GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

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December 2, 2012

Tarr wary of drug lab funding this year

BOSTON — Gov. Deval Patrick may need to wait until next year for lawmakers to take up his request for $30 million to begin covering the costs associated with the handling of criminal cases impacted by breaches at the scandalized Hinton drug testing lab.

Republican lawmakers say the Legislature is unlikely over the next month to approve the request. While Patrick has attached some urgency to his request, any lawmaker meeting in informal sessions scheduled for the rest of 2012 can block the advancement of any bill.

Patrick formally met with Democratic leaders of the House and Senate last week for the first time in four months, seeking a commitment from both branches to bring the mid-year budget request forward for a vote “quickly.” But the governor left the meeting without any assurances that passage of his bill (H 4489) would be possible before the next Legislature is sworn in come January, when formal sessions and floor debates will resume.

Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr told the News Service it would be “difficult, if not impossible” to pass the budget request before the end of the year.

“I think the governor has a lot of work to do if he wants to get this passed in an informal session and that extends beyond meeting with the Senate president and the speaker,” Tarr said.

“The governor met with the Democratic leadership, (but) he’s never reached out to me in any substantive way to talk about this issue and I’m quite confident as presented the Republican caucus would have issues with it,” added House Minority Leader Brad Jones.

Patrick filed the budget request on Nov. 1 to begin paying for the fallout from the drug lab scandal involving a chemist who has admitted to tampering with evidence. Though the amount is only expected to cover a few months of expenses, the administration has said delays could strain agency budgets as they take on the added workload without scaling back normal operations.

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