Chaos in the Senate?

The awkward transition from Senate President Harriette Chandler to Senate president-elect Karen Spilka makes for great copy, but it doesn’t seem to be having a huge impact on the chamber’s legislative output.

Senators are still processing legislation. (Criminal justice reform emerged from a conference committee a little over a week ago.) Votes are being taken. (The Senate passed a civics education requirement and a housing bond bill last week.) The legislative output on Beacon Hill has never been that great, but it’s hard to see how the Senate is doing any worse than the House, which isn’t grappling with any leadership issues.

Yet to read some of the recent press coverage you’d think the Senate is paralyzed by a lack of leadership.

Boston Globe columnist Adrian Walker called the Senate “an institution on the edge.” A Globe news story last week said “chaos” has consumed the Senate. “The result, as senators lurch from one bombshell to the next, is that the time for official business is being sidelined by salacious disclosures and internal politics,” the Globe reported.

Hardly.

There have been plenty of distractions, from the felony charges lodged against Bryon Hefner, Sen. Stanley Rosenberg’s husband, to the drunk driving charges against Sen. Michael Brady of Brockton.

But the larger and perhaps more serious problem is the enormous turnover in the Senate. Despite the big pay raise at the start of 2017, five senators left for other jobs during this session. A sixth is running for Congress and a seventh is considering a run for Suffolk County district attorney. One senator announced her retirement and another died in office. Toss in Sen. Michael Barrett’s struggle with cancer and Brady’s struggle with alcohol and you get the picture — nearly a quarter of the state’s senators are either new to the job or distracted by personal matters. That’s the real chaos in the Senate.

BRUCE MOHL


BEACON HILL

Gov. Charlie Baker and State Police Col. Kerry Gilpin announce the disbanding of scandal-wracked Troop E and other changes in the department. (Boston Globe) A Globe editorial praises the reforms as a good first step. But Joe Battenfeld seems to see it more as damage control than taking ownership of the problem and moving aggressively to tackle it. (Boston Herald) Howie Carr says renegade state troopers should be facing criminal charges and he rips “the mealy-mouthed, spineless, lily-livered governor, Charlie ‘Tall Deval’ Baker” for not saying so. (Boston Herald)

A Senate Ethics Committee investigation into Sen. Stanley Rosenberg is expected to wrap up in a couple weeks. (State House News)

Senate President Harriette Chandler knows her days in the post are numbered, but isn’t sure what that number is. (Boston Globe)

Just eight months after the number of women in the Senate tied an all-time high, their ranks will soon be the lowest since 1999 as five female senators have either left or will not seek reelection. (State House News)

Auditor Suzanne Bump said state assistance fraud jumped sharply in fiscal 2017, reaching $17 million. (MassLive)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

A Quincy city councilor is proposing to allow residents to claim their property tax as a charitable deduction to get around the new cap on deductions in the federal tax law. (Patriot Ledger)

Sen. Eileen Donoghue wants a contract in her new job as Lowell city manager. Her predecessor, Kevin Murphy, operated without one. (Lowell Sun)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

“The age of bullies and bigots is not fully behind us,” said former attorney general Eric Holder at an event honoring Martin Luther King Jr. (Associated Press)

Jeffrey Goldberg has an illuminating interview with Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman. (The Atlantic)

ELECTIONS

Women candidates for office across the country are being blunt in asserting gender as an important factor in their race, including Democratic candidates for governor in Wisconsin and Maryland touting their campaigns on camera and a Democrat running for attorney general in Michigan, who is asking voters to consider, “Who can you trust most not to show you their penis in a professional setting?” (Boston Globe)

Boston City Councilor Michael Flaherty won’t run for the open Suffolk County district attorney’s position, citing a “family medical matter” as the reason. (Boston Globe)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg responds to criticism from Apple CEO Tim Cook by suggesting iPhones are for the wealthy. (Time}

EDUCATION

Officials at Bridgewater State University, responding to a public records request from The Enterprise, say they do not track sexual harassment complaints.

Local school officials in the Berkshires say Gov. Charlie Baker’s education budget doesn’t provide enough money to offset sharply higher costs. (Berkshire Eagle)

Provincetown voters approved a spending proposal at Town Meeting to earmark $309,000 for pre-K, pre-school, and so-called “wee care” for infants. (Cape Cod Times)

Research centers at the budget-strapped University of Massachusetts Boston are facing budget cuts, and aren’t happy about it. (Boston Globe)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

Reliant Medical Group, a medical group practice centered in central Massachusetts and metrowest, was formally acquired by UnitedHealth Group’s Optum business. (Telegram & Gazette)

TRANSPORTATION

Canceled bus trips are on the rise at the MBTA as the transit agency struggles with drivers who take unplanned absences. (CommonWealth)

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh plans to hike parking fines to raise $5 million and use the revenue to improve traffic flow by developing bus-only lanes, improving bicycling connections, and reducing Uber/Lyft congestion. (CommonWealth)

Matthew Beaton, the secretary of energy and environmental affairs, approved phase one of South Coast Rail to Fall River and New Bedford. Phase one would launch service from Boston via the Lakeville/Middleborough commuter rail line by 2022. (CommonWealth)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Exelon is playing power politics, threatening to shut down its Mystic generation station in Everett unless the operator of the regional power grid forks over more money for plants (like Mystic) that are reliable and important for fuel security. (CommonWealth)

The bankrupt owner of the power generating plant on Cape Cod Canal in Sandwich has agreed to a deal to sell the facility to a New York investment firm for $390 million, which includes an annual payment of $2.4 million to the town over the next 21 years. (Cape Cod Times)

Truro officials are investigating the deaths of two coyotes, one of which was found with gunshot wounds. (Cape Cod Times)

CASINOS/MARIJUANA

A public records request by MassLive uncovers evidence suggesting investigators of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission were aware of allegations of a legal settlement between Steve Wynn and a Wynn Resorts employee in December.

Fall River’s three medical marijuana dispensaries said they will put in applications to sell retail pot. (Herald News)

Voters in Acushnet, in a special election with just a 5 percent turnout, approved a ban on recreational marijuana. (Fairhaven Advocate)

A Herald editorial says the state should think twice about the preference being granted to retail marijuana applicants who have lots of employees with drug-related CORIs, but doesn’t actually suggest specific steps to reverse the carve-out.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

Prosecutors estimate the trial of former state senator Brian Joyce could last four to six weeks. (State House News) Seventy-one lawyers sign a friend-of-the-court brief urging the federal judge in the case to reject an effort by prosecutors to have Joyce’s lawyer, Howard Cooper, thrown off the case because of his alleged entanglement with some misdeeds Joyce is charged with. (Boston Globe)

MEDIA

Sinclair Broadcasting, one of the biggest purveyors of local TV news across the country, takes heat internally and externally for its promos against “fake news.” (CNN) Sinclair may not have the name recognition of CNN or Fox News but right-leaning media group’s reach and impact could be larger because of the number of stations it owns. (Washington Post)

Washington Post editor Marty Baron says President Trump’s Twitter attacks on his paper and tying it to Amazon are “completely made up.” (New York Times)

PASSINGS

Winnie Mandela, the fiery anti-apartheid idealogue whose approach was the antithesis of her ex-husband Nelson Mandela, has died at the age of 81. (U.S. News & World Report)