With One Eye On D.C., Lawmakers Take Up Alimony Reform, DNA Testing

By Sarah Birnbaum

Jul. 18, 2011

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

BOSTON — Massachusetts officials are keeping an eye on Washington, D.C. this week as President Obama and Congressional leaders race the clock to avoid defaulting on the U.S. debt. State lawmakers will also take up bills on alimony reform, post-conviction DNA testing and illegal immigration.

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick is warning of serious cash flow problems for the Bay State if the federal government fails to raise the U.S. debt ceiling and pay its bills. Patrick says Massachusetts counts on $200 million in federal funding each week. And if that money doesn't come through, he says, the state will not be able to meet its Medicaid and food assistance obligations for the state's poor.

Meanwhile, the Massachusetts' Congressional delegation is urging the President not to cut funding for Bay State teaching hospitals. These facilities could lose hundreds of millions of dollars as part of a deal to raise the debt ceiling.

On Beacon Hill, the Senate is expected to vote on a bill allowing defendants to obtain and test DNA evidence relating to their cases, even after they've been convicted. The bill would also require the state to keep DNA evidence in storage throughout a convict's sentence.

And the House is expected to debate a measure overhauling the state's alimony laws. The bill would end lifetime alimony payments in most cases and cap how much one ex spouse is ordered to pay the other. Plus, lawmakers wade back into the immigration controversy on Wednesday, when the Joint Committee on Higher Education holds a public hearing on a bill that would grant in state tuition rates to illegal immigrants.

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