Update from Beacon Hill provided by MassAccess – Nov. 5, 2020November 5, 2020
Advocating for Community Media in MA
Thursday, November 5, 2020
• As of Wednesday night, DPH reported a total of 156,937 cases of COVID-19.
• The state has now confirmed a total of 9,836 deaths from the virus.
• House leaders will release a full spending plan for fiscal 2021 on Thursday, and plan to open debate on the budget next week, kicking off a process that has been delayed for over seven months by the uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
• House Ways and Means Chairman Aaron Michlewitz said they plan to open debate on the budget bill next Tuesday, and anticipate that the process could take several days as is normal with annual budget debates.
• The debate will look like the House deliberations and debates of July when some House members participated remotely, while others were in the chamber.
• Now partway into the second quarter of a fiscal year that budget managers expect will generate between 4 percent and 12 percent less tax revenue for the state than the last, collections are still running more than one percent ahead of their fiscal year 2020 pace, the Department of Revenue said Wednesday.
• DOR collected $2.089 billion from Massachusetts taxpayers in October, $62 million or 3.1 percent more than what was collected in October 2019, the agency said.
• October’s tax haul is among the smallest of the calendar year and DOR said the month typically generates about 6.5 percent of the state’s annual revenue.
• Through four months of fiscal year 2021, state tax collections of $9.347 billion are trending $118 million or 1.3 percent ahead of receipts during the same period of time during fiscal 2020.
• But by the end of June 2021, Snyder and DOR expect tax revenues will land somewhere between $25.918 billion and $28.387 billion, which would be between $2.76 billion and $5.23 billion below the assumption agreed to before the pandemic upended the economy and a drop from final fiscal year 2020 collections of $29.596 billion.
• The House set the stage Wednesday for its first formal session since July, teeing up a $423 million fiscal 2020 closeout budget (H 5102) and a military license plate bill before scheduling a formal for Thursday.
• The license plate bill (H 4359) would authorize a special Massachusetts registration plate, free of charge, for recipients of the state’s Medal of Liberty which is presented to the next of kin of a military serviceperson who is killed in action or dies from wounds received in action.
• The Ways and Means Committee also released local land bills and legislation prohibiting the manufacture or sale of household goods containing certain chemical flame retardants.
• The House gave speedy passage Wednesday to the flame retardants bill rather than hold it for Thursday approval.
• The Senate will also meet in informal session on Thursday.
• The clock ran out on a similar bill in early 2019, when it was pocket-vetoed by Gov. Baker after the Legislature opted to send it to his desk on the final day of session.
• Nine more communities voted Tuesday to increase local taxes to pay for affordable housing, historic preservation and open space investments, a clean sweep of the cities and towns considering joining the Community Preservation Act.
• Framingham, Franklin, Greenfield, Hopedale, Lancaster, Lee, Milton, Shrewsbury and Whitman each adopted the CPA in Tuesday’s elections, according to the Community Preservation Coalition, and did so “by a consistently wide margin.”
• Including those that approved the CPA on Tuesday, 186 of the state’s 351 municipalities charge a property tax surcharge to preserve open space, renovate historic buildings and parks and to build new playgrounds and athletic fields.
• Boston Mayor Marty Walsh on Wednesday voiced support for Gov. Charlie Baker’s new round of pandemic-related orders and restrictions, cautioning of a “far worse situation” in the weeks or months ahead if spread of the contagious coronavirus is not curbed.
• With the country on the edge of its seat as votes continue to be tallied in key swing states that will decide the presidency, Governor Baker encouraged residents planning to demonstrate Wednesday to do so peacefully and called for every vote to be counted.
• Secretary of State William Galvin delivered a similar message about counting every vote, and he singled out President Trump and his rhetoric surrounding mail-in ballots as “deceitful.”
• The Democrat declared vote-by-mail a success in Massachusetts and one he will work now to make permanent in Massachusetts.
• Democrats appeared headed into the next lawmaking session with two more seats on Beacon Hill than they held when polls opened Tuesday, a slight expansion to their veto-proof majorities in both chambers amid national election currents that might have pushed the party to aim higher.
• Voters in two Republican-held House districts and one Republican-held Senate district selected Democratic candidates in the general elections, while the GOP flipped a House seat recently represented by a Democrat, leaving a net gain of two for Democrats who already control more than three-quarters of the state Legislature.
• The election night shift is smaller than two years ago, when Democrats added three seats.
• However, Democrats had already flipped three other seats, one House, two Senate, in special elections earlier this year to replace lawmakers who resigned for other opportunities, so their projected ranks for the 2021-2022 session are five members larger than the start of the current session.
• The adjutant general of the Massachusetts National Guard and an Air National Guard flight surgeon are the newest members of the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home Board of Trustees, the Baker administration announced Wednesday.
• Gov. Charlie Baker appointed Maj. Gen. Gary Keefe, who has served as adjutant general since 2016, to a seven-year term to replace former trustee Christopher Dupont whose term ended in July.
• Baker tapped Lt. Col. Mark Bigda, a Southampton resident and private-practice physician, to fill the remaining two years of Cesar Lopez’s term after Lopez resigned in September.
• Keefe and Bigda, who is also the Hampshire County House of Correction’s facility physician, are among three recent appointments to the board, the Executive Office of Health and Human Services said Wednesday.
• Baker also appointed Brigadier Gen. Sean Collins, a nurse practitioner and the Air National Guard assistant to the deputy surgeon general, to the board in July, following former trustee Richard Girard’s resignation.