Galvin looks to grab the reformer label

A DINOSAUR THROWBACK from an earlier era, or reformer willing to challenge the status quo? Bill Galvin has always defied simple pigeonholing, and that trait is on full display as he ramps up his effort to win an eighth term as secretary of state. 

Galvin has long shown a willingness to go after powerful entities, using the bully pulpit of his office at times to position himself as a populist crusader on everything from health care to mortgage fees. He entered politics as a state rep from Brighton when Gerald Ford was president and captain ​​Carl Yastrzemski was leading the Red Sox to the World Series. Almost 50 years later, Galvin still plays politics like an old-school insider, but he also often manages to stay one step ahead of the pack in reading the tea lives of the moment. 

Witness his most recent splash – filing legislation to extend the state’s notoriously opaque public records law to include the governor’s office. 

“We need to start addressing the egregious situation we have,” Galvin told the Globe. ”This is the most powerful office in Massachusetts doing public business and dealing with public policy. The idea that the most powerful position in the state and its records are not subject to public scrutiny is absurd.”

Galvin’s office oversees the public records law, which transparency advocates have long decried because it, according to court rulings, exempts the governor’s office – the only state to do so – as well as the Legislature and the judiciary.

A Globe editorial praised his legislation – even while suggesting Galvin may have seen political advantage in making his “good government pitch” in the face of a Democratic primary challenge from Tanisha Sullivan, president of the Boston NAACP branch. 

But Galvin doesn’t appear to be just running to catch up with an insurgent reform-oriented challenger – he seems to have outpaced her on the issue.

Asked last month when she launched her campaign whether the public records law should be extended to cover the governor’s office and the Legislature, Sullivan held back on committing to such change. “I believe it’s a conversation we need to have,” she said. 

Reacting to Galvin’s bill, however, Sullivan now suggests it’s too little, too late. 

“Activists and advocates have been pushing for greater transparency for years, and while I appreciate that Secretary Galvin has put something forward now, in a contested election year, I can understand the frustrations of those who have worked on these issues for decades and are asking what took so long,” she said in a statement. Sullivan said she supports the intent of Galvin’s bill but favors “a more comprehensive approach” that would “ensure greater transparency not only in the executive branch, but in the legislative and judiciary branches as well.”

Efforts to extend the reach of the law have consistently died in the Legislature. The Globe editorial suggests a less comprehensive approach might actually fare better – that a bill just covering the governor’s office might get a better reception from lawmakers than one that also includes their offices. A Berkshire Eagle editorial makes much the same point, and suggests the timing for Galvin’s bill is good because Democratic and Republican candidates for governor both support it.

Even with its more limited scope, the legislation probably faces an uphill climb. But it makes for good headlines – and fodder for debate in the looming primary showdown between Galvin and Sullivan. 

MICHAEL JONAS

FROM COMMONWEALTH

Mold alert: Bridgewater State Hospital, long criticized for the care it provides for the incarcerated mentally ill people it oversees, is now facing scrutiny for the mold that appears to be pervasive throughout the facility. The Disability Law Center, which has the legal authority to monitor Bridgewater State, said mold is endangering the health of those being held there.

– Problems with mold have been raised before, and the Department of Correction said it addressed them. But new testing ordered by the Disability Law Center indicates mold remains a problem and poses a major health threat.

– The latest report is already spurring calls for closing Bridgewater State Hospital and transferring oversight of those under its supervision to the Department of Mental Health. The Disability Law Center supports shutting the facility down. Read more.

Charter school plan withdrawn: Proponents of a new South Coast charter school focused on “early college” withdraw their proposal, citing “political complexities.” The school has faced strong opposition from local political leaders, teacher union activists, and local residents in New Bedford and Fall River. Some supporters of the school have decried the “intimidation” the proposal faced. Read more

$500 checks going out: The Baker administration said it plans to send $500 checks to 500,000 low-income individuals as part of an effort to reward those who worked during the pandemic. The payments are based on tax return income, so the state cannot distinguish between those who worked in person or remotely. The initial goal of the program, which relies on federal funds, was to reward those who reported to essential, in-person jobs. Read more.

