By Bob Katzen

THE HOUSE AND SENATE: Beacon Hill Roll Call records the votes of local senators on two roll calls from the week of Jan. 30-Feb. 3.

There were no roll calls in the House last week.

REDUCE DRUG ABUSE (S 2122): The Senate approved, 36-0, and sent to the House a bill aimed at cracking down on the abuse of prescription drugs in Massachusetts.

The measure requires all doctors to register with the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program, a statewide electronic database that collects data on prescriptions dispensed in the state. Currently, participation is voluntary and only 1,700 out of 40,000 prescribers have signed up.

The program is aimed at preventing potential abusers from "doctor shopping" and obtaining multiple prescriptions from several doctors who are unaware that another physician has already prescribed the medication. The top 30 percent of prescribers, who provide 90 percent of all controlled substances, are required to enroll immediately.

All others would be phased-in over a three-year period.


Advertisement

Other provisions include requiring pharmacies to notify local police when reporting theft or loss of drugs; requiring the Department of Public Health to produce and pharmacies to distribute with each painkiller dispensed an "eye-catching, easy-to-understand, informational pamphlet" explaining risks of prescription painkillers; requiring doctors to use tamper-proof, secure pads to write prescriptions; banning possession, distribution and manufacture of "bath salts" that are disguised as a therapeutic mineral but are actually synthesized stimulants that are smoked, inhaled or injected; providing limited immunity from drug possession charges for those who seek medical assistance for an overdose; and requiring a doctor or hospital to notify the parents/guardian of a minor treated for a drug overdose.

Supporters said prescription-drug abuse, particularly of painkillers, is becoming an epidemic and causes more accidental deaths annually than car accidents.

They argued the bill will help control these drugs, especially prescription painkillers, and is a major step that addresses this problem, which costs millions of dollars through expenses relating to the courts, education, crime and addiction treatment.

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

YES: Sens. Kenneth Donnelly, Eileen Donoghue, James Eldridge, Susan Fargo, Barry Finegold, Jennifer Flanagan, Bruce Tarr.

STUDY DRUG DEALER REGISTRY (S 2122): The Senate rejected, 30-5, an amendment creating a 10-member special commission to study the idea of establishing a statewide registry of convicted drug dealers living in Massachusetts.

The commission would be charged with studying current policies and methods of tracking convicted dealers, the role of these dealers in other crimes and the potential benefits of a statewide registry to public safety.

Some amendment supporters said citizens have a right to know where drug dealers live just like they currently have the right to know where sex offenders live.

Others noted the amendment only studies the idea of creating a commission and questioned why opponents would not want to at least consider it.

Amendment opponents said the purpose of the overall bill cracking down on the abuse of prescription drugs is different from that of the sex offender registry. It is to make drugs less readily available and to help people so they won't do drugs.

The purpose of the sex-offender registry is to inform people where sex offenders live in order to protect vulnerable children and adults. Some also questioned how much it would cost to implement a drug dealer registry.

(A "Yes" vote is for the amendment studying the idea of a drug dealer registry. A "No" vote is against it.)

NO: Sen.Donnelly Donoghue, Eldridge, Fargo, Sen. Jennifer Flanagan

YES: Sens. Finegold, Tarr.

ALSO UP ON BEACON HILL

BAN "PAY TO PLAY" AND FUNDRAISERS DURING BUDGET DEBATE (S 1574): The Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight held a hearing on a bill that would prohibit candidates from holding campaign fundraisers during the week of, before and after debate on the annual state budget. 

Candidates who violate the law would be required to return all of the donations, and the matter would be turned over to the Ethics Committee for possible action.

Supporters said the public becomes suspicious and cynical when powerful legislators hold fundraisers during the time when many businesses, groups and individuals are looking to get something that will help them included in the state budget. They argued the ban will help restore trust and confidence in state government.

No one testified directly against the bill. Some legislators said the bill is feel-good legislation that will do very little to stop the overall problem of power brokers having influence on the budget process. Others said they have never heard any complaints of fundraisers being held during consideration of the budget.

Another bill before the committee attempts to dismantle the "pay-to-play" game by prohibiting lobbyists from soliciting campaign donations (S 1577). The measure would also ban principals of companies with state contracts of $50,000 or more and their immediate family members from giving or raising funds for statewide and legislative candidates for office during the contract bidding process and/or during the time of their government contract.

FLAGS, GPS AND AN AUDIT: The State Administration and Regulatory Oversight Committee's agenda also included proposals requiring the state flag to be flown at half-staff after the death of a police officer or firefighter killed in the line of duty (S 1573); making comedian Steve Martin's song "Me and Paul Revere" the state's official Revolutionary War song (S 2069); banning the use of a global-position system to monitor or track state or local employees unless both sides mutually agree via a collective bargaining agreement to their use (H 2576); and authorizing the state auditor to audit the Legislature's accounts (H 2586).

MUST REPORT ABUSE OF DISABLED (S 2116): The Senate approved and sent to the House a bill that would require firefighters, emergency medical technicians, paramedics and correction officers to report abuse of disabled individuals to the state Disabled Persons Protection Commission.

The measure adds these professionals to a list that currently includes physicians, dentists, psychologists, nurses, chiropractors, teachers, social workers and police officers.

TRANSPORTING AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTS (S 2118): The Senate approved and sent to the House a bill that would allow vehicles with farm plates to carry goods with a total weight up to the vehicle's rated capacity. Current law restricts the weight to 60,000 pounds, including the truck, even if the vehicle is rated to carry more. Supporters said the current restriction makes no sense and results in more use of fossil fuels and damage to the environment.

WANNA RUN FOR OFFICE?: Secretary of State William Galvin announced that nomination papers are available beginning tomorrow for candidates who want to run for office in the Democratic, Republican and Green-Rainbow state party primaries on Sept. 6.

All 200 state House and Senate seats are up for grabs as well as the U.S. Senate seat held by Sen. Scott Brown and nine congressional seats.

Nomination papers can be obtained in the Secretary of State's Elections Division, Room 1705, One Ashburton Place, Boston, and the secretary's regional offices in Fall River and Springfield.

In addition, papers will be available in the city or town halls of Worcester, Framingham, Pittsfield, Attleboro, Brockton, Greenfield, Northampton, Ware, Gardner, Methuen, Peabody, Plymouth, Barnstable, West Tisbury and Nantucket.

Candidates can also call the Elections Division at 617-727-2828 or 1-800-462-VOTE (8683) and have papers mailed to them.

HOW LONG WAS LAST WEEK'S SESSION?: During the week of Jan. 30-Feb. 3, the House met for a total of two hours and 42 minutes while the Senate met for a total of four hours and 17 minutes.

Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at bob@beaconhillrollcall.com