STATE CAPITOL BRIEFS - LUNCH EDITION - MONDAY, JUNE 23, 2014

STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE

SECOND JUROR EXCUSED IN PROBATION TRIAL, REPS CALLED AS WITNESSES

U.S. District Court Judge William Young excused a second juror from the state probation trial, bringing their numbers down to 14. Young on Monday told the remaining 12 jurors and two alternates that the juror was excused because the trial had run longer than earlier expected, and said, "I can't keep doing it." No specific reason was given. After defense attorneys questioned the motives of a potentially damaging prosecution witness, the government on Monday called West Boylston Rep. James O'Day and Clinton Rep. Hank Naughton to the witness stand as the trial headed into its eighth week. [Story Developing] - A. Metzger/SHNS

PATRICK: PASS INTERIM BUDGET BY WEDNESDAY

With next year's state budget still being negotiated in the Legislature, Gov. Deval Patrick has filed a temporary spending plan to keep state government running into the new fiscal year. While there's a possibility that legislative negotiators will strike a fiscal 2015 budget deal before the July 1 start of the new fiscal year, it's appearing less and less likely that a budget will be signed into law by that date since the governor has ten days to review the voluminous bill and announce any budget vetoes or amendments. The House on Monday sent to its Ways and Means Committee an interim budget that would authorize enough spending to maintain services through July 31 and facilitate local aid payments to any city or town that demonstrates an emergency cash shortfall, according to a letter to lawmakers from the governor. Patrick urged the Legislature to pass the interim budget by Wednesday. The governor proposed his fiscal 2015 budget in January. While there are differences to resolve, legislative leaders this year claimed many common areas of focus, including investments in mental health services and drug abuse treatment and increases in local aid to cities and towns. - M. Norton/SHNS

MIN WAGE BALLOT GROUP FOLDS, SAYS EFFORTS MADE "VICTORY" POSSIBLE

Raise Up Massachusetts, a group that had gathered signatures to put a minimum wage increase on the November ballot, said Monday they are ending their campaign. The group will continue to push for a ballot question guaranteeing earned sick time for workers. Their withdrawal of the minimum wage ballot question comes as Gov. Deval Patrick is expected to sign a House-Senate compromise setting the state's minimum wage at $11 per hour by 2017. The move would give Massachusetts the highest minimum wage in the country. "Increasing the minimum wage by 38%, as well as giving tipped workers a raise from $2.63 to $3.75 an hour plus tips, will help struggling families who deserve to be able to make a living in Massachusetts," Lew Finfer, co-chair of the group, said in a statement. "The grassroots effort of thousands of volunteers who collected signatures to qualify our ballot question made this victory possible, and our ballot question will no longer need to appear on the November ballot." The compromise bill included unemployment insurance reforms not sought by the ballot campaign, does not index the wage floor to inflation, which the ballot group had pushed for. The group said they had gathered 80,000 signatures for the final round of signatures, more than the 11,485 certified signatures needed to make it onto the ballot. The deadline to turn the signatures into local elections officials' offices was last Wednesday. - G. Dumcius/SHNS

GROSSMAN PUSHES COAKLEY TO RELEASE PARTNERS DEAL DETAILS

Treasurer Steve Grossman on Monday pressed gubernatorial rival Martha Coakley to release details of her tentative agreement with Partners Health Care, which allows the health care system to expand and take over Weymouth's South Shore Hospital. Coakley, the state's attorney general, announced the Partners deal on May 19, saying the accord caps cost increases through 2020 and limits physician growth for five years. The system is also prevented from further expanding into eastern Massachusetts and Worcester County for seven years. "As your office negotiates a deal allowing Partners Health Care to acquire South Shore Hospital in Weymouth and at least two other community hospitals, the Commonwealth and the country are watching closely to see if we can solve the critical challenge of cost control," Grossman wrote in a letter released by his campaign. "It is a challenge best solved through transparency and stakeholder input, not closed-door negotiations tainted in the eyes of many by the influences of a political campaign." Grossman added: "As you continue to negotiate in secrecy, we have heard plenty of generalities but seen few details. Even worse, the public has no voice or venue in which to respond and comment." Coakley should work with the Health Policy Commission to set up a public comment process, Grossman wrote. A coalition of health care systems - made up of Partners competitors Lahey Health Systems and Atrius Health, among others - has also raised concerns and called for public hearings on the settlement. Evan Falchuk, an independent candidate for governor, earlier this month said Coakley should release details. In a statement, Brad Puffer, a spokesman for the attorney general's office, said, "We are committed to a process that would allow for full transparency should a final resolution be reached short of litigation." - G. Dumcius/SHNS

STUDY: TAX CREDIT OVERHAUL COULD SPUR LIFE SCIENCES

With state officials heading to the international BIO convention in San Diego this week to tout Massachusetts as a leader in life sciences, a new report asserts that revised tax credits could help businesses here compete for market share with competitors like California. The Pioneer Institute study claims the $1 billion, ten-year law approved in 2008 to bolster the life sciences sector has created only 571 direct jobs and that Massachusetts is alone among the leading life sciences states in losing research and development market share between 2007 and 2011. Pioneer research director Greg Sullivan, the former state inspector general and former state representatives, called for an overhaul of tax credits available to the industry, saying the current credits are too narrowly drafted. "The life sciences only account for about one-third of company-funded R&D spending in Massachusetts," Sullivan said in a statement. "The initiative has not had a major impact overall, and most Massachusetts companies engaged in R&D are seeing no benefit at all from it." According to the report, the Legislature has appropriated $525 million to date for the life sciences initiative, but Massachusetts ranked thirteenth among the states in life sciences job growth between the first quarter of 2009 and the third quarter of 2013. Pioneer said other reports claiming higher levels of job growth in life sciences relied upon revised definitions to drop areas of the sector that incurred job losses. - M. Norton/SHNS