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STATE CAPITOL BRIEFS – LUNCH EDITION – TUESDAY, DEC. 9, 2014

STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE

BAKER: NO SPECIAL TREATMENT FOR WAHLBERG

Governor-elect Charlie Baker said Hollywood superstar Mark Wahlberg, who is seeking a pardon for his 1988 conviction on assault and battery and drug possession charges, will get no special treatment from his administration. Baker said he trusts in the process, which requires the Parole Board to vet applicants for pardons and commutations before making a recommendation to the governor. If the governor agrees with a recommendation, the Governor’s Council must also approve. Gov. Deval Patrick has recommended one commutation and four pardons that are still pending, but Baker said he has not followed the details of each case closely enough to have an opinion. As for Wahlberg, who has yet to have a hearing before the Parole Board, Baker said he’ll wait and see. “He should go through the process just like everybody else and on the facts of the case, if it’s up to me to make a decision, I’ll make it at the time,” Baker said after a charity event Tuesday at the House of Blues. – Matt Murphy/SHNS

BAKER: BIZ TAX AMNESTY “NOT A BAD IDEA”

With House leaders exploring the idea of a corporate tax amnesty program to generate cash for state spending needs, Governor-elect Charlie Baker said it’s not an ideal situation, but one he might support. “It’s obviously something that’s only going to work on a short time basis. I think the best solution, of course, would be not to have to ever do this stuff, but over time things happen and using this as a vehicle to sort of clean up another backlog is not a bad idea,” Baker said. Lawmakers in the fiscal 2015 budget sanctioned a two-month tax amnesty program for individual filers that ran through the end of October and pulled in roughly $57 million in tax collections from 49,000 residents who took advantage of the window to pay overdue taxes without penalties. House Minority Leader Brad Jones has filed legislation to create another two-month tax amnesty program for corporations, and Ways and Means Chairman Brian Dempsey said Democratic leadership is actively considering the possibility. Jones, based on Department of Revenue figures, estimates the corporate amnesty program could yield $15 million to $20 million for the fiscal 2015 budget, which was running a $329 million deficit before Gov. Deval Patrick unilaterally cut $198 million across state government. Dempsey said last week the House hoped to respond to Patrick Legislative request for additional cuts this month, and may be looking to restore some the spending reductions in local aid accounts, such as regional school transportation, made by Patrick. “I think in some respects the opportunity there to clean up an outstanding debt is a good one. If you’re asking me if I think the last one was successful, and if in fact it generated over $50 million in tax revenue and cleaned up a lot of books for a lot of people, I think that’s a good thing,” Baker said. – Matt Murphy/SHNS

HOSPITAL BED LICENSING BILL ON THE MOVE

A bill updating an “archaic” hospital bed count rule is moving through the Legislature this week as time runs out on the 2013-2014 session. Rep. William “Smitty” Pignatelli, a Democrat from Lenox, said the bill (H 2050) revises a rule established 30 years ago about how the state licenses hospital beds based on annual census counts. The rule fails to take into account seasonal and population fluctuations that affect whether a hospital fills the number of beds it has licensed, Pignatelli told the News Service Tuesday. For example, hospitals located in the Berkshires are very busy in the summer tourism season. But in the winter, the number of patients drops, which leaves hospitals open to having beds “de-licensed” by the Department of Public Health. Hospitals then have to go through a “paperwork process” to get beds re-licensed when it becomes busy again, Pignatelli said. The Senate passed the bill Monday, and it is expected to pass in the House this week as well, according to Pignatelli, who says the bill could reach Gov. Deval Patrick’s desk soon. – Colleen Quinn/SHNS

MASS. HOME SALE AGREEMENTS UP 20 PERCENT IN NOVEMBER

Accepted home sale offers in Massachusetts during November were up more than 20 percent compared to November 2013, according to data released Tuesday by the Massachusetts Association of Realtors. The association also reported the median price of homes placed under sales agreement was up 4 percent – from $316,000 to $330,000 – when compared to last November. Pending home sales in Massachusetts have risen for 21 consecutive months. Pending condo sales were up 9 percent in November, with the median price rising 1.7 percent to $304,000. The association also reported its market and price confidence indexes were both down in November, with the market index, at 49.54, dipping below the 50-point mark for the first time since March 2012 and the price index falling for the eighth straight month. On a 100-point scale, 50 is the midpoint between a strong and weak market. MAR President Peter Ruffini predicted a rise in November sales would move the market index upwards. – Michael Norton/SHNS

BAKER TO ADDRESS MARRIAGE LICENSE BACKLOG

Of all the high-stakes decisions a governor must make in the course of the job, granting one-day marriage designations for friends or family to officiate a loved one’s wedding may not rise to the top of the pile. But with the window closing for applicants to seek the designation from the Patrick administration, Governor-elect Charlie Baker says he expects to expedite the process once he gets into the Corner Office in January. “I have friends who have actually been the one-day designee for a variety of marriages over the years and while in the larger context of a lot of the things I’ll be worrying about that is certainly something that I’ll look forward to doing,” Baker said on Tuesday after attending a charity event for the Music Forward Foundation at the House of Blues. The Patrick administration says it will stop accepting one-day marriage designation applications between Dec. 12 and Jan. 8 in order to ensure that all pending applications can be processed before Gov. Deval Patrick leaves office. After that, applications will be submitted to the Baker administration for review. “That will probably one of the few backlogs I actually solve in a relatively short period of time,” Baker said, adding, “The idea that you can set something up in such a way so that people have a chance to bring a friend or a colleague or a loved one into the ceremony I think is a really neat opportunity.” – Matt Murphy/SHNS