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The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

Legislative Update — 189th Session of the General Court

To:
Members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education
From:
Mitchell D. Chester, Ed.D., Commissioner
Date:
February 13, 2015

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The 189th Session of the General Court (the Massachusetts Legislature) began on January 7, 2015. Generally, a two-year legislative session follows the same pattern as past sessions based upon statutory deadlines. In past sessions, committee chairs were appointed in late January or early February. Although Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz has been appointed Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Education already this session, the House Chair has not yet been appointed.

Most bills relating to the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education will be assigned to the Joint Committee on Education. Last year, 312 bills were assigned to that committee. Our staff will monitor all pertinent bills and provide regular updates.

Although the Governor can file a bill at any time during a session, this session's bill filing deadline was January 16, 2015 for legislators and citizens. According to the House and Senate clerks, 5,333 bills in all were filed before the deadline for this session. House lawmakers filed 3,450 bills and Senate members filed 1,883 bills. Most of these bills will likely die in committee. More than half are bills that have been re-filed after failing to win passage in the 2013-2014 legislative session.

Bills are first assigned docket numbers when filed and later receive bill numbers. They are then assigned by clerks to legislative committees for public hearings and review. Most proposals for the two-year session are submitted by the deadline but others will be filed late, sometimes in response to a public policy crisis.

Every timely-filed bill (by deadline) must have a public hearing. Bill hearings begin about a month after Chair appointments and run until March of the second year of a session.

State Budget Process - Overview

In the first year of a legislative session (as we are in now), the Governor's budget is called House 1. In the second year of a legislative session, it is House 2. The Massachusetts fiscal year begins July 1.

General Timeline:

  • July-October: Agency spending plans present the Governor with each agency's estimates of current fiscal year's spending and revenue based on the enacted budget, project how much the agency will need to maintain programs at current levels, and include new funding requests for the coming year to the Executive Office of Administration and Finance (ANF)
  • October/November: ANF reviews budgets submitted by the departments and makes recommendations to Governor
  • December: House and Senate Ways and Means Committees with ANF conduct a consensus revenue hearing to project the next fiscal year's revenues
  • January: Executive branch releases its initial forecast of tax and other revenues for the coming fiscal year
  • January: Governor and Legislature agree on revenue forecast to be used for legislative budget making for the coming year
  • Late January (except first year of first term): Governor files House 1 or House 2. In the first year of a first term, the deadline is 8 weeks from the convening of the General Court - which this year is March 4
  • April: House budget is released mid-week in the week before April school vacation, and debated the week after school vacation
  • May: Senate budget is released mid-week the 3rd week in May and debated the last week in May (Senate debate ends the Friday of Memorial Day weekend)
  • June/July: A conference committee made up of 3 members of the House and 3 members of the Senate convenes to rectify differences between the two budgets, and both houses enact the same final bill: the conference committee report
  • June/July: The Governor has line-item veto power and must act on the bill, or return it with any vetoes to the Legislature, within ten days
  • June-September: The General Court can override the Governor's vetoes with a two-thirds majority in both chambers. Under Joint Rule 12B, all overrides must be taken up by the end of the annual session. This rule can be suspended by the Legislature to ensure that vetoes can be taken up after the close of the annual session
  • July: the fiscal year ends June 30. If a budget approval is later than June 30, a "1/12" (one month) or "1/26" (two week) budget authorization called a supplemental budget keeps government running


Last Updated: February 17, 2015
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