March 5, 2017

On Beacon Hill: Heavy is the head that wears the crown

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Sam Doran / State House News Service

Gov. Charlie Baker presents Appeals Court Justice Elspeth Cypher, his latest nominee to the Supreme Judicial Court, at a Governor's Council hearing. The council is expected to vote on confirmation this week. If Cypher is confirmed, Baker appointees would constitute a majority of the state's highest court.

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

Massachusetts residents got a reminder last week of something that can sometimes get lost in the day-to-day political skirmishes: the state isn’t a half-bad place to live.

U.S. News & World Report, in its first-ever state rankings, declared Massachusetts the best of the united 50.

With his state catapulted over the heap by its top-rated education system and superior access to health care, Gov. Charlie Baker got to leave a conference of his peers in Washington to appear on “CBS This Morning” and crow about all that Massachusetts has to offer — an enviable spot for a Republican governor trying to navigate through his blue state’s politics.

The picture painted by U.S. News stands, in a some respects, as a counterargument to the daily debates on Beacon Hill.

To hear some tell it, Massachusetts is drowning in debt, income inequality and a lack of affordable housing. Tens of thousands of students are being left behind by the public school system, and healthcare and energy costs are crushing families and small businesses.

But in Massachusetts, being ranked number one is unlikely to be enough, just like five Super Bowl rings on Tom Brady’s right hand couldn’t stop the parade-goers last month from chanting: “We want six.”

State House News Service / courtesy CBS

Gov. Charlie Baker appears on “CBS This Morning” Feb. 28 with Brian Kelly of U.S. News and World Report to talk about the ranking of Massachusetts as the best state in the country.

Now it’s on Baker, the Legislature, mayors and everyone else to keep the top spot.

While it may not be in everyone’s nature to accentuate the positive, no one in Massachusetts is quite on President Trump’s level of “American carnage.” But Trump gave his first not-technically-a-State-of-the-Union address to Congress Feb. 28 and adopted what the pundits deemed a more “presidential” and uplifting tone and demeanor, even if the policy had not changed all that much.

However, the positive reviews for Trump in what seemed like a reset for his presidency quickly gave way to more troubling headlines about contacts his campaign may have had with Russian officials, including Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Sessions recused himself from any investigations into the Trump campaign that might be underway, but so far has not caved to pressure from Democrats — including the state’s entire Congressional delegation — to resign over what, at the very least, was incomplete testimony to Congress during his confirmation hearing about a meeting he had with the Russian ambassador during the campaign season when he was a U.S. senator.

The state Senate is hoping its bridge-building with the business community is going more smoothly than Trump’s. After first inviting the Massachusetts Business Roundtable in for a bipartisan caucus, this week’s caucus guest was Associated Industries of Massachusetts.

“I’m hoping that today represents sort of a reset of the relationship between AIM and the Senate,” said AIM’s John Regan during the public portion of the caucus.

As the more liberal of the two branches, Senate leaders have their work cut out for them if they hope to get back in the good graces of the business community and champion causes like paid family and medical leave.

— Matt Murphy

OFF THE TOP

Healey and Trump, together at last

Attorney General Maura Healey was one of the voices calling for Sessions to resign the same week she confronted Texas Rep. Lamar Smith over perceived interference with her investigation into ExxonMobil’s climate research.

Antonio Caban / State House News Service

Attorney General Maura Healey

Healey called on Smith’s committee to drop its subpoena of documents pertaining to her investigation, while at the same time requesting documents for herself pertaining to any mention of the committee’s investigation into her actions.

All of this the same week Healey saw Trump not in court, but face to face at the White House where she joined fellow attorneys general in a meeting with the president that was disclosed not by her office, but the White House itself. Healey was among more than a dozen AGs who skipped a photo op with Trump after the meeting.

— Matt Murphy

ALSO ON THE AGENDA

  • Murray, chamber get in on the business of education
  • Local public hearings set ahead of budget season
  • McGovern’s been tremendously busy on Twitter
  • Video: Gov. Baker on Ware fallen soldier, week’s top stories
  • Public higher education feels strain of state budget crunch


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