Legislation Moving Before The End Of The Year: The Week Ahead On Beacon Hill

Nov 6, 2017

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker returns to Beacon Hill from a vacation Monday, and lawmakers begin a countdown to the last day of their formal sessions in 2017. 

There are a number of measures hanging in the balance. State House News Service reporter Matt Murphy says the legislature is scheduled to adjourn in just over a week, on November 15.

Matt Murphy, State House News Service: I think you have to look at this and set your expectations, knowing that probably nothing is going to get “done done.” Nothing will quite be finalized.

But the Senate has taken up a massive criminal justice reform bill. The House has teed a debate that looks like it’s going to take place next week.

That would set them up to get it into conference, where they could begin negotiations over the break.

The same might not be possible for the health care bill, which the Senate is expected to take up later this week.

They've scheduled two days of debate over another huge bill that would reform the way hospitals are paid, and the way some of our medical systems work for patients. This will probably make it through the Senate this week, and probably have to wait until next year for the House to take up.

And you know, we're also looking at the potential vote -- and maybe this could get done. A committee last week begin polling legislation that would guarantee free access to birth control for women in response to President [Donald] Trump rolling back some of the rules under the Affordable Care Act. This would guarantee coverage with no co-payments or deductibles for oral contraceptives.

There is an interest in fast-tracking this bill, and that is something that could potentially get done before the break.

Carrie Healy, NEPR: Late last week, an accelerated tax collection system proposed by Governor Charlie Baker -- that was designed to generate an extra month's worth of tax revenue in this fiscal year -- was determined to not be deployable in time. Is that going to come back and bite us before the end of the year?  Can you put that real-time tax collection system into context?

Part of the interesting thing here was that this is something that the governor first proposed in his budget back in January. The way the current system works is when you buy something, and you pay the sales tax, that store holds that sales tax, and they have to pay it all, in a bulk amount, the following month -- back to the state.

The governor wanted to implement a real-time system, and the effect of that -- if they could have done it by June -- would have been a $125 million benefit to the state in this budget year, because it would have pushed one month of revenues into this fiscal year, and would have evened out over time.

The Department of Revenue last week said it's not doable in a cost-effective manner, under the time frame that the governor had proposed, and that the legislature adopted.

So they did say that in order to mitigate any impact on this year's budget -- still a shift back -- and credit revenue for next June to the current fiscal year budget. But that creates a problem moving forward into fiscal '19. And the legislature will have to look at that.

And probably get on this cycle -- you might imagine -- of starting to just shift those revenues back every year until, and if, they can get this real-time tax collection system in place.

Just over a week ago, reports of sexual harassment surfaced on Beacon Hill, and there were many disgusted and outraged lawmakers who commented on the matter. Where are we on the issue now -- where do we stand?

Yeah, this has been something that certainly has a lot of people in Beacon Hill talking. You know, the most of this initiated from a column in The Boston Globe written by Yvonne Abraham that did not include a lot of names, but included a lot of stories that really outraged some of the leaders here in the House and Senate.

The speaker has said that he welcomes anyone to come forward, and put names to those stories, and that they will be investigated if that happens. But in the meantime, he has asked his House counsel to conduct an investigation, by next March, into the House’s policies, and ways they could be improved, and improve the culture here on Beacon Hill -- if it is threatening to some of the women staffers and lawmakers that work in this building every day.

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