BOSTON — Summer vacation is nearing an end for Massachusetts lawmakers who have a lengthy to-do list for the coming months.
The Democratic-controlled Legislature could tackle Medicaid cost containment, criminal justice reform and immigration bills when they return from August recess.
Representatives and senators on Beacon Hill have been chided for producing relatively few major bills so far in the first year of their biennial session. They began the session by approving, over Republican Gov. Charlie Baker’s veto, an $18 million pay raise bill for themselves, other elected state officials and judges.
Lawmakers also crafted a $40 billion state budget for the July 1 fiscal year and after lengthy negotiations passed a bill making revisions to the voter-approved recreational marijuana law.
Five matters that could get the Legislature’s attention this fall:
The ball is back in the Legislature’s court when it comes to finding ways to trim Medicaid spending that consumes about 40 percent of the entire state budget.
Baker at first vetoed, but later agreed to sign a new $200 million health care assessment on Massachusetts employers only after receiving assurances from lawmakers that they would consider proposed changes to MassHealth, the state’s Medicaid program.
But the Democratic-controlled Legislature might well take a different approach than Baker.
Critics of the governor’s plan say it could result in thousands of low-income families paying more for health coverage with fewer benefits.
The state’s highest court threw a wrinkle into the debate over immigration policy when it ruled earlier this summer that current Massachusetts law does not allow police and other law enforcement officers to hold individuals solely on the basis of a federal immigration detainer request.
Baker responded to the court decision with legislation that seeks a middle ground of sorts: The bill would allow police to cooperate with federal immigration officials by holding people who have committed violent crimes and are considered dangerous.
Several conservative Republican lawmakers offered a separate bill that would give police broader powers to arrest and detain people for federal immigration officials.
A bill dubbed the “Safe Communities Act” and supported by many Democrats, meanwhile, would impose sharp limits on cooperation between local police and immigration authorities.
Eliminating minimum mandatory sentences, revamping the bail system and raising the age of those sent to juvenile court from 18 to 21 are just some of the steps that Senate Democratic leaders have suggested as part of a wide-reaching overhaul of the state’s criminal justice system.
Others on Beacon Hill are backing a more modest approach.
The Council of State Governments offered recommendations earlier this year that focused primarily on recidivism.
Baker has proposed offering earned “good time credits” for inmates who enroll in and complete recidivism-reduction programs while behind bars.
Proposals to apply the state’s 5.7- percent hotel tax to property owners who rent out rooms through online lodging services such as Airbnb failed to make it into the state budget for the new fiscal year, but are likely to resurface in the coming months.
A House panel has been working to craft legislation that would address the regulation and taxation of short-term rentals, currently exempted from the state’s lodging tax.
Baker has suggested limiting the tax to property owners who rent out rooms for at least 150 days a year.
Airbnb has said it would support what it calls fair and sensible home sharing rules.
The Senate has already approved legislation that takes aim at distracted driving by prohibiting motorists from holding cellphones while on the road.
Talking on a cellphone while driving would be allowed only with the use of a hands-free device.
The House took a procedural vote on a similar bill in June, but has yet to debate the measure.