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Budget deadline? What budget deadline? Massachusetts lawmakers still negotiating final plan

Massachusetts Senate Ways and Means Chair Michael Rodrigues speaks to reporters about the Senate's fiscal year 2024 budget proposal, in an file photo from May 9, 2023.
Sam Doran
State House News Service
Massachusetts Senate Ways and Means Chair Michael Rodrigues speaks to reporters about the Senate's fiscal year 2024 budget proposal, in an file photo from May 9, 2023.

A new fiscal year in Massachusetts has begun — and there's no state budget yet.

Forty-six states began their fiscal year on July 1. Among them — Massachusetts, where budget negotiators continue working behind closed doors on the state's now-overdue annual budget.

According to Chris Lisinski from the State House News Service, when a consensus budget does emerge, very little stands between it and the governor's desk.

Chris Lisinski, SHNS: There will need to be some routine votes in the House and the Senate to accept what negotiators have produced behind closed doors. But those are pretty quick and straightforward once a bill emerges from a conference committee.

Lawmakers don't get a chance to amend it again on the floor, so it'll basically be a couple of quick votes to accept the negotiated package and send it over to the governor for her review, which of course can have much more time and changes attached to it.

Carrie Healy, NEPM: Pivoting to the U.S. Supreme Court's conservative majority restricting race-based considerations in admissions, college officials are now working with their lawyers to figure out next steps. Do we expect action from the Healey administration or from the Legislature? Understanding, of course, they can't override the Supreme Court, but can they influence admissions through programs or funding?

Yeah, I think we should expect something based on the way that Gov. Healey and legislative leaders have been speaking. We just don't really know what that is yet. We don't know if it's going to be focused on admissions practices themselves or perhaps aimed at other ways that people of color face difficulty accessing higher education.

A lot of the commentary we heard when the Supreme Court issued its ruling focused on the importance of diversity on higher education campuses and the commitment by top elected Democrats here in Massachusetts to ensuring that.

So I wouldn't be surprised to see action focused on funding, focused on access, focused on reducing barriers. But when it comes to admissions practices themselves, it's really just not clear what the governor and Legislature could do without running afoul of the Supreme Court's ruling.

Massachusetts is now a couple months into a massive, year-long effort to check the eligibility of people getting insurance through MassHealth. This comes as a recent audit of MassHealth by State Auditor Diana DiZoglio's office turned up some problems. What's going on here, Chris?

Yeah. DiZoglio released an audit recently concluding that MassHealth paid more than $84 million related to care for residents who were actually living in other states and therefore not eligible for MassHealth — which, we should note, combines both Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program under one umbrella, here in Massachusetts.

This wasn't related to the redetermination process. The audit period ran from 2018 through the fall of 2021, so several years ago. But it said that MassHealth spent millions of dollars on services for people who do not live here in Massachusetts. It's also worth noting that MassHealth put out a pretty forceful response to this audit and said that the auditor's office was overly broad and misleading with its methodology and its conclusion.

OK, it's summer, but lawmakers are continuing to hold roundtables and hearings. One set of bills is aiming to improve sickle cell disease care. In the U.S., this painful genetic disease affects mainly African Americans and Latinos. A bill co-sponsor, state Rep. Bud Williams of Springfield, held a discussion with doctors and advocates. So what was the takeaway there and what are the next steps?

Yeah, one of the real points that they hammered during this is that patients with sickle cell disease often face barriers getting treatment for that. Because the pain that they experience, many medical practitioners will just not think of it as sickle cell disease, might misdiagnose it, or believe that it's something else, because this is a disease that isfar more concentrated among black and brown people.

Supporters say that they've heard really significant support from House leaders, Speaker Ron Mariano, Ways and Means Chairman Aaron Michlewitz, which could signal that this is something primed for action this 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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