Education Abuse, Sentencing And Fishy Fish

By Sarah Birnbaum & Wires

Jan. 9, 2012

BOSTON — This week in Massachusetts politics, the focus is largely next door on New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary, where former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is ahead in the polls. But there’s some action at the State House, with state lawmakers considering bills on issues ranging from abuses at special education agencies to three-strikes sentencing to banning talking on cellphones while driving.
On Tuesday, the Senate is set to debate a bill overhauling the state’s special education agencies. Over the summer, the Massachusetts auditor found patterns of lavish spending, excessive salaries, and conflicts of interest at agencies that provide services for special needs students in school districts across the state. The bill would require the agencies to file audited financial statements annually with their boards of directors, member school districts and the state education board.
Also Tuesday, lawmakers hold a public hearing on a bill to ban drivers from using their cellphones behind the wheel unless they have a hands-free device. Currently state law only bans cellphone use for drivers under the age of 18. It also bans texting while driving.
On Wednesday, Jan. 11, the Legislature’s consumer protection committee holds an oversight hearing on the mislabeling of seafood. The hearing follows an exposé by the Boston Globe that found that Bay State restaurants and markets were regularly substituting what was written on the menu or the price list for a cheaper fish.
And on Jan. 12, a six-member conference committee meets to work out a compromise on a "three strikes and you're out" sentencing bill that was passed back in November. The House version would deny parole to anyone convicted of a third serious felony. The Senate version is more sweeping: It includes measures such as updating the state wiretapping laws to include text messages and creating the crimes of assault with a firearm, murder for hire and strangulation.
Material from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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