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Legislature loses track of time

Posted in: Massachusetts Legislature
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Two years ago, the Legislature slept on a ticking clock and paid the price. Lawmakers put off priority legislation, their prized casino bill, until the last possible moment, as is their wont, and when a standoff with the governor arose, they’d run out of time to act. House leadership lashed out at the governor, but it was lawmakers’ own inability to act before an eleventh-hour deadline that buried the bill they were pushing. Having the votes to overturn a veto doesn’t mean anything, if you’ve run out of time to vote.

The same deadline drama that gripped Beacon Hill two years ago has returned in full force. Today is the last day for lawmakers to meet in formal sessions, before reps and senators knock off for the fall, run uncontested races for reelection, and return to work after New Year’s. Anything of substance the Legislature wants done has to be done today. And there’s plenty on the agenda: a jobs bill, energy legislation, a stab at containing health care costs, and an earmark-riddled $1.4 billion transportation bond bill, among other matters.

Last time around, gamesmanship and heated rhetoric centered around the legalization of casino gambling. Today, all eyes are on a three strikes bill that lawmakers chewed on behind the scenes for eight months, released from committee reluctantly, and are now pushing fervently. Unfortunately for them, lawmakers have caught three strikes fever at a time when they no longer have any leverage.

Gov. Deval Patrick, acting with the backing of the state’s high court, amended the bill this past weekend and sent it back to the Legislature. The House and Senate rejected those amendments yesterday, sending the original bill back to Patrick. But Patrick has refused to say whether he will sign a bill that doesn’t include his amendments, and now, the Legislature is out of time. The governor can take a few days, and then kill the bill with a veto the Legislature will be unable to override, because its session will have expired.

Three strikes advocates have resorted to urging Patrick to make a symbolic stand against the bill, if he’s inclined to make a stand at all, and turn around a quick veto today, when lawmakers will still be able to override him. A Gloucester Times editorial goes so far as to threaten Patrick, arguing that if he doesn’t accommodate the Legislature’s compressed schedule, he’ll have blood on his hands. It’s the Boston Herald editorial page -- staunch advocates of the crime bill -- that spreads the blame to the Legislature’s inability to act quickly enough to ensure that the bills it wants to pass actually get passed. 

                                                                                                                                --PAUL MCMORROW

BEACON HILL

The Legislature approves a health care bill that limits spending growth to no more than the growth in the state economy, WBUR reports. The bill would again give Massachusetts first-in-the-nation status, the Globe reports.

A tweaked energy bill is sent to Patrick with a provision appointing a task force to explore full financing and deconstruction of the existing coal-fired power plant in Salem. The bill also promises state aid to offset any loss of property tax revenue when the coal plant closes, the Salem News reports.

A report from state Inspector General Gregory Sullivan says state Lottery officials
knew for years that syndicates of gamblers had essentially taken over the state’s Cash WinFall game, winning most of its prize money.

The Bay State’s Creative Economy Council takes its listening tour to Framingham.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

A Lynn firefighter, accused of stealing money from one of his colleagues, is fired for failing to maintain his EMT certification, the Item reports.

What appears to be a shark attack in Truro has the Cape buzzing, NECN reports.

Boston is ranked the fourth best place to grow old by the Milken Institute.

In the wake of Boston Mayor Tom Menino’s condemnation of the anti-gay marriage stance of the CEO of Chick-fil-A, a group of minority leaders say the mayor has not done enough about racial discrimination in city government.

Pittsfield looks to a carousel to help boost its downtown fortunes.

Cambridge delays a vote on an expansion for Millennium Pharmaceuticals.

CASINOS

Gov. Patrick and leaders from the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe officially signed the compact yesterday for the tribe to site a casino in Taunton.

Middleboro officials estimate the town lost about $1 billion in revenue when the Wampanoag tribe pulled out of the casino deal it signed with the town but some residents and officials think the tradeoff is worth it.

Casino lobbyists continue to rake in the big bucks, even though legislation was passed last year legalizing gambling in the state.

NATIONAL POLITICS/WASHINGTON

The mayor of Washington, DC, joins his colleagues in Boston, Chicago, and San Francisco in opposing any Chick-fil-A expansion in his city because of the chain’s stance on gay marriage, the Washington Post reports.

The head of Community Boating in Brighton offers up his populist vision for US Rowing in a CommonWealth Voices piece.

The Postal Service’s D-Day has arrived.

ELECTION 2012

NECN’s Broadside hosts a debate among the Republicans running in the 4th congressional district.

Mitt Romney stirs controversy with remarks in Jerusalem that are denounced by Palestinians as racist. And things have gotten a little testy between his campaign and reporters in Poland: Romney staffer Rick Gorka, last seen in Boston flacking for the Baker campaign, has some unkind words for the traveling press around Mitt Romney. Such as, “Shove it.” The Weekly Standard, however, declares Romney’s eight-day foray in foreign policy an overall success. Slate digs into Poland’s Tea Party connection.

National Democrats draft a gay marriage platform plank.

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

The Republican explores how a state program designed to protect endangered and heritage species, which  covers hundreds of thousands of acres, affects public and private development.

CommonWealth’s Paul McMorrow, in his weekly Globe column, traces shifts in the downtown and waterfront area office markets, including the arrival of tech firms in the once staid banking and finance towers of the Financial District.

A South Shore business group has charged a Fall River city councilor with ethics violations, claiming he did not disclose his labor ties when he supported a failed “responsible employer ordinance” that would have given preference to union shops for city projects.

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Half of India is without electricity after its power grid fails for the second day, the Associated Press reports (via The Daily Beast). Attorney General Martha Coakley would have a field day over there.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

The state Appeals Court upheld the child pornography conviction of a Level 3 sex offender from Norwell, saying the picture he downloaded on a public library computer of a naked teenage girl had no artistic value.

MEDIA

Science writer Jonah Lehrer resigns from the New Yorker after Tablet magazine writes that he made up quotes from Bob Dylan, the New York Times reports. Tablet’s story is here. Jayson Blair, writing for The Daily Beast, says the situation is all too familiar to him. Lehrer previously came under fire for cutting, pasting and uploading portions his old stories onto the New Yorker’s blog, passing them off as new material.

Twitter suspends a British reporter’s account after he posts the email address of the head of NBC, Reuters reports.

The Ford Foundation is giving $500,000 to The Washington Post to boost the paper’s reporting on government accountability.

Changes at Skype will open up conversations to scrutiny by government officials.

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