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Around once or twice a year, Massachusetts passes something called a supplemental budget (a “supp” for short). It’s not the most flashy piece of legislation; it’s typically aimed at backfilling some unforeseen expenses the larger annual budget didn’t include.
But for better or worse, legislators also often use the mini-spending to pass a few notable policy items. And this fall, the supp has become the subject of some unexpected drama, after compromise talks between top Democrats in the House and Senate collapsed last week just as the Legislature’s formal sessions closed for the holidays.
Here are three things to know:
1. The shelter funding stalemate: Both chambers voted to give Gov. Maura Healey’s administration an extra $250 million to run the state’s emergency shelter system, which recently hit a self-imposed cap of 7,500 families and began putting people on a housing waitlist. But they differed on whether there were strings attached to that money.
- The House wanted to require Healey’s administration to use $50 million to set up overflow sites within 30 days (or else lift the cap) to avoid people without housing seeking shelter at places like Logan airport, train stations or hospitals. But the Senate didn’t want to put any conditions on the money. As one Senate leader said, “We are not experts in how to best handle the migrant crisis situation.” After talks fell apart in the wee hours last Thursday, lawmakers hinted this disagreement was the main cause of the impasse.
- What’s next: Even if Dems (who have massive majorities in both chambers) do agree to compromise, the Legislature is now in informal sessions, meaning any single member — including the Republicans who voted against the shelter funding — could block the bill. Some GOP members seem eager to use that leverage. However, House Speaker Ron Mariano told reporters there could be ways to persuade them against standing in the way.
- Go deeper. Make sure to read this story by WBUR’s Gabrielle Emanuel on struggles facing families on the shelter waitlist.
2. Everett stadium angst: The bill could potentially remove a key barrier to the construction of a soccer stadium for the New England Revolution on the banks of the Mystic River in Everett. The long-desired site — a shuttered power plant across the street from the Encore Boston Harbor casino — is currently labeled as a Designated Port Area, meaning it can only be used for water-related industrial work. However, the Senate’s version of the supp would lift that label — on the condition a soccer stadium and waterfront park are built.
- While local soccer fans may be cheering, not everyone is thrilled. Officials across the river in Boston and some environmental advocates have spoken out against the backroom nature of the deal (though any stadium would still have to go through a public hearing process in Everett). The Boston Globe also reported some members of the House — which actually passed similar language in the past — were caught off guard by the provision.
3. Save the date: One thing both branches agreed on: Moving up the date of next year’s Massachusetts state primary to Sept. 3, 2024.
- That’s the Tuesday after Labor Day, which hasn’t always been the most popular choice. But the current Sept. 17 date (or even Sept. 10) is too close to the federal deadline to make general election ballots available to military personnel and voters living overseas, according to Secretary of State Bill Galvin’s office.
Two other bits of news to know today as you thaw that turkey:
- Healey is expected to announce new statewide efforts this morning to combat hate crimes. The new initiative comes after a report that hate crimes in Massachusetts rose by over 30% in 2022.
- Boston Bruins left wing Milan Lucic is due in court today to face assault and battery charges, after being arrested Friday night for an unspecified domestic incident. The Bruins announced Saturday that the 35-year-old is taking an indefinite leave of absence from the team.
P.S.— Boston is lighting up the trellis at Christopher Columbus Park in the North End tonight, kicking off the annual holiday lights season across the city. Faneuil Hall’s tree lighting is tomorrow, the lighting of the ship at Martin’s Park in the Seaport is this Saturday, and the Boston Common tree — which arrives tomorrow — will be lit next Thursday, Nov. 30.