January 22, 2017

On Beacon Hill: As pendulum swings, priorities — like legislator pay raises — crystallize

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Antonio Caban / State House News Service

Sen. Karen Spilka, left, and Rep. Brian Dempsey lead a joint Ways and Means hearing into potential raises for lawmakers.

Recap and analysis of the week in state, and federal, government
from State House News Service

Transitions of power in American politics are meant to be peaceful, unifying moments when the partisanship of campaigns are left behind, however briefly, for the greater cause.

Exercising power, whether on Capitol Hill or Beacon Hill, is an altogether messier affair.

The first took place last Friday — albeit with some violent protests — as Donald J. Trump took the oath of office and officially became the 45th president of the United States, with his bitter foe Hillary Clinton and her husband, the 42nd president, looking on.

Most of the state’s all-Democratic congressional delegation were there to witness the moment, even if they weren’t exactly celebrating. And his criticisms of Trump didn’t stop Gov. Charlie Baker from dancing the night away at the Massachusetts Inaugural Welcome Reception and the Indiana Inaugural Ball, where he was a guest of Vice President Mike Pence.

Flickr / Gage Skidmore

Donald Trump

While U.S. Reps. Katherine Clark and Michael Capuano both opted to skip the festivities in protest, those Democrats who did attend, including Rep. Seth Moulton, were unimpressed by Trump’s “America first” mantra.

“What I heard was a divisive message that reaffirms my fears that the next four years are going to be difficult for many, many Americans,” said Moulton, who had planned to join many other elected officials from Massachusetts in women’s marches in Boston and Washington this weekend.

Some Republicans, however, are excited by the promise of a Trump presidency, and Gov. Baker has taken the tact of withholding judgment until the president puts some meat on the bones of the policy ideas that drove his campaign.

Moody’s chief economist Mark Zandi at a conference in Boston suggested Trump’s pro-business and fiscal stimulus ideas (a net positive for the economy) could wind up being at loggerheads with his other ideas toward immigration and globalization.

Democrats on Beacon Hill are in a similar position vis-a-vis the governor. Baker will deliver his annual address to the Legislature Tuesday, Jan. 24, followed a day later by the release of his fiscal 2018 budget proposal.

— Matt Murphy

OFF THE TOP

RENEWED BEER DISTRIBUTION BATTLE COULD COME TO A HEAD

In what has become a frequent battle on Beacon Hill, the Beer Distributors of Massachusetts last Friday filed a bill they say will give breweries more choice and flexibility in their partnerships with distributors. The bill (HD. 3525), filed by Worcester Rep. John Mahoney, would allow privately owned and operated breweries that brew less than about 413,000 cases of beer annually to “refuse to sell beer to any of their distributors at any time, for no reason at all,” according to the Beer Distributors Inc.

  • “This proposal is an equitable solution for emerging breweries,” William Kelley, president of the organization, said in a statement. “It provides unprecedented opportunity for smaller breweries to develop and grow their businesses, while protecting the independent local distributors and the jobs they create from the economic leverage of larger multinational corporations.”
  • To end its sales to a distributor a brewery would have to “reimburse the distributor for the distributor’s inventory, and the fair market value of the business being taken from the distributor,” the distributors said.
  • Under current law, which has been in effect since 1971, once a beer supplier has worked with a particular distributor for six months, that distributor has indefinite distribution rights to the products it has already distributed.
  • A beer supplier can only terminate its contract with a distributor if the Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission determines that the distributor has violated one of five statutorily-defined conditions.

— Colin A. Young

ALSO ON THE AGENDA

  • Potentially controversial pay raises top of mind for legislative leaders
  • … but rules of order and committee assignments, not so much
  • Poll: 1 in 3 Mass. voters see no Obamacare replacement post-repeal
  • State LGBT officials sign letter urging Trump to support gay rights
  • Treasurer sets alcohol regulation review panel


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