On Beacon Hill: Bumping heads

Recap and analysis of the week in local, state and federal government from State House News Service and Sun research.

BOSTON — Trace amounts of bad blood were left spattered on the pages of a budget bill passed by the Legislature last week, and it wasn’t just the cornstarch remnants of a Halloween costume gone awry.

House and Senate Ways and Means Chairs Rep. Jeffrey Sanchez, D-Jamaica Plain, and Sen. Karen Spilka, D-Ashland, managed to put aside their differences after weeks of stalemate and come to an agreement over legislation allocating the $129 million needed to shut the book on fiscal 2017, which ended four months ago.

The bill signed by acting Gov. Karyn Polito Friday made Massachusetts the first state in the country to ban bump stocks — devices used to accelerate a gun’s firing rate — since the Las Vegas mass shooting a month ago. And it included $3 million for a youth violence prevention program that Sanchez had made a priority even before a 16-year-old was gunned down in his Jamaica Plain neighborhood.

The path to yes, however, was fraught with private backbiting and public statements of frustration that caused the comptroller’s office to miss its annual statutory Halloween deadline to file critical financial reports.

The Democratic infighting contributed to Massachusetts not filing year-end financial documents on time for the second time in three fiscal years.

Sanchez’s statement after the agreement was reached seemed to try to clear the air, thanking Spilka for being a partner in the legislation. But the idea that this was nothing personal, just business, was a hard one to swallow after weeks of bickering through the media.

Sen. Michael Barrett, D-Lexington, did little to alter the narrative of tension between the branches when he took an unsolicited swipe at the House hours before they were set to debate a bill that would commit Massachusetts to the goals of the Paris Climate accord.

Barrett equated the bill to “running in place,” and said more was necessary if the state was to be a leader in combating climate change. Rep. Dylan Fernandes, the freshman Falmouth Democrat and sponsor of the Paris bill, didn’t disagree with Barrett, but said he never pretended that his bill was anything more than what it was: a statement of principle to the “climate deniers” in Washington.

Gov. Charlie Baker held vigil for the budget through Tuesday, and then hopped a jet to Palm Springs, California, for the rest of the week for a little down time with his wife before the sprint to the playground. Perhaps they were able to discuss his re-election plans.

An extended holiday recess for legislators looms after Nov. 15.

— Matt Murphy

Courtesy Sen. Moore's office

Sen. Michael O. Moore

ALSO ON THE AGENDA

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  • Warren and Sanders tag team on taxes; McGovern, in defense of Dreamers
  • Moore bill aimed at curbing campus sex assault passes Senate
  • Murray, first female Senate president, honored with official portrait
  • Amid sexual harassment furor, Bump suggests legislative code of conduct

On Beacon Hill: The Justice League

Recap and analysis of the week in local, state and federal government from State House News Service and Sun research.

BOSTON — Justice comes to those who wait … and wait … and wait.

The idea of criminal justice reform has been held out for years by Beacon Hill legislators as a worthy and necessary goal. But putting the pieces together has been a difficult puzzle to assemble.

The Senate pressed the last piece of one of the four jigsaw corners in the wee morning hours Friday, after more than 14 hours of debate that tested the constitutions of Democrats and Republicans who might have preferred not to hold those conversations.

They debated whether mandatory minimums for cocaine trafficking should be repealed, whether young teenagers having sex with each other should be a criminal offense, and whether parents and children should be able to testify against one another.

Some of the 162 amendments were decided by one or two votes, with Democrats crossing party lines and causing mid-session huddles among like-minded colleagues unaccustomed to the process of whipping votes and wondering whether they could safely predict the outcome.

State Sens. Michael Brady, D-Brockton; Michael Rush, D-Boston; Kathleen O’Connor Ives, D-Newburyport; and Patrick O’Connor, R-Weymouth, took a pass on the statutory rape reform altogether, voting “present” rather than weighing in on whether Massachusetts should have a “Romeo and Juliet” exception for minors close in age.

