News and notes from State House News Service
Baker paving way for $200M road repair bill
It’s pothole season in Massachusetts, and Gov. Charlie Baker on Monday said he’ll soon be filing legislation awaited each year by municipal officials eyeing the approaching construction season and a chance to fix their winter-battered pavement.
Baker said he plans to file a $200 million local road repair bill “very shortly.” In each of the past two years, he’s filed a $200 million bill in mid-Feburary — on Feb. 16 in 2017, and Feb. 12 in 2016.
“Yeah, I think you’ll see a Chapter 90 bill from us very shortly, and our hope and anticipation is that the Legislature will be able to move relatively quickly on it,” the governor told reporters. “The really deep freeze followed by the really big thaw followed by the ton of rain has been really tough on roads. And the other thing we’re going to do is talk with our colleagues in local government and see if there is something we can do beyond this stuff everybody’s doing now, which is basically patching where they can and recognizing that a lot of the work that would be done at this point will probably be undone by the weather before the end of the winter.”
The repair funding for local roads and bridges is an annual agenda item on Beacon Hill, and groups, including Construction Industries of Massachusetts and the Massachusetts Municipal Association, have in the past asked lawmakers for a multi-year bill at a higher annual value to ease the uncertainty of waiting to see how much money will be authorized and to address a backlog of needed repairs.
Chapter 90 is the primary source of funds for road construction and repair projects for most cities and towns, according to the MMA, which conducted a 2014 survey that found municipalities need a combined $639 million annually to keep their 30,000 miles of local roads in a state of good repair.
State transportation officials must by March 1 issue a notice to cities and towns advising them on how much Chapter 90 funding they can expect to receive. If a bill has not cleared the House and Senate and been signed by the governor by the then, officials offer an estimate they note is subject to change.
Newton firefighters union backs Setti Warren gubernatorial campaign
Calling it the first labor endorsement in the 2018 race for governor, Setti Warren’s campaign on Tuesday accepted the backing of the firefighters’ association in Newton, where Warren served as mayor.
“Mayor Warren worked in good faith to come to two collective-bargaining agreements that were fiscally responsible and that recognized the importance of our members’ work to keep the people of Newton safe,” Newton Firefighters Association President Marc Rizza said in a statement,
Warren’s campaign noted his support for a successful 2013 property tax override vote to help pay for a new fire station and department headquarters, which opened last September.
— Michael P. Norton
MCAD cites sex-harrasment cases in call for $500K funding increase
Coping with a “deluge” of requests for assistance from alleged sexual harassment victims, the state’s anti-discrimination agency is calling on state lawmakers to deliver a $500,000 funding increase in next year’s budget.
According to testimony delivered in Worcester at a hearing on Gov. Baker’s $40.9 billion state budget proposal, investigators for the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination are handling 110 cases on average, compared to 60 cases per investigator in Connecticut, and 35 per investigator in New York.
In addition to gender-identity laws approved in 2012 and 2016, agency workers are also trying to uphold new protections included in laws passed between 2014 and 2017 affecting domestic workers, veterans, pregnant workers and employees who take job-protected leave for the birth or adoption of a child.
— Michael P. Norton