Mass. Lawmakers Almost Ready To Make Laws, As State Gets National Spotlight

Feb 4, 2019

With some formalities out of the way, Massachusetts lawmakers try to get moving. And the state is due for some more attention this week on the national stage.

Sam Hudzik, NEPR: So we've got a big week ahead on a number of fronts. Let's start at the Statehouse. Lawmakers there have passed some rules for the upcoming session, although I understand there's still some negotiating to be done. We saw movement away from using the phrase "chairman" to just saying "chair." Also, changes on sexual harassment policies, which is especially important given revelations last session. What sticks out for you?

Matt Murphy, State House News Service: Yeah, certainly the debate over nondisclosure agreements and whether or not they should be used by the legislature was a big highlight of the debate over the House and Senate rules last week. The House reengaged in this debate -- the same debate they had last session -- and came down on the same place with this rule that they put in place last year that basically says no NDAs unless the victim of sexual harassment or assault requests one.

But that was not before a freshman rep from Scituate, Rep. Patrick Kearney, whose mother also served in the legislature, pushed hard to try and get a full ban on NDAs in through the House. And he was doing so, picking up the ball, for Diana DiZoglio, who proposed the same amendment in the Senate with a different outcome. The Senate actually adopted Senator DiZoglio's amendment to ban NDAs in the Senate completely. And she says this doesn't prohibit victims from seeking an NDA, if it's something that they think best protect their interests. But they would have to do so privately outside of the business of the legislature, and the Senate itself as an institution will not be party to those agreements.

With the rules packages moving forward, does this mean the real work on Beacon Hill starts? What's on the agenda?

Yeah, almost. I mean, there is a lot of legislation piling up with no committees to start hearing these bills, but we are getting closer. With the House and Senate rules done, there may be a short delay in trying to get the joint rules between the House and Senate hashed out.

There are some differences, including some transparency measures and public records reforms that the Senate put into the joint rules, and these will go to a conference committee. The people on both sides seem to think it could be negotiated rather quickly and then we expect committee assignments to come out and the real business of legislating will begin.

OK. Let's look to D.C. now. Governor Charlie Baker is headed to Washington this week to testify about climate change. Preview that for us.

Yeah. So the governor is heading down to testify before a House committee in Congress on climate change. He's going to be sitting alongside North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper, a Democrat. And it's interesting -- him being the Republican -- to take this on for states.

This is not a new issue for the governor, and he really came out early in his second term making this a forefront issue that he wants to tackle, with his proposal to increase some real estate transfer taxes in order to generate a billion dollars over the next decade to pour into cities and towns to help them prepare for the impacts and effects of climate change.

Also on the national level, Senator Elizabeth Warren has set a big announcement for next weekend. My goodness, Matt, what oh what could that be?

Yeah -- what oh what. A big, big surprise. You're, of course, talking about the fact that Senator Warren, who – on New Year's Eve – put out a video and announced that she was opening her exploratory committee for president. Well, now she's saying she's got a big announcement for Saturday. I think everyone knows and expects that this will be her formal declaration that she is going to seek the presidency.

And, you know, I guess I would be remiss if I didn't mention that one person we didn't expect to be talking about running for president from Massachusetts -- but who may be, as well -- Bill Weld [was] drawing a lot of interest last week. He's headed to New Hampshire on February 15th to give a speech at St. Anselm's, where he could himself be getting into the race as a Republican to challenge Donald Trump.

And he ran as a Libertarian last time?

He did and that's the question: What is he going to do this time? If he runs, will he run as a Republican [and] come back to the party that he was a member of when he served as governor of Massachusetts, or will he stick with the Libertarians? He did run in 2016 on the ticket with Gary Johnson as the V.P. nominee. He said at the time that he was going to be a Libertarian for the rest of his political days. But now there's talk that he may be coming back to the GOP to run against President Trump, who he has been a very vocal critic of.

Keep up here with Beacon Hill In 5.