STATE CAPITOL BRIEFS - AFTERNOON EDITION - WEDNESDAY, AUG. 13, 2014

STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE

PATRICK SIGNS JOBS BILL, VETOES PORTIONS OF IT

Gov. Deval Patrick signed into law Wednesday an economic development bill that suspends the sales tax this upcoming weekend, Aug. 16-17, in a bid to boost retail sales. Patrick vetoed some measures in the bill, including a tax exemption for Broadway-bound theater productions and a special development designation for the towns of Stoughton and Avon. Patrick also sent back with a study amendment a provision that would have provided a tax exemption for angel investors, who provide early funding to startups. Secretary of Housing and Economic Development Greg Bialecki said angel investing is "very strong in Massachusetts" and said the administration is focused on filling in gaps in the economy. - [Developing] | - A. Metzger/SHNS

NOMINEES CONFIRMED FOR APPEALS, SUPERIOR COURT SLOTS

Gregory Massing, who is currently the executive director of the Rappaport Center for Law and Public Service at Suffolk University Law School, will be sworn in as an Appeal Court judge. Massing, 54, was unanimously approved by the Governor's Council Wednesday, after he was nominated last month by Gov. Deval Patrick to fill the seat vacated by the elevation of Justice Geraldine Hines to the state Supreme Judicial Court.


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Massing has experience in the Massachusetts Attorney General's Office, the Essex County District Attorney's Office, the Committee on Public Counsel Services, and a private law firm in Boston, Laredo & Smith. From 2007 to 2011, he was general counsel at the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security. During his confirmation hearing last week, Massing said he wants to serve on the Appeals Court because he is passionate about the ideals of the law. The council also unanimously approved Rockland Attorney Gregg Pasquale to become a Superior Court judge. Pasquale is a partner at Pasquale & White, where he practices medical malpractice litigation representing patients and their families. He has also represented the Commonwealth in first degree murder cases as an assistant district attorney and as a private attorney defended insurance companies. "I believe that broad experience gives me qualifications to sit on the bench," he said last Wednesday during his confirmation hearing. Pasquale was an assistant district attorney in Middlesex County from 1985 to 1991. He graduated from Boston College and received his law degree from Boston College Law School. - C. Quinn/SHNS

HUGHES: DEMS' ANSWERS ON TAX QUESTIONS "FRIGHTENING"

Massachusetts voters in 2010 rejected an initiative petition that would have cut the sales tax rate to 3 percent after the Legislature and Gov. Deval Patrick in 2009 raised that tax from 5 percent to 6.25 percent. With that history as a backdrop, Massachusetts Republicans this week pounced on Democrat Don Berwick's failure during a Sunday morning talk show to accurately state the current sales tax rate - Berwick said he was "not sure" and then guessed 3 percent. Republican Party chair Kirsten Hughes on Tuesday compared Berwick's response to Martha Coakley's guess back in May on the same program that the gas tax was 10 cents, after lawmakers and Patrick raised it in 2013 to 24 cents. A Coakley aide at the time said she "made a mistake" and a Berwick aide this week told the News Service that he "misspoke" on the Sunday show. "Not knowing our state's gas tax and sales tax communicates that these two gubernatorial candidates are not aware of the real issues that are facing each taxpayer here in the Commonwealth," Hughes said in a statement. Berwick on Sunday touted himself as a bolder alternative to Coakley and Treasurer Steven Grossman, emphasizing his opposition to casinos, support for single payer health care, and plans to tackle poverty. Asked about his low poll numbers, compared to Coakley and Grossman, Berwick claimed to have the "largest field operation in the state" and said he had 2,000 volunteers working for him. "This is pretty much what I expected," he said. "The general public's attention isn't yet on this campaign. We're getting ready for the last couple of weeks before the election. That'll be when the attention rises, when we would be able to go up on TV and I think voters will tune in then." - M. Norton/SHNS

PATRICK SIGNS ENVIRONMENTAL BOND BILL

Gov. Deval Patrick signed a $2.2 billion environmental bond bill Wednesday that supporters said is an investment for future generations. The four-year borrowing bill authorizes spending on environmental restoration, land conservation and urban agriculture. A tax incentive for land conservation would have its cap increased from $50,000 to $75,000 under the new law. The compromise bill provides funding for what officials have said would be a $65 million state contribution toward a $300 million project dredging Boston Harbor to allow larger ships to use terminals. New Bedford Harbor would also receive $35 million in state funding earmarked for a federal dredging project. Urban agriculture programs could see $8 million in funding and up to $111.2 million would be used to fund the cleanup and development of recreation areas in populous areas with limited access to parks. During a bill-signing ceremony at the State House, Patrick said he was proud to sign the legislation that would allow the state to have a "green future and a strong economy." Sen. Marc Pacheco, co-chair of the Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture Committee, said the bill authorizing investments in environmental projects "will truly be an investment in the air that we breathe, the water we drink, and the land that we walk on that produces the food that we all consumer here in this great Commonwealth of Massachusetts." The governor in his final term asked lawmakers to advance more than $20 billion in long-term borrowing bills and the proposals, while redrafted, were all shipped back to him to become laws. - C. Quinn/SHNS