Aides and legislators spent the day shuttling bills to the
House and Senate clerks' offices. Minutes after the 5 pm biennial filing deadline passed, the clerks reported that 5,820
bills had been submitted for consideration in the upcoming 2003-2004 session.
Erasing the $2 billion gap between projected spending and
revenues in the fiscal year that begins next July 1 will be the main focus on Beacon Hill during the first half of the year.
But the crisis doesn't completely stop the flow of thousands of legislative proposals, although it
certainly serves as a barrier.
House clerks, after locking their door at exactly 5 pm,
reported that 3,890 bills had been filed, compared to 4,108 at the deadline in 2000. Senate clerks estimated there were 1,930
bills filed this year, compared to 1,830 in 2000.
Here's a look at a few of the bills and legislative agendas
that will be pursued next year:
* The pro-choice lobby is pushing bills that prevent protesters
from photographing people entering and leaving health facilities with the intent of invading their privacy, require
schools to make health education part of the core curriculum, and make emergency contraception
available to rape survivors at hospitals.
* Education Committee Co-chairman Rep. Peter Larkin
(D-Pittsfield) is filing a bill to change the voter-approved law abolishing bilingual education and replacing it with
English immersion. Larkin wants the law changed to include provisions approved by the Legislature earlier this
year. Those provisions, he said, would give school districts more flexibility in designing
English learning programs, instill more accountability in the law, and strengthen the bilingual
education teaching requirements, among other things.
* Sen. Steven Tolman (D-Brighton) is taking over as lead Senate
sponsor of legislation creating a single payer health care system in Massachusetts. Presumptive Senate President
Robert Travaglini (D-East Boston) had pushed the bill unsuccessfully for the past few years.
Rep. Frank Hynes (D-Marshfield) is the new lead House sponsor of the bill, taking over that
duty from Rep. Kevin Fitzgerald (D-Boston), who did not seek reelection.
The single payer bill has support from more than 80 labor, professional, health care provider, religious and
other advocacy groups. The bill's proponents this year are emphasizing that the health care
finance system is collapsing.
* Citizens for Limited Taxation, Sen. JoAnn Sprague (R-Walpole)
and Rep. Scott Brown (R-Wrentham) are sponsoring legislation to set the income tax rate at 5 percent, effective
Jan. 1, 2003. Supporters of the bill point out that voters statewide have
approved the change as part of a 2000 initiative petition. Legislators froze the income tax rate this year as part of a
$1.2 billion tax-raising bill. CLT officials say the state's fiscal crisis is not the fault of the
taxpayers and is due to years of overspending.
CLT is also filing a constitutional amendment would repeal the
118th amendment to the Massachusetts constitution and would prohibit taxpayer-funded pay raises for members of
the Legislature unless a majority of the voters support a proposed pay raise on the statewide
ballot at the next election.
* Greyhound advocates have filed a bill to make Hopkinton-based
Greyhound Friends, the oldest and largest greyhound adoption agency in New England, eligible for state adoption
assistance funding. Bill supporters say lawmakers should strike a "discriminatory" law that
prevents adoption assistance for groups that have taken a position for or against greyhound
* On behalf of the Massachusetts Medical Association, Rep.
James Vallee (D-Franklin) filed for an overhaul of the state's medical malpractice system. It would cap "non-economic
damages" at $500,000 and impose new reporting requirements aimed at error prevention.
* Sen. Richard Moore (D-Uxbridge), who chairs the Senate side
of the Health Care Committee, has filed 66 bills. They address such issues as Medicaid reform, patient safety
and ethics. Moore is also recommending that the state create a Health Care
Cost Containment Council, establish a Children's Services Cabinet, and move to a system of
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The Boston Herald
Thursday, December 5, 2002
State lawmakers have come up with nearly 6,000 new ways to
tinker with the laws governing everything from stem cell research to the tax code.
