A day after the bill suddenly emerged and cleared the House, the Senate on Thursday unanimously approved legislation that sets nurse staffing ratios in intensive care units within Massachusetts hospitals. If the bill reaches Gov. Deval Patrick and is signed into law before July 2, the proponents of two proposed ballot questions are expected to drop their campaigns. One ballot initiative would set nurse staffing ratios in different hospital units, and the other would regulate CEO compensation, annual operating margins and financial asset disclosures of hospitals and other facilities. Several senators credited Majority Leader Stan Rosenberg for brokering the agreement on the bill, although Sen. Mark Montigny also added that he did not believe the legislation would have materialized without the threat of a potential ballot law. The bill sets up patient-nurse ratios of one nurse to one patient, or one nurse to two patients, "depending on the stability of the patient as assessed by the acuity tool and by the staff nurses in the unit, including the nurse manager or the nurse manager's designee when needed to resolve a disagreement." The Health Policy Commission would regulate the implementation of the proposed law, including the formulation of the "acuity tool", the method of public reporting of staffing compliance in hospital ICUs, and the identification of three to five patient safety quality indicators. - M. Norton/SHNS


With top House and Senate negotiators reporting cooperative talks and the likelihood of agreement soon on a fiscal 2015 spending bill, the House on Thursday afternoon adjourned for the week. But the House scheduled a rare formal session on Monday, the latest signal that a budget deal could be finalized soon. Monday is June 30, the eve of the new fiscal year. The House and Senate on Thursday sent Gov. Deval Patrick a $4.6 billion interim budget to keep government running while they work out the details on an annual spending bill that's been the focus of legislative attention over the first six months of 2014. Arguing for the interim budget, Senate Ways and Means Chairman Stephen Brewer said negotiators are "very close" to an agreement on a full-year budget bill. House and Senate conference committee members are working "harmoniously," Brewer said, noting the last three annual budget conference committees reached agreements on or shortly before June 30. Without getting into specifics, Brewer acknowledged some difficulties in reaching an agreement. "We are operating harmoniously with the House, having conversations literally hourly on inside sections, outside sections, policy issues, technical issues and getting very close," he said. "As any conference committee, it's highly complicated. Sometimes things can hold things up a little bit. It is our intention and our expectation to meet deadlines for the fiscal year as we have done the last three budgets in a row." The Senate approved the interim budget 37-1 and the branches moved that bill to Gov. Deval Patrick's desk just after 2 p.m. on Thursday. - M. Norton/SHNS