Lawmakers Begin Final Rush To Adjournment On Beacon Hill

posted by Bob Salsberg, Associated Press - 

massachusetts state house

BOSTON (AP) - Massachusetts legislative leaders said Monday they would work through the coming weekend to wrap up unfinished business in the 2017-2018 session, with many key proposals still hanging in the balance.

House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senate President Harriette Chandler, both Democrats, met privately with Republican Gov. Charlie Baker on Monday to discuss many of the bills that are still pending on Beacon Hill after more than 18 months.Under legislative rules, formal sessions must end no later than July 31. 

The House and Senate may continue meeting informally after that date, but only to consider non-controversial matters. Lawmakers have been put on notice that they could meet each day - including Saturday and Sunday - through the 31st.

"We're going to be extremely busy," said DeLeo.No less than 10 conference committees - each made up of three members of the House and three from the Senate - have been meeting behind closed doors to reconcile differences between versions of bills that have passed both chambers. 

The issues being negotiated include proposed taxes on short-term rentals such as those offered through online platforms like Airbnb; a major health care bill; new requirements for civics education in public schools; and protections for consumers against data breaches.Baker said his administration was reviewing the $41.9 state budget sent to his desk last week and would try to move as quickly as possible on line-item vetoes, giving the Legislature as much time as possible to act on potential overrides. 

The move appeared to be a concession of sorts to Democrats, who delivered the budget to the governor 18 days past the start of the new fiscal year.If Baker took the entire 10 days to review the budget, he would not have to act until Saturday, giving lawmakers only a handful of days to consider overrides.

Baker also made a push for the Legislature to act on a bill he filed earlier in the session that aims to increase the supply of affordable housing choices in the state."Everyone talks about the fact that we do not create enough new units of housing and this has been a problem for decades," he said.

The House hasn't ruled out acting on the housing bill, DeLeo said, but he questioned whether there would be time to act on proposed amendments to the bill before the session ended.

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