The coming dynamics of one-party rule on Beacon Hill a question mark

WHEN MAURA HEALEY takes office in January, it will mark only the second time in 32 years that a Democratic governor and Democratic-controlled Legislature will exercise one-party rule in Massachusetts. The state has had a persistent habit of putting Republicans in the corner office, while giving Democrats supermajorities in the House and Senate. 

So will the return of “united” government mean smooth sailing for a shared Democratic agenda? Or could it bring a return of the sometimes acrimonious infighting between governor and lawmakers that characterized the Deval Patrick years – the only period of one-party rule since Michael Dukakis left office? 

That issue was explored in a CommonWealth article last week – and Boston Globe columnist Joan Vennochi weighs in on the topic this week on The Codcast

Though some Democrats minimize the potential for conflict, one-party rule can bring tension over who is the lead player in setting the Democratic agenda – the governor or Legislature. 

“I think there is legitimacy to that,” Vennochi said of the somewhat counterintuitive idea that one-party rule can sometimes bring more friction than divided government, where Republican governors and Democratic supermajorities in the Legislature have had a clearer sense of the power dynamics.  

Dukakis had a rough go of it with lawmakers during his first term. After losing reelection in 1978, he came back to win two more terms in office, starting in 1982, with a new appreciation for how things work. “He said he started to listen more rather than just talk,” said Vennochi, recalling the good working relationship Dukakis developed with then-Senate President William Bulger and the behind-the-scenes work of Dukakis chief of staff John Sasso to find common ground with lawmakers. 

That good working relationship with the Legislature is something that Patrick never quite managed to forge, Vennochi said. “My sense of it was that it was a contentious relationship,” she said. “And that it falls into that category of the Legislature likes to be in charge and so if there’s a Democrat in charge who’s the governor, they sort of have a secondary role and they’re not quite as happy about that. They want to be the main players. And they kind of gave him a hard time. The thing that he was able to achieve, unfortunately, was casino gambling.”

Patrick butted heads with lawmakers more than once on the pivotal issue of taxes – he wanted more of them, they wanted less. But it’s always hard to completely separate policy and personality. “I think it was also a personality thing,” said Vennochi. “I’m not sure that Deval Patrick was that good at listening or playing the game the way they liked to play it on Beacon Hill. And I don’t think they gave him very much.”

Looking ahead to the return of one-party rule on Beacon Hill, Vennochi said even guessing how it will go is difficult because of the snoozer of a governor’s race that Healey just won without breaking much of a sweat – or fleshing out a lot of policy details. 

“What struck me about the race first was that there was no race,” Vennochi said, adding that it was nonetheless moving to see the historic moment unfold on election night as Healey was declared the first woman ever elected to the state’s top post. As for how things will go with the Democratic Legislature, “Well, I hate to say it depends, but I think it depends,” said Vennochi. “Another sort of side light of this non-race was that we really don’t have a sense of what kind of governor Maura Healey is going to be. I don’t really have a sense of what her priorities are going to be, what is the first thing that she’s going to tackle, what policy she passionately can’t wait to get behind. So once we have a better sense of that, of what her exact agenda is, we maybe should reconvene and talk about how it will work out with the Legislature controlled by Democrats.” 

MICHAEL JONAS

 

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Boncore out: Joe Boncore, the former state senator, is stepping down as the CEO of the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council after just a year on the job. Read more.

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OPINION

Warren shares in blame: If the Democrats lose the House, Liam Kerr of Priorities for Progress says Sen. Elizabeth Warren will be at least partly to blame. Read more.

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Deployment talk: Jeffrey Chin of Blue Star Families of New England says Tom Brady’s recent comments reflect a growing disconnect about military life. Read more.

Utility poles: Michael Owens, a former Braintree city councilor, says utility poles are the key to wider broadband access. Read more.

STORIES FROM ELSEWHERE AROUND THE WEB

 

MUNICIPAL MATTERS  

Natick is preparing to remove a 90-year-old dam on the Charles River, but it hasn’t been easy and it’s not a done deal yet. (GBH)

The Peabody Conservation Commission fines Salem County Club and a tree removal service $70,000 apiece for improperly removing 233 trees. (Daily Item)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

Veterans who came together to voice concerns about conditions at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home are pivoting to a broader mission of being a “quick reaction force” on veterans’ issues. (MassLive)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

Sen. Ed Markey and Elon Musk are sparring – naturally – on Twitter after, with Markey’s consent, someone was able to establish a “verified Twitter account under his identity. (Boston Globe

Sen Elizabeth Warren, in a New York Times op-ed, celebrates Democrats’ performance in last week’s election and says if the House nonetheless flips to Republican rule, Democrats should seize the moment and make “this lame-duck session of Congress the most productive in decades,” including by lifting the debt ceiling. 

ELECTIONS

Libertarians gain major party status in Massachusetts, after a Libertarian candidate for treasurer got more than 3 percent of the vote. The recognition comes amid a fight that splintered two wings of the state Libertarian party. (Eagle-Tribune)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

A new report finds Massachusetts is well-poised economically to withstand a coming recession. (Salem News)

So far, the state has distributed $1 billion to 900,000 taxpayers under the 62F tax refund law. (MassLive)

Pot prices plummet. (Boston Globe

EDUCATION

A right-leaning national nonprofit has been on the attack against school districts, including several in Massachusetts, that it accuses of conducting inappropriate lessons or school activities related to race, gender, or sexual orientation. (Boston Globe

Boston Public Schools parents vent their frustration at a City Council hearing on poor school bus performance. (Boston Herald)

The Biden administration stops accepting applications for student loan forgiveness after a Texas judge halted the program. (MassLive)

TRANSPORTATION

Seventeen MBTA bus drivers, train operators, or other personnel were suspended over the last four years for sleeping on the job or not paying proper attention to their duties. (Boston Herald

Southeastern Regional Transit Authority, which serves the New Bedford area, makes all buses free for a month. (Herald News)