The Download: Governor’s Council on thin ice

When the needle moves on Beacon Hill, it tends to move quickly. Last Tuesday, one member of the Governor’s Council was warning his colleagues that if they didn’t stop attracting so much attention, they’d all be swept right out of the State House. A day later, Senate President Therese Murray lined up against the body’s continued existence, bringing the council’s abolition from inside joke to serious policy in no time. And tomorrow, Murray will gavel in a constitutional convention with not one, but four separate proposals for eliminating the Governor’s Council on the convention agenda.

In one sense, the Governor’s Council’s abolition has been a long time coming. The eight-member judge-vetting board predates the United States by 150-odd years. It’s been half a century since most of its powers were stripped from it; when the council gets noticed at all, it’s more often than not because one of its members is involved in some manner of bad behavior. Sen. Brian Joyce has been waging a lonely crusade against the council for years.

Even so, the anti-Governor’s Council movement has gained critical mass at a rapid pace. The council withstood decades of part-time work and legislative crusades and flareups of unflattering press. It has had a tougher time withstanding one of its freshman members, Charles Cipollini.

Cipollini is the Fall River Republican who ran for the council as insurance, just in case his brother lost the Democratic primary. The brothers wound up facing off against each other in November, and even though Charles campaigned hard for his brother – and even though Charles was quoted saying the job is more his brother’s speed – Charles won. So now he spends his Wednesdays grilling judicial nominees about their political contributions, their views on assisted suicide and same-sex marriage, their innermost thoughts on polygamy and “communal living.” He asked then-SJC nominee Fernande Duffly to “rate yourself on your political views, an ‘A’ standing for most conservative and ‘F’ standing for most liberal, now called progressive.” And he votes against virtually every nominee who comes before him. In a recent editorial, the Cape Cod Times said Cipollini has been “startlingly effective” in making the case that the council should be “consign[ed] to history’s scrap heap.”

Cipollini has stood out, in part, because he has brought renewed focus to the Council’s normal antics. In one recent meeting, one councilor not named Cipollini accused a colleague of kowtowing to Gov. Deval Patrick, and the accused retorted by mocking his instigator’s criminal record. This isn’t unusual stuff, but it just happens to be unfolding at a moment when the state’s bemused attention is on the council, so the usual calls for the council’s abolition suddenly carry more weight.

Joyce, who is now acting as Murray’s point man for dismantling the council, says the Legislature is unlikely to advance an anti-Governor’s Council measure on Wednesday; the Legislature likely won’t move until the fall. The significance is, that’s no longer an empty threat.

                                                                                                                                                                –PAUL MCMORROW

BEACON HILL

WBUR’s David Boeri reports that Sal DiMasi’s defense offers a primer on how state government works. Peter Gelzinis picks up on the theme as well. The DiMasi jury also hears testimony that the government’s star witness liked to spread money around Las Vegas, although attorneys did not try to make the case that gambling and government contract kickback schemes are mutually exclusive.

The Globe editorial page, which endorsed Suzanne Bump’s opponent and was openly skeptical of her pledge to bring reform and forward-looking procedures to the state auditor’s office, gives the new auditor high praise for brooming out a good number of holdovers from the reign of her predecessor, Joe DeNucci, and for commissioning and releasing an outside audit of the office that was highly critical of how things had been run.

WBUR examines a bill designed to crack down on prostitution. It would define pimps as “human traffickers.”

Sen. Stanley Rosenberg places a graduated income tax plan on the agenda for tomorrow’s constitutional convention.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Brockton officials say hundreds of illegal and unsafe apartments are popping up around the city because they are a cash cow for landlords who build and rent them without the proper permitting or inspections.

Somerville Mayor Joe Curtatone goes on Radio Boston to talk about a survey he sent to residents asking them how satisfied they are with their lives and Somerville.

Payback. The Item reports that Lynn Chief Financial Officer Richard Fortucci begins disciplinary proceedings against City Comptroller John Pace, who temporarily replaced him while he was suspended earlier this year by the mayor.

Methuen Mayor James Fiorentini joins a long list of mayors across the state in pushing for legislation that would exempt the city’s fire chief job from Civil Service, allowing him to pick whomever he wants, the Eagle-Tribune reports. The president of the firefighters union says his group’s relationship with the mayor is irreparably damaged.

Methuen City Councilor Stephen Zanni jumps into race for mayor against businessman Al DiNuccio and Kenneth Willette Jr., a member of the School Committee, the Eagle-Tribune reports.

The renovated Hanover Theatre in Worcester, which is being pegged as an anchor for downtown revival in the state’s second city, gets some attention from the Globe

Foxboro passes a meals tax.

NATIONAL POLITICS/WASHINGTON

House Speaker John Boehner outlines his debt ceiling demands.

The American Spectator has a lineup of conservative all-stars penning essays to answer the nagging question, “Is America in decline?” They mostly agree it is or on its way and it started, surprisingly, near the end of 2008.

The Hollywood-political marriage of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver stalls at 25 years, as the couple announces a separation.

The Atlantic publishes a long take-out on Sarah Palin, and what she’s done to American politics.

ELECTION 2012

Even the Outraged Liberal is less than inspired by the current field looking to take on Sen. Scott Brown, despite the entrance of Newton Mayor Setti Warren, who the OutLib says badly miscalculated his announcement timing. In an exclusive interview with The Newton Tab, Warren says that “Scott Brown has made the wrong decisions” which is reason enough for him to jump into the race. The Tab has everything you always wanted to know about Warren here. See the Setti Warren video announcing his run for US Senate here. The Lowell Sun’s headline says it all: “Setti Warren (who?) latest Dem to target Brown’s seat.”

Newt Gingrich readies a presidential run, and for better or worse, his wife is likely to be front and center.  Gingrich is going to spend a lot of time putting out fires if comments like this one from former Staten Island Borough President Guy Molinari (a Republican no less)  keep making the rounds.

PHILANTHROPY

The Globe has the story of Winchester’s Bill and Joyce Cummings, who have joined the club of multimillionaires pledging to give away at least half of their wealth.

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Faneuil Hall Marketplace gets a new operator.

We aren’t just paying more at the pump; soaring gas prices are being passed on to consumers in all sorts of ways, the Globe reports.

EDUCATION

Chatham teachers get generous pay raises ranging from 7 to 14 percent and not everyone is happy.

The North Adams Transcript supports arming campus police at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts.

HEALTH CARE

The country’s first full-face transplant recipient makes his first public appearance at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

Paul Levy takes hospital administrators to task with a recent survey showing 69 percent of executives list things other than quality and patient safety as a top priority.

TRANSPORTATION

The Obama administration parcels out $2 billion in high-speed rail funds. The Northeast Corridor nets $795 million, mostly for upgrades to Amtrak’s right-of-way.

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Bourne tightens regulations for commercial wind turbines, but those regs won’t affect a seven-turbine project already under development.

The state’s new biomass regulations do little to calm opponents of a biomass plant proposed for Springfield.

A Duke University study finds high levels of methane in ground water in areas where hydraulic fracturing for natural gas has taken place.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

Gov. Deval Patrick rolled out a youth violence prevention proposal at Mattapan community center.  Here is the Globe account and the CommonWealth story.

William O’Connell, a wealthy and politically connected developer in Quincy, pleaded not guilty to multiple charges of child rape and cocaine distribution yesterday. Prior to his arrest, the Patriot Ledger unsuccessfully sought sealed warrants and affidavits that police used to search his home last week.

Greater Boston” examines the “silent pandemic” of elder abuse.