From State House News Service
ON THE AGENDA
- AG’s ‘copycat’ gun crackdown meets local pushback
- Video: DeLeo on Clinton VP pick Tim Kaine
- Baker derails notion of MBTA progress, calls for more changes
- Immigrants protest lack of support
- House, Senate reach common ground on pay equity bill
- Liberal business leaders back charter school expansion
- Mass. officials drive for NBA all-star game
TOP OF THE HILL
Worcester-based gun rights leader has harsh words for Healey ‘copycat’ ban
Attorney General Maura T. Healey’s announcement last week that she would step up enforcement of the state’s assault weapons ban, focusing on what she described as “copycat” guns, swiftly generated backlash from gun owners, dealers and activists who are viewing the move as an attack on their rights.
Protests outside the State House were planned for Thursday and Saturday, with organizers describing Healey’s actions as unconstitutional. Less than 24 hours after her announcement, more than 15,000 people had signed an online petition calling on Gov. Charlie Baker to overturn Healey’s decision and nearly 500 had joined a Facebook group calling for her to be recalled or impeached.
“I’ve been looking at the reactions that’s been going on in social media and text messages I’ve been getting, and I think that Maura Healey really stepped in it,” said Massachusetts Gun Rights chairman Christopher Pinto, a Doherty High graduate and former Republican State Committee candidate.
“This is like the day of infamy for Maura Healey. She’s going to awaken the sleeping giant of gun owners in Massachusetts. There’s nearly half a million of us in Massachusetts — Republican, Democrat and Independent — and she’s really woken up a sleeping giant, and her chances of getting elected governor or keeping her office could be over.”
Healey held a press conference Wednesday, July 20, to announce her office would enhance enforcement of the state’s 1998 assault weapon ban, and had issued a notice to the state’s 350 gun sellers advising them that copies or duplicates of banned guns were also illegal in Massachusetts.
“Increasingly, as we have seen, assault weapons are the weapons of choice for mass shooters,” Healey said. “They’re the kinds of weapons used in Orlando, San Bernardino, Aurora, Colorado, and Newtown, the kind of weapon used this past weekend to brutally target and kill three Baton Rouge police officers.”
The announcement created a rush on some Massachusetts gun stores, as consumers looked to buy items they worried would soon be prohibited.
Pullman Arms in Worcester stayed open until midnight, encouraging customers in social media posts to arrive by 10:30 p.m. to fill out necessary paperwork. Templeton’s Minuteman Armory got supply shipments from New Hampshire gun shops to keep up with demand Wednesday, and planned to open later than usual on Thursday after staff remained at the store until 1:30 a.m.
“My wife has always wanted her own AR-15 since she shot her brother’s. I went out and bought her one,” Pinto said. “My wife should probably send Maura Healey a thank-you note.”
Pinto described AR-15 as “the most common rifle out there,” comparing it to “the iPhone 6 of the shooting world.”
Noting that the 2016 platform adopted at the Republican National Convention includes language opposing laws that would “ban the sale of the most popular and common modern rifle,” Pinto said he believed the timing of Healey’s announcement was politically motivated.
Jim Wallace, the executive director of the Gun Owners Action League of Massachusetts, said he also views Healey’s actions as a “political stunt.”
“These laws were passed in 1998, they were redone in 2004, then they were reviewed in 2014, so the Legislature is already fine with what is going on,” Wallace said. “What other reason would a person unilaterally decide, I’m going to change the rules overnight?”
Healey’s enforcement notice said that forbidden copycat guns are those that are “substantially similar in construction and configuration” to banned weapons or have interchangeable key parts. She said she would not enforce the ban against gun owners who bought or sold such weapons before Wednesday.
— Katie Lannan (SHNS)
VIDEO OF THE WEEK
DeLeo on why Tim Kaine is a good choice for Hillary Clinton’s vice president
“A $1.5 billion system with a $1 billion shortfall that is losing $90 million a year in assets. This really shouldn’t be a surprise since eligible employees paid in about $47,000 in contributions and take out $1.65 million in pension and health care benefits.”