Dangerous tax hike: Gov. Charlie Baker’s top budget official calls the constitutional amendment proposing a surtax on millionaires a “dangerous policy” because the existing income tax system is already progressive and the state is awash in cash. Read more.

Slide-deck policy: The Baker administration unveils a complicated building code proposal designed to help the state meet its climate change goals using a 48-page slide deck. Read more.

 

FROM AROUND THE WEB

 

BEACON HILL

Nero’s Law, to help K-9 dogs receive emergency care, is on Gov. Charlie Baker’s desk. (Cape Cod Times)

The State House has been closed for 700 days. (MassLive)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS  

Salem, one of the only cities in addition to Boston to impose a COVID vaccine mandate for entering certain businesses, decides to rescind its vaccine mandate and its indoor mask mandate. (Salem News)

The Pittsfield City Council votes 8-2 (with one member abstaining) to hire Michael Obasohan as the city’s chief diversity officer. The dissenters objected to creating a new office separate from the city’s human resources offices, with Councilor Charles Kronick calling it a waste of money to establish a new bureaucracy. He said the new position was “nothing but the outdrawing of a political movement.” (Berkshire Eagle)

Boston may consider banning gasoline-powered leaf blowers. (Boston Globe

The Lynn City Council votes 8-2 to remove the residency requirement for all city workers. To take effect, the measure must be approved on Beacon Hill. (Daily Item)

Hackers broke into city servers in Quincy and are demanding money in exchange for the return of data. (Patriot Ledger)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

Not news anyone needed: White-tailed deer on Staten Island, the largely suburban borough of New York City, have been found to be infected with the Omicron variant of COVID-19, raising concerns that deer could become “a reservoir for the virus and a potential source of new variants.” (New York Times

The Natick Community Organic Farm reports lead in its maple syrup. The lead level was below allowable limits, but the farm said it would address the issue by replacing the buckets and taps it uses. (MetroWest Daily News)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

Sen. Mitch McConnell denounces the Republican National Committee’s censure of Reps. Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger and its characterization of the January 6 riot at the Capitol as “legitimate political discourse.” He calls the riot a “violent insurrection.” (New York Times)

ELECTIONS

The three candidates for attorney general – Andrea Campbell, Shannon Liss-Riordan, and Quentin Palfrey – sound remarkably similar on the issues. (GBH)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

The Boston Zoning Board of Appeal approves what could become the state’s first marijuana delivery business  operating out of the former Sozio appliance store location at Neponset Circle. (Dorchester Reporter)

Business confidence slumped last month in Massachusetts as business owners worry about COVID effects and inflation. (Gloucester Daily Times)

EDUCATION

For one out of every three students in Worcester public schools, English is not their first language. (Telegram & Gazette)

Boston school officials have announced few details about the search for a new school superintendent, saying that information will come at next week’s school committee meeting. (Boston Herald

Wellesley settles a lawsuit filed by a conservative group by agreeing that affinity groups created for Black, Latino, Asian and other students of color should be open to all. (Associated Press)

Three Harvard graduate students filed a lawsuit against Harvard University, arguing the school ignored reports of sexual harassment by a prominent anthropology professor. The professor, John Comaroff, denied he harassed any of the students. (Associated Press)

ARTS/CULTURE

South Shore music clubs say they had just been returning to hosting performances after the pandemic, when Omicron led to a spate of cancellations in January. (Patriot Ledger)

TRANSPORTATION

A new report from the Pioneer Institute touts the benefits of bus rapid transit pilot programs in four Boston area communities. (Boston Herald)  

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

New England fishing groups sue to end an industry-funded government monitoring program of their industry. (Associated Press)

MEDIA

Erik Wemple says the Sarah Palin libel suit against the New York Times exposes the allure of “both sides” journalism. (Washington Post)