Window Into The State House


Window into the State House provides our readers a synopsis of important issues of interest, past and current, that are being proposed, debated or acted upon by the Massachusetts Legislature. Many issues that are not related to local city government services are acted upon and have a direct impact on daily life. They are tax policy, transportation infrastructure, judicial appointments, social services and health, as well as higher education. We will excerpt reports from the gavel-to-gavel coverage of House and Senate sessions by news sources focused on this important aspect of our lives. These sources include a look ahead at the coming week in state government and summaries and analyses of the past week, re-caps of a range of state government activity, as well as links to other news.


Walking tours of Southie’s Edison plant before its redeveloped for ‘live-work-play’
Redgate and Hilco Redevelopment Partners, the new owners of the old Southie Edison plant, plan to hold walking tours of the plant’s interior through Jan. 28, followed by two design meetings in February, as they try to figure out what to do with the somewhat magnificent building that dates back to 1898, reports the BBJ’s Catherine Carlock. The owners envision some sort of “live/work/play” use – the development buzz phrase to describe a mixed-use project — for the decommissioned plant, but they’re not quite sure exactly what. Check out the slide-show tour of the plant accompanying the story.


Target Warren: Pre-emptive Supreme Court offensive
Have you heard the anti-Elizabeth Warren radio ads playing on WBZ, WRKO and possibly other stations? We heard ‘em this past weekend. They accuse Warren of planning to obstruct President Donald Trump’s future nominations to the U.S. Supreme Court, even though he has yet to nominate anyone to the court. The ads are apparently the handiwork of the conservative Judicial Crisis Network, which recently announced it was launching a $10 million media campaign over the expected fight to fill the SCOTUS seat previously held by the late Justice Anthony Scalia, the same seat Republicans blocked President Obama from filling. The group didn’t get back to us to confirm they’re indeed running the ads.

T’s work on march day praised
State transportation officials gave themselves a pat on the back yesterday for the MBTA’s handling of the massive crowds that surged into the city over the weekend for the Boston Women’s March, Bruce Mohl of CommonWealth Magazine reports. Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack said after some delays early in the day—attributed in part to many of the riders being new to the T—everything went smoothly. “We got tons of very, very positive feedback,” Pollack said.


Quincy council OKs city’s tallest building
The Quincy City Council has cleared the way for a major transformation of the city’s downtown, approving a development agreement for a 15-story mixed-use project that would become the tallest building in the community, Sean Phillip Cotter of the Patriot Ledger reports. The council agreed to sell a parcel of city-owned land to the developer and agreed to a package of tax breaks, though the project still must navigate the usual permitting process.


Baker: Kumbaya, my Commonwealth, Kumbaya

Gov. Charlie Baker apparently plans to emphasize, and reemphasize and reemphasize, how he’s a “practitioner of bipartisan compromise” during his third State of the Commonwealth address tonight at the State House, reports the Globe’s Jim O’Sullivan, who got hold of excerpts of Baker’s planned speech. The emphasis on bi-partisanship is one way Baker, a moderate Republican, can differentiate himself from last week’s combative inaugural remarks by President Trump, O’Sullivan notes. The Herald’s Joe Battenfeld says the governor desperately needs to distance himself from Trump, who “looms over Charlie Baker like an unwanted guest as the GOP governor delivers a pre-election-year address signaling the unofficial start of his re-election campaign.”
‘Can you imagine the mind that put that sentence into a public strategy document?’
Ed Lyons, a Republican activist writing at the conservative New Boston Post, is no fan of state GOP committeeman Steve Aylward, most definitely not a Kumbya-kind of guy who’s running for chair of the state Republican party. Lyons on Aylward: “He shows no understanding of how Republicans actually win elections. For example, every pollster and experienced campaign manager will tell you that almost all Republican candidates require a significant number of Democrat votes to win (in the state). Yet, Aylward’s campaign platform says: ‘At every turn, treat the Democrats not as friends, but as our political enemy, sworn to destroy us.’ So, I guess the message to the tens of thousands of Democrats who put Baker over the top is: ‘You’re the enemy.’ Can you imagine the mind that put that sentence into a public strategy document?”


Pay raises: They’re going for it
They may have pared back the size of the proposed pay raises for public officials, but they’re still big pay raises for legislative leaders, committee chairs, constitutional officers and others, as noted by the Herald’s Matt Stout, who’s gotten hold of the 18-page pay-raise bill that could be voted on later this week. He has all the dollar numbers.

