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Tax-free shopping weekend bill in Mass. signed by Gov.

Tax-free shopping weekend will let shoppers avoid paying the state's 6.25 percent sales tax on goods like televisions and back to school items costing up to $2,500 on Aug. 14 and 15.

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Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick speaks during a news conference in Boston, on Aug. 2. Tax-free shopping weekend will let shoppers avoid paying the state's 6.25 percent sales tax on goods like televisions and back to school items costing up to $2,500 on Aug. 14 and 15.

Elise Amendola/AP

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Gov. Deval Patrick signed a bill Thursday creating a tax-free holiday shopping weekend, while vetoing a section of an economic development bill that would have allowed warehouse club retailers to skirt the state's consumer pricing laws.

The measure that will let shoppers avoid paying the state's 6.25 percent sales tax on goods like televisions and back to school items costing up to $2,500 on Aug. 14 and 15 was part of a larger economic development bill the Legislature gave final passage to on Saturday.

"I am particularly pleased that the bill includes a sales tax holiday, as it will give individuals, families and businesses the immediate economic boost we so critically need," Patrick said in a statement.

The state skipped the holiday last year for budget reasons.

But Patrick vetoed part of the bill that would have permitted warehouse club retailers, like BJ's Wholesale and Costco, to avoid putting prices on all items. Current state law requires accurate price signs and price stickers on food and grocery items.

"Accurate price disclosure is one of the most basic consumer protections and must be protected," Patrick said in his signing statement.

The governor said he also vetoed sections that would have exempted the wholesale clubs from inspection and enforcing of price disclosure requirements and would have allowed the exemption to remain in place indefinitely.

The Legislature finished its formal sessions July 31, so it is unlikely to come back to address Patrick's veto of the consumer pricing language.

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Consumer groups, including the Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group, had urged the governor to veto the warehouse club exemption.

"We should be enhancing price disclosure, not eliminating it," Deirdre Cummings, MASSPIRG's legislative director, said in a statement. "Now more than ever, consumers need accurate, meaningful and easy-to-compare price information to make informed choices and to prevent being overcharged at the check-out".

Wholesalers had argued that current pricing laws are costly and electronic price scanners in stores are just as informative as placing price stickers on every grocery item.

The bill also overhauls the state's network of business development agencies and creates new streamlined permitting rules for projects in cities throughout the state.

House Speaker Robert DeLeo said the bill demonstrates that the state is moving to create a strong climate for business.

"This bill signals the continued focus of the House, Senate and Governor on jump-starting economic growth and bringing businesses and jobs to Massachusetts," DeLeo said in a statement.

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