BOSTON (STATE HOUSE) – The fire sale on Yawkey Way had nothing on what transpired under the gilded dome this week where trade deadline took on an entirely different meaning, lobbyists stood in for agents and everyone went home – not always happy with the final score – but at least glad that it was over.
The fat of the 2013-2014 session is in the books, 19 months of work culminating in a frenzied flourish as predictable as the sun rising in the east, or the clock striking midnight. The final chapter of Gov. Deval Patrick’s legislative record is almost written, though he still has some leverage should he decide to make any last minute stands against the mountain of would-be laws on his desk, soon to be back in its rightful location on the third floor.
Senate President Therese Murray also put down the gavel for final time Thursday night, the duty of recognizing the gentleman from Essex and Middlesex soon to become someone else’s cross to bear.
Rank-and-file lawmakers tried simultaneously to keep an eye on the Fens while they tracked the backroom deal-making that sent bills bouncing from committee to committee, branch to branch on the final days of session.
By the time the dust settled, the Red Sox starting rotation had been dismantled, as had the House and Senate calendars. All that was left to do on Friday was figure out what, exactly, the House and Senate did when three-minute roll call votes were cut to 30 seconds in the House and still leaders had to appeal to the members’ “common sense,” as one presiding officer put it, to keep meeting as the clock wound past the alleged midnight deadline.
“The thing is adopted,” Rep. Patricia Haddad announced sometime in the wee hours Friday, standing on the rostrum, the speaker’s appointed closer, herself a bit fuzzy on the details. Her colleagues were mostly seated, working their smartphones, and appearing more like overtired, impatient spectators than active participants.
For the most part, check marks were put beside most “things” bulleted early in the session as top priorities, even if it did require extended time to put the finishing touches on those capstones. Gun legislation, including a provision giving police new powers to deny rifle and shotgun permits, won over both gun control advocates and the state-based Gun Owners Action League, even if the NRA was less than pleased.
Tougher domestic violence punishments, eased access to substance abuse treatment, improved oversight of local housing authorities, and new disclosure rules for super PAC spending? Check, check, check and check. Shoppers found out that they will be able to avoid the state’s sales tax the weekend of Aug. 16 and 17, Boston got new liquor licenses, employers got to keep their non-compete agreements and the state’s water infrastructure got a needed influx of capital.
House Speaker Robert DeLeo walked away from the rostrum Thursday night after brief congratulatory remarks, but the week wouldn’t have been complete without another full-throated defense from the Winthrop Democrat of his role in the probation hiring department scandal.
As DeLeo was trying to navigate the final days of session and cater to residents of Revere rattled by the tornado that ripped up parts of that city’s downtown, he found out that the verdict in the trial of John O’Brien and his deputies may not be the end of the story for him. Prosecutors are weighing whether to pursue separate federal bribery charges against the convicted former probation boss, and if they do DeLeo will once again be on center court whether he’s called to testify or not.
Then came a letter from an anonymous juror to WGBH’s Jim Braude claiming that if DeLeo had been put on trial, this juror may have found him guilty. “I find it incredible that an unidentified juror would express his or her personal view of my culpability in a case in which I was not charged, not called as a witness and not able to present evidence or otherwise defend my reputation,” the speaker growled in an emailed statement.
Every two years, lawmakers cut their legislative session short after July to focus on elections, the thinking being that its best to avoid, as best as possible, the politics of a campaign creeping into the policy making on Beacon Hill.
But politics and policy are never truly separated. And so, for the most interesting vote of the week, without passing judgment on motivation or reasoning, the Roundup presents the House and Senate votes on gun violence legislation.
Sen. Stephen Brewer, who will retire after December, voted in favor of the bill, a position he said he arrived at after careful consideration of the sportsmen in his district and the position GOAL took in the final hours of debate. Rep. Anne Gobi, a Democrat running for Brewer’s Senate seat against Republican James Ehrhard, voted no.
There are now zero days left in the formal legislative session, and 39 days until primary day, which could explain why Treasurer Steven Grossman is getting feistier. Grossman has been attacking Attorney General Martha Coakley, who is leading the three-person field of Democrats running for governor, on everything from her lack of support for a limit on gun purchases to one per month to her record of diversity in hiring in the attorney general’s office.
He was the first Democrat to go on air with a television commercial and a super PAC run by his good friends began running ads this week also challenging Coakley’s record on guns. So is it making a difference? Maybe, but probably not by leaps and bounds the treasurer needs.
The latest Boston Globe poll found that after approximately $400,000 in spending on pro-Grossman television ads, Coakley’s lead over the treasurer is still 25 points, down 9 points from two weeks ago. Her favorability numbers are unchanged, as are Grossmans. And Coakley hasn’t aired a single ad.
The next five weeks could be a bumpy ride.
STORY OF THE WEEK: My only friend, the end. Weary lawmakers (and reporters) trudged out of the capitol in the wee hours Friday morning, the latest two-year lawmaking session in the books. On to the trail.