In broad strokes, the bill that cleared the Senate, 27-10, was designed to try to lower recidivism rates and the number of inmates incarcerated in state prisons. It eliminates parole fees, raises the youngest age of juvenile court jurisdiction from 7 to 12 years old, and allows for reduced sentences for certain drug crimes.

It’s now the House’s turn — and anyone’s guess how the more conservative body will respond. But Sen. William Brownsberger, D-Belmont, is keeping the faith: “That’s all I’m hearing from the House is seriousness on this issue,” he said.

Sam Doran / State House News Service

House Speaker Robert DeLeo

House Speaker Robert DeLeo, D-Winthrop, had a different justice matter on his plate Friday, the day after the Senate debate, as he gathered his leadership team to discuss a column in the Boston Globe written by Yvonne Abraham alleging a widespread culture of sexual harassment under the Golden Dome.

An “infuriated and deeply disturbed” speaker took to the House floor to condemn acts described anonymously by Abraham, which ranged from unwanted sexual advances by lawmakers toward lobbyists and aides, to groups of House members viewing pornography on the House floor.

Without allegations containing names attached to investigate, DeLeo called on his House counsel, Jim Kennedy, to initiate a review of the House’s sexual harassment policies, but just as the Harvey Weinstein accusations snowballed into other industries and boardrooms, this may not be the last shoe to drop on Beacon Hill.

— Matt Murphy

ALSO ON THE AGENDA

  • The (Ways and Means) odd couple has work to do
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  • Healey defends Trump lawsuits as ‘doing her job’
  • Watch: Baker on CSRs, Flake and Trump
  • Despite consumer malaise, Mass. economy growth spikes

On Beacon Hill: The ‘Ready for Prime-time Players’

Recap and analysis of the week in local, state and federal government from State House News Service and Sun research.

BOSTON — The Red Sox may be done for the season, but there were plenty of pitches being thrown around Boston as the Amazon wooing efforts officially got underway.

Sadly, Massachusetts didn’t have its proposal for Amazon to build its second headquarters in the state delivered to Jeff Bezos’s porch via drone. Nor did it appear to include the story about Gov. Charlie Baker wanting to buy Echos as Christmas gifts for his children in 2015 after getting a device demo in Cambridge.

But it was still somewhat unique. Instead of sending an ace to the mound, the state has taken a closer-by-committee approach.

That hasn’t always worked well on the diamond, but maybe in business the outcome will be different.

The pitch went something like this: Massachusetts has the best schools, a deep talent pool and a high quality of living. So pick one of these 26 sites and let’s start the hiring process.

Boston’s bid, in partnership with Revere, centered on Suffolk Downs as an ideal, shovel-ready site with 161 acres of developable land ready and waiting for those 50,000 new jobs. But other cities, including Worcester, Billerica and Weymouth, had their own sales teams touting less conventional locales.

Winning the Amazon sweepstakes would be another business coup for Baker, and it appears most Bay Staters would welcome the company as long as any deal doesn’t turn into a corporate raid on the state Treasury. But not everyone is salivating over the idea of welcoming Amazon to their neighborhood, and some, including Boston mayoral candidate Tito Jackson, have voiced concern over how it might displace residents and put unaffordable housing even farther out of reach.

“No games. No politics. No drama. Just governing, leadership and getting things done,” J.D. Chesloff, executive director of the Massachusetts Business Roundtable, offered by way of a jacket-liner quote to support the state’s bid. The state liked that one, putting it on page 2 of its 182-page proposal [see story below].

Unfortunately, there were plenty of games, politics and drama unfolding on Beacon Hill last week, and not a lot of things getting done.

File / Sam Doran / State House News Service

New House Ways and Means Chairman Jeffrey Sánchez, left, and his Senate counterpart Karen Spilka are already sparring over the budget process.

Rep. Jeffrey Sanchez and Sen. Karen Spilka haven’t had a whole lot of time to build a working relationship since Sanchez got the House Ways and Means chairmanship this summer. They’ve had even fewer items of substance to work on together.

