Post-session meeting of leaders
After a hectic finish last night to the legislative session on Beacon Hill, Gov. Charlie Baker and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito today will confer with House Speaker Robert DeLeo, Senate President Stan Rosenberg, House Minority Leader Brad Jones and Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr in a closed-door meeting, Governor’s Office, 2 p.m.
Baker to sign pay equity bill
Gov. Baker plans to sign the gender pay equity legislation recently passed by lawmakers, with by Lt. Gov. Polito, Senate President Rosenberg, House Speaker DeLeo, Treasurer Deborah Goldberg, Sen. Patricia Jehlen and others expected to attend the ceremony, Grand Staircase, 3:30 p.m.
Massachusetts Gaming Commission
The Massachusetts Gaming Commission is slated to vote on Brockton Fairgrounds’ request for Race Horse Development Funds and discuss other gaming matters, 101 Federal Street, 12th Floor, Boston, 10 a.m.
MBTA Control Board
The MBTA’s Fiscal Management and Control Board meet to discuss real estate developments around South Station, a contract tied to deployment of “Positive Train Control” technology, the voluntary retirement and separation incentive program, and an updated disparate impact and disproportionate burden policy for the authority, Transportation Board Room, 10 Park Plaza, Boston, 12 p.m.
Ride-hailing compromise includes Logan pickup, background checks and fees
It wasn’t pretty, but lawmakers managed to finally end this year’s session late last night, passing a number of key bills after tough weekend talks between House and Senate negotiators led to last-minute compromises on major issues.
Among the measures agreed upon last night was a compromise bill to regulate ride-hailing services such as Uber and Lyft — one that opens the door to allowing companies to service the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center and Logan Airport, the Globe’s Joshua Miller reports. The bill requires two-tiered background checks, but stops short of requiring fingerprinting of drivers—something taxi interests had pushed hard for as the legislation came together. And the final decision on Logan and the BCEC was left up to state agencies. A spokesman for Lyft applauded the legislation and urged Gov. Baker to sign it into law.
There is also a 20-cent per ride surcharge in the legislation and Shira Schoenberg and Gintautus Dumicius at MassLive.com break down where the money will go: Half goes to cities and towns to boost transportation infrastructure—that part of the tax goes away after 10 years—and a nickel each goes to the Department of Transportation and to a MassDevelopment program to help the taxi and livery industries innovate and adapt.
Lawmakers OK purchases of hydro and wind power, despite discontent over energy bill
After brutal negotiations finally led to a compromise renewable energy bill, lawmakers last night approved a measure that would require utilities to contract for up to 2,800 megawatts of hydropower and wind power in the years ahead, reports the Globe’s Joshua Miller. “That’s equal to about a third of the power Massachusetts uses every year, and legislators see it as a big step toward reducing the state’s carbon footprint,” Miller reports.
But SHNS’s Matt Murphy reports (pay wall) that not everyone was happy with the final energy bill. Senate leaders had to work behind the scenes to “sooth the discontent over the final compromise, which is being viewed by some as short of comprehensive energy bill that had been promised earlier in the session.” Some lawmakers were disappointed that the final bill didn’t do enough to promote energy efficiency and other strategies designed to reduce the state’s reliance on carbon-producing fossil fuels. Meanwhile, the conference committee also adopted the House’s preferred language that would exclude the long-fought, controversial Cape Wind project in Nantucket Sound from bidding for long-term offshore wind contracts, reports SHNS. “There’s definitely going to be an energy bill next year,” said one senior ranking Senate official, reports SHNS.
No go: Airbnb tax, online lottery gaming, expanded tax credits dropped by lawmakers
Passed in the last minutes of last night’s legislative session, the massive economic development bill is arguably more notable for what it didn’t have in it. Lawmakers dropped from the bill a proposed tax on Airbnb and other online home-rental firms, expansion of the low-income tax credit and authorization for the Massachusetts Lottery to expand into online gambling, reports SHNS’s Andy Metzger at MassLive, citing a House negotiator. “The Senate had a number of outside sections that didn’t match up with things in the House. Most of those were set aside or held in conference,” said Rep. Joe Wagner, the House chairman of the Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies.
Reports Metzger: “The final version was filed around 11 p.m. Sunday and enacted on a unanimous 156-0 vote in the House and a 38-1 vote in the Senate just after midnight. With major borrowing provisions, the economic development bill required roll call votes on enactment, and the Legislature’s rules prohibit formal sessions – where recorded votes can be taken – from happening after July 31.”
Stymied again: Non-compete reform falters on Beacon Hill
Even though both the House and Senate both passed legislation that would restrict employers’ use of non-compete agreements to keep workers from moving to rival companies, lawmakers yesterday failed to reach a compromise on the contentious issue that has pitted major companies against startup firms, the Globe’s Curt Woodward reports. It’s the latest setback – and disappointment – for those looking to change or even abolish controversial non-compete agreements in Massachusetts. While backers of non-compete agreements say they’re needed to protect sensitive trade secrets, critics say such contracts stifle innovation and force many talented workers, especially tech workers, to move to other states that don’t have such agreements.
