Category Archives: Weekly Mass Political Summaries

John Nunnari provided weekly summaries of Beacon Hill and the Massachusetts political landscape

Weekly Political Report – Week Ending March 30, 2012

The Weekly Political Report is prepared by a political consulting group, Rasky/Baerlein, and shared with me by John Nunnari.

Patrick Administration Outlines Review of State Tax Breaks

Secretary of Administration and Finance, Jay Gonzalez, presented a proposal to the Tax Expenditure Commission on Tuesday that called for tax credits, such as the sales tax exemption on food and clothing, to be assessed every 10 years. Gonzalez recommended that the historic rehabilitation credit, the life science credit, the low-income housing credit, the Economic Development Incentive Program, certified housing development credits, dairy farmer tax credits, and donated land credits be subjected to review and renewal every five years. Any recommendations made by the commission pertaining to sunset provisions would have to be adopted by the Legislature. The Tax Expenditure Commission is due to issue a report with recommendations for how to manage the state’s unequal tax expenditure programs by the end of April.

 

Senate Postpones Debate on Energy Bill

The Senate began debate on a major energy bill on Thursday. After taking action on a number of amendments, the Senate agreed to postpone further consideration of the energy bill until next Thursday. The proposed amendments to the energy bill that are being debated include doubling the cap on net metering that would allow homeowners, businesses and government agencies to sell additional excess power generated from on-site solar, wind or other renewable energy sources back to the grid at retail cost. The bill will also more than double the amount of renewable energy utility companies will be required to purchase through long-term, competitively bid contracts. Supporters of the bill say it will inject a dose of competition into ramped up state efforts to force utilities to help grow the renewable energy industry and jobs within that sector. Senator Downing (D-Pittsfield), co-chair of the Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy, said some members wanted to take their time on pieces of the bill, particularly how rate review cases are handled by the Department of Public Utilities, net metering, and the central procurement by the state of renewable energy in cases of shortages.

 

MBTA Fare Hike First Step in Transportation Finance Plan

State leaders took a first step this week in addressing the state’s transportation finance needs. The State’s Transportation Finance Commission has estimated an unmet transportation financing cost of $1 billion dollars per year. Governor Deval Patrick endorsed the MBTA’s fare increase of 23% on Wednesday and has committed to working with legislative leaders on a comprehensive transportation financing package. House Speaker Robert DeLeo said that a discussion of a larger transportation financing package will be one of the first issues the Legislature addresses in the next session.

 

 

John Nunnari, Assoc AIA

Executive Director, AIA MA

617-951-1433 x263

617-951-0845 (fax)

 

MA Chapter of American Institute of Architects

290 Congress Street, Suite 200, Boston MA 02110

http://www.architects.org

 

Weekly Political Report – Week Ending March 23, 2012

The Weekly Political Report is prepared by a political consulting group, Rasky/Baerlein, and shared with me by John Nunnari.

According to Recent Poll-Warren Leads Brown in US Senate Race

In a recent poll, Senator Scott Brown is behind Democratic opponent Elizabeth Warren by 5 points in the upcoming United States Senate election in Massachusetts. The Public Policy Polling survey results released Tuesday showed Elizabeth Warren with 46% and Senator Brown with 41%.  The Public Policy Polling surveyed 936 voters from March 16th to 18th. From those surveyed, 41% were Democrats, 14% self-identified as Republicans and 45% were independents or from another party.

 

Bill Endorsed to Allow Bidding in Renewable Energy Contracts
On Tuesday, the Joint Committee on Utilities, Telecommunications, and Energy endorsed a bill that would introduce competitive bidding to the renewable energy marketplace while more than doubling the amount of renewably energy utilities must purchase. The redrafted bill would require utility companies over the next four years to purchase an additional 4% of power needs from renewable sources through a competitive bidding process. The bill was updated to allow the Department of Public Utilities to consider whether a contract enhances electricity reliability, helps moderate system peak load requirements, is cost effective to ratepayers over the life of the contract, and, where feasible, creates additional employment and economic development. Under the bill, utilities will be required to complete two procurements by December 2016 for the additional power, entering into 15 to 20-year contracts, instead of the previous 10 to 15-year timeframe.

