STATE CAPITOL BRIEFS - LUNCH EDITION - WEDNESDAY, MARCH 26, 2014

STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE

AUDIT FINDS MANAGEMENT DEFICIENCIES AT DCF

Describing a system with problems that could enable "risks to become realities," Auditor Suzanne Bump on Wednesday released findings of a two-year audit of the Department of Children and Families' foster care program that showed "significant management deficiencies." The audit, which spanned the period from July 2010 through September 2012, found the agency was "incompletely collecting and documenting key information relative to children and their foster placements," a reality that Bump's office said prevented the agency from monitoring its functions. Auditors found that DCF has not updated its department-wide risk assessment since 2008, was not ensuring that children are receiving the required seven-day medical screenings and 30-day medical examinations once they are placed in DCF custody, and maintained an incomplete record of the background checks it performed on some of the individuals living in foster homes. Bump reported that some of her recommendations for improvements at the agency are already being implemented. - M. Norton/SHNS

HOUSE BREATHES LIFE BACK INTO CHARTER SCHOOL BILL

House lawmakers Wednesday resurrected legislation that would lift the cap on charter school enrollment in underperforming school districts, adopting a new version of the bill and sending it to the House Ways and Means Committee. Rep. Alice Peisch, the co-chair of the Education Committee, offered an amendment to the bill Wednesday morning that allows more charter schools without addressing increases in reimbursements to traditional public schools that some lawmakers have demanded. The vote effectively moves the issue out of the Education Committee, which was unable to agree on a bill in the face of a biennial reporting deadline. Sonia Chang-Diaz, Senate co-chair of the Education Committee, and Rep. Russell Holmes offered a compromise over the weekend that would have tied annual increases in the cap to full reimbursement to local school districts that lose students to charter schools. Peisch and the Race to the Top Coalition, a group that has pushed for charter school expansion, opposed tying the enrollment cap to reimbursement. - C. Quinn/SHNS

BALLOT GROUP PRESSES FOR AMENDMENTS AHEAD OF HOUSE MIN WAGE DEBATE

Expecting debate on a minimum wage increase bill next week, supporters of a ballot question raising the wage floor lobbied at the State House on Wednesday, promoting amendments that would tie the minimum wage to inflation and give tipper workers a bigger raise. Lew Finfer of Raise Up Massachusetts said he expected House debate on a bill raising the minimum wage next Wednesday. The House is currently moving through its Ways and Means Committee a proposal that would raise the minimum wage to $10.50 an hour, from $8 an hour, over three years, while overhauling the unemployment insurance system without changing eligibility or benefits. According to Raise Up Massachusetts, its initiative petition would raised the tipped worker wage to $6.30 an hour. The Senate-approved bill raises the tipped wage to $5.50 an hour, the group said, while the House plan would increase it from $2.63 an hour to $3.75 an hour over three years. A spokesman for House Speaker Robert DeLeo confirmed the House plans to debate the minimum wage and unemployment insurance bill next Wednesday. - M. Norton/SHNS

FLANAGAN, CHANDLER TO JOIN KERRIGAN AT LG CAMPAIGN EVENT

Sen. Jennifer Flanagan of Leominster and Sen. Harriette Chandler of Worcester plan to join former Lancaster selectman Steve Kerrigan Wednesday night for a campaign event in Worcester. Worcester Mayor Joe Petty will also join Kerrigan, an aide to former Attorney General Tom Reilly and the late Sen. Edward Kennedy, at 5:30 at Coral Seafood. - M. Norton/SHNS