“The failure to pass noncompete reform is a massive blow to many in the Boston startup and venture capital community who believe the elimination or limiting of noncompetes would help stimulate the state’s innovation economy,” writes Dylan Martin at BostInno. “While noncompetes will still to continue to limit the state’s innovation economy, the more egregious issue is that employers will still be able to enforce noncompetes for interns, people under 18, most hourly workers and people who get fired or laid off. Both the House and Senate versions of the noncompete reform bill would have put an end to that.”
Veto bait: Lawmakers approve testing of new ‘miles-driven’ tax
Before adjourning last night, the Legislature approved a provision that authorizes the Baker administration to apply for federal funding to test a new tax on motorists based on how many miles they drive per year, reports MassLive’s Shira Schoenberg. The controversial measure was included in a bill financing road and bridge improvements. Supporters say such a tax is needed because the existing gas tax, based on by-the-gallon purchases of fuel, is financially inadequate in the age of more fuel-efficient cars. But Schoenberg notes that Gov. Baker has already said he is likely to veto the vehicle miles traveled pilot program.
Sen. Ken Donnelly hospitalized, set to undergo surgery
As lawmakers rushed on Sunday to finish this year’s legislative session on Beacon Hill, state Sen. Ken Donnelly, an Arlington Democrat, was admitted to Massachusetts General Hospital last evening and will undergo surgery within 48 hours, reports Adam Vaccaro at Boston.com. In a Facebook posting, Donnelly’s family did not disclose his ailment. “After experiencing difficulties, Senator Donnelly was admitted to Mass General Hospital,” the post reads. “After further testing, doctors determined surgery is likely required. … His family asks that you send all your good wishes and prayers. We will update you when we have more information.”
A former Lexington firefighter and the Senate’s majority whip, Donnelly’s district includes Arlington, Billerica, Burlington, and parts of Lexington and Woburn.
Lawmakers restore arts and culture funds
Among the late-night budget overrides lawmakers approved Sunday was $7.7 million that will restore funding for the Massachusetts Cultural Council to the levels approved by lawmakers before Gov. Baker slashed them nearly in half, Gintautus Dumicius of MassLive reports. The funds make their way into arts and cultural programs around the state, which helped drive broad legislative support for restoring the cash.
Merchants lament lawmakers’ decision to forgo sales tax holiday
Retail groups are bemoaning the Legislature’s refusal to hold a state sales tax holiday later this month, saying merchants and consumers will take a big hit without the tax break that’s become almost a tradition in recent years in Massachusetts, the Herald’s Jack Encarnacao reports. As expected, lawmakers didn’t authorize a sales tax holiday by yesterday’s end of this year’s legislative session. Beacon Hill leaders say the state, which is facing budget deficits, just can’t afford one. But Jon Hurst, president of the Retailers Association of Massachusetts, said some stores could see a 10 to 15 percent decline in annual sales without the popular weekend tax break. “The reality is there are some stores that won’t survive the next 12 months because they did not have this incentive,” he said. “That’s just the fact. It is that important.”
Warren, Markey grill agency over potential pipeline conflict of interest
U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey are demanding that a federal agency answer questions about an alleged conflict of interest in an environmental review of a natural gas pipeline proposal by Houston-based Spectra Energy, reports Mary Serreze at MassLive, citing a story at DeSmogBlog.com.The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission used Natural Resource Group to handle an environmental assessment on one of three pipeline projects Spectra has proposed in Massachusetts, but NRG was working for Spectra on another pipeline project at the time of the review. Warren and Markey shot a series of questions to FERC last week, asking if Spectra or NRG had disclosed any potential conflicts to FERC and if the agency had conducted an independent review to determine whether any such claims were valid.
Warren fills coffer during high-profile summer
U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s high-profile summer, which started with both Democratic candidates for president seeking her endorsement and ended with her as a strong Hillary Clinton surrogate, has proven lucrative for her campaign’s bank account, the Associated Press reports via the Herald. Warren ended June with $3.8 million in her campaign account, up from $3.1 million in January.
MCAS 2.0 is slowly but surely taking shape
Doug Page at Bay State Parent has a good overview of what’s going on regarding the new MCAS 2.0, the new standardized test the state’s public school children will start taking next year. A lot of work still needs to be done, but this is a good primer on how officials are struggling to develop a new test that consists of questions aligned to the controversial Common Core State Standards and questions tied to the state’s old MCAS test, which public school children have been taking for nearly two decades.
She’s back: GOP’s Chanel Prunier to head rollback effort of transgender rights bill
Chanel Prunier, who lost her position as the state GOP’s national committeewoman after Gov. Charlie’s allies took control of the party committee earlier this year, has agreed to be the chairwoman of Keep Massachusetts Safe, the ballot question committee pushing for repeal of the recently passed transgender rights bill, the Herald’s Matt Stout reports. In her new role, Prunier will be at odds with Baker, a Republican who quietly signed the transgender bill after it was passed by lawmakers early last month. Backers of the measure hope to get the question on the 2018 ballot, the same year Baker is expected to run for re-election, Stout notes.
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