No Budget Here, Right-To-Repair Returns

By Sarah Birnbaum

June 27, 2011

A view of the State House in Boston. (Philocrites/Flickr)

BOSTON — This week on Beacon Hill, Massachusetts state budget talks continue behind closed doors, the state Board of Education considers an overhaul of teacher evaluations and lobbyists renew a battle on the so-called “right to repair” bill.

It appears Massachusetts will head into the new fiscal year without a budget. Closed-door talks between the House and Senate are bogged down. Negotiators refuse to speak publicly about their differences, but one sticking point could be a provision weakening municipal employees’ ability to bargain over their health care benefits. Lawmakers are expected to vote later Monday on a stopgap spending measure that would keep government running through the second week of July, when they hope to have a new budget in place.
On Tuesday, the Massachusetts Board of Education is expected to adopt a controversial teacher evaluation system. The new process will rely partly on student test scores to determine which teachers are most and least effective. Under the plan, teachers whose students show progress on tests would be rewarded, while those with poorly performing students could eventually be fired. 

Also on Tuesday, a furious debate returns to the State House. There’s a public hearing on a bill that would give independent auto mechanics access to repair data from car dealerships. It might sound routine, but powerful corporations have been throwing hundreds of thousands of lobbying dollars at both sides of the issue. Supporters say the bill would allow consumers to get their cars fixed at local mom-and-pop mechanics, instead of having to go back to the dealership, where tune-ups can be costly. But opponents of the bill, including some of the world’s largest car makers, say it would give auto parts companies access to trade secrets, allowing them to manufacture knock-off parts in China.   

Also this week, Robert Caret takes the helm of the University of Massachusetts from departing president Jack Wilson, and lawyers for the convicted ex-Speaker Sal DiMasi are expected to file their appeal, and a motion to dismiss the verdict.

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