Preview of the Legislature’s Fall Session
By: Lindsay Toghill, Vice President
Massachusetts lawmakers have begun a busy fall session. Their packed agenda contains a lengthy to-do list they will address in the coming months. Below is a preview of items that could catch the Legislature’s attention this fall:
- The State Budget – FY17 finished below revenue projections, though leaders are still trying to assess the consequences. When the Legislature broke for the summer, they still had not dealt with the Governor’s vetoes on the FY18 budget. Though they can tackle these at any time this fall, they’re closely watching the monthly tax collections to see if overrides are sustainable. At the current time, collections are below benchmark so overrides may continue to wait for the foreseeable future.
- Masshealth Reforms – Governor Baker sent the Legislature some suggested reforms to the Masshealth system to go along with the increased surcharge on employers to help pay for significant increases in cost. The Legislature rejected those reforms, choosing to instead pass the surcharge on employers before the summer break. However, because cost containment is necessary to help reduce pressure on the state budget, the Legislature will likely tackle this in the next few months.
- Criminal Justice Reform – Legislative leaders are interested in some reforms that would drastically affect the criminal justice system. On the table for discussion – thought not a done deal – mandatory minimums on bail reform.
- Short Term Rentals – The Senate earlier this year advanced a measure that would tax short-term rentals as lodging establishments. The House is presently looking at another version of this bill, with some expected actions this fall. The issue will gain interest if the state revenues continue to stagnate.
- Initiative Petitions – This week, the Attorney General certified twenty-one initiative petitions as constitutionally compliant, setting up the process for ballot questions for the fall of 2018. Proponents are required to gather thousands of signatures for each initiative petition before the end of November. While the Legislature is not required to take action until early 2018, there will be considerable wrangling and media attention about some proposed ballot questions.
- Marijuana Sales Implementation – The recent creation of the Cannabis Control Commission will officially start the process of developing regulations and a structure for the implementation of retail sales of marijuana in mid-2018. The Legislature will be closely watching this process for its effects on state revenues and their own local communities.
- Opioid Crisis – An ongoing issue, the opioid crisis will require some cooperation from the Executive branch in conjunction with the Legislature. All parties will be watching this issue closely to see if the recent decline in overdose deaths is a temporary or permanent trend.