WEEK'S SESSION? During the week of March 25-29, the House met for a total of 26 minutes, while the Senate met for a total of 54 minutes.
Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org.