Tag Archives: Massachusetts Budget

Statehouse Update

This week both Governor Patrick and Speaker DeLeo outlined their priorities for the upcoming year.  In his final State of the Commonwealth on Tuesday night, Governor Patrick emphasized investments in education, innovation, and infrastructure. 

The next day, Speaker DeLeo addressed the entire House of Representatives, listing an increase in minimum wage coupled with business-friendly reforms, stricter gun control laws, and a domestic violence bill as three of his top issues. 

As we focus on legislative and budget activities at the Statehouse it’s important to realize that although this legislative term may appear uneventful from the outside, it has been full of activity.  Even without high-profile debates on big-issue bills there’s a lot going on. 

Take for instance, the fact that there has been an unprecedented amount of turnover in elected officials and leadership positions.  Recently, long time House Chair of the Joint Committee on the Judiciary, Representative Eugene O’Flaherty, announced his resignation to become corporation counsel to Boston Mayor Martin Walsh.  This leaves the House chairmanship open.  Meanwhile, Senator William Brownsberger has only held the Senate chairmanship of the Judiciary Committee for a matter of weeks. 

Other leadership positions currently vacant include the House second assistant majority leader and the chairmanship of the House Ethics Committee.  These positions will all be filled in the coming weeks.

Legislatively, the statehouse is poised to take action on a number of laws.  Significant bills addressing welfare reform, compounding pharmacies, and veterans services remain in conference committees.  Just last week, a group of lawmakers held a press conference in support of a juvenile justice bill comply with the Supreme Judicial Court’s ruling in Diatchenko.  The bill requires that juveniles convicted of first degree murder serve 35 years before parole eligibility. 

From a budget perspective – the Governor’s budget has been released and we now turn our attention to the House and Senate as they develop their budget numbers.  The House Ways & Means Budget will come first in early April, followed by House and Senate budgets in the following months.  A final budget will be ready by July 1st

All in all, every indication points to a very eventful next few months as staffing and leadership positions are filled and legislation and budget discussions come to the fore.     

– Jonathan Schreiber
Legislative and Public Policy Manager
Boston Bar Association
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Having an Impact: Lessons From the BBA Leadership Retreat

In late October, the BBA held its annual leadership retreat and we were delighted with the results.  The weekend began with a panel discussion entitled “Having an Impact: The Constitution, the Daily Mechanics of Government, and You.”  It featured four panelists discussing the Massachusetts Constitution, perceptions versus realities in the operation of our state government related to judicial funding, and brainstorming ways lawyers can make a difference by working within this system.

BBA President Paul Dacier, who is known to carry around a copy of the state constitution, served as a spirited moderator.  Navjeet K. Bal, former Commissioner of Revenue and current member of Nixon Peabody’s Public Finance Group, brought her extensive budgeting knowledge and the perspective of the executive branch.  We learned about the judicial branch’s perspective from retired Judge John C. Cratsley, who served 33 years on the bench including as Regional Administrative Judge in Suffolk and Norfolk Counties.  Robert J. McCarron, Vice President for State Relations and General Counsel for the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities in Massachusetts and former Director of Legal Affairs for the Massachusetts House Committee on Ways and Means, brought the perspective of the legislative branch.  New England Law Boston Professor, Lawrence Friedman, rounded out the panel with his expertise on the state and federal constitutions.

The panelists revealed the inner workings of the budget process in Massachusetts – the massive pieces of the pie consumed by health care and education, the zero-sum-game position of the parties involved, and the importance for funds-seekers to build relationships with government leaders and give comprehensive reporting on their plans and achievements.  The conversation touched on the constitution, the structure and process of government, the role of politics, and the human elements inherent in the Commonwealth’s budgeting process.

In the afternoon, the BBA leaders split into four discussion groups to reflect on the morning panel, explore the issues of court funding and consider their own potential for involvement in the government budgeting process.  It was eye-opening to observe the idea-making process at work.  On Sunday morning, the groups came together to reflect and share their experiences.  We are still sifting through all of the thoughts and ideas and hope to emerge with some innovative solutions and new approaches for ways to advocate for adequate court funding.

While there will never be a quick-fix for improving judicial funding, the BBA’s leaders are committed to securing sufficient funding for the Commonwealth’s judiciary.  One thing is for sure, it begins with engagement in the political process and relationship-building with our legislators.

– Jonathan Schreiber
Legislative and Public Policy Manager
Boston Bar Association
Comments are disabled for this blog. To submit your comments please e-mail  issuespot@bostonbar.org

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