It’s March, so you know what that means: hopes of spring mixed with the harsh reality of more winter. It also means the State House has just five more months of formal sessions to pass major bills, including the biggest bill of them all: the budget.
As the end of the session draws near, we’re likely to see an uptick of activity from our lawmakers. But which bills will actually make it to the Governor’s desk remains unclear, especially as each chamber continues to rack up bills that the other ignores.
Just imagine the legislation we could pass if the House and Senate were both committed to the same popular, progressive agenda. Mmm, it’s a nice thought, isn’t it?
Anyways, back to reality.
State House Scoop
Senate passes two healthcare accessibility bills, unanimously
- An Act to increase access to disposable menstrual products (S 2730) - requires any temporary housing assistance providers, correctional institutions, and schools to provide disposable menstrual products without cost.
- An Act relative to expanding equitable access to maternal postpartum care (S 2731) - expands MassHealth coverage for 12 months after pregnancy.
House passes Mariano’s offshore wind bill
With bipartisan support, the House passed an offshore wind bill (H 4515) on Thursday. Marketed as both a climate and economic development bill, the legislation creates tax credits and other incentives to encourage offshore wind companies to build in Massachusetts, and would connect industry-related job training programs with local schools.
While this bill has been a top priority for House Speaker Mariano, Governor Baker and Senate President Spilka are less enthused. Spilka has said she’s more interested in a “comprehensive climate bill” (you and me both!) and Baker is on the record stating he has "a bunch of concerns" with the legislation, including the fees required to fund it. Without those two on board, it’s not likely to make it past the finish line anytime soon or without substantial changes.
Mariano, Spilka quibble over their personal priorities
The House Speaker and Senate President were quoted in the press this week criticizing the other's lack of action on their priority bills. Mariano wants the Senate to take up offshore wind and sports betting, and Spilka wants the House to take up mental health care and prescription drug costs -- all bills already passed in their respective chambers.
A note from the author: irrespective of the merits of these particular bills, the top-down nature of the policy being passed (or not being passed) on Beacon Hill is evident. After we campaign for candidates, vote to elect representatives, and advocate for various needed legislation, the decisions about what bills even make it to a vote are unilaterally made by the House Speaker and Senate President – two individuals with personal beliefs, interests and agendas. How many Bay Staters would rank legalizing sports betting as among their top legislative priorities?
And last, a not-so-fun-fact to kick off your weekend
The Speaker of the House and the President of the Senate are elected by the members of those respective chambers. In theory, the legislators vote for the candidate for Speaker or President who has a legislative agenda most aligned with them and their district, and who has the legislative chops to get it passed. But in reality, these positions, especially the House Speaker, are typically passed down from the outgoing leader to their hand-picked successor. Members are coerced to vote for the chosen successor under threat of retaliation and promises of rewards from the presumptive new leader.
That’s all for now! Enjoy the rest of your weekend, and remember: only eight more days until daylight savings.