State Capitol Briefs — Tuesday, May 27, 2014

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State House News Service

HOUSE ADVANCES CONVENTION CENTER EXPANSION BILL
A major expansion of the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center intended to help lure the world’s largest conventions to Boston is expected to go before the House on Wednesday for consideration with House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senate President Therese Murray both on record supporting the plan. The project would increase the BCEC’s footprint from 516,000 to 851,000 square feet, but first requires passage of legislation authorizing $1.1 billion in special obligation bonds. A Patrick administration official recently testified that the convention center bill meets three administration requirements regarding the use of existing taxes and fees, private financing of hotel development, and creation of economic opportunities for businesses led by women, minorities and veterans. The House Ways and Means Committee recommended the bill (H 4111) for passage on Tuesday and the full House gave its initial approval, prepping the bill for debate when the House convenes Wednesday for a formal session. House leaders state in the legislation that they believe attracting large national conventions and exhibitions to South Boston will stimulate business for city hotels, restaurants, recreation and entertainment attractions and retail sales. The proposal relies on existing hospitality industry charges – Boston-area taxes and fees on hotel rooms, sales and meals taxes, trolley tour levies, and a $10 rental car surcharge – to finance the expansion and leverage private hotel development valued at $700 million. The statewide room tax is specified in the bill as additional security on the bonds, a provision that has stirred concerns among lawmakers who represent districts far from Boston. – M. Murphy/SHNS

GUV’S JOBS BILL UP FOR HEARING THURSDAY
Lawmakers will hear on Thursday the $100 million economic development bill that Gov. Deval Patrick filed in April. The bill (H 4045) eliminates “non-compete” agreements, adopts the Uniform Trade Secrets Act, and seeks to expand the state’s international marketing efforts to boost tourism. The bill also overhauls a research and development tax credit program, extends the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative’s internship and mentoring program and provides municipalities with the power to grant liquor licenses. “The bill I am filing will provide new tools and training so our workforce is prepared to meet the needs of employers, invests in our Gateway Cities to promote development across the entire state, and provides incentives to create jobs and stimulate the economy,” Patrick wrote in a letter to legislators, which accompanied the bill. After Patrick’s bill was filed, House Speaker Robert DeLeo, who has talked about filing his own economic development package, said the governor had caused a “little bit of a stir” with his proposal to eliminate non-compete clauses. The hearing comes as Patrick, joined by Economic Development Secretary Greg Bialecki and private industry officials, travels on a trade mission to Israel and the United Arab Emirates. The Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies, chaired by Sen. Gale Candaras (D-Wilbraham) and Rep. Joseph Wagner (D-Chicopee), meets on Thursday at 1 p.m. in Room A-1. The committee has requested an extension on reporting out the bill until June 13. – G. Dumcius/SHNS

ALBANO PLANS TO ASK GANTS ABOUT AFFIRMATIVE ACTION, DEATH PENALTY
Governor’s Councilor Michael Albano plans to quiz Ralph Gants, a member of the state’s highest court and a nominee for chief justice, about the Lexington resident’s views on a variety of hot-button issues. Ahead of Wednesday’s hearing at the State House, Albano sent out a missive saying that in addition to questions about Gants’ federal law enforcement background, he will ask about marriage equality, affirmative action, women’s rights, racial balance, the Second Amendment and the death penalty. The nomination hearing for Gants, who is the youngest member of the Supreme Judicial Court, provide an opportunity for the eight elected governor’s councilors to gain some exposure. The council, which provides advice and consent on judicial nominations, is one of the lesser known areas of state government though each councilor represents an area larger than the state’s nine congressional districts. Albano, a Longmeadow Democrat and former mayor of Springfield, sent out an email about his plans forecasting he would be “front and center for Gants hearing.” The hearing began last Wednesday with witnesses speaking for and against Gov. Deval Patrick’s nominee. – A. Metzger/SHNS

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