As Education Bill Moves To Mass. House, Questions Remain About Local Impacts
When the Massachusetts Senate passed its education bill this month, senators had few specific numbers to help make up their minds.
Lawmakers in the House will soon dig into a seven-year, $1.5 billion education bill.
It'll be similar to the legislation that cleared the Senate. But that legislation didn't have any details for communities and school districts.
Matt Muprhy of the State House News Service joins us for a look ahead at the week on Beacon Hill.
Carrie Healy, NEPR: So are we going to see some facts and figures with this House bill?
Matt Murphy, State House News Service: Yeah, we are totally expecting to see these figures. But as far as I know right now, House lawmakers have not been given the numbers that were promised.
If you remember — and I think we talked about it here — a kerfuffle erupted between the Baker administration and Senate leaders, and the House even got in on it, when the Baker administration released data about district-level figures or funding that could result from the education reform bill.
The lawmakers thought it painted an incomplete, if not inaccurate, picture of the impact of the bill. At the time, chairwoman Alice Peisch said she was working with House Ways and Means to develop a more accurate set of numbers that she intended to present to lawmakers.
Right now, we are unaware whether those numbers have been presented to individual rank-and-file members. But with the debate looming possibly as soon as this week, we are expecting them to get some kind of feel for what this will mean for their own cities and towns.
A couple of House lawmakers said last week they were not given a chance to speak on behalf of an amendment before the roll call votes began. Representative Lindsay Sabadosa, who said she was on her feet and calling out to the speaker, was not recognized. Another rep tweeted that this has happened before. You're often sitting in on these formal sessions. How could this happen?
The ability of lawmakers to speak on bills is wholly dependent on the chair, whoever it may be, standing at the rostrum at the time, recognizing them and giving them the floor.
At the time, we did have someone following the session sitting on the floor. He saw Rep. Sabadosa standing up and gesturing. She wanted to speak at the time that Rep. Paul Donato, who was in the chair, opened the roll call. And once a roll call is open, that is it — voting has begun.
Haven’t been on SM much lately but had to hop on to clarify reports. Rep @SabadosaMA DID follow the rules precisely and LOUDLY. The Clerk acknowledged her to the rostrum BEFORE roll call. This was a clear abuse of rules to shut down unwanted debate. #democracycried #NOGaslighting https://t.co/07WPf0tMSC— Nika Elugardo (@NikaElugardo) October 17, 2019
This could be deliberate, which some reps, including Sabadosa and other freshmen like Rep. Nika Elugardo have suggested. Or it could have been an oversight. Perhaps Rep. Donato and others did not see her, or hear her, in a crowded scene, or with a lot of lawmakers and a lot of noises.
Our person who was on the floor did actually hear her.
But the speaker is calling the criticism of him and his leadership "cynical." He does not think this was a deliberate attempt to silence debate.
But I guess in the eye of the beholder, these freshman lawmakers, a number of women, feel like they have been excluded and intentionally kept from voicing their opinions. That may be different from leadership.
In a supplemental budget, House lawmakers decided to pad the state's financial cushion as the economy is seeing a slower growth rate. But Governor Charlie Baker has other ideas. He wants lawmakers to set aside $175 million for an expanded tax deduction. Will the Senate give Baker what he wants?
Yeah, he could get a fair airing in the Senate. The Senate has shown itself in the past to be very open to, and interested in, these tax breaks that benefit families, and the one that the governor has proposed would double the tax exemption for dependents — both children or elderly for families.
This is expected to impact as many as a million families across Massachusetts, giving them, you know, an estimated $87 a year back in their taxes. It would cost the state about $87 million a year.
The House excluded this. And Ways and Means Chairman Aaron Michlewitz told me on Wednesday that the reason he did that was because of cost. They see a potential downturn in the economy on the horizon.
Everyone is hoping that it will not be a deep recession, but they want to be prepared, which is why you saw the House put $400 million into the state's rainy day account, which is considerably more than the close to $200 million that Baker had proposed.
And you can see how the math adds up. They took the $175 million from the governor's tax deduction and they put it into reserve.