DEAL REACHED ON MULTI-YEAR $13B TRANSPO BOND BILL:
House and Senate negotiators reached a deal Monday afternoon on a $13 billion transportation borrowing bill that includes a one-year $300 million authorization for local road repairs in fiscal 2015 and funding for the Green Line extension, South Coast rail, the expansion of South Station and scores of other local projects. The House, which plans to meet on Tuesday in an informal session, could accept the report of the conference committee ( H 4046) and schedule a vote to engross the bond bill for Wednesday. The Senate could take it up as soon as Thursday when it plans to meet in a formal session. The compromise bill was negotiated by Transportation Committee Chairmen Rep. William Straus and Sen. Thomas McGee, Reps. Stephen Kulik and Peter Durant, and Sens. Stephen Brewer and Robert Hedlund. Straus told the New Service that despite cities and towns being informed by the Patrick administration to only expect $200 million in Chapter 90 road money this year, he’s hopeful the full amount will be eventually authorized. The conferees opted against a five-year Chapter 90 authorization as proposed in the Senate version of the bill. “We’ve authorized $300 million because we believe that’s a reasonable level and it did not escape our attention that Deval Patrick will only be governor for half of the next fiscal year. It may be that the next governor is inclined to make full use of the $300 million authorization,” Straus said. The bill also includes language to preserve the “right of way” and spend up to $2 million to update environmental impact documents related to a potential underground rail link between North and South stations. In addition to authorizing the purchase of new Red and Orange Line cars, Straus said the conference report also calls for those T cars to be assembled in Massachusetts and requires the potential for job creation to be considered when choosing a location where the work will be done. The bill would also earmark $65 million for the dredging of Boston Harbor to increase the depth of the port and make it more accommodating to large cargo ships. “There’s a lot of competition with East Coast cities and to get Boston harbor to a good 40 foot depth is important,” Straus said.
To view the full conference report, visit: http://lintvwwlp.files.wordpress.com/2014/04/04-14_transpobondbill.pdf
– M. Murphy/SHNS
HOUSE COMMITTEE POLLING AUTISM SERVICES BILL
The House is prepping legislation for a probable vote this week that would encourage educators to develop teaching plans to allow children with autism to remain in regular classroom settings. Under the legislation, families would also be able to save tax-free for the care of loved ones with disabilities. The House Ways and Means Committee on Monday opened a poll on a bill (H 3777) that would assist individuals with autism and other intellectual disabilities. With the House planning a Wednesday formal session, members of the committee were given until Tuesday at 10 a.m. to vote on the bill. The legislation requires the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to develop a training program to help teachers provide individualized instruction to those with autism that also allows them to stay in the classroom and not be separated from their peers. The bill would also expand the IQ-based eligibility requirement for adult services through the Department of Developmental Services, and would establish tax-exempt savings accounts for families to plan for the care of someone with intellectual disabilities. – M. Murphy/SHNS
PATRICK HOPES WAGE COMPROMISE IS WITHIN REACH [+Video]
Gov. Deval Patrick told reporters Monday he remains optimistic regarding the chances the House and Senate will get a completed bill to raise the minimum wage to him before the end of the Legislative session. “It’s just hard for me to imagine that with a difference of only 50 cents that there isn’t a compromise within reach, at least on the minimum wage,” Patrick said before meeting with House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senate President Therese Murray Monday afternoon in DeLeo’s office. Patrick said he hopes Legislative leaders will get the minimum wage compromise and an accompanying bill to reform unemployment insurance to his desk soon. When asked about the House’s plan to connect the wage hike with UI reform, Patrick said tying the two initiatives together is his preference, “but not a showstopper.” Patrick also told reporters he would sign the bills just passed by the Legislature to create a “Boston Strong” license plate and to freeze unemployment insurance rates for businesses in 2014. Patrick offered comments on Tuesday’s anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombing, telling reporters how he feels the city has changed and recovered from the attack. Arriving at DeLeo’s door wearing a black foot support in place of his right shoe, Patrick described himself as having “toe issues,” and would not elaborate further. “It’s not glamorous. Nothing heroic,” Patrick said when asked again about the injury.
For a video of Patrick’s press conference, go to: http://www.statehousenews.com/video/14-04-14leaders/ (Subscription needed)
– M. Deehan/SHNS