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Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker looks to bolster school security

A classroom.
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A classroom.

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker has unveiled a $40 million plan which would include grants and funding to improve security and communications at schools and public colleges. The grant would also help create tip lines for school districts to handle reports of threats and fund staff training.

Baker said he intends to include this plan in a supplemental budget that he will be filing soon. The Legislature's doesn’t have any more formal sessions scheduled for the rest of the year. State House News Service reporter Matt Murphy said it can get still done.

Matt Murphy, State House News Service: The governor is going to fold this into a bill that he must file later this year that would close the books on a fiscal year that actually ended July 1, 2022. This is a typical exercise that the Legislature and the governor must go through. The closeout budget is something that in all even years when there are elections, gets done after the Legislature recesses just because of the timing of it. And this typically is a bill paying exercise, something to pay overdue accounts, cover any costs ... they may have run up that weren't originally budgeted for. Another reason is if there is a surplus, the governor can propose to spend some of that.

We know that there will be a surplus, and the Legislature is going to have some interest in spending it. The question is, do they have other priorities? Certainly, school safety is going to be a popular item. I would suspect that they may take a close look at his bill. There's probably a good appetite to do some of what is in there, given the subject matter. But the Legislature, of course, is going to have some of their own plans as well for how to spend what is going to be a surplus, excess money, to budget this fall.

Carrie Healy, NEPM: Already on the Legislature's to do list is that $4 billion economic development bill that remains stuck in conference committee. That might require lawmakers to come back for a formal session. Have you heard of any momentum on that front?

Yes, this one is probably a little more complicated. Of course, there's spending on economic development. There's tax relief that's included in this. And Democratic leaders have not decided yet how big they want to go, if at all, in addition to the close to $3 billion that is expected to be returned under that newly rediscovered 1986 law.

The problem here is that there was bonding (borrowing) in the original bill. Borrowing requires a roll call vote in the Legislature, so they would have to convene a special session, if they wanted to include that bonding. Or they could drop it from the bill and revisit it early next year if that seems easier to Democratic leaders.

The final decisions here, though, are unlikely to be made until later into the fall. State Auditor Suzanne Bump doesn't have to finalize the tax relief amount that I previously mentioned until the third week of September. Democratic leaders are waiting until they see these final numbers before making any decisions. So don't expect any action. I wouldn't at least until at least October.

The primary election in Massachusetts is next Tuesday. A recent poll by the Fiscal Alliance Foundation found most voters on both sides of the aisle are undecided. For instance, 72% of respondents say they are undecided in the Democratic lieutenant governor's race. Does that surprise you?

It did surprise me a little bit. I mean, it's true that there aren't a lot of big names running in some of these races.

In the lieutenant governor's race, for instance, there are probably people in western Mass. who've heard of Sen. Eric Lesser, and people on the North Shore have probably heard of Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll. But statewide, these people don't get their names in the headlines all the time.

Another factor here, the timing of some of these polls. I'm not saying that there might be a huge jump, but those numbers could be a little different this week, even closer to the end of this week, because we're seeing candidates start to spend their money, go on television. Most of the major candidates are now up with advertisements on television that are starting to reach these voters. And they waited until the end of August to spend this money and go on TV knowing that voters are probably not going to tune in until after summer vacations, closer towards Labor Day and make up their minds in these final days.

But, you know, it's also true that by the end of last week, some 230,000 people had already returned mail in ballots. So, voting has been going on while some people are waiting to make up their minds.

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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