It's About 100 Days Until The Mass. Legislative Session Ends: Beacon Hill In 5

Apr 9, 2018

Monday is the 99th day of 2018. We're anticipating a transfer of leadership in the Massachusetts Senate on July 23, the 204th day of the year.

That's when Harriette Chandler will step aside and Senator Karen Spilka will assume the presidency, about a week before the legislature wraps up formal sessions for the year. 

Carrie Healy, NEPR: With about 100 days left between now and the end of the session, what highly anticipated priorities have been achieved, and which ones remain on the punch list?

Matt Murphy, State House News Service: You can say virtually everything remains on the punch list. Last year, the legislature finished up with kind of rewriting the marijuana law. The Cannabis Control Commission is on its way now, and already began accepting applications in the first round of applications to open retail shops – so that’s engaged.  

And last week, we saw the criminal justice bill -- the compromise version, after the House and Senate both passed bills last year -- reach the governor's desk. We’re expecting this week to hear more from the governor on this bill.

It’s very big, very complicated, and I would not be surprised if the governor had some recommended changes to it. But that is probably going to get done in the relatively near future. Additionally, you're looking at health care, a conference committee to deal with short-term rentals through sites like AirBnB, and there are smaller bills moving.

The Senate is looking to do something with student loans. The House is probably going to be taking up some kind of economic development bill first.

And the budget season is just about to kick off, we expect this week chair of the Ways and Means Committee Jeff Sanchez to present his first annual spending plan. So we’re really gearing up right now.

Late winter and early spring on Beacon Hill, annually, brings the allocation of money for road work. As we wrap up another round of crazy New England weather and hope that spring will actually stick around, where are we with chapter 90 funds?

It may not feel like the spring construction season has started outside, but cities and towns really look to have this locked in place by April 1, and that obviously has not happened. The House and Senate are looking again at probably a $200 million bill which falls well short of what groups like the Mass Municipal Association say is needed to keep the municipal roads in Massachusetts in a state of good repair.

We heard last week from the chair the Transportation Committee in the House basically what the state can afford when you factor in all the other priorities, and statewide spending on transportation that needs to get done.

There is a possibility that the Senate may take a look at doing something that cities and towns have asked for many years now, which is a long-term bill, perhaps $200 million, maybe more. But for multiple years, that would be a commitment that would allow cities and towns to enter into contracts ahead of time, and not do this year by year, and always waiting in the spring to see exactly when and how much the state will come through with so that's something to watch for.

Small business owners will have their say Tuesday in Boston: Governor Baker is the keynote speaker at a Small Business Day event. Lawmakers will mingle with retailers, and offer a different viewpoint than a recent MassINC polling group poll from mid-March supporting a $15 dollar an hour wage hike by 78 percent. What issues will lawmakers and the governor be hearing about from small business owners?

I’m sure you’ll hear talk about that minimum wage hike. The future of the ballot in November is really on the minds of small businesses and retailers, and they’re concerned about the so-called millionaires tax that could be on the ballot. They're concerned about the minimum wage hike and what that will do to costs.

As more business moves online, they feel like they're getting squeezed. That's why you've seen them float the idea that they may go to the ballot with a question to lower the sales tax, hoping that will lure customers back into the brick-and-mortar stores that they run.

They are open to taking a question off the ballot if something else happens on the minimum wage or they can reach an agreement.

We've seen in past years, sometimes, state lawmakers will try to do something around the unemployment insurance that these businesses have to pay to the state. If they can give him a break on that, they can do some things on the other end. So this is certainly a situation in flux, and I think we'll have the governor speak to it.