Beacon Hill tackling: Marijuana, Eye doctors, and Texting while driving
Mirroring the gulf between the U.S. House and Senate on national health care legislation, our lawmakers on Beacon Hill are also split and mired in debate.
Leading off - Legislative leaders have set a June 30 deadline to get a marijuana bill to Governor Baker. Of course, Bay State voters already approved a referendum legalizing marijuana. The Massachusetts House and Senate want to improve the bill but can't agree on how. One example: Last week the House approved a 28 percent tax on sales - more than double the rate approved by voters and one which critics say will encourage black market sales. The two bodies also disagree on how cities and towns can ban or control pot shops and marijuana facilities. A final compromise is needed, or the voters' mandate will go up in smoke.
Massachusetts is the only state in the union preventing optometrists from treating glaucoma and other minor eye infections. It’s an "eye for an eye" dispute between ophthalmologists and optometrists over who has the right -- and the medical know- how-to administer care. Six times, the Massachusetts Senate has approved expanding the treatment role for optometrists, only to see it die in the House. With almost five times the number of optometrists –- and resulting lower costs -- the new Senate version asserts savings in the MassHealth system of $20 million a year. That's a market based solution --, and savings --, worthy of support and enacting in both chambers.
Also on the docket, the state Senate debates a bill expanding 2010’s "no texting while driving law" to require hands free or a voice-activated function for all cell or device use while driving. In the past seven years technology has advanced, while distracted driving has grown exponentially, killing in even greater numbers. It is time for Beacon Hill to summon the political will to make the roads safer.
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