Baker (still) flying high

It’s great to be on top. Just ask Gov. Charlie Baker.

The Republican governor has maintained his No. 1 ranking in the latest Morning Consult poll showing America’s Most and Least Popular Governors. Baker clocks in with a 71 percent approval rating, with just 17 of state voters disapproving of his performance. His steady popularity makes what has become his administration’s annual nipping and tucking to deal with recurring budget deficits seem like soft background noise Massachusetts voters have just gotten used to.

But that doesn’t mean the governor is not facing other controversies. Yesterday, Baker finally released a statement to order a review of a controversial natural gas compressor site in Weymouth. Baker had maintained a low profile on the project, which had residents, environmental advocates, and local elected officials demanding more leadership from the corner office. Even the governor’s amicable waiting room lunch guest — a Weymouth woman who has been patiently appearing in his outer office each day to call attention to the project — was growing tired of his silence after 80 days of no response.

It wasn’t just concerned residents and environmental advocates who were calling on Baker to step up. Weymouth Mayor Robert Hedlund — a former veteran Republican state senator — spoke out strongly against the giant infrastructure project, as did Hedlund’s former legislative aide and successor in the Senate, Patrick O’Connor.

On the health care front, the state’s business community, a natural ally of the governor’s, was not happy with his initial plan to deal with soaring Medicaid costs through a big assessment on employers. Baker then put forward a revised plan that scaled back the employer assessment, while proposing reforms to MassHealth that would shift some recipients to commercial plans and make other changes aimed at saving money.

The Legislature went for the first part, but not the second. The governor yesterday vetoed legislators’ employer-assessment-only approach and asked lawmakers to go back to the drawing board and consider MassHealth reforms to go with the new employer assessment. That means more moves ahead as Baker tries to work his middle-of-the-road magic on one of the state’s biggest budget challenges.

Then there is the hubbub over what many MBTA union workers and advocates say are slow but sure efforts to privatize more and more of the MBTA. Congressman Joe Kennedy made an appearance yesterday at a rally organized by a T workers coalition protesting talk of privatizing bus maintenance services. The gathering kicked off a public education campaign that will aim to stir up public support for workers and opposition to privatization efforts. The first video posted on the coalition’s Facebook page shows a collage of workers from IAM Local 264 talking about what would happen to them and their families if they lost their jobs to the privatization.

“I voted for Charlie Baker, and I’m very disappointed in the fact that now he’s trying to take away my job,” says Nate DuBois, an Arborway garage mechanic who served in the armed forces before joining the T’s workforce, in the ad.

Every choice a governor makes presents the risk of alienating someone. But Baker is still defying the laws of political gravity, which suggest that after two and a half years there ought to be a lot more Nate DuBoises than there seem to be.

NATASHA ISHAK


BEACON HILL

It’s 4:20 somewhere:  House and Senate negotiators have finally found common ground on a bill to amend the voter-approved referendum to legalize marijuana. (CommonWealth)

Gov. Charlie Baker vetoes $320 million in spending from the nearly $40 billion budget. (CommonWealth). He also vows more cuts if lawmakers don’t pass his MassHealth reforms sooner rather than later. (Boston Globe)

House Speaker Robert DeLeo strips Rep. Russell Holmes of a committee vice chairman’s slot after the Mattapan lawmaker suggested the exit of DeLeo’s presumed successor, Brian Dempsey, will kick succession talk into gear. (Boston Herald)

Former state treasurer Tim Cahill, his reputation in tatters after a failed gubernatorial bid that was followed by corruption charges by allegedly using Lottery resources to bolster his campaign, is on a mission to rehab his image as he takes over as president of the Quincy Chamber of Commerce. (Patriot Ledger)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Michael Hartman, replaced as Stoughton town manager at the end of last month by a sharply divided Board of Selectmen, has filed suit against the town and the three members who removed him and asked a judge to reinstate him until he is terminated in accord with the town charter. (The Enterprise)

A lack of members on a variety of boards in Westport is beginning to create problems for the operations of the town. (Herald News)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

The latest attempt to repeal and replace Obamacare is dead as two more Republican senators declared their opposition to the GOP health care reform legislation, putting the measure short of the necessary votes to move the bill. (New York Times)

President Trump declares he has signed more bills into law than any other president at this point of their tenures but a review of the legislation shows he is below average. (New York Times)

ELECTIONS

Maria Giesta, a former aide to Barney Frank who lost in her challenge to New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell, has taken out papers to run for City Council in the Whaling City. (Standard-Times)

“I’m a person of the people,” former Lawrence mayor Willie Lantigua tells the Herald’s Jessica Heslam, which is the gist of his message in trying to reclaim the seat he lost four years ago to Dan Rivera. CommonWealth’s new summer issue has a feature story on the looming mayor’s race.

