State House Roundup: Unranked
Rankings, like jobs numbers, can be fickle friends - changeable, not always dependable and prone to double cross when you least expect.
Just ask Gov. Deval Patrick, who spent his 2010 re-election campaign — and the years since — talking up the state’s 5th place ranking on CNBC’s survey of best states in which to do business as a seemingly ironclad rebuttal to the assertion by his critics that Massachusetts is hostile territory for expansion-minded executives.
Massachusetts may have fallen to 6th place in 2011, but still within eye shot of the coveted top spot. So when CNBC’s slow-reveal of the top five business-friendly states began on Tuesday, high expectations fueled by the cable station’s state-by-state Twitter buzz-o-meter had officials giddy with anticipation.
North Dakota, North Carolina, Virginia, Utah . . . Texas! Hopes in the Corner Office deflated faster than a hot air balloon in a monsoon. Massachusetts plummeted to 28th. The only thing left was damage control.
As political credos go, if the economy is going well, take credit for it as often as possible and to the maximum political effect. Six straight months of job growth, and an unemployment rate of 6 percent.
If the economy is not going well, discredit reports and/or blame it on uncontrollable global factors. Remember the Labor Department’s job creation revisions? The truth is likely somewhere in the middle. Some credit, some blame deserved, but this middle path is not well worn in modern politics.
“You could imagine, maybe, how business friendliness might change from one year to the next, but our infrastructure doesn’t change that much from year to year,” said Economic Development Secretary Greg Bialecki, questioning how the state fell from 29th to 45th in infrastructure. And it didn’t even snow this winter. Perhaps it was the administration’s own descriptions of the state’s transportation system as “broken.”
Lt. Gov. Timothy, who will stride into Chicago next week as the new number one of the number two’s when he takes over as chairman of the National Lieutenant Governors Association, tried the shiny-object technique: “I think the most important number is that Massachusetts is adding jobs,” he said.
Patrick, mostly, stuck close to home this week. Save for a speaking engagement in Chicago and a drop-by at Obama headquarters, the governor opted against traveling Thursday to Virginia for the National Governors Association annual meetings in favor of remaining on Beacon Hill, his presence, according to his staff, more important here in the waning days of the formal legislative sessions with a thick policy agenda still unresolved.
Turns out, he probably wouldn’t have been missed.
After the governor signed the $32.5 billion fiscal 2013 state budget Sunday, vetoing funding necessary to keep Taunton Hospital open, and returning proposals to toughen identification requirements for vehicle registration and crack down on unwanted spending of EBT welfare benefits, it was the Legislature’s turn to put their collective foot down.
By Thursday, both the House and Senate had overturned the governor’s veto of the Taunton Hospital funding and rejected his amendments on EBT and RMV registration reform, both by solidly veto-proof margins.
Maybe they didn’t like Patrick’s suggestion that the crackdown on welfare benefit spending felt a touch like “political grandstanding.” Or maybe they didn’t appreciate his insistence that “some comments” by “some members” were demeaning to poor people.
One thing’s for sure. They flat out disagreed with the governor. And these days, when outgoing Rep. Charley Murphy is your only ally, the writing is on the wall.
Patrick downplayed any notion of a rift with House Speaker Robert DeLeo, calling it a pleasure to work with the normally jovial speaker, “not just professionally, but personally.” And Senate President Therese Murray said she took no offense to Patrick’s arrows. “Sometimes in the heat of the moment people say things that maybe they don’t mean,” Murray said.
For the sake of getting anything done in the next few weeks, egos will have to be set aside.
Carlos Henriquez might have liked to take Patrick’s place and get out of town for a few days, or at least have stayed home last weekend.
The freshman Dorchester representative was in a world of legal trouble this week, pleading not guilty in a Suffolk County courtroom to charges of punching, choking and holding his ex-girlfriend against her will in his rented car last Sunday as he drove around Boston.
A verbose declaration of innocence notwithstanding, Henriquez will stand to face similar charges in Middlesex County later this month, with police convinced some of his misdeeds occurred in Arlington where he allegedly picked up the younger woman at her mother’s home in the pre-dawn hours to “talk.”
Thrust into the spotlight, the woman who has accused Henriquez of the assault said everything in the disturbing police reports is true. Henriquez back at the State House Wednesday voting, which something no one can say about former Sen. James Marzilli, who never returned after being accused of accosting random women on the street in Lowell.
While the Legislature made some end-of-session progress on remaining priorities, the week ended with nothing major on the governor’s desk, his decision to remain in state late week, perhaps justified only by the conclusion of negotiations with the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe for a gaming compact.
Elizabeth Warren’s name was nowhere in it.
In exchange for the state’s support of its federal applications for land in-trust, and a protection against casino competition in the southeast, the Mashpee tribe agreed to pay 21.5 percent of its gross gaming revenue back to the state, and to abide by most other laws of the state and restrictions on commercial casinos.
The House and Senate must ratify the deal by the July 31 to prevent the Gaming Commission from seeking commercial bids for a casino in the southeastern region. While that may be an alternative preferred by some critics of the window of exclusivity extended to the tribe, particularly developers eyeing New Bedford, Patrick and others reminded that three, not four casinos, is the magic number, and ignoring the tribe would be rolling the dice.
While Patrick acknowledged that waiting for land-in trust could take some time, the governor seemed eager to remind that he was required to negotiate the compact, and the Gaming Commission can ignore it if and when its impatience with the federal land process becomes justified.
“This is the Legislature’s will, so we are following the direction of the Legislature,” Patrick said.
True on many levels.
STORY OF THE WEEK: Tribal compact sparks as many questions as answers about Taunton casino’s fate. Future just as cloudy for Rep. Carlos Henriquez.
This program aired on July 13, 2012. The audio for this program is not available.