Let there be light
What do you get when you jam an 18-month legislative session into a frenzied final few hours of votes? Well, you get what you deserve, but thankfully for the Legislature, the Red Sox took the heat away with their own dizzying deadline deals, albeit much less chaotic.
With a midnight deadline looming for the two-year term – which, of course, was blown by an hour – lawmakers in both chambers rushed to get complex bills passed as fast as they emerged from conference committee, with barely a chance to throw on reading glasses before a roll call of the yeas and nays, or in many cases, voice vote.
While not exactly a reenactment of the infamous toga parties of yore – Beacon Hill in 2000, not the Roman Senate during the days of Caesar – the Thursday night/Friday morning session had all the trappings of sausage-making but without the flavor. Several bills that became law had errata sheets attached to them to fix mistakes that would later be found in the light of day. It seems lawmakers booted the ball more often than Xander Bogaerts at third base.
Among the more complex pieces of legislation sent to Gov. Deval Patrick’s desk as a 58th birthday present was a compromise bill tightening the state’s already stiff gun laws. They also passed a campaign finance bill that enhances PAC disclosure as well as lifting the limit on contributions from $500 a year to $1,000.
The Legislature also passed a controversial bill requiring insurance companies to cover in-patient treatment for substance abuse treatment if prescribed by a doctor, despite the objections of said companies as well as some medical experts who say residential recovery may not always be the most effective path.
Lawmakers patted themselves on the back for passing a comprehensive domestic violence bill in response to the horrific murder by Jared Remy of his girlfriend and the mother of his daughter. But tucked away in the legislation was a measure to shield police reports on domestic violence from public view. First Amendment advocates, including newspaper publishers, decried the shield, saying it could protect high-profile officials arrested for such actions as well as keep potential police actions from being scrutinized. It also overlooks the fact that part of the issue with Remy’s case was that many of his assaults on his victim, Jennifer Martel, as well as other women, were not public.
For lawmakers, 18 months, apparently, was just not enough to do everything. A bill that would revamp the state’s solar energy laws was watered down to merely raising the cap on solar-power generation. Another measure to kickstart the stalled multi-million-dollar mixed-use redevelopment of the former naval air base in South Weymouth got as far as having an emergency preamble attached to it for immediate enactment but couldn’t get final approval before the clock struck 1 a.m. and everyone rushed out to grabs their carriages before they turned into pumpkins.
“What’s concerning is the way that we accomplish some of these things and whether or not we can pace ourselves better than we have and give folks an opportunity to understand really what we’re doing on Beacon Hill,” Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr said.
Part of the problem is, even without the Red Sox commandeering the front page, little attention is paid to what happens on Beacon Hill in the late hours because media outlets just aren’t staffing the State House like they used to.
Perhaps the best observation came, ironically, from then-House Speaker Thomas Finneran, known for his love of last-minute legislative action and the use of outside sections to beef up the budget. In the wake of the Animal House session of 2000, Finneran told the Globe it was the media’s job to watchdog the Legislature, not necessarily for lawmakers to police themselves.
“You bring in the light,” he said, “and in the light we have to make these decisions.”
A juror at the Probation corruption trial says House Speaker Robert DeLeo should have been on trial and not former Probation commissioner John O’Brien, CommonWealth reports. The Probation corruption trial is reviving a long-running debate about whether the House speaker has too much power, the Salem News reports.
A Globe editorial urges Marty Walshto rethink his defense of O’Brien and his claim that he doesn’t think any criminal activity took place in the case.
Inspector General Glenn Cunha issues a report saying former Westfield State President Evan Dobelle racked up tens of thousands of dollars of spending on university credit cards and inappropriately labeled them legitimate, the Telegram & Gazette reports.
Jim O’Sullivan writes that Deval Patrick will leave a big mark on the state’s judiciary.
William Matthews, writing in CommonWealth, says the Legislature’s gun bill compromise on discretionary licensing for rifles and shotguns is a distinction without a difference.
Voluntary compliance with the Public Records Law by the Legislature, the judiciary, and the governor doesn’t always work that well, CommonWealth reports.
The girlfriend of former Lawrence mayor William Lantigua sues current mayor Daniel Rivera in federal court alleging she was fired from her city job because of her political support for her boyfriend, the Eagle-Tribune reports.
The standoff over waterfront development in Newburyport grows.
It’s full speed ahead, says MGM, the designated casino developer in Springfield, despite the looming November ballot question that could repeal the state’s casino law.
CIA Director John Brennan dropped his defiant posture and apologized to Congress after an Inspector General’s report found agency operatives accessed Senate computers and read staffers’ emails. The CIA had previously denied spying on lawmakers.
The backlog of cases in the federal immigration courts has doubled to more than 375,000 since 2008 because of a lack of judges in the system.
A new poll shows Obamacare’s popularity has sunk to a new low, but it also finds that this may not matter much to the November midterm elections.
Governing examines the best ways for states to build rainy day funds.
In the American Spectator, former Reagan aide Jeffrey Lord can’t seem to get past Secretary of State John Kerry’s 1971 congressional testimony as a member of Vietnam Veterans Against The War.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo meets an adversary who plays the same game he does — federal prosecutor Preet Bharara.
Wisconsin’s highest court upholds a ruling stripping most government employees of collective bargaining rights.
Yes, we really are a liberal state, a new Globe polls finds.
The ballot campaign for an expanded bottle bill has two grizzled veterans of the fight, MassPIRG’s Janet Domenitz and the Sierra Club’s Phil Sego, helping to steer the effort.
The attorneys general of Massachusetts and New Hampshire warn Market Basket officials to follow workers’ rights regulations if they seek to let go any existing employees, the Lowell Sun reports.
The debate about school choice is about a lot more than charter schools, writes Michael Jonas in CommonWealth.
The planning process for regional transit authorities is crucial for Gateway Cities, write Mary Ebeling and Ben Forman in CommonWealth.
Cutting down loud motorcycle noise, the bane of open windows on busy streets in every community, is not as easy as it sounds.
On Jim Braude’s Broadside, Maeve Bartlett, the governor’s secretary of energy and environmental affairs, defends her boss against accusations that he is undercutting the state’s climate change efforts by supporting the importation of more natural gas and hydroelectric power from Canada.
The Supreme Judicial Court upheld the state approval of a proposed controversial power plant in Brockton but also struck down the operator’s plan to use drinking water instead of wastewater for cooling.
Nearly 200 people at a special town meeting in Townsend vote unanimously for a nonbinding resolution opposing a proposed Kinder Morgan pipeline that would run through their town, the Sun reports.
Ann Berwick, the the state’s top utilities regulator and wife of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Don Berwick, took part in meetings to help craft a solar energy bill in which their son’s solar energy company stood to benefit.
MEDIAGateHouse Media, which has agreed to buy the Providence Journal, is planning on cutting at least 40 jobs once the sale is complete, according to a SEC filing by the company.
The National Association of Black Journalists held its annual convention in Boston this week for the first time in its nearly 40-year history and Greater Boston takes a look at the future of black media and community journalism.