Week Ending June 10, 2011
Government Reform Passes Unanimously in the Senate
On Thursday, the Senate passed SB 1900, Senate President Therese Murray’s (D-Plymouth) omnibus government reform bill. SB 1900 would establish a performance management system by requiring the Executive Branch to curb personnel costs and requiring each new governor to file a zero-based budget during the initial stage of his or her administration. The bill would also implement sunset provisions for agencies and authorities, expand electronic reporting by state agencies, require reports on cash intake and outlays and identify discrepancies between estimates and actual receipt and spending levels. Under SB1900, the state’s debt limit would be increased to $1.7 billion at the start of the next fiscal year and local aid to cities and towns would be paid in monthly allotments, as opposed to the quarterly payments currently in place. The bill now moves to the House, although Speaker DeLeo (D-Winthrop) has not indicated a timeline for taking up the bill.
Budget Conference Conducts 1st Meeting
The six-member FY12 state budget conference committee held its first meeting on Wednesday. The conference committee is tasked with forging consensus and producing a compromise budget bill which then goes to the House and Senate for up or down votes. Both House and Senate budgets relied on $800 million in savings from the MassHealth program, which could involve constraining provider payments and rates to achieve savings, according to the Massachusetts Medicaid Policy Institute. The new fiscal year begins July 1st, giving the committee a tight schedule to finalize the budget, which must be voted on in each chamber and then reviewed and signed by the Governor.
Speaker Outlines Gambling Timeline
House Speaker DeLeo (D – Winthrop) on Monday outlined a timeline for passing an expanded gambling bill. According to the Speaker, his desire is to pass the bill in July. The Speaker made clear that he and Senate President Murray (D – Plymouth) have had only preliminary discussions with the Governor, and that he hopes to take up the issue following the passage of the FY2012 budget plan. The Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies held a hearing on the expanded gaming bills in early May. The Governor has said that the issue of gambling is much higher on Speaker DeLeo’s agenda than on his own. Although the House and Senate and Governor were generally in agreement about authorizing casinos in the state before the end of last session, the issue of whether slot machines should be allowed at the state racetracks ultimately derailed the bill’s final passage.
Tornado Budget Bill Referred to Committee
On Tuesday, Governor Patrick filed a $52 million tornado relief budget bill that would pay for emergency response efforts and expedite municipal borrowing authority for towns affected by last week’s tornadoes. The bill would allow Western Massachusetts municipalities to execute short-term borrowing for emergencies without legislative approval and enable cities and towns to assess FY2012 property taxes based on the damaged conditions of properties. Both Speaker DeLeo and Senate President Murray have expressed support for the tornado relief legislation. On Thursday, the House referred the supplemental budget bill to the House Ways and Means Committee.
Business Confidence in Massachusetts Falls
Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM) measures business confidence in the state through a survey it sends out to its members. The AIM confidence index is currently at 51.7, a 4.4% decrease since May. A score of 50 is considered neutral and any rating below 50 signifies generally negative sentiments about business confidence in the state. AIM President Rick Lord attributed the drop to economic reports last month that showed disappointing growth and job creation rates in the state. The index has remained above 50 for the previous eight months. The index reached its all-time low in February 2009.
John Nunnari, Assoc AIA
Executive Director, AIA MA
MA Chapter of American Institute of Architects
The Architects Building
52 Broad Street, Boston MA 02109-4301