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Boston and Beyond

December 30, 2012

Lawmakers face budget, drug lab questions

(Continued)

The governor was expected to file legislation in the coming weeks calling for changes in the makeup of the pharmacy board and tighter regulation of compounding pharmacies.

But with all of the pressing issues before lawmakers, there are likely to be distractions as well.

Political distractions could include a special election to replace U.S. Sen. John Kerry if the Massachusetts Democrat is confirmed as secretary of state, and early jockeying in the 2014 race for governor.

The cloud caused by a federal investigation into patronage hiring at the state probation department also continues to hang over Beacon Hill. No lawmakers have been charged in the more than two-year probe, but prosecutors continue to look the hiring of politically connected people over more qualified candidates for jobs in the department.

And economists note an already sluggish Massachusetts economy could suffer greatly if Washington fails to avoid the combination of tax increases and spending cuts known as the fiscal cliff. Such a development would pose even more challenges for the Legislature as it assembles a spending plan.

“The budget for 2014 is going to be very difficult,” Widmer said.

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