State House Roundup: Climate Change

The winds of change blew Scott Brown out to Iowa this week, caused a forced landing of Sen. Dan Wolf’s gubernatorial campaign, sent Juliette Kayyem aloft, and opened up some space between Gov. Deval Patrick and his former number two.

The balmy August breeze even changed the way many Senate Democrats viewed the computer services tax, which passed the upper chamber with the hurricane force, easily overriding Patrick’s veto.

The “tempest of taxation,” so dubbed by one of the Senate’s three no votes, put the computer levy on the lawbooks, but some three weeks later the winds seem to have shifted back as no less than President Pro Tem Richard Moore forecast a second looks computer services tax in the fall.

The low barometer readings around the tech tax extended out to Worcester where Murray, in his new role advocating for the business community of the Commonwealth’s second biggest city, voiced some trepidation about its consquences.

"Is this the right tax? No tax is easy, I know that from my time in government. But this seems to be kind of singled out, hitting an innovation sector of our economy which is only poised to grow and this may be a deterrent to that growth," Murray said after an event at the Worcester airport. It was Murray’s strongest public criticism of an important Deval Patrick policy since – since ever, as far as anyone can remember.

Murray, who carried the banner for the Patrick administration for six and a half years, remained positioned within the general scope of the governor’s original plan, suggesting a “more broad-based” tax could have raised the needed revenue without jeopardizing one of the bright spots in the state economy.

At the advent of peak hurricane season in the Atlantic, perhaps it was an auspicious time for the entry of the 2014 cycle’s first female candidate for governor, Juliette Kayyem, a former homeland security official and Pulitzer finalist. One of three main planks in Kayyem’s platform is preparing the state for climate change, and the wrack and ruin it might cause on the Bay State’s coastal communities.

Dan Wolf peered out at threatening clouds of a different nature, announcing Thursday he would suspend his gubernatorial campaign and resign his post as senator unless the Ethics Commission falls off of its ruling that Wolf’s airline’s business with MassPort constitutes an unacceptable conflict of interest.

Whether the Cape Air founder’s campaign suspension is a temporary layover or a permanent grounding is anyone’s guess. The pilot buzzed the Ethics Commission in his penned announcement, saying Cape Air’s deal to fly in and out of Logan is non-negotiable and therefore immune from influence as the airline is FAA certified.

Meanwhile, Scott Brown caught a gust of speculation about his political future. The former U.S. senator and Fox News contributor decamped from the fickle weather of Massachusetts for Iowa, where a lift in the first presidential caucuses has been known to carry a candidate to the nomination, and perhaps the grand prize of the White House.

After visiting the state fair with his wife Gail Huff, a native Iowan, Brown went on the Massachusetts airwaves, telling Nightside host Dan Rea he won’t be seeking the state’s chief executive office and if something comes out of his speaking gigs around the country, “so be it.”

“I’m not dead, and I think I have something to offer,” Brown said.

Brown’s bow out leaves a clear path to the nomination for Charlie Baker, widely expected to run again next year having lost in his 2010 bid against incumbent Patrick. The Wrentham Republican also cleared matters up lest anyone confuse the former state budget chief with a certain Mr. Personality.

“‘Listen, Is he Mr. Personality?’ No. All right, everyone knows that. He’s not,” Brown said, saying also, “I support him and I’m looking forward to helping him.”

As Massachusetts voters await the Mr. or Ms. Personality in the gubernatorial field, the dozen men and woman seeking to succeed Tom Menino played football with a pledge that may become a fixture in post- Citizens United politics.

Harken back to January 2012 when Brown negotiated a “People’s Pledge” with Elizabeth Warren, then a Harvard Law School professor. The pledge extracted charitable donations from the candidates as penalty for any outside spending to their benefit on television ads, or certain other media. The campaign finance agreement between the two well financed candidates has served as a model, with iterations in the Lynch v. Markey Senate primary and, as of this week, the Brownsberger v. Clark v. Koutoujian v. Sciortino v. Spilka contest for Markey’s House seat.

Treasurer Steven Grossman has sought to establish a similar agreement among his fellow Democrats in the governor’s race.

While it has yet to become a binding contract among the 12 candidates seeking to succeed Tom Menino in City Hall, the pledge has served some political use. Hyde Park Councilor Rob Consalvo - whose enthusiastic support for rubber sidewalks and close reads of Governing Magazine have positioned him to possibly take up Menino’s “urban mechanic” mantle - has repeatedly challenged his rivals to adopt a similar pledge.

The other candidates, whose supporters might have deeper pockets than Big Sidewalk, have not beat down the door to sign onto the pledge. Councilor John Connolly has seen both sides of the issue.

Connolly entered the race with plans to lengthen the school day and launched his campaign before Menino’s announced departure.

After Stand for Children announced plans to stand with Connolly, to the tune of $500,000 in outside spending, and Suffolk District Attorney Dan Conley signed up for the pledge, Connolly told the advocacy group to back off at a City Hall Plaza presser and dismissed the pledge, saying, "I'm not going to get involved in political gimmicks.”

Connolly’s subsequent decision to sign on to the pledge prompted some heckling from Rep. Marty Walsh, whose mayoral candidacy has garnered support from both unions and the substance abuse recovery community.

“That was a great bit of political theater this morning. I’m still a little bit confused about where John Connolly stands, but I know this: he was right this morning when he said that the pledge was nothing more than a political gimmick,” Walsh observed in a statement.

Charlotte Golar Richie, a former state rep who later worked in the Menino administration has reportedly said she will not sign the pledge. Candidate Bill Walczak, founder of the Codman Square Health Center issued a statement, saying, “The stands I have taken on issues are mine and no one else’s.”

Gov. Patrick spent another week removed from the public eye, but not the baleful gaze of the MassGOP, which said it was “unacceptable” for the governor to “take three weeks of paid vacation” amid rising unemployment and other state problems.

Patrick ally John Walsh responded that Republicans do little else besides complain, saying, “It is absolutely amazing to me the degree to which the Republicans in Massachusetts believe that the way to win is to run down the state.”

On Wednesday, the special counsel David Meier announced the total number of cases affected by “rogue chemist” Annie Dookhan had risen to 40,323. On Thursday, the Department of Public Health took in 181 applications from those who want to establish the state’s first medical marijuana dispensaries.

STORY OF THE WEEK: Brown bows out, Wolf hits pause and Kayyem jumps into the governor’s race, amid rumblings of renewed debate on the $161 million computer services tax.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “He asked, and I said, ‘I gotta call Gail. So I called Gail and I was standing there, and of course she’s like, ‘This is great. This is great.’ And I said, ‘Oh really, honey. Oh, OK. Jeez OK. And I said, ‘Gail says it’s ok, but, you know, I need to think about it, so I made him wait a couple of days. Listen, we’re blessed and he seems like a nice young man,” Scott Brown said on Nightside about how he responded to his daughter Arianna’s fiance when he told the former U.S. senator he planned to propose to her.

This program aired on August 23, 2013. The audio for this program is not available.


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