State House Roundup: Happy Road Warriors

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When Gov. Deval Patrick stood at the rostrum of the House chamber in early January and promised to compete for every job "in every corner of the Commonwealth, and the world," who knew Barack Obama's job was among them?

And yet, there was Patrick on Tuesday, noshing on Caesar salad and salmon with Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine — the former Virginia governor had the calamari — at an airport in Washington, D.C., strategizing about how to protect his friend's employment in the offices at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

By week's end, Patrick was on another plane bound for Chicago to breakfast with David Axelrod, one of the president's senior political strategists, to continue the conversation.

Those trips kicked off a season in which the governor's travel agent appears likely to be as busy as his budget director.

Predictably, Patrick's jet-setting to the District of Columbia and Chicago sparked renewed chatter back at home in the Hub about Patrick's aims and ambitions.

"I don't have any plans or interest in running for anything else than governor of Massachusetts. This is what I'm focused on," Patrick told reporters, flanked by officials of the Israeli and British government. "At the same time, I believe in certain distinctive American values and they need to be held up and celebrated. They have made a difference in our ability to sustain and promote the American dream all through the generations and I think we ought to be talking about those."


But it's hard to blame Bay Staters for wondering what's next. Voters have, after all, grown somewhat accustomed to their chief executives harboring public sector ambitions beyond the Corner Office of the State House.

Gov. William Weld left to become ambassador to Mexico, only to have his confirmation scuttled in Congress, and his predecessor Gov. Paul Cellucci managed to complete the deal and go north as ambassador to Canada. And then there was Mitt Romney who spent much of his time as governor with one foot on the presidential campaign trail, where it remains to this day, joined years ago by the other foot.

Patrick has reluctantly fielded queries since Obama was elected in 2008 about his interest in becoming, alternately and depending on the latest vacancy, U.S. attorney general, Supreme Court justice, and, most recently, U.S. Senator. This time, however, he did it with a smile and a some good-natured ribbing.

Asked whether there were lessons Obama could draw from Patrick's successful re-election campaign last year, Patrick quipped, "That's what they tell me."

After his tete a tete with Kaine, Patrick rushed home Tuesday night to host diplomats in the State House the next morning, announcing his first trade mission since heading to the Far East in 2007, when he led a state delegation to China.

This time the itinerary includes stops in Israel and Great Britain in early March, in time to return stateside for the publication of his memoir on April 12. The ensuing book tour, surrogate campaigning, and, perhaps, governing, will keep him busy the rest of the year.

Patrick tried to make a trip to Israel in 2008, but cancelled as an economic crisis enveloped Massachusetts.

While former Economic Development Secretary Daniel O'Connell stood behind Patrick with the foreign dignitaries and business leaders at the press conference announcing the trade mission, the governor's economic development czar was traipsing to Tinseltown. Secretary Greg Bialecki was in Los Angeles meeting with Hollywood studio executives trying to sell Massachusetts as a film-making Mecca before this year's Oscar envelopes are opened.

With the governor's team focused on luring new business to Massachusetts, the State Senate awoke from its slumber to take quick, decisive action on unemployment insurance rates scheduled to spike in 2011 to the tune of $228 per employee, a cost businesses said would suppress job creation.

Eschewing the typical public hearing, the Senate passed legislation to reduce the size of the UI rate hike to $71 per employee, a 10 percent instead of a 40 percent spike that would have hit businesses by the end of the first quarter without legislative intervention. Labor officials panned the proposal as a giveaway to corporations.

Senate Ways and Means Chairman Stephen Brewer declared the Senate's unanimous vote a tone-setter for the coming session.

The often-overlooked Governors Council continued to assert itself as a group to watch this week as well. A rare tie vote by the council - a first during the Patrick administration -on the nomination of Plymouth County prosecutor Heather Bradley to the district court bench, forced Lt. Gov. Timothy Murray to break the tie, with Patrick presiding.

Bradley, who will have about 30 years until she reaches the mandatory retirement age of 70, is the wife of state Rep. Garrett Bradley. She had come under heavy fire for the volume of political contributions her husband had made to Democratic candidates the past three years - including Patrick, Murray and Councilor Kelly Timilty. Murray, no doubt, must have been crossing his fingers that this vote would not come back to bite him in four years when he is expected to make his own bid for governor.

After a brutal week of subway delays and commuter rail cancellations, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority got back on the positive PR train with its plan to begin selling merchandise to help close an expected $126 million budget gap in fiscal 2012.

Coffee mugs, T-shirts, key chains. If New York can do it, why not Boston? In that vein, the Boston City Council also took a step toward banning smoking in public parks just days after their Big Apple counterpart passed a similar measure.

STORY OF THE WEEK: Prepare for takeoff.

This program aired on February 11, 2011. The audio for this program is not available.