But things have gotten off to a rocky start after both branches last week passed what looked like a routine budget bill intended to close out spending for fiscal 2017, which ended in July.

In a sharp break from the style of his predecessor in the job, Brian Dempsey, Sanchez took his gripes with his Senate counterparts public this week. The Legislature headed into the weekend without completing the budget bill, which also included the ballyhooed ban on bump stocks.

Sanchez blamed Spilka, the Senate Ways and Means chair and Ashland Democrat, for making the process even more difficult than it would otherwise be by using an unusual procedural move that makes it impossible to go into conference without one of the branches taking up the bill a second time.

He is also peeved over the Senate’s decision to exclude $4.7 million for a youth violence prevention program from their version of the bill, and essentially accused senators of being more interested in talking about criminal justice policy than making it.

“In my neighborhood, I have guns blazing,” the Jamaica Plain Democrat bemoaned.

Spilka’s response was characteristically muted as she downplayed the procedural differences and insisted that the Senate wanted to keep spending in the bill to fiscal 2017 obligations, rather than adding programmatic increases.

Now it’s anyone’s guess how this gets resolved, or who blinks first. And it’s a dynamic that bears watching in the months to come as, presumably, the Legislature intensifies its efforts to pass criminal justice and health care reform.

That process starts Thursday when the Senate is expected to debate a sweeping criminal justice reform bill.

— Matt Murphy

ALSO ON THE AGENDA

  • Legislature poised to tackle top issues
  • McGovern on Trump and health care, Warren on Puerto Rico
  • Veterans group backs Newton mayor for governor
  • Watch: Chandler, senators trumpet healthcare cost reduction bill
  • State releases 182-page omnibus Amazon HQ2 bid

On Beacon Hill: Cost sharing … and caring

Recap and analysis of the week in local, state and federal government from State House News Service and Sun research.

BOSTON — So, how many days a week do you suppose Charlie Baker wakes up and thinks, “GOD, I wish Hillary had won!”?

“Seven” may be a valid guess. Because an inconvenient truth has stalked Baker’s political life since the election of Donald Trump: his job would have been enormously easier this year, and his job security greater, had Hillary Clinton been elected. That truth came into starker-than-ever relief last week.

Baker was getting ready to leave for Las Vegas to talk clean energy as news broke that his party’s leader was hoping to demolish Obamacare by allowing the sale of low-cost, low-benefit plans aimed at the young and healthy, and withholding subsidies for insurance copays to the poor at the state level.

It was easy to anticipate Baker’s reaction: walking through a well-worn script that boils down to the message: “Don’t Blame Me, I’m From Massachusetts.” And pretty much, the people of Massachusetts haven’t.

Guns. Gays. Coal. Immigration. Contraceptives. Climate change. On almost every eye-catching Trump maneuver this year, the governor’s instinct for pragmatism in rhetoric and decision-making has seen him through. But now, the veteran number-cruncher and former health insurance executive faces more daunting budget and policy challenges, caused by Republicans.

Flickr / Gage Skidmore

President Trump

The president signed a short executive order Thursday fostering the creation of new bare-bones plans with low premiums, aimed at people whose health needs are few. He said the move addresses one of the main complaints about Obamacare — not enough choice for consumers.

Then came the blockbuster: The president announced he plans to end $9 billion in “cost-sharing reduction” subsidies that enable the functioning of Obamacare on the state level. The president pointed out that the payments were never funded by Congress, but rather paid through administrative accounts controlled by the Executive Branch.

U.S. House Republicans sued over the matter three years ago, arguing the administration has no right to fund a major program like this without congressional appropriation. They won. Even so, officials from both parties had urged Trump to continue the payments, and Baker was out in front.

As with most everything except, perhaps, the national Marine Monument off Cape Cod, the governor disagrees with his president on the dismantling of Obamacare. That frequent disavowal has made his most potent political rival, state Attorney General Maura Healey, arguably his most potent policy ally.

