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Mass. State Senators Take Up Big Education Funding Bill — But Will It Survive Debate?

Education advocates set up a "fully funded flavor" snowcone stand at a education bill "beach party" rally outside the Massachusetts Statehouse in July.
File Photo
State House News Service
Education advocates set up a "fully funded flavor" snowcone stand at a education bill "beach party" rally outside the Massachusetts Statehouse in July.

Massachusetts lawmakers this week will be dealing with investments in K-12 education. 

A lot of work has gone into education bills in the past. But in the end, House and Senate lawmakers failed to actually make a law.

For a quick look at the week ahead in politics and government in Massachusetts, Matt Murphy of the State House News Service joins us.

Carrie Healy, NEPR: The plan is for the Senate to pass legislation on Thursday. Should we assume that this, too, will get bogged down in amendments?

Matt Murphy, State House News Service: That's the big question. A couple of things going into this debate —  it's finally education week around here. We've been waiting to see when and what this bill would look like.

Both the House and the Senate jointly released this proposal, which is interesting in and of itself, given the way talks collapsed last summer. So the fact that they are starting on the same page is fairly significant.

Senators had a deadline of Friday to file amendments. And that debate on Thursday, and how many of those amendments get adopted, and how significantly they change this bill when it gets to the floor, will go a long way towards kind of signaling to us what these talks might look like in the House moving forward.

We don't know how quickly the House is going to take up the bill after it presumably passes the Senate on Thursday. But they do say that they want to take it up this fall.

So I think you'd expect it'll move pretty quickly, and then move into negotiations. Like I said, a big step forward by the fact that this was jointly announced by the House and Senate leaders. But a lot could change over the next few days.

At the Massachusetts Office of Campaign and Political Finance, what began as a planned retirement of the director has become a gigantic political squabble. Lawmakers are trying to change how a replacement director gets picked. Would you unpack what Republicans and Democrats are angling for?

This started out as a pretty simple campaign finance reform bill that was filed in the Senate. It proposed to put legislative candidates on the same reporting schedule as all statewide candidates. They would be required to report more thoroughly, more frequently.

That would be good for transparency. Everyone seemed to be on board.

And then when the bill came out of committee, and included a whole separate section — changing the way the director of the Office of Campaign and Political Finance gets appointed — this is the state's top campaign finance regulator. The bill that passed the House proposes to reconstitute the commission that hires him, and take the two chairs of the major political parties, the Democrats and the Massachusetts Republican Party, out of the process.

Leaders like House Speaker Bob DeLeo say they are trying to depoliticize the process, pointing to the dysfunction in Washington, where you have the Federal Election Commission currently unable to even do its work because they don't have enough members, because of the partisanship.

But in effect, what we have now is a partisan fight going on. The governor says he is deeply concerned, and it looks as though Democrats — knowing now that OCPF director Michael Sullivan is intending to retire sometime this fiscal year — that this process is going to play out relatively soon.

This could be some kind of retaliation against Mass. GOP chair Jim Lyons, who's a former member of the House — a very conservative, even more conservative than Charlie Baker. And they might be trying to limit his voice in picking the next state campaign finance regulator.

Massachusetts became the first state to ban the sale of all vaping products, as respiratory illnesses and even some deaths continue. After Baker made the declaration, DeLeo referenced vaping legislation in the works. They now have four months until the ban expires. What can we expect to see from lawmakers on this?

We saw that, as soon as the governor was rolling out his ban on all vaping products, the legislature and the House committee started moving a bill that would ban flavored tobacco products.

That would be a step. But the Speaker of the House says that's probably just a piece of what he hopes will be a more comprehensive piece of legislation to regulate the vaping industry.

Of course, like the governor, they're waiting to see what federal health officials, the CDC and others, can come up with in terms of pinpointing the cause of these lung diseases that are showing up in people who use vaping devices.

But the House is at least eyeing a comprehensive regulatory scheme for vaping moving forward. The question is, how quickly they can put it together?

Keep up here with Beacon Hill In 5.

Carrie Healy hosts the local broadcast of "Morning Edition" at NEPM. She also hosts the station’s weekly government and politics segment “Beacon Hill In 5” for broadcast radio and podcast syndication.
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