As the first leg of the 2013-14 legislative cycle wound down this evening (November 20), we wrapped up time critical legislation, but we left other major legislation until January. Massachusetts works on a two year legislative cycle, so unfinished business can be deferred without losing any forward progress. In adjourning the session this evening, the Senate President noted the unfinished business and pledged to make a running start in January.
In the completed pile for the first leg of the session:
- Transportation funding (including MBTA pension transparency) and a revision of transportation funding – repeal of the software tax
- FY2014 budget
- Housing bond bill
- Necessary technical fixes to the “right to repair” legislation (moved through this evening at 10:13PM after much discussion)
- Many minor bills authorizing land transactions and addressing other issues for individual cities and towns
In the well-along pile:
- The Senate passed a minimum wage increase (share your thoughts in our forum!), but the House has yet to address it.
- Three major bills have passed both branches, but have not been reconciled:
In the let’s-bring-it-to-the-floor-soon pile, the Senate President identified this evening the following items:
- Water resources
- Major bond funding authorizations (I will be particularly focused on the adequacy of MBTA authorizations in the Transportation bond bill)
- Human trafficking
- Unemployment insurance reform
In the also-hope-we-can-move-it category, I see:
- Election laws reforms addressing early voting, online registration and other ballot access issues. The House passed this bill tonight, but it has yet to be considered by the Senate.
- Legislation to broaden and accelerate disclosure of independent campaign spending.
- Among bills pending before the committee that I co-chair — the Joint Committee on Public Service – the most significant and controversial is the “OPEB” reform legislation — many have expressed strong concerns about it and the path forward for the legislation is still unclear. My principal task over the next six weeks is to evaluate alternative approaches to moving that bill forward. Also pending is Senator Downing’s legislation regarding divestment of fossil fuel assets. (Note: There are hundreds of other bills pending before the committee which we need to make final decisions about. As is normal, the vast majority will be committed to further “study” — i.e., we will formally decide to take no action on them — at the time of the initial committee report deadline in March.)
- Bills that I am lead-sponsoring in this session — most of have had initial hearings by now and I am working to get them moved to the floor:
- Legislation to drive preparation for storm surge.
- Reform of the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse.
- Reform of non-competition agreements.
- Legislation to accelerate the timetable for greenhouse gas reductions in Massachusetts.
- Reform of minimum mandatory sentences for drug crimes and advancement of other recommendations of the Criminal Justice Commission on which I sit.
- Several dozen smaller bills.
- Among bills that I have co-sponsored, I am particularly concerned to make progress on Jason Lewis’s farm animal cruelty bill.
- Additionally, the speaker is awaiting a report from his task force on gun violence which may lead to legislation.
As usual, the second leg of the legislative cycle — from January through July of 2014 — will be busy. Hopefully, we’ll be able to bring many of these pending priorities to closure. And, of course, we’ll continue to work on a number of regional issues, notably on improvements to the Green Line and other transit services.