Legislation filed by Senator Mike Moore

To view the status of legislation filed by Senator Moore, please visit the Legislature’s website, www.MAlegislature.gov.

Bills to Strengthen the Economy

S.1526, An Act relative to equalizing the Department of Revenue Interest Rate

The purpose of this bill is to bring a greater sense of fairness and equity to the Commonwealth’s tax system. This bill is narrow in scope, but it targets a glaring inequity in our tax code that levies undue costs on Massachusetts citizens and undermines the principles of fairness in our system. Under existing law, a taxpayer who fails to make a timely payment is required to pay interest after the statutory due date.  I am not here today to argue against the validity or effectiveness of this method.  Currently, the interest for any such delinquent tax liability is the federal short term rate (which is determined by federal law) plus four percentage points, compounded daily. However, when the situation is reversed and a taxpayer is owed a refund, the Commonwealth is afforded a much more favorable interest rating. The Department of Revenue is allowed 120 days to mail the refund to a taxpayer before being considered past due.  Like taxpayers, if the Department does not make payments in a timely manner, they are assessed interest on the late payment.  Like the taxpayer, this interest rate is based on the federal short-term rate.  Unlike the taxpayer, the Department is assessed the federal short-term rate plus two percentage points (rather than four), which is then computed as simple interest.  This blatant double standard allows the Commonwealth to pay a notably reduced interest rate for their tardiness than the taxpayers.

S.224, An Act relative to a meals tax holiday

The bill language is based on the sales tax holiday legislation that first passed in 2008, and has been reestablished for the past five years. Both tactics incentivize spending across Massachusetts; offering a measure relief to consumers and stimulating businesses. Not only do these businesses provide a reliable tax base for municipalities, but they often drive consumers to key economic areas and other local businesses as well. Additionally, the legislation establishes the meals tax holiday during a traditionally slow week for these businesses. The legislature has the ability to forecast the loss in revenue for these programs, which is why the language specifically targets the state meals tax. The bill does not create exemptions from any existing local meals tax, nor does it prevent or dissuade communities from enacting such measures in the future. I believe that the passage of this bill will motivate residents explore local restaurants, and in turn, stimulate the economic well-being of our small businesses and municipalities.

S.1696, A Resolve to study the feasibility of streamlining business regulations

This bill would require the Commonwealth’s Office of Innovation to lead a study to evaluate the possibility of increasing information sharing among state agencies to streamline the registration process for new businesses, particularly small businesses. The Commission would include Secretaries or designees from each Executive and Constitutional Office, members appointed by the Governor, representatives from the Legislature, and members of the Business and Technology communities.

S.528, An Act relative to an affordable health plan

This legislation creates a more affordable option for small businesses, lowering premiums on comparable products by as much as 22% by requiring health care providers and health insurers to share in the responsibility for holding down costs.

Bills to Enhance Education

S.675, An Act relative to open textbooks

The cost of textbooks continues to be a significant financial burden for students and their families.  In order to provide some financial relief, this legislation creates a Massachusetts Digital Open Source Library to serve as a statewide repository for high-quality open source textbooks and related materials.  With an open source library, students will have access to text books and materials at little or no cost and faculty will be able to adopt and easily modify the most appropriate course materials for their class.

S.677, An Act relative to public higher education transfers

One path many of our students use in order to reduce the cost of their education is to attend a community college for the first 2 years and then transfer to a university for the next 2 years. However, this process is not always seamless. I have heard from many students who have taken courses in their major only to find these credits are not accepted by the transferring institutions. This forces students to retake classes, which is a waste of time and money. For the past three years, the Legislature has funded a project to establish a system-wide set of course equivalencies and a common course numbering system.  While a great deal of work has gone into establishing this system, this legislation requires that by December 31, 2015, all public institutions of higher education shall permit students to transfer from one public institution of higher education to another without loss of credit.