 

Auto Repair Bill Hearing at State House

Debate over the proposal known as “right to repair” continued at the Massachusetts State House as the Joint Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure held a hearing on the ballot question Wednesday. Auto manufacturers and independent repair shop owners looking for car makers to release more repair codes have failed to reach a settlement, increasing the likelihood that Massachusetts voters will be asked to settle the dispute on the November ballot. Auto makers say they already share essential diagnostic information with repair shops that are willing to pay for it, and that the policy change is driven by car part dealers seeking select data to make parts that do not cost as much. Repair shop owners say they are prohibited from obtaining manufacturer-specific codes, and without the codes the problems in increasingly computerized vehicles cannot be fixed.

 

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

290 Congress Street, Suite 200, Boston MA 02110

http://www.architects.org

Weekly Political Report – Week Ending March 16, 2012

Implementation of Expanded Gaming Law Continuing

The implementation of a law allowing for up to three resort style casinos continued this week with the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe officially requesting that the Governor enter into Compact negotiations with the tribe.  Also this week, the tribe officially requested that the City of Taunton schedule a citywide referendum on the tribe’s proposal to build a casino in Taunton.  The new state law requires the scheduling of a referendum before the tribe and the Commonwealth can commence official Compact negotiations.  Under law, Taunton must schedule the referendum within 60 to 90 days of the tribe’s request, giving the city until June 10 to hold a vote.

 

In addition this week, Foxborough Selectmen debated appointing a team to determine the effects of a casino and to negotiate compensation from Las Vegas casino entrepreneur Steve Wynn. Selectmen previously rejected such a move but were urged by a Foxborough business leader to return to the casino issue. A vote on the matter will be decided in the next couple of weeks.

 

Senator Kerry Seeks Relief for Boston Businesses with No Power

On Tuesday night, an NStar electrical substation caught fire in Boston’s Back Bay causing power outages for 17,000 customers.  By Thursday, about 4,000 NStar customers in Boston remained without power. Utility crews from throughout New England and New York worked to help restore power. Senator John Kerry on Thursday asked federal officials to provide economic relief to small business owners in the Back Bay that have been closed and lost business due to the power outage.

 

Approach of Committee Deadlines Force Legislative Movement

The Joint Rules (specifically Joint Rule 10) governing the Massachusetts Legislature requires most Joint Committees to take action on bills that have been referred to them by Wednesday, March 21st.  This deadline has created a fury of activity over the past week with committees holding executive sessions to take action on bills before the deadline. The Joint Committee on Financial Services for example disposed of more than 200 bills on Thursday during a short executive session.  The Committee gave a favorable recommendation to 35 bills while sending 185 bills to study.

 

Next week, Committees such as the Joint Committee on Public Health; the Joint Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure and the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy all have scheduled executive sessions for the middle of the week.

 

 

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

290 Congress Street, Suite 200, Boston MA 02110

http://www.architects.org

Weekly Political Report – Week Ending February 10, 2012

The Weekly Political Report is prepared by a political consulting group, Rasky/Baerlein, and shared with me by John Nunnari.

 In Address to the House, Speaker Vows No New Taxes

In his speech delivered to the Massachusetts House of Representatives on Wednesday, Speaker Robert DeLeo started by stating the House’s proposed FY2013 budget will not rely on new taxes and fees in order to balance it. This stands in contrast to Governor Patrick’s proposal filed in January with $260 million of newly proposed taxes and fees. In his speech, Speaker DeLeo stated that predictability and consistency in the tax code is important. Speaker DeLeo told the members of the House that any changes to revenue policy “should be approached with extreme caution and should never be done piecemeal.”

