October 22, 2017

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

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Sam Doran / State House News Service

BUMP-FIRE BAN: After organizing a hearing on proposals to ban bump stocks, Sen. Michael Moore waited several minutes on Wednesday for other senators and attendees to arrive. The House and Senate already passed their own versions of bump stock bans last week as budget amendments, after the device was allegedly used by the Las Vegas mass shooter. Only one individual — a state rep — testified at the hearing.

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

LOOKING AHEAD

Legislature poised to tackle top issues

While House plans are still murky, Massachusetts senators are finally set, 10 months into the session, to begin formal deliberations on two signature issues: criminal justice reform and health care.

State House News Service file

Senate President Stan Rosenberg

On both fronts, the Senate has stuck to its tendency under Senate President Stanley Rosenberg — go big or go home. Working with a House known for its deliberative, some would say slow, pace and a preference for targeted and incremental changes in law, senators have again come up with sweeping bills that represent a catch-all of potential remedies in the major policy areas.

The differing approaches foreshadow likely difficult talks between the branches if they can eventually get bills into conference committees. With three-plus weeks left before lawmakers take their next long break, just getting to conference would represent a major achievement at this juncture in the 2017 session.

Senators plan a Monday public hearing on their healthcare proposal and a Thursday floor debate on their criminal justice bill. The branches are also under pressure to finalize an agreement over the next 10 days on a final fiscal 2017 spending bill that got bogged down this week, in part, due to procedural disputes.

A LITTLE BIRDIE …

McGovern fact-checks Trump on healthcare costs

Warren pushes for more Puerto Rico relief

NOTED

Veterans PAC endorses Setti Warren for governor

A political action committee dedicated to electing veterans endorsed Newton Mayor Setti Warren for governor.

State House News Service

Setti Warren

Warren joined the U.S. Navy Reserve shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack and deployed to northern Iraq in 2007. The Oregon-based PAC previously endorsed U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton in his first campaign for Congress in 2014.

“Mayor Warren’s time to lead Massachusetts into a brighter future is now,” VoteVets PAC Veterans Outreach Director Rick Hegdahl said in a statement. “Rising economic disparity is a real issue for many in the Bay State, and for veterans it is no different.”

Hegdahl credited Warren with being able to work collaboratively as mayor to solve problems, in keeping with military training. “We need that clear thinking, across the country, right now,” he said. “Setti Warren’s loyalty, and commitment to his community, and country, is unquestioned. Combined with his skills, and his record, he’s the right person to be Governor, and we’re proud to endorse him.”

Warren is running for the Democratic nomination against former Gov. Deval Patrick’s budget chief, Jay Gonzalez, and environmental entrepreneur Robert Massie.

— Matt Murphy

VIDEO OF THE WEEK

Chandler, senators trumpet healthcare cost reduction bill

IN THE NEWS

State releases 182-page omnibus Amazon HQ2 bid

From the home of the New England Patriots to a mall in Leominster to oceanfront property in Lynn, 26 different sites in Massachusetts want to host Amazon’s second headquarters and the 50,000 jobs that will accompany it, according to a proposal state officials released Friday.

Rather than backing one specific site, the bid touts the state as a whole, highlighting its “unparalleled constellation of 125 colleges and universities” and the workforce those institutions can provide.

Without making specific offers to Amazon, the bid highlights the state’s “broad array of financial programs to attract private investment and to promote innovation and job creation.”

The document showcases the state’s Economic Development Incentive Program tax credit, the MassWorks Infrastructure Program, the Infrastructure Investment Incentive (I-Cubed) Program and investments made through the state’s capital plan. Recent recipients of state investments are described, including the Cambridge campus of EF [Education First], the Lowell headquarters of Kronos and CitySquare in Worcester.

“Massachusetts creates a favorable business environment for companies to launch, grow, and thrive by keeping our tax structure fair and predictable, managing our state budget wisely, and making targeted investments for the future,” the bid says before mentioning tax credits for hiring veterans, investment, research and development, and brownfields redevelopment.

State officials noted that Amazon already employs “thousands” of people in Massachusetts at locations such as Amazon Robotics in North Reading, fulfillment centers in Fall River and Stoughton, a research-and-development office in Cambridge, and at an office expected to open in Fort Point, Boston.

If Amazon were to choose Massachusetts as its next home, the tax structure the online retail behemoth faces on move-in day could look quite different from what’s outlined in the pitch.

Voters are set to decide next year whether to impose a surtax on incomes in excess of $1 million, and retailers are gathering signatures for a potential 2018 ballot question to lower the sales tax back to its old 5 percent rate. Other potential questions would implement a paid family and medical leave program in Massachusetts, and raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

— Katie Lannan

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