BOSTON (AP) — With the clock ticking down to the last day of the formal session on Beacon Hill, state lawmakers are scrambling to complete work on dozens of bills they hope to ship to Republican Gov. Charlie Baker’s desk before they adjourn on July 31.
In some cases, conference committees are trying to reconcile different versions of the same bill passed by the House and the Senate. Other legislation still requires votes in one or both chambers.
The Legislature did remove one major item from its to-do list on Wednesday by finally approving a $41.9 billion state budget after negotiations that dragged on for weeks into the new fiscal year.
Here’s a look at the status of some of the outstanding issues:
The House and the Senate have approved bills to further address the opioid addiction crisis, minus proposals calling for supervised injection sites and involuntary treatment for drug users.
The bills seek to enhance the use of medication-assisted treatment for addiction in hospitals and correctional facilities and provide training and credentialing for recovery coaches who work with addicts.
The deadline under legislative rules to appoint conference committees has passed, so it’s unclear how differences between the bills might be resolved.
The opportunity to go online to rent a private room or apartment for a day or longer has been a boon to travelers and homeowners, but the debate over short-term rental companies like Airbnb has grown more intense as the site’s popularity has taken off.
One of the biggest fears is the challenge of investors buying up homes or condos just to rent out the rooms by the day or week, making the housing crunch even more severe in parts of the state.
Bills to regulate and tax short-term rentals have passed both branches, but House and Senate negotiators appear to be struggling to reconcile different approaches.
How best to divvy up the billions of dollars the state sets aside each year for local schools has been one of the thorniest issues at the Statehouse for decades. At the center of negotiations is the so-called foundation budget, which was meant to help smooth out some of the educational disparities between wealthier communities and poorer ones.
While most critics agree the foundation budget formula is outdated, agreeing on a legislative fix has proven elusive. Proponents of a Senate bill say the House’s version fails to adequately increase funding for schools with high percentages of low-income students and English-language learners.
SALES TAX HOLIDAY
A House-approved economic development bill includes a provision suspending the state’s 6.25 percent sales tax on the weekend of Aug. 11-12. The Senate has yet to take up the bill, leaving open the question of whether there will be a sales tax holiday this summer.
Advocates of a ban on all use of hand-held cellphones by motorists are making a late push to get a distracted-driving bill, passed by the Senate, through the House and to Baker’s desk.
Massachusetts prohibits texting while driving, but unlike several neighboring states it still allows drivers to make phone calls on hand-held devices.
CLEAN ENERGY/CLIMATE CHANGE
Environmental advocacy groups are keeping a close eye on efforts by House and Senate negotiators to reconcile legislation aimed at increasing the supply of renewable energy sources, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and removing caps on the state’s solar net metering program.
While the Senate included these and other provisions in one bill, the House chose to act on a series of proposals to address clean energy and climate change.
Also in conference: a bill that would authorize Massachusetts to borrow up to $2 billion to make the state more resilient to climate change, including funds to protect the state’s coastline against more frequent storms.
House and Senate negotiators are trying to come up with a final version of a health care bill that seeks to boost struggling community hospitals that are paid lower rates than larger teaching hospitals.
The House has proposed hundreds of millions of dollars in temporary fees on large hospitals and insurers, with the fees going to a trust fund to provide grants to smaller hospitals. The Senate bill relies more on price floors for insurance payments to hospitals.
Insurers and business groups have raised objections to both approaches, but more so to the fees contained in the House version.
There are several animal welfare bills pending, including one that seeks to build on an anti-cruelty law that was passed following the Puppy Doe case. The year-old female pit bull mix, found in a Quincy park in 2013, had been tortured so severely she needed to be euthanized.
The follow-up proposal approved in the Senate earlier this year would, among other things, outlaw the drowning of all wild and domestic animals and remove a requirement to automatically euthanize animals involved in illegal animal fighting.
AUTOMATIC VOTER REGISTRATION
Bills that call for an automatic voter registration system in Massachusetts have cleared both chambers, and a conference committee is trying to iron out what appear to be mostly technical differences.
The legislation would automatically update a person’s voter registration when that person notifies a state agency like the Registry of Motor Vehicles of a new address or other change in status.