As she’s done many a time this year, Healey said she’d go to court against the federal administration, aligned with Baker’s point of view, joining other state AGs in a lawsuit to block termination of the CSR’s.

For his part, Baker issued a statement that “the Trump Administration is making the wrong decision to eliminate cost-sharing reductions for all 50 states, as it will destabilize insurance markets and jeopardize coverage for thousands of Massachusetts residents.” [See more on Baker’s and Healey’s reactions below.]

Health coverage and its provision to the poor had already made the administration’s life complicated last week, as the Massachusetts Health Connector that administers public insurance for low-income residents tried to set rates for MassHealth for the coming year.

The Connector was expected to announce 2018 MassHealth rates early in the week, but delayed its announcement to make a last-second decision as to whether premiums should rise an average of 10.5 percent or 26.1 percent. The lower rate was announced as official Thursday, but it was contingent on … continuance of the CSR’s, which the president announced at 10 p.m. that evening would be ending. The Connector said it would explore “alternative pathways.”

The flurry of healthcare developments came at the end of a short week that was long on news even before the Grand Finale.

— Craig Sandler

ALSO ON THE AGENDA

  • Three finalists for Cannabis Commission director to be interviewed Tuesday
  • McGovern on Trump’s Iran move, Polito on domestic violence
  • Baker, Healey rail against Trump healthcare maneuver
  • Watch: Chang-Diaz, others weigh in on criminal justice reform
  • Senate gun bill restricting bump stocks set for House showdown

On Beacon Hill: All eyes on Washington

Recap and analysis of the week in local, state and federal government from State House News Service and Sun research.

BOSTON — Bump stocks, Bump’s rising stock and the gamble of a little-known state representative from Lawrence looking to bump up the political ladder.

When everything else seems to be in limbo, sometimes there’s no easier reprieve for lawmakers from the malaise on Beacon Hill than to open up the newspaper and find something worth a reaction.

The slow burn of criminal justice and healthcare reform bills may have something to do with the decision state Rep. Juana Matias, a first-term legislator from Lawrence, made this week to set her sights on something bigger – Congress.

Go where the action is.

Matias has barely had time to settle into the rhythms of the Legislature, but even in her short political career she has been an embodiment of the newish political culture in Massachusetts that spits on the wait-your-turn philosophy of previous generations.

Like U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton, who knocked off an incumbent in his own party on his way to being a talked-about 2020 White House contender, Matias took on and beat Democrat Marcos Devers in 2016 and now plans to run for U.S. Rep. Niki Tsongas’s seat next year. Tsongas, of course, plans to retire, so there’s no one there to dethrone. Just a wide-open field with no clear heir to the seat.

Matias came to the United States with her family from the Dominican Republic when she was five, and now sells herself as “Donald Trump’s worst nightmare.” But she has competition for that title.

Sam Doran / State House News Service

Rep. Juana Matias of Lawrence, left. and Sen. Jamie Eldridge of Acton, testify at the start of the June 9 Public Safety Committee hearing.

Andover’s Dan Koh, one of at least six Democrats now running in the Third District, turned heads last week when he announced a staggering $805,000 fundraising haul in the month since since he announced his campaign. But if the desired effect was to scare off further challengers, it didn’t work.

Sen. Barbara L’Italien is another legislator looking to punch her ticket out of Boston to Washington, D.C., showing how even the prospects of entering the minority in Congress can have a brighter shine than being in the supermajority at the state level.

The goal is the same, but the dynamic different for state Rep. Geoff Diehl, who is trying to escape the Republican minority in the Massachusetts House to join the GOP majority in the U.S. Senate.

With just one month left until the Legislature recesses for the year, the Democrats’ agenda has been slow to take form, and business groups moved to undercut one leg of their stool by filing a lawsuit challenging the attorney general’s certification of a ballot question to impose a surtax on millionaires.

