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Beacon Hill Roll Call.

Beacon Hill Roll Call, by Bob Katzen, records local senators' votes on two roll calls from the week of May 12 to 16. There were no roll calls in the House last week.

Food allergies and restaurants (S 2701)

Senate, 36-3, approved and sent to the House legislation requiring all restaurants to prominently display a poster about food allergy awareness in the staff area and to include on all menus a notice of the customer's obligation to inform the server about any food allergies.

Another provision requires the Department of Public Health (DPH) to develop a voluntary program that allows restaurants to be designated as "Food Allergy Friendly" by the DPH and posted on the agency's Web site. The guidelines restaurants would have to meet for the designation would be developed by the DPH and would include a requirement that a restaurant maintain on the premises a master list of all the ingredients used in the preparation of each food item on the menu.

Supporters said an estimated 11 million Americans suffer from food allergies that result in more than 30,000 emergency room visits and 200 deaths each year. They argued the bill is a common sense one that would save lives and reduce illnesses.

Opponents said they support doing something about food allergies, but argued the bill would hurt small take out venues that post their food choices on a board and do not have menus. They noted the measure would require these mom and pop operations change their operation and incur the costs of printing menus. (A "yes" vote is for the bill establishing requirements. A "no" vote is against the requirements.)

Sen. Robert Antonioni ... Yes

Sen. Harriette Chandler ... Yes

Ocean management (S 2699)

Senate, 39-0, approved a conference committee version of a bill requiring the state to develop and implement an ocean management plan. The compromise was reached after the House and Senate passed different versions of the bill. The new measure does not include a section from the original House version that critics said would destroy the state's ocean sanctuaries law and allow Jay Cashman, a friend of House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi, to build up to 120 wind turbines in Buzzards Bay.

Supporters of the bill said this landmark legislation would ensure the state has a statewide and comprehensive plan to balance the commercial and recreational uses of oceans and the protection of their environmental value. They noted that proposals for liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals, gas pipelines, telecommunications cables and wind energy facilities must be carefully considered along with the need to preserve the oceans and the environment. Some noted it is long past the time to eliminate the current system that spreads out this important responsibility among several government agencies in a piecemeal, confusing and inconsistent manner.

The bill needs additional approval by both branches prior to going to the governor. (A "yes" vote is for the bill.)

Sen. Robert Antonioni ... Yes

Sen. Harriette Chandler ... Yes


Property tax revenue from Verizon - The Department of Revenue (DOR) released figures indicating how much money local communities would receive if a March 3 Appellate Tax Board ruling holds up. The board ruled Verizon was required to pay property taxes on its poles and wires on public ways in cities and towns. Verizon is appealing the decision.

Under current law, Verizon and other telecommunication companies' poles and wires are exempt from local property taxes while electric companies and wireless companies are required to pay property taxes on poles and wires. According to the DOR, the board's ruling required the state to issue by May 15 the valuation of the poles and wires and an estimate of how much each of the state's 351 communities would receive in new property tax revenue.

According to the report, local communities would received the following amounts in taxes, if this goes through: Berlin: $22,077; Bolton, $39,917; Boylston, $63,069; Clinton, $35,357; Lancaster, $27,343; and Sterling, $35,791.

The total valuation is $1.6 billion and the 351 communities would receive a combined total of $26.1 million. This estimate does not include up to an estimated $50 million in new tax revenue on telephone company machinery including switches.
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Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:May 23, 2008
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