Tag Archives: Supplemental Budget

One More Time…the Judiciary is a Separate Branch of Government and NOT a State Agency

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again:  The Judiciary is a separate and co-equal branch of government.  The other two branches are the Legislative and Executive branches and the purpose of this tripartite form of government is to prevent too much power from being amassed and brandished by any one branch.

When Governor Patrick filed a $30 million supplemental budget with the House of Representatives this week, we paused.  The $30 million supplemental budget request asks for money to cover the investigation and response costs for “state agencies and municipalities” associated with the state drug lab crisis.  The $30 million supplemental budget request refers to “state agencies and municipalities” four separate times.

So where do the costs to the Judiciary associated with the drug lab fit into all of this?  Nowhere in the supplemental budget document does the Governor refer to the costs the Judiciary is incurring due to the drug lab crisis.  We do know that the Governor meant well and is committed to addressing these costs to ensure justice and public safety.  We also know that the Governor did contemplate the costs to the Judiciary when he asked for $30 million to cover the costs from the drug lab mess.  But we’re left scratching our head as to why the Judiciary is being lumped into “state agencies and municipalities.”

The legislation even goes on to define “state agency” as “a state agency, board, bureau, department, division, section, or commission of the commonwealth.”  The Judiciary isn’t a department or a division of the commonwealth.  We’re saying it again – the Judiciary is a separate and co-equal branch of government.

Governor Patrick wants the supplemental money for the state drug lab to be appropriated into an account under the control of his Secretary of Administration and Finance.  The Governor wants his administration to be in charge of the various transfers to ensure that this extra money does indeed go to costs associated with addressing the drug lab fiasco.  But it appears that this scenario, at the very least, raises some important separation of powers issues.

It would be great to see the Legislature sign off on this $30 million request in a timely way, but the Legislature should be open to some friendly amendments that would allow the Judiciary to receive the state drug lab money directly.  This is simple.  The amendments should give the Judiciary the money they need to cover the costs from the drug lab while requiring them to provide a full accounting to the Legislature as to how the money is being spent.  We are confident that the Judiciary will cooperate and be fully transparent every single step of the way.

– Kathleen Joyce
Director of Government Relations
Boston Bar Association
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BBA Bills Advancing

Just over a month into 2012, and the legislative year has been marked by a flurry of activity at the State House.  Here’s a quick update on a few of the issues important to the BBA:

  • Today, the Legislature advanced S 2112, a $130 million Supplemental Budget.  Supplemental budgets provide additional funding to programs with a funding shortfall and are intended to address changes in program costs or revenue collections.  Supplemental budgets don’t typically include legislation.  This Supplemental Budget includes a much-needed additional $1 million for the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation (MLAC) for fiscal year 2012, which ends June 30th
  • While the House debated the Supplemental Budget, Representative Winslow and Representative Peisch filed an amendment that would help mitigate the potential for Massachusetts double taxation with respect to most 2010 decedents.   The BBA watched this closely knowing the impact this amendment would have on trusts and estates in Massachusetts.  The amendment was unanimously supported in the House but, unfortunately, it was not taken up by the Senate.  The final Supplemental Budget included the additional money for MLAC but did not include the important language regarding the Massachusetts income tax basis.
  • At the same time, the Joint Committee on Revenue voted favorably on H 3915, An Act to Continue Tax Basis Rules for Property Acquired from Decedents.  H 3915 mirrors the amendment to the Supplemental Budget and seeks to accomplish the same thing.  This bill is currently being reviewed by House Ways & Means.  H 3915 is a new draft of H 2995, a bill that Representative Peisch filed on behalf of the BBA at the beginning of this session. While the amendment filed to the House budget and H 3915 are not quite the solution the BBA had wanted – i.e. full step-up regardless of year of death and regardless of what election is made federally for 2010 – it is an improvement on the recent Department of Revenue Directive 11-7.
  • Also this week, House Ways & Means reported S 1987, An Act Providing Access to Forensic and Scientific Analysis favorably.  It appeared that the House would be voting on it on Wednesday during their formal session but the session was cancelled due to the memorial services for former Boston Mayor Kevin White.  Now, it looks like the House could be voting on this important bill as early as next week, thanks to Representative John Fernandes’ great leadership on this issue.

– Kathleen Joyce
Director of Government Relations
Boston Bar Association
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