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Despite Churn Of U.S. Politics, Beacon Hill Is All Nose-To-The-Grindstone

The Massachusetts Statehouse in Boston.
Jesse Costa
The Massachusetts Statehouse in Boston.

Between presidential primaries, impeachment hearings in Washington, D.C., and the Super Bowl, Massachusetts lawmakers are still getting stuff done in Boston. 

Almost unbelievable, isn't it? 

Matt Murphy with the State House News Service gives us the lowdown on what's happening at the Statehouse.

Carrie Healy, NEPR: Did the presidential impeachment hearings last week distract from the work being done on Beacon Hill?

Matt Murphy, State House News Service: I have to say, it really didn't. I think it was certainly of note, and of interest to people up here. It was on TVs, and people were talking about it.

But it certainly is not close enough to what is going on here to really distract and take people's focus off what is a busy time for the legislature, as they're both trying to look at the legislation that's pending, and to set up the remainder of the session, as well as digest what Governor Charlie Baker put on their plate when he filed his budget.

So you know, they are kind of focused on this. And [impeachment] is just something obviously of historic importance, but it's kind of just playing in the background at this point.

By now, folks have had time to comb through Governor Baker's 2021 state budget proposal. Your colleague Colin Young noted the revised expectations when it comes to how much the state's going to get from casinos. What should we be taking from that?

I think it's a little early to know for sure, but it's certainly of note. I mean, you've seen it in Springfield, where MGM has not really performed up to expectations.

Similarly, the Encore hotel and casino in Everett here in Greater Boston — revenues have not been quite what they were expected to be.

And we're seeing that play out in the governor's budget filing, and taking down some of the expectations for tax revenue from gaming as a result of that.

I think the future of the casino industry and what it means for state tax revenue could play out in debates moving forward, as we think we're in store for some talk about sports betting legalization in Massachusetts, as well as a push from Treasurer Goldberg to move the lottery online.

There are more than 100 so-called "outside sections" in the budget put forward by the governor. Those are policy things that don't have money attached. One of those would allow for bow hunters to hunt deer on Sundays. There's been a longstanding prohibition against Sunday hunting. Is this proposal likely to be killed off by lawmakers?

If past precedent holds, I would say yes, you're right. This is something that dates back to early days of Massachusetts, and the blue laws, when Sunday hunting was banned.

The governor has repeatedly put outside sections in his annual budgets to allow for bow hunting Sundays — not hunting with a gun, but with a bow and arrow. And it has quietly died off every time when it gets to the legislature. They've just excluded it.

We've heard very little debate, very little mention of it. It just kind of disappears from that annual document, so I'm not sure I could say that we expect anything different this year — but you never know.

In the past week, two Democratic state lawmakers from Hampden County announced they wouldn't seek re-election. Last cycle, we saw a huge turnover in the Hampshire County delegation. Ultimately, this means less seniority for western Massachusetts in the legislature. Does that matter?

Yeah, especially when you're talking about people like Rep. Jose Tosado, who is not going to seek re-election. He is someone who has not been up here for decades, like some members, but he had risen to become a vice chair under Speaker DeLeo. He was the vice chair of the Black and Latino Legislative Caucus, and certainly had a voice up on Beacon Hill.

When I asked him this question about clout and seniority, he said he thought it was also an opportunity to bring in new voices, new ideas from the region, that it could ultimately be a good thing.

But there's no denying that the region — western Mass. in particular, but now we're seeing Hampden County and the Holyoke and Springfield area — losing some of its seniority here. But depending on who gets in, and and how they work up here, we can see people get brought into the fold in this leadership team very quickly.

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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