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Several High Profile Bills Untouched As Legislative Session Nears End

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(Photo credit: Andrea Courtois)

(Photo credit: Andrea Courtois)

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BOSTON (AP) — With the current legislative session set to end Tuesday at midnight, Massachusetts lawmakers have just a few days left to debate and vote on many high-profile bills.

Among the proposals are legislation to lower spiraling health care costs in the state, fund transportation and infrastructure projects and spur economic development by both funding research at state universities and creating an online resource for businesses. House Speaker Robert DeLeo said in a statement that he hopes to end the session by passing the bills.

“The 187th session began with the passage of a number of important pieces of legislation … and I expect it to end on an equally positive note,” he said.

Rounding out the priorities of Senate leadership are storm response, prescription drug abuse and energy costs legislation, said David Falcone, a spokesman for Senate President Therese Murray.

A look at some of the major bills:

—HEALTH CARE COST CONTAINMENT: Topping the to-do lists of both the House and Senate is a complex health care cost containment bill, which is aimed at saving the state billions of dollars over 15 years. Costs have skyrocketed in the wake of a 2006 landmark law that dramatically expanded access to health care in Massachusetts. The bill is in conference committee, which is where a bipartisan panel of House and Senate members reconciles the differences between each chamber’s versions of it.

Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr, Republican from Gloucester who serves on the committee, said he believes the state is facing both internal and external pressure to get the bill right, in the wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling to uphold the federal Affordable Care Act.

Kim Haberlin, a spokeswoman for Gov. Deval Patrick, said the administration has made health care cost containment a priority.

—TRANSPORTATION BOND BILL: An earmarked bond bill that would fund infrastructure projects throughout the state is also being hashed out in a conference committee. The Senate recently passed their version of bill, which would authorize the state to borrow $683 million and includes federal funding for transportation projects that total $1.39 billion. The House’s proposal called for a total of $1.56 billion to fund these projects.

Lawmakers said the bill will be part of a larger discussion regarding future infrastructure improvements in Massachusetts. Sen. Thomas McGee, a Lynn Democrat and chair of the legislature’s Joint Transportation Committee, praised the bill for its ability to create more jobs in the state through construction projects.

—ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT: A jobs bill that has been a high priority of House leaders is also sitting in conference committee. The proposal, which DeLeo announced in May, would fund research projects at state universities with matching grants, create a small business online resource and focus on training the state’s workforce, among other things.

DeLeo said in a statement that the “economic development bill that will solidify Massachusetts’ ability to compete nationally and internationally for jobs.”

The bill drew attention after the House Speaker discussed the proposal, which he believes will strengthen Massachusetts’ innovation economy, in an open letter to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg posted on the Menlo Park Patch website.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.

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