Subscribe for free here!
AD: O'Neill and Associates

State House News Service Weekly Roundup
Recap and analysis of the week in state government

So This Is The New Year...

By Matt Murphy

STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, JAN. 3, 2019.....Like when you finally listen to the new band you've heard so much about, there's always the risk that 2020 won't live up to the hype.

But we're about to find out.

The New Year, and the new decade, kicked off this week with anticipation running high.

It's a presidential and U.S. Senate election year for Massachusetts voters, the Legislature is gearing up for its first major tax fight in over five years, and the griping over traffic feels like it's reached a tipping point.

The income tax rate fell to 5 percent, the minimum wage climbed to $12.75 and a short-term health insurance assessment on businesses ended. The administration even restarted a rebate program offering up to $2,500 for the purchase of an all-electric vehicle in 2020 after the Legislature, flush with surplus cash from last year, newly made $27 million available for the shuttered program.

But no one was in a rush to get back to work. Instead, the new year started quietly on Beacon Hill, seemingly sapped of any energy it might have had by the fact that the holiday fell in the middle of the week.

Gov. Charlie Baker spent most of the week in Chicago, ringing in the New Year in Illinois where he was attending a wedding. Senate President Karen Spilka, meanwhile, stuck around just long enough to say goodbye to 2019 before heading to Arizona for the winter conference of the Senate Presidents' Forum in Scottsdale. She's not due back until Tuesday.

That left House Speaker Robert DeLeo back on Beacon Hill with plenty of time to consult with his team over the transportation revenue package the Democratic leader hopes to open up for debate later this month.

Revenue meetings were ongoing, according to Transportation Committee Chairman William Straus, who said this week he has not been pushed off the idea of raising the gas tax by Baker's pursuit of a regional vehicle emission cap that could add up to 17 cents to the price of a gallon of gas.

AD: Beacon Hill Town Square
"TCI, while it may be great for the environment, is not a transportation financing solution," Straus told the News Service in an interview this week about the Transportation Climate Initiative.

The smattering of lawmakers who were at the State House on New Year's Day to kick off the second year of the two-year session made sure they had a picture to prove it. And it was over in a flash.

Some of the more ceremonial obligations waited until Thursday, when Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito was the acting governor and tipped the news that Baker would give his annual State of the Commonwealth address on Jan. 21.

"We love celebrating that moment," she told a group of lawmakers assembled to inform the Executive Branch that the Legislature was back and ready to work.

That last part remains to be seen, though. It's unclear when either branch plans to start tackling its to-do list.

The Committee on the Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture was ready to work this week, voting to recommend a bill that would prohibit the dissemination of plastic straws unless specifically requested by a customer.

The Transportation Committee was also in action where it heard a pitch from Secretary Stephanie Pollack for the governor's safe driving bill to make operators who have had their licenses suspended or revoked at any time in the previous three years ineligible for a commercial license.

Lawmakers will probably start to hear a lot of polite nudging as Gov. Baker sees more days fall of the calendar with no action taken on many of his priority bills. While they may not rise to the level of his safe driving bill or housing, Baker filed two more bills this week, including one that would make it easier for the Kraft Group and the town of Foxborough to license events at Gillette Stadium.

The governor also made good on his promise to again request the $18 million for the MBTA that the Legislature withheld last year when lawmakers agreed on $32 million for the transit agency after both branches supported the governor's ask of $50 million.

The money for the MBTA was part of a $74 million mid-year budget Baker filed Friday that also included money for clean water testing, schools and health care for the uninsured.
AD: MASSterList Job Board
As much as New Year's celebrations are about resolutions and looking ahead, they're also a time to reflect back on the year that's ending.

Before the fireworks exploded over Boston Harbor, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren gave a New Year's Eve address at Boston's Old South Meeting House to mark the one-year anniversary since she launched her campaign for president and to try to regain some of the momentum she appears to have lost.

"In the spirit of one young woman who raised her voice from these pews more than two centuries ago, let us begin tomorrow committed to dream big, fight hard, and win," Warren told the audience, urging voters to let themselves imagine what America could be, not just what it used to be before President Trump.

Days later, Warren would announce that her campaign raised $21.2 million in the last quarter of 2019, down from her third quarter haul and trailing Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg and former Vice President Joe Biden.

It won't be long before U.S. Rep. Joseph Kennedy III, U.S. Sen. Edward Markey and labor attorney Shannon Liss-Riordan also disclose their fundraising totals for 2019, which will paint part of the picture of where the Senate race stands 10 months before the election.

The Federal Election Commission reporting deadline is Jan. 31. So in the meantime, Kennedy and Markey are hitting the road.

Kennedy announced that he would be opening new campaign offices in Roxbury, Lowell and Worcester and would hold 14 town hall-style events over the next month around the state.

Markey will be in Acton over the weekend to talk with voters about the Green New Deal and his work on climate change.

STORY OF THE WEEK: The promise of 2020 can wait. But it's gonna be a big year.

SONG OF THE WEEK: ...and I don't feel any different
Ceremonial committees of the House and Senate trooped down the hall Thursday to inform Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito that the Legislature had opened its new annual session. The pols talked briefly about bipartisan compromise and purple ties, and Polito invited them to Gov. Charlie Baker's State of the Commonwealth speech later this month. [Photo: Sam Doran/SHNS]
For a daily overview of the Massachusetts political scene, sign up for MASSterList, a free morning newsletter that will give you the inside scoop.
Did you enjoy reading this week's Roundup? Click here to get the free Weekly Roundup by e-mail every Friday afternoon.
Copyright © 2020 State House News Service, All rights reserved.

Want to change how you receive these emails?
You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list.

Email Marketing Powered by Mailchimp