January 8, 2017

On Beacon Hill: As new session begins, Worcester’s biotech future gets a boost

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State House News Service

As the state Legislature enters a new session, Worcester is at the top of the agenda -- and now more innovation is coming to the city.

From State House News Service

Old friends and new enemies. Fresh faces and familiar rituals.

The new year got underway on Beacon Hill last week with a flurry of the pomp and circumstance that marks the beginning of every two-year legislative session followed by the quiet of 15 newbie lawmakers getting to know their surroundings, while veterans prepare for the battles to come.

Gov. Charlie Baker played the role of master of ceremony, swearing in the still heavily Democratic Legislature that he will work with well into his likely re-election campaign, while the lawmakers themselves reupped in the trust department, turning again to House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senate President Stanley Rosenberg to guide them on their journey.

Minority Leaders Bruce Tarr in the Senate and Brad Jones in the House also got another vote of confidence from their caucuses to continue to lead the opposition, the little there is of it.

Republicans will make up just more than 20 percent of the Legislature to start the session.

DeLeo, who is soon to turn 67 and two years removed from scrapping the term limits that would have forced him into an early retirement this month, has a chance to become the longest serving speaker in state history.

State House News Service / file photo

House Speaker Robert DeLeo

Should he finish this two-year term, DeLeo will pass Tom McGee and hit the decade mark as the House’s top Democrat.

“To break records or terms of longest speaker is not foremost in my mind, quite frankly,” DeLeo told reporters about his reign. What is foremost on his mind, however, will have to wait at least a few weeks until he outlines his goals for the coming two years in speech to the members.

Rosenberg, holding to tradition, didn’t wait.

Criminal justice reform, early education expansion, a living wage, paid family leave and even self-driving cars all made Rosenberg’s list of issues to address in the weeks and months ahead. He also urged the Senate to reach for revenues where they could be found to invest their way to success, but stopped short of calling for a broad-based tax increase beyond the income surtax on millionaires that he supports for the ballot in 2018.

Instead, Rosenberg called for taxing Airbnb and closing “loopholes” in the tax code that no longer serve a purpose, and on those fronts he may find little argument from DeLeo or Baker.

OFF THE TOP

  • PATRICK AIDE EYES GUV RUN: Jay Gonzalez, the former budget chief for Gov. Deval Patrick, let slip through associates that he is “seriously considering” a run for governor in 2018, so serious in fact that he left his job on Dec. 31 as CEO of the health insurer CeltiCare to explore the possibility. If he were to run and win the Democratic nomination, Gonzalez would match Gov. Baker’s credentials as a former budget Cabinet secretary who went on to run a health insurance company.
  • TAXES ON TARGET: The Department of Revenue reported that tax collections in December essentially met the targets necessary to keep the state’s $39 billion budget in balance, but still left state government $38 million in the hole for the year after six months. DeLeo had previously said he would be watching December collections (and maybe January as well) closely to make a call on whether he wants to bring a spending bill to the floor to reverse some or all of the $98 million in cuts made by Baker last month amid flagging revenues.

ALSO ON THE AGENDA

  • Baker signs land bill paving way for LakePharma, ‘150 jobs’ in Worcester
  • Rosenberg puts pedal to metal on self-driving cars
  • Video: DeLeo looks forward
  • House leaders play politics as new session begins
  • Warren braces for ‘uglier, nastier’ campaign as she eyes re-election


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