Gov. Charlie Baker, last Wednesday on the need for MBTA reforms
Baker wants state to assume control of MBTA pensions, pitches expansive reform
Presenting a broad reform agenda for the second year of the MBTA’s Fiscal and Management Control Board’s existence, Gov. Charlie Baker said the agency should shift its pension management to the state’s fund managers and continue to look for opportunities to privatize services.
“The old way of doing things at the T is no longer viable or sensible,” Baker told reporters at a press conference on Wednesday. He said, “The T’s pension system is in freefall.”
The governor said that for 15 years the T’s operating expenses had risen by about 5 percent a year despite virtually no increase in its ridership numbers. The agency has also remained mired in paper-driven administration at a time when most business operations are automated and online.
Baker plans to make a proposal in January, during the next legislative session, to move the MBTA’s pension — now overseen by a mix of union and management officials — under the management of the Pension Reserves Investment Management Board. An administration official said officials would review what legislation might be required.
The governor on Wednesday pointed to the findings of a task force he assembled last year as he reiterated his dismissal of the idea that additional state revenue sources are needed for the T, which has a roughly $2 billion operating budget.
“What they did not say is that the T was underfunded. It wasn’t. It isn’t. It won’t be. What it was, was poorly led and horribly managed. There are a lot of terrific people working at the T but it’s still broken,” Baker said.
The governor highlighted strides the T has made on boosting its own advertising revenue, and said improvements should be made that are visible to riders.
Baker also said the T is at the beginning of an upswing in the turnaround process.
“There are many talented, committed and dedicated people working at the T. They have been badly let down by a culture from the top to the bottom of the organization that’s allowed the T to deteriorate operationally and financially over a very long period of time,” Baker said. “Climbing out of this mess will take time and a ton of work. I think on that we can all agree. But it will also take a change in attitude at every level throughout the T.”
— Andy Metzger (SHNS)
*and sometimes a few more …
- IMMIGRATION ADVOCATES PROTEST BEACON HILL LEADERS Immigrant advocates, including representatives from Centro Presente, directed their anger at Republicans and Democrats Thursday afternoon on Beacon Hill, protesting outside Republican Gov. Charlie Baker’s office and the offices of House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo and the Senate. Protesters said they feel there’s a lack of support on Beacon Hill for their legislative initiatives and took issue with a Baker administration policy enabling Massachusetts State Police to hold certain people on immigration detainers.
Photo by Antonio Caban (SHNS)
IN THE NEWS
Legislators find common ground on equal pay bill, Baker priority
One down, five to go.
The Massachusetts House and Senate reached an agreement Thursday, July 21, on legislation to ensure men and women are paid the same for comparable work, a bill identified by Gov. Charlie Baker as one of six major bills he’s hoping lawmakers will send to his desk before formal sessions end Sunday, July 31.
The compromise legislation most closely resembles the version approved unanimously last week by the House, which business organizations like Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM) and the Massachusetts Business Roundtable had supported, House and Senate officials said.
“The spirit and sense of what was proposed in the Senate is still there. The House worked closely with AIM and the people over there to make sure that the details reflected their concerns,” House Speaker Pro Tempore Patricia A. Haddad, D-Somerset, said. “I don’t think anybody ever in the entire process was against pay equity; it’s always that the devil is in the details.”
Sen. Karen A. Spilka, D-Ashland, who co-sponsored the bill the Senate passed unanimously in January, said the agreement was not a difficult one to reach.
“The House version closely mirrors the original Senate bill with three or four changes,” she said. “So it was not a long stretch for us to agree.”
The bill (S. 2119) prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender in the payment of wages for comparable work “unless the variation is based upon a mitigating factor” including seniority, education, training, experience, or a bona fide merit system like one that measures earnings by sales, according to Haddad.