 

Poll Shows Joseph Kennedy III as Top U.S. Representative Candidate

UMass Lowell and the Boston Herald conducted a poll of 408 registered voters from February 2nd to 4th and February 6th to 8th that revealed nearly three quarters of voters in the newly designed 4th Congressional District have a favorable opinion of Joseph Kennedy III, the son of former United States Representative Joseph P. Kennedy II and the grandson of Robert Kennedy. This is the first poll to show Kennedy’s appeal against likely Republican candidate Sean Bielat by a 60% to 28% margin. Joseph Kennedy III created an exploratory committee in January but has yet to officially announce his campaign.

 

 

Service Employees International Union Endorses Warren
Three days after endorsing Congressional candidate Joseph Kennedy III, Service Employees International Union, one of the state’s largest labor groups, has formally endorsed Democratic United States Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren. The union said its endorsement followed a February 4th candidate forum that Senator Scott Brown did not attend. An SEIU spokesman said Warren and Democratic primary rival Marisa DeFranco were given equal time during the forum, held at the Bayside Expo in Dorchester. In addition, SEIU has endorsed Joseph Kennedy III after a town hall meeting last weekend where he was the only Congressional candidate to attend.

 

 

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

290 Congress Street, Suite 200, Boston MA 02110

http://www.architects.org

 

Weekly Political Report – Week Ending February 3, 2012

The Weekly Political Report is prepared by a political consulting group, Rasky/Baerlein, and shared with me by John Nunnari.

 BRAC Development Preparation
Last week Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced that the Obama Administration would request Congressional authority to start a new Base Realignment and Closure Commission process (BRAC) as soon as 2013. In response, United State Senator John Kerry requested a briefing from the Pentagon on a potential round of military base closures while referring to Massachusetts as a key strategic mechanism in the country’s defense. In his letter, Senator Kerry noted that Hanscom Air Force Base provides a strategically located base along the coast that includes key research facilities. The Senator also said that Natick Soldier Systems Center has been able to influence the state’s highly regarded colleges, universities and technical institutions to provide improvements in development for the military. In 2005, both Natick and Hanscom became targets during the last BRAC and both bases have survived closure.

 

Lieutenant Governor Timothy Murray announced this week that he will tour the state’s six military installations starting today at Barnes Air National Guard base in Westfield as the Patrick/Murray Administration beings to focus on preparing for the BRAC process.

 

Online Gambling Task Force Established
Before taking office in January 2011, Treasurer Steven Grossman identified online gambling as a threat to the state lottery. During budget hearings last year, Treasurer Grossman identified internet gaming as a major competitive threat to casino interests. Treasurer Grossman today named members to a task force aimed at readying Massachusetts for the possibility of internet gaming. Members of the task force include municipal officials, representatives from the Governor’s office, representatives of the Massachusetts Lottery, and business leaders.

 

Key Political Leaders Differ on Solution to MBTA Funding
As the MBTA struggles with an upcoming $161 million budget deficit, political leaders, including Boston Mayor Thomas Menino and Senate President Therese Murray, differed this week on revenue solutions aimed at delaying fare hikes and service reductions.  Mayor Menino says he wants to work with Governor Deval Patrick and legislative leaders on MBTA financing solutions by looking for an alternative to fare hikes and service cuts. Proposed MBTA service reductions and fare hikes have been estimated to be between 35 percent and 43 percent and service reductions include cuts to subway, commuter rail, and ferry and bus routes to close the budget gap. The Administration and the Legislature have yet to come to agreement on a long term funding solution for the MBTA. In 2009, Governor Patrick proposed a 19-cent increase in the gas tax which was rejected by the legislature in favor of a sales tax increase with a portion going to transportation and the MBTA. On Tuesday, Senate President Therese Murray again expressed her opposition to a gas tax hike.

 

 

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

290 Congress Street, Suite 200, Boston MA 02110

http://www.architects.org

Weekly Political Report – Week Ending January 27, 2012

The Weekly Political Report is prepared by a political consulting group, Rasky/Baerlein, and shared with me by John Nunnari.

