Survey: Business confidence improving in Massachusetts
Business confidence continues to improve in Massachusetts as the new year gets started, but only about one in four employers in the state consider current conditions favorable for their company.
The Associated Industries of Massachusetts says its Business Confidence Index stood at 45.7 in December, up eight-tenths of a point from the previous month. It was the ninth increase in the last 10 months after the index bottomed out at a record low 33.3 in February.
The index operates on a 100-point scale, with any rating below 50 meaning employers are still more negative than positive about the economy.
Raymond Torto, who chairs AIM’s Board of Economic Advisors, said only 27 percent of employers surveyed in December described conditions for their companies as good.
Bill Clinton to visit Mass. to stump for Coakley
Bill Clinton is headlining a final rally for Democratic Senate candidate Martha Coakley.
The former president will speak Friday on behalf of the Massachusetts attorney general. She is locked in a competitive race with Republican Scott Brown to succeed the late Sen. Edward Kennedy. The special election is Jan. 19.
Massachusetts was among Clinton’s most supportive states during his two terms, and he previously taped an automated call on Coakley’s behalf.
Sen. John Kerry, the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee, will also break away from hip surgery recovery to speak at the rally. Democrats deny they are concerned about Brown
staging an upset.
Kennedy died Aug. 25 of brain cancer. Businessman Joseph L. Kennedy, a Libertarian unrelated to the famed political family, is also mounting an independent Senate candidacy.
Deadline earlier for absentee ballots
Massachusetts voters have less time than usual to get an absentee ballot for the special U.S. Senate election.
Secretary of State William Galvin said Sunday that because municipal offices will be closed for Martin Luther King’s birthday Jan. 18, the day before the election, voters have until 5 p.m. Friday to apply for an absentee ballot.
The usual deadline is the day before Election Day.
Galvin says interest is rising as the election to fill the seat held by the late Sen. Edward Kennedy draws closer. He says 44,000 requests for absentee ballots were received as of Friday, more than in the party primaries.
Democrat Martha Coakley, Republican Scott Brown and Libertarian Joseph L. Kennedy, no relation to Edward Kennedy, are seeking to succeed the late senator.
Bill seeks to ease cost of prescriptions in Mass.
A bill intended to help ease the soaring costs of prescription drugs is set for a public hearing on Beacon Hill this week.
The bill, sponsored by state Sen. Stanley Rosenberg, would establish a commission to study a range of cost-cutting options, including whether Massachusetts should enter into bulk purchasing agreements with pharmaceutical companies to help drive down the cost of drugs.
The commission also would look into creating a program to let everyone have access to prescription drugs at the lower prices negotiated by the commonwealth.
The commission’s recommendations would be due five months after the bill became law.
The Amherst Democrat’s bill is set to be heard Tuesday at the Statehouse by the Committee on Elder Affairs.
Mass. environmental agencies take deep cuts
Deep cuts to state environmental agencies could mean less maintenance and staffing at state parks and beaches this year and cuts to programs intended to protect the public.
Since the beginning of the 2009 fiscal year, the state’s Department of Conservation and Recreation’s budget has been sliced by more than 23 percent to $78.3 million. The state Department of Environmental Protection’s budget has been cut about 16 percent to $50.7 million.
The cuts are expected to slow permitting timelines for development projects and efforts to clean up toxic mercury and emerging pollutants.
State Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Ian Bowles tells the Boston Globe that the state is working to reduce the harm.
Peter Shelley, vice president of the Conservation Law Foundation, calls the cuts a “tragedy.”