By Jim Hand; January 4, 2018; The Sun Chronicle
Local lawmakers are expecting a busy year addressing volatile issues ranging from dealing with opiate addictions to providing services without much growth in revenue.
They said there may not be one dominant issue, but several large ones will occupy their time.
State Rep. Shawn Dooley, R-Norfolk, said his top priority will be to pass legislation following up on an anti-opiate law approved two years ago.
He said one of the provisions he is supporting would give a doctor the authority to hold a person in a hospital for 72 hours after they have recovered from an overdose.
It makes no sense to immediately release a person who obviously has a problem, he said.
“Giving the doctors this tool as an option will save lives because just releasing the addicted person with a paper telling them where they can get help is nonsense,” he said.
“This is an epidemic and we should be treating it as such. We can defeat this and save lives if we all are willing to work together and make the insurance companies and hospitals treat it as a health crisis.”
Dooley said another issue would be adjusting state tax laws to address a federal measure that limits deductions for property and state taxes on federal income taxes to $10,000.
State Rep. Betty Poirier, R-North Attleboro, said she expects budget issues to be prominent in the new year.
She said demand for services is increasing while revenue coming into state coffers is still not increasing at a pace that would be expected with a strong economy.
The Children’s Advocacy Center that serves Bristol County is just one of the many agencies she is concerned with, she said.
Meanwhile, rising health care costs are eating up more than 40 percent of the state budget, leaving less for everything else, she said.
“That’s really a big one,” she said.
One of the problems is that workers are leaving their company-provided health insurance to enroll in the less expensive Mass Health, shifting the burden to the state.
Gov. Charlie Baker had a proposal to tax businesses that do not insure enough of its employees, but the Legislature hasn’t adopted it.
While House representatives see a busy year ahead of them, nobody knows for sure what will happen in the Senate.
Senate President Stanley Rosenberg, D-Amherst, has stepped aside while his husband is investigated for sexual harassment and other charges.
Sen. Harriette Chandler, D-Worcester, is the acting president, and has mentioned health care, increased housing production and dealing with the loss of net neutrality on the Internet as priorities.
But, State Sen. Paul Feeney, D-Foxboro, said he does not know how the power shift in the Senate will impact the flow of legislation.
A number of other senators are looking at running to permanently replace Rosenberg. A major issue left over from last year that must be dealt with is the two different criminal justice bills passed by the House and Senate.
The Senate bill is considered more lenient on offenders and many House members are opposed to it.
A conference committee has to come up with a compromise between the two versions, but were unable to reach an agreement before the end of the year.
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