The Raise Up Coalition believes its constitutional amendment remains on solid footing, but the business group’s case is probably more than just a wish and prayer. If successful, it would seriously dampen the excitement of lawmakers looking ahead to 2019 and all the money they think they’ll have to spend.

The one thing the branches have been able agree on is that the budget they produced in July was fine as it was, before Gov. Charlie Baker got his hands on it.

House leaders flexed their muscles in a way not seen for at least several years, completing their work to reverse all $320 million worth of spending vetoes made by Baker in July as the Republican governor warned about the risk of a third straight cycle of mid-year budget cuts.

House Democrats, however, didn’t want to be told about the need to exercise caution, and their confidence in their own budgeting ability, whether it will prove to be misguided or right on the money this year, got a shot in the arm by a September state revenue report showing that, for the time being, Massachusetts has a $124 million cushion.

The Senate has been taking up budget overrides at a slower pace – just $40 million so far – but there’s little indication to suggest its members will be more conservative about spending than their counterparts in the House.

— Matt Murphy

ALSO ON THE AGENDA

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  • Markey on birth control, Baker on PR, Warren on Equifax
  • Pot power drain on minds of Bay State utility officials
  • Watch: Healey on Las Vegas shooting
  • State bestows highest honor on fallen Officer Tarentino

On Beacon Hill: Bowling for dollars

Recap and analysis of the week in local, state and federal government from State House News Service and Sun research.

BOSTON — Line ’em up and knock ’em down. That’s been the House’s approach to Gov. Charlie Baker’s budget vetoes since returning from summer recess.

But if Speaker Robert DeLeo was hoping to see the Senate quickly pick up the spare, he found that it might take them a few extra frames.

For the second straight week, House leaders put dozens of votes on the floor to override $9 million more in spending vetoes, bringing the amount of money Democrats are looking to pour back into the $39.4 billion state budget to $284 million.

Then it was the Senate’s turn.

But in their first session since late July, senators acted on only $25 million worth of overrides focused on statewide services and programs that help children [see story below]. It was less than half of what Sen. Karen Spilka said the Senate was prepared to consider restoring to the budget, and the voting came over the objection of Senate Republicans who urged just a little patience.

The release of September tax collection totals this week will color in a full quadrant of the fiscal year picture and give legislators a better idea of how their financial forecast is holding up — well, at least the revenue side of the equation.

“The current fiscal environment, specifically soft revenue collection reports to date, indicates there is no basis to support the legislature’s decision to increase spending by $284 million,” Baker scolded Thursday evening, powerless to stop the type of decisions that have exacerbated midyear budget cuts in each of the last two years.

Baker watched the override votes from Boston after continuing to wear out the shuttle flight path between Logan and Reagan National. The governor headed back to Washington – this time the White House – for a meeting of President Trump’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, led by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

His path nearly crossed with U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, who was at the White House a day earlier as the ranking Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee. Congressional leaders were there to discuss tax reform, but the bipartisan nature of the photo-op did not exactly buy the president or GOP leadership any rope with Democrats.

Flickr / Ben Wikler

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren

Neal, along with U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and others from their party, blasted the GOP tax reform framework as a trickle-down economic plan geared toward helping the wealthy, despite the White House casting it as middle-class tax relief.

In Massachusetts, leaders – Baker included – seized on the proposed elimination of state and local tax payment deductions as a particularly egregious simplification of the tax code.

That change would particularly hurt Bay State residents, they said, because they earn more than workers in many places around the country and pay higher income and property taxes that can be used to lower their federal tax burden.

Trump’s tax plan also proposed to eliminate the federal estate tax, a levy that got some attention at the state level as well last week. Rep. Shawn Dooley has proposed to raise the $1 million threshold for the Massachusetts estate tax at one of several hearings last week that put the State House in a morbid mood.

Despite the rejection by voters in 2012 of the concept of helping the terminally ill end their own lives, legislative proposals to revive the debate live on, even if their chances of resurrection seem remote.

