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Beacon Hill lawmakers continue to pass straightforward legislation in informal session

Maura Healey and her running mate Kim Driscoll wave to the crowd during an election night party in Boston on Nov. 8, 2022.
Chris Lisinski
State House News Service
Maura Healey and her running mate Kim Driscoll wave to the crowd during an election night party in Boston on Nov. 8, 2022.

It's cleanup time on Beacon Hill as lawmakers look to quickly pass multiple pieces of non-controversial legislation. Whatever does not pass before a new legislative session in January has to return to the starting line.

During the informal sessions on Beacon Hill, lawmakers continue to pass what seem to be a ton of local bills. For example, changing the name of a city board or authorizing a charter amendment proposal that their sponsors hope have no real threat of an objection. State House News Service reporter Matt Murphy says you’d be surprised how unexpected objections sometimes pop up out of nowhere.

Matt Murphy, State House News Service: These seem like fairly straightforward pieces of legislation, and many of them come with the endorsement of local boards or commissions that lawmakers file on their behalf. But yes, issues do arise from time to time. One thing that's good is the legislature is clear of their close out budget, that big spending bill to kind of balance the books for the state for the fiscal year that closed in July. Sometimes that can be used as a vehicle to try and advance a local bill that may have stalled by an individual lawmaker.

But in the past, we have seen issues crop up. Liquor licenses are one thing that can be sometimes controversial in local towns. For instance, I can remember way back during the Patrick administration, there was a dispute over a liquor licensefor the Westwood development in Canton that stalled progress. There’ve been several sessions where we saw local lawmakers objecting, halting sessions as they worked to resolve differences over this local liquor license dispute. So, there's always little things, like that, that can creep up. It's hard to see them on the horizon right now, but you just never know.

Carrie Healy, NEPM: Now, higher profile, meatier proposals will need to be addressed come January. Do you expect the new legislative session to begin with a bang, or will the Legislature take its time, especially with a new governor?

You're going to hear a lot of talk about things that they want to do right off the bat. But these things tend to take some time. One, all of this new legislation needs to be rewritten, refiled and updated for the new session. It also takes the Legislature a bit of time to organize itself at the start of a new two-year session. They will get sworn in, new lawmakers will have to get office assignments. Committee assignments will have to be made. That can sometimes take a few months before any bills start to be heard. So, it does take some time. Not to mention the fact that with the new administration, the new governor, you know, getting her feet underneath her, she gets a little extra time at the start of a new administration to file her annual state budget proposal. So, there'll be a lot of talk about moving fast on some of these things, particularly tax relief. But these things tend to take some time and move rather slowly.

I read in the Boston Globe that Governor-elect Maura Healey is accepting single contributions of up to $25,000 to pay for the inaugural events surrounding her swearing in. Fellow Democrat Deval Patrick, since you mentioned him, had a limit of $50,000. Have you heard anything about whether Healey's campaign will be publicly disclosing who gave money to pay for these events and how much they gave?

Yeah, these should be fully disclosed. The Healey campaign announcing that they were putting a $25,000 cap. I don't remember exactly whether Governor Baker had a similar cap, but over the course of his two inaugurations, he raised over $4 million. And these funds are not subject to the traditional campaign finance contribution limits. You can raise large amounts of money from corporate donors, which wouldn't be allowed to give to an individual candidate. But these are committees that are registered with the Office of Campaign and Political Finance, subject to disclosure laws, and you will see these published online just as you can go back and look through the corporations, the companies, the unions that gave to past inaugurations.

And finally, later this week, the Mass Registry of Motor Vehicles will be holding a public hearing on how to implement the new law that allows unauthorized immigrants to get driver's licenses. That law takes effect next summer. It survived that ballot question repeal effort earlier this month. Are there still a lot of details for the RMV to figure out there?

Not a lot, this is some pro forma work that the RMV has to go through. Many of the requirements are stipulated in the law itself, such as which forms of documentation will be accepted from people who may not be able to show legal status but want to apply for one of these new drivers’ licenses. So, the RMV going through their own regulations and updating them to make sure that what is in the law as reflected in their new regulations. You know, in addition to the forms of ID, things like whether they have Social Security numbers or have applied for Social Security numbers, that is suggested in the new regs. A lot of this is spelled out in the law and this is just the process as the RMV works to get its members trained, its rules solidified, and make sure that they're ready to begin accepting these applications come summer.

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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