In a study in contrasts, the Judiciary Committee and the Revenue Committee held public hearings this week on issues of importance to the BBA. The Judiciary Committee held a record breaking 20-minute hearing earlier this week on court reform, a BBA priority for at least the past 20 years. Judiciary hearings are known to be lengthy and frequently last late into the night — with bills taking many months to work their way out of the committee. After this week’s relatively brief hearing, the chair promised to swiftly move the bill along. In fact, it is expected to be taken up by the full House next week.
The court reform bill on the Judiciary Committee’s agenda would replace the Chief Justice for Administration and Management with a professional administrator who would handle non-judicial functions. There would also be a new “chief justice of the Trial Court,” to oversee strictly judicial matters. Described by many as an historic and radical reshaping of the court department, the bill calls for other reforms that would impose guidelines on letters of recommendation for job candidates throughout state government and would require applicants for certain positions to take a screening exam.
The Revenue Committee’s public hearing held today was an entirely different story. On the agenda was a proposal to raise revenue in an effort to reduce budget cuts. This bill was described by supporters as making the tax system more equitable. They testified that lower income people would see their tax rates dip and higher income people would see their tax rates increase.
Also on the Revenue Committee’s agenda was H 2559, An Act Relative to Continuing the Tax Base Rule for Property Acquired from Decedents, or the so-called income tax “step-up” bill filed by Representative Alice Peisch on behalf of the BBA. The step-up bill, a detailed but very important piece of legislation, addresses a substantial yet hidden Massachusetts tax for successors to decedents’ property resulting from the change in the federal basis rules for 2010.
Unlike the Judiciary’s hearing which was held in a typical hearing room with plenty of seats for those in attendance, the Revenue hearing was standing room only. The auditorium was filled with concerned citizens from across the state.
A great big hat tip to the BBA members who stood in line for thirty minutes just to get through the doors of the state house only to find the auditorium jam packed! Citizens who support raising taxes for the wealthy made their presence known by loudly rustling pieces of yellow paper in unison. Even with our sponsor by our side, we waited for 3 hours before being asked to wait some more. So what happens next now that the bill has been publicly heard and is officially in play? We’ll meet with Chairman Jay Kaufman and the Revenue Committee staff and go over the details of the BBA’s step-up bill. This will provide us with the benefit of an open dialogue, and we won’t have to restrict our testimony to 3 minutes.
Government Relations Director