STATE CAPITOL BRIEFS - LUNCH EDITION - WEDNESDAY, JUNE 18, 2014

STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE

IN SUPERPAC DISCLOSURE BILL, PANEL PROPOSES DOUBLING CONTRIBUTIONS

As forecast weeks ago, the Committee on Election Laws was voting Wednesday on a bill that would require super PACs to publicly disclose the source of their funding. Committee members have added to their proposal an increase in individual annual campaign contribution limits to a candidate from $500 to $1,000. The bill to shed light on outside spending in campaigns by independent groups would require any corporation, labor union or other entity to disclose expenditures in statewide, county or local races and the sources of their funding within seven days. The top five donors to an independent expenditure group would also have to be listed in the group's TV advertisement or newspaper advertisement, according to a summary of the bill. The legislation is a response to the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision that opened the floodgates for outside spending in political races. Independent expenditure groups spent millions last year in the Boston mayoral race, with the source of the money - unions that backed former Rep. Martin Walsh - going undisclosed until well after Election Day. The bill would also free statewide candidates to use their campaign accounts to make donations to other candidates in Massachusetts, so long as they are not receiving public financing.


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Republican gubernatorial candidate Charles Baker has long criticized the individual campaign contributions limits, arguing that the system protects incumbents and makes it particularly hard for Republicans to compete in the heavily Democratic state. Another Supreme Court decision in April struck down aggregate federal campaign contribution limits, and the Office of Campaign and Political Finance said the ruling would apply to the state's aggregate limits of $12,500, or maximum contributions to 25 candidates for statewide and district offices. The proposed bill would codify the elimination of aggregate contribution limits in Massachusetts. Committee members have until 5 p.m. Wednesday to vote on the bill. - M. Murphy/SHNS

COMMITTEE BILL INCLUDES PATH FOR HOUSING AUTHORITY TAKEOVERS

Under a bill that emerged Wednesday from a legislative committee, the state Department of Housing and Community Development would be directed to set up standards for "chronically poor performing" local housing authorities and given the power to take over local authorities if they don't meet the goals. DHCD would also be directed to create guidelines for executive director contracts with the power to review and approve compensation terms, and to conduct annual anonymous resident surveys, provide mandatory training for housing authority board members, and set up a centralized application and waitlist for public housing, according to the Joint Housing Committee bill. Local housing authorities would have to set up a website outlining board member contact information and participate in an annual audit by an independent auditor that would be posted online. The bill also calls for three regional capital planning and project management staffs and systems, with each one serving 70 local housing authorities. The bill advanced out of the committee co-chaired by Sen. James Eldridge (D-Acton) and Rep. Kevin Honan (D-Boston) with a unanimous vote. The bill differs significantly from Gov. Deval Patrick's bill (H 44), which was filed in response to a Chelsea Housing Authority scandal that had its executive director, Michael McLaughlin, illegally underreporting an excessive salary. Patrick's bill set up six regional housing entities. "We did not think that was local enough," Honan said on Wednesday. Eldridge said the Housing Committee bill allows for housing authorities to regionalize if they choose to do so. Thomas Connelly, the executive director of the Massachusetts chapter of the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials (MassNAHRO), called the bill "bold and innovative." "It's going to make us even better, more efficient and more accountable," he said. Gov. Patrick said Wednesday he did not want to comment on the bill until he read it. - G. Dumcius, M. Murphy/SHNS

SPENCER DEM JUGGLES BUSY WEDNESDAY CALENDAR

Wednesday is turning into a memorable day for Rep. Anne Gobi. The state representative from Spencer, who is running this year for the seat that Sen. Stephen Brewer of Barre is relinquishing, was in the thick of things to say the least. She was scheduled to join her colleagues, including several Republicans, at a rally and press conference outside the State House on the topic of pending legislation to address gun violence, which has drawn objections from legal gun owners. Gobi also has on her schedule a formal House session where votes are expected on legislation raising the $8 an hour minimum wage to $11 an hour and making juvenile murderers eligible for parole, a bill drafted in response to a court ruling. But Gobi didn't make the rally and was instead is hanging out at the Joseph Moakley Courthouse where she may be called to the witness stand in the weeks-long trial of three former probation officials accused of running a rigged hiring system that catered to job candidates sponsored by lawmakers in exchange for currying favor with the Legislature, which appropriates funding for the public safety agency. At the courthouse, Gobi offered no comment on Wednesday morning. - M. Norton, A. Metzger/SHNS