 Governor Patrick files $32.2 Billion Budget

On Wednesday, Governor Deval Patrick proposed a $32.2 billion annual state budget plan for FY 2013. Under Governor Patrick’s budget, major areas that will receive new spending include health care, K-12 education, safety net programs for low-income individuals, and collective bargaining agreements. Budget cuts were made to more than 90 line items totaling more than $200 million in cuts while 243 line items would remain level. The 297 line items that Governor Patrick recommended increased funding for were mainly state safety net programs or part of onetime collective bargaining deals. The budget is aiming at generating $260 million in new revenues through a number of tax increases and reforms. Most notably are the changes to increase the cigarette tax and taxing candy and soda sales. State spending would increase by nearly 3% from the current estimated spending levels and $400 million would be used from the state’s rainy day fund in Patrick’s proposed budget.

 

MassHealth, Massachusetts’ Medicaid program, consumes the largest share of the state budget by increasing to more than $11 billion to maintain state-funded benefits and eligibility. Health care spending consumes 41% of the budget with spending on subsidized health insurance and state employee insurance coverage. The proposed budget calls for $730 million in new savings from government-funded health care programs with continued procurement and contracting strategies.

 

Administration officials announced they are proposing eliminating 1,100 state jobs which include 400 in the executive branch that is estimated to save $30 million. New public counsel jobs as well as hundreds of other job positions that are being created will make the net job loss of 300 positions.

 

Governor Patrick Seeking to Centralize Management of Community Colleges

Under a proposal introduced on Monday to address unemployment and job creation across Massachusetts, Governor Patrick is aiming to unify the state’s fifteen community colleges. The goal of the proposal is for community colleges to offer programs to fill the education gap that is currently leaving approximately 120,000 open positions due to perspective employees being able to find qualified applicants. The Governor included $10 million in his FY 13 budget proposal to unify these schools into a system that would allow the schools to better coordinate with employers, vocational-tech schools and Workforce Investment Boards to meet the workforce needs in Massachusetts. In addition, Governor Patrick proposed the Board of Higher Education to establish a new process for the selection and annual reviews of community college presidents. The board will also be exploring new limits for student fee levels and how those revenues are spent.

 

Governor Patrick Calls on Legislature to Pass Second Stage of Health Care Reform

On Monday night, Governor Deval Patrick called on the Legislature to pass a health care cost containment bill to reduce costs statewide. Last February, Governor Patrick filed legislation that proposed an overhaul of the health care payment and delivery system that would end the current model in which doctors are compensated based on fee for service rather than the outcome for their patients. Representative Steven Walsh (D-Lynn) and Senator Richard Moore (D-Uxbridge), co-chairs of the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing, responded to the Governor’s statement by saying that the Legislature’s payment reform plan was not finished yet and may differ considerably from the Governor’s bill. With health care spending growing at a rate of 6.7% to 8% a year, legislative leaders have indicated that the bill being drafted will tackle medical malpractice, transition the current system to electronic medical records with an aggressive consumer protection structure, and prevent patients from being wrongly denied access to certain treatments.

 

Wind Siting Bill Sent to Study

A bill envisioned to streamline the permitting process of land-based wind turbines was sent to study on Tuesday by the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy, less than two years after it nearly passed the House and Senate. Representative Keenan (D-Salem) and Senator Downing (D-Pittsfield), co-chairs of the committee, said the intentions of their decision is to give the committee more time to focus on advancing particular legislation on the siting standards used for land-based wind projects. Sending a bill to study frequently predicts that the bill will be defeated and was done so without objection. The Patrick Administration has made wind siting reform a top priority and plans to work with the committee to develop siting standards that could be included in a comprehensive siting reform next year.

 

 

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

290 Congress Street, Suite 200, Boston MA 02110

http://www.architects.org

Weekly Political Report – Week Ending January 20, 2012

The Weekly Political Report is prepared by a political consulting group, Rasky/Baerlein, and shared with me by John Nunnari.

