Healey’s early flexes

Healey’s early flexes

With help from Sophie Gardner and Kelly Garrity

CLOUT CHECK — Gov. Maura Healey is starting to put her political clout to the test outside Beacon Hill.

— FIRST IN PLAYBOOK: Healey is wading into the race to replace Lt. Gov. Kim Driscoll as Salem mayor.

Healey is endorsing Dominick Pangallo, Driscoll’s longtime chief of staff in the city, who finished first in last month’s preliminary election and now faces former Salem Mayor Neil Harrington for the top job. It’s Healey’s first down-ballot endorsement since becoming governor (she’s also supporting Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s reelection bid).

“Dominick has worked for the last decade to make the city of Salem the special place that it is today,” Healey said in a statement. “He has the experience and the vision to move Salem forward on issues of sustainability, economic growth, education and equity.”

— CHANGING OF THE GUARD: Democrats are also set to install Healey’s pick for state party chair — former lieutenant governor nominee Steve Kerrigan — as their new leader tonight, giving the governor more direct influence over the party’s operations.

Kerrigan is poised to take the reins from outgoing Chair Gus Bickford. Bickford gave his blessing for the mid-term leadership shakeup, which was set in motion after Healey delivered Democrats full control on Beacon Hill and the party picked up legislative seats as the state GOP self-destructed.

Kerrigan faces no opposition heading into tonight’s vote. But there are some formalities he’ll have to go through to officially rejoin the state committee and become chair. Democrats plan to make quick work of those when they gather at 7 p.m. at the American Legion in Newton.

— CASHING IN: Healey is also holding her first big fundraiser on Wednesday since taking office, revamping her annual “Women for Maura” event — a who’s who of the state’s major female politicians, donors and activists — to include her new No. 2 as co-headliner.

Healey’s political power has only increased since becoming governor. But she’s not really flexed it off Beacon Hill until now.

Defending abortion rights created a reason for Healey to reclaim a spot on the national stage. On Sunday she penned a CNN op-ed declaring that Democratic governors would stand as the first line of defense against attacks on abortion access that she warned wouldn’t stop at mifepristone.

Now Healey is expanding her political efforts within the state as she settles into her new job. It’s partly a return to form: Facing little opposition for the governor’s office last year, Healey campaigned heavily for now-Attorney General Andrea Campbell and lent her support to legislative and county candidates who largely won their races.

But it’s also an early marker of how much the new governor wants to be a power broker beyond the State House, with big mayor’s races taking shape this year and critical federal contests on deck for Democrats next year.

GOOD MONDAY MORNING, MASSACHUSETTS. Yesterday was a good day to be a Boston sports fan, and today is a good day to be back in your inboxes. Big thanks to guest-host extraordinaires Sophie Gardner, Kelly Garrity and Mia McCarthy for filling in last week!

TODAY — Healey and Driscoll speak at the 2023 Massachusetts Victim Rights Month awards ceremony starting at 1 p.m. at the State House. Sen. Ed Markey kicks off his 20-city “Just Majority” judicial-reform bus tour with Warren and Rep. Ayanna Pressley at 10 a.m. in Boston, hosts a press conference with Pressley and Boston Mayor Michelle Wu on fare-free public transit at 1 p.m. at Ruggles Station and keynotes a Green New Deal event at Somerville High at 6:30 p.m. with Mayor Katjana Ballantyne.

Rep. Stephen Lynch addresses the New England Council at 8 a.m. at The Hampshire House in Boston. Rep. Seth Moulton holds an affordable housing forum at 9 a.m. at Lynn City Hall; Driscoll joins. Wu is on WBUR’s “Radio Boston” at 11 a.m. Rep. Jim McGovern visits the Spanish American Center in Leominster at 11 a.m. House Democratic Whip Katherine Clark meets with Black small-business owners at 2 p.m. at Nzuko in Framingham. Rep. Lori Trahan celebrates military service academy nominees at 5:30 p.m. at Lowell Memorial Auditorium.

