STATE CAPITOL BRIEFS - LUNCH EDITION - THURSDAY, JUNE 19, 2014

STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE

AMID BIG GAINS, PENSION FUND SEES "COOLING MARKETS"

Like most other investment accounts, the state pension fund's balance rises and falls with the winds of the markets and over the past year it's posted a marked ascent. For the year ending April 30, the Massachusetts Pension Reserves Investment Management Trust balance was up 11.8 percent, representing an investment gain of $6.4 billion. The PRIT Fund ended April with a $59 billion balance. According to a report presented to the PRIM Board earlier this week, the fund, which is invested by a network of privately contracted companies, outperformed its core benchmark of 8.8 percent, equating to $1.7 billion in value above benchmark. The biggest returns over the past year came in private equity (27.1 percent), global equity (14.7 percent) and real estate (10.3 percent). Fund overseers reported that market volatility in January and February "subsided appreciably" in March and April and economic reports point to growth at "low levels." The fund, which is managed by State Treasurer Steven Grossman, is rebalancing its exposure to global equities and increasing investments in Treasury securities in an effort to improve performance in "cooling markets." According to the PRIT Fund executive director and senior investment officer Michael Trotsky's report, "At 62 months, the S&P 500 is very near (2 months away) its longest bull market run in 85 years, and we believe these changes will serve us well in the future." - M. Norton/SHNS

NO BUDGET YET, BUT BREWER SAYS TALKS ARE PROFESSIONAL

With just over ten days left until the start of the new fiscal year, a six-member conference committee charged with hammering out an annual budget has not yet come to an agreement. "Every dot, every comma has to be reconciled between the House and the Senate," Senate Ways and Means Committee Chairman Stephen Brewer told the News Service Thursday. "All little policies, and big policies, outside sections and numbers, all have to be. But everybody's working cooperatively, professionally and with a sense of the timeliness of this." The timing of the budget's release this year could influence other legislative affairs, since budget amendments and vetoes from Gov. Deval Patrick will be lumped in with other pressing matters in the weeks and days leading up to the end of formal sessions for the year on July 31. During non-election years, the Legislature takes a summer break and returns for formal sessions in the fall. But during election years, formal sessions and the opportunity to advance controversial matters or bills requiring roll call votes ends when August arrives. Next year's budget is expected to weigh in around the $36.4 billion mark. - G. Dumcius, M. Norton/SHNS

CHILD SEX ABUSE BILL ON FAST TRACK, SENATE VOTE PLANNED

A welfare reform compromise and bills extending child sex abuse statute of limitations in civil cases and requiring smoke detectors in homes when they're sold are on the Senate's agenda Thursday. The Senate is also expected to enact legislation raising the minimum wage (S 2195) and establishing a process to fix natural gas leaks, sending the bill to the governor's desk. The inclusion of a bill extending the statute of limitations for victims of child sexual assault to bring civil claims comes after the House voted unanimously on Wednesday in support of the bill (H 4126). The Senate convenes at 1 p.m. The welfare reform compromise was filed in two parts, with a policy bill (S 2211) and a $15 million appropriations bill (S 2212). "This has been long, very difficult and very aggressive negotiation for several months," Sen. Stephen Brewer (D-Barre) told the News Service on Thursday. "We believe this conference committee report will provide opportunities for people to get off of welfare, to get into meaningful reintegration." Brewer added: "I don't think you ever eliminate fraud but I think you need to lessen the opportunity." Brewer said Department of Transitional Assistance Commissioner Stacey Monahan has made "some great progress in this regard." Sen. Robert Hedlund (R-Weymouth) opposes the bill, saying it represents a "lost opportunity" to tackle systemic problems. The other bills on the Senate Thursday agenda include legislation on abandoned animals (S 942), agricultural products transportation (S 1635), dual rear vehicles (S 1687), hunting practices (S 1948), thermal energy (S 1970), mental health treatment (H 3704) and shark fins (H 4088). - G. Dumcius/SHNS

IN COURT, REP. GOBI ELABORATES ON DeLEO'S 2008 OFFER

Quizzed about an opportunity she was given by Rep. Robert DeLeo, during his days as Ways and Means chairman, to recommend someone for a state job in Clinton, Rep. Anne Gobi deflected a question about whether she has a sense of loyalty for DeLeo, who is now the speaker. "I don't know as far as loyalty. I consider him a good person . . . if that's considered loyalty," Gobi offered. She said, "My boss are my constituents. He's not my boss." In the spring of 2008, DeLeo offered the Spencer Democrat a chance to recommend someone for a job at the probation department's electronic monitoring program in Clinton, Gobi testified in the trial of three former probation officials. Three former probation officials are on trial for allegedly rigging the hiring system and bribing lawmakers with jobs to dole out. Gobi recommended that Matt Cipriani get a job at the electronic monitoring facility, and he was hired. "I thought that person would get an interview," said Gobi, who said it was "common practice" for lawmakers to tell one another about job openings they heard about, and said she "didn't know anything about" DeLeo offering the chance to make a recommendation to other lawmakers. Gobi also said she did not know about former Speaker Salvatore DiMasi's legal troubles in the spring of 2008 and did not know DeLeo would try to succeed him until much closer to the January 2009 vote to make DeLeo speaker. Gobi, who is running for an open Senate seat and chairs the Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture, said her relationship with DeLeo is "just like any other colleague, I would say." DiMasi's troubles and competition for the speakership between DeLeo and Rep. John Rogers were subjects of extensive media coverage during 2008. - A. Metzger/SHNS