By Bob Katzen

THE HOUSE AND SENATE: Beacon Hill Roll Call records the votes of local representatives on three roll calls and local senators on five roll calls from the week of August 4-8.

$1.31 BILLION CAPITAL PROJECTS (H 4362)

House 147-3, Senate 40-0, approved and Gov. Deval Patrick signed into law a $1.31 billion capital spending bill that would allow the state to borrow funds for various projects including $378 million for general state facility improvements; $312.5 million for health and human services state facility projects; $25.5 million for accessibility improvements at state facilities; $50 million for the Massachusetts Cultural Fund; $60 million for State Police cruisers; $151 million for library projects; $15.6 million for cities and towns to renovate police and fire stations; and $20 million each for renovation and repairs to the Senate and House chambers.

Hundreds of millions of dollars of earmarks to fund projects proposed by individual legislators for their districts were also included in the package. In reality, the projects are actually more of a "wish list." The Patrick administration is required to adhere to the state's annual bond borrowing cap and ultimately decides which projects are affordable and actually get funded.

Supporters said the bill is a fiscally responsible one that will fund important projects while maintaining the state's excellent bond rating.


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Opponents urged the Legislature to rein in spending and said the state's debt is one of the highest in the nation and will be a huge burden to our children.

(A "Yes" vote is for the bill. A "No" vote is against it.)

Rep. Jennifer Benson, Yes; Rep. Sheila Harrington, Yes; Sen. Eileen Donoghue, Yes; Sen. James Eldridge, Yes; Sen. Jennifer Flanagan, Yes

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT (H 4377)

House 144-9, Senate 40-0, approved and sent to Gov. Patrick an economic development package which includes a sales tax holiday allowing consumers to buy most products that cost under $2,500 on Saturday, August 16, and Sunday, August 17, without paying the state's 6.25 percent sales tax.

Other provisions include $2.5 million for loan guarantees to small businesses; $10 million for brownfields redevelopment; $2 million in the Talent Pipeline initiative that encourages students and young innovators to get a head start on their futures by matching stipends for interns at innovation start-ups; $1.5 million for MassVentures to fund early-stage, high-growth startups in Massachusetts as they move from concept to commercialization; creation of a program to increase consumer demand and preference for local seafood products; and requiring a study of the possibility of Massachusetts hosting a major NASCAR event.

Supporters said the package would bolster the economy and create jobs. They noted it will encourage private sector investment, support the manufacturing sector and expand economic opportunity beyond I-495.

Opponents said that government cannot fix the economy by throwing money at it. They said they favored proposals that would reduce taxes, cut regulations and create greater predictability for the business community.

(A "Yes" vote is for the bill. A "No" vote is against it.)

Rep. Jennifer Benson, Yes; Rep. Sheila Harrington, Yes; Sen. Eileen Donoghue, Yes; Sen. James Eldridge, Yes; Sen. Jennifer Flanagan, Yes

$1.9 BILLION ENVIRONMENTAL BOND BILL (H 4375)

House 151-2, Senate 39-0, approved and sent to the governor a $1.9 billion environmental bond package allowing the state to borrow funds to finance various environmental projects including $75.7 million water and air quality protection; $48.8 million for the design, construction and repair or removal of municipally-owned dams and $20 million for state-owned dams; $30 million for the dredging of coastal public harbors; $20 million for the acquisition of open space, recreation and conservation land; $255.4 million for the construction and improvement of reservations, forests, parks, harbor islands and other recreational facilities; and $312 million to improve the energy efficiency of state-owned facilities.

The measure includes dozens of earmarks costing hundreds of millions of dollars proposed by individual representatives and designed to fund projects in their districts. The projects are actually more of a "wish list": The Patrick administration is required to adhere to the state's annual bond borrowing cap and ultimately decides which projects are affordable and actually get funded.

Supporters said this landmark environmental legislation package is a fiscally responsible one which will help the state and local communities improve the environment. They argued it is fair and balanced and provides for important projects in all parts of the state.

Opponents said the package, pushed by the Democratic leadership, is loaded with unnecessary spending, particularly in districts where Democratic legislators have Republican challengers in November. Others said the state already has the highest debt per capita in the nation and argued more borrowing will devastate our children's already debt-ridden future.

(A "Yes" vote is for the bill. A "No" vote is against it.)

Rep. Jennifer Benson, Yes; Rep. Sheila Harrington, Yes; Sen. Eileen Donoghue, Yes; Sen. James Eldridge, Yes; Sen. Jennifer Flanagan, Yes

FLAG FOR FAMILIES OF FALLEN POLICE OFFICERS (S 2344)

Senate 40-0, approved and sent to the House a bill providing a Massachusetts state flag to the family of any state police officer killed in the line of duty. The flag would be presented at the funeral.

Supporters said this would help honor these brave heroes who put their lives on the line every day and make the ultimate sacrifice.

(A "Yes" vote is for the bill.)

