With the Massachusetts House passing its Fiscal Year 2017 budget last week and the Senate primed to begin its budget debate by the end of the May, the spring legislative crunch is upon Beacon Hill. We are in the last four months of the two year legislative cycle, which means advocates and government staff alike are preparing for what many hope is an onslaught of activity.
Let’s take a look at what is likely to be debated before lawmakers head back to their districts for election cycle 2016:
- 735: An Act relative to Transgender Anti-discrimination:
- Transgender rights groups have thus far played their cards well. Notable figures such as Caitlyn Jenner, the cast of Amazon’s “Transparent”, and Massachusetts’ own Attorney General Maura Healey have posted videos and declared their support of the bill. Moreover, Governor Baker announced in mid-April that he wouldn’t veto the bill if it arrived on his desk. (His support was unclear after Baker spoke at a March LGBTQ event that ended in something other than a round of applause.) It is now the House and Senate’s turn to act, and all signs point to action.
- 2203: An Act enhancing Reform, Innovation and Success in Education (RISE)
- Charter schools are a political hot potato in Massachusetts. With a ballot question to lift the cap on charter schools ready to go before voters in November, lawmakers are trying to come up with a legislative compromise instead of leaving a delicate issue up to electoral politicking. During the first week of April, the Senate passed a “compromise” bill that was supposed to pull ideas from both sides of the debate. Unfortunately, the bill received a lackluster response. In the House, Speaker DeLeo indicted as recently as March that he wanted a vote on the charter cap. With Governor Baker strongly in support of charter expansion, we are now in a wait and see moment.
What else is likely to get a vote? Uber regulations and potentially, Governor Baker’s economic development bill released in January. And, with the addition of ballot questions and the upcoming elections, this promises to be a busy spring and summer in Massachusetts public policy.
Which issues are you watching? Let us know on Twitter at @solomonmccown