By Bob Katzen

THE HOUSE AND SENATE: Beacon Hill Roll Call records the votes of local representatives on eight roll calls and local senators on six from the week of April 8-13.

The House and Senate approved different versions of a Democratic leadership-sponsored transportation package that includes $500 million in tax hikes. Increases include a 3-cent-per-gallon hike in the state's current 21-cent-per-gallon gas tax, which, beginning in 2015, would also be indexed to inflation. Other hikes include a $1 jump in the current $2.51-per-package cigarette tax, an increase in the tax on cigars and smokeless tobacco, imposition of a 6.25 percent sales tax on computer system design services as well as modification of prewritten software, and a change in the way utilities are classified for tax purposes. In the House, all Republicans present voted against the package while Democrats split, with 97 members voting for it and 27 opposing it. On the Senate side, all Republicans present voted against the package while all but two Democrats voted for it.

Supporters defended the bill as a reasonable package that will begin to solve many of the structural and financial problems that plague the MBTA and the state's financially ailing transportation system. The opposition was led by Republicans, who brought along some fiscally conservative Democrats. They said the proposed tax hikes would hurt already overburdened taxpayers. In a classic case of "politics makes strange bedfellows," the GOP in the House was joined in its opposition by a number of more liberal Democrats, who said they didn't think the taxes would raise enough revenue.

Here are some of the key votes on the bill. Beacon Hill Roll Call urges you to read the roll calls carefully and be aware that in some cases, the amendment would eliminate a proposed tax hike. In those cases, a "yes" vote is for eliminating the hike and therefore against the hike. In cases in which a study is proposed in place of a tax cut, a "yes" vote is for the study and essentially is against the tax cut. Conversely, a "no" vote is against the study and favors the tax cut.

APPROVE TAX HIKES (H 3382, S 1766)

House 97-55, Senate 30-5, approved different versions of a Democratic leadership-sponsored transportation package that includes $500 million in tax hikes. (A "Yes" vote is for the tax hikes. A "No" vote is against them.)

Rep. Jennifer Benson, Yes; Rep. Sheila Harrington, No; Sen. Eileen Donoghue, Yes; Sen. James Eldridge, Yes; Sen. Jennifer Flanagan,Yes.

STRIKE PROPOSED SERVICE TAX (H 3382, S 1766)

House 54-97, Senate 5-28, rejected an amendment that would strike the proposed 6.25 percent sales tax on computer system design services as well as modification of prewritten software. These services are currently exempt from the sales tax. It is estimated that this service tax would generate $161 million in new tax revenue. (A "Yes" vote is against the tax. A "No" vote is for it.)

Rep. Jennifer Benson, No; Rep. Sheila Harrington, Yes; Sen. Eileen Donoghue, No; Sen. James Eldridge, No; Sen. Jennifer Flanagan, No.

STRIKE PROPOSED UTILITY TAX CHANGES (H 3382)

House 45-106, rejected an amendment that would strike a proposed change in the way utilities are classified for tax purposes. It is estimated that these changes would generate $83 million in new tax revenue. (A "Yes" vote is against the tax. A "No" vote is for it.)

Rep. Jennifer Benson, No; Rep. Sheila Harrington, Yes.

STRIKE PROPOSED GAS TAX HIKE (H 3382)

House 48-103, rejected an amendment that would strike a proposed 3-cent-per-gallon hike in the state's current 21-cent-per-gallon gas tax. It is estimated that this hike would generate $165 million in new tax revenue.(A "Yes" vote is against the tax. A "No" vote is for it.)

Rep. Jennifer Benson, No; Rep. Sheila Harrington, Yes.

STRIKE PROPOSED GAS TAX INFLATION INDEX (H 3382, S 1766)

House 53-95, Senate 7-24, rejected an amendment that would strike the proposed indexing of the gas tax to inflation. (A "Yes" vote is against the tax. A "No" vote is for it.)

Rep. Jennifer Benson,No; Rep. Sheila Harrington, Yes; Sen. Eileen Donoghue, No; Sen. James Eldridge, No; Sen. Jennifer Flanagan, No.

STRIKE TOBACCO TAX HIKE (H 3382)

House 47-104, rejected an amendment that would strike a $1 jump in the current $2.51-per-package cigarette tax and an increase in the tax on cigars and smokeless tobacco. It is estimated that this hike would generate $165 million in new tax revenue. (A "Yes" vote is against the tax. A "No" vote is for it.)

Rep. Jennifer Benson, No; Rep. Sheila Harrington, Yes.

STUDY GAS TAX EXEMPTION FOR CITIES AND TOWNS (H 3382)

House 108-42, approved an amendment requiring the state to conduct a study of a proposal exempting cities' and towns' vehicle fuel purchases from the 21 cents-per-gallon gas tax. The study amendment would replace a proposal to simply exempt the fuel purchases. It is estimated that this exemption would save cities and towns $15 million. (A "Yes" vote is for studying the exemption. A "No" vote is against the study and favors the exemption.)

Rep. Jennifer Benson, Yes; Rep. Sheila Harrington, No.

