Rodrigues, AIM already sick of sick leave law

The Bay State’s sick leave law, passed by a crushing margin in November, inspired politicians around the country. In his State of the Union address, President Obama called on Congress to work to grant all workers seven days of paid sick leave.

The Boston Globe’s Joanna Weiss has noted that the issue may give Hillary Clinton some traction with Republican voters, while GOP governors oppose it at their peril. Ohio and Maryland lawmakers are among those taking up the sick leave fight.

Meanwhile, back in Massachusetts, the Question 4 victory appears to have inspired Sen. Michael Rodrigues, too, though not in the way sick leave proponents intended.

The Westport Democrat has introduced a bill that aims “to clarify” the earned sick leave law. Rodrigues seeks to make “business-friendly changes” to the statute, according to the State House News Service.

Those changes would include delaying implementation of the law until 2016 and exempting interns, independent contractors, and employees who earn commissions. It also would allow businesses to devise stricter requirements for determining when employees can call in sick.

His timing couldn’t be better. Before drafting the final language, Attorney General Maura Healey is collecting public comments about the law, currently scheduled to go into effect on July 1.

The Associated Industries of Massachusetts, a key backer of the clarification push, described its position this way: “The corrections bill does not represent an attempt to circumvent the will of the voters, but rather to provide employers with a clear roadmap on issues such as eligibility and how the new statute works with existing paid time off benefit plans.”

Rodrigues told State House News Service that he wants to “engage both sides.”

Nevertheless, Springfield Republican columnist Ron Chimelis suggests that the business community “has itself to blame” for failing to work with labor groups to come up with a legislative compromise. Business leaders now find themselves on the verge of a high-profile battle to backfill a wildly popular measure to address concerns that should have been addressed in State House negotiations, not at the ballot box.

Chimelis summed up the attitude of Raise up Massachusetts, the coalition of 100 groups that coordinated the “Yes on Question 4” campaign, as “No. We won. Follow the law.”

But Massachusetts lawmakers have a long tradition of tweaking or disregarding ballot question results. A 2000 ballot initiative required the Legislature to cut the state income tax, which stood at 5.85 percent, to 5 percent. Fearful of adverse fiscal impacts in tough economic times, the Legislature enacted a series of complex economic triggers to gradually reduce the tax. Fifteen years after the vote, the income tax rate stands at 5.15 percent.

A clean elections law passed by voters in 1998 was never fully funded by state lawmakers. It was finally repealed by the Legislature in 2003 after the Supreme Judicial Court issued a ruling that essentially said fund it or forget about it.

In the face of the AIM challenge, a take-no-prisoners stance by labor advocates could backfire. In many ways, the fight over sick leave has only just begun.

–GABRIELLE GURLEY

SNOWMAGEDDON

While most of the state was buried in white, fluffy stuff, South Shore towns, especially Marshfield andScituate, were pounded with high winds and destructive astronomical tides that flooded homes, breached sea walls, and made streets impassable. The blizzard will rank in the state’s top 10, but for most residents it was far less devastating than anticipated, with power outages largely restricted to coastal area. The MBTA is back in business today, but general manager Beverly Scott has a preemptive warning: Expect service to be “far from” normal.

Joe Battenfeld gives Gov. Charlie Baker a passing grade for his handling of his first major storm.

A Globe editorial urges Baker to tap a bond bill authorizing $20 million to buyout homeowners in vulnerable areas such as those battered by yesterday’s storm.

The head of Providence private school is now a YouTube sensation following the recording of a school-is-closed video to the tune of Frozen‘s “Let it Go.”

The New Republic‘s Rebecca Leber tries to preempt climate change deniers from screaming about how the blizzard disproves climate change by pointing out that weather (immediate conditions of rain, snow, sunshine, etc.) is not the same as long-term climate patterns, which include the fact that 10 of the hottest years on record have occurred since 2000. But it’s to no avail: Howie Carr will have none of this data-based science-y stuff in the face of what he sees with his own eyes right outside his door.

