By State House News Service
Reversing course on a new law aimed at diminishing the influence on doctors by pharmaceutical and medical device companies, the House on Wednesday voted to strike the so-called gift ban law, which critics say has hurt commerce in the medical and restaurant industries. An amendment to preserve the ban attracted 40 votes, with 108 against.
The elimination of the gift ban was included in economic development legislation that cleared the House 145-4 and now needs to be reconciled with a Senate bill in a conference committee.
Critics of the ban said it was discouraging out-of-state interests from doing business in Massachusetts and said the ban had not led to demonstrable reductions in health care costs. Supporters of the ban said the state had already heavily invested itself in implementing it and needed to give the law more time to work itself out. Ban supporters also said other states were pursuing similar bans and predicted the law could help reduce health care costs and ensure that the interests of patients, not drug and device makers, are the top priority for physicians. Speaking against the ban were Reps. Garrett Bradley, Brian Dempsey, and Barry Finegold. Pushing to preserve the ban were Reps. Alice Wolf, Ruth Provost, Jason Lewis, and Elizabeth Malia.
The larger bill reorganizes state agencies that regulate and oversee businesses and features targeted tax policy changes, including alterations in capital gains calculations and the methods for accounting for business losses. The House also voted to suspend the sales tax during the weekend of Aug. 14-15 in a bid to boost retail sales.
While job creation is an oft-stated priority for lawmakers concerned about high unemployment, the bill, with the exception of the gift ban amendment, generated almost no debate during a daylong session that featured the adoption of many amendments without explanation.
When Rep. Paul Donato announced late in the day that there would be no additional roll calls but that the House would begin considering the dozens of bills on its calendar, most House members quickly left the chamber, leaving that work to a handful of colleagues.