Weekly Political Report – Week Ending June 17, 2011

Week Ending June 17, 2011 Former House Speaker DiMasi Convicted On Wednesday, a jury convicted former House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi of using his office to rig software contracts in exchange for kickbacks. DiMasi, who was Speaker of the Massachusetts House from 2004 to 2009, was convicted on seven counts, including conspiracy, mail fraud, wire fraud and extortion. The trial lasted six weeks and featured testimony from Governor Deval Patrick, current and former Massachusetts State Representatives and former House staffers. On Thursday, Judge Mark Wolf scheduled DiMasi’s sentencing hearing for September 8th. House and Senate Pass Storm Relief Bills This week the House and Senate passed a supplemental budget aimed at providing funding for relief from the June 1st tornadoes that hit Western Massachusetts. Both bills would allocate $15 million to pay for emergency response, cleanup, shelter expenditures and other assistance related to the tornadoes. In keeping with the version filed last week by Governor Patrick, both bills 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. The different versions will have to be reconciled before going to the Governor for his signature. Last Saturday the Governor filed a request with FEMA for a Presidential declaration of an emergency in parts of Western Massachusetts. Indication of Potential Gambling Compromise Last week House Speaker DeLeo (D – Winthrop) signaled that he hoped to pass an expanded gambling bill before the end of July. On Monday, after meeting with Speaker DeLeo and Senate President Murray (D – Plymouth), the Governor indicated his flexibility on the issue and referred to a potential compromise of three destination resort casinos and one competitively bid slot parlor license that he could support. Although the House and Senate and the 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. Pension Reform Could Be Taken Up Before August Recess At the end of January, Governor Patrick filed legislation to increase the minimum retirement age for state workers from 55 to 60. His legislation would also require state employees to work until 67 in order to receive their maximum pension benefit. According to Governor Patrick, he received assurances from Speaker DeLeo and Senate President Murray this week that his pension bill could be brought to the floor during the summer. Massachusetts’ current retirement system supports 56,000 retirees and has 86,000 actively contributing employees. Massachusetts Unemployment Falls .2% in May Unemployment in the state was down .2% in May to 7.6%, according to a Patrick Administration jobs report. Although Massachusetts lost 4,000 jobs last month, the unemployment rate has stayed below 8% for the last two months, the first time it has done so since 2009. The highest job gains in the state this month were in professional services, construction and manufacturing industries. John Nunnari, Assoc AIA Executive Director, AIA MA jnunnari@architects.org 617-951-1433 x263 617-951-0845 (fax) MA Chapter of American Institute of Architects The Architects Building 52 Broad Street, Boston MA 02109-4301 http://www.architects.org

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