After closing the book on the formal sessions in July, Massachusetts lawmakers have turned their attention to the November election. The Senate and House of Representatives convene in informal sessions for the remainder of the year and no controversial legislative matters are expected to pass during this time.
Despite the absence of formal lawmaking, executive branch agencies will remain busy and legislative action is not precluded during this period. The legislature is not to be ignored, as an examination of all bills passed in the second year of the last two legislative sessions reveals that a significant number of bills are passed during informal sessions after July 31. In 2014, a total of 505 bills were signed into law, over 200 of which were passed after July 31. In 2012, 464 bills were signed into law, over 220 of which were passed after July 31. While many of these bills related to local concerns or otherwise noncontroversial topics, there is still a very real opportunity for other, more significant legislation to advance during what is often thought of as the quiet months of the year.
Below ML Strategies presents its forecast and analysis of the key developments to expect in Massachusetts for the remainder of this year and into the 2017-2018 legislative session.
Looming over all spending plans is the possibility of a tax revenue shortfall opening up a widening gap in the state budget. The Baker Administration may soon be forced to consider mid-year spending cuts after the Department of Revenue announced that tax collections have fallen shy of monthly estimates used to construct the state's FY2017 budget. The Governor said that his administration will know by mid-October whether or not mid-year 9C budget cuts will be required. Experts have been unable to identify the specific cause of the revenue shortfall, which the Governor pinpoints at around $36 million. The legislature has already begun addressing the revenue shortfall, with a fiscal 2016 supplemental budget bill sent to Governor Baker's desk late last week that has an estimated cost of $187.5 million. Health Care
The Special Commission to Review Variation in Prices among Providers will meet through March as its members try to forge a consensus on a set of recommendations to the legislature aimed at addressing variation in health care pricing across the state. The Commission, which was established through a compromise in May to avoid a ballot question on this issue, will hold eight public meetings and focus on a range of health care pricing topics, including MassHealth's shift towards Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs), contracting practices between providers, insurance plan design, price transparency, and the state's role in the health care market. Hospitals...