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.

Lawsuit threatened over Native American nicknames bill

A Virginia law firm is warning that a bill filed by state Sen. Barbara L’Italien that would ban the use of Native American monikers for school nicknames could bring a federal lawsuit, Kori Tuitt of the Lowell Sun reports. The letter was written on behalf of the Native American Guardians Association and says the bill would be discriminatory because it only addresses Native American names. So a bill designed to eliminate bias is biased? It’s tough being a progressive these days.
Lawmakers eye state takeover of troubled Reggie Lewis center
From the Herald’s Dan Atkinson: “State legislators are looking to take control of the Reggie Lewis Track and Athletic Center away from Roxbury Community College after a series of high-profile controversies last year, a move one state track official says is long overdue.” State Rep. Russell Holmes is co-sponsoring a bill that would create a new state board that probably would be appointed by Gov. Charlie Baker and the Legislature, Atkinson reports
Higher pay, newly renovated chamber. What more can you ask for?
 State senators will be moving out of their third-floor chamber in April for a planned $20 million-plus renovation of the historic legislative meeting place. Or as SHNS’s Colin Young puts it at the Lowell Sun: “State senators angling for higher paychecks this week will have to wait a while longer for a renovated clubhouse.”
Governor to forgo generous housing perk tucked into pay-raise bill
Speaking of the pay-raise bill and plush accommodations, Gov. Baker yesterday made clear he plans to forgo a $65,000 housing allowance tucked into the legislation, reports Frank Phillips at the Globe. Well, if he ever changes his mind, the money will always be there, for Senate President Stan Rosenberg is expressing confidence that the Legislature has enough votes this week to override Baker’s veto of the pay-raise bill, reports Matt Stout and Chris Villani at the Herald.

FYI: Peter Lucas, veteran writer at the Lowell Sun, is now referring to Rosenberg and House Speaker Robert DeLeo as the Cheech & Chong of Beacon Hill. Lucas almost has sympathy (repeat: almost) for freshmen lawmakers recently forced to cast votes for the pay-raise bill as one of their first official acts on Beacon Hill.

Baker revisits the ancient battlefield of tourism funding
From Shira Schoenberg at MassLive: “Gov. Charlie Baker is – again – fighting with regional tourism councils over how much money tourism will get in the annual budget and how that money will be allocated.” Shira explains how less is technically more, depending on which fiscal-year figure you use as a base and where the allocations go and don’t go.


Harvard retains its grip over U.S. Supreme Court

Acting like a television host introducing a new game-show contestant, President Trump announced last night that he was nominating conservative federal judge Neil Gorsuch of Colorado to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Globe’s James Pindell quickly notes that, yes, Gorsuch is a Harvard Law School grad: “For those keeping track, this means that if Gorsuch is confirmed, Harvard Law School graduates will retain their majority on the court with five justices having attending the school.” And Gorsuch was also classmate of former President Obama at Harvard Law School, as the Herald’s Chris Cassidy notes. Meanwhile, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a former Harvard Law School professor, is vowing to fight Gorsuch’s nomination. , as the Globe reports. So much for non-Ivy League diversity on and around the high bench.
Ratepayers’ solar subsidies slashed under Baker plan
From Bruce Mohl at CommonWealth magazine: “The Baker Administration unveiled a next-generation solar incentive plan on Tuesday that is expected to cut in half the subsidies paid by the state’s electric ratepayers while giving developers more certainty about how much money they will receive under the program.” We’ll see how this plays out on Beacon Hill, where the solar industry is known for making its views (and complaints) quite clear.
Healey takes lead in immigration fight, as Baker brings up the rear
As expected, Attorney General Maura Healey yesterday sued President Trump over what she called his “startling and chaotic” immigration executive order, reports Jack Sullivan at CommonWealth magazine. Sullivan notes that Gov. Charlie Baker is giving Healey’s lawsuit “his unequivocal backing,” though that may not be enough for the Globe’s Shirley Leung. Meanwhile, faith leaders in Boston yesterday were bashing Trump’s executive order, as the Herald reports, while officials at UMass and Boston University were also lending their support for Healey’s legal action, as reported at MassLive.
State’s Congressional delegation sounds off on immigration move
It’s not just the ubiquitous U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Attorney General Maura Healey sounding off against President Trump’s immigration policies. Other members of the state’s Congressional delegation – including U.S. Reps. Richard Neal and Jim McGovern and U.S. Sen. Edward Markey — are also hopping mad, reports Shannon Young at MassLive. And so is U.S. Rep. William Keating, as reported by SHNS’s Andy Metzger at the Herald News.
Civilized debate: ‘We are better off if we collectively stick our fingers into a bowl of ebola and lick them’
They must have been plants by anti-Trump folks out to discredit sanctuary-city foes at a recent Newton meeting. How else to explain the remarks cited by Gabrielle Emanual at WGBH? Excerpt from Emanuel’s piece:

“Those against sanctuary city status voice anxiety about undocumented immigrants causing machete attacks and a spike in tuberculosis. ‘You want to take a chance that our water supply might be poisoned? Our bridges blown up?’ asked one resident. Another man took the podium, stating, ‘One wonders if there was a fire in an apartment building, if any of the sanctuary city folks would have a moral dilemma deciding about saving their own family before strangers.’ ‘We are better off if we collectively stick our fingers into a bowl of ebola and lick them. Our deaths will be quicker and less painful,’ said another.”

Dana Farber pressed to scrap lavish Mar-a-Lago Club fundraiser
Hundreds of medical students, doctors, and other medical personnel aren’t happy with the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute’s planned fundraiser at President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club in Florida, not when he’s busy cracking down on immigrants, reports the Globe’s Liz Kowalczyk