Tips? Scoops? Email me: [email protected].

— UP FOR DEBATE: House Ways and Means Chair Aaron Michlewitz set the stage for his chamber’s budget deliberations by setting expectations on WCVB’s “On the Record” for what giving the MBTA more money can achieve. Fixing the troubled T “is certainly something that we’re going to have to take small victories in,” Michlewitz said. “These problems were not created overnight, they’re not going to get fixed overnight.”

House lawmakers start sifting through 1,566 budget amendments today, the highest number filed in more than a decade, according to analysis from the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation. And more than three-quarters of them are earmarks for local projects. If all the amendments passed (they won’t) MTF estimates their cost could run upwards of $2.6 billion.

Sophie and Kelly have a handy guide of some amendments to watch out for on the floor:

— RAIL RACKET: Remember the headlines earlier this month about commuter-rail operator Keolis getting swindled out of $8 million? It seems Transportation Committee co-chair state Rep. William Straus does. He filed an amendment that would put $900,000 toward the “investigation and prosecution of fraud, waste and abuse” connected to or “under contracts entered into or procured by” MassDOT, the MBTA or a regional transit authority.

— TUITION TENSION: State Rep. Jeffrey Turco filed an amendment to freeze tuition and fees for the UMass system retroactively to what they were at the beginning of the 2022-23 school year. UMass trustees voted earlier this month to raise undergraduate tuition for the next academic year. Top House Democrats already ditched a proposal from Gov. Maura Healey that would lock in four years of the same tuition rate for each new UMass student.

— SPARRING OVER 62F: A handful of Republicans are waging an uphill battle to stop Democrats from exempting millionaires-tax money from the revenue calculations that trigger Chapter 62F tax rebates.

Budget week gave Michlewitz convenient cover when OTR co-host Sharman Sacchetti asked the man who many believe will be the next House speaker whether he wants the job eventually. “I’m trying to get through 1,500 amendments this week for the budget. I can’t think past Thursday, never mind in the future,” Michlewitz said. But, he added, “I believe you do your job and opportunities will come about.”

“Massachusetts Legislature, hostile to rent control, includes more landlords than renters,” by Emma Platoff and Matt Stout, Boston Globe.

“Beacon Hill residents: Tire-deflating action by climate group was ‘cowardly’ and ‘counterproductive’,” by Gayla Cawley, Boston Herald.

— BOARDING THE FARE-FREE TRAIN: Sen. Ed Markey and Rep. Ayanna Pressley are reintroducing their “Freedom to Move Act” that would put $5 billion per year in federal grant funding toward modernizing public transit systems and making them fare free, a spokesperson for the senator said.

That could augment the $5 million Gov. Maura Healey and top state House Democrats are proposing in their budgets to study means-tested MBTA fares. But similar legislation last session only got four co-sponsors in the House and one, Elizabeth Warren in the Senate.

Still, free or reduced fares proved popular in statewide polling last year. And the federal lawmakers will be joined today by Boston Mayor Michelle Wu, whose pilot program making three key MBTA bus routes free for two years is showing some early signs of success.

“A distant crisis: Top MBTA managers live hundreds — or thousands — of miles from the troubled system they’re trying to fix,” by Andrea Estes, Boston Globe: “The T’s chief safety officer owns a house near Chicago, where his wife works — and employees say he spends much of his time there. His deputy lives mainly with his family in Los Angeles. The T’s chief of capital projects rarely came to Boston before he was fired last month, instead attending meetings remotely from his homes in Wisconsin, Delaware, and Hawaii. Meanwhile, last year his chief of staff bought a house in Florida, where she lives with her husband. … A Globe review has found that nine senior managers have a primary residence more than 100 miles from the nearest T station — and some much farther.”

— Related: “‘It’s now on their plate’: With Healey’s new hires comes new responsibility for the MBTA’s problems,” by Samantha J. Gross, Boston Globe.

