Beacon Hill Roll Call Volume 39 -Report No. 41 October 10, 2014

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By Bob Katzen

THE HOUSE AND SENATE. There were no roll calls in the House or Senate last week. This week, Beacon Hill Roll Call looks at Question 2, one of the four questions on the ballot that will be decided directly by the voters in November.

The question asks voters if they want to expand 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.

Here are the official arguments, gathered by the secretary of state, by each side of the question:

IN FAVOR: Written by Coalition for an Updated Bottle Bill. For more info, go to www.massbottlebill.org or call 617-747-4322.

“A YES vote will improve the ‘Bottle Bill,’ where consumers put down a refundable nickel deposit on a beer or soda. People get the nickel back when they return the container. A YES vote will extend this program to cover other beverages such as bottled water.

The Bottle Bill works: 80 percent of beer and soda containers get recycled. Only 23 percent of non-deposit containers do. So every year a billion bottles get tossed away, often on playgrounds, roads and beaches. Communities have to pay to clean them up.

A YES vote equals more recycling, less trash and litter, and big savings for towns’ waste management costs. That’s why this idea has been endorsed by 209 of our cities and towns, as well as Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick, former Republican Gov. Mitt Romney, 350 business leaders, and independent groups like the League of Women Voters, MASSPIRG, Sierra Club and hundreds more.”

AGAINST: Written by Robert L. Moylan, Comprehensive Recycling Works. For more info, go to www.NoOnQuestion2.com or call 617-886-5186.

“Massachusetts should be a recycling leader, but Question 2 will keep us in the past. Ninety percent of households now have access to curbside and community recycling programs. Let’s focus on what works instead of expanding an outdated, ineffective, and inconvenient system.

Everyone wants to increase recycling rates–but expanded forced deposits are the wrong approach.

Question 2 would cost nearly $60 million a year, more than three times the price of curbside programs (while increasing recycling rates by less than 1 percent); waste taxpayer dollars on expanding an uneconomical, 30-year-old system; and raise your nickel deposit and additional fees every five years–without your vote.

Today, more than $30 million of your unclaimed nickels go into the state’s general fund and into the hands of politicians–not to environmental programs. Let’s stop throwing money at an inefficient system and invest in modern recycling technology.”

STUDY BOTTLE LAW EXPANSION
There has not been a roll call in several years in the House on the Bottle Law. On May 23, 2012, the Senate 22-15, approved a Senate budget amendment providing that a special commission study the possible expansion of the bottle bill and report to the Legislature in seven months. The amendment replaced a proposal that would expand the bottle bill to include noncarbonated beverages including water, ice tea, juice and sports drinks. The amendment never made it into the final version of the budget that was signed into law by Gov. Deval Patrick.

Some supporters of the study said the expansion is nothing less than a new tax that will hurt in-state retailers and communities that border New Hampshire. Others said they are open to the idea but prefer to get more information on the proposal.

Opponents of the study generally support the expansion and said the study basically delays and kills the bill. They argued the expansion is long overdue and would help the environment.

(A “Yes” vote is for the study. A “No” vote is against the study.)

Sen. Patricia Jehlen No

ALSO UP ON BEACON HILL

PATRICK EYES PARDONS – Gov. Patrick said he is considering granting pardons to some state prisoners and is specifically studying the cases of three people the Parole Board recommended for pardons. The three cases include a man convicted of an armed assault in 1989 and two individuals convicted of drug-related crimes in the 1990s. Patrick has not granted a single pardon since assuming office in 2007.

Patrick’s predecessor, former Gov. Mitt Romney, did not grant a single pardon during his 4-year term. Romney’s predecessor, Acting Gov. Jane Swift, was the last chief executive to approve any pardons. She granted seven during her almost 2-year tenure in 2001 and 2002.

STORAGE UNITS (S 2297) – The House and Senate approved and sent to Gov. Patrick a bill making changes in the laws governing storage units. The measure allows owners of the storage facilities to send notices about overdue rent and other notices through electronic mail if the consumer agrees. Other provisions set a maximum on the charge for late fees, allow an auction for a unit to be advertised online in addition to the current option of a newspaper ad; and create a process by which self-storage operators must confirm property is in fact abandoned.

Supporters, noting there are more than 700 storage facilities in Massachusetts, said the law would improve consumer protections and at the same time lower the cost of doing business for the facility owners.