Sen. Eileen Donoghue, Yes; Sen. James Eldridge, Yes; Sen. Jennifer Flanagan, Yes

PROTECTING ANIMAL WELFARE AND SAFETY (PAWS) (S 2345)

Senate 40-0, approved a bill increasing the prison time and fines for committing animal abuse. The measure increases the fine for a first offense from a maximum of $2,500 to a maximum of $10,000 while raising the maximum prison sentence for a first offense from five years to seven years. Under current law, the fines and prison sentences for subsequent offenses are the same as first offenses. The bill increases the fines and prison time for second offenses to a maximum of ten years and a fine of $20,000.

Other provisions require veterinarians to report suspected animal abuse and create a special taskforce of experts to review methods to prevent animal abuse and punish those who commit it. The bill was filed in response to the "Puppy Doe " case in which a dog was euthanized after she suffered extensive injuries, including a stab wound to her eye and burns to her body.

Supporters said the Puppy Doe case is one of many similar cases that have occurred in the state. They argued it is time to increase the punishment and fine for those who commit such heinous crimes.

Some animal advocacy organizations, while applauding the increased penalties, have expressed concern about removal of a provision from the original bill that would have created an animal abuse registry. They say that without this important provision, shelters, breeders and pet stores, as well as people seeking new homes for their pets, can't know whether the person to whom they give or sell vulnerable animals has a history of animal abuse and neglect.

Supporters of the bill said that the task force will look into creating an animal abuse registry.

The House subsequently approved a similar version of the Senate bill on a voice vote without a roll call. The House version now goes to the Senate for consideration.

(A "Yes" vote is for the bill.)

Sen. Eileen Donoghue, Yes; Sen. James Eldridge, Yes; Sen. Jennifer Flanagan, Yes

ALSO ON BEACON HILL

$40 MILLION FOR RENOVATIONS TO HOUSE AND SENATE CHAMBERS -- The renovations to the governor's office have been completed with a price tag of $11.3 million -- $2.3 million above the original estimate. And now plans to renovate the House and Senate chambers are on the agenda on Beacon Hill. A $1.31 billion capital spending bill signed into law last week includes $20 million in repairs, renovations and updates for each chamber.

GOOD SAMARITAN LAW (S 795) -- Gov. Patrick signed into law a bill that would apply the current "Good Samaritan" law to engineers, architects, environmental professionals, landscape architects, planners, land surveyors, licensed site professionals and contractors who render voluntary services at the scene of a disaster or catastrophe. This would expand current law, which applies to civilians, off-duty police officers, firefighters and EMTs.

Supporters said these professionals often volunteer to assess the damage done to buildings, land and the environment following a disaster and should not be held liable if an accident occurs or anything goes wrong as a result of their volunteer efforts.

POTLUCK DINNERS (H 3680) -- Gov. Patrick signed into law a bill that would prohibit state and local departments of public health from regulating the serving of food brought to potluck dinners sponsored by a group of individuals or by a religious, charitable or nonprofit organization.

Supporters said some local boards of health have gone too far by attempting to regulate this time-honored harmless tradition.

Opponents said there is real danger of diners getting a food-borne illness and noted people have become sick and even died from the food at these events.

TANNING SALONS (S 1904) -- The House gave initial approval to a Senate-approved bill that would prohibit anyone under age 16 from using a tanning bed without a written order from a physician. Teens age 16 and 17 would be permitted to tan with parental permission.

Supporters said these booths are dangerous and increase by 75 percent a person's chances of getting melanoma, a dangerous and sometimes fatal skin cancer. They said that while adults can make their own decisions, it is the state's job to protect children.

VACCINATE AGAINST PERTUSSIS (WHOOPING COUGH) (S 1093) -- The House gave initial approval to Senate-approved legislation requiring hospitals to provide parents of newborns educational information on whooping cough disease and the availability of a vaccine to protect against it. It would also require the information to include the Center for Disease Control's recommendation that parents receive the vaccine Tdap during the postpartum period to protect their newborns from transmission of the disease.

Supporters cited the decrease in people vaccinated against whooping cough and the recent rise of the disease in the Bay State and nationally. They noted that infants are the most vulnerable to this serious illness, which often leads to hospitalization and even death.

STERILIZE MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS (H 4384) -- The House approved a local option bill requiring that schools inform parents of children who are using a borrowed wind instrument that while the instrument has been sanitized, it may also be sterilized to eradicate all microbial life within the instrument. The school would arrange to have the instrument sterilized but the parent would be required to pay the cost. The law would only take effect in cities or towns that choose to adopt the law. Wind instruments include the flute, piccolo, clarinet, oboe, trumpet and trombone.

The measure has been proposed for several years but has never made it through the entire legislative process. In past years, some versions of the bill were stricter and would have required all schools that opt into the law to sterilize each wind instrument and also pay the cost.

Supporters of the tougher version point to studies showing that bacteria that cause strep and staph infections can thrive for months inside the instrument.

Supporters of last week's version argued it a reasonable compromise and noted there is no proof anyone has ever contracted an infection from a musical instrument.