State Capitol Briefs — Thursday, June 5, 2014

(State House News Service) —  

SENATE SIGNS OFF ON BILL UPDATING AMUSEMENT PARK REGULATIONS
The Senate on Thursday voted to update regulations for amusement rides and structures such as ferris wheels, carousels, rock walls and go-karts. The bill (S 1184), which passed without debate and now goes to the House, updates the standards of licensure that owners of amusement devices must meet, clarifies the authority of the state public safety commissioner to regulate the devices, provides mandatory accident reporting procedures, requires emergency medical personnel at amusement parks with over 35 rides, and increases the insurance coverage required of owners to $2 million per ride from $1 million. Before approving the bill on a voice vote, the Senate adopted an amendment covering carousels, filed by Sen. Robert Hedlund (R-Weymouth). Hedlund told the News Service the amendment was aimed at providing a carousel on Hull’s Nantasket Beach with some “breathing room.” The Paragon Park Carousel, which was built in 1928, should not have to comply with the same standards as Six Flags, Hedlund said. The amendment would preclude officials with the nonprofit overseeing the Paragon Park Carousel from having to take some of the certification steps that are required of bigger operators. Separately, at the request of Sen. Richard Moore (D-Uxbridge) a bill on the substitution of “interchangeable biosimilars” (H 3734) was laid aside until the next session. Moore said he needed additional time to review the bill, which provides for a procedure to permit the substitution of an interchangeable biological and medical product for a brand name biological and medical product, if it is available. – G. Dumcius/SHNS

SENATE APPROVES MISSING PERSONS BILL
The Senate on Thursday unanimously passed legislation establishing guidelines and codifying procedures for an emergency alert system that aids in finding abducted children. The bill (S 1110) codifies the AMBER Alert System, and designates it as the main system for the recovery of abducted children 17 years old and younger in Massachusetts. The system was first launched in Texas in 1996 and stands for America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response. The bill also requires more information to be entered into the missing child database, including fingerprint and blood type information, as well as identifying marks, prosthetics, photographs, and the description of clothing. Under the bill, the colonel of the State Police will have the ability to activate and terminate AMBER Alert plans and the State Police, which would be required to publish best practices for reporting a missing person, would be given guidelines for handling human remains. The bill also creates a missing persons task force that would review local and federal policies for law enforcement in missing persons cases. Since then-Acting Gov. Jane Swift signed a 2002 memorandum of understanding with State Police setting up the system locally, the alert has been used 15 times and 23 children have been returned safely to their family, according to Sen. Stephen Brewer (D-Barre), one of the bill’s sponsors. “It is clearly a system that works,” Brewer said during a floor debate. – G. Dumcius/SHNS

NEW GLOBE SECTION WILL FEATURE POLLING, ONLINE ANALYTICS
Weekly poll results, infographics, and plans to track political conversation on social media will be features of the Boston Globe’s new weekly section focused on politics, which is set to debut on Friday. The section, which will be called Capital, will appear each Friday in the newspaper and online at BostonGlobe.com. Cambridge-based SocialSphere will handle the polling and help identify the top 50 weekly Twitter influencers in Massachusetts politics, according to a press release. John Della Volpe is SocialSphere’s CEO and also the director of polling at Harvard’s Institute of Politics. Section managers plan to delve into topics like medical marijuana, casinos, education, and politics at the local, state and national levels. “Capital will cover policy, of course, but also the politics, characters and motives behind the policy, which in many ways is more interesting and important,” Globe Editor Brian McGrory said in a statement. “We envision Capital as more than a one-day read, since we will follow not only the news of the day, but broader political issues with long-term implications.” Globe political writers Frank Phillips, Jim O’Sullivan, Joshua Miller, Michael Levenson and Stephanie Ebbert will write regularly and David Scharfenberg, formerly of WBUR and the Providence Phoenix, is also joining the staff. – M. Norton/SHNS

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