September 3, 2017

On Beacon Hill: Rain, rain go away — time for legislators to make some hay

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Sam Doran / State House News Service

HELP FOR HARVEY: Donations for people affected by Hurricane Harvey were packed up Friday morning on Boston's City Hall Plaza before shipping south on trucks provided by Teamsters Local 25. The Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) has offered to send water rescue teams to Texas, and a Beverly-based urban rescue task force was working last week in Katy, Texas.

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

BOSTON — As Hurricane Harvey stalled and Irma churned, Massachusetts wondered what if — as in what if 50 inches of rain fell in the Hub and Boston literally turned into a city on a hill.

“If we got hit with a storm like this, if Harvey hit Boston Harbor, we’re wiped out as a city,” Boston Mayor Marty Walsh predicted.

But as with many things that come with price tags in the billions, decisions about how to deal with the hypothetical are often pushed off for another day. State House News Service is now taking bets on what will get built first, South Coast rail or a harbor hurricane barrier wall?

As the final days of summer peeled off the calendar, the best Bay Staters could do for now was raid their pantries and wallets, and offer a helping hand in Houston where floodwaters decimated many parts of that city in a disaster that experts say will be felt for years to come.

The Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency offered up three firefighting teams trained in water rescues, while a Beverly-based FEMA task force of first responders was already on the ground in Texas.

With one eye on Houston, the run-up to the long Labor Day weekend meant it was time for lawmakers, the governor, the attorney general and the treasurer to finish their summer homework assignments before the first class bells have all been rung.

Senators wrapped up a series of dialogues they’ve been holding in anticipation of writing a healthcare cost control bill this fall, while Treasurer Deborah Goldberg, Attorney General Maura Healey and Gov. Charlie Baker met an end-of-August deadline to make appointments to the new Cannabis Control Commission.

Despite whispers of the difficulties in finding commissioners who match the legal qualifications and are willing to work for the prescribed salaries, now former state Sen. Jennifer Flanagan — who was named by Baker last week to the “Triple C” — has company.


The Cannabis Control Commission is finally in full bloom.

Goldberg turned to former Bain & Company partner Steve Hoffman to chair the pot panel, and Healey named a former assistant attorney general, Britte McBride, as her pick. Together the three elected officials rounded out the board with former deputy general counsel to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health Kay Doyle and Shaleen Title, co-founder of cannabis recruiting firm THC Staffing Group.

Title, who helped write Question 4 in 2016, finds herself outnumbered by marijuana legalization opponents four to one, perhaps a predictable outcome given the public positions of officials charged with picking the board.

Hoffman, who is now retired, will pull down a $160,000 salary as chair, while the other four will earn $120,000 a year for five years as they work to turn the legal pot industry from seed to plant by next summer and keep it blooming in the years to come.

— Matt Murphy


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