Biopharma investment, jobs spiked in 2016 in Massachusetts

While growing spending on prescription drugs is a target of state and federal policymakers, employment and investment levels in the biopharmaceutical sector in Massachusetts continue to increase, according to a new report.

The Massachusetts Biotechnology Council’s annual industry snapshot found biopharma employment grew 4.8 percent last year, with more than 3,000 jobs added.

There are 66,414 people employed at biopharma companies in Massachusetts, earning $9.2 billion in total annual wages, for an average salary of $138,768, according to the report.

Lapsed funding for children’s insurance initiative snared in federal healthcare flap

The current CHIP funding arrangement is especially beneficial to Massachusetts and other states, since the federal government provides 88 percent of the program’s dollars compared to the usual 50-50 split for other jointly funded state-federal healthcare programs.

BOSTON — Healthcare industry insiders, including Gov. Charlie Baker and elected officials on Beacon Hill, are beginning to fret over the future of a program that provides insurance coverage to about a quarter of children in Massachusetts, mostly on the federal government’s dime.

“Developments over the next several months could have strong repercussions for Massachusetts children,” the Massachusetts Medicaid Policy Institute, a program of the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation, wrote in June in a 14-page report on the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

The report concludes Massachusetts and other states would exhaust their current CHIP allocations by March 2018 unless Congress took action.

Video: Baker on Amazon HQ2, etc.

The governor talks to reporters about the best location for Amazon’s planned $5 billion-plus headquarters. He also shares opinions on criminal justice reform, an award for disgraced former House speaker Sal DiMasi, and the Red Sox [4 minutes, 28 seconds].

State opens pipeline to more development money for cities like Worcester

The state is taking nominations from gateway cities interested in customized assistance, including real estate services, aimed at encouraging economic development activity with landowners and investors.

MassDevelopment on Tuesday announced the second round of its Transformative Development Initiative (TDI), with the goal of selecting four to six additional TDI districts. Ten TDI districts — in Worcester, Brockton, Haverhill, Holyoke, Lynn, New Bedford, Peabody, Pittsfield, Revere and Springfield — were selected in the first round.

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

  • DeLeo, state leaders expect to ‘move quickly’ on bump-stock ban
  • 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

Chandler-backed birth control bill gains traction, would increase access

BOSTON — The morning-after emergency contraception pill would be as accessible as a flu shot in Massachusetts and birth control pills could be purchased in 12-month supplies, under compromise legislation agreed to by the insurance industry and reproductive rights advocates.

The compromise does not include provisions in an earlier version (S 499/H536) of the legislation that would have mandated free condoms with insurance coverage and vasectomies without co-pays, according to supporters.

“We have again put Massachusetts in the prime position to lead,” Elana Margolis, a lobbyist for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, said at a press conference before a Financial Services Committee hearing on the legislation Tuesday.