9:00 | Massachusetts Girls in Trades hosts an event to connect young women in high school with well-paying careers in construction. Lauren Jones, the secretary of labor and workforce development, will participate along with other industry leaders, contractors, and journeywomen from the building trades unions | Dean Tech Regional Vocational School, Holyoke
11:00 | MASSPIRG Education Fund releases 38th annual Trouble in Toyland report, "in which we look at the smart devices surrounding us – VR headsets and other things with microphones, cameras, connectivity, location trackers, poor security and more -- as well as some of the low-tech gifts you don’t want to give your children." 294 Washington St, Boston, 5th floor, (corner of Milk and Washington St.)
12:00 | MBTA Board of Directors meets. State Transportation Building, 10 Park Plaza, Boston
6:00 | Pioneer Institute hosts its 26th annual Dinner & Peters Lecture, featuring a lecture from economic theorist and professor Glenn Loury. Loury will discuss "the great crisis in America’s civic culture, the fragmented state of civil discourse, and what we can do to restore civility and substance in American public life." Tickets are $250 each. Hyatt Regency Boston, One Avenue de Lafayette, Boston
“What do we have? Seven more hours.” (That was Senate budget chief Michael Rodrigues at 5:20 p.m.)
“According to the clock, an hour and 15 minutes, but you know, sometimes we work with that.” (That was Sen. Will Brownsberger, around 10:45 p.m., interpreting for Sen. Bruce Tarr how much time was left ’til the clock struck midnight.)
It was the final night of formal sessions for 2023, and top House and Senate Democrats were at odds over how the Legislature should respond to the ongoing migrant housing crisis. As it turned out, the midnight bells tolled, then the clock struck one. No deal, and the branches adjourned into uncertain territory.
The chambers had already both concurred in Gov. Maura Healey’s request for $250 million to inject into the state’s emergency shelter system, but besides the dollar amount, the question was what guardrails to impose on the Executive Branch’s response to the migrant situation.
That was just one part, albeit the thorniest part, of a $2.8 billion supplemental spending bill that also features language to breathe life back into a hydropower transmission project for the Massachusetts grid, set the primary election date for next year (day after Labor Day), and fund raises that thousands of state employees have been promised for months.
Concerned shelter advocates and public employee union lobbyists were a constant presence in the State House corridors throughout the night. On the chamber floor, it was “hurry up and wait,” ultimately resolving not in a budget deal, but in a decision to punt the bill into more darkness: a six-member conference committee with no set timeline.
Lawmakers and Gov. Healey will both have decisions to make, now that the branches are only able to meet in informal sessions where a single rep or senator can shut down consideration of any matter.
Meantime, as we sing Auld Lang Syne at the close of 2023 formals, and folks under the Golden Dome wish each other a preemptive happy Thanksgiving, happy holidays, and happy new year, what’s actually made it across the finish line this year?
There was the long-awaited tax relief bill, a regular local road funding bill, the annual budget (gotta do that one), and …
Lawmakers have dipped into some other topics and considered things like major changes to firearm laws (House), access to menstrual products and HIV prevention drugs (Senate), pay scale transparency (both branches quickly passed similar bills but slowed down in crafting a final version) … And they spent most of the hours of Wednesday debating chamber-specific priorities before the House passed a long-term care industry bill (7:12 p.m.) and the Senate approved a prescription drug pricing measure (10:41 p.m.).
All of that forms a midterm grade of incomplete, with real grades to be filled in sometime after returning from the holiday sojourn. Some of those bills, if they do see the light of day, might not surface again until next July. — Sam Doran
Legislators fail to make budget deal, tripping over shelter spending
The House and Senate adjourned early Thursday morning without an accord on a bill addressing the $250 million in the works for the emergency shelter system. While the two bodies agree on fulfilling Healey’s request to inject that money into the system, they disagree on whether they should dictate how the money will be used once it’s there. Where the House plan sets requirements on shelter spending and the development of an overflow site for families unable to access shelter, the Senate plan gives the Healey administration more flexibility to decide how it wants to manage the situation. Billions of dollars are now in limbo, as the lack of a deal on this shelter bill prevents the state from closing its books on FY23. — State House News Service
A bill covering oversight, licensure and support in long-term care sector makes it through
Passed unanimously in the House at about 10:45 p.m. Wednesday night, the bill is meant to ensure access and support, oversee facilities and increase quality care. Among various pieces of the bill, lawmakers agreed it will require long-term care facilities to develop infection outbreak response plans, create workforce training programs and abide by new licensing regulations. The Senate unanimously voted in favor of a bill meant to decrease prescription drug prices and increase regulatory scrutiny of pharmaceutical companies across Mass., though the House has yet to join. — State House News Service
Correction: A previous version of this edition incorrectly stated the Senate passed the long-term care bill. The bill was passed in the House. The above item has been updated to reflect the correct information. MASSterList regrets this error.
