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Beacon Hill News and Roll Call

BAKER SAYS DEFICIT IS $765 MILLION

Gov. Charlie Baker said his aides have crunched the numbers and he projects a $765 million budget deficit for the current fiscal year that ends on June 30, 2015. This is considerably more than the $329 former Gov. Deval Patrick predicted prior to leaving office. The Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation's estimate is even higher. It recently predicted a $1 billion deficit. Baker has said he will not support any new taxes, tax hikes or local aid cuts to close the gap.

HOUSE REJECTS LOCAL AID GUARANTEE BY MARCH 15

House 38-118, rejected a rule requiring the House to annually adopt by March 15 resolutions stating the minimum amount of local aid that the Legislature will give to cities and towns for that year.

Supporters said that cities and towns often do not know how much local aid they will receive until the Legislature approves the state budget in July. They noted that most communities assemble their local budgets in March and can better prepare if they know how much local aid they will receive.

Opponents said the House Ways and Means Committee has not even crafted a budget proposal by March 15 and argued that minimum statutory increases in Chapter 70 Education Aid and the governor's budget, which precedes the House version, provide a good estimate to cities and towns. They said that being forced to set dollar figures for local aid too early can result in conservative estimates that are lower than what communities will actually receive.

Rep. Sheila Harrington voted in favor of this bill.

CANCER VICTIMS AND DRIVER'S LICENSE

The Senate approved and sent to the House a bill giving cancer patients who have lost their hair as a result of treatment a one-year extension on having a new photo taken for their driver's license. A Mass. driver's license photo must be updated every 10 years.

Supporters said it is unfair that cancer patients who have lost their hair are required to take a new photo while they are bald. They noted a picture of a bald cancer patient can be psychologically harmful because it is a constant reminder of their illness. They argued this compassionate bill would give them time to grow back their hair before taking a new photo.

CONCUSSION TRAINING

The House approved and sent to the Senate a proposal that would amend a current law requiring all public schools and private schools subject to Mass. Interscholastic Athletic Association rules to provide an annual mandatory training program about concussions and head injuries. The bill would require the same training in all charter and private schools.

The program would be mandatory for coaches, trainers, doctors, nurses, school marching band directors and parents of any child who participates in an extracurricular athletic activity.

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