S.678, An Act relative to strengthening and expanding affordable, quality higher education opportunities for residents of the Commonwealth

The bill incorporates various recommendations made by the Subcommittee on Student Loans and Debt of the Joint Committee on Higher Education, the Special Commission on Higher Education Quality, Efficiencies, and Finance, and the Special Commission on Educational Scholarships all of whom released their reports and recommendations last year.  As recommended by these reports, the bill seeks to: promote financial literacy and early college planning and encourage saving for college; increase timely completion of degrees and certificates; increase state funds each year for the next five fiscal years for the operating line items for our public higher education institutions, with a requirement that if sufficient state funds are provided each year these institutions must freeze tuition and mandatory curriculum fees; provide new state bond funding for capital improvements and maintenance projects at our public higher education institutions; increase state funds each year over the next five fiscal years for the so-called MassGrant Program which helps needy Massachusetts’ students afford the cost of higher education; encourage private giving to public higher education institutions; support refinancing opportunities for student loans financed at high interest rates through the Massachusetts Educational Financing Authority; ensure collaborations and partnerships to promote savings and efficiencies among our public higher education institutions; further foster partnerships with business; and support pathways to self-sufficiency and opportunity.

Bills to Promote Public Safety

S.1049, An Act relative to synthetic heroin

Synthetic heroin (acetyl fentanyl) is a newer designer drug that is said to be 5 to 15 times more potent than heroin. It is a synthetic substance with no recognized medical uses and it is often labeled as “not for human consumption” in order to avoid government regulation. This substance sits in a legal grey area since while it qualifies as an analogue of fentanyl, a large quantity of acetyl fentanyl may not be regulated if it is labeled as a product for non-human uses.  This substance has caused numerous overdoses and deaths, as many users are not aware of the substance’s extreme potency. The drug is suspected to be a significant factor in the recent rise of opiate overdoses.  In order to avoid further deaths from this substance, this legislation adds synthetic heroin to the list of Class B substances.

S.1198, An Act relative to equitable firearm license fees

This bill reduces the cost of applications for a firearm identification card or license to carry from $100 to $40.  This bill offers a more appropriate cost for the application of firearm license and identification cards. The existing fee imposes an excessive burden on citizens who wish to exercise their rights to own, carry and operate firearms.  Reducing this cost will allow for greater access and expanded participation in the constitutional rights of Massachusetts’ citizens. The bill also allocates the fee, which will be split evenly between the licensing authority and the General Fund.

S.1860, An Act to enhance public safety by providing implied consent in cases of persons operating under the influence of drugs

This legislation establishes that any driver operating a motor vehicle on a public way has consented to chemical or breath tests to determine if they are under the influence of drugs. This standard is currently applied to driving under the influence of alcohol, and is one of the most important tools law enforcement has to keep dangerous drivers off the road.  The bill maintains the current standards for testing and privacy that are already included in statute.  With the alarming rise in opiate abuse, it is more important than ever that we are vigilant of impaired drivers that endanger countless other drivers, passengers, and pedestrians.

S.1859, An Act relative to pedestrian safety

This legislation amends existing Massachusetts General Law, to clarify the ambiguity regarding the offenses associated with certain forms of dangerous driving. Under existing law, sidewalks are not specifically included as areas from which drivers are prohibited.  This has created a legal grey area, where law enforcement is unable to charge some drivers who engage in dangerous driving.  This grey area has even been invoked in instances where pedestrians have been seriously injured or killed by drivers who have ventured onto the sidewalk.

Bills to Improve Public Health & Health Care

S.1197, An Act relative to the protection of victim’s rights and the public health

This bill deals with a serious issue of safety that can affect both residents of the Commonwealth, and the first responders who dedicate their lives to public service by seeking to limit accidental exposure to communicable infectious diseases. During their work, first responders are consistently in contact with individuals who may, through no fault of their own, be exposed to communicable diseases.  In order to ensure they are not exposed themselves, this bill would allow for testing individuals when a first responder believes their health could be endangered. The bill allows the testing and examination of individuals for whom probable cause exists to believe that this individual exposed a victim to a commonly communicable infectious disease during the commission of a sexual assault, or during an assault and battery on a law enforcement officer.  The bill limits the disclosure of testing results to the victim and subject of the testing order to protect the privacy of all involved. To read the text of the bill and follow its progress, please visit the legislature’s website: https://malegislature.gov/Bills/189/Senate/S1197.