And new bills were still coming in as of yesterday's 5 p.m.
deadline for filing legislation for the two-year session that starts in January.
With the state's fiscal crisis first and foremost on many
lawmakers' minds, the huge pile of bills - 3,890 in the House and 1,931 in the Senate - shows evidence of looming skirmishes
Citizens for Limited Taxation filed legislation to roll back
the income tax to 5 percent - the successful 2000 ballot question, which lawmakers changed last year by freezing the
income tax at 5.3 percent. Advocates say cutting taxes would help the stalled economy.
"Yes, we hear there is a fiscal crisis," CLT chief Barbara
Anderson said. "Our response would fit on a bumper sticker: 'The state's problem is not our fault.'"
But liberal lawmakers are gearing up to push new tax hikes -
if Gov.-elect Mitt Romney fails to balance the budget without raising taxes or cutting services, as he promised during the
gubernatorial campaign. Several lawmakers worry that hikes will be necessary to stave off
painful cuts to core services.
"Nobody wants to raise taxes," said Rep. James Marzilli
(D-Arlington), co-sponsor of a bill to hike the income tax to 5.6 percent.
"(The bill) really is there as a placeholder for those of us
who don't want to raise taxes but are willing to consider it if the governor fails to protect basic human services," Marzilli
As lawmakers hunt for ways to raise a buck, numerous newly
filed bills would legalize gambling - from stand-alone slot machines at racetracks to a wholesale embrace of
This successful ballot question to replace bilingual
education with English immersion also sparked a flurry of legislation, with House and Senate leaders seeking to repeal
some or all of the law and replace it with their own reform package.
And in the wake of voters' resounding disapproval of
spending tax dollars on political campaigns, House leaders filed a bill to repeal the so-called "clean elections" law,
which was also approved by voters in 1998.
The Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts backed a
package of bills to prevent protesters from photographing visitors to health clinics, and to provide emergency
contraception to rape victims.
A newly introduced Senate bill would authorize controversial
stem cell research within the state's borders - trying to head off an exodus by the Bay State biotech industry.
If history is any guide, most of the new bills will die in
legislative committees over the next couple of years.
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The Boston Herald
Friday, December 6, 2002
Romney: Cuts are not enough:
Gov.-elect eyes consolidation, elimination of programs
by Joe Battenfeld
Gov.-elect Mitt Romney yesterday backtracked on a key
campaign pledge, admitting he no longer believes that simply cutting "waste and inefficiency" from state government will
close the state's burgeoning budget deficit.
Romney painted a grim picture of the state's fiscal health,
saying he will be forced to eliminate or consolidate "non-core" programs and services to close the $2 billion-plus budget hole.
"With a gap as large as $2 billion or more, I think we're
going to have to recognize that we have a lot more to do than just squeezing out inefficiency and waste," Romney said in a
speech to the Massachusetts Newspaper Publishers Association.
Romney also said he would consider raising some fees - such
as licensing fees - but firmly stood by his campaign pledge not to raise taxes, calling that a "Draconian" solution that
would make the state a "basket case."
Throughout his campaign, Romney insisted he would be able to
deal with the deficit by eliminating patronage and waste, using reserves and tobacco settlement money and securing
more federal funds.
But he acknowledged yesterday that that plan is now
"insufficient" because the budget gap may be "substantially more than $2 billion" next year.
"We've got tough work ahead. It's not going to be easy," he
said in the address at Hanscom Air Force Base in Bedford.
But while warning of steep cuts, Romney also said he is
studying ways to increase the salaries of his Cabinet in order to attract good candidates.
Romney said some job candidates in the private sector have
turned him down because Cabinet posts pay only a maximum of $118,000 annually.
"There are a lot of people who just can't take that kind of
cut in pay, even given their desire to be a public servant," he said, adding it was his "expectation that we're going to find
some way to provide additional compensation" to Cabinet members.