“It’s not rocket science. There are not a lot of new concepts,” Spilka said. “We’re putting together, in a more clearly defined and expressly defined bill, a lot of what people have been talking about as necessary to end the gender pay gap.”
A study from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research reported earlier this year that the state’s earnings ratio placed Massachusetts in 18th place nationally for pay equity and, without changes, the state’s wage gap is expected to persist until 2058.
“I am so happy for my granddaughters, who will enter a much fairer workforce and won’t have to battle the same gender wage gap that has held back women’s salaries for too long,” Sen. Patricia D. Jehlen, D-Somerville, who has filed pay equity bills in numerous sessions, said in a statement.
— Colin A. Young (SHNS)
Liberal business group supports charter school expansion
A left-leaning, progressive business organization got behind the campaign pushing for an expansion of charter schools in Massachusetts on Thursday, an endorsement that charter supporters said will be essential to winning voter support in November.
The Alliance for Business Leadership announced its “unconditional endorsement” of Question 2, which would allow the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to approve up to an additional 12 charter schools or charter school expansions outside of existing caps on charter enrollment.
“As a group of progressive business leaders we tend to be historically aligned with issues of social justice and improving economic equality,” said Jeff Bussgang, chairman of the alliance and general partner at Flybridge Capital Partners. “We really view this issue as central to that mission and that’s what led us to come to the conclusion we should endorse the lift of the cap.”
Bussgang said his organization was in favor of a legislative solution that would have avoided a ballot fight.
“Once it became clear that this was the only path — not the path we would have liked to have seen — once it was clear the blunt tool of a ballot vote is the only tool available to us to address this issue, we coalesced very quickly behind it,” Bussgang said.
The alliance’s board includes Alan Solomont, former national finance chair of the Democratic Party (and ambassador to Spain and Andorra), 2014 Democratic gubernatorial candidate Juliette Kayyem, and longtime Democratic National Committee official James Roosevelt Jr. The alliance’s president, Jesse Mermell, was a senior member of Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick’s staff.
The Alliance for Business Leadership has advocated for other social and economic issues on Beacon Hill, including early childhood education, paid family leave, investments in public transportation and gender pay equity legislation. The alliance joins the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, Democrats for Education Reform and the Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance among the groups to support Question 2.
— Colin A. Young
State officials take aim at NBA all-star game in light of North Carolina-LGBTQ rift
In the wake of the NBA’s decision to pull its All-Star Game from Charlotte over North Carolina’s controversial transgender bathroom law, Massachusetts politicians are offering the Bay State as an alternative.
— Speaker Bob DeLeo (@SpeakerDeLeo) July 21, 2016
“Bring the #AllStarGame to MA, where we recently advanced civil rights with #transgender law,” House Speaker Robert DeLeo wrote on Twitter Thursday.
On July 8, Gov. Charlie Baker signed a law banning discrimination based on gender identity in places of public accommodation, including provisions allowing transgender people to use bathrooms and other sex-segregated facilities based on their gender identity.
The North Carolina law, cited by NBA officials in their decision to move the game, requires people to use bathrooms that correspond to their sex at birth while in government facilities.
“If that’s one of the concerns that the NBA has, I think that Massachusetts and Boston in particular can fit that bill very well,” DeLeo told reporters Friday.
In April, while the public accommodations bill was still pending before the Massachusetts Legislature, Senate President Stanley C. Rosenberg, D-Amherst, wrote a letter to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, encouraging him to consider relocating the game to Boston.
In the letter, Rosenberg referenced the 2004 legalization of gay marriage in Massachusetts and a 2011 law that first extended anti-discrimination protections to transgender people — as well as “the best fans in the nation when it comes to our sports teams.”
Asked about DeLeo’s tweet on WGBH Radio Friday, Boston Mayor Martin Walsh said his city “would be a great option if they truly want to send a message.”
Boston last hosted an NBA All-Star Game in 1964.
— Katie Lannan