STATE CAPITOL BRIEFS - AFTERNOON EDITION - FRIDAY, MARCH 7, 2014

STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE

CONNECTOR APPLICATION BACKLOG SHRINKING

New applications for subsidized health insurance coverage are flooding into the Massachusetts Health Connector at a rate of nearly 2,000 a day as officials rush to clear the backlog of paper and electronic applications before the end of open enrollment on March 31. Sarah Iselin, special assistant to Gov. Deval Patrick in charge of overseeing the Connector website fix, said Friday morning that over the past month the backlog of applications waiting to be processed has been whittled from 72,000 to 43,000. In her weekly briefing to update the public on the progress being made, Iselin said 17,000 applications have been processed since last Thursday as 6,000 more have come in to the Connector, and an additional 14,000 residents have been moved into temporary coverage, bringing the total to 62,000 with health insurance but still awaiting placement in their final plans. Iselin did not have an update on the long-term plan to fix the Connector's website, and said officials would likely have a better idea of the cost of providing temporary coverage when she briefs the Health Connector board next week. Connector Executive Director Jean Yang said negotiations with insurers are ongoing but could be wrapped up within the next two days for the extension of existing, non-Affordable Care Act plans through June 30 for subsidized Commonwealth Care members. - M. Murphy/SHNS

LAW NOW SPECIFICALLY BANS "UPSKIRTING"

Gov. Deval Patrick on Friday morning said he had signed a bill rushed to his desk outlawing people from secretly photographing up a woman's skirt or other similarly invasive acts. There was a brief window - from Wednesday morning until Friday morning - when such activity was deemed not specifically against the law by the Supreme Judicial Court. The Legislature quickly crafted and passed a bill they say will close the loophole highlighted by the court, enacting a bill Thursday that attaches jail and prison time depending on whether the act was committed against a child. On his way into a Cabinet meeting, Patrick told reporters he had signed the bill into law. Asked if he was surprised how fast the bill was passed, Patrick said, "It shows they can do it when they want to." - A. Metzger/SHNS

CAPE COD BUDGET FORUM RESCHEDULED

Senate President Therese Murray's planned budget forum with Sen. Dan Wolf has been rescheduled from Friday, March 7, to March 21, at 2:30 p.m. The House will be taking up the budget in late April, before the annual spending bill moves to the Senate. The forum will be held at Harbor View Meeting Room, Barnstable County Complex, 3195 Main St., Barnstable. - A. Metzger/SHNS