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Homeland Security officials have approved an increase in the number of H-2B visas for foreign workers, potential relief to seasonal businesses in places like Cape Cod where employers are struggling to find employees to meet demand. (Cape Cod Times)

Developer John Rosenthal’s Fenway Center project that would straddle the Massachusetts Turnpike may finally be getting off the ground. (Boston Globe)

The Supreme Judicial Court rules that companies cannot fire an employee under a no-drug policy if the worker tests positive for marijuana that has been prescribed for a medical condition. (Boston Globe)

Former governor Deval Patrick says he’s excited about his work on social impact investing at Bain Capital. (Boston Globe)

EDUCATION

Throwing a wrench into the works, Lowell’s mayor and school superintendent wrote a letter to the state school building authority saying the School Committee does not approve of plans sanctioned by the City Council to build a new high school on the outskirts of town. (Lowell Sun)
Students at the University of Massachusetts will face tuition and fee increases for the third straight year, as trustees vote to bump costs by 3 percent, or an average of $416. (Boston Herald)

Merrimack College in North Andover seems to be defying the tough odds facing small colleges by remaking itself with a turn away from liberal arts gaining enrollment. (Boston Globe)

Colman Herman, a CommonWealth contributor, offers an interesting back story into his thwarted attempts to get records from UMass regarding the doomed efforts to build a soccer stadium in Dorchester. (New England First Amendment Center)

With documentation missing, billions in student debt could be dismissed because the largest holder of student loan collections cannot prove who owns the loans. (New York Times)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

Three men overdosed, two fatally, inside a Lawrence two-family home yesterday. (Eagle-Tribune)

TRANSPORTATION

MBTA workers rally — with support from US Rep. Joe Kennedyagainst privatization of bus maintenance services. (CommonWealth)

The state Department of Transportation’s plan to reconfigure the despised rotary at the juncture of Routes 18, 44, and 28 in Middleboro is being met with mixed reviews, including lawmakers who want officials to come up with a permanent solution to ease the near-constant traffic woes. (The Enterprise)

State officials receive the first outlay from the feds — $1.7 million — for the $2.3 billion Green LIne Extension project. (Boston Globe)

Commuters brave the first day of replacement bus service for commuter rail serve north of Salem on the Newburyport/Rockport line, which will continue on weekdays until August 11 to allow for replacement of a drawbridge in Beverly. (Salem News)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Environmental League of Massachusetts vice president Nancy Goodman decries talk by the Trump administration of pulling back on national monument designations at nature sites such as the Katahdin Woods in Maine. (CommonWealth)

Worcester city councilors are on the verge of approving a 20-year deal to sell 60 million gallons of water annually to nearby Leicester after state officials barred the town from using its supply source because of water quality problems. (Telegram & Gazette)

If you are a regular Bay State beachgoer you will understand how the early efforts to take flight of a single piping plover chick — the lone surviving chick this year along a stretch of Good Harbor Beach in Gloucester can command a 500-word newspaper story. (Gloucester Times)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

Aunts of a Vermont man file suit to block his multimillion-dollar inheritance, alleging that he is the prime suspect in the deaths of his grandfather and mother that cleared the way for his payday. (Boston Herald)

A Milford man sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison for stalking and threatening the police chief and a deputy has had his conviction vacated by the Appeals Court, which ruled his Facebook posts were “constitutionally protected speech.”
The brotherhood and sisterhood of police officers was on full display at Sunday afternoon’s Red Sox-Yankees game, where the Bronx co-workers of murdered New York City police officer Miosotis Familia were welcomed. (Boston Globe)