— FIRST IN PLAYBOOK: Former Rep. Barney Frank is endorsing Celia Segel for 10th Suffolk state representative, saying she’s “already demonstrated leadership in her advocacy to control the costs of health care.” The West Roxbury-based district includes a slice of Brookline, which Frank represented for decades.

— Act on Mass has endorsed Robert Orthman for 10th Suffolk state representative.

Eight more state and local lawmakers are endorsing John Moran, the sole candidate left in the race for 9th Suffolk state representative. Moran’s new backers include state Sen. Julian Cyr, state Reps. Aaron Michlewitz, Jay Livingstone, Jack Patrick Lewis and Adam Scanlon; Boston City Council President Ed Flynn and Councilors Ruthzee Louijeune and Michael Flaherty.

“Rep. Jim McGovern: GOP handling of debt ceiling ‘all-time high in recklessness and stupidity,’” by Jon Keller, WBZ.

“As other states charge ahead with e-bike incentives, no such program for Mass. yet,” by Taylor Dolven, Boston Globe: “Hawaii, Colorado, California, and Connecticut say they will start offering discounts for e-bikes this spring and summer. But despite an existing incentive program for electric vehicles to help meet emissions goals in Massachusetts, a similar effort for e-bikes has not yet materialized.”

“Easthampton grapples with deluge of public records requests about superintendent search,” by Emily Thurlow, Daily Hampshire Gazette: “The deluge of public records requests during the continued saga in the city’s search for a new superintendent had grown so large in recent weeks that it often crashed a software system that handles such queries — a problem city officials hope to avoid in the future by buying a new tracking system.”

“Airman Shared Sensitive Intelligence More Widely and for Longer Than Previously Known,” by Aric Toler, Malachy Browne and Julian E. Barnes, New York Times: “In February 2022, soon after the invasion of Ukraine, a user profile matching that of Airman Jack Teixeira began posting secret intelligence on the Russian war effort on a previously undisclosed chat group on Discord, a social media platform popular among gamers.”

— More: “Jack Teixeira spent years honing his online warrior skills. Then an armored car rolled up his driveway,” by Hanna Krueger, Boston Globe.

— And more: “Accused military leaker Jack Teixeira to face detention hearing in Worcester,” by Brad Petrishen, Telegram & Gazette.

“North Brookfield Select Board chair doubles down on decision to axe drag show,” by Sarah Betancourt, GBH News: “A small town in Central Massachusetts is blocking a drag show from taking place as part of an LGBTQ Pride celebration in June after initially approving it. Now, the chair of that Select Board is doubling down on the decision, citing the town’s prohibition on ‘adult entertainment,’ despite civil rights violation concerns from the ACLU of Massachusetts.”

“Mass. health insurers say they’ll stop providing free at-home COVID tests,” by Priyanka Dayal McCluskey, WBUR.

“A year after SCOTUS decision, Mass. towns and cities are wrestling with flaps over flags,” by Matt Stout, Boston Globe.

“Are safe injection sites the answer to rising drug overdose deaths in Worcester?” by Henry Schwan, Telegram & Gazette.

“Website posing as fake Massachusetts university draws attention of authorities,” by Hilary Burns, Boston Globe.

“Unrest at Bristol County jail over suicide prevention moves,” by Deborah Becker, WBUR.

— TIMELINES AND TRUMP LINES: New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu is seemingly clarifying when he might jump into the 2024 presidential race. After initially telling reporters he’d make a decision over the summer, he told NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday that “everybody will have to make a decision by the Fourth of July,” ahead of the first GOP debate in August. He also said former President Donald Trump is “positioning himself to be a four-time loser” as he chases the Republican nomination again.

TRANSITIONS — Worcester Telegram & Gazette alum Cyrus Moulton joins Northeastern Global News today.

— Benaree “Bennie” Pratt Wiley has been appointed to the Presidential Advisory Commission on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence, and Economic Opportunity for Black Americans.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY — to Italo Fini, Matt Vautour, Melrose Mayor Paul Brodeur, Romney alum Charlie Pearce, Chris Wayland and Jacob Stern.

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