DeLeo plunks opioid, education funding bills on House agenda

  • House Speaker Robert DeLeo told reporters his chamber’s plans for the week after meeting Monday with Gov. Charlie Baker and Senate President Harriette Chandler. STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE PHOTO

State House News Service
Published: 7/9/2018 8:43:40 PM

BOSTON — Education and opioid bills are on the House’s agenda for this week, Speaker Robert DeLeo said Monday.

The House scheduled three formal sessions this week and on Tuesday is set to take up an economic development bill.

After meeting with Gov. Charlie Baker and Senate President Harriette Chandler Monday afternoon, DeLeo sketched out more of his chamber’s plans, adding the latest version of Gov. Charlie Baker’s opioid bill and legislation “relative to the school budget situation” to the list.

The opioid bill will not include language sought by Baker that would enable medical professionals to involuntarily hold patients whose substance use disorder is likely to cause serious harm, DeLeo said.

“It’s his bill, I’m not saying it’s the exact same bill that’s going to come out, but many of his items I’m sure will be in that legislation,” DeLeo told reporters, later adding, “I said many. I didn’t say all.”

Baker has frequently cited the bill, aimed at combating the deadly opioid epidemic, as one of his two priorities in the waning days of the legislative session, along with a housing bill.

Baker had originally proposed a 72-hour involuntary hold in 2015, and lawmakers ultimately rejected it. He put forward a new version of the idea in the bill he filed last November.

A redraft endorsed by the Mental Health, Substance Use and Recovery Committee in May included the hold along with provisions allowing the overdose-reversal drug Narcan to be available by standing order at pharmacies and requiring hospitals to be equipped to administer opioid agonist treatment like buprenorphine.

The path the House will take on education funding is not yet clear. DeLeo said the House plans to take up a “foundation budget review” bill.

A 2015 report from the Foundation Budget Review Commission found the current school funding formula underestimates the cost of education by $1 billion to $2 billion per year, driven largely by health care and special education costs.

The Senate in May unanimously passed a bill that would task lawmakers and the Office of Administration and Finance with annually determining their schedule for fulfilling the commission’s recommendations.

More than 97 members of the 160-seat House signed onto a June letter asking DeLeo, House Ways and Means Chairman Jeffrey Sanchez and Rules Committee Chairman William Galvin to bring the Senate bill to the floor for a vote, according to the Massachusetts Education Justice Alliance.

The alliance plans a demonstration on Thursday, in which participants are asked to dress in 90s-style clothes to highlight “how outdated the Foundation Budget formula is.” Established by the 1993 education reform law, the foundation budget refers to a school district’s required level of spending to deliver an adequate education, and it is a main factor in determining the level of state aid a district receives.

A DeLeo spokeswoman said the bill the House plans to take up is one that Rep. Alice Peisch has been working on, and it will be based on a bill the Wellesley Democrat filed last January. The original bill would create a “data advisory committee to promote the improved use of school-level data to inform effective resource allocation decisions at the local level.”

Asked Monday what the bill would look like, Peisch told the News Service, “We shall see” and said she hoped to have something ready to share “in the next day or two.”

The House’s Tuesday session is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m., with recorded votes beginning at 1:30 p.m. after a Democratic caucus. Representatives have filed more than 200 amendments to the economic development bill.


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