November 12, 2017

On Beacon Hill: Eleventh month, eleventh hour

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Sam Doran / State House News Service

Climate change activists waited for Gov. Charlie Baker's office to close on Wednesday evening (Nov. 8) during a sit-in to demand Baker sign an executive order discouraging new fossil fuel infrastructure. Baker responded on Thursday, defending his record on clean energy and saying "we shouldn't be painting ourselves into a corner, especially in a sector like this where the changes are coming fast and furious."

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

BOSTON — You know the old saying: “There’s no time like the last possible second!”

That’s the time-honored credo of the Massachusetts Legislature, and it was in complete effect as the last full week of formal legislative sessions arrived — for 2017, that is.

Why it should be necessary to wait 10 months to pass statutes for which everyone acknowledged a need in January can only be explained by the legislators themselves, and let’s face it, the explanations are never really that good.

“Many stakeholders” and “input from the members” and “listening sessions” are the canards of choice under the Dome — the legislative equivalent of “giving 110 percent.”

Whatever the ultimate reason (human nature, justification for a full-time Legislature, and a lack of absolute deadlines are suspected), the House and Senate again headed into the final few days of formals for the year having put off for November what they could have accomplished in February, May or September.

The House will take up criminal justice reform this week, several years after reform was generally recognized as desirable, while the Senate last week tackled health care cost containment measures the governor said were badly needed — months ago.

But from the sounds of it, Baker and the state’s insurers are singing better never than late on the cost front, with the governor and insurance executives suggesting senators badly missed their cost control goal while checking off some other boxes on their health care policy preference lists.

Senate Democrats pushed through their massive bill at midnight Thursday on a 33-6 party-line vote. Senators dismissed Baker’s cost critique [see more below], citing his past ties to industry, and asserted they are merely trying to repair the many “broken” aspects of the health care system while also making it less costly.

All of this spoke to an issue driving once and future political campaigns: health care. And for that matter, present campaigns as well. In Tuesday’s elections, voters in Maine took the singular step of telling their governor to expand Medicaid coverage and take full advantage of Obamacare.

That stinging rebuke to the Trump approach was part of a first Tuesday in November widely seen as a repudiation of the president’s style and rhetoric, though there was nothing stylistic about the Maine Medicaid vote — it was a flat repudiation of the conservative approach to government-run health coverage.

While pundits nationwide watched Virginia and Maine and the Virginia House of Delegates race (won by transgender candidate Danica Roem) as electoral pulse-takers, Election Day in Massachusetts was much more of a confirmation that the electorate’s vital signs were normal. That is to say, a Trump-loathing mayor was overwhelmingly endorsed for a second term in Boston, and Democrats swept the races where it was D vs. R.

— Craig Sandler

ALSO ON THE AGENDA

  • Crime and punishment … and contraception
  • Warren and Franken on tax bill, McGovern rebukes Ryan
  • Glavin plans run for seventh term as secretary of state
  • Baker on altered State Police report detailing arrest of judge’s daughter
  • State police chief resigns in wake of arrest report protocol review
  • Spilka expects health cost savings in Senate bill


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