BOSTON Gov. Charlie Baker joked in his first State of the Commonwealth address Thursday night that as the administration ends its first year in office, some have lamented how boring it is.
“And I must admit, that makes me smile,” he added. “No fights. No yelling. No partisan scrums.”
And the man dubbed “Governor Fix-It” smiled plenty as he ticked off a list of first year accomplishments: financial oversight at the MBTA, a fixed Health Connector, shorter wait times at the Registry of Motor Vehicles, new intake policies at the Department of Children and Families.
The governor took the time to thank legislators for their spirit of bipartisanship, with the hope their continued cooperation will result in some second-year victories.
He urged the Legislature to pass his energy bill.
“Massachusetts leads the nation in energy efficiency, but that will never be enough,” Baker said. “But if we’re serious about reducing our carbon footprint while maintaining a reliable energy grid and improving our competitive position, then we must significantly increase the supply of clean and affordable hydropower.”
The governor made a pitch for lifting the cap on public charter schools, saying 37,000 kids remain on waiting lists to get into those schools.
“A state that places such a high value on education should not place arbitrary limits on parents’ access to high-quality schools. And we should not sit idly by while so many parents feel the pain of missed opportunity for their kids,” he said.
Baker got the greatest response to his renewed call for passage of a bill aimed at curbing the state’s opioid addiction problem.
Just before the governor’s address, the House and Senate passed a part of that bill which bans the placement of female drug abuse patients at the women’s prison in Framingham. Differences over the remainder of the bill are being worked out by a conference committee. One key difference is the number of painkillers a doctor can prescribe to a first-time patient.
In his address, the governor criticized the medical community.
“You all know I’m a health care guy, and I’ll stand with my former colleagues when their clinical judgment is being improperly maligned. But not this time,” he said. “Prescribers in Massachusetts and across this country are far too casual about the addictive consequences of these medications.”
Outside the House chamber, reaction to the governor’s speech was generally positive.
Senate President Stan Rosenberg said there is a very big agenda ahead.
“It is all achievable. We’re going to have to work really hard and collaboratively to get it all done,” Rosenberg said. “I’m anxious to also continue the conversation with the governor and the speaker on what we can do for working families.”
Speaker Robert DeLeo said the governor touched on most of the important topics but added, “The only other thing that I was thinking about was probably talking a little bit more about in terms of gun violence. In terms of what’s happening throughout the commonwealth. Although we know have, I believe, one of the strongest gun violence pieces of legislation in the entire country — you know, where we go from there and what may be our next step.”
DeLeo said he would have liked to have heard more about the budget, but acknowledged those details will likely come out next week, when the governor submits his spending plan.