With help from Mia McCarthy and Kelly Garrity
BACKYARD DIPLOMACY — Scott Brown is busy.
The former Massachusetts senator and U.S. ambassador has a full calendar of shows with his rock band, the aptly titled Scott Brown and the Diplomats. He coaches basketball, cross country and track. He does triathlons.
He’s also bringing the GOP presidential primary to his backyard — well, the backyard of a nearby business — by inviting White House hopefuls trekking through New Hampshire to deliver their stump speeches and answer voters’ questions at his “No B.S. Backyard BBQ” series in Rye. In the past week alone, he’s hosted Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson. Vivek Ramaswamy is coming next Sunday.
Brown is being diplomatic about his role in the primary and his political future. The Republican described himself as “up for grabs” in the GOP contest and doesn’t plan on endorsing until it’s over. And he’s not ruling out another run for public office himself.
“I’m 63. I don’t think I’m done. Am I yearning for it? No. But I love this country and when I see there’s a need, I want to get involved,” Brown said. “Now is that getting involved like I did with President [Donald] Trump? Being an ambassador and representing the entire country? Well, yeah that was great. Does it mean helping out candidates that are going to make a difference? Sure. It doesn’t necessarily mean me.”
Playbook asked Brown point-blank if he plans on being a candidate for any office in 2024, with the New Hampshire governor’s office now up for grabs.
His one-word answer: “No.”
Here’s more from Playbook’s chat with Brown, edited and condensed for length:
It was a blow to Republicans in Massachusetts to lose the governor’s office. They don’t hold any statewide elected offices anymore. What’s your message to them?
SB: I’m hopeful that there’s a kind of a pendulum event. And listen, I like Maura [Healey]. She’s a jock. She plays basketball. She can’t be all that bad. I’d like to play her one on one. You can tell her that. But it’s up to the voters to decide what direction they want to go. A lot of people are leaving the great state of Massachusetts, and that’s not good.
Do you think a Republican needs to step up to run against Elizabeth Warren?
SB: That’s not up to me. Senator Warren and I have a good relationship. It’s almost like a detente. She supported me when I was ambassador. She was one of my biggest advocates. And I will never forget her for that and I respect her for stepping outside of her comfort zone. And she has things that she believes in and we’ve agreed not to talk about the things that we disagree on.
GOOD THURSDAY MORNING, MASSACHUSETTS. Playbook relayed Brown’s basketball challenge to Healey. Her office said the governor “is very focused on the budget and tax relief right now but she wishes the Amesbury hoopsters and their coach well.” (Brown is the head coach of the Amesbury varsity girls basketball team.)
TODAY — Healey speaks at a Massachusetts State Police graduation ceremony at 10:30 a.m. in Springfield. Lt. Gov. Kim Driscoll makes economic development stops at 10 a.m. in Attleboro, noon at Battleship Cove in Fall River, 4 p.m. at the Zeiterion Performing Arts Center in New Bedford and 5:30 p.m. at the Feast of the Blessed Sacrament.
Sen. Ed Markey releases river water quality report cards at 10 a.m. at Magazine Beach in Cambridge. Rep. Jim McGovern is at Community Harvest at noon and talks PFAS at 3 p.m. at Worcester’s AC Hotel by Marriott.
Tips? Scoops? Think Scott Brown should run for office again (in which state)? Email me: [email protected].
— TARDY TAX RELIEF: Gov. Maura Healey continues to brush off lawmakers taking an extra month to send her the state budget as part of the typical legislative process. But she is growing “anxious” about getting tax relief done after the Legislature broke for August recess without a deal. The House and Senate Ways and Means chairs previously told Playbook an accord was unlikely until after Labor Day.
“Our job isn’t done until we pass tax relief,” Healey told WBUR yesterday. “It’s really important. And I do look forward to working with the Legislature to make that happen.”
Healey also had a message for the Biden administration on immigration: “The numbers [of migrants] that we’re seeing are unsustainable,” she said. “The federal government really needs to act here to help us as states.”
That starts, Healey said, with streamlining the work authorization process for migrants, something both she and the federal delegation have both pressed the Biden administration to do.
“We’re going to continue to press them,” Healey said. “There is a real recognition there. The question is: Are they going to help at this point?”
— “No word on whether Massachusetts will have to pay back $2.5 billion error to feds,” by Chris Van Buskirk, Boston Herald: “The terms of payback remain unclear nearly two months after the state learned the former Baker administration erroneously used $2.5 billion in federal pandemic-era relief funds to cover unemployment benefits. Whether or not Massachusetts is even on the hook for the money remains an open question. The U.S. Department of Labor is in the middle of conducting ‘independent compliance and oversight work’ with state officials, a department spokesperson said.”
— “Healey’s ‘Climate Czar’ broke ethics rules in leaving EPA, watchdog group alleges,” by Matthew Medsger, Boston Herald: “The Healey Administration’s climate chief violated ethics rules at the EPA after she began the process of seeking a job with the state, according to an ethics complaint filed by a government watchdog group.”
