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Editorial: Some House decisions deserve more explanation

The Massachusetts House of Representatives, including our local representatives, wants the public to know it takes economic development seriously — very seriously.

This is why the legislative body is so happy to trumpet passage of its latest bill, which would provide money that will shape the future, from $10 million for the Brownfields Redevelopment Fund and a $1.5 million investment — with private sector matching funds — going toward computer science education in public schools. The legislation, introduced by House Speaker Robert DeLeo, also would spend $15 million for a Middle Skills Job Training Grant Fund, including grants to community colleges and vocational-technical schools for training in information technology and advanced manufacturing.

Sounds terrific, doesn’t it?

But we’re less happy with the House’s rejection of the idea of allowing local control over liquor licenses. We just don’t understand turning this down, especially for communities where tourism has become an important — if not the only — economic engine. Local communities are in a much better position to decide how many restaurants should have the ability to serve beer, wine or a mixed drink with their meals than a group of politicians in Boston.

It’s not as if a change to local control will take the state out of the process entirely. Massachusetts will still flex plenty of muscle when it comes to license requirements, training and the costs associated with the entire process.

Was the vote prompted by concerns over the competition that occurs when there are limited licenses? Or is it an attempt to protect those who already have those licenses?

Or is it, as some suspect, an attempt to keep the “good old boy” network firmly in control?

The public deserves to hear an explanation from their legislators as to why they — and not the town — must have the final say on how many liquor licenses a community may have, especially if it exceeds some predetermined limit put in place by the state.

But that’s not the only vote that we have trouble understanding.

The House approved another annual sales tax-free weekend for Aug. 16 and 17, even though such a break is a losing proposition when it comes to revenue — costing the state something like $20 million. In the same session, legislators decided that offering that same tax break on meals needs more study.

Again, we’d sure like a better explanation ... but somehow, we don’t expect one anytime soon.

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