A move to increase his Cabinet's pay could be controversial
given the state's fiscal health, but Romney said he is studying ways to increase compensation that would not need legislative
Romney, a multimillionaire venture capitalist, is due to
receive a $135,000 salary but said he may use some of that to buttress the salaries of his Cabinet.
"I will anticipate taking a salary. I'm not sure whether it
will be that full amount," he said.
Romney so far has named only one Cabinet designee - Eric
Kriss as secretary of administration and finance - but sources said he plans to broom nearly all of acting Gov. Jane
M. Swift's Cabinet.
Sources said the only top Swift official who may be asked to
stay is Angelo Buonopane, director of the Department of Labor and Workforce Development.
Romney is not planning on keeping Environmental Affairs
Secretary Robert Durand, whose supporters have made a lobbying push to keep him on, the sources said.
Romney repeatedly refused to say what specific cuts or
possible layoffs he was looking at, saying only that his budget team would not touch "core" services - such as public safety,
education, and aid to "those people who cannot care for themselves."
But he did cite some examples of potential cuts, saying that
he doesn't believe the state needs "60 press secretaries" buried throughout state government.
"I think we can probably do with substantially less than
that," he said.
Romney also said he may consolidate hundreds of legal and
technology services positions, saving potentially tens of millions of dollars.
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The Boston Globe
Friday, December 6, 2002
Romney sees tougher task
Hints he'll target 'non-core' services
By Yvonne Abraham
Governor-elect Mitt Romney hinted yesterday at more state
worker layoffs, painful budget cuts, and even a salary cut for himself. But he firmly ruled out tax increases, despite the
yawning budget gap with which his administration will have to contend next year.
"The job that we have to do is going to be a good deal more
difficult than it looked like six months ago, than it looked like from the outside," Romney said. "What we have ahead of us
is going to be incredibly difficult."
Speaking to newspaper publishers at Hanscom Air Force Base,
Romney compared his new job as governor to taking the helm at Bain Capital, and at the Salt Lake City Olympics, both
troubled when he was hired to turn them around.
The governor-elect was building on an address given
Wednesday by Eric Kriss, secretary-designate of Administration and Finance. Kriss called the state's fiscal crisis the
worst since the Depression, but offered few details of how the Romney administration would
plug the 2004 deficit, which he estimated to be at least $2 billion.
Romney was not much more specific than Kriss yesterday, but
he was more determined than his finance chief to beat the drum about hard times ahead and lower expectations of his
proposed budget, due at the end of February.
On the campaign trail, Romney said, he had anticipated a
2004 deficit of about $1 billion, and he has long said that he could close that gap with savings gained from rooting out waste
and mismanagement. Some budget analysts argued that was impossible, that government
costs had already been cut back dramatically. A Globe analysis showed yesterday that the
state has cut 7 percent of its payroll, or 5,861 jobs, over the last 18 months.
Romney maintained yesterday that he can find $1 billion in
cuts but added that those savings, which will come only after "tough decisions," will not be sufficient or come quickly
enough to plug the deficits. He said he will need to make one-time use of money from the state's
tobacco settlement fund and from its dwindling reserves to make up some of the
shortfall before his "reform savings" kick in.
"But now, with a gap as large as $2 billion or more, we have
a lot more to do than just squeezing out inefficiencies and waste," Romney said.
He said his administration will differentiate core services
from "non-core." Romney did not define the non-core services, but hinted at layoffs during his speech. He questioned the need
for state governmental departments to employ a total of 60 press secretaries, hundreds of
lawyers, and thousands of information technology workers, saying that many of those jobs
can be consolidated. He said that will save the state hundreds of millions of dollars.
He outlined areas of state government that he considers
essential, however: public safety, education, "care for people who cannot care for themselves," and services for the homeless.
Romney reiterated his campaign pledge not to raise taxes to
fund some of those essential services, saying he believes voters sent a clear antitax message on Election Day. He argued
that simply raising taxes will not generate revenues fast enough to help this year or next. Nor
will an income-tax hike to 5.6 percent raise enough extra money to make a dent in a $2
billion deficit, he said.
