Baker focused on ‘big six’ bills as formal sessions wind down

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STATE HOUSE — With 20 days remaining until the end of formal legislative sessions, Beacon Hill leaders are turning their attention to six major pieces of legislation, Gov. Charlie Baker said Monday.

After meeting with House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senate President Stanley Rosenberg, Baker said the three discussed “the big six items that are out there.” He named bills to diversify the state’s energy mix; regulate the ride-for-hire industry; restrict the use of non-compete agreements; ensure pay equity between genders; and economic development and municipal finance reform bills filed by the governor.

Four of those bills will come before the Legislature this week, while the other two have already passed both branches are now before six-member conference committees that will work out the differences between the House and Senate versions.

“Those are certainly the six items that I think we’re all focused on,” Baker told reporters.

The Senate on Wednesday plans to take up its version of Baker’s “act to modernize municipal finance and government” (S 2410). The bill cleared the House unanimously in June, and Baker said he hopes to see it also bound for a conference committee by the end of the week.

The non-compete bill (S 2418) and the economic development bill (H 4483), both of which have passed the House, are teed up for Senate debate Thursday. The House on Thursday plans to debate the pay equity bill (S 2119) that the Senate unanimously passed in January.

All of those bills are expected to wind up in conference committee as well, Baker said.

Conference committees were appointed last week to reconcile the energy (H 4385 and S 2400) and ride-for-hire (H 4064 and S 2398). Sen. Benjamin Downing and House Ways and Means Chair Brian Dempsey are leading negotiations on the bill calling for long-term contracts to procure wind energy and hydropower, along with Sen. Marc Pacheco, Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr, House Minority Leader Brad Jones and Rep. Tom Golden.

Led by Rep. Aaron Michlewitz and Senate Ways and Means Chair Karen Spilka, lawmakers working out the details of the bill to regulate transportation network companies like Uber and Lyft include Sens. Jamie Eldridge and Donald Humason and Reps. Ronald Mariano and Brad Hill.

Asked if he would sign the six bills once they reach his desk, Baker said it “depends on what they say” in their final versions.

Formal sessions end for the year on July 31, leaving lawmakers a shrinking window to act on major legislation.

Both branches are also taking breaks from formal sessions in the last full weeks of the month to allow members to attend the Republican and Democratic national conventions.

“Whether these guys are in full formal or not, the conference committees are going to be meeting all the way through this period,” Baker said. “And to be honest with you, as somebody who’d like to see some very complicated stuff, as I just outlined, make it through the process between now and the end of the month, if this means more time for conference committee work, to tell you the truth from my point of view, I think that’s OK with me.”

The Senate has at least four other bills on its agenda for the week, including one (S 2416) that would authorize stop work orders at businesses that violate wage laws, with worker wages guaranteed for the first ten days of lost work due to the order.

DeLeo said the wage theft bill is “one of the items that we’re taking a look at.”

“I will say the governor mentioned a number of other bills just now that would probably take precedence because we either already have addressed those or are waiting for the conference committee reports,” DeLeo said.

— Written by Katie Lannan

Copyright State House News Service