Matters of life of death were also never far from mind for those with family in Puerto Rico, where water, food and medicine shortages continue to cause grave concern in a state with one of the top five populations of people from the Caribbean island in the country.

The devastation in Puerto Rico from the one-two punch of hurricanes Irma and Maria continued to influence both policy and politics, as Baker took steps to assure the community and his critics that Massachusetts stood ready to assist in any way possible [see video below].

— Matt Murphy

ALSO ON THE AGENDA

  • With another break looming, lawmakers about to buckle down?
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  • Watch: Baker, Sanchez on Puerto Rico aid
  • Senate restores $25 million in Baker budget vetoes

State of Politics: Cannabis commissioners eye swift director hire

State of Politics is an occasional collection of news and notes from on and around Beacon Hill compiled from the latest reports by State House News Service.

CCC HOPES TO INTERVIEW DIRECTOR FINALISTS OCT. 17

The Cannabis Control Commission aims to hire an executive director to run the marijuana oversight agency by mid-October and has pledged to conduct public interviews of the finalists.

More in the Sun: Flanagan opens up on role regulating legal pot

“This is an incredibly important job,” said CCC Chair Steven Hoffman, who is serving as acting/interim executive director. “We’re going to run an expeditious process to hire a full-time executive director, but we’re going to do it the right way. It’s going to be public, we’re going to allow applications from whomever might be interested and we will do what we can in open commission meetings.”

Watch: Charlie Baker on Graham-Cassidy and being ‘presidential’

On Beacon Hill: No way, Jose — a cloudy forecast for health care

Recap and analysis of the week in local, state and federal government from State House News Service and Sun research.

Storm clouds were moving in, literally and figuratively, when Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker walked out of Faneuil Hall and met the quartet of reporters waiting by his car last Wednesday morning.

After the governor posed for a photo with a group attending the Recovery Day event he just addressed while taking a few questions, his press aide told the reporters the governor had to get going and had time for just one last question.

Baker added as the wind picked up, “it’s also going to start raining on all of us.”

The literal storm clouds threatening to drench that cobblestone scrum were from Jose, the spitfire tropical storm moving up from the south. Behind that storm loomed the specter of another redrafted Obamacare repeal bill in Congress that could harm Massachusetts to the tune of billions of dollars — this one taking the name Graham-Cassidy — on its way to the Senate floor in Washington, D.C.

“Graham-Cassidy would be, as it’s currently conceived … a huge problem for the commonwealth of Mass.,” said Baker, the popular governor whose party has been promising to pass such a bill for years. “And it’s my hope that it doesn’t pass.”

About five miles away in Chelsea last week, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren warned of a “staggeringly irresponsible” bill that would turn Medicaid into a block-grant program and reduce federal funding to Massachusetts, according to the senator, by an estimated $5 billion over 10 years.

“We are looking at the perfect storm in terms of education budgets in the coming year,” Chelsea schools Superintendent Mary Bourque said, not in reference to the approaching tropical storm. Graham-Cassidy would result in a loss of $700,000 in Medicaid reimbursements that go into her school budget, she said.

(With U.S. Sen. John McCain’s Friday announcement that he would not be supporting the Graham-Cassidy bill, the forecast for Bay State health care — and Baker’s popularity — got a bit sunnier. If only for a while.)

In about 13 months, Baker and Warren will most likely be the highest-profile candidates on their respective party’s ticket. But last week, with the threat of block-granting Medicaid bearing down, they were on the same page.

The Republican governor has joined with Bay State Democrats in resisting GOP-sponsored healthcare bills targeting Obamacare, a position that U.S. Senate Democrats have made part of their resistance to the new GOP bill.

Baker’s friends in the GOP, such as South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, are using Massachusetts as leverage to try to drum up support for the bill.

“Four states under Obamacare get 40 percent of the money — New York, California, Massachusetts and Maryland,” Graham said. “If that bothers you, this is a chance to do something about it.”

