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ADJOURNED 'til Thursday at 11 a.m. (informal)
ADJOURNED 'til Thursday at 11 a.m. (formal)


By Katie Lannan

STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, JULY 27, 2018.....The Senate's decision not to meet during three of the remaining five days of formal sessions came as a surprise to many on Beacon Hill including House Speaker Robert DeLeo, who voiced disappointment Friday morning over the schedule.

House Speaker Robert DeLeo listened to Senate President Karen Spilka's inaugural speech Thursday. [Photo: Sam Doran/SHNS]

The House is meeting in a formal session on Friday, when it could approve three conference committee reports and begin overriding Gov. Charlie Baker's budget vetoes. The Senate does not plan to meet again until Monday, the second-to-last day this year that lawmakers can take recorded roll call votes.

"I just found out yesterday about four o'clock, I guess probably from you folks, the Senate's not coming in until Monday, because my discussions, again with the previous Senate president, was that we had planned that we were going to be in all weekend, especially having everyone in the building to put pressure on folks to get their committee reports done," DeLeo told reporters after attending a signing ceremony for a law repealing old anti-abortion statutes. "It was disappointing to find out that we all weren't going to be here so that we could do that."

After installing Sen. Karen Spilka as its new president on Thursday afternoon, during a session that DeLeo attended, the Senate passed several bills and then adjourned until Monday. Spilka told the News Service after the session that the body planned to start taking its override votes -- which must originate in the House before coming to the Senate -- on Monday.

"Originally we were looking at the weekend, but it turns out there will be about 48 votes on inside vetoes and about 19 to 20 concerning outside section amendments, plus we have some conference committees to do and some land-takings, and maybe some miscellaneous," she said. "Last year, if I can remember correctly, we did 70 or 80 votes in a day, so with the apps that we have we believe that we can take care of our business on Monday and Tuesday, so we're starting at 10:30 in the morning on Monday."

Under rule 57b, the Senate president may deploy electronic voting at any time. Senators usually announce their recorded votes individually by standing at their desks and electronic voting enables the Senate to get through roll call votes more rapidly.

Baker signed a $41.7 billion fiscal 2019 budget on Thursday, handing down $48.9 million in spending vetoes across 48 line items. He returned 19 outside policy sections to the Legislature with proposed amendments.

Asked about DeLeo's comments, Spilka spokeswoman Sarah Blodgett said, "The Senate stands ready to do the people's work, as we have done steadily every week the past 18 months. We are confident there is sufficient time to finish our work before the end of formal sessions and look forward to working with our colleagues in the House to finalize the few significant matters remaining."

The House kicked off its session at 11 a.m. Friday by reading in Baker's budget messages and enacting an Alzheimer's disease bill, and then broke for a recess until 12:30 p.m.

Besides taking up the governor's vetoes and amendments, lawmakers' end-of-session to-do list includes several major pieces of legislation that are being hashed out by conference committees.

Three conference committee reports could surface in the House for approval votes, which typically move swiftly. An environmental borrowing bill and automatic voter registration were filed in the House clerk's office Thursday, and the Senate on Thursday accepted the conference report on veterans benefit.

The House Ways and Means Committee on Friday began moving 10 land bills and an amended bill dealing with school transportation (H 4132).

The five bills still in conference address short-term rental regulation, education funding, health care, animal protection and clean energy.

"That's sort of disappointing to me that with so many conference committees that are out there, that we're the only body that's in today, and I had hoped that with remaining committee reports and maybe with some of these veto overrides, we've got land takings, we've got amendments, that both branches would have been in today, or over the weekend anyways, to address that issue," DeLeo said.

He said he "had hoped that if we were all in, maybe we could push over the goal line some of these other conference committee reports which are very, very important."

Though the Senate is not meeting this weekend -- and DeLeo said he now doubted the House would proceed with its formal session originally slated for Saturday -- conferees can continue their negotiations, and any other behind-the-scenes dealmaking can also continue.

Both branches have passed conflicting bills dealing with opioid addiction and economic development, which were approved after a new deadline for sending bills to conference. The rule could be suspended, or lawmakers could iron out a deal informally.

[Colin A. Young contributed reporting]


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