A Roundup Of What Passed — And What Didn't — On The Last Night Of The Legislative Session

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Early Wednesday morning, the state Legislature finished up its 2017-2018 session. In the busy final hours, compromises emerged on many issues, but two key measures failed to come up at all.

WBUR's Steve Brown joined Morning Edition on Wednesday about what the Legislature's final wrap-up looked like.

Host Bob Oakes: So just yesterday, Steve, you were here telling us about all the bills lawmakers had hoped to complete before time ran out. But as mentioned, two big ones will have to wait until the new year. Which ones are those?

Education funding and health care financing reform fell by the wayside, as the House and Senate just could not reach agreement.

They did manage to get some other major bills to Gov. Charlie Baker's desk, including an opioid treatment bill, an economic development bill, a clean energy bill and an animal welfare and safety bill.

Let's touch on some of the bills that made it. You mentioned the opioid bill. That's been a big priority for Baker. What's in the final bill?

It focuses on prevention, as well as treatment. People who wind up in the emergency room because of an overdose will be able to go directly into care as opposed to being released back to the street. State Rep. Denise Garlick of Needham says since people would be treated with medication in the ER, there's less of a need for an involuntary hold, as was originally proposed by Baker.

The bill also sets up a process to credential so-called "recovery coaches." It requires by the year 2020 electronic prescribing of drugs, and allows for the partial filling of prescriptions.

I'm told by people in the administration the governor is pleased with this compromise, saying it has about 90 percent of what he originally proposed.

Another priority for the governor was the economic development bill. You say lawmakers were able to pass that?

They did. It came very late in the night, but they did pass it.

It provides a billion dollars for jobs through training and infrastructure; promotes arts and tourism industries; and reforms noncompete agreements, so that employees would be free to pursue their careers. It bans a practice known as patent trolling. And something a lot of people are interested in: It allows for a two-day, tax-free holiday, and that will take place in just a week and a half, on Aug. 11 and 12.

Let's talk about bills that didn't make the cut. You mentioned education financing. What happened?

Both sides just could not see eye-to-eye on this. Of course, the bill was based on a report put together a few years back by the Foundation Budget Review Commission. The Senate wanted to increase spending on public education by a billion dollars annually. The House proposed only about a third of that.

Senate President Karen Spilka expressed disappointment a final agreement couldn't be reached:

The Foundation Budget Review Commission did tremendous work. They were very thorough, presenting recommendations which were adopted. This was something that everybody supported. This is something that we have to get through the Legislature so we can start implementing the full number of their recommendations.

Spilka and others were also disappointed no agreement could be reached on a health care financing bill.

House Majority Leader Ron Mariano, who led negotiations for the House, told the State House News Service that both sides were just "too far apart philosophically to come to a resolution."

The health care financing bill lost a lot of steam in recent weeks, when several business groups came out against both the House and Senate bills. The businesses said the bills did not address cost growth in the state's Medicaid program.

This segment aired on August 1, 2018.


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Steve Brown Senior Reporter/Anchor
Steve Brown is a veteran broadcast journalist who serves as WBUR's senior State House reporter.



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