State Capitol Briefs — Thursday, May 1, 2014

After Senate President Therese Murray worried that procedural delays could make the prospect of advancing a combined minimum wage and unemployment insurance bill take weeks, the bill flew through the Senate Thursday in a couple of hours, passing 34-5. The vote sets up a dynamic where House and Senate leaders can finally get their proposals before a conference committee to come up with a consensus bill that will not be subject to amendment. The House could appoint its negotiators as early as Monday, when its next session is planned. While noting “it seems like years ago” that a minimum wage bill and unemployment insurance reform were flagged as legislative priorities, Sen. Dan Wolf (D-Harwich) urged his colleagues Thursday to focus on process and quickly re-approve the bill. Wolf said the goal is to get closer to helping an estimated 94,000 people he said earn the minimum wage in Massachusetts. “We do not need to have a Groundhog Day on these issues,” said Wolf, co-chairman of the Labor and Workforce Development Committee. Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr said the substance of the bill was fair game. “It’s important that we do consider the substance today,” Tarr said, urging senators to rethink portions of the bill that are “more onerous” to business. Senators turned down a Tarr amendment substituting new language for the bill and calling for a $9.50 an hour minimum wage by 2016. The Senate favors a gradual increase to an $11 an hour minimum wage while the House wants to ramp it up to $10.50. The Senate, unlike the House, also wants to index the minimum wage to inflation. While Tarr called for changes to the bill, he said early in Thursday’s session that the bill’s advancement to conference committee is what “we all anticipate will be the likely result of what happens here today.” – M. Norton/SHNS

Democratic candidate for treasurer Deb Goldberg has split with her campaign manager Brian Bass, whose last day on the job was Wednesday, according to campaign official. Chris Keohan, up until now a consultant on the Goldberg campaign, said he plans to take over a more “day-to-day role” in the campaign after a “mutual parting of ways” between Bass and the campaign. “Sometimes things just aren’t a fit,” Keohan said. Bass previously worked as director of Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s get-out-the-vote effort, and before that worked for U.S. Rep. Richard Neal and other campaigns. Keohan is the founder of CK Strategies and was a senior advisor to Boston Mayor Marty Walsh’s campaign last fall. He has also worked on campaigns for U.S. Rep. Niki Tsongas and U.S. Rep. Michael Capuano. Goldberg, a former Brookline selectwoman whose family owns the Stop and Shop supermarket chain, is running in a three-way Democratic primary against Sen. Barry Finegold and Rep. Thomas Conroy. – M. Murphy/SHNS

Administration and Finance Secretary Glen Shor confirmed on Thursday afternoon that tax collections in April are $110 million below benchmarks for the month, usually the largest month of revenue collections of the year for the state. Shor, in a statement, said the performance is due to “substantially lower than expected payments with returns” and that other states have also experienced shortfalls. “Experts predicted that last year’s capital gains windfall would be offset over time. That dynamic is reflected in April’s below-benchmark performance, to a somewhat greater degree than anticipated,” Shor said. The News Service reported earlier Thursday that revenues for April could be as much as $100 million under benchmark after Sen. Stephen Brewer, the chairman of Senate Ways and Means, said the revenue picture for the month was “bleak.” Shor said that even with April’s underperformance tax revenues for fiscal 2014 are trending $520 million above initial estimates and $117 million over revised benchmarks. – M. Murphy/SHNS

After three days at Massachusetts General Hospital where she was being treated for sepsis, Rep. Jennifer Benson was released on Thursday afternoon. “Going home! So happy to be out, but am so grateful for the great care I received. Nurses rock! (Ok, docs do too;),” the Lunenburg Democrat Tweeted shortly after noon. Benson effectively missed the three-day budget debate in the House, but her office said she was in communication with staff to express her priorities to House leaders. – M. Murphy/SHNS

West Roxbury Democrat Sen. Michael Rush is away on naval military training and will miss Thursday’s session as well as a formal session scheduled for May 8, according to a communication read at the outset of Thursday’s Senate session. The training runs from April 27 until May 8. – M. Norton/SHNS

The Senate paid homage to the late Francis “Pop” Lynch, the father of Congressman Stephen Lynch, during its session Thursday. Francis Lynch was a veteran of the U.S. Army, where he served in the World War II theaters of Africa, the Middle East and Europe, according to an order filed by Sen. Linda Dorcena Forry and read from the rostrum by Senate President Therese Murray. Lynch was also a member of Ironworkers Local 7, as was his son, the congressman. According to the order, Lynch died on April 1, and is survived by his wife Ann Havlin Lynch, children and grandchildren. – A. Metzger/SHNS

Copyright 2014 State House News Service

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