State college students will see millions in aid expansion thanks to income surtax
Around 25,000 students at Mass. community colleges, state universities and the University of Massachusetts will qualify for free tuition as a result of newly-available revenues from an income surtax on the state’s highest earners. Rolled out on Wednesday, the MASSGrant Plus expansion will use $62 million to increase financial aid for both lowest-income and middle-income students. The expansion is included in Maura Healey’s FY24 budget signed over the summer, and is retroactive to the start of the fall 2023 semester. — State House News Service
Gamblers chipping in more and more for state budget
Increased legalized betting in Massachusetts is putting more and more funds into state coffers, the latest data from the Massachusetts Gambling Commission indicates. October featured the highest betting levels since sports gambling in the state was legalized in January 2023. The state has netted more than $72 million so far this calendar year, officials said. — State House News Service
Teachers allowed to bypass usual licensing process due to Covid shortages have been up to the job
Teachers who due to emergency Covid-19-related rules were given permission to work without the usual licensure steps are performing just as well as teachers who passed through the traditional process, a new Boston University study concluded. More than 19,000 teachers in Massachusetts received emergency licensure. The assessment was based on evaluations of teachers, surveys of principals and a review of student scores on standardized tests. — WBUR
Mass., Rhode Island Janitorial strike averted
A tentative agreement has been reached between an association of the region’s largest cleaning contractors and a union representing janitors across Mass. and Rhode Island. The agreement quells a 12,500-person strike threatened to begin Thursday. Service Employees International Union negotiated its largest wage increase ever, an agreement that offers wage increases of about 20 percent over the course of four years, according to the Associated Press. The deal additionally will convert 500 part-time positions to full-time jobs in Boston and Cambridge over the four years, which will allow union workers to access employer-paid health benefits for the first time ever. — Associated Press
$50M grant from US Dept. of Energy fosters energy efficiency pilot program in Mass.
By installing small batteries in about 2,000 homes across the state, the program will test a potentially cost-effective way to shift when appliances draw power from the grid. In order to meet the future demand of electrification, the state will have to build a significant amount of green energy infrastructure… This program, however, hopes to get away with building less of that infrastructure by implementing special software in homes that can direct appliances to run off of a battery when electricity demand on the grid spikes. To begin, Mass Save plans to install electric heat pumps and smart thermostats in low-to-moderate income homes. — WBUR
State may ease up on probationers who take illegal drugs
Under existing Massachusetts law, a person on probation who is found in a test to have used illegal drugs faces possible incarceration. The state Legislature is considering a measure that would send test-failing probationers to treatment rather than prison. Proponents of the measure said at a legislative committee meeting Wednesday that addiction is a disease and relapse is one facet. — WBUR
Potential voter fraud in Lawrence? Investigation begins
An allegation of potential voter fraud in last week’s municipal election in Lawrence has sparked an investigation by the Essex District Attorney’s office. The allegation stems from a resident who claims to have gone to the polls to cast a ballot, only to be told they’d already voted by mail. Upon further inspection, the resident reviewed footage from their home, in which they saw someone removing a ballot from their mailbox even though the resident said they didn’t request a ballot be mailed nor return one. — Boston Globe
Police practices may skew data on racial disparities
Police in Massachusetts who stop Hispanic men for traffic violations frequently report the drivers were white, a practice that skews data about how often people of different races are being pulled over, the USA Today network of local newspapers reports. The problem is especially acute in places such as Holyoke, where the number of Hispanics being stopped may be three times higher than statistics suggest. — Worcester Telegram & Gazette