“Fair-minded people will consider the fact that the stipends for presiding officers have not changed for 33 years,” said Senate President Stan Rosenberg, justifying the hikes. “Who works for the same amount 33 years later?” Well, fair-minded people dissatisfied with their salary for 33 years usually find other work, right? SHNS’s Matt Murphy (pay wall) has more on the legislation that’s setting lawmakers on a collision course with Gov. Charlie Baker.


Maybe a Republican governor didn’t want to go to a march overwhelmingly dominated by liberal Democrats?
The Globe’s Jim O’Sullivan and Michael Levenson look into why Gov. Charlie Baker didn’t attend the large Women’s March in Boston over the weekend. The governor’s response: He was attending a Massachusetts Municipal Association meeting and working on the budget. The reaction from the Globe’s Shirley Leung: “Basically, he’d rather revel in details about waste management and municipal law than participate in what turned out to be a historic day in Boston and in America, where hundreds of thousands of people rallied for women’s rights.”

Here’s another, non-alternative-news way of looking at it: The entire Baker MIA storyline – and its varying explanations and criticisms – are bogus. The Republican governor didn’t go to the event because it was overwhelmingly dominated by liberal Democrats. We all know this to be true, but at some alternative-universe level we’re all supposed to pretend it’s not true.


Shirley gets her shot
Last Friday, the Globe’s Shirley Leung expressed hope Gov. Baker would take a selfie of he and his wife to see how good his inaugural seats were. The governor later responded with a photo from festivities and the Twitter note: “@leung – North Dakota Gov Doug Burgum and me – some 30 minutes or so before the show got started. Podium is on the left.” Not bad.


The rise and fall of Christy Mihos
Two-time gubernatorial candidate Christy Mihos spent 10 days in the Barnstable County Correctional facility for failing to make a $79,000 payment to his ex-wife in connection with their divorce, K.C. Myers of the Cape Cod Times reports. Mihos, the former Christy’s convenience store chain owner who ran for governor in 2006 as an independent and then failed to make the final ballot as a Republican in 2010, was released on Friday.


State’s Group Insurance Commission seeks to cap hospital payments
From the Globe’s Priyanka Dayal McCluskey: “The state agency that spends more than $2 billion a year to provide health coverage to 436,000 public employees, retirees, and their families is pushing changes that would allow it to slash what it pays the most expensive hospitals, a drastic move to try to rein in health care costs.” The measure will be included in Gov. Charlie Baker’s new budget that’s expected to be unveiled tomorrow.

In other health-care pricing news, the Globe’s Robert Weisman reports that four bills have been effectively re-filed that would require drug makers to disclose the cost of their research, marketing, and manufacturing.


Strong support for taxing millionaires
There was another nugget buried in the same WBUR poll that was released yesterday showing support for Elizabeth Warren being surprisingly weak: The ‘BUR survey also found overwhelming support for the proposal to raise taxes on millionaires in Massachusetts, as Gintautas Dumcius at MassLive reports. We’re talking Question 4 tsunami-like support.


That’s a lot to sift through: More than 5,700 bills filed
From SHNS’s Katie Lannan at the Salem News: “The state Legislature will start 2017 with more than 5,700 bills to consider. More than 3,700 bills were filed in House and more than 2,020 in the Senate by a Friday deadline, according to House and Senate clerks. The bills will be steered to various committees and eventually scheduled for hearings.”


NRA takes aim at state’s assault-weapons ban
No surprise here: The National Rifle Association’s Massachusetts chapter has filed a lawsuit against Gov. Charlie Baker and Attorney General Maura Healey over the state’s assault-weapons ban, following Healey’s move last year to expand and clarify the definition of assault weapons, as the Globe’s Travis Andersen reports. By logic, the lawsuit had to go for it all – not just Healey’s interpretation of the extent of the law but the entire law itself.


Which Massachusetts firms nab the most money in federal contracts?
Defense contractor Raytheon Co. is the top recipient of federal contract dollars in Massachusetts. We were a little surprised Raytheon’s figure wasn’t higher than $3.3 billion. The BBJ’s David Harris has more on the other top federal contractors, which collectively netted more than $60 billion in federal contracts last year. That’s a lot of dough pumping through the Massachusetts economy.


Boston mulls issuance of municipal ID cards
From the Associated Press at CBS Boston: “The city of Boston will consider a plan to issue municipal identification cards, an idea that other cities have used to help immigrants and the homeless. Mayor Marty Walsh said the city is seeking a consultant to study the feasibility of creating city ID cards that could be used to access the city’s services, banks and cultural institutions.” Question: Will the study be completed before this year’s mayoral election?