House Speaker Robert DeLeo this week pledged a more complete story about legislative accomplishments in 2014 and Senate President Therese Murray late Wednesday night wrapped up the Senate's last formal session of 2013 not by listing the year's accomplishments but by ticking off workload items she hopes will see action next year.
A final "lame duck" year ahead for Governor Patrick,
Open races galore in 2014
Heading into next week, DeLeo and Murray may be thankful that the curtain closed Wednesday on formal sessions for 2013. The session ended with a growing sense that branch leaders are at odds and capped a year marked by sharp divisions over tax policy between legislative leaders and Gov. Deval Patrick, whose ability to force the action in the Legislature is expected to dissipate during 2014, his final year in office.
As the focus shifts towards the battle among the governor's potential successors, as well as wide open races for lieutenant governor, attorney general and treasurer, there are plenty of reasons to watch dynamics in the Legislature, where DeLeo is poised to become the senior member of Beacon Hill's Big Three. Murray is winding down her term as president amid speculation about her next move, and senators are preparing for operations under the more liberal Sen. Stanley Rosenberg, Murray's expected successor.
As formal deliberations ended Wednesday, not only were House-Senate conference committees unable to find common ground on welfare reform, compounding pharmacy regulation and non-controversial bills to assist veterans, the branches got off on the wrong foot on what's now shaping up as a potentially protracted debate over raising the minimum wage and making unemployment insurance system reforms sought by business groups.
Dan Wolf's Minimum Wage bill passes
The Senate suddenly whisked through a bill raising the minimum wage from $8 to $11 an hour while fully aware that House leaders want the wage floor addressed as part of a more comprehensive bill. Murray pledged the Senate would consider unemployment insurance reforms, but said senators were just eager to pass what Sen. Dan Wolf described as a "clean" minimum wage hike. Ultimately, the wage hike's advancement is likely to turn messy.
Also this week, a House-controlled committee vastly rewrote Murray's water infrastructure financing bill, substantially increasing its bottom line. And after a light load of formal sessions this year, lawmakers wrapped up business without taking action on most of Gov. Deval Patrick's extensive capital borrowing agenda. A housing bond bill made it into law this year, but borrowing bills for transportation, energy, the environment, the military, information technology and general government spending purposes remain in the lawmaking pipeline.
Casino partners shaking out
With Mohegan Sun exploring non-gaming options for its land in Palmer, MGM is that much closer to being the last remaining casino developer in the west with plans to build in Springfield.
The final verdict for the fate of a proposed casino in Palmer has been scheduled for Tuesday, as officials there plan to recount ballots from the Nov. 5 election where preliminary results showed the Mohegan Sun proposal losing by 94 votes.
On Friday evening, Mohegan Sun announced it would seek non-gaming use for the land. "The Town of Palmer made a definitive statement on November 5th - that it is sharply divided on the issue of casino gaming," Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority CEO Mitchell Etess said in a statement.
"The recount will not change this fact." Suffolk Downs, which is looking to pair up with a new casino operator, has engaged Mohegan Sun, which runs a Connecticut casino, in talks to join the venture in Revere. The Massachusetts Gaming Commission has yet to rule whether Suffolk Downs can go forward after East Boston nixed the proposal.
The racetrack straddles the two cities. "We've had great interest from top-class gaming companies, some of which have already been found suitable by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission," said Suffolk Chief Operating Officer Chip Tuttle. Mohegan Sun and Rush have both received positive suitability determinations from the commission. "We've had more than those two express an interest in partnering with us," Tuttle said. After an agreement with a casino operator, Suffolk Downs would "have an announcement shortly thereafter," Tuttle said.
State Capital Budget
A big fan of government investments in public infrastructure, Gov. Deval Patrick has been using this year's state capital budget as a guide for press conference and chamber of commerce speeches around the state to announce specific projects that are advancing. Patrick has not yet released the full menu of projects the administration is funding in fiscal 2014, but the entire plan may be disclosed next week, giving everyone a full look at which priorities have risen to the top in the competition for limited funds.
In the area of capital projects in Massachusetts, governors have extraordinary power since lawmakers tend to authorize more than the state can afford, leaving the administration to decide how and when to proceed.
