State House News Service

State House Roundup: A ‘Hoo-Dee-Do’

BOSTON — Massachusetts’s problem is now Virginia’s.

After a macabre, around-the-clock stakeout of a Worcester funeral home this week by frenzied reporters and furious protestors, the remains of alleged Boston Marathon bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev were secreted out of central Massachusetts and buried in a small Muslim cemetery in rural Virginia.

No cemetery in Massachusetts, or public official for that matter, wanted Tsarnaev’s body. And Gov. Deval Patrick just seemed relieved the tense standoff was over.

“No. I have enough to do,” Patrick said, when asked if he wished he had gotten involved to end the theatrics sooner.

The April 15 attacks on the finish line of the Boston Marathon threw Beacon Hill policymakers off stride, quieting the raging debate over transportation financing and overshadowing annual budget talks.

Still, the people’s business continues, and picked up in intensity this week as committees heard testimony on a raft of legislation, the Department of Public Health finalized medical marijuana regulations, and Rep. Joseph Wagner finally scheduled a hearing on the Mashpee Wampanoag gaming casino agreement with the Patrick administration.

Boston Mayor Thomas Menino made the short trek from City Hall to the State House to ask the Education Committee to green light legislation that would increase the number of “in-district” charter schools and give the mayor and school superintendents more control to intervene in mediocre schools on the cusp of failing.

Knowing full-well his time in office is short, Menino wants the ed reform bill as a parting gift from the Legislature, but said he’d be back to make his case next year as a private citizen if need be: “It’s my thing,” the mayor said, referring to education.

Depending on what poll you read, Congressman Ed Markey is either in the fight of his life against upstart Republican Gabriel Gomez or comfortably on his way into the U.S. Senate. Suffolk University pollster David Paleologos had Markey up 17 points, while a WBUR poll put the race more in line with previous surveys showing a six- to eight-point spread.

Markey, at least publicly, seemed to prefer the latter narrative, latching on to the idea that Gomez is nipping at his heels with fundraising appeals claiming he needs support – and money – now more than ever.

As for Gomez, he had his most difficult week yet since he left the safe protective nest of his private equity firm to enter the public spotlight and run for public office. A front-page Globe story detailing how Gomez had taken advantage of tax loophole called a “scam” by the IRS put the wealthy businessman on his heels.

Gomez, who lives in a multi-million dollar historic Cohasset home, reportedly took advantage of the tax code to offer an historical easement on the façade of his house to a conservation trust. In exchange for agreeing not to alter the façade of his home, Gomez got to write off the easement as a charitable gift, reducing his 2005 taxable income by $281,000, according to the Globe.

The problem with the system, at least according to the IRS, is that Cohasset bylaws already prevented the Gomezes from touching the façade because of its historical status, raising a question of whether the easement was worth anything at all.

The details of the tax arrangement, however, almost seemed less consequential than the new problem it saddled on his campaign.

As Gomez looks for the national support that helped propel Scott Brown to a U.S. Senate seat, the national media tagged Gomez with a “Mitt Romney-esque problem.” Gomez is under pressure to release more than the six years of tax returns he has already provided, while running the risk highlighting his wealth and allowing Markey to paint him as out-of-touch with the average Massachusetts family.

Gomez insisted he simply followed a law that Markey, himself, voted for in Congress in 1980 to re-approve the tax credit. Instead of criticizing him for not releasing an additional year of tax returns for 2005, Gomez said Markey should release his own income tax returns, something the Democrat has yet to do.

Rep. Daniel Winslow, meanwhile, knows exactly what it’s like to be on the job hunt in a sputtering economy, quitting his law firm to run for U.S. Senate only to finish third to Gomez and Michael Sullivan. Winslow this week was openly talking on Twitter about interviewing for new jobs to supplement his lawmaker’s salary.

And in a show of good sportsmanship, Winslow made the walk-of-shame to the fourth floor of the State House on his own to deliver to the press corps a bumper sticker from his failed Senate bid. Campaign staffers often bristle when a member of the Fourth Estate so much as looks at a pile of stickers, knowing it could be destined for the “Wall of Losers” maintained as a shrine in the capitol press gallery to those who have tried and fallen short.

Now for more on the bombings: Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis was in Washington D.C. to testify before Congress, telling the House Committee on Homeland Security that the F.B.I. did not inform anyone in his department that it had investigated Tamerlan Tsarnaev for radical leanings until after the elder bombing suspect was dead.

With federal information sharing under the microscope again, Patrick said he did not believe the intelligence on Tsarnaev was “actionable” and probably could not have prevented the attacks.

Davis conceded to Congress he would have liked to have known about the concern sooner. “The truth of the matter is nobody bats a thousand,” he said. Davis also suggested more surveillance cameras could be a useful tool for law enforcement as the city gears up for the July 4 celebration.

Another less notable, but no less important date marked on the calendar this week was Oct. 1: the target for the Health Insurance Connector Authority to transition from RomneyCare to ObamaCare and launch its new, complex web portal that will give consumers “real-time” determinations on eligibility for federal and state health insurance subsidies.

Fittingly, the project known as Health Connector 2.0 coincides with the seventh anniversary of the day Commonwealth Care opened enrollment under the health care reform act signed by former Gov. Mitt Romney.The symmetry was not lost on Group Insurance Commission Director Dolores Mitchell: “I think we should be planning something hoop-dee-do to celebrate.”

STORY OF THE WEEK: Burying the dead proves harder than it sounds when it’s an alleged terrorist; focus of Markey-Gomez campaign shifts from campaign finance to personal finances.

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