Legislative Update – Week of June 19, 2023

Jun 20, 2023

Last Week

In Massachusetts, the Senate on Thursday unanimously approved a roughly $590 million tax relief bill (S 2397) after rejecting most proposed changes to the version that top Democrats rolled out a week earlier. Senate Democrats shot down a Republican bid to amend the bill with a short-term capital gains tax cut, an idea that features in relief plans from both the House and Gov. Maura Healey, and another proposal to further expand increases to the estate tax threshold. They also added language that would require Bay State couples who file income tax returns jointly at the federal level to do the same at the state level. This change supporters say will close a “loophole” some households could use to minimize or avoid their obligations under a new surtax on high earners. The tax relief bills will now head to a House/Senate Conference committee that will be responsible for ironing out the differences.

Primaries in the special election to fill a central Massachusetts Senate seat will be held on Oct. 10. Secretary of State William F. Galvin announced the primary date in the 22-community district on Friday morning, a day after the Senate adopted an order scheduling a Nov. 7 special election to fill the seat vacated this month by Anne Gobi. The Worcester and Hampshire Senate seat will be served on the same day as the city election in Worcester and Gardner. The Senate district includes six precincts in Worcester and all of Gardner. Candidates will have until Aug. 29 to submit nomination papers to local registrars. Nominations for the race require a minimum of 300 certified signatures, and nomination papers are now available. Gardner is the home of Democrat Rep. Jonathan Zlotnik, who entered the Senate race last month. Two Republicans have announced runs — Spencer Rep. Peter Durant and Rebekah Etique. Gobi stepped down to take a newly created rural affairs post in Gov. Maura Healey’s administration.

The Massachusetts unemployment rate dropped to 2.8 percent in May, nearly a full point below the national rate, as the labor market continues to hold up despite slower economic growth in recent months. The jobless rate released Friday morning was 0.3 percentage points below the revised April rate of 3.1 percent. The April jobless rate was originally reported last month at 3.3 percent. The Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development on Friday also cited Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates indicating that Massachusetts gained 5,700 jobs in May, on the heels of April’s revised gain of 5,900 jobs. Massachusetts has gained 704,100 jobs since employment levels plummeted in April 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic. In the past year, the state has gained 105,100 jobs, according to the bureau’s estimates. The national jobless rate for May was 3.7 percent.

This week

The State House was closed to the public on Monday in recognition of the Juneteenth holiday. President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation took effect Jan. 1, 1863, but it wasn’t until June 19, 1865 — Juneteenth — that news of freedom reached enslaved Black people in Texas with the arrival of Union soldiers at Galveston Bay. Juneteenth became an official state holiday in Massachusetts under a provision attached to a supplemental budget in July 2020, and the holiday was first observed here in 2021.

In Massachusetts, the Health Care Financing Committee holds a public hearing on Tuesday at 10 am in Room A-1 of the State House on bills dealing with oversight and market dynamics. Topics include the closing of hospital essential services; hospital profits, transparency, and closures; timely health care cost reporting; management of the Connector Authority; and determination of the need for new technology.

The Joint Committee on Public Health holds a public hearing on Wednesday at 9 am in Room A-2 of the State House on over two dozen bills tied to food and nutrition, oral health, and PFAS.

On Thursday, the Massachusetts Public Health Council meets remotely at 1 pm. The agenda calls for the presentation of new data about opioid overdose deaths for the first time since December. In the last report, DPH observed a slight decrease in opioid-related overdose deaths during the first nine months of 2022 compared to a record amount in 2021. Commissioners will also receive a presentation about Bureau of Health Professions licensure.

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