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House Passes Regionalism Bills
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The state house of representatives has passed a package of bills that house Democrats say will promote regionalism and, eventually, save money.  WNPR’s Jeff Cohen reports.
 
When the session began a few months ago, state Representative Brendan Sharkey said the state and its municipalities needed to start cooperating more in order to save money.  Because state money, as everyone knows, is in short supply.
 
So the house passed and the senate is considering four bills Sharkey says are first steps.
 
One of the four bills would give grants to towns and cities that work together to bus their children to school.  If they work together, they save money. If they save money, the state saves money by having to reimburse them less.  And, under the new bill, if the state saves money, it will pass half of those savings on to the towns and cities.
 
Got that?
 
“If you as a town and board of education can realize savings through a multi-town or regional contract, we’re both going to make out on this.”
 
The house also passed a bill allowing towns, cities and their boards of education to collectively buy health insurance. And, it passed a bill that will make landlords pay to remove and transport the goods of evicted tenants.  As it stands now, towns and cities were doing that and paying for it. 
 
“That’s the whole hue and cry about this issue. The towns are saying, ‘Why should we have to pay for what in every other state in the country is a landlord responsibility?’”
 
Finally, the house passed a hotel tax that Democrats say would generate an additional $9 million in revenue in its first year.  Of that, $3 million would go back to the towns and cities that house the hotels, and the rest would go to regional planning organizations.
 
It’s not much money, but Sharkey says the bill will help decrease the local reliance on the property tax.  He also says it will promote regional cooperation.
 
“It’s not something that can be done overnight, just by waiving a magic wand. Typically, things that would be regionalized to create efficiencies at the local level have an upfront cost associated with them.” 
 
Because, Sharkey says, you have to spend money before you can save it.
 
The senate is now considering the bills.
 
For WNPR, I’m Jeff Cohen.