The Codcast: The Senate’s surprise (acting) president

Harriette Chandler never had designs on the Massachusetts Senate’s top post, and she readily admits to mixed feelings about landing there. Her unexpected ascension was the result of the scandal swirling around her close ally, Stan Rosenberg, who temporarily relinquished the Senate president’s job last month while an investigation is underway.

Congratulated on her new role of acting president as we kicked off the Codcast conversation, Chandler wondered if that’s the right word.

“I’m not sure it’s congratulations,” she said. “It may be more of a commiseration, but we’re moving right along. This wasn’t expected and it wasn’t wanted.”

It may not have been wanted, but Chandler, a veteran Worcester Democrat, was nonetheless the unanimous choice of Senate Democrats to take the helm. “It’s my duty to keep this ship from listing too far,” she said in the conversation with Bruce Mohl and me.

Chander took the reins following a Boston Globe report that Rosenberg’s husband, Bryon Hefner, groped several men and bragged of influence he had over Senate matters. Rosenberg said any suggestion that Hefner had sway over Senate doings is wrong.

Chandler has made clear that she only intends to hold the president’s post until the investigation is over and the Senate installs a permanent leader. Will that be one of the would-be successors to Rosenberg who have stepped forward with interest in the job, or could the former Senate president return to power?

“I think a lot of people are waiting to see exactly what happens,” she demurred, referring to the investigation being overseen by the Senate Ethics Committee.

She would not prejudge the outcome of the ongoing probe, but Chandler didn’t hesitate to characterize the reputation of her close ally. “You have to understand that Senator Rosenberg is a very loved member of the Senate,” she said. “He brought a new breath of fresh air to the Senate that he had a style of governing that we are still using — shared leadership,” she said of the decentralized structure he put in place.

The 24-year veteran of the Legislature (she served six years in the House before being electing to the Senate) calls herself a “moderate Democrat.” She says she’s “very practical” and defines herself ultimately as “someone who wants to get something accomplished.”

One priority she has set forth is to see more housing built as a way to cool the state’s soaring real estate prices, which are a burden for families as well as businesses looking to locate or expand here. She is pushing zoning reform legislation that would help that. Though some people’s eyes glaze over at the topic, “mine light up,” said Chandler. Renée Loth trumpets Chandler’s bill in today’s Globe — while acknowledging out of the gate that it doesn’t always inspire passion (Her opening: “Zoning reform. Snore.”)

Decrying zoning in some communities that requires minimum lots of three acres, she said, “What can you afford to build there?  A McMansion. That’s about it.”

Chandler said the Senate is moving ahead on this and many other issues, but she acknowledged that it’s hard to ignore the uncertainty swirling over the chamber. “We are operating under a cloud,” she said.

–MICHAEL JONAS


BEACON HILL

A Lowell Sun editorial called on Sen. Stanley Rosenberg to give up any notion of reclaiming the Senate presidency. Even if he is cleared by a Senate Ethics Committee investigation, the newspaper said he has shown overall bad judgment, presumably by marrying his spouse.

Chelsea Police Chief Brian Kyes is backing a bill filed by Gov. Charlie Baker that would allow involuntary 72-hour holding of those who resist addiction treatment. (Boston Herald)

Leaders on Beacon Hill say they are close to reaching an agreement on a bill to limit the use of non-compete clauses in employment contracts, a goal that has eluded them for several years. (Boston Globe)

Sen. Michael Rush, who authored the state’s Valor Act, which allows veterans to be diverted to treatment and away from jail, wants to amend it to exempt crimes against individuals after a New Bedford man invoked the law and had domestic violence charges against him dropped. (Boston Globe)

A Herald editorial decries a Beacon Hill task force’s move to punt on the question of strengthening the state’s public records law when it comes to police reports.

Ben Downing chats with the Berkshire Eagle about life after the Senate.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Sen. Elizabeth Warren rips President Trump as a “racist bully” in a speech at Boston’s Martin Luther King Day breakfast celebration. (Boston Herald)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

Warren and Sen. Ed Markey both say it will be Republicans’ fault if the government shuts down over failure to reach a deal on DACA by the end of the week. (Boston Herald)

Warren said she is working with a bipartisan group on passing legislation to protect the right of states to legalize marijuana. (MassLive)

Warren, though, has challenged moderate members of her own party who are backing a GOP effort to ease tight banking regulations that were put in place in the wake of the Great Recession. (New York Times)

The two Republican senators insist President Trump never said “shithole countries.” They heard him say “shithouse countries” so they weren’t actually lying. (Washington Post)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Gary Campbell of the Homebuilders and Remodelers Association of Massachusetts says the state needs to build more housing. (CommonWealth).

CVS has pledged to cease touchups of images of women in its advertising and marketing materials to enhance appearance, saying it sends the message of unrealistic body images to girls and young women. (Associated Press)

A group of vegans protested outside a proposed “humane” slaughterhouse in Westport, claiming “meat is murder” because there is no such thing as humane butchery. (Herald News)

The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute has filed suit against an Australian government museum, an American trucking company, and a company that operates service centers around the United States for a fire that damaged a $30 million deep-sea submersible while it was being transported for loan to the Australian National Maritime Museum in 2015. (Cape Cod Times)

Nonprofits would pay more for mailings under a proposed change of postal rates. (Chronicle of Philanthropy)

EDUCATION

Springfield has the highest number of Puerto Rican evacuee students in Massachusetts. (MassLive)

Massachusetts Bay Community College has launched a dual-enrollment program that allows high school seniors in Framingham and Natick to take free courses to give them a taste of college and which can be transferred for credit at other public colleges and universities. (MetroWest Daily News)

Critics are raising questions about the Confucius Center at UMass Boston, one of 90 Chinese studies centers backed by the Chinese government, charging that the outposts promote censorship and undermine human rights. (Boston Globe)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

The Massachusetts Nurses Association accused Clinton Hospital of violating state regulations when it announced last week that it was closing its gastrointestinal unit. (Telegram & Gazette)

A group of state lawmakers wants state officials to investigate a company that plans to close four nursing homes and one assisted living facility, charging that the firm may have misused state funds at the facilities. (Boston Globe)

A study by doctors at Johns Hopkins Hospital determines the US ranks last out of 20 first-world countries in child mortality rates. (U.S. News & World Report)

TRANSPORTATION

Ted Pyne oif TranisitMatters says the Silver Line is flawed but fixable, and urges policymakers to focus on fixing the existing system rather than building shuttles, ferries, or gondolas, (CommonWealth)

A glitch in the MBTA’s consumer dashboard discarded data on massive delays and made the transit system’s on-time performance much better than it actually was. The glitch was fixed after it was discovered last week. (CommonWealth)

The Patriot Ledger takes a look at the Greenbush commuter rail line 10 years after it began amid controversy and finds while it has become a part of life on the South Shore, it has yet to live up to its ridership estimates or promise of traffic relief.

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Three architects say a 14-mile dike stretching from Cohasset to Swampscott could protect Boston from sea level rise. (CommonWealth)

Mariella Puerta and Mary Skelton Roberts say luck is not a strategy for dealing with climate change. (CommonWealth)

A bill before the Legislature would ban the commercial fishing and sale of striped bass, effectively taking the popular fish out of markets and off restaurant menus. (Cape Cod Times)

The state is considering imposing leash requirements for dog owners at local wildlife preservations on the South Shore. (Patriot Ledger)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

Mayor Marty Walsh says police will work to get a handle on a spate of Boston gun homicides and nonfatal shootings that he calls “uncharacteristic” for this time of the year. (Boston Herald)