Gov. Patrick on Friday signed the following bills:
The following bills were still on Patrick's desk on Friday
PLYMOUTH PARADE: Senate President Therese Murray speaks at the Plymouth Thanksgiving Parade opening ceremony. The parade follows at 11 a.m. down Main Street in Plymouth. See the video of today's parade here. (Saturday, 10:30 a.m., Pilgrim Memorial Park, Plymouth)
BRIT RACES THE MBTA: British "transit racer" Adham Fisher will attempt to visit every MBTA rail station in the system. Fisher attempts to set records for reaching entire transit maps when he visits cities to bring attention to and advocate for public transportation. The attempt will take place between Sunday night and Monday morning. Fisher has made 20 attempts to win the Guinness Book of World Records title for visiting every station in the London Underground as quickly as possible. (Sunday, 10 p.m., Boston)
CLARK 'ON THE RECORD': Katherine Clark is this week's guest on WCVB's 'On the Record' program. Clark will discuss her candidacy in the 5th Congressional District race to replace now-U.S. Sen. Edward Markey. (Sunday, 11:30 a.m., WCVB)
GROSSMAN ON KELLER: Treasurer Steven Grossman appears on WBZ's Keller at Large program. Grossman, a candidate for governor, will discuss the campaign finance problems of his opponent Attorney General Martha Coakley, job creation, and government transparency. (Sunday, 8:30 a.m., WBZ-TV)
KERRIGAN IN GROTON: Steve Kerrigan, a Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor, will speak to the Groton Democratic Town Committee. (Sunday, 4 p.m., 106 Pepperell Road, Groton)
HOUSE AND SENATE: Both branches plan to meet in informal sessions Monday at 11 a.m.
PUBLIC SERVICE COMMITTEE: The Committee on Public Service will hear a bill (H 42) filed by Gov. Deval Patrick, which would reform municipal unemployment insurance and proposals (S 223/H 477) from Sen. Sal DiDomenico and Rep. Jeffrey Sanchez to allow early childhood educators to select an organization to represent them in negotiating, executing and administering a child care standards agreement with the Department of Early Education and Care. Supporters of the early education bill say it will "help unify the voice of approximately 5,000 early educators, working in nearly 500 centers that have either state-funded contracts or serve children who receive state subsidies." AFT Massachusetts President Tom Gosnell, MTA President Paul Toner and Mass. AFL-CIO President Steven Tolman are expected to testify in support of the bills. Patrick's bill would "eliminate the disparity between those employed directly by a school department and those providing services to the school but paid directly by the municipality" and would "prevent municipalities from being charged for wages earned by election workers." (Monday, 11 a.m., Gardener Auditorium)
ELECTRIC RATES: The Department of Public Utilities hears a petition from NSTAR Electric Company for review and approval of an annual rate adjustment filing. (Monday, 2 p.m., One South Station, Boston - 5th Floor, HR C)
MBTA RIDER OVERSIGHT: MBTA Chief Mechanical Officer Jeff Gonneville, Director of Vehicle Engineering Bill Wolfgang and Senior Technical Project Manager Mark DeVitto will make a presentation on the procurement of new subway cars and commuter rail coaches. The Finance and Capital Committee and the Marketing, Communications and Operations Standing Committee will also update the oversight panel on their activities. (Monday, 5 p.m., 10 Park Plaza, Boston MA 02116; Conference Rooms 1, 2, and 3)
ASSISTING SHOPPERS WITH DISABILITIES: As retailers gear up for the Christmas shopping season, officials will discuss "basic steps" that consumers and retailers can take to "ensure that persons with disabilities have a safe and enjoyable shopping experience." Participants will include Retailers Association of Massachusetts President Jon Hurst, Perkins School for the Blind library director Kim Charlson, Cambridge Commission for Persons with Disabilities Executive Director Michael Muehe, Massachusetts Commission for the Blind Commissioner Paul Saner, Massachusetts Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Commissioner Heidi Reed, State House ADA coordinator Carl Richardson, New England Development executive Jennifer Roigliano and Cambridge Consumers' Council Director Laura Nichols. (Monday, 1:30 p.m., Cambridgeside Galleria, second floor near Macy's and Kay Jewelers, 100 Cambridgeside Place, Cambridge)
SPRINGFIELD CHARTER: Department of Elementary and Secondary Education officials will meet to discuss the proposed Springfield Preparatory Charter School, a K-8 school that would have a maximum enrollment of 486 and is seeking to open in 2015. Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester will review the materials from Springfield and other proposed charter schools, and make his final recommendation to the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education for consideration at a meeting in February. (Monday, 4 p.m., Springfield Central Library, Community Room, 220 State Street, Springfield)
