By Bob Katzen

POSSIBLE 2014 BALLOT QUESTIONS -- Sponsors of possible ballot questions in the November 2014 election had until Aug. 7 to complete the first step in the long process to get their proposed law on the ballot. They filed their proposals with Attorney General Martha Coakley, who will determine by Sept. 4 whether the measures are constitutional. If their measure is certified as constitutional, sponsors must gather 68,911 voter signatures by Nov. 2013. The proposals would then be sent to the Legislature and if not approved by May 6, 2014, proponents must gather another 11,485 signatures by July 2, 2014, for the question to appear on the 2014 ballot.

Proposals include one that would repeal the new 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.

Supporters of the new tax say it is fair and will help pay for the much-needed repairs of the state's transportation system including dangerous roads and crumbling bridges.

Opponents say the figure is closer to $500 million and argue this tax will kill job creation and harm the Massachusetts economy.

Another measure would repeal the indexing of the gas tax to inflation. The indexing ties future increases in the gas tax to the Consumer Price Index, ensuring future gas tax hikes without the need for lawmakers to vote on them.


Advertisement

This inflation rider was part of a recent 3-cent-per-gallon hike in the state's current 21-cent-per-gallon gas tax.

Supporters of the inflation index say it is fair and will raise revenue to repair the state's transportation infrastructure.

Opponents of the inflation index say it makes a bad tax even worse and will hurt the struggling economy and families and businesses that are already paying some of the highest gas taxes in the nation.

Other proposals include expanding the state's existing beer and soda bottle bill law to require a deposit on bottles of most other carbonated and non-carbonated beverages including water, ice tea, juice and sports drinks; making casino gambling illegal; raising the minimum wage; and reducing the income tax.

STRIKE PROPOSED SERVICE TAX (H 3382, S1766)

House 54-97, Senate 8-30, rejected an amendment that would repeal the 6.25 percent sales tax on computer system design services as well as modification of prewritten software.

(The roll call was on repealing the tax. A "Yes" vote is for repealing the tax. A "No" vote is for the tax.)

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

STRIKE PROPOSED GAS TAX INFLATION INDEX (H 3535)

House 53-95, Senate 7-32 and rejected an amendment that would repeal tying future increases in the gas tax to the Consumer Price Index.

(The roll call was on repealing the indexing of the gas tax to inflation. A "Yes" vote is for repealing indexing. A "No" vote is for indexing.)

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

ALSO ON BEACON HILL

STUDY BAY STATE HOSTING OF 2024 OLYMPICS (S 1840) -- The House approved a bill creating a commission to study the feasibility of Massachusetts hosting the Summer Olympic Games in 2024. A similar proposal was recently approved by the Senate 38-1. Supporters say this is a great opportunity for the state to shine and should be explored. Opponents said this is a misguided effort that will result in a gigantic boondoggle costing taxpayers millions of dollars. The House version now goes to the Senate for consideration.

EDUCATION HEARING ON OCT. 31 -- More than 20 bills pending before the Education Committee are on tap for a hearing at 10 a.m. on Oct. 31 in Room A-1 at the Statehouse. 

MORE "REQUIRED" COURSES -- These proposals would require the teaching of a specific course in public schools including recycling education (S 230); the history of working people and the labor movement (S 260); the Ukrainian Famine Genocide of 1932-1933 (S 267); civics including the function of the branches of local, state and federal government, responsibilities and duties as an American citizen, opportunities for voter participation, exposure to current events and identification of government officials (H 330); the Bible and international religions for the purpose of promoting morality and brotherhood (H 382); and genocide including at least two of the following: the genocide of Armenian Christians, the Holocaust and Nazi concentration camps, the slaughter of Cambodians by the Khmer Rouge, and the slaughter of Bosnian Muslims, Rwandan Tutsis and Darfurians (H 420).

MORE "SUGGESTED COURSES" -- These proposals would require the state to prepare a curriculum on a specific subject and make it available to schools. These include financial literacy focused on understanding taxes, loans, interest, credit card debt, rights and responsibilities of renting or buying a home, saving, investing and planning for retirement and balancing a checkbook (S 234); media literacy including the knowledge and skills for accessing, analyzing, evaluating, creating and participating in the 21st century media culture (S 213); and civic engagement and the functions of local, state and federal government, the history of social movements, current events and community-based action and service-learning projects (S 254).

HOW LONG WAS LAST WEEK'S SESSION? During the week of Aug. 5-9, the House met for a total of one hour and 11 minutes while the Senate met for a total of 30 minutes.