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Massachusetts Legislature worked through the night to push sports betting, other measures through

Representative  Aaron Michlewitz and House Speaker Ron Mariano.
State House News Service
Representative Aaron Michlewitz and House Speaker Ron Mariano.

The calendar has flipped to August and Massachusetts legislators have continued lawmaking.

Lawmakers traditionally wrap up that lawmaking session on July 31, which was on Sunday. But this year, in the scramble to get some major bills that were getting tweaked by committees finished, legislators continued to work through the early morning hours Monday morning.

Matt Murphy of the State House News Service explains, despite the end of the two-year session having passed, lawmakers worked through the night.

Matt Murphy, State House News Service: I mean, it's good news for people who feel like the summer is going by too fast because on Beacon Hill, it is still July! As we speak, this morning, they are blowing past their midnight deadline, the rules that require them to wrap up formal sessions on the last day of July, and right now they are still currently meeting. They have been working throughout the night.

Even after 5 a.m. deals emerging on sports betting and mental health legislation, they are trying to finalize these votes. It's unclear what other business might be before them or if they might wrap soon. It appears that might be the case, but they have been going throughout the night.

Carrie Healy, NEPM: So, what measures are the big ones that made it past the finish line over the weekend?

They've gotten a lot of the big-ticket items that we identified last week, done. They've sent back to Governor Baker a climate change and energy bill responding to some of his amendments. They've done a $11 plus billion-dollar transportation spending bill. They are taking the votes to finalize spending on judicial infrastructure, plus the response to the Supreme Court ruling on gun control laws.

And, as I said, they've reached a deal on mental health and surprisingly, perhaps to some, they have struck a deal now, over sports betting to legalize betting on professional and collegiate sports. The compromise here being that wagers on college teams from Massachusetts would be prohibited unless those teams are playing in a collegiate tournament. But all other betting on professional and college sports would be legal under this bill if Governor Baker were to sign it.

So regardless of when the session actually ends, can you remind us of what happens if the governor takes issue with a section of a bill or an entire measure that is forwarded on to him once the session is ended? What happens?

If the governor were to veto anything that comes to his desk, that would essentially be the end of the line. The legislature would not be able to take the roll calls needed to override the governor. He could send back amendments to certain bills. And if those could pass with unanimous consent, they could be taken up by the legislature.

There's also the issue now of economic development and major tax relief. The legislature this weekend and this morning have been unable to reach a deal on that roughly $5 billion economic development proposal that included $1,000,000,000 in tax relief. That includes the $500 million in rebates that were supposed to be sent out to taxpayers later this summer and into September. This bill will remain in conference committee.

The big wrench that was thrown into these talks came last week when the governor revealed that there is the likelihood that soaring state tax revenue collections are going to trigger a forgotten law from 1987, that would require close to $3 billion potentially to be returned to taxpayers. And that is complicated talks over permanent tax reforms to things like the estate tax and the child tax credit and other things. Lawmakers unsure of how much they can afford. They want to take more time with this. If they do reach a deal and bring it up before the members, any one lawmaker could scuttle the whole thing. But if they can get unanimous consent, and there are a lot of local earmarks in this economic development bill that people want, if they can reach a deal there, it's possible that it could still get done in an informal session.

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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