This week both Governor Patrick and Speaker DeLeo outlined their priorities for the upcoming year. In his final State of the Commonwealth on Tuesday night, Governor Patrick emphasized investments in education, innovation, and infrastructure.
The next day, Speaker DeLeo addressed the entire House of Representatives, listing an increase in minimum wage coupled with business-friendly reforms, stricter gun control laws, and a domestic violence bill as three of his top issues.
As we focus on legislative and budget activities at the Statehouse it’s important to realize that although this legislative term may appear uneventful from the outside, it has been full of activity. Even without high-profile debates on big-issue bills there’s a lot going on.
Take for instance, the fact that there has been an unprecedented amount of turnover in elected officials and leadership positions. Recently, long time House Chair of the Joint Committee on the Judiciary, Representative Eugene O’Flaherty, announced his resignation to become corporation counsel to Boston Mayor Martin Walsh. This leaves the House chairmanship open. Meanwhile, Senator William Brownsberger has only held the Senate chairmanship of the Judiciary Committee for a matter of weeks.
Other leadership positions currently vacant include the House second assistant majority leader and the chairmanship of the House Ethics Committee. These positions will all be filled in the coming weeks.
Legislatively, the statehouse is poised to take action on a number of laws. Significant bills addressing welfare reform, compounding pharmacies, and veterans services remain in conference committees. Just last week, a group of lawmakers held a press conference in support of a juvenile justice bill comply with the Supreme Judicial Court’s ruling in Diatchenko. The bill requires that juveniles convicted of first degree murder serve 35 years before parole eligibility.
From a budget perspective – the Governor’s budget has been released and we now turn our attention to the House and Senate as they develop their budget numbers. The House Ways & Means Budget will come first in early April, followed by House and Senate budgets in the following months. A final budget will be ready by July 1st.
All in all, every indication points to a very eventful next few months as staffing and leadership positions are filled and legislation and budget discussions come to the fore.
– Jonathan Schreiber
Legislative and Public Policy Manager
Boston Bar Association