With nearly 700 amendments to consider, the Massachusetts Senate has opened debate on the $32.3 billion spending plan unveiled last week.
As the Associated Press reports:
Many of the 694 amendments ... seek to restore funding for programs that have been trimmed during the economic downturn, but Senate leaders have cautioned that despite an improving fiscal picture, it is too soon to return to pre-recession spending levels.
"This budget reflects the lessons we have learned through the recent recession," Sen. Stephen Brewer told our Newscast unit. "Chief among the lessons learned is the knowledge that when times are better, we must lay the foundation for how we will get through the days [that] inevitably do become worse."
And here are a few of the notable amendments we're watching:
Drunk-Driving Loophole: An amendment would close a drunk-driving enforcement loophole that was exposed by a state high court ruling last week. The ruling found that drunk drivers who admit to sufficient facts but are not technically convicted can't be considered first-time offenders, thereby reducing subsequent penalties.
Homeless Shelters: The Patrick administration is urging senators to reject an amendment that would do away with proposed tighter restrictions on shelter eligibility for homeless families, according to State House News Service.
The administration says the amendment would cost the state money and would undermine efforts to move families toward stable housing; homeless advocates say it would prevent families from finding shelter.
Illegal Immigration Restrictions: The AP reports:
Republican leader Bruce Tarr filed several immigration-related amendments, including one that would require the Registry of Motor Vehicles to check for proof of "lawful immigration status" before issuing a driver's license.
Taunton State Hospital: The back and forth over the hospital continues. After the governor and the House called for closing the hospital for people with mental illnesses, the Senate spending plan would keep 45 beds there. An amendment would raise that to 135 beds.
You can see all 694 budget amendments here.
As we reported last week, the proposed budget would not call for any new taxes or fees, and would increase funding for local aid and education. It would close a funding shortfall through one-time revenues and a $290 million withdrawal from the state's Rainy Day Fund.
Senate lawmakers hope to vote on the spending plan this week. The House passed its version of the budget in April.
This program aired on May 23, 2012. The audio for this program is not available.