The U.S. Senate, despite the McCain blockbuster, is still planning to vote on Graham-Cassidy this week, before the Sept. 30 deadline to pass a repeal bill with a simple majority. At the end of the week, depending on how the Senate votes, only one of the following will be cheering: the Republican Party or Baker, a GOP member.

While Baker still hasn’t said whether he is going to run for reelection next year, plenty of others have turned their sights to the 2018 election.

Activists are trying to compel action on a state sales tax cut, a new income surtax on millionaires and an increase in the minimum wage, issues that don’t lend themselves very well to a governor taking a firm position — and remaining the nation’s most popular state leader — heading into an election year.

Unlike his advocacy on federal health care reform that’s made some waves, Baker has tried to calm the waters back home. He hasn’t staked out a firm position on those three issues he could be sharing space with on next year’s ballot.

— Colin A. Young

ALSO ON THE AGENDA

  • Health care in the crosshairs
  • Markey and Sanders on Graham-Cassidy, Healey on DeVos
  • Challenging Baker, Warren eyes Worcester-Amazon marriage
  • Watch: Polito on ‘Fight for $15’
  • Evangelidis named head of Massport board

On Beacon Hill: Vienna sausage making, the State House way

Recap and analysis of the week in local, state and federal government from State House News Service and Sun research.

BOSTON — The Legislature continued the budget process for “Fiscal Year Two Thousand and … Infinity” this past week — well, half the Legislature.

A budget document unveiled when President Trump’s approval rating exceeded his disapproval rating sauntered through its eighth month, still not truly final, as the House replaced $275 million of the $360 million in vetoes Gov. Baker made in July.

The next step in the saga must be taken by the Senate.

The hangup for now is that there’s a rhythm to legislation and, as fortune would have it, that rhythm is the same as a Viennese waltz: ONE-two-three, ONE-two-three. … And the third step of the override process was paused for the moment, as senators awaited the return of their leader from Austria and the Czech Republic.

Senate President Stanley Rosenberg was in Europe — a development that first surfaced publicly when his staff said he wouldn’t be at the weekly leadership meeting Monday with Gov. Charlie Baker and House Speaker Robert DeLeo, and would phone in for the session. He did.

The president, normally quite eager to share the details of his public schedule, made no mentions of his planned sojourn.

State House News Service file

Senate President Stan Rosenberg

His travels through Vienna, Graz and Prague were underwritten by the United Nations Association of Austria, the city of Graz and the Senate Presidents Forum, which collects money from corporations such as Coca-Cola, Pfizer and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco and passes it on to presidents in the form of grants for such policy and cultural forays.

Thomas Finneran, late of the Massachusetts House speakership, is on staff as moderator of Forum discussions — a role he filled during the Central Europe sessions, said Rosenberg’s spokesman.

And so the Senate, eager as it may be to restore spending after senators decried vetoes as severe and unnecessary, extended its six-week summer formal-session hiatus. The vetoes may be taken up the last week of the month, after the autumnal equinox.

The 62 overrides processed in the House chamber covered statewide programs and accounts, and Ways and Means Chairman Jeffrey Sanchez said another batch, addressing local needs and services, is forthcoming. [See video below.]

Republicans said the Senate should in fact be in no rush to follow the House’s lead. With state leaders mired in a years-long inability to accurately project tax revenues and then keep spending within actual receipts, GOP representatives said both branches should wait at least another month, preferably two, to see if the overrides are affordable.

For their part, the Baker administration said there was “no basis” to restore spending now, given revenue performance so far.

But Sanchez, speaking for the Democrats, said a conservative approach was already baked into the budget that landed on Baker’s desk in July — that $400 million had been removed from the bottom line before Baker saw it. The spending restorations are sustainable, he assured.

By much more than the necessary two-thirds, Sanchez and his boss Speaker DeLeo had the votes.

For much of Wednesday, House members sat chattering and nattering and fiddling with their digital devices, punctuated by the sonorous reading of one veto after another from the podium. Which items would come up and receive a “yes” vote had been decided in secret over the past eight weeks, so there was no debate.

