With Pacheco law, it’s all about the narrative

Sen. Marc Pacheco, author of a 1993 law that became the focus of the behind-the-scenes wrangling over the 2016 state budget, says people forget the context in which the measure regulating the privatization of state services was adopted. He says lawmakers were convinced of the need for more guardrails regulating the Weld administration’s irrational exuberance for contracting out state services.

He talks about a revolving door of administration officials heading to the private sector to cash in on state contracts, and about Boston Globe Spotlight team reports raising lots of similar questions. And he points to a certain Weld administration official helping to lead the privatization charge at the time:  A brash young health and human services secretary named Charlie Baker, who had cut his free-market policy teeth at the Pioneer Institute.

Round One went to Pacheco. Weld and Baker settled in for the give-and-take of divided government and gave up on the idea that they would turn Beacon Hill upside down.

Fast forward 22 years, and the tables have turned. Pacheco’s signature legislation took a significant body blow this week, as the overwhelmingly Democratic Legislature agreed to suspend the Pacheco law for three years when it comes to contracts at the MBTA. Baker wanted to scrap the law altogether. The House had proposed suspending it at the T for five years.

The Globe‘s David Scharfenberg says the winter storms that brought the T to its knees were the main driver of the change. Lawmakers are loath right now to get in the way of anything promoted as a tool to help the transit system get back on its feet.

But equally significant has been the framing of the debate over the Pacheco law. The Taunton lawmaker refers to the statute as the “Taxpayer Protection Act,” insisting that it guards against ill-considered private contracting that may not deliver on its promised savings. But the view that has taken hold sees the law instead as an “anti-privatization” scheme, an overly union-friendly measure that stands in the way of more efficient delivery of transit services. The argument was probably helped along by Baker’s liberal-leaning transportation secretary, Stephanie Pollack, backing the governor in saying more flexibility would not be used to drive a stake through the heart of the T’s union workforce, but could instead help the cash-strapped agency make things like late-night bus service more financially viable.

“They’ve been very good at getting that narrative out there,” Pacheco said last month about the “anti-privatization” characterization of the law. As it was becoming clear that his prized legislation was in the budget negotiation cross hairs, Pacheco mounted a spirited defense.

Indeed, he tried a new tack himself in the narrative battle, one with a strong tailwind these days. In a lengthy stemwinder of a floor speech yesterday, Pacheco tried to turn the debate into one over income equality, saying the law has protected decent middle-class jobs for MBTA workers, highlighting a bus fleet workforce that includes lots of African-American women. He invoked Elizabeth Warren, who is now practically a shorthand symbol for the battle against economic inequality.

Steve Tolman, the state AFL-CIO president, told the Globe he couldn’t sleep Tuesday night because he was so upset over the impending action on the Pacheco law. But Democratic legislative leaders apparently weren’t convinced by the argument that suspending the law for three years at the T represented a Wisconsin-like attack on public-sector unions and the middle class.

Meanwhile, if Pacheco feels sold out by leaders of his chamber, he isn’t saying so. In a brief conversation just before the final floor debate and vote yesterday, he said Senate President Stan Rosenberg and Ways and Means chairwoman Karen Spilka applied all the “due diligence” they could during budget negotiations to stave off the attacks on the law, which Pacheco maintains the Senate still strongly believes in.



The Legislature approves the state budget and sends it on to Gov. Charlie Baker. (Associated Press) The spending deal included a major blow to unions by agreeing to a three-year suspension at the MBTA of the so-called Pacheco law, which limits privatization of state services. (Boston Globe) The sole vote against the budget came from Rep. Michael Brady of Brockton, who says his beef was with the Pacheco law provision even though he voted in favor of the House budget, which included a five-year moratorium of the privatization-regulating  measure. (The Enterprise)

Baker doesn’t think the budget violates his insistence on no new taxes, but four major business groups and the Supreme Judicial Court beg to differ. (CommonWealth) Here’s the letter to Baker from the business groups urging the governor to veto the business tax hike.

