Defining the Pacheco law

The temperature is rising on Beacon Hill in the battle over reforms to the much maligned MBTA.

The Globe‘s David Scharfenberg reports today that both sides in the T debate are turning up the heat, with the Carmen’s Union that represents MBTA workers hitting the airwaves with a new radio ad blasting efforts by the Baker administration to win more leeway to privatize T services. Meanwhile, the conservative Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance is blasting the “union bosses” holding back progress.

But you don’t need to tell us that things are getting testy. Wednesday’s Download included a link to a Boston Herald story on the Carmen’s Union ad campaign. The Download item, using the same language as the Herald piece, referred to the union effort to block the administration’s attempt to suspend the “anti-privatization” Pacheco law. That prompted a call to CommonWealth yesterday from Sen. Marc Pacheco.

The Taunton Democrat, who may be the only legislator in recent memory to have his name so closely tied to a piece of legislation, authored the 22-year-old statute that sets up a complicated set of rules governing the ability to privatize state services. Pacheco says use of the term “anti-privatization” to describe the law is a mischaracterization. “We didn’t pick a side,” he says of the 1993 passage of the law, insisting that the Legislature simply set up clear rules to oversee privatization efforts that were running wild with little accountability under the Weld administration. The goal, he says, was to ensure that any outside contractor actually brought real savings to the state.

So, strictly speaking, might Pacheco’s signature legislation be better called a privatization-regulating or privatization-limiting law?

He has always had a much grander vision for it. “I’ve referred to it since the time we got it passed as the ‘Taxpayer Protection Act,'” says Pacheco. He insists that the law, far from being the union-friendly boondoggle critics call it, guards against taxpayers getting fleeced. Pacheco says there were all sorts of allegations of people exiting the Weld administration and “setting up deals for themselves” through overpriced privatized services. The law aimed “to stop the revolving door that was going on,” he says.

He points out that 80 percent of all applications to privatize services under the rules of the Pacheco law have been approved. Critics say Pacheco’s defense of the law is a weak one, and charge that the statute establishes a byzantine set of rules and regulations that have made it nearly impossible to privatize, and so few attempts have been made. If the anti-privatizing shoe fits, they say, the law needs to wear it.

Pacheco acknowledges the law’s critics have largely won the framing war. “They’ve been very good at getting that narrative out there, to the extent that even credible journalists use it,” he says. A quick check shows “anti-privatization” used not only by the Herald but also by the play-it-down-the-middle Associated Press.

And then, in a special category, there is Globe columnist Scot Lehigh, who has been the most consistent and vociferous critic of the law, and who certainly doesn’t shrink from the anti-privatization phraseology.

“He should send me a thank you for probably about 40 columns over the years,” says Pacheco.




Jay Ash, the secretary of housing and economic development, and his team fan out across the state to meet with local officials. (Sun) Meanwhile, Ash, a Democrat, is loading his office up with failed GOP candidates. (State House News)

Rep. Brian Dempsey, the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, secures $2 million for Trinity Stadium in his hometown of Haverhill, on top of $4.1 million provided by the state previously. (Eagle-Tribune)

Former transportation secretary Jim Aloisi says the MBTA reform legislation that emerged from the Legislature’s Transportation Committee is a vehicle around which consensus can be built. (CommonWealth)

Joe Battenfeld keeps pounding away on the tale of Patrick administration junket spending. (Boston Herald)


Some construction unions in a dispute with Quincy officials over assurances for jobs in the downtown redevelopment came under fire for making several passes in a truck with billboard protests during a memorial service for Korean veterans led by Mayor Thomas Koch. (Patriot Ledger)

A Fall River city councilor is challenging the legality of a council vote in favor of a controversial new monthly trash fee because the administration submitted the request after the May 1 deadline. (Herald News)

Boston is going to provide free sunscreen at city parks. (WBUR)

Boston officials will seek permission from Quincy to upgrade the controversial police firing range on Moon Island, which is owned by Boston but lies in the City of Presidents waters and can only be accessed through Quincy neighborhoods. (Patriot Ledger)

Developers unveil designs for a new residential tower in Roxbury. (Bay State Banner)

Three former Worcester Diocese priests are formally defrocked after being implicated in sex abuse of minors. (Telegram & Gazette)


