State House Roundup: Ice Buckets, Lobsters And Big Money Renovations
Aug 11, 2014 11:06AM
● Published by State House News
So this is what summer looks like.
Politicians around the state are dumping buckets of ice water over their heads and worrying about the lobster industry. The governor is going through ink faster than a small-town newspaper. And residents are far more concerned about where they're going to buy this week's groceries than who will occupy the Corner Office in 2015.
Gov. Deval Patrick, freshly settled back into his newly refurbished, historically authentic "Bullfinch Green" office on the third floor, utilized the new space this week for a marathon session of bill signings, scribbling his name on no fewer than 50 new laws, including ones authorizing billions in spending on capital improvement and information technology and aimed at improving access to addiction treatment to reduce opioid abuse around the state.
Still under review by the governor are bills seeking to boost economic development - and enshrine next weekend as a sales tax free shopping bonanza - and tighten gun permitting and background check laws.
The complete collection of ex-governor portraits had not even been rehung on the walls when Patrick began inviting advocates, lawmakers and anyone curious to see what an $11.3 million office renovation looks like to Suite 360 for back-to-back-to-back bill signings and swearing-in ceremonies.
The roughly $2 million in cost-overruns had to do with structural issues uncovered during the course of work, according to project managers, including holes in the floor of the governor's office that had literally been carpeted over. But that didn't stop the governor's critics from referring to him as elitist and entitled.
"Leave it to the governor to take the must-dos and the should-dos and put too much emphasis on the want-to-dos, and that's what he will ultimately be remembered for," House Minority Leader Brad Jones told the Boston Herald. "I don't think the plasma screen TVs he's installing are historically accurate. ... John Adams wasn't broadcasting anything from the State House."
Patrick, in a letter to Market Basket directors on Friday, also acknowledged the criticism he's received for taking a hands-off approach toward the feuding Demoulas family and what it means for thousands of workers and shoppers around the state. But on Friday, Patrick said the situation has gotten "out of hand" and offered to help broker a solution as long as it doesn't mean him choosing sides between Arthur T. and Arthur S.
This is typically the time of year when politicians turn all of their focus toward re-election campaigns, but for Auditor Suzanne Bump, the attention this week on her own re-election effort was not what she had in mind.
Former top aide Laura Marlin, who helped get Bump narrowly elected in 2010 and became her first deputy at the State House, filed a whistleblower lawsuit in federal court against her old boss alleging that she was fired after challenging Bump's use of her state office for political activity.
According to Marlin, Bump had campaign paperwork, including signature collection sheets, distributed out of her State House office and became enraged when Marlin challenged her over whether the political director of an influential labor union should have been contacted during the preparation of an audit of the troubled Department of Children and Families.
Bump denies all the allegations contained within the lawsuit, but is in need of legal representation after Attorney General Martha Coakley's office said she would not be representing her fellow constitutional officer because Marlin used to work for the attorney general, and it would create a conflict.
While Bump promised a "vigorous defense" of her reputation, the auditor's Republican challenger Patricia Saint Aubin suggested that a criminal investigation might be warranted and Coakley neatly sidestepped that question by suggesting she had yet to be fully caught up on the details of the case.
It didn't take long for the fruits of the Legislature's late session labor to bloom. A new super PAC disclosure law took effect and forced Mass Forward PAC to disclose that Treasure Steve Grossman's number one super fan is none other than mamma Shirley Grossman.
Grossman's mother was the top donor to the super PAC supporting her son's campaign for governor, ponying up a $100,000 allowance for the cause. Campaigns and super PACs are forbidden from coordinating with one another, so Grossman wouldn't even go so far as to confirm his mother's support, but Shirley had no problem telling the Globe that at 92 years old she can't knock on doors anymore so she's talking with her wallet.
Unfortunately for Grossman, not even the $400,000 that Mass Forward has poured into television advertising so far has been able to make a dent in Coakley's lead in the polls. The latest Boston Globe survey showed Coakley maintaining a 27-point advantage over Grossman, with former Obama health care official Donald Berwick a distant third.
Grossman sent out a fundraising appeal Friday touting the ground he gained in the same poll, pulling into a dead heat in a hypothetical general election matchup with Republican Charlie Baker, but he'll have to get to that point first for it to matter.
Meanwhile, when they weren't dumping buckets of ice water over their heads to raise awareness for ALS in the latest certified viral craze that had everyone from Baker to House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh getting wet for the cause, nearly a quarter of the Legislature signed on to an op/ed fretting about the impact of new federal lobster catch regulations.
The issue is the just the latest point of friction between Massachusetts political leaders and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, this time over a new ban on lobster trapping from January through April in order to protect whales. The lawmakers argue the rule is based on bad science and will hurt the Bay State lobster industry.
For the record, Gov. Patrick opted to make a donation to ALS research rather than take an ice bath for all of Facebook to see.
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