S.1196, An Act relative to the Massachusetts Alzheimer’s Project

The legislation establishes the Massachusetts Alzheimer’s Project to implement the state plan now being developed by an Administration Task Force.  The Project will help our state prepare for the impact of the growth in diagnosis predicted by the Centers for Disease Control as well as educate and raise greater awareness about the disease.  Currently in Massachusetts there are approximately 120,000 people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.  Massachusetts has an aging population and we must ensure we have a coordinated effort to address the impact on individuals inflicted with this disease, their families, and the support services they utilize. To read the text of the bill and follow its progress, please visit the Legislature’s website: https://malegislature.gov/Bills/189/Senate/S1196.

S.535, An Act alleviating healthcare burdens for Massachusetts employers

Federal law mandates certain requirements for the administration of health plans in the non-group market. Because Massachusetts is the only state in the country with a merged small group and non-group market, these requirements also apply to small group plans. De-merging these markets would benefit small businesses by ensuring that they will not be unnecessarily burdened by certain policies that were intended to apply only to individual health plans. Separating these markets would have a positive impact on health care costs for Massachusetts small businesses at a time when these pressures continue to rise.  Demerging the small group from the individual market will provide rate relief to employers of 50 or fewer.  Further, when the ACA requires community rating for employers of 100 or fewer, they would also benefit.

S.1194, An Act relative to other tobacco products

This legislation instructs the Department of Public Health to promulgate regulations for restricting the marketing and labeling of and restricting youth access to so called “Other Tobacco Products” whose use is rising in the Commonwealth. Other Tobacco Products can come in flavors like grape, strawberry, etc. to mask the tobacco taste. Special prices make these products cheaper than cigarettes and colorful packaging make these products look like mints, candy, or lip balm.

Bills to Protect our Environment

H.646, An Act improving recycling in the Commonwealth 

For the past three sessions, Senator Moore has been a primary sponsor of comprehensive recycling reform for Massachusetts.  The Commonwealth’s existing recycling infrastructure is outdated and inefficient.  The primary state recycling program remains the bottle deposit law, a dated policy targeting litter prevention, not recycling.  Moving Massachusetts’ recycling forward will offer significant savings for taxpayers and communities.  Senator Moore’s bill would phase out the bottle deposits paid by residents, and institute a one cent fee on beverage manufacturers and distributors. Under the current system, the Commonwealth relies on people not returning their cans through the deposit system.  By collecting a fee on every bottle, this program will bring in millions more than the deposit system, despite the smaller fee. The funds collected from the beverage industry would go directly into a newly created Municipal Recycling Enhancement Fund. The Fund would distribute the money to municipalities to develop better recycling policies, including single-stream, curbside pick-up, and pay as you throw programs.

S.446, An Act enhancing the enforcement of illegal hunting practices

Poaching—the illegal harming or killing of wildlife—is a serious problem across the country and in the Commonwealth. Law enforcement officials report that poachers are rarely, if ever, breaking the law to put food on the table. This legislation elevates Massachusetts’ penalties for poaching to bring them in line with other states. This will provide adequate deterrence for poachers who illegally exploit wildlife and cheat ethical hunters and other residents. The bill elevates fines, jail time, and license suspensions for existing laws, some of which have remained unchanged since the 1930s. It also creates an elevated penalty for chronic poachers with repeat violations, to give the Massachusetts Environmental Police an additional tool to target those who blatantly disregard our laws. Additionally, this legislation would bring Massachusetts into a nationwide law enforcement network known as the Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact. Massachusetts is one of just 7 states that is not a member or in the process of joining, and the only state in New England. Membership in the compact will end our state’s status as a “safe haven” for out-of-state poachers whose licenses have been suspended in other states and it prevents resident violators from evading punishment by applying for a license in a state other than where the violator lives.

S.447, An Act relative to hunting with Unmanned Aerial Systems

This legislation makes it illegal for Unmanned Arial Systems, or drones, to be used for the purpose of hunting.  Recent advancements in technology have made drones notably cheaper and easier to use, especially for individual citizens. One issue that has manifested in other states is hunters using UAS to track their prey, harass hunters, and disturb wildlife. Several states have made regulatory changes to ban these methods, which is in direct opposition to the concept of fair-chase hunting.  While the Massachusetts General Laws already outlaws the use of motor vehicles during hunting, UAS do not qualify as ‘aircraft’ under the existing definition.  Similar efforts in other states have been met with approval from hunting, animal, and environmental advocates alike.  Updating the statute to include Unmanned Arial Systems maintains the intent of the existing law and brings our hunting regulations into line with technological advancements.