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.

GIC taking heavy flak over healthplan changes The Globe’s Priyanka Dayal Mc- Cluskey has an update on a very unpopular decision by the state’s Group Insurance Commission: “Labor unions that represent Massachusetts public employees are fuming over a stunning decision by a state commission to limit their health plan options and are lashing out against the move, which affects hundreds of thousands of people and shakes up the local insurance industry. Under the changes, which take effect in July, commercial plans from the popular insurers Tufts Health Plan, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, and Fallon Health no longer will be available.” Democrats throw in towel, shutdown ends, Guy Fawkes discredited From Liz Goodwin at the Globe: “Senate Democrats relented to heavy pressure and joined Republicans in ending a three-day federal shutdown Monday, winning little more than a promise from Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell to conduct an immigration debate in coming weeks. The retreat, after Republicans launched a weekend barrage accusing Democrats of putting the concerns of undocumented immigrants ahead of US troops and federal employees, ended the divisive episode as furloughs and agency closures began to take effect on the shutdown’s first business day.” U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey voted against the compromise bill in the Senate, as WBUR reports, while U.S. Reps. Stephen Lynch and William Keating voted for it in the House late yesterday. OK, enough with the tedious bill mechanics and votes. Who’s to blame? Who politically won and lost? The consensus, as reported by the Washington Post and the New York Times, is that Democrats caved to save their political skins – and progressives, who pushed Democrats to the shutdown brink, are now furious. Michael Cohen at the Globe argues that the shutdown was largely the fault of Republicans but “Democrats were never completely faultless.” The NYT’s Paul Krugmanis also ripping into Republicans and President Trump, saying they can’t be trusted. But David Brooks at the NYT says the showdown was an unmitigated disaster for Democrats, who took the “Guy Fawkes option” and paid the price for thinking a shutdown would actually accomplish much. One benefit of the shutdown: Medical-device tax suspended At least some folks in Cambridge are happy with the shutdown re – sults. From Don Seiffert: “The bill to reopen the federal government expected to be signed into law (last night) by President Trump also contains a big gift for hundreds of Massachusetts companies: another two-year delay of the medical device tax. The suspension of the tax means that the 2.3 percent tax on sales of medical devices, part of the Affordable Care Act, won’t take effect until 2020.” Walsh eyes opioid suit against pharmaceutical giants The opioid crisis won’t be solved by lawsuits, but pols obviously believe someone has to pay for it, literally. From Dan Atkinson at the Herald: “Mayor Martin J. Walsh is putting pharmaceutical companies “on notice” and is looking to join cities and towns across the country in a massive lawsuit that could recoup the costs of dealing with the opioid epidemic that has killed thousands across the Bay State.” Baker expresses ‘concerns’ about Rosenberg probe, but Chandler stands by Senate inquiry From Joshua Miller at the Globe: “Governor Charlie Baker has ‘concerns’ about the state Senate’s ethics investigation into the conduct of former Senate president Stanley C. Rosenber g, he said Monday. Baker said he is worried by reports that people who wish to tell their story are skittish about doing so because they fear their identities will be revealed. … ‘I was concerned by the story I read over the week – end that basically said that many people who would otherwise wish to be interviewed don’ t want to come forward because they don’t believe that the inves – tigation is going to protect their anonymity.’” The weekend story he refers to is apparently by the Globe’s Yvonne Abraham, who confirmed a prior story by WGBH’s Mike Deehan, who reported how witnesses are reluctant to step forward in the case. But Acting Senate President Harriette Chandler is expressing confidence in the process, saying confidentiality is not an issue, reports SHNS’s Katie Lannan at CommonWealth magazine and Mike Deehan at WGBH. The Herald’s Joe Battenfeld says it’s time to stick a fork in the Senate investigation and just let law enforcement officials handle the matter.