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Massachusetts lawmakers' stack of unfinished business grows

Mass. Senate President Karen Spilka speaks to reporters outside of the Senate chamber. A 2024 file photo.
Sam Drysdale
/
State House News Service
Mass. Senate President Karen Spilka speaks to reporters outside of the Senate chamber. A 2024 file photo.

Massachusetts lawmakers’ stack of unfinished business continues to pile up despite the looming end of the legislative session.

There are fewer than seven weeks left before lawmakers conclude business on July 31st. Lawmakers have already sent a conference committee: a budget, a gun law reform, federal matching funds and wage transparency matters. And now we've heard the Massachusetts Senate is going to release a climate bill into the mix. Reporter Chris Lisinski from the State House News Service explains what is known about that bill.

Chris Lisinski, SHNS: We don't know a ton about the climate bill at this point. We have some vague contours of ideas that folks wanted to tackle. We've heard a lot about siting for clean energy projects as an area that is in need of reforms, building on much more comprehensive climate and clean energy bills the Legislature has tackled in the past 4 or 5 years. We're still waiting to see exactly what is in this new bill with, as you noted, fewer than seven weeks to get both branches on the same page and get it to Governor Healey's desk.

Carrie Healy, NEPM: I mentioned lawmakers are working on a compromise gun law, because both chambers already passed their own versions. And now, somewhat redundantly, a House committee passed a pair (H. 2305& H. 2359) of additional, standalone gun bills. Can you unpack that?

Yeah, it's a little puzzling, both to us and also to other Beacon Hill insiders. I spoke to some lobbyists who track this stuff, and they were left scratching their heads as well. It's possible that this was just an “insidery” procedural, pro forma move, that these bills needed some kind of action after a committee review, and the House decided to give it initial approval so as to avoid ruffling any feathers. But that being said, it is possible now that these votes have been taken, that these standalone bills pop up somewhere down the line. We've seen things emerge from left field at the last minute. We just don't have a lot of clear information at this point about what the future outlook is.

The state's highest court ruled last week on the proposed ballot measure governing tipped employee wages. So now there's clarity there, and that question is likely to appear on the November ballot. But, it's not too late for lawmakers to act on that issue, or others, that are proposed ballot questions. Are you hearing movement on those?

We have heard that there are talks taking place, or at least were talks taking place, on the proposed ballot question that would end the use of MCAS exams as a graduation requirement. At this point, it's not clear if those are still gaining any traction or if those have stalled out.

We also heard some suggestions that lawmakers might be interested in a compromise to avert some of the app-based driver questions affecting workers for platforms like Uber and Lyft. But again, participants in those are being pretty quiet about what's going on, and there's really only a couple of weeks left before campaigns need to lock in their spots on the ballot and hit the point of no return.

And finally, Chris hiring and retaining police officers in towns across western Mass. has been a challenge. And on the statewide scale, the hiring process seems equally challenging and ongoing as the state police have gone without a superintendent for nearly a year and a half. What are you hearing there?

That process is still moving pretty slowly. We've heard that interviews with finalists are taking place, and that the effort to find a new, permanent superintendent of the State police is getting into the final stages. We heard that a six-person search committee finished reviewing initial applicants and is interviewing the most qualified candidates, but the Healey administration still is not putting any actual timeline or target end date on this process that, as you know, has stretched for a really long time.

Carrie Healy hosts the local broadcast of "Morning Edition" at NEPM. She also hosts the station’s weekly government and politics segment “Beacon Hill In 5” for broadcast radio and podcast syndication.