— “Massachusetts attorney general has still not released report on clergy sex abuse: ‘It’s really concerning’,” by Rick Sobey, Boston Herald: “A year after the Massachusetts attorney general’s office told advocates that a report on clergy sex abuse was nearly complete, the investigation has still not been published as activists push for the ‘disappearing report’ to come to light.”
— THE PETITIONS ARE IN: Legalizing plant-based psychedelics for therapeutic use, suspending the state gas tax until prices at the pump fall below $3 and paying tipped workers a full minimum wage are among the dozens of ballot questions being floated for 2024.
Attorney General Andrea Campbell now has until Sept. 6 to certify which petitions can move forward. In all, 18 groups filed 42 petitions for 38 laws that could be decided in 2024 and four constitutional amendments that could go before voters in 2026.
Depending on which initiatives get approved, Massachusetts could be in for another costly ballot battle over gig-workers’ rights, with both sides turning to voters as their legislative efforts stall.
The Massachusetts Coalition for Independent Work submitted a revamped petition to continue classifying app-based drivers as independent contractors and offer them some benefits. The coalition filed multiple versions of its petition after its 2022 effort was tossed by the state’s top court for trying to cram too many policies into one question. Meanwhile, 32BJ SEIU is looking to let voters decide whether drivers should have the ability to organize a union.
Here’s are some other highlights from the ballot filings:
— Opponents of using MCAS as a high school graduation requirement moved forward with a ballot question, backed by the Massachusetts Teachers Association, which would replace the standardized tests with district certifications of students’ academic skills.
— Diana DiZoglio herself is backing a ballot question, first reported by Playbook, “expressly authorizing” the auditor to conduct reviews of the Legislature.
— After years of roadblocks on Beacon Hill, state Rep. Mike Connolly, in his capacity as a private citizen, filed a “Tenant Protection Act” that would bring back local-option rent control.
— “Mayor Michelle Wu says troubled Mass. and Cass area has reached ‘new level of public safety alarm’,” by Sean Cotter and Emma Platoff, Boston Globe: “Conditions in the chronically troubled area of Massachusetts Avenue and Melnea Cass Boulevard have ‘gotten to a new level of public safety alarm,’ Mayor Michelle Wu said Wednesday, as she revealed that the city is ‘planning to take a major step’ to address safety threats in the neighborhood. Wu described ‘drug trafficking, human trafficking, and violence taking place,’ as well as ‘the storage of weapons, potentially’ that present risks for outreach workers and nonprofit teams there to offer services. Conditions have recently grown so dangerous that she said outreach organizations have pulled their teams off the street.”
— “‘Boston has been engaging in blatant discrimination’: Satanic Temple to appeal opening prayer ruling,” by Gayla Cawley, Boston Herald: “The Satanic Temple plans to appeal a federal court decision that allows the Boston City Council to exclude Satanists from delivering an opening prayer at meetings, saying that the judge who issued the ruling ‘never hid her bias.’”
— “Boston seeks public input on how to spend opioid settlement money,” by Deborah Becker, WBUR.
— “MBTA bus drivers are getting a raise as agency struggles to staff up, restore service,” by Taylor Dolven and Travis Andersen, Boston Globe: “New MBTA bus drivers are going from among the lowest paid in the US transit industry to the highest paid. A new four-year agreement between the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority and its largest union, Carmen’s Local 589, will include a $30 starting hourly wage for bus drivers, Governor Maura Healey announced Wednesday, up from the current rate of $22.21.”
— “Class-action discrimination suit filed against Massachusetts parole board,” by Deborah Becker, WBUR: “The suit, filed by attorneys from three mental health and prisoners’ rights groups, alleges that the parole board does not consider the challenges incarcerated people with mental disabilities face in seeking probation, in violation of state and federal civil rights laws.”
— “Markey bill puts heat response on front burner,” by Maddie Fabian, Daily Hampshire Gazette: “The ‘Preventing Health Emergencies and Temperature-Related (HEAT) Illness and Deaths Act’ would establish an interagency committee to address extreme heat, commission a study for federal action on heat-health issues, and create a $100 million financial assistance program for community projects setting cooling centers.”
— “Chicopee Councilor William Courchesne apologizes for posting meme called racially insensitive,” by Jeanette DeForge, MassLive: “City Councilor William Courchesne issued a formal apology Tuesday night after coming under fire for posting what critics and some fellow city councilors described as a racially insensitive meme on his Facebook page.”
— “Rally in response to Donald Trump indictment to be held at Northampton city hall,” by Juliet Schulman-Hall, MassLive: “Northampton will be among dozens of cities across the country to hold a ‘No One Is Above The Law’ rally on Thursday in response to the U.S. Department of Justice indictment of former U.S. President Donald Trump.”
— “Easthampton mayor’s veto on reproductive and gender-affirming care ordinance not overridden,” by Kayleigh Thomas, WWLP.
— “Marblehead superintendent resigns after negotiations in executive session,” by Michael McHugh, Salem News: “With just over a month before school is back in session in Marblehead, John Buckey is out as the district’s superintendent. After meeting in executive session Monