The Weekly Political Report is prepared by a political consulting group, Rasky/Baerlein, and shared with me by John Nunnari.
Last Wednesday night marked the end of formal Legislative sessions in Massachusetts for 2011. For the next 7 weeks, the Legislature will meet in informal sessions, during which only non-controversial issues may be taken up. The Legislative session will resume on January 4, 2012 and run continuously through July 31, 2012. Because Massachusetts operates on a 2 year legislative session schedule, and employs a “carry over” provision, all bills that are not passed into law in 2011 automatically carry over to the 2012 session, while maintaining their status in the legislative process.
Bills enacted by both House and Senate last night were sent to Governor Deval Patrick, who has 10 days to sign the bill or send it back to the Legislature with vetoes or amendments. See below for an overview of the major activity in the last week.
Expanded Gambling Bill Sent to Governor’s Desk
The House and Senate completed enactment votes to the legislation authorizing licenses for three regional, resort-style casinos and one competitively bid slot parlor. A last-minute amendment to the bill reduced funds targeted under the legislation for the racehorse industry and boosted local aid funds. On Wednesday, a Patrick administration official confirmed that Gov. Patrick is likely to sign the gambling proposal less than a week after he receives it.
Congressional Redistricting Bill Sent to Governor’s Desk
The House and Senate enacted legislation that redraws the state’s Congressional districts to reflect the loss of one seat. The bill was sent to the Governor’s desk Wednesday afternoon. Under the proposed map, the districts of Congressmen William Keating and Stephen Lynch would change dramatically, putting the two into the same district unless Congressman Keating moves to his summer house on Cape Cod, something that he announced earlier this week that he would do. Cape Cod would be part of a new, incumbent free district that would stretch from the Cape and Islands across Plymouth and Bristol County to Fall River. Western Massachusetts communities currently represented by retiring Congressman John Olver would be split among the two districts currently represented by Congressman James McGovern and Congressman Richard.
Pension Reform Sent to Governor’s Desk
The House and Senate enacted legislation that makes several reforms to the state’s pension system. The bill aims to save the state $6 billion over 30 years by raising retirement ages and reducing benefits for future public employees. The bill was laid before the Governor on Tuesday.
Anti-Human Trafficking Legislation Sent to Governor’s Desk
The House and Senate enacted compromise legislation that establishes the crimes of trafficking persons for sexual servitude and trafficking persons for forced services, each of which would carry a 15-year sentence. If signed into law by Gov. Patrick, Massachusetts will become the 47th state to put a trafficking law on its books.
Transgender Rights Bill Sent to Governor’s Desk
The House and Senate enacted a bill adding transgender persons to the state’s anti-discrimination laws. The bill was laid before the Governor on Wednesday.
Omnibus Crime Reform Passed in the House, Requires Senate Negotiation to Advance
The House passed legislation reforming the state’s parole and sentencing laws, including a ban on parole for three-time violent felons. The Senate passed its own omnibus crime bill last week that includes several additional provisions, including measures to update wiretap laws, to reduce certain mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug crimes and to bar certain felons from possessing handguns. The House had made the decision to focus on repeat violent felons in order to tackle the issue before the beginning of the seven-week recess. Senate President Murray indicated that the Senate planned to insist on its expanded version of the crime bill rather than agree to the “stripped down” version passed in the House.
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