WITH THE LEGISLATURE expected to recess for the holidays on Wednesday, the House and Senate find themselves in a familiar spot — at odds on a handful of key policy issues in a spending bill with little time to resolve the disputes.
But Senate leaders are optimistic, pledging to pass their spending bill on Tuesday and resolve any differences with the previously passed House version by Wednesday. The main points of contention are how the $250 million needed to keep the state’s emergency shelter system afloat should be spent and whether the Legislature should do a favor for Robert Kraft so he can build a soccer stadium for the New England Revolution in Everett.
Regarding the emergency shelter system, the House was very prescriptive in the bill it passed last week, designating how the $250 million should be spent and requiring the establishment of overflow sites within 30 days for families going on Gov. Maura Healey’s waitlist for shelter. If the overflow sites are not built within 30 days, the House bill says, Healey’s 7,500-family cap on shelter residents would be revoked.
The Senate bill expected to come up for a vote on Tuesday also provides $250 million for the emergency shelter system, but gives the Healey administration near-total leeway on how the money can be spent and authorizes but does not require spending on overflow sites.
The Senate bill also includes a provision crafted by Sen. Sal DiDomenico of Everett that would pave the way for Robert Kraft to build a new, open-air soccer stadium in Everett.
The land in question, occupied by a closed power plant on the Mystic River, was originally purchased by Wynn Resorts, which has a deal to sell it to Kraft. The property is currently part of a so-called designated port area that limits development on the site to marine industrial uses. That restriction would be lifted by the Senate bill.
The House did not include the soccer stadium initiative in its spending bill, but the chamber did pass a similar measure last year, giving rise to hope that a workaround for the soccer stadium could be ironed out quickly between the two branches.
Backers of the plan say the Krafts have promised to build a park along the waterfront and provide other benefits to Everett. Only 75 parking spaces would be allowed at the stadium to prioritize the use of public transit over vehicle traffic.
There are other power plants on adjacent parcels that are expected to close in the near future. Sources say they could be used as an interconnection point down the road for power from offshore wind farms.
Although some environmental groups are backing the Kraft plan, Bradley Campbell, the president of the Conservation Law Foundation, is against using the legislative process to pull the deal off.
“As Speaker Mariano recently said, it would be ‘highly unusual’ to spot-zone a soccer stadium this way, and for good reason,” Campbell said in a statement. “It’s an end-run around the public process for port area development and a gift for well-connected developers putting a massive project on an already gridlocked road with no provision for traffic and pollution impacts. The House should reject it in conference and, failing that, Gov. Healey should use her line-item veto to stop it.”
One area where there appears to be agreement between the two branches is a provision allowing the Department of Public Utilities to approve additional funding for the Massachusetts-financed transmission line carrying hydroelectricity from Quebec into Maine. The project stalled after Maine voters approved a law blocking the transmission line, an action that was later reversed by the Maine Supreme Court.
Avangrid, the developer of the transmission line, has said its costs increased while the project was in limbo and now needs additional funding from Massachusetts ratepayers. The legislative provision would allow the DPU to approve the additional funding through assessments on ratepayers.