Full Speed Ahead For Beacon Hill Debate On Cellphone Use While Driving
It's head-turning discussion this week at the Massachusetts Statehouse, as the Senate is likely to debate hands-free cellphone use by drivers.
Will both sides of that issue be represented? Or is there overwhelming support for putting phones down?
Matt Murphy, State House News Serivce: There seems to be pretty overwhelming support for putting phones down, especially in the Senate, where that version of this bill has passed in at least the past two sessions.
The MA Senate passes the Distracted Driving Bill to keep the roads safe and prevent accidents. Let's keep driving distraction free! #mapoli— MA State Senate (@MA_Senate) June 29, 2017
They've been waiting to try and get the House on board, and that has actually happened.
The Senate was the first to say that they were going to take up this bill, but hit the pause button so they could have their debate over the annual state budget. And in the interim, the House passed its own version.
So this appears to be on its way towards the governor's desk — at some point. The Senate will debate it. I'm sure there will be amendments and there will be proposals.
Mass. Gov. @CharlieBakerMA asks state lawmakers to pass hands-free/distracted driving bill before end of legislative session #mapoli pic.twitter.com/o3vr0kXBVm— Gintautas Dumcius (@gintautasd) November 21, 2017
The question of what to do about, or how to mitigate, the risk of racial profiling is always front and center in this debate. Either it'll be very similar to the House, and quickly move through both branches, and get to the governor. Or perhaps we'll have to have a conference committee to iron out these differences.
It certainly has the momentum and the support to get done this session.
Carrie Healy, NEPR: For months, we've heard plans for a broader revenue debate "later this session." The House didn't even include any new taxes in its version of the state budget, because there would be discussions "later." Do you get a sense of when that is?
We don't know exactly, for sure. There are a lot of moving parts to this. We think perhaps in the fall, later this year, maybe after the summer recess.
The Speaker has tried to engage the business community. They have a group that they've put together that is looking at some proposals, so there are ideas before the revenue committee that have yet to get hearings. I'm sure those will come up, and help inform whatever bills or packages get put together for consideration by House and Senate leadership.
But we don't know exactly the timing, and it wouldn't be shocking to see this get pushed off. But it doesn't seem that they want to push this well into next year, because that, of course, is another election year, and nobody likes to debate taxes in an election year.
Speaking of taxes: a vaping tax is being discussed behind closed doors by that six-person budget committee right now. What happens if that gets rolled into the final budget?
The Senate actually put a couple of the governor's tax proposals into their budget plan, and that included the tax on e-cigarettes, as well as a tax on opioid manufacturers.
If the conference committee agrees to keep that in, that will be part of the state budget, and it will move forward.
There were other proposals that senators tried to debate that were withdrawn. A lot of deference is being paid to this this process that's playing out that we just talked about — these few small items that were included by the Senate. If they can get the House on board in conference committee negotiations, those will be done deals.
Last week, lawmakers took two days to discuss legalizing sports betting. One recurring theme was just how important it is to maintain the integrity of competitions and player safety. What's next for sports betting — or have we heard the last of it for a while?
That is one of the interesting parts of this debate, particularly as it centers around college sports. Some of the bills under consideration would exempt college athletics and keep the sports betting confined to the professional sports. We'll see how that plays out.
Now that these hearings have been held, the committee will get to work looking at how to perhaps write a comprehensive singular bill. The casino operators helped in this regard, in some ways, by getting behind the idea of mobile sports betting, and allowing operators such as DraftKings to do it.
They had opposed that for a while. They wanted to have the exclusive rights to operate mobile sports betting. But that removed one big question mark, I think, by having them jump on board.
There are still many other issues to iron out, so it could be later this year that we see a bill that will hit the floor for debate.