$260 Million Revenue Proposal Pursued by Governor

Governor Deval Patrick’s office announced the administration’s revenue plans for FY2013 this afternoon. Governor Patrick plans to include a 50-cent increase on cigarette tax in Massachusetts making users pay $3.01 in taxes per pack of cigarettes. The tax increase would generate $73 million in additional revenue towards the Commonwealth Care Trust Fund to cover half of the cost associated with legal immigrants’ integration into the state’s subsidized insurance program as mandated by a recent Supreme Judicial Court decision. Similar to past revenue proposals, Governor Patrick’s plan will include a state sales tax on candy and soda to generate an estimated $62.5 million and an expansion of the bottle bill to include water bottles, juices, coffee, and sports drinks. The expansion of the bottle bill is estimated to generate $22 million in revenue with the plans of $5 million dedicated towards recycling programs and $10 million towards transportation and school building. In the past the Legislature has rejected Governor Patrick’s call for taxing candy and soda and expanding the bottle bill.

 

Governor Patrick’s revenue proposal also assures $5.2 billion in local aid to Massachusetts cities and towns. The majority of the local aid plan, $4.1 billion, will be sent to municipalities that classify as Chapter 70 and provide financial support for public education. Included in the aid is a $145 million increase in funding for local school districts which marks the highest level of state aid to local school districts in Massachusetts’ history.

 

House and Senate Pass $131 Million Budget Bill

This week, the Massachusetts Legislature passed a $131 million mid-year spending bill. The supplemental budget includes $27.6 million for the local sheriffs’ departments, $21.2 million for low-income heating assistance, $35 million for adult day health programs for the elderly and disabled, and $20 million to cover IT costs for various state agencies. House and Senate lawmakers rejected an amendment that would have instituted a meals tax holiday in mid-March.  It was estimated that $8.8 million would have been waived in sales tax during the proposed six-day holiday. The bill also contains language that would prevent a steep increase in the unemployment tax rate paid by Massachusetts businesses. Without the bill, employers would see unemployment insurance taxes increase to $935 cost-per-worker, an increase of 25%. The spending bill will now go to Governor Patrick for his review.

 

Senators Eyeing Changes to the Green Communities Act

Senate leaders are drafting a bill aimed at lowering Massachusetts energy costs by updating the way utilities are regulated and energy contracts are awarded to utility companies. This move follows a daylong hearing in November where a number of business leaders complained about high energy costs. On Wednesday, Attorney General Martha Coakley called for an end to any “sweetheart deals” between energy generators and utility companies and recommended a switch to competitive bidding for energy contracts. Coakley wants to reform the state’s Green Communities Act, which currently allows no-bid negations between utilities and energy suppliers. Senator Benjamin Downing (D-Pittsfield), co-chair of the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy, has been tasked with producing a bill in the coming months.

 

Early Education Funding Boosted

On Tuesday, pre-kindergarten programs received $50 million in federal grant money to be used to support the state’s effort to bring early education to more Massachusetts children before they enter kindergarten over the next 4 years. Massachusetts finished second to North Carolina in the Obama administration’s Race to the Top- Early Learning Challenge. The Race to the Top funding will be spent on a combination of professional development, student assessment programs and support for communities and public school systems. In addition, Massachusetts will also spend $1.6 million on campaigns to promote early literacy and family literacy activities. After a study revealing that 39% of Massachusetts students in the third grade cannot demonstrate proficiency in reading, education officials have identified early education intervention as one of the key strategies to closing the achievement gap.

 

Massachusetts Unemployment Rate Falls to 6.8%

Massachusetts companies lost 6,200 jobs in December, despite a decrease in the unemployment rate to 6.8%. December’s decrease in jobs came after two consecutive months of employment increases. Massachusetts unemployment rate is at its lowest point since 2008 and is below the national unemployment rate of 8.5%.

 

 

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

290 Congress Street, Suite 200, Boston MA 02110

http://www.architects.org