The budget agreement quietly included a 40 percent raise for members of the often-derided Governor’s Council, who would see their pay jump from $26,025 to $36,025. (Boston Herald)

Again, the film tax credit survives. (Boston Globe)


Quincy‘s stock of affordable housing has dropped below 10 percent and the number will continue to decline as the city enjoys a building boom geared toward young professionals, according to a review by the Metropolitan Area Planning Council. (Patriot Ledger)


The Massachusetts Gaming Commission and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh prepare to clash over whether Walsh crafted his complaint properly. (CommonWealth) WBUR details what’s at stake in the broader legal battle.


Americans really, really, really want to host the 2024 Olympics, according to poll results. (CommonWealth)


The South Carolina House of Representatives voted to remove the Confederate flag from the capitol grounds after a tense and often-fractious debate. (New York Times) South Carolina Rep. Jenny Horne, a descendant of Confederate president Jefferson Davis, plays a key role in the debate. (Washington Post)

House leaders eke out a victory on an update to the No Child Left Behind law. (Politico)

US Rep. Joseph Kennedy and his wife, Lauren, are expecting their first child in December. (Herald News) WBUR profiles Kennedy.


Former Rhode Island governor and senator and Republican and independent and current Democratic presidential candidate Lincoln Chafee says he may have switched allegiance over the years but his stances on issues have never changed. (Greater Boston)


A new study says federal Section 8 housing vouchers are more effective than other programs at providing stability for families facing homelessness, but recipients tends to work less because the subsidy amount is tied to family income. (Boston Globe)

A Salem News editorial says it’s time to revamp the Massachusetts beer distribution system, which gives enormous power to a handful of companies.


Local officials say a bill filed in Congress co-sponsored by US Rep. William Keating to make two years of community college tuition-free is “one hell of a start.” (Standard-Times)

Opponents of the Common Core standards have launched an effort to place a referendum on the 2016 ballot to cease using the federal standard and return to the state’s standard from 2010. (State House News Service). Meanwhile, the MetroWest Daily News calls for an end to the paranoia around PARCC, the new standardized testing regime that may replace MCAS.

Some members of a dissident faction of the Boston Teachers Union say teachers did not receive ballots in the mail in order to vote in last month’s election of union officers. (Boston Herald)


Nurses at Lahey Health hospitals are complaining about forced overtime, which is prohibited by state law except under rare conditions. (Salem News)

Paul Levy asks what happened to Steward Health Care CEO Ralph de la Torre? (Not Running A Hospital)

House Democrats have filed a bill aimed at repealing the 40-year-old Hyde Amendment, which prohibits the use of government funds to pay for abortions for women on Medicaid. (U.S. News & World Report)

A Lynn Item editorial says uninformed protests of Partners HealthCare’s decision to shut down Union Hospital and create a behavioral health unit there may end up leaving the facility empty.

Narcan saves a life in Swampscott. (The Item)


Gov. Charlie Baker files legislation renewing his push to import more hydropower from Canada. (State House News)


A new report from a Washington human rights organization finds that as many as 80 percent of girls in the country’s juvenile justice system have been victims of sexual assault and abuse and recommends that police cease jailing girls for prostitution. (New York Times)

An Eagle-Tribune editorial says it’s no wonder the Northeast Massachusetts Law Enforcement Council tried to keep its SWAT records from the public because the files suggest the agency uses a sledgehammer approach to law enforcement.

Boston police are warning against the carrying of toy guns, which they say are not easily distinguishable from real firearms and can lead to deadly encounters with law enforcement. (Boston Globe)

Tens of thousands of Hampden County criminal cases could be affected by another rogue state chemist. (MassLive)

State Police Col. Timothy Alben is stepping down from the top post and will be replaced by 33-year department veteran Richard McKeon. (State House News Service)

Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley wants to replace tests for Boston police promotions with “assessment centers” that would take a broader look at a candidate’s qualifications for promotion. (Boston Herald)


The Boston Globe‘s first black columnist, Dexter D. Eure Sr., has died at age 91. (Boston Globe)

Ellen Clegg loses the “interim” tag and is now THE editor of the Globe‘s editorial page. (WGBH)