The critical — and most explosive — wording in Governor Charlie Baker’s mandated regulatory review couldn’t have been sweeter music to the ears of one of the state’s leading antiregulatory groups, Associated Industries of Massachusetts: It was language right out of AIM’s playbook that calls for sweeping changes to the state’s regulations.
And perhaps this shouldn’t come as a surprise. Kristen Lepore, Baker’s secretary of administration and finance and the person overseeing the overhaul, came to the administration a few months ago straight from her job as a vice president at AIM.
The big rub in Baker’s March 31 edict was the statement that state regulations should not “exceed federal requirements.” Some activists — environmentalists, consumer advocates, public health leaders — argue that would dismantle Massachusetts’ complex network of regulations that has made the state a leader in areas such as clean air standards, environmental protection, and workplace protections.
None of the previous governors who have conducted regulatory reviews has suggested tying them to federal requirements. Washington is far more lax than Massachusetts and many other states in regulating the health and welfare of their people, their workforces, and their natural resources.
Baker’s executive order is a clear example of the political tightrope he has to walk as a Republican in Massachusetts. In last year’s race, he cleverly cut into the Democratic constituencies that think the regulations make for a better, cleaner, and healthier state. But he also has to cover his right flank. The regulatory reform is what those conservative constituencies — which are key to financing his political operations and inaugural fund — are expecting of him.
AIM argues that Massachusetts regulators “often stray from the primary objective of protecting society into a mindset of ‘punishing’ businesses.” Lepore, in the Baker administration press release that accompanied the executive order, called the state’s regulatory environment “onerous” and said it stifles economic activity.
Activists upset over the strong antiregulatory tone that accompanied the order point to Massachusetts’ often high rating as one of the most prosperous, creative, and innovative states.
Baker and his aides argue that the order is far less rigid than critics claim. He said he is confident that the objections will subside when the review is complete. His staff points out that agencies can appeal for waivers.
The arbiter of such appeals? Lepore herself.
Not exactly impressed
An outside analyst said it was outrageous that it has taken nearly 19 years — and counting — to get a new computer system for the state’s courts.
The Globe reported on Sunday that the Legislature originally approved $75 million in bond money to build the new judicial branch system in 1996 and it’s still not done.
So what does the head of another branch of state government think of the delay?
Governor Charlie Baker, who was secretary of administration and finance in 1996, spoke about the long delay when he briefed reporters during a trip to Washington this week. He stifled a laugh and paused to gather his words — and, it appeared, polish them — before speaking about the issue.
“With respect —” Baker paused and swallowed a laugh.
With “respect to the court project, I guess all I can say about that one is, um —.”
Baker, who campaigned as a strong proponent of efficient government, paused again.
“I worked for [governors] Bill Weld and Paul Cellucci back in the ’90s, and I remember when that project began and I was surprised,” the governor said, voice catching, “to read a story in the Sunday paper that it was still not finished.”
The makings of a mighty uncomfortable meeting
While television cameras will be focused on the stage in Nashua where 19 Republican presidential hopefuls will speak Friday and Saturday, political junkies might enjoy a potentially awkward encounter in the hallway.
Former New York governor George Pataki and the lieutenant governor he dumped after his first term are both scheduled to appear at the conference. While Pataki is preparing to run for president, former New York lieutenant governor Betsy McCaughey Ross is there to talk about her pet issue: the Affordable Care Act.
Things were so bad in 1997 that when Pataki announced he was dropping her from the ticket for reelection the next year, McCaughey Ross switched parties and then began to run for governor hoping to defeat Pataki, her boss. The New York Times quoted a Pataki aide as saying McCaughey Ross was “an irrational person.”
As it happened, McCaughey Ross lost the Democratic nomination but did get on the ballot, on the Liberal Party line. After she lost, she eventually sued her ex-husband for $40 million because he didn’t support her campaign as she contends that he said he would.
These days Pataki and McCaughey Ross apparently do agree on something: repealing the Affordable Care Act.
Baseball and City Hall
Boston City Hall has played an integral role at Red Sox home openers since Mayor John “Honey Fitz” Fitzgerald threw out the first pitch when Fenway Park opened on April 20, 1912.
More than a century later, the link remains strong between baseball and municipal politics. This week, Mayor Martin J. Walsh wore a Red Sox tie as he stepped onto the grass at Fenway. Walsh and Police Commissioner William B. Evans accompanied pregame dignitaries onto the field.
Walsh’s chief of staff, Daniel Koh, tweeted a photograph of himself with New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, who threw out first pitch.
“With the Super Bowl champ on a perfect spring day,” Koh wrote in the Tweet. “#OpeningDay #baseballisback #RedSox”
In the pregame ceremonies, Red Sox play-by-play announcer Don Orsillo asked fans to rise and remove their caps to “remember some people whom we’ve lost since we were last all together.”
The last name Orsillo mentioned was the late mayor Thomas M. Menino, a longtime Red Sox season ticket holder. An image appeared on an electronic scoreboard of Red Sox slugger David Ortiz with his arm around a smiling Menino.
“He held the highest office in our town longer than anyone else in our proud city,” Orsillo said as the crowd cheered. “The Fenway neighborhood might not look the way it does without the leadership of our former mayor.”
For power couple, a new sort of pressure
One is Joe Kennedy’s chief of staff, the other the new communications director to President Obama.
And they’re about to have a baby girl.
The Washington power couple is used to high-pressure situations. But this is different.
“We’ve been asking a number of folks for advice, no question about it,” said Greg Mecher, who is Kennedy’s chief of staff. “Generally folks tell us you can try to be ready. But nothing will totally prepare you.”
Mecher’s wife, Jen Psaki, who was the chief spokeswoman for the State Department, recently interviewed for a top job at the White House. She figured once they learned she was pregnant, the discussion would be over.
“When Jen talked to the president, she thought it was going to be a short conversation: ‘I’m expecting,’ and that would be the end of it,” Mecher said. “But it wasn’t. Frankly, he couldn’t have been more accommodating.”
Psaki got the job, and, under a new White House policy, is able to receive 12 weeks of paid maternity leave.
Congressional members can institute their own policies, and Kennedy has chosen to adopt the same one as the White House. So Mecher can take 12 weeks as well.
“We’re just lucky that we happen to work for folks that recognize it’s a really important thing,” Mecher said.
“And luckily, we’re due at the end of July, which leads into the August congressional recess,” he added. “It makes it easier to be out of the office for a while.”
The Trump connection
When New York businessman Donald Trump officially formed an exploratory committee for president this week, the paperwork suggests that at some point Trump told a North Shore political firm: You’re hired!
Listed as the custodian of records on the committee is Red Curve Solutions, which is based in Beverly. The same firm did all of the campaign finance compliance work for Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign and currently does the work for Marco Rubio’s US Senate campaign, which might be dormant for a bit since he is running for president and not reelection.