House, Senate rush economic development bill to Baker’s desk

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STATE HOUSE — The economic development bill filed late Sunday and enacted right around midnight Monday does not include an expansion of a tax incentive aimed at helping low-income workers or authorization for the Massachusetts Lottery to expand into online gaming, according to the lead House negotiator on the bill.

Both of those proposals had been included in the Senate’s version of the bill.

“The Senate had a number of outside sections that didn’t match up with things in the House. Most of those were set aside or held in conference,” said Rep. Joe Wagner, the House chairman of the Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies.

A tax on short-term private room rentals, including through the online booking site Airbnb, was also dropped from the final version as was a provision subjecting non-profits to property taxes when they buy real estate already on local tax rolls, according to Wagner.

The final version was filed around 11 p.m. Sunday and enacted on a unanimous 156-0 vote in the House and a 38-1 vote in the Senate just after midnight. With major borrowing provisions, the economic development bill required roll call votes on enactment, and the Legislature’s rules prohibit formal sessions – where recorded votes can be taken – from happening after July 31.

“We needed to get that done tonight,” Wagner said.

Sen. Vinny deMacedo, a Plymouth Republican, was the only member of the six-lawmaker conference committee that came up with the final version not to sign off on it.

“One of the things that’s very important about conference committees is that they actually meet and they include their members in discussions of important matters, and in this case I think Sen. deMacedo was largely isolated from that process,” said Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr. After a few major bills were finalized on the last day of formals for the year, Tarr said, “I don’t think he felt comfortable signing a conference committee report where he wasn’t included in the development of the bill and hadn’t been kept up to date on its contents.”

Lawmakers in touch with Wagner’s office about earmarks important to their districts.

“There were many of my colleagues who had specific earmarks in which they were interested, and tried to be sensitive to their needs for their district,” Wagner said.

The Chicopee Democrat told the News Service the bill includes $500 million in authorized borrowing for MassWorks infrastructure program, and $45 million in capital dollars for brownfields, $45 million for “transformative development,” and $45 million for equipment for career and technical education, among other measures.

The bill includes a new tax deduction intended encourage more families to save for college tuition costs.

Wagner described those measures as House priorities.

— Written by Andy Metzger

Copyright State House News Service