LEGALIZE SPARKLERS (H 3262) – A bill that would legalize the sale of some currently banned small fireworks is languishing in a House committee since it was give initial approval by the House in March. The fireworks that would become legal include snake and glow worms, smoke devices and “trick noisemakers” such as party poppers, snappers and drop pops.

Supporters say the current ban on these small-time novelty items is another example of excessive government intrusion that limits people’s choices. They argue that adults and children can be properly trained to use these devices safely.

Opponents say the current ban is reasonable and has worked well in reducing the number of accidents on the Fourth of July and other times these items are mishandled and cause tragedies.

TAX CREDIT FOR HOMEOWNERS (H 2627) – Also stuck in a House committee is legislation that would make more homeowners eligible for a tax credit equal to the amount by which the taxpayer’s real estate tax payment or the rent constituting real estate tax payment on the person’s primary residence exceeds 10 per cent of the taxpayer’s total income. The measure was given initial approval by the House in April.

The home cannot be assessed at more than $600,000 and the maximum credit is $750. In order to qualify, a taxpayer’s total income cannot exceed $40,000 for an individual and $60,000 for a couple. Currently, only taxpayers over 65 are eligible for this tax credit. The bill would repeal the age requirement and make all taxpayers who qualify financially eligible.

COAKLEY AND MCCORMICK TO RECEIVE PUBLIC FUNDING FOR GUBERNATORIAL ELECTION – Two candidates for governor have qualified for matching funds for their general election campaigns. Democratic nominee Martha Coakley will receive $296,868, the maximum allowed under state law, while unenrolled candidate Jeffrey McCormick will get $125,504. To qualify for public funds, the candidates are required to submit to the Office of Campaign and Political Finance a list of at least $125,000 in qualifying contributions. A matching contribution includes only the first $250 of an individual’s contribution. Republican nominee Charlie Baker chose not to apply for matching funds while unenrolled candidates Evan Falchuk and Scott Lively did not qualify because they did not file a list of matching contributions.

Since 1978, more than $11 million in public funds have been distributed to candidates participating in the public financing program. The funds are voluntarily donated by Bay State taxpayers who check off a box on their income tax return to donate $1. The dollar is subtracted from the tax they owe and does not increase their tax liability.

QUOTABLE QUOTES

Special Gov. Patrick Edition. Quotes from the governor’s appearance on WGBH Radio (89.7 FM) with talk show hosts Jim Braude and Margery Eagan. The duo hosts Gov. Patrick’s “Ask the Governor” show on the first Thursday of each month.

“I’ll make myself available, but I’m going to be a has-been in a few months.”

Gov. Patrick, whose term ends in January 2015, when asked about whether he would be active supporting candidates in the future.

“I want to be an architect.”

Gov. Patrick joking about a future job.

“I think that Eric Holder has been a very, very fine and indeed in some respects an exceptional attorney general.”

Gov. Patrick when asked about the retiring attorney general in the Obama Administration.

“By all accounts, from every source, the likelihood of the disease spreading here is very low. Nonetheless, we are well-prepared.”

Gov. Patrick when asked about Ebola in the Bay State.

“I’m not quite ready to require voting although I think it is a civic duty.”

Gov. Patrick on whether he favors “mandatory voting” by the public at elections.

“Yeah.”

Gov. Patrick when asked if he could ever see a circumstance in which he would support “mandatory voting.”

HOW LONG WAS LAST WEEK’S SESSION? Beacon Hill Roll Call tracks the length of time that the House and Senate were in session each week. Many legislators say that legislative sessions are only one aspect of the Legislature’s job and that a lot of important work is done outside of the House and Senate chambers. They note that their jobs also involve committee work, research, constituent work and other matters that are important to their districts. Critics say that the Legislature does not meet regularly or long enough to debate and vote in public view on the thousands of pieces of legislation that have been filed. They note that the infrequency and brief length of sessions are misguided and lead to irresponsible late night sessions and a mad rush to act on dozens of bills in the days immediately preceding the end of an annual session.

During the week of October 6-10, the House met for a total of two hours and 57 minutes and the Senate met for a total of 19 minutes.

Mon. October 6 House 11:03 a.m. to 11:10 a.m.
Senate 11:04 a.m. to 11:10 a.m.

Tues. October 7 No House session
No Senate session

Wed. October 8 No House session
No Senate session

Thurs. October 9 House 11:01 a.m. to 1:51 p.m.
Senate 11:02 a.m. to 11:15 a.m.

Fri. October 10 No House session
No Senate session

Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at bob@beaconhillrollcall.com

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