Mariano sees offshore wind as top priority
HOUSE SPEAKER Ron Mariano recently announced that he planned to seek a second two-year term as speaker in January 2023. But Mariano, 75, made clear in an interview on The Codcast that he has no intention of rivaling the tenure of his predecessor, Robert DeLeo, who held the role for a record-setting 12 years.
“I had a lot of respect for Bob and his style, but I just don’t see myself lasting as long as he did,” Mariano said. “Although I do say that in another three years, I’ll be old enough to run for president.”
In a wide-ranging interview, the first podcast he has participated in as speaker, Mariano weighed on issues from the personal to the political. He called his first year of his speakership challenging and fun, and acknowledged the difficulty of maintaining relationships with 159 members during the COVID pandemic.
“An offshore wind industry that’s stabilized our energy portfolio so that businesses and citizens in Massachusetts have reliable energy at a reasonable rate – if that’s something I could walk out of here having done, I would be extremely proud,” Mariano said.
Rep. Jeffrey Roy, a Franklin Democrat who chairs the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities, and Energy, is currently working on a bill that the House will consider next year which would change the procurement process for offshore wind. Until now, Massachusetts imposed a price cap so each successive procurement must come in at a lower price than the previous one. Mariano said this approach led to a good initial price, but discouraged companies from investing in infrastructure to grow in Massachusetts. “It is time now to change the procurement laws to encourage more investment into our infrastructure, more of an investment in some of these companies to locate here and stay here,” Mariano said.
Mariano has taken some flak recently for passing the $4 billion spending bill in lightly attended informal sessions, after lawmakers failed to reach agreement on a final bill before they concluded formal sessions for the year before Thanksgiving. The speaker defended the House’s lengthy hearing process, which he said helped identify needs that were not included in the governor’s earlier proposal, like spending on education and food pantries.
Another long-time priority of Mariano’s is helping financially struggling community hospitals, and the House voted on a bill before Thanksgiving that aims to regulate hospital expansions to prevent large hospital systems from siphoning revenue away from community hospitals. Asked why he chose that approach instead of price regulation, which would more directly address pricing disparities between community hospitals and larger systems, Mariano said he would “prefer a free market solution” rather than price capping.
Asked about several Senate priorities – a bill improving insurance coverage for mental health services and legislation permanently allowing voting by mail – Mariano said he anticipates the House will take up both bills. In both cases, he said the House supports the broad ideas, but details will need to be negotiated.
Mariano did voice concerns that the Senate has yet to pass a bill legalizing sports betting, a policy the House voted for twice. “It was my hope that we’d have it in play for the football season. Now, I don’t know if we’ll even have it for March Madness,” Mariano said. “So I have great concerns that we’re being left at the altar.”
Bonds for UI trust fund: Rosalin Acosta, the secretary of labor and workforce development, provides a more full accounting of the unemployment insurance trust fund and insists the state will need to issue bonds to replenish the fund. Read more.
Providing a broader picture: Jim Vrabel and Peter Dreier, in separate commentaries, examine a different aspect of the life of Jerome Rappaport, the late developer many blame for the destruction of the West End of Boston. Read more.
The parking dilemma: Jim Aloisi, the former secretary of transportation, says free or cheap parking is the “great enabler” that encourages more auto use and more auto emissions. Read more.
Falling behind: Nurys Camargo, a member of the Cannabis Control Commission, calls on the Legislature to step up with funding because Massachusetts is falling behind on its marijuana equity mandate. Read more.
FROM AROUND THE WEB
Massachusetts could become one of the few states to commit to spending money – $20 million in the ARPA bill sitting on Gov. Baker’s desk – to help resettle Afghan and Haitian refugees. (Associated Press)
The state is taking back $650,000 it gave Methuen for worker hazard pay and restaurant aid because the city spent the money in ways that were ineligible for the CARES Act funding – a claim city officials say is not true. (Eagle-Tribune)
The Patriot-Ledger takes an in-depth look at how Quincy went from being a blue-collar community to an expensive place to live, due to a development boom and a statewide housing shortage.
Many communities are using a slow, deliberative process to figure out how to distribute federal ARPA funds. (MassLive)
The Springfield auditor identifies errors in the city’s process for awarding cannabis business licenses. (MassLive)
Hospitals are being pushed to the brink by staffing issues and the latest COVID surge. (Salem News)
A new CATO Institute report finds Massachusetts has a mixed record on personal and economic freedoms. (Eagle-Tribune)
Downtown shopping centers and stores see a return to the Christmas bustle, with shipping delays forcing people to return to in-store shopping. (MassLive)
Special education services are not being provided because of a lack of staff. (WBUR)
A year after Becker College closed, its students have found other ways to continue their education. (Telegram & Gazette)
The Standard-Times examines how different school districts in the New Bedford area are teaching sex education.
A Newton start-up bets that the appeal of learning pods will outlast the pandemic. (Boston Globe)
Artifacts once owned by Paul Revere’s family are sold at auction for $20,000. (Associated Press)
Despite months of build-up that something’s coming, the critically-acclaimed Steven Spielberg remake of “West Side Story” had a feeble start at the box office. (New York Times)
Prosecutors are trying a new tack in going after Gary Zerola, an attorney who has faced multiple rape allegations dating back to 1996 but avoided any conviction to date. (Boston Globe)
PASSINGSBilly Chin, a business and civic icon who worked to bring Boston’s Chinatown neighborhood into the mainstream, died at age 92. (Boston Globe)