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Date: 6/30/2016 9:57 AM EDT

Just one day before the start of the new fiscal year, the Massachusetts Legislature is set to vote on a compromise budget released last night by the Joint Ways & Means Conference Committee.  The House and Senate budgets contained significant differences in both funding levels and policy areas that had to be worked out.  The measure makes modest cuts and banks on several assumptions related to revenues.  It introduces no new taxes or fees and introduces some increases in human services areas such as education and child protection services.

The measure will go to Governor Baker's desk, and he will have 10 days to veto any items with which he disagrees.  The Legislature will remain in formal sessions through the end of July, and they can override vetoes with a 2/3 vote in each chamber.

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Date: 6/16/2016 11:53 AM EDT

Budget, interrupted

It seems that revenues are less robust than budget writers and conferees thought at the outset of the budget process.  Speaker DeLeo has called for a "pause" as state leaders ponder how to close a gap that may be as large as $750M.  This comes as a select group of House and Senate members were beginning negotiations to reconcile differences between House and Senate versions of the budget for Fiscal Year 2017, which begins July 1st, two short weeks from now.

Credit: Boston Herald

Working the weekends

The end of formal sessions arrives on July 31st, even though many lawmakers will be attending their respective national conventions and so will be away for several days.  As a result, we can expect weekend sessions to help legislators get through some of the issues still awaiting action.  Weekend sessions are a rarity, but the clock is ticking.

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Date: 6/3/2016 11:58 AM EDT

Conference Committee named for FY17 Budget

The House and Senate have named conferees to settle differences between their respective versions of the FY17 budget.  On the House side, they are Ways & Means Chairman Brian Dempsey, Vice Chair Stephen Kulik, and Representative Todd Smola.  The Senate will be represented by Ways & Means Chair Karen Spilka, Vice Chair Sal DiDomenico, and Representative Vinny deMacedo.

Once the Conference Committee arrives at an agreement on the differences between the two budgets, their report incorporating those items will be presented for a vote by the House and Senate for a straight up or down vote.

Public Records Access in Massachusetts

Legislation to reform access to public records has been signed by Governor Baker.  The updated law will allow parties that sue and prevail after being denied access to public records to seek attorneys' fees.  Previously, the cost for such fees would be borne by the aggrieved party even when the case was decided in their favor.

Public Accommodations Rights for Transgender People

Now that both the House and the Senate have approved a version of legislation to extend public accommodation rights to transgender individuals, many are hoping that a final bill can make its way to Governor Baker's desk soon.  The legislation is aimed at preventing discrimination against transgender people in public places, and includes allowing them to use facilities that correspond with their gender identity, even if it differs from their biological gender.

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