BEACON HILL

Treasurer Deborah Goldberg wants to ramp up ad spending at the Lottery as it faces new competition from casinos and a slots parlor, the Salem News reports.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Lowell towed more than 100 vehicles that didn’t comply with the on-street parking ban, and the number is rising, the Sun reports.

A Gloucester group plans to raise $60,000 to install a David Black sculpture in Solomon Jacobs Park, the Gloucester Times reports.

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

Lost in the blizzard was news that HUD released $1.8 billion in grants to assist housing and homelessness programs, including more than $70 million for Massachusetts.

In the National Review, Ian Tuttle defends the Koch brothers’ plans to dole out nearly $900 million in the upcoming election, saying many Democratic donors outspend the conservative energy titans.

ELECTIONS

Time, using data from the Center for Public Integrity, reports on the campaign finance kingmakers of 2014 and breaks the top givers down by state. In Massachusetts, the five biggest donors are the Republican Governors Association ($9.4 million), the Massachusetts Teachers Association ($2.6 million), Evan Falchuk ($2.1 million), Deborah Goldberg ($1.8 million), and the Democratic Governors Association ($1.4 million).

With Mitt Romney back in the mix of presidential campaign talk, it’s time to check in on his extensive McMansion holdings.

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Home sales in the state ended 2014 with a strong December showing.

EDUCATION

The Massachusetts high school dropout rate is the lowest in decades, WBUR reports.

Facing strong bipartisan opposition and pushback from angry parents, President Obama is withdrawing his plan to tax so-called 529 plans, a move that would have essentially gutted the education savings program.

Harvard edges Stanford, raising a record $1.16 billion last year.

HEALTH CARE

Shirley Leung offers her list of winners and losers in the Partners HealthCare expansion battle following Attorney General Maura Healey‘s big filing in the case earlier this week.

Oregon offers valuable lessons on how to rein in the cost of health care, William Galston writes in the Wall Street Journal.

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Barbara Kates-Garnick, the top energy official in the Patrick administration and now an advisor to a group pushing for expanded natural gas pipeline capacity, makes her case in CommonWealth.

The Obama administration announced it would open up portions of the Atlantic and untapped areas of the Gulf of Mexico for deepwater gas and oil drilling, while banning drilling in areas off the Alaskan coast.

The transmission lines for Pilgrim power plant in Plymouth went down during the blizzard but officials say the nuclear plant presents no danger as safety protocols were put into place.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

The Supreme Judicial Court ruled that names of jurors in all criminal cases are public records that must be released “no later than at the completion of the trial.”

Meet the Author

Gabrielle Gurley

Senior Associate Editor, CommonWealth

About Gabrielle Gurley

Gabrielle covers several beats, including mass transit, municipal government, child welfare, and energy and the environment. Her recent articles have explored municipal hiring practices in Pittsfield, public defender pay, and medical marijuana, and she has won several national journalism awards for her work. Prior to coming to CommonWealth in 2005, Gabrielle wrote for the State House News Service, The Boston Globe, and other publications. She launched her media career in broadcast journalism with C-SPAN in Washington, DC. The Philadelphia native holds degrees from Boston College and Georgetown University.

About Gabrielle Gurley

Gabrielle covers several beats, including mass transit, municipal government, child welfare, and energy and the environment. Her recent articles have explored municipal hiring practices in Pittsfield, public defender pay, and medical marijuana, and she has won several national journalism awards for her work. Prior to coming to CommonWealth in 2005, Gabrielle wrote for the State House News Service, The Boston Globe, and other publications. She launched her media career in broadcast journalism with C-SPAN in Washington, DC. The Philadelphia native holds degrees from Boston College and Georgetown University.

The Philippine government has rejected a motion from a New Bedford marine to drop the murder charges against him in the slaying of a transgender woman.

Prosecutors are seeking to bar expert testimony in the murder trial of former Patriots player Aaron Hernandez that one of his alleged accomplices may have been high on PCP.