Romney: Lawmakers Must Return for Session

By Dan Ring
The Republican [Massachusetts]
August 2, 2006

Boston - Gov. W. Mitt Romney yesterday urged the state Legislature to return to a formal session, saying lawmakers failed to complete a bill that authorizes the administration to borrow money and numerous capital programs and projects will be halted.

"We have projects under way that are going to have to be stopped," Romney said during a Statehouse press conference.

The bond bill included $10 million to establish a firefighter training center in Springfield and $25 million for a student center and college preparatory high school at Springfield Technical Community College.

Romney said employees at the state Division of Capital Asset Management will need to be laid off, new projects will be halted, including those at the University of Massachusetts and state and community colleges, and emergency repairs on state properties won't get done.

"Of course, the Legislature is going to have to come back," Romney said. "They're going to have to change their rules and come back in session and pass a bond bill."

Before finishing their formal sessions for the year at midnight Monday, legislators left several other major bills on the table, including welfare reform, boosting training and supervision for young drivers, extending the statute of limitations for child sex-abuse claims by 12 years, and requiring the state Department of Public Health to set specific nurse-to-patient ratios.

Sen. Stanley C. Rosenberg, president pro tempore, said yesterday it's possible legislators could adopt a special order to convene again in a formal session later this year to act on certain items.

Senate Minority Leader Brian P. Lees, R-East Longmeadow, said he agreed with Romney. "This is something that everyone understands we need," Lees said of the bond bill.

Rep. Thomas M. Petrolati, D-Ludlow, the speaker pro tempore, said he and other House leaders are expected to meet with Speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi to discuss the possibility of returning to formal session to vote on the bond bill.

The House at about 10 on Monday night approved the $1.2 billion bond bill, but the bill stalled in the Senate. The House substituted its bill for a Senate bill that authorized $400 million in borrowing.

Romney had filed his version of the bond bill - worth $950 million - in May 2005.

The House and the Senate now will have regular informal sessions each week, but just one member can block a bill during those sessions.

Bond bills also require a roll call vote in each chamber. Roll calls can only occur in formal sessions, which aren't scheduled to resume until January.

Some other key bills wouldn't need roll calls for final approval and could conceivably be passed during informal sessions.

Rep. Joseph F. Wagner, D-Chicopee, lead author of the teenage driving bill, said yesterday the two branches will attempt to approve a bill during informal meetings for increasing training and supervision requirements for the state's youngest drivers.

Wagner said there were several differences in the bills approved by the House and Senate. Wagner said House members objected to a provision in the Senate bill that would require all Massachusetts residents to have a driver's license or other form of personal identification to register a motor vehicle. Wagner said that provision was beyond the scope of a bill to improve teenage driving.

A bill to overhaul welfare still needs a final level of approval in each branch, Lees said. Romney would veto the bill if it's approved during informal sessions, killing it for the year unless legislators schedule a special formal meeting for an override.

During informal meetings, the House and the Senate could also agree on a compromise bill to extend the statute of limitations for child sex-abuse charges from 15 to 27 years, meaning a child would have until reaching 43 to report a crime. Both branches approved their own versions of the bill. But there was intense opposition in the House to the bill. It's possible one member could block the bill during informal meetings, Lees said.

The Senate never voted on a bill to restrict the number of patients assigned to nurses. The House voted 133-20 to approve the bill in late May.

The bill would start over in the legislative process in January.

"We won a battle but we fully expect the war to continue," said Paul D. Wingle, spokesman for the Massachusetts Hospital Association, which opposed the bill.

"It's unfortunate that this vital life-saving measure never got the full hearing it deserved," said Beth Piknick, a registered nurse on Cape Cod and president of the Massachusetts Nurses Association.


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