AIM DISCUSSES WHAT'S NEXT ON BEACON HILL: Associated Industries of Massachusetts holds a brown bag lunch webinar for a review of 2013 and a look to 2014 on Beacon Hill. In announcing the event, AIM described a "tumultuous year" dominated by taxes, a minimum wage increase approved by the Senate and the "problem-plagued melding" of federal and state health care reform. The first half of the 2013-2014 session was dominated by the Legislature's downsizing of Gov. Deval Patrick $1.9 billion tax package. (Monday, 12 to 1 p.m., register for the webinar here, or contact Diane Martinos at [email protected])
CULTURAL COMMITTEE: The Cultural Facilities Advisory Committee meets for its quarterly meeting with MassDevelopment officials. (Monday, 2 p.m., MassDevelopment, 99 High St., Boston)
BARNSTABLE - STAGE COACH RESIDENCES: DHCD Undersecretary Aaron Gornstein joins local officials for the Barnstable Housing Authority's Stage Coach Residences' ribbon-cutting. (Monday, 11 a.m., 70 Stage Coach Rd., Centerville)
JFK NEW FRONTIER AWARDS GIVEN: Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, one of the first female combat veterans elected to Congress, was named one of this year's recipients of the John F. Kennedy New Frontier Awards. She will be honored Monday at the JFK School of Government, along with Charles Best, founder and CEO of DonorsChoose.org, an online charity that connects donors with public school teachers to meet classroom teaching needs. Jack Schlossberg, the grandson of the late president, will present the awards to both recipients. The John F. Kennedy New Frontier Awards were created by the JFK Library Foundation and the Institute of Politics to honor Americans under 40 years old who are changing their communities and country through public service. The award is presented annually to two people. Steve Kerrigan, a Democrat running for lieutenant governor, plans to attend. (Monday, 6 p.m., Harvard John F. Kennedy School of Government, Cambridge)
FALCHUK AT SUFFOLK LAW: Evan Falchuk, United Independent candidate for governor, will speak to students in an election law class at Suffolk University Law School in downtown Boston about his candidacy and the independent party he started. (Monday, 8 p.m., Suffolk Law School)
PATRICK AND STAFF AT HOMELESS SUPPORT CENTER: Gov. Deval Patrick and members of his staff serve clients at Project Place, a homeless support center. (Monday, 11:30 a.m., 1145 Washington Street, Boston)
THANKSGIVING LUNCHEON: The Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition hosts the 9th annual free Thanksgiving luncheon at the State House. The event, dubbed "Our Shared Table," celebrates the shared immigrant heritage of Americans. Freelance journalist Marcela Garcia will emcee the event and Daniel Kanstroom, a professor of law at Boston College, will give the keynote speech. RSVP by emailing Angela Amell at [email protected] (Tuesday 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., Great Hall, State House, Boston)
DeLEO, DAVEY, OPEN NEW ORIENT HEIGHTS STATION: House Speaker Robert DeLeo, Transportation Secretary Richard Davey and MBTA General Manager Beverly Scott, as well as other local officials, open the new Orient Heights MBTA Station in East Boston. The old Blue Line station was demolished to make way for a new state-of-the-art subway station with new features such as elevators. (Tuesday, 10:30 a.m., Orient Heights MBTA Station, 1000 Bennington Street, East Boston)
WESTERN MASS. GRANTS: Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Richard Sullivan announces a round of grants the Patrick administration says will help create growth and opportunity in western Massachusetts. The grants include funds for parks and recreational spaces and land conservation. (Tuesday, 10 a.m., Easthampton Municipal offices, 50 Payson Avenue, Second Floor, Easthampton)
MASSDOT FINANCES: MassDOT's Standing Committee Meeting on Finance and Audit meets. At the meeting, MBTA CFO Jonathan Davis will present overviews of the agency's fiscal 2015 budget process, results for the first quarter of fiscal 2014, modifications to the MBTA debt policy, and the agency's bond issuance and capital investment calendar. (Tuesday, 11 a.m., MassDOT Board Room 10 Park Plaza, Suite 3830 Boston)
ARROYO DEBT RETIREMENT: Boston City Councilor Felix Arroyo, who lost in the Boston mayoral preliminary before backing the winning candidate Rep. Marty Walsh, will have a party to thank supporters and retire his campaign debt. (Tuesday, 7 p.m., Florian Hall, 55 Hallet Street, Dorchester)
PATRICK AWARDS BIALECKI: Gov. Deval Patrick recognizes Housing and Economic Development Secretary Greg Bialecki at the 10th Annual MassEcon Awards. (Tuesday, 12 p.m., Renaissance Boston Waterfront Hotel, 606 Congress Street, Boston)
HOUSE, SENATE: The House and Senate meet for informal sessions at 11 a.m.
