STATE CAPITOL BRIEFS - MONDAY, MARCH 3, 2014

STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE

HOUSE POISED TO MOVE ANOTHER BORROWING BILL THROUGH

House members have until Tuesday at 5 p.m. to file amendments for a capital repairs bond bill teed up for a debate and vote on Wednesday. The House Ways and Means Committee, which drafted the latest version of the bill (H 3920) and is charged with vetting bills with fiscal implications, was unable to provide the bottom-line cost of the bill. The bill includes $354 million for state-owned and former county facilities, $25 million for improving accessibility to state facilities, and $150 million for public library projects. Bond bills authorize, but do not mandate spending by the executive branch, and lawmakers generally tack on amendments earmarking funding for favored projects in their districts. The Legislature, which spent much of last year debating, passing and then partially repealing a tax bill, has several borrowing bills before it, including a housing bill that became law in November and a transportation bond bill, which is marked for Senate debate on Thursday. The capital repairs bond bill includes $90.4 million in funding to municipalities for cultural and recreational properties, including $3 million for improvements to the Orpheum Theater in New Bedford, $10 million for a State Police helicopter, and $28.2 million for the Sisters of Providence Health System nursing facility in Montague, as long as the facility provides 70 percent of its beds for medically involved, mentally ill people. - A. Metzger/SHNS

BERWICK CLAIMS ENOUGH SUPPORT FOR BALLOT

Former Obama administration official Don Berwick is claiming enough support from Democratic activists to appear on the September ballot among the field of Democrats running for governor. Berwick's campaign reported Monday that after this weekend's party caucuses, his campaign has secured more than the 15 percent of elected delegates needed to qualify for the ballot. "Thanks to the strong grassroots support at caucuses throughout the Commonwealth, we have secured the elected delegates necessary to ensure ballot access," campaign spokesman Leigh Appleby said in a statement. "Momentum is on Don's side leading up to the convention, and we fully expect to be on the ballot." Berwick's campaign says a plurality of seated delegates remain undecided while claiming 20 percent of elected delegates support the Newton Democrat. There are five Democrats - Joseph Avellone, Martha Coakley, Steven Grossman, Juliette Kayyem and Berwick - running for the party's nomination for governor. The convention is June 14 in Worcester. - M. Norton/SHNS

REPORT CALLS FOR MORE PROGRESS ON GREENHOUSE GASES

Without changes, Massachusetts will fall 5 percentage points short of its goal to drop greenhouse gas emissions 25 percent below 1990 levels by the year 2020, a group of environmentalists predicted Monday. Greenhouse gas emissions, such as carbon dioxide and methane, are viewed by scientists as a cause of climate change. Gov. Patrick has touted the growth of solar panels and wind turbines, while seeking to import Canadian hydroelectricity and the construction of Cape Wind, a turbine project in Nantucket Sound. A scorecard released Monday by the Global Warming Solutions Project measured the state's performance against goals set out by the 2008 Global Warming Solutions Act. The scorecard found the state had performed better in some areas - such as the planned closure of two coal plants and the development of a thermal heating market - while falling short in others - such as the import of clean energy and mileage reduction for drivers. The study recommended that state government "expedite implementation" of a mileage reduction program, and that the Department of Environmental Protection "follow California's lead" and reduce leakage of greenhouse gases from refrigeration systems, which it described as one of the largest "non-energy" sources of greenhouse gases. Environmentalists also recommended adopting a new "stretch" energy code that municipalities could use, cutting methane leakage from the natural gas distribution system, and codifying efforts to increase bicycling, walking and transit usage. - A. Metzger/SHNS