January 18, 2017

State of Politics: Legislative pay raise, Eversource rate hike, DraftKings’ bet on itself

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Sam Doran (SHNS / file photo)

Senate President Stanley C. Rosenberg and House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo

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.

LEGISLATIVE LEADERS RENEW PAY RAISE DEBATE

Two of Beacon Hill’s most powerful committees will sit jointly for a public hearing Thursday, Jan. 18, on a 2014 report that recommends pay raises for public officials and concluded compensation of constitutional officers and legislative leadership was “outdated and inadequate.”

The House and Senate Ways and Means committees announced their plans for a noon hearing.

An outside section of the 2014 state budget created a seven-member advisory commission and charged it with studying compensation issues, including a review of all forms of direct and indirect compensation of public officials, including base salaries, stipends, general expenses, per-diem allowances; a state-by-state comparison of direct and indirect compensation of comparable public officials; and a comparison of direct and indirect compensation of public officials with similar employment in the private sector.

The commission submitted its report in December 2014.

“The Legislature has yet to hold a public hearing on either this report or an earlier 2008 report. We look forward to the hearing and testimony from experts and the general public on the 2014 report,” House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senate President Stanley Rosenberg said in a statement released moments after the hearing was announced.

— Michael P. Norton

EVERSOURCE FILES FOR RATE INCREASES ACROSS MASSACHUSETTS

Expressing a commitment to energy reliability and clean energy technologies, Eversource filed a rate request with state regulators Tuesday that would boost charges to its eastern Massachusetts customers by 7 percent and hit western Massachusetts with a roughly 10 percent increase in their monthly bills.

According to the company, the proposed rates would add about $8.45 to the monthly bill of an eastern Massachusetts customer “to alleviate a revenue deficiency of roughly $60 million.” In western Massachusetts, proposed rates would add roughly $11.64 to the monthly bill of a typical customer using 550 kilowatt hours of electricity, the company said, addressing a revenue deficiency of $35.7 million in that service area.

Eversource has 1.4 million electricity customers in 140 Massachusetts communities and 300,000 natural gas customers in 51 communities.

Company officials said the planned rates incorporate costs associated with capital investments geared towards improving service reliability, and are based on “actual operation and maintenance cost deficiencies for a test year ending June 30, 2016.”

“Customers are experiencing fewer and shorter outages as a result of our smart investments in sophisticated technology,” Craig Hallstrom, president of Massachusetts Electric Operations at Eversource, said in a statement. “We’ve also worked hard to improve reliability for customers with efforts like our enhanced tree trimming programs, all while holding the line on rising costs. Now, we’re proposing to increase that commitment and utilize the latest engineering advances, including electric vehicle infrastructure and energy storage systems, for the benefit of customers.”

If approved after a Department of Public Utilities review and public comments, the new rates would go into effect Jan. 1, 2018.

— Michael P. Norton

COAKLEY TOUTS DRAFTKINGS DURING TESTIMONY

Boston-based daily fantasy sports operator DraftKings pledged Tuesday to work with lawmakers who are attempting to wrap their arms around the online gaming realm, vowing to be proactive in ensuring a level online playing field.

Former Attorney General Martha Coakley, who now represents DraftKings, framed the company as a “Massachusetts success story,” detailing its growth from the Watertown house of one of its founders to the addition of 100 jobs in the Bay State in 2016.

“DraftKings is evidence to the rest of the country that a consumer-facing tech company can grow and thrive right here in Massachusetts, and doesn’t have to move to Silicon Valley to do it,” Coakley said in testimony to the Special Commission on Online Gaming, Fantasy Sports Gaming and Daily Fantasy Sports.

The commission was established in the economic development bill passed by lawmakers the last day of July, when the Legislature also deemed “fantasy contests” legal until July 31, 2018. The commission is tasked with charting a path forward and clearing up what had been something of a gray area around the popular games.

Since starting to work for DraftKings in August 2015, Coakley said she has traveled the country to talk to attorneys general and legislators about regulating the burgeoning online gaming industry. The protections put in place last year by Attorney General Maura Healey are “the strongest, most comprehensive consumer protections in the country.”

DraftKings set up a “best-in-the-industry” program to ensure compliance with the Massachusetts regulations and Healey’s office has not received a complaint about DraftKings since the new rules took effect, according to Coakley.

Jeremy Kudon, an attorney who has worked for both DraftKings and FanDuel, said about eight million Americans played daily fantasy sports last year, including about 500,000 Massachusetts residents.

— Colin A. Young

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