Senate guts Baker’s T plans

While the Legislature’s Transportation Committee was busy on Monday taking testimony on Gov. Charlie Baker’s MBTA reform bill, the Senate Ways and Means Committee was cutting to the chase and putting the finishing touches on a budget proposal that guts most of what Baker is seeking.

The Senate budget proposal dispenses with the T fiscal control board that Baker wants. The budget also rebuffs Baker by retaining a cap on T fare hikes, preserving $500 million in T funding, and leaving untouched the privatization restrictions of the so-called Pacheco law, whose author, Sen. Marc Pacheco of Taunton, is a Senate leader. The Senate proposal also expands the Massachusetts Department of Transportation board from seven to 11 members and gives the governor’s secretary of transportation direct line authority over the T’s general manager, including the power to hire and fire the executive.

The story line out of the Senate is that the solons are giving Baker full control of the T without creating a new layer of unnecessary bureaucracy. Baker doesn’t see it that way. As he said at Monday’s hearing: “There’s an old maxim that if nothing changes, then nothing will change.”

The Senate budget proposal, due to be formally unveiled on Tuesday, will go to the full Senate for debate and then head to conference with the House. The House, in its budget, left the T largely untouched except for a provision exempting the transit agency from the reach of the Pacheco law for five years.

The Pacheco law could become an interesting bargaining chip in the negotiations over the T. Senators have a long list of data points suggesting the law is not overly restrictive. Auditor Suzanne Bump has become a Pacheco law partisan, suggesting the T’s own management failures have prevented the agency from successfully privatizing services.

But it was clear from Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack’s testimony at the legislative hearing that she regards the Pacheco law as a major impediment to reforming the T. She said she would like to privatize late-night T service and the oversight of employee use of the Family and Medical Leave Act. Yet she said privatization wouldn’t be possible in the face of the Pacheco law’s restrictions, which she said are so onerous that the T no longer attempts to contract out its operations. “It has self-censored itself and no longer considers it an option,” she said.

–BRUCE MOHL

 

BEACON HILL 

Attorney General Maura Healey plans to offer her office’s 525 employees six weeks of paid parental leave. (Boston Globe)

State employees in critical positions will not be allowed to retire early. (MassLive)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Lee considers asking the Legislature for permission to increase the gas tax locally. (Berkshire Eagle)

MARATHON BOMBING TRIAL

The defense makes a final effort to humanize Dzhokhar Tsarnaev by calling Sister Helen Prejean, a well-known anti-death penalty activist, as its final witness. Kevin Cullen isn’t sure she pulled it off. Peter Gelzinis says she did what none of Tsarnaev relatives could and may have “scored with at least one juror” — all that’s needed to spare Tsarnaev the death penalty. (Boston Herald)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

The Senate is due to vote today on a trade bill that has pitted President Obama against his party’s leading liberal light, Elizabeth Warren. (Boston Globe) Warren lays out her case against the trade deal in an op-ed coauthored with Connecticut Rep. Rosa DeLauro. (Boston Globe)

Comedian John Oliver makes a cogent case for universal maternity leave: Only the US and Papua New Guinea do not have have such policies. But three states do and they could provide a model for others. (Christian Science Monitor)

ELECTIONS

Former Quincy mayor William Phelan, who lost his office in 2007 to current Mayor Thomas Koch and lost again in a rematch two years later, says he will run again against Koch and at least two others in September. (Patriot Ledger)

The Herald tries to pump up interest in a Herald radio interview scheduled this morning with Donald Trump by saying this time could be different, and with a “Polling strong” headline over a piece reporting that he placed fifth in recent New Hampshire GOP primary poll.

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

A new study points to wage theft as a significant problem in the Massachusetts construction industry. (Boston Globe)

The Stop & Shop and Hannaford supermarket chains are interested in a merger — but antitrust issues in Massachusetts could be a stumbling block. (Boston Globe)

Clinton Foundation officials have been battling the influential online watchdog Charity Navigator behind the curtains to remove the foundation from its “watch list.” (New York magazine)

Verizon will buy AOL for $4.4 billion. (Boston Globe)

Several New Bedford city councilors have sent a letter to the new owners of the Pawtucket Red Sox urging them to look at the Whaling City as a home for the minor league affiliate. (Standard-Times) The mayor says the city cannot afford the team.

A federal judge in New York has ruled that two international banks deceived mortgage giants Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae by dumping risky loans on them, which helped trigger the 2008 financial collapse. (New York Times)

EDUCATION

New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan vetoes legislation that would ban Common Core standards. (Governing)

The Massachusetts Teachers Association urges state education officials to allow students to opt out of assessment tests. (Associated Press)

U.S. News & World Report is out with its list of best high schools and while no Massachusetts school made the top 10, the state as a whole ranked second in the percent of its schools rated “gold medal” schools and fourth for “silver.”

Salem schools may have to cut 51.5 positions to meet budget targets. (Salem News) In Gloucester, six teachers will be laid off at the end of the school year to cut spending. (Gloucester Times)

A group pushing for the construction of a new high school in Billerica is warned about its political activities by the state Office of Campaign and Political Finance. (Lowell Sun)

HEALTH CARE

The Obama administration notified health plans they are required by law to cover contraception options for women without charging co-pays or deductibles, a reminder that came after reports that some plans were ignoring the mandate. (New York Times)

DEFLATEGATE

The Patriots get hit with a major penalty for arrogance and defiance, writes Ben Volin. (Boston Globe) Columnist Joe Battenfeld assesses the impact on Tom Brady’s potential political career. (Boston Herald)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

President Obama has given conditional approval for Shell Gulf oil company to start drilling for oil in the Arctic Ocean beginning this summer. (New York Times)

An electricity transmission executive says it’s time for a clean energy two-fer. (CommonWealth)

The proposed expansion of the Southbridge landfill is coming under scrutiny from local residents. (Telegram & Gazette)

If ya got ’em, smoke ’em somewhere else: No smoking on Truro beaches anymore.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

In other Patriots news, former star receiver Aaron Hernandez, who was convicted of murder last month, is charged with shooting a friend in the face because he had made comments about a separate killing — of two men in Boston’s South End — for which Hernandez will also face charges. (Boston Globe)

The Norfolk District Attorney has determined two Weymouth police officers acted in self-defense in January when they shot and killed Paul Campbell, who had just stabbed his mother to death. Campbell was the father of the daughter of Boston Mayor Martin Walsh‘s longtime girlfriend. (Patriot Ledger)

The parents of four children who attended the daycare center at Bridgewater State University have filed suit against the school in the wake of the arrest of a student intern who was charged with child rape. (The Enterprise)

MEDIA

Poynter provides more insight on the Boston Globe’s life sciences publication.

Netflix’s Reed Hastings says traditional TV has about 20 years of life left. (Poynter)