Pssst: Baker won’t veto a transgender rights bill

Business leaders in Massachusetts are turning up the heat on the Legislature to pass a transgender rights bill.

The Globe’s Shirley Leung reports this morning that more than 40 companies and business organizations have signed a letter to be delivered today to House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senate President Stan Rosenberg urging them to move forward on the bill, which would extend existing transgender rights to cover public accommodations, including bathrooms.

DeLeo and Rosenberg support the bill, but both have indicated they want to marshal enough backing to override a potential gubernatorial veto.

Gov. Charlie Baker has been firmly planted on the fence, saying he doesn’t favor discriminating against anyone but won’t commit to signing a bill until he’s seen its final details.

The new push from business leaders, including EMC, Harvard Pilgrim (which Baker helmed for a decade), and GE, was organized by Attorney General Maura Healey, who last week urged the House to bring the measure to a vote.

The drama is playing out as North Carolina finds itself the center of unwanted attention over a bill its governor signed that explicitly forbids people from using public restrooms that don’t correspond to their biological gender at birth. The bill further prevented municipal governments in the state from enacting anti-discrimination laws protecting gay and transgender individuals.

The measure is proving to be bad for business in the Tar Heel State, with Bruce Springsteen abruptly cancelling a Greensboro concert and PayPal shelving plans to site an operations center there.

Rosenberg, in a speech this morning to the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, said he anticipates the Senate taking up the bill in May or June.

While the talk continues to focus on overriding a possible veto, the dirty little secret is that it’s next to impossible to imagine Baker vetoing the bill. Though a veto would not put him on par with the stance of North Carolina’s Republican governor, Pat McCrory, it would hardly matter. Baker would quickly find himself lumped in league with hard-right Republican governors unwilling to extend a set of rights that are already on the books in 17 states.

Kicking up a storm by landing on the conservative side of a hot-button social issue would be a nightmare for a governor eager to maintain his reputation as a bipartisan problem-solver. And it certainly cannot be lost on him who has emerged as the bill’s most vocal champion on Beacon Hill.

One stroke of Baker’s veto pen and it’s easy to imagine the Healey-for-governor talk, currently a faint whisper amidst Baker’s soaring poll numbers, becoming a real thing.

–MICHAEL JONAS

 

BEACON HILL

State Treasurer Deb Goldberg unveils an online tool to measure the gender pay gap. (Masslive)

Gov. Charlie Baker’s former tax commissioner, Mark Nunnelly, who vowed last fall to exit two corporate boards because holding the high-paying seats was against the law, never left the posts, but the administration says all is OK because he’s now in a different state post that doesn’t require him to give up the positions. (Boston Globe)

Lawmakers are wrestling with a bill trying to determine if marijuana cultivation should be considered an agricultural crop or a controlled substance. (State House News Service)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Fall River Mayor Jasiel Correia is following through on his threat to privatize the city’s trash pick-up after failing to reach a contract agreement with the sanitation worker’s union. (Herald News)

CASINOS

The federal criminal trial dealing with the Wynn Resorts acquisition of land in Everett  starts off with recorded conversations filled with expletives. (CommonWealth)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

Sen. Charles Grassley, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, met with Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland but held tight to his stance Republicans will not hold hearings on the nomination. (New York Times)

ELECTIONS

Winthrop’s Joe Boncore rode a wave of huge support in his hometown, where he pulled an astounding 65 percent of the vote in a seven-way race, to capture the special election Democratic primary for the state Senate seat vacated by Anthony Petruccelli. (CommonWealth) Dan Rizzo, who came in second in the race, files a complaint over last-minute mailers that falsely stated he had endorsed Republicans in the past. (CommonWealth)

Former Hull selectman Joan Meschino topped the Democratic primary and will face off against Weymouth Town Council President Patrick O’Connor, who easily won the Republican nomination, in the May 10th special election for the Senate seat to replace Robert Hedlund, who is now Weymouth’s mayor. (Patriot Ledger)

House Speaker Paul Ryan channels his inner Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman and says he will not run nor will he accept the Republican nomination for president. (U.S. News & World Report)

No Trump surprise here: Steve Koczela of the MassINC Polling Group says Donald Trump faces nearly impossible odds to win Massachusetts in a general election. (WBUR)

Scot Lehigh isn’t giving up on his favorite Republican, John Kasich. (Boston Globe)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

For the first time since biotechnology began being widely used in commercial agriculture in 1996, the amount of acreage worldwide for genetically modified crops dropped in 2015. (New York Times)

Verizon workers on the East Coast go on strike. (Associated Press)

EDUCATION

School officials in Lowell continue to redact large sections of a report on a racial incident at the high school last fall, but after a ruling from the Secretary of State’s office at least they are now giving their reasons for doing so. The school  incident figures prominently in a CommonWealth report on why whites control Lowell city government.

There is no end in sight to the war at Suffolk University between its embattled president, Margaret McKenna, and the school’s board of trustees. (Boston Globe) PR honcho George Regan, who figures prominently in the ongoing conflict, spouts off about it in the new issue of CommonWealth.

The Conservatory Lab Charter School has hired former House speaker Tom Finneran to help in its push to build a new $30 million school in Roxbury. (Boston Herald)

The cost of full-time daycare for an infant is greater than the cost of in-state tuition at UMass Amherst. (Masslive)

The New Bedford School Committee voted down a proposal that would have required the schools to let parents know they can allow their children to opt out of the PARCC exams. (Standard-Times)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

John McDonough salutes the tenth anniversary of the state’s health care reform law — “It’s holding up well and it’s a noble credit to Massachusetts,” he writes. (CommonWealth) Josh Archambault and Jim Stergios say it’s turned into a runaway cost driver and needs to be rethought. (Boston Globe)

In a gripping sign of how deadly the heroin is that users are injecting, addicts are making their way to the grounds of Mass. General Hospital to shoot up so that they’ll be near emergency care if they overdose. (Boston Herald)

TRANSPORTATION

Uber releases a report indicating it provided information on 12 million riders and drivers to regulators over a six-month period. (Reuters)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Charlton strikes a $30 million deal with ExxonMobil to build water lines to communities affected by a gasoline spill that led to groundwater contamination. (Telegram & Gazette)

A preliminary count indicates the number of bald eagle breeding pairs is continuing to grow across Massachusetts. (Telegram & Gazette)

Prior to a public hearing on the Pilgrim nuclear power plant slated for Wednesday evening, a regional administrator for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said the facility’s performance is among the worst in the country. (Cape Cod Times)

An internationally renowned marine scientist at UMass Dartmouth whose research of scallop habitats has been key in setting regulations and reviving the commercial scalloping industry has been denied federal funding for his surveys for the first time since 1999. (Standard-Times)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

Prison recidivism is very high in Massachusetts, according to a new report. (State House News)