Boston Mayor Marty Walsh takes a pass on a $150 million plan from Wynn Resorts to fix Sullivan Square in Charlestown. (CommonWealth)

Highway construction delays could put off the opening of the MGM casino in Springfield by a year, potentially costing the state $125 million. (State House News)

The state’s Gaming Commission rejected a request by the developers of a proposed Brockton casino to set a July 24 deadline for the next phase of applications, instead opting for September 30, which was favored by the backers of a planned New Bedford casino. (Standard-Times)


Boston Business Journal‘s Craig Douglas has a withering takedown of Mayor Marty Walsh‘s handling of the Boston 2024 bid, reporting that City Hall never reviewed the bid document the mayor signed and that the mayor’s office was coordinating media strategy with Boston 2024 and even relying on the group for talking points.


In a landmark decision foreshadowed by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court more than a decade ago, the US Supreme Court rules 5-4 that same-sex marriage is a right. (New York Times)

Six Maine lawmakers say they plan to pursue impeachment proceedings against Gov. Paul LePage. (Governing)

Black Lives Matter activists have targeted Confederate monuments in several states. (Associated Press via MassLive) Some wonder if the Confederates go, is Thomas Jefferson next? (Christian Science Monitor)


The MetroWest Daily News argues that Hopkinton protests against a new CVS in an area zoned for retail are “misguided.


Berklee College of Music and the Boston Conservatory are in merger talks. (Boston Globe)

The Department of Education says the data it will release this summer on colleges will be more consumer-oriented to aid in choosing a school rather than a rating system that had been promised by President Obama. (U.S. New & World Report)

New Bedford’s Human Relations Commission condemned administrators at Greater New Bedford Regional Vocational Technical High School for allowing a teacher to stay on the job for more than a month after he posted comments in the wake of the Baltimore riots disparaging black men and threatening to shoot “thugs.” (Standard-Times)

Nonprofessional employees in the Pittsfield schools call for a “fair, living wage.”


Boston health care expert John McDonough, who helped craft the Massachusetts reform law and the federal Affordable Care Act, breaks down yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling. (CommonWealth) Think the ruling allowing subsidies under the ACA was the final word? (New York Times) Think again. (U.S. News & World Report) A Globe editorial says it’s time for Republican opponents to end their cartoonish antics to block the law.

Bristol-Myers Squibb will open a research center with 300 workers in Cambridge‘s Kendall Square in 2018. (Boston Globe)


Keolis, the region’s commuter rail operator, has finally filled the long-vacant position of chief mechanic. But the new hire, who has worked extensively in the airline industry, has no experience in the railroad world, a possible violation of the Keolis contract with the MBTA, says the Herald.

Former Revere city councilor William Bell says he saw so many people waiting for MBTA buses that he decided to launch his own private bus service from Lynn to the Wonderland T stop. (Item)

The Salem News, in an editorial, praises city officials for finding a compromise on cobblestones unearthed during road work.


A group of lawmakers is pushing for a statewide ban on plastic bags. (Salem News)

The Berkshire Eagle doesn’t think much of a Beacon Hill Institute study touting the benefits of the proposed Kinder Morgan pipeline.


Parents have a right to discipline their children by spanking, though within limits, the Supreme Judicial Court ruled in overturning the conviction of a Brockton man found guilty of child abuse. (The Enterprise)

Adrian Walker writes about trouble in the Worcester Police Department over the alleged pummelling of a black prisoner by a white officer, who is now facing assault and civil rights charges. (Boston Globe)

Essex District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett says now is not the time to go soft on drug dealers. (Salem News)

A Boston cop has quit the force and agreed to a probation plea deal that avoids jail time in connection with case in which he admits to making false statements to the FBI. (Boston Herald)


Astronomers studying shadows in the famous picture of a sailor kissing a woman in Times Square on V-J Day determined the buss occurred at 5:51 pm, disproving at least one widely accepted claim of the identity of the smoochers. (New York Times)

The Huffington Post is launching film and TV divisions and planning a 24-hour online video channel. (Hollywood Reporter)

The Baker administration keeps track of what reporters are working on. We know this because they accidentally sent the reporters a list of what they are working on.