STATE CAPITOL BRIEFS - WEDNESDAY, JULY 9, 2014

STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE

REAL ESTATE GROUP KNOCKS DEAL ON RETAINAGE RATES

A late-session push from subcontractors and general contractors for a bill lowering retainage rates on private construction projects drew cheers from some top lawmakers but jeers from a prominent real estate group. On Tuesday, Associated Subcontractors of Massachusetts and the Associated General Contractors of Massachusetts announced they had resolved longstanding differences and reached agreement on legislation reducing the amount of money held back by project owners on certain private sector construction projects to assure that work is satisfactorily completed. They pitched as a compromise new legislation that lays out a timeline and process for closing out payments on projects with values above $3 million while bringing retainage amounts on private construction projects over $3 million down to 5 percent from the current practice of 10 percent. In a letter to senators, Monica Lawton of ASM and Robert Petrucelli of AGC said 10 percent "is too much and it's held too long, which can create serious cash flow problems." But Greg Vasil, president of the Greater Boston Real Estate Board, said the two groups had only shared conceptual ideas with some of the key parties who make real estate projects happen. "They never clued in the owners, bankers or architects," Vasil told the News Service.


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After he had an opportunity to review the bill, Vasil offered, "As an organization we are disappointed in both the generals and subs. They feel like the Legislature has given them the keys to the Kingdom to do what they want." Asked if there were specific aspects of the bill the real estate trade group liked or disliked, Vasil questioned the need for a law since the provisions in the bill can be executed in a construction contract and wondered about safeguards for owners in the event of faulty work. - M. Norton/SHNS

SENATE APPROVES BILL CREATING WARNING SYSTEM AT BEACHES

The Senate on Tuesday approved a bill calling for a uniform warning and safety flag system at beaches maintained by the state Department of Conservation and Recreation. The legislation (S 2247) also gives cities and towns with jurisdiction over a public beach the option of adopting the program, according to a summary of the legislation released by the Senate Ways and Means Committee. The bill was originally filed by Sen. Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester) and cleared the Joint Committee on the Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture in May 2013. Anthony Harrison, the father of a 2-year-old girl who was swept out to sea in Rockport, pressed lawmakers for the bill's passage at a public hearing last year, saying her life could have been saved if there was a flag system signifying ocean conditions. His brother, David Harrison, said beachgoers could exercise increased caution if they saw flags showing heavy surf or riptides. - G. Dumcius/SHNS

SENATE EYES BOND PROGRAM FOR COMMERCIAL ENERGY PROJECTS

MassDevelopment would establish a bond program to facilitate sustainable energy projects on commercial and industrial properties under legislation being readied for a state Senate vote. The Senate late Tuesday introduced a Senate Ways and Means Committee proposal authorizing the bonds, which would be secured by a pledge of revenue from betterment assessments. According to a summary of the bill, which could surface for a floor vote on Thursday, municipalities in Massachusetts would have the option of participating in the commercial sustainable energy program, with commercial and industrial property owners in participating municipalities allowed to participate in the program. Property owners requesting participation in the program would need to obtain approval from the Department of Energy Resources after officials there consider whether cost savings over the life of the improvements exceed the cost of the improvements. The bill (S 2255) is based on legislation filed by Sen. Brian Joyce that was discharged in February by the Economic Development Committee to the Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy, which favorably recommended its version of the bill in May. - M. Norton/SHNS

RETIRING BROCKTON REP GETS TAUNTON PASTOR POST

Rep. Christine Canavan will soon begin her post-legislative life as the pastor of Trinity United Methodist Church in Taunton. The Brockton Democrat announced in January she would leave both the House seat she's represented since 1992, as well as the Catholic Church, to study divinity and join the Methodist ministry. "It all happened earlier than expected but my studies will continue for licensing by the Church. Jesus has been using me for decades in places I never thought I would be. Never under estimate His plan for you!!" Canavan wrote on Facebook last week. Canavan said in January she prayed for a sign from Jesus before deciding to retire and interpreted the candidacy of Republican Colleen Maloney as a divine sign. Sunday service at Trinity United begins at 10 a.m. - M. Deehan/SHNS

FORMER GARDNER REP CHALLENGES SENATOR IN DUAL WRITE-IN RACE

After failing to win back his old House seat in 2012, former Republican Rep. Richard Bastien plans to challenge Sen. Jennifer Flanagan this fall, but neither candidate will be on the ballot for their respective parties' primaries on September 9. Bastien announced Wednesday he'll run a write-in campaign for the Worcester and Middlesex District seat Flanagan has held since 2009. The Leominster Democrat ran into problems filing campaign documents in April and failed to qualify for the ballot and has mounted a write-in or sticker campaign to retain her seat. Bastien represented the Second Worcester House District in the 2011-2012 session before being defeated by Rep. Jonathan Zlotnik and now works as a teacher and retail clerk. Bastien attempted to mount a comeback against Zlotnik this year, but failed to gather enough signatures to qualify for the House election. Neither the Democratic or Republican Party has put forward an official candidate for the Senate race, so the primary ballots will both be write-in only. "With Sen. Flanagan not being on the ballot, a lot of people have reached out to me and contacted me about running," Bastien told the News Service Wednesday. "It's a bit quirky but it's definitely something we're looking forward to putting a ground game on and get going on," Bastien said of the rare dual write-in election. - M. Deehan/SHNS