SUNSET GAS TAX INFLATION INDEXING (H 3382)

House 42-107, rejected an amendment that would eliminate the indexing of the gas tax to inflation after five years. (A "Yes" vote is for eliminating the tax after five years. A "No" vote is against elimination.)

Rep. Jennifer Benson, No; Rep. Sheila Harrington, Yes.

GAS TAX EXEMPTION FOR CITIES AND TOWNS (S 1766)

Senate 5-28, approved an amendment exempting cities' and towns' vehicle fuel purchases from the 21-cents-per-gallon gas tax. It is estimated that this exemption would save cities and towns $15 million. (A "Yes" vote is for the exemption. A "No" vote is against the exemption.)

Sen. Eileen Donoghue, No; Sen. James Eldridge, No; Sen. Jennifer Flanagan, No.

ALLOW TOLLS AT BORDERS (S 1766)

Senate 19-15, approved an amendment that would allow the Secretary of Transportation, with the approval of his board of directors, to establish tolls on the borders of Massachusetts. (A "Yes" vote is for allowing tolls. A "No" vote is against allowing them.)

Sen. Eileen Donoghue, No; Sen. James Eldridge, Yes; Sen. Jennifer Flanagan, No.

SELL NAMING RIGHTS OF MBTA STATIONS (S 1766)

Senate 20-12, approved an amendment allowing the MBTA to sell to private companies the naming rights to all subway, bus and commuter rail stations. (A "Yes" vote is for selling the naming rights. A "No" vote is against selling them.)

Sen. Eileen Donoghue, Yes; Sen. James Eldridge, No; Sen. Jennifer Flanagan, Yes.

ALSO ON BEACON HILL

EXODUS -- A mere three months after the 2012-2013 Legislature was sworn in, there are already two vacancies in the 160-member House and several more possibly on the way. The 40-member Senate has one vacancy.

In the House, former Rep. Steven Smith of Everett resigned and was sentenced to four months in jail for civil rights violations for his role in submitting fraudulent absentee ballot applications and casting invalid ballots in elections in 2009 and 2010. Former Rep. Joyce Spiliotis of Peabody passed away shortly after the election. Rep. Marty Walz (D-Boston) departed to become president and CEO of the Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts. Others who might soon be on their way out include Rep. David Sullivan (D-Fall River), who is expected to leave to become the new executive director of the Fall River Housing Authority. Reps. Steven Walsh (D-Lynn) and Jeffrey Sanchez (D-Boston) have both applied to become the next president of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation, a non-profit focused on expanding access to health care through research, grants and policy initiatives. And Rep. Martin Walsh (D-Boston) announced his candidacy for mayor of Boston.

On the Senate side, Sen. Jack Hart of South Boston has resigned to join the law firm Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough. Boston Reps. James Collins (D-Boston) and Linda Dorcena Forry (D-Boston) are both running for his seat in a special election. If the eventual winner is a representative, that would open up another House seat.

AMBULANCE COSTS (H 863) -- The Financial Services Committee heard testimony on a bill that would require health insurance providers to pay ambulance companies directly for their services. The measure would prohibit insurance companies from sending checks to the policyholder for out-of-network private ambulance rides rather than to the ambulance company. This practice of paying the policyholder was started in 2011 by Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) to force ambulance companies to chase the consumer for payment with the ultimate goal of pressuring out-of-network ambulance companies to sign contracts with the health insurer. That would force the ambulance companies to accept the insurer's reimbursement rates. The House and Senate both approved a similar bill in 2012 but it was vetoed by Gov. Deval Patrick.

HOUSE COMMITTEE UNVEILS PROPOSED FISCAL 2014 STATE BUDGET -- The House fired the second shot in the long battle over the fiscal year 2014 state budget that begins on July 1. Gov. Patrick fired the opening shot in January when he filed his version. The House Ways and Means Committee last week unveiled its own $33.8 billion version on which the House is scheduled to debate during the week of April 22. Its price tag is an estimated $1 billion lower than the Patrick plan.

After the House finally approves the package, the Senate will follow suit with its own draft and a House-Senate conference committee will eventually craft a plan that will be presented to the House and Senate for consideration and sent to the governor.

TAX PLASTIC BAGS (S 2521) -- The Revenue Committee held a hearing on a proposal that would impose a tax on shoppers who choose "plastic over paper." The measure imposes an initial five-cent-per bag tax on each plastic bag and then increases the tax over a six-year period to 15 cents per bag. The revenue would be split evenly between the stores and the state with all the funds being used to promote recycling. The tax would apply only in supermarkets that grossed more than $1 million during the previous tax year.

LIST CARBS IN SCHOOLS (H 130) -- The Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities Committee held a hearing on legislation requiring that public schools list the amount of carbohydrates contained in all food products served to diabetic children, teachers and faculty. The House gave initial approval to the proposal last year but it did not advance any further in the Legislature and died.

During the week of April 8-13, the House met for a total of 12 hours and 56 minutes while the Senate met for a total of 20 hours and 33 minutes.

Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at bob@beaconhillrollcall.com.