Political Happy Hour: March 20, 2017

Here’s your (dubious) St. Patrick’s Day parade hangover-cure glass of politics from Felice Belman in Dorchester, filling in for Joshua Miller who was held hostage by the conveners of an extra-long hearing on marijuana legislation at the State House for much of the day.

COMEY LATEST, via Ellen Nakashima, Karoun Demirjian, and Devlin Barrett of the Washington Post: “FBI Director James B. Comey on Monday said there is ‘no information’ that supports President Trump’s claims that his predecessor ordered surveillance of Trump Tower during the election campaign. ‘I have no information that supports those tweets,’ said Comey, testifying at the House Intelligence Committee’s first public hearing on Russian interference in the 2016 campaign. ‘We have looked carefully inside the FBI,’ and agents found nothing to support those claims, he said. ...”


UNEXPECTED DIG AT THE PATRIOTS, via Christina Prignano on “... ‘I hate the New England Patriots. No matter who they play, I’d like them to lose,’ [FBI Director James] Comey said, trying to make a point about Russia’s motives for attempting to aid Donald Trump during the 2016 election. ...”

GORSUCH LATEST, via Ed O’Keefe, Robert Barnes, and Sean Sullivan of the Washington Post: “Judge Neil Gorsuch’s confirmation hearing for a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court began Monday with Democrats claiming he never should have been brought before senators in the first place. Democrats also vowed to use four days of scheduled confirmation hearings to draw out Gorsuch on abortion rights, gun rights, religious rights, environmental protection and whether he would ever rule against the White House if presented with cases challenging the administration. ‘You’re going to have your hands full with this president. He’s going to keep you busy,’ Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) told Gorsuch. ...”


TREASURER STAKES OUT HER TURF, via Joshua Miller in the Boston Globe: “In a new skirmish in the political war over regulating retail marijuana in Massachusetts, the state treasurer is asking lawmakers for $10 million to pay for upfront costs and arguing against legislative efforts to strip her office of cannabis oversight responsibility. Deborah B. Goldberg, Massachusetts’ top pot regulator, is scheduled to testify Monday before the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Marijuana Policy, noting her office has spent substantial time preparing to oversee the industry, readying an infrastructure to protect public health and safety.

‘It would be very difficult to start from scratch all over again,’ the Brookline Democrat said in an interview, and doing so “would probably cost more for the taxpayers.’ …”

WHAT’S HAPPENING ON BEACON HILL BESIDES POT TALK? WELL ..., via Jim O’Sullivan and Frank Phillips in the Boston Globe: “Nearly two months after approving their own substantial salary boost, amid claims they were underpaid and overworked, state lawmakers have sent only three minor bills to the governor’s desk. After ratifying and then defending the $18 million pay raise, many legislators are still shuffling office spaces at the start of a two-year legislative cycle, which opened on Jan. 4. Only in recent days have legislative committees announced which bills they will consider. And in the past seven months, lawmakers have taken recorded votes on only one significant issue — the pay raises. ... ‘The Legislature should not be spinning its wheels at this point in the legislative session while the MassHealth budget crisis continues unabated,’ [Gregory W. ] Sullivan said ...”


A SIGN OF SPRING, via Jim O’Sullivan on “There’s no better way to commemorate the vernal equinox than plunking down 50 bucks to hang out with a bunch of politicians, an opportunity Governor Charlie Baker is affording those so inclined at Wednesday’s “spring reception” fundraiser. At the ‘special supporter rate’ of $50, fairly cheap for a big-name politician’s fundraiser (though larger donations are not discouraged), attendees can spend 90 minutes with Baker and Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito, whose campaign committee is also accepting contributions. ...”

TRANSPARENCY PROMISE, via press release this morning: Democrat Jay Gonzalez, so far the only Democrat committed to a run for governor in 2018, says he would voluntarily subject the governor’s office to the state’s public records law if elected. And, he said, he’d file legislation that would legally require the governor’s office to “respond to public records requests.”

*Laura Krantz details the Globe’s most recent skirmish over records with the governor’s office here:

IMPRESSIVE VOTER TURNOUT, via John DiStaso on “A new report compiled by two nonpartisan nonprofit groups found that New Hampshire had the third-highest voter turnout in the nation in the 2016 general election in November. The report by Nonprofit VOTE and the U.S. Elections Project, entitled ‘America Goes to the Polls,’ ranked the 50 states in voter turnouts and identified policies that helped contribute to high turnout. A key factor in the states with the highest voter turnouts was that all of them allowed same-day voter registration, the report said. ... In New Hampshire, 72.5 percent of the voting-eligible population voted in the general election. ... ”


Two further points:

*The Massachusetts turnout, according to the report, was 68.3 percent. (Not bad!)

*Unclear if this will goad President Trump into re-upping his theory about busloads of Massachusetts Democrats pouring into New Hampshire and contributing to his November defeat there.

THOSE ST. PATRICK’S DAY POLITICAL JOKES GET BETTER AND BETTER! via Laura Krantz in the Boston Globe: “… Breakfast host Linda Dorcena Forry, a state senator whose district includes South Boston and Dorchester, kicked it off with a jab at Trump. She said she considered inviting him to the breakfast but didn’t. Instead, she said she got a new executive order. ‘Good luck on your stupid breakfast,’ it said. ‘Sad!!’ …”

ROCKY ROAD FOR MBTA OFFICIALS, via two stories from Nicole Dungca on

1. HOW MANY COMMUTERS COULD LOSE SERVICE? GOOD QUESTION! “As the MBTA explores cutting weekend commuter rail service, there is one key fact that it would seem critical to nail down: just how many riders actually use the service on weekends. But since T officials floated the idea of temporarily eliminating the service, that number hasn’t been so clear-cut.

On Tuesday, the MBTA said its ‘most recent data available’ showed that travelers took 8,300 trips into Boston on Saturdays, and 4,500 on Sundays, but they couldn’t provide how many took trips out of Boston. Yet on Friday afternoon, after multiple inquiries from the Globe, the agency said it now estimates that riders take 18,700 trips total on Saturdays, or almost 15 percent of its weekday ridership. ...”


2. HOW ANGRY ARE DISABLED RIDERS? FAIRLY ANGRY! “Disability rights advocates on Monday blasted a Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority proposal that would cut back service for up to 10,000 disabled riders. ... James White, the chairman of the MBTA’s Access Advisory Committee, urged the MBTA to take the proposal to eliminate such service off the table. Like others, White reminded the board that disability advocates had been working extensively with the agency in the past year to save money on the Ride, an expensive service that has often been the target of cost-savings. ‘People’s lives are at stake,’ he said. ...”


Josh will be back tomorrow.

Felice Belman can be reached at