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Beacon Hill quiet after elections, passage of $3.7B economic development package

The Fairmont Copley Plaza's grand ballroom was jam-packed on Election Night for the MassDems' results watch party, which almost immediately became a victory celebration for Gov.-elect Maura Healey.
Chris Lizinski
State House News Service
The Fairmont Copley Plaza's grand ballroom was jam-packed on Election Night for the MassDems' results watch party, which almost immediately became a victory celebration for Gov.-elect Maura Healey.

With the election over, is it back to business as usual for Massachusetts lawmakers?

Last week, voters not only chose Maura Healey and Kim Driscoll to be the next governor and lieutenant governor, but they also picked Democrats for the other four constitutional offices. That means that the two highest ranking Republicans in the legislature currently are minority leaders, Sen. Bruce Tarr, R-Gloucester and U.S. Rep. Brad Jones, R- North Reading.

Matt Murphy, of the State House News Service, explains that some in the state Republican Party are concerned about their numbers on Beacon Hill, and their messaging resonating with voters.

Matt Murphy, State House News Service: Obviously, the GOP getting shut out of the statewide races has some concerned. They previously only held the governor and lieutenant governor's offices. Those have gone to Maura Healey and Kim Driscoll last Tuesday. And the Republicans also seeing their ranks in the legislature, which were already at very low levels, shrink even further.

And this has sparked calls from some in the party for a change in leadership. There is already some talk about Jay Fleitman, the vice chair of the Republican Party, stepping up, saying he's going to run for party chair in January. He’s calling for a more inclusive message from Republicans as opposed to what we saw from current chairman Jim Lyons and the type of candidates that the party recruited and ran this cycle. But there remain divisions within the party about how to move forward and what the right message is to be a winning message in Massachusetts. And I don't think it's going to be settled anytime soon.

Carrie Healy, NEPM: Last week's elections brought closure to months of campaigning for lawmakers and ballot question supporters and opposition. It's mid-November. Is it back to business as usual for state lawmakers? What's the energy like on Beacon Hill?

Well, business as usual for lawmakers at the end of the second year of the session is pretty quiet. There's not a lot left to do, especially after we saw them finalize that delayed economic development bill and that included the final close out spending bill for the state for the year. So, lawmakers will continue to meet in informal sessions for the remainder of this calendar year and into January, when the new legislature will be sworn in. But do not expect anything major to come up before them for passage.

The focus now will really be on the incoming Healey administration as she begins to look at Cabinet picks, potentially looking to the Legislature to fill some of those roles and how she starts to build her new administration and working relationships with the lawmakers who will be there come January.

Speaking of that $3.7 billion economic development bill, Governor Charlie Baker did sign it. It was forwarded to him by lawmakers after they stripped the estate tax reforms and tax breaks for renters, seniors and caregivers from it. Baker wasn't satisfied with the entire bill, and he made some changes to the version that he signed. Do you know what parts were vetoed? And while we're in informal sessions right now, what can lawmakers do about the things that were vetoed?

Yeah, the governor signed the bulk of this bill, the $3.7 billion in spending. So, much of that will go into effect. He did veto several sections, some of them dealing with tuition retention programs and stuff on the campuses of higher ed. The governor is saying that this is better dealt with cohesively rather than piecemeal as part of the state budget process that will get pushed over into the new will the million dollars of the $16.5 million that he signed off on for abortion clinics and reproductive health services.

The governor vetoed the $1 million education program that was supposed to focus on telling people about these so-called crisis pregnancy centers which have come under fire from abortion rights supporters and activists in recent months since the Supreme Court's Dobbs ruling. But because the legislature is meeting in informal sessions, vetoes cannot be dealt with. There will be no roll call votes. This is something that lawmakers will have to revisit in the new year.

Carrie Healy hosts the local broadcast of "Morning Edition" at NEPM. She also hosts the station’s weekly government and politics segment “Beacon Hill In 5” for broadcast radio and podcast syndication.