A report from our friends at MassFiscal Alliance –
The Senate approved a budget last night, and the whole shebang heads to conference committee to iron out differences with the House version. I thought you might appreciate an update on this sunny Friday.
First, on the earmark front: Splash pool funding is headed to Lowell but not Springfield, and a check for new lawn furniture for Magazine beach and the Stoneham organ restoration I mentioned in earlier emails is in the mail. Senator Joyce got his $1,000,000 for urban forestry despite the lingering cloud over the nature of his senate work.
An amendment to the budget for funding a matching grant for bullet-proof vests for police officers had members tripping over themselves. Offered by a bi-partisan quartet (Tarr, Fattman, O’Connor, and Lovely), the bill had a special resonance, as also last night was the wake for Officer Ronald Tarentino, shot in the line of duty. The bill first failed by a sliver (17-20), but as senators realized the optics of funding splash pads and lawn furniture while passing up a 2-1 match for funding to protect our law enforcement community, the measure was re-worded and passed with just a single member (Wolf, bless his philosophical consistency) calling, “Nay.”
Senator Jamie Eldridge passed a shopping bag ban (all shopping bags offend him, apparently, not just the plastic ones we usually hear about), but his bid to add $110,000 to the Climate Change Adaptation and Preparedness line item failed. We are also glad to see Senator Eldridge came to his senses and withdrew his irresponsible amendment to over regulate campaign finance law, another well intentioned solution in search of a problem.
Richard Ross offered up a requirement that make salary and bonuses for the retirement fund’s CEO contingent upon unanimous consent of the fund’s board and performance. Only two Democrats (Timilty and Moore) crossed the line to vote in favor of stronger oversight for one of the highest-paid state employees. Let’s pair its failure with that of a Ryan Fattman amendment aimed at righting the wrongs of sick-leave buybacks and mourn their demise together. Both of these ideas would vastly improve fiscal accountability.
New Senator Patrick O’Connor, offered a good government and taxpayer protection amendment. His effort would have required a series of mandatory public hearings if a tax hike is on the table. Only a few years ago, the legislature passed a new tax as a short lived computer software sales tax, before they had to repeal their failed idea once word got out. O’Connor was right to offer it and the senate was wrong to reject it.
Republican Leader Bruce Tarr scored a win on an amendment requiring the state auditor to perform an annual audit of state credit cards, and another allowing the attorney general to investigate fraud in worker’s comp cases. His move to eliminate the State Climatologist was rejected in a bundle.
Since the State Climatologist position has been vacant for several years anyway, I’d say based on this sunny weather, we are doing just fine without one. I’m pretty sure the position doesn’t actually affect the weather (or much of anything), though.
Early next week, we will update our scorecard to include many of these votes and important roll call votes. Once updated, you’ll get an update.
Paul D. Craney