The Sunday Political Notebook
Fund. Our. Future.
Those three words are still echoing through the hallways of the State House after having been chanted Thursday by hundreds of teachers, parents and union activists as they marched through the capitol demanding additional funding for public education.
It was the latest (and loudest) action of a week that featured several rallies, sit-ins and press conferences focused on education reform and the need to update the state’s public school funding system.
Three members of the New England Patriots even returned to voice their support for Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz’s Promise Act the same week that U.S. News and World report ranked Massachusetts the top state for education in the country.
As silly as the U.S. News rankings might be, it makes one wonder what is happening in last-ranked Alabama’s school if parents here are so up-in-arms.
While the response has not been swift, the outcry over achievement gaps and insufficient classroom resources has not been dismissed.
The House and Senate failed last summer to come to consensus over education funding reforms, but Sen. Jason Lewis said he and his Education Committee co-chair Rep. Alice Peisch have been working closely to avoid a repeat and are closing in on “broad consensus.”
Lewis said he expects the committee to release a draft funding reform bill in June that takes into account all of the recommendations of the Foundation Budget Review Commission. Then it will move to the separate branches where what will happen next is anyone’s guess.
GOV. CHARLIE BAKER has to be hoping that as legislators turn their focus to education funding they don’t lose sight of other items the Republican has been pushing. The governor testified personally on two of his priority bills Tuesday, including his plan to spur more housing production and to expand judges’ ability hold potentially dangerous defendants.
The hearings headlined by the governor were part of a frenzied Tuesday when lawmakers, lobbyists and reporters were scurrying like the building’s mice from hearing room to hearing room as committees took testimony on everything from wage theft to climate change.
Unlike education, housing and climate change, there’s far less guesswork involved in predicting where the freedom to hold your phone while driving is moving.
With the Senate pausing its consideration of a hand-held cellphone ban until after its budget debate next week, the House ended up going first this week, and in a first for the branch voted 155-2 to require the use of hands-free technology when behind the wheel.
With the governor on record in support of the ban and the Senate having already voted for it twice in the last two sessions, the bill’s chances look promising. The biggest debate, if you can call it that, was how to approach concerns over racial profiling.
The House bill, like the version the Senate will debate, includes requirements for police to report to the state the race of anyone pulled over and cited for violating the proposed law. But over the course of many silent hours Wednesday, House leaders and Rep. Chyna Tyler worked through her amendment that would have required police to report on the race of anyone pulled over by police.
The problem, according to Transportation Committee Co-Chair Rep. William Straus , was not necessarily a philosophical difference, but a practical concern. How would police report traffic stops when the driver wasn’t given a citation?
“That question could not be answered,” Straus said. So like most times when Democrats can’t agree, they agreed to study it.
ONE STEP UP from a studies are pilot programs.
And that’s what Baker thinks the prudent approach to marijuana cafes would be.
“It’s not up to me, it’s up to the CCC,” Baker said Monday when asked. “What I’ve said many times about most of the issues associated with the rollout of recreational marijuana, is it’s really important that they, the CCC, understand what they’re doing and why they’re doing it as they make these decisions.”
The governor’s advice of caution came days before the Cannabis Control Commission voted 3-2 to approve a pilot program for the social consumption of pot, taking the first step toward licensing on-site recreational marijuana use.
MEANWHILE, THE DEPARTMENT of Environmental Protection hosted three days of appeal hearings where residents and lawyers for Weymouth, Quincy, Hingham and Braintree made their case for why they think the state erred in issuing Enbridge an air quality permit for a controversial natural gas compression station in Weymouth.
Opponents remain unconvinced that the project won’t adversely impact the health of residents who live in the neighborhoods surrounding the compressor station, and accused DEP of accepting “coaching” from Enbridge on how to review air quality.
But from Enbridge’s perspective, the risks from the compressor station are overstated and the threat of pollutants oversold.
The hearings were supposed to wrap up Friday, but that was before DEP dropped 759 pages of never-before-seen air quality testing results in the Fore River area on opponents, guaranteeing that the appeal hearing will spill into another week.
AND HERE’S HOPING, for the sake of Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera , that another week doesn’t bring any more Democratic entrants to the 2020 presidential contest. New York City Mayor and Red Sox fan Bill DeBlasio’s decision to seek the Democratic nomination was the last straw for Rivera, but his ire wasn’t reserved only for the 24th man in.
“Hey @TomPerez @ what point does the party say something? Looking more like a circus then a primary! No way this is a good thing!...” Rivera Tweeted. “This will end poorly.”
The mayor, who was onstage at Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s 2020 campaign kickoff at a mill in Lawrence in February, went on to call out several Democrats he thinks should drop out, including Salem Rep. Seth Moulton .
“Adults in the party need to say: no reason a Jr. US Rep from Salem, MA (@sethmoulton) should be running, when the Sr. Sen. from MA (@ewarren) has been in for months! Same with @SenGillibrand & @BilldeBlasio.”
Moulton will be back on the campaign trail in New Hampshire this week, as will Warren.
STORY OF THE WEEK: Nine years after Legislature banned texting while driving, the hand-held cell ban gets its day in the House.
The Sunday Notebook is written by State House News Service reporter Matt Murphy.