Before you get too excited: no, it's not really Saturday. I'm afraid the weekend is still three long days away. But not long enough for our legislators who have to finish all major business by midnight on Sunday.
And there’s no shortage of major business to wrap up; instead of passing bills throughout the multi-year session, our legislators prefer to cram most of the action into the last weeks, days, and hours of the session, creating a bottleneck that leaves good bills behind.
Bills on sports betting, mental health care, tax cuts, and cannabis industry reform, to name just a few, are still tied up in closed-door negotiations. A handful of others have been sent to Baker’s desk, and will likely require another vote to override a veto. And there’s a backlog of dozens of bills that have been passed by one chamber, but not the other.
Even some bills that do get passed before Sunday at midnight are subject to getting squashed; any bill passed within 10 days of the end of session runs the risk of a Baker veto with no time to override it. Because the governor is allowed a 10 day review period to sign or veto any bill, he has the ultimate decision on any bill passed after Thursday the 21st.
So: why does our legislature do this, session after session? A few reasons:
- Power: the looming deadline raises the stakes of negotiations between the House and Senate, who always have competing priorities.
- Secrecy: when bills emerge from conference committees less than 24 hours before a vote, there’s hardly time for reps to read the bills before voting, never mind the public.
- Incompetence: as Speaker Mariano said earlier this week: "We worked to get it done by the deadline. We didn't do it, so now we have to live with those consequences."
State House Scoop
State House finally passes 2023 budget, last state in the country to do so
18 days overdue and not a dollar short, the legislature approved their final budgetfor the fiscal year 2023 on Monday 7/18. Totaling $52.7 billion, the compromise budget includes a lot of the progressive line items we touted in the original House and Senate versions, such as funding for early childhood education, full K-12 funding, and investment in behavioral health care.
When it came to ironing out the differences between the House and Senate versions, they took a maximalist approach; they kept the Senate’s higher levels of funding for abortion access (thank you to everyone who emailed the conference committee about this!), and kept the House’s big policy items: banning child marriage and making calls to incarcerated loved ones free of charge. These are massive policy victories that come on the heels of years of grassroots advocacy. Once it passes into law, we at Act on Mass will be thrilled in particular to remove Banning Child Marriage from our oft-repeated list of popular bills that get sent to study for years. Why it took the State House 5 years to do it, we’ll never know.
Green energy bill flies out of conference committee, heads to Baker’s desk
After nearly four months of closed-door negotiations, the conference committee tasked with reconciling two drastically different climate bills released their final version last week. Combining the House’s offshore wind bill with the Senate’s broader green energy bill, the final product is a comprehensive climate infrastructure bill aimed at keeping the Commonwealth on pace with the goals set by the 2020 Climate Roadmap. Wasting no time (who needs to “read” bills anyways?), the committee circulated the final language at 6:30AM Thursday morning, and it was brought to a vote later that afternoon. It passed 143-9 in the House, and 38-2 in the Senate.
Senate passes tax cut package, proposes alternative timeline
Following the House’s lead, the Senate passed an economic development & tax cut bill last week. Like the House’s version, it includes tax relief for seniors and renters, $250 tax rebates to individuals making between $38,000 and $100,000, and would raise the estate tax threshold to $2 million. Unlike the House’s version, the Senate’s proposal would have the tax cuts kick in as early as 2023. One other key difference came from a late night amendment to remove the statewide ban on happy hour. (I’m glad to see my interests finally being represented by the good and redeemable people of our legislature.)
Fate of 5-year prison moratorium left in Baker’s hands
The final version of the 5-year prison moratorium, included as part of a larger borrowing bill, was released from conference committee last week. With the population of incarcerated women at its lowest point in recent history, new construction would simply build more cells to fill, creating an artificial “scarcity” of incarcerated people.
The good news: the final language does not include the Senate loophole to allow the construction of new beds. The bad news, however, is that the bill wasn’t enacted before Baker’s 10-day review window, meaning the legislature won’t have a chance to override any veto he decides to issue. Like the Speaker said, they didn’t get it done in time. What he failed to acknowledge, though, is that because they dragged their feet, it’s incarcerated people — who regularly face horrific neglect and egregious human rights violations — who will bear the brunt of the consequences.
ASK BAKER TO SIGN THE MORATORIUM BILL >>
Thursdays at 6:00PM: Phonebank for our Endorsed Candidates!
You read it right! Every Thursday this summer we’ll be making calls for our incredible roster of endorsed state rep candidates. Phonebanking is fun, easy, and absolutely vital for our candidates to win. Plus, you’ll get to hang out with the coolest people on Earth for two hours a week: Act on Mass volunteers! Join us:
Have your donation to Act on Mass MATCHED UP TO $7,000
Last week, we launched our summer fundraiser, and we already have a huge update: and all donations up to $7,000 will be matched! There’s never been a better time to support our small yet mighty organization. Have your contribution doubled by giving today:
That’s it for our first ever edition of the Tuesday Scoop! I’ll be back in your inbox on Saturday, as per our regularly scheduled programming. Until then, Erin Leahy Executive Director, Act on Mass
Erin Leahy Executive Director, Act on Mass