"If we wanted to fill that hole [with tax increases], we
would be talking about a tax rate of 7 or 8 percent and that kind of increase would hurt working people, hurt chances of a
swift economic recovery, and would hurt the economy on a permanent basis," Romney said.
He said the state will raise additional revenue by going
after federal funds more aggressively, and by raising fees for some state services, such as hunting licenses.
Romney said building the team that will deal with the fiscal
problems he outlined yesterday "will take a lot of work," because some of the people to whom he has spoken about Cabinet
positions "cannot even consider doing so" because Cabinet salaries, which range from
$105,000 to $118,000, are lower than what those individuals command in the private sector.
"I am concerned given those pay levels that at some point,
only wealthy people will step forward and make the kind of sacrifice that is necessitated," Romney said. "We're going to
try to find some ways to provide additional compensation to folks."
After his speech, Romney said he had given some thought to
taking less than the full $135,000 governor's salary, calling it "an excellent idea."
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The Boston Herald
Friday, December 6, 2002
The FleetCenter's location atop North Station - the nexus of
thousands of daily rail riders, a subway tunnel, and an underground parking garage - is giving terror-conscious
security planners for the 2004 Democratic National Convention an unprecedented headache.
About 47,000 daily rail passengers from west and north of
Boston, and thousands more who ride the MBTA's Green and Orange lines to a new underground "platform" near North
Station, are potential security threats, according to officials.
"It poses an unusually difficult security challenge because
of all the moving parts," said John Haley, an MBTA security consultant and former general manager.
"Clearly North Station is the key one - not just because of
the number of people coming in, but because it literally sits under the FleetCenter."
Security experts say rail riders pose the biggest problem.
"There's nothing more vulnerable in the transportation
system than railroads, and that's according to the FBI," said Rich Grassi of Techmark Security. As a security risk,
FleetCenter/North Station stands alone - even riskier than New York City's Madison
Square Garden, also the nexus of commuter rail and subway lines, and vehicle parking, said
Dave Aggleton, vice president of the International Association of Professional
FleetCenter/North Station has the added concern of the
underground Big Dig running close to the base of the building.
"It could be twice or three times or 10 times as vulnerable
as (stand-alone) arenas - I don't know," said Aggleton.
Even though the probability of a terrorist attack at the
convention is "minute," Aggleton said, any commuter with a backpack or suitcase would be a potential threat.
Transportation officials say they are devising a plan to
accommodate commuters, subway riders and the convention.
Commuters and subway riders could be subject to metal
detectors, baggage restrictions and temporary stations outside North Station.
"The MBTA will do what it has to do. If it has to go to the
extreme to accommodate conventioneers, we will," said MBTA spokeswoman Lydia Rivera. "At the same time we are
trying to not negatively impact everyday riders."
Such options as retrofitting North Station and routing
passengers around security checkpoints are being considered, she said.
Banning of backpacks and suitcases, or security checks on
riders boarding at outlying stops, are possible, Haley said.
Boston 2004 President David Passafaro said the organizing
committee, in its proposal to the Democratic National Committee, suggested using "temporary walkways" for rail
passengers allowing them to get on and off at the far end of existing platforms and bypassing the building.
"Ideally we would move people from the rail to the street,
minimize inconvenience to the working people coming in and still maintain a level of security acceptable to the Secret
Service and Boston police," said Passafaro.
"But I don't know how we would manage 45,000 people coming
in if you had to go through a screening process," he said.
Metal detectors could be set up at every entrance for riders
getting on and off trains, Aggleton said, "but the logistics would be incredible."
Convention-goers will be specifically credentialed and have
their own entrance to the FleetCenter - segregating them from commuters - said John Timoney, former Philadelphia
chief of police now consulting with Boston police.
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