NO GOVERNOR'S COUNCIL ACTION: The Governor's Council is not scheduled to meet Wednesday and no new judicials nominees have been put forward by the Patrick administration that will require interviews. One of Patrick's picks, Superior Court nominee Joseph Berman, has not yet been voted on by the council after Patrick postponed putting Berman up for a vote last week because he said he hadn't had a chance to work to round up enough votes for his confirmation. According to Patrick's office, no new date has been set for when the council will take up Berman's nomination. The council will next meet Wednesday, Dec. 4 at noon.
PATRICKS' THANKSGIVING IN ATLANTA: Gov. Deval Patrick and wife Diane leave for Atlanta, Wednesday and plan to return to Massachusetts Saturday. (Wednesday)
DeLEO SERVES DINNER: House Speaker Robert DeLeo will serve dinner at Goodwill's Thanks-for-Giving annual dinner. (Wednesday, 10:45 a.m.-1 p.m., 1010 Harrison Avenue, Roxbury)
THANKSGIVING TRAVEL: AAA Southern New England predicts 43.4 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from home during the Thanksgiving weekend, a drop of 1.5 percent from the 44 million who traveled last year. Fewer New Englanders are expected to travel this year, with AAA predicting a 2.5 percent decline. The automotive club expects 90 percent of travelers, or 38.9 million, will travel by car, a decline of 1.6 percent from the previous year. While gas prices are expected to hit their lowest point since Thanksgiving 2010, the number of New Englanders traveling by car will drop 2.7 percent. Airline prices will be comparable to last year, but air travel will be down 3.7 percent to 3.1 million travelers from 3.2 in 2012, according to AAA. Median spending during the weekend is also expected to drop 7 percent to $465 compared to $498 last year. "While the economy continues to improve, the sluggish pace of the recovery is creating uncertainty in the minds of some consumers and therefore AAA is projecting a slight decline in the number of Thanksgiving travelers this year," Lloyd Albert, senior vice president of public and government affairs, said in a statement. "On a positive note, travel volumes are expected to remain well-above 2008 and 2009 levels when the recession caused a drop in travelers of more than 25 percent."
THANKSGIVUKKAH: The Georgian and Hebrew calendars will align on Thursday in a rare joint holiday dubbed Thanksgivukkah. It is the first time that the Jewish festival of lights, Hannukah, has fallen on Thanksgiving in the history of the American holiday traditionally celebrated with a roast turkey dinner. Hannukah begins Wednesday evening. A group of children sang in celebration of Thanksgivukkah in the House earlier in the week, where House Speaker Robert DeLeo noted the alignment of holidays will not occur again for more than 70,000 years.
BLACK FRIDAY: The day after Thanksgiving has over the years become synonymous with shopping. Massachusetts retailers are predicting a fourth consecutive year of increased holiday season sales. The Retailers Association of Massachusetts, citing a survey of its 3,500 members, on Thursday morning predicted a 3.5 percent increase in sales compared to the 2012 holiday season.
SOLARIZE BOSTON DEADLINE: Mayor Thomas Menino reminded city homeowners the deadline for registering for a solar home assessment is Saturday. More than 700 homeowners have registered for assessments through Renew Boston Solarize program since its launch in August. The program signed contracts with 60 residents to install a combined total of 302 kW of solar power and has reached Tier 4 community pricing. Next Step Living, a home energy company, partnered with Renew Boston Solarize to offer panels to Boston homeowners by providing more affordable rates and streamlining the process for going solar. Renew Boston Solarize holds free information workshops in neighborhoods around the city. For information, visit Solar.RenewBoston.org. (Saturday deadline)