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Mass. formally opens legislative session

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 2, 2013 at 2:04 pm •  Published: January 2, 2013

Patrick and key legislators have suggested that new revenues will be needed to fund transportation, but they have yet to say whether they would support a tax increase, such as a hike in the state's 21 cents-a-gallon gasoline tax. The administration is due to deliver a transportation finance report by Monday.

Asked about a possible gas tax hike, DeLeo told reporters following his address that "everything and anything is on the table," but he added he would first seek ways of improving efficiency in the transportation system.

Rep. Brad Jones, who was re-elected by members of his party as House Republican leader, urged Democrats to "think twice" about any statewide tax increase, saying it would hurt the state's chances of sustaining an economic recovery.

Democrats outnumber Republicans by a more than 4-1 margin in the House and hold 36 of the 40 seats in the Senate, where Sen. Bruce Tarr of Gloucester, will remain the minority leader.

Murray, who in March 2007 became the first woman to preside over the Massachusetts Senate, also listed several other priorities for the coming session, including an upgrade in how the state manages drinking water resources and deals with wastewater, which she called a "pressing environmental issue."

She said the Senate would consider ways to improve oversight and inspection of compounding pharmacies in the wake of a deadly nationwide meningitis outbreak tied to a Framingham company, and could consider a proposal by Attorney General Martha Coakley to raise the maximum fine for corporate manslaughter from $1,000 to $250,000.

Murray also said the Senate would consider ways of closing loopholes in the state's welfare system and further protecting homeowners from foreclosure.

DeLeo said he would propose that unemployment insurance rates paid by businesses be frozen at current levels for a fifth consecutive year, while seeking long-term reforms for the system.

The Democrat took over as speaker in January 2009 following the resignation of former Speaker Salvatore DiMasi, who was subsequently convicted and imprisoned on corruption charges.