February 19, 2017

On Beacon Hill: Got a light? Burning issues and simmering feuds

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Antonio Caban / State House News Service

Looking pensive during a JFK tribute last week, from left, Polito, DeLeo, Baker and Rosenberg will have plenty to think about in the coming weeks.

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

If March college basketball is one of the biggest drains on workplace productivity of the year, then Beacon Hill bracketology has the opposite effect.

House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senate President Stanley Rosenberg finally filled in their seeding charts this week, allowing for the legislating process to truly begin. And no two chairmen will be more under the gun than Braintree’s Rep. Mark Cusack and Somerville’s Sen. Patricia Jehlen.

Cusack and Jehlen were tapped to co-chair the new Committee on Marijuana Policy, starting a four-month countdown-clock for the two Democrats and their committee to craft a comprehensive re-write of the recreational marijuana ballot law.

Jehlen, a legal marijuana supporter, was picked over Sen. Jason Lewis for the chairmanship after Lewis spent much of the past two years becoming the Senate’s expert on marijuana policy.

The problem for Lewis, however, was that he came out of that process an ardent opponent of legal pot and essentially tipped his hand by filing numerous bills already this year to change the law.

State House News Service

Cusack and Jehlen

Instead, Lewis will serve as Jehlen’s vice-chair, and Rosenberg is confident that Jehlen will be able to engage with the marijuana advocate community in ways that Lewis could not have.

On the House side, Cusack is something of a wildcard. He would not say Thursday how he voted on the ballot question, and DeLeo touted Cusack’s open-mindedness on the issue as a chief selling point for his selection to lead the pot effort.

Gov. Charlie Baker has suggested he would like to see a bill even earlier than June. But the Republican has his plate full as well dealing with a new White House administration that challenges, on a near daily basis, his desire to remain above the fray, and getting a new Supreme Judicial Court nominee confirmed by a Governor’s Council that increasingly makes Congressional infighting look like child’s play.

— Matt Murphy

OFF THE TOP

With friends like these …

For the second straight week, the Governor’s Council, the elected body that vets Baker’s judicial nominees, dissolved into a puddle of name-calling, accusations and fist-pounding.

Though the animosity ostensibly stemmed from a disagreement over how the vote was handled for a Superior Court nominee, the eight-member council can barely be in the same room together anymore. And the anger runs deeper than one nominee.

  • Councilor Mary Hurley, a Democrat, accused Councilor Marilyn Devaney of raining “terror” upon the panel.
  • Jennie Caissie, a Republican from Oxford, said the council’s reputation “as a laughingstock” can be put squarely at Devaney’s feet for bringing incivility to the process.
  • Devaney yelled back that she was being bullied for standing up for the rules, if they even exist, and accused Caissie of spending too much time in a local watering hole.
  • Meanwhile, Councilor Robert Jubinville accused Councilor Joe Ferreira of being a “bootlicker” and a “rubber stamp” for the governor as he pounded his fist on the table two times to drive home his point.

And all of this transpired within the governor’s suite with Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito hopelessly trying to maintain order, and staffers poking their heads out of offices wondering what could be going on.

— Matt Murphy

ALSO ON THE AGENDA

  • Moore among senators pushing criminal justice reforms
  • McGovern tweet scrutinizes U.S.-Russia ties
  • Chandler: Stepping away from State House transit role
  • From Baker with love: Time to investigate Russia dealings
  • Video: Auburn’s Jacobson on legal marijuana next steps
  • Fentanyl spike continues, fuels opioid death surge

THE BIG DEAL

Courtesy Sen. Micheal O. Moore's office

State Sen. Mike Moore

Moore among senate leaders urging action on criminal justice reform


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