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Bottle bill, election laws shouldn’t get lost in last-minute frenzy on Beacon Hill

The change of pace on Beacon Hill in July is always jarring. For weeks, bills barely inch forward. But as the session enters its final days, there’s a frenzy of last-minute sausage-making. Some worthy ideas get left out in conference committee, or simply run out of time. As the end of the session looms, lawmakers should be sure to pass these measures:

Bottle bill. To the surprise and elation of environmental groups, the Senate recently approved an amendment that would extend the state’s deposit law to beverages other than beer and soda. In the years since the nickel-a-container law was adopted, bottled water has exploded in popularity, and whole new categories of beverages have emerged; one can almost marvel at the sheer variety of non-fizzy drinks among the bottles tossed on local streets. The House has avoided anything that looks like a revenue hike, but the bottle bill isn’t a tax for people who return their empties. It’s an effective measure that discourages litter, and the House should go along.

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Voting. Each of the four elements of the proposed Election Laws Reform bill has been sensibly crafted to expand the number of eligible voters or ensure that every vote cast is counted correctly.

For starters, 16- and 17-year-olds would be allowed to pre-register. Next, voters would have an opportunity to download and print out voter registration forms. The most ambitious part of the bill mandates random, hand-count audits in 3 percent of the state’s precincts. Many states conduct such audits to ensure the integrity of the process. Massachusetts should join them; states may not know of problems with voting machines until they look for them. Under the bill, chief election officers in each municipality would also be required to attend an annual training. The House has seen the wisdom of this approach. Now the Senate needs to do its part.

Campaign finance. Before 2010, state and federal law forbade corporations from making independent campaign expenditures; after the US Supreme Court struck down such laws, corporations needn’t even disclose this spending to the public. A bill to mandate such disclosures in state and local elections came out of committee only late Tuesday afternoon. But as independent advertising looms larger in politics, voters deserve to know who’s behind it.

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