BORROW $5 BILLION FOR STATE PROJECTS

By Bob Katzen

The Senate approved, on a voice vote without a roll call vote, a $5 billion bond bill that borrows money for hundreds of construction projects—the majority involving maintenance and modernization projects of buildings related to health care, higher education, information technology, workforce development, the environment and affordable housing. Many of the buildings are decades old. The Senate added millions of dollars during consideration of the package. A key provision imposes a five-year moratorium on any prison or jail construction in Massachusetts.

“We need a five-year pause on new jail and prison construction and prison expansion to ensure that the pathways away from incarceration for women and for men, pathways that the House and Senate helped create, are being justly used and often used, “said Sen. Jo Comerford (D-Northampton).

“These investments will kickstart important projects related to buildings, infrastructure, pollution mitigation, broadband services and more, providing incalculable benefits to the residents of Massachusetts,” said Senate President Karen Spilka (D-Ashland).

“Today’s passage of the [bill] will support a strong future for our commonwealth through critical infrastructure and information technology investments in areas like public higher education, cybersecurity, state building decarbonization and much more,” said Sen. Michael Rodrigues (D -Westport), Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means.

“This legislation represents the Senate’s commitment to ensuring that our commonwealth’s institutions are modernized while continuing to responsibly steward our state’s fiscal health and strengthening our reputation as a good place to do business.” said Sen. Nick Collins (D-Boston), Senate Chair of the Committee on Bonding, Capital Expenditures and State Assets.

There were 174 amendments filed by members, many of which were offered by legislators for projects in their own district. Members pitched their amendments behind closed doors. In the end, there was debate on only a few individual amendments while most were bundled into two mega-consolidated amendments and approved or rejected on a voice vote without a roll call. The “Yes” mega-amendments included 127 amendments while the “No” ones included 18 amendments.

The House passed its own version of the package on May 19. A House-Senate conference committee will likely hammer out a compromise version that will then be sent to the governor.

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