MORNING BRIEFS: CONCON PLANNED | SURTAX LETTER | CLEAN ENERGY | LOBSTER PRESSER
STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE
- CONCON PLANNED FOR 1 P.M., BUT ORDER NEEDS TO CLEAR HOUSE FIRST
- GROUP RENEWS OPPOSITION TO INCOME SURTAX AHEAD OF DEBATE
- COALITION OUTLINES CLEAN ENERGY PRIORITIES
- LOBSTERING INDUSTRY OBJECTING TO "UNFAIR CLOSURE"
CONCON PLANNED FOR 1 P.M., BUT ORDER NEEDS TO CLEAR HOUSE FIRST
Republican opponents of a surtax on wealthy Massachusetts residents could have an opportunity to make Democrats uncomfortable Wednesday morning. The proposal, a constitutional amendment, is expected to be debated at a Constitutional Convention this year and perhaps in 2020. That convention must start by today but in their latest bit of procrastination, legislators have still not finished work on adopting the order scheduling the convention. It appeared the order would be taken care of Monday when both branches held 11 a.m. sessions. But the House adjourned at 1:30 p.m. Monday after waiting for an order to arrive from the Senate, and the Senate adopted the convention order after 5 p.m. Monday. The House gavels in at 11 a.m. Wednesday, when Speaker Robert DeLeo, who supports the surtax, could bring the Senate order to the floor. Republicans in the House have not posed much of a threat to DeLeo, but they could cause a ruckus if there's no quorum in the House when the order is surfaced. While the House session Wednesday is technically a formal session, representatives are accustomed to being around by 1 p.m. for formal session roll calls. Monday's session adjourned with a notice to members to expect roll calls beginning at 11 a.m. Wednesday. The Senate order calls for Senate President Karen Spilka to call the convention to order in the House chamber at 1 p.m. House Democrats have been called to a noon caucus in the State House ahead of the expected passage later Wednesday of a local road and bridge repair bill Gov. Charlie Baker filed in January. - Michael P. Norton/SHNS
GROUP RENEWS OPPOSITION TO INCOME SURTAX AHEAD OF DEBATE
An organization that was among the plaintiffs who successfully squashed the first attempt to impose an income surtax on high earners renewed its opposition in letters sent to all 200 legislators ahead of a possible debate Wednesday on a second pass at the so-called millionaires tax. The Massachusetts High Technology Council, one of the groups that petitioned the Supreme Judicial Court to throw the proposed 4 percent surtax on income above $1 million off last year's ballot, told lawmakers the proposed constitutional amendment puts "a misplaced emphasis on revenue-centric solutions and offer[s] hollow promises of increased state investment" in a new round of letters. The House and Senate are planning to meet in a Constitutional Convention on Wednesday afternoon and could begin the multi-year process of amending the state Constitution to levy a surtax on high earners and direct the funds to education and transportation initiatives. The measure needs 101 votes in favor in two successive Legislatures to reach the 2022 ballot. In the letter, High Technology Council President Chris Anderson writes that the state does not have a shortage of revenue and should instead focus on making Massachusetts a welcoming place for businesses and directing state funding to programs that "have a data-supported impact." "The Council is committed instead to advancing real solutions to our shared challenges by addressing actual impediments identified by policymakers, job creators, and other impacted stakeholders including: Expanding and improving project planning and delivery capacity at transportation agencies; Enabling and enhancing the use of public-private partnerships to deliver state services and projects; and A $1.1 billion, multi-year proposed increase in state investment and support for K-12 public schools, targeted towards the highest need students and schools," Anderson wrote. The Constitutional Convention is expected to gavel in, under Senate President Karen Spilka, at 1 p.m. Wednesday. - Colin A. Young/SHNS
COALITION OUTLINES CLEAN ENERGY PRIORITIES
Clean energy has yet to surface as a policy focus in the new session, but it has in each of the last two sessions and a "coalition of coalitions" outlined its priorities Wednesday for the coming months. The Alliance for Clean Energy Solutions hopes to steer Beacon Hill lawmakers "into new areas where action to address pollution is vital," like electric grid modernization to accommodate renewable energy and energy storage, lowering transportation sector emissions through a regional approach, and placing a greater focus on the needs of low-income, working-class communities and communities of color. "The ACES policy priorities are critical to the economic, energy and environmental future of the Commonwealth," Peter Rothstein, president of the New England Clean Energy Council, said in a statement. "Our diverse coalition looks forward to working with the legislature to build upon Massachusetts' success deploying cost-effective clean energy solutions to reduce carbon emissions, while driving innovation in clean tech and creating jobs." The coalition also backs a push to accelerate the greenhouse gas reduction requirements outlined in the state's Global Warming Solutions Act by setting a new legal target of achieving net zero emissions by 2050 or sooner and "expanding carbon pricing to all sectors." Jesse Mermell, president of The Alliance for Business Leadership, estimated the clean energy sector has created over 100,000 jobs. Other coalition members include the Acadia Center, Climate Action Business Association, E4TheFuture, Environmental Entrepreneurs, Health Care Without Harm, MassSolar, The Nature Conservancy, Sierra Club of Massachusetts, and Vote Solar. - Michael P. Norton/SHNS
LOBSTERING INDUSTRY OBJECTING TO "UNFAIR CLOSURE"
Lobstering industry members plan to gather in Plymouth on Thursday to speak out against what they see as the unfair closure of lobstering in the waters south of Scituate. Industry representatives on the South Shore say they have worked to implement fishing techniques to protect right whales but say their efforts have been ignored by regulators in favor of blanket policies. They plan to make the case that there have been no whale entanglements in certain parts of Cape Cod Bay. In late April, the Atlantic Large Whale Take Reduction Team recommended measures that could protect critically endangered North Atlantic right whales. A Conservation Law Foundation attorney, Erica Fuller, said at the time said that "reducing and weakening the lines in the water is a start" but added that "appropriate closures and ropeless fishing need to be part of the solution." South Shore lobstermen and representatives of other affected local businesses plan an 8:30 a.m. Thursday press conference at the Plymouth Town Dock on Water Street. - Michael P. Norton/SHNS
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