One by one, with nary a decrease in din, representatives added money back to the commonwealth’s fiscal 2018 bottom line — the scoreboard glowing green on its leftward Democratic side, and more or less solid red on the Republican.

And while wiseguys needed both eyebrows this week — one to raise over Rosenberg’s trip, and the other over the prudence of budget regrowth — the people actually affected by the line items — people hoping to keep their apartments or their jobs — likely breathed a sigh of relief. Or half a sigh, anyhow, if that’s possible.

And by the way? If those real people avoid the hit, they won’t begrudge Rosenberg some late-summer Transatlantic meandering.

— Craig Sandler

ALSO ON THE AGENDA

  • Minimum wage, renewable energy, online Lottery on tap
  • McGovern on health care, Warren on veterans, Polito on bike trail
  • Senators begin joint talks on language learning bill with rebuke of past efforts
  • Watch: DeLeo, Sanchez on budget veto overrides
  • Framingham contractor fined $167,500 for shoddy Worcester Airport work

On Beacon Hill: Mr. Baker goes to Washington

Recap and analysis of the week in local, state and federal government from State House News Service and Sun research.

BOSTON — With his purple tie knotted tightly, Gov. Charlie Baker flew to Washington, D.C., last week hoping to bring his brand of bipartisanship to the polarized capital. Few might have predicted, however, that the colors in Washington were already starting to bleed.

Ostensibly, the state Legislature and Congress both returned to work from a summer recess, but it was the gridlocked Congress — with an assist from President Donald Trump — that would make the breakthrough.

As state legislators eased into their post-Labor Day schedule (and that’s being generous), Trump struck a debt-ceiling deal with Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer to fund the government for three months and deliver billions in relief funding for Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

Trump’s shunning of Republican Congressional leaders to make a deal with the Democrats rattled Washington and seemed to put wind in the sails of the White House as it prepared to deal with Irma, another catastrophic hurricane poised to strike South Florida on Sunday.

The debt ceiling deal also distracted, if only for a fleeting moment, from the storm the president stirred up with his decision to phase out the immigration program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA.

The program, created by former President Barack Obama through executive order, allowed the so-called Dreamers, who were brought to the country illegally by their parents when they were minors, to apply for protected status that would allow them to go to school and work without fear of deportation.

Trump, through his Attorney General Jeff Sessions, challenged Congress over the next six months to enshrine DACA into law if its members want it preserved, while Democrats and many Republicans, including Gov. Baker, derided the move as a cold-hearted play for the conservative base that would send immigrants in the United States, through no fault of their own, back into hiding.

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey joined yet another multi-state lawsuit against the Trump administration to block the decision to end DACA, while advocacy groups rallied at the State House and around Boston seeking leadership from the state to protect the futures of the Dreamers.

Antonio Caban / State House News Service

Gov. Charlie Baker

It was in this atmosphere that Baker joined his fellow governors from Tennessee, Montana, Colorado and Utah in testifying before the Senate Health Committee [see video below] on steps Congress could take to stabilize Obamacare health insurance markets in the wake of failed efforts to repeal the law.

Baker and the bipartisan cohort of governors told the Senate panel, headed by Tennessee’s Lamar Alexander, that the single biggest thing they could do would be to ensure at least two years of funding for cost-sharing-reduction payments.

The CSR payments, used to keep patients’ out-of-pocket expenses down, were a part of the Affordable Care Act, but have been challenged in court by Republicans and dangled by Trump as a lever he could pull to force the collapse of Obamacare.

“I think it would be a bad idea,” Baker told U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren about Trump’s threat, responding to a softball lobbed across the plate by Massachusetts’ senior senator in what sounded like a coordinated back-and-forth designed to bloody the president.

Baker sat in the middle of the five governors as the de facto leader of the pack. He was given ample time to wonk out on healthcare policy, and just enough time to score some political points back home.

— Matt Murphy

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