Budget 'Certainty,' Mass. Senate Stability, Energy Use On Pot Farms: The Week Ahead On Beacon Hill

Feb 12, 2018

There's now some budgetary “certainty” at the federal level, and that could make the budget process a little easier at the state level.

Congress agreed to a two-year spending deal after a brief overnight government shutdown on Friday. Matt Murphy of State House News Service tells us how the agreement helps Massachusetts.

Matt Murphy, SHNS: The fact that this is no longer just a continuing resolution coming out of Congress, and this is a budget that looks like a lot of the state reimbursements that they get from the federal government, should provide a bit more certainty for state budget writers as they prepare their FY fiscal ’19 budget.

But there are areas of federal spending that are still in flux, and we saw that with Governor Charlie Baker filing a mid-year supplemental budget last week that included $1.6 million for family planning services, because Congress has not fully funded the Title X state reimbursement money that typically comes back to Massachusetts.

The federal government still bears watching in terms of their own budgeting, and how it impacts the states.

Carrie Healy, NEPR: After Senate President Harriette Chandler received overwhelming support in dropping the word "acting" from her title last week, has she, since then, indicated what she sees as priorities for the Senate for the rest of the year?

The priorities don't really change. The fact the Senate Democrats decided to drop “acting” from her title brings a little stability to the position. 

She had already laid out an agenda, and she really this week does not have any more authority than she did last week. They continue being interested in getting something done on health care, something done around criminal justice. Housing is an issue of importance to her, as well as the minimum wage, and paid family leave.

These are all still on the table, as they were a week ago, and two weeks ago.

What the vote last week does, senators hope, is remove the threat that another story could drop about Senator Rosenberg that would once again throw the Senate into turmoil and flux, and distract them from getting these pieces of legislation done, and working with the House, and having a clear leadership structure, and message coming out of the Senate.

So we'll see if that actually works the way it is intended.

Was it reassuring for some to see that Senator Stan Rosenberg publicly said that he was looking forward to focusing on policy again?

Yeah, I think so. Rosenberg, even as president, was a very policy-focused guy, and he'd much rather talk about policy than the politics of Beacon Hill.

I don't know how happy he is that it appears that his chances of coming back to the presidency got reduced last week by the actions of the Senate, and by some of the comments of his colleagues.

But I think he certainly welcomes an atmosphere in the Senate where he can come to work, and as you saw him, get a few amendments inserted into a capital needs project bond bill last week.

I think he wants to kind of focus on his work, and let the investigation play out a little more quietly than in the public sphere.

The Cannabis Control Commission wraps up their public hearings in advance of crafting the rules for legalized recreational pot in the state. But regulators have been hearing pushback, including from Governor Charlie Baker. What is next for the CCC?

This week, they should be wrapping up their public hearings, and the public comment will close. It'll be interesting to see where they go.

As you noted, Governor Baker's budget office last week wrote to the Cannabis Control Commission, urging them to kind of take a step back, try and keep things simple.

He thinks they're taking on too much. He wants him to focus on just establishing these retail shops where they could be regulated, and not go so far afield as to be the first state in the nation to have these sort of "pot cafés," and all kinds of other establishments, where pot will be legal to sell and use on the premises.

You also heard, at the end of last week, his administration reaching out, urging them to put energy caps on some of these growing facilities. It takes a tremendous amount of electricity to grow marijuana in bulk, and the administration is starting to express concern that that would impact their efforts to reduce Massachusetts’s carbon footprint, and kind of comply with some of their own carbon emission reduction goals.

I think you'll see the Cannabis Control Commission step back, and take another look at these, but they certainly -- at least some -- did not take too kindly to kind of getting "told what to do" by the administration.

They feel like they've been put in charge there. They've been appointed with a job to do, that they're trying to do to the best of their ability, and it remains to be seen how much sway the governor -- who, with the legislature, controls their budget -- will have over the final direction of these regulations.