BOSTON – Major education funding and distracted driving bills could reach Gov. Charlie Baker’s desk later today as lawmakers wrap up formal sessions for 2019.
The Senate is also scheduled to take up bills cracking down on the use of plastic bags by retailers and banning flavored tobacco products while imposing a new tax on e-cigarettes.
The House this month passed its own tobacco flavor ban bill.
The big mystery is whether House and Senate Democrats can put their differences aside, agree on many fiscal, policy and process details, and finally approve a more than $700 million fiscal 2019 supplemental budget.
The budget bills spend most of last fiscal year’s more than $1 billion surplus, make big deposits into the state rainy day fund, and set the primary election date for next year on Sept. 1.
A big hangup, and one that could be difficult to resolve during informal sessions where any one lawmaker can block a bill, appears to be the House’s preference, and Senate’s opposition to, a business tax relief decoupling measure that’s worth about $37 million to affected businesses.
The Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation says the measure is necessary, and that failure to allow business interest expense deductions “would have the unintended net effect of raising the cost of capital in the Commonwealth, increasing taxes on Massachusetts employers and leaving fewer resources available for hiring, expansion, and business process improvements.”
On Thursday, the House and Senate are expected to settle into the pattern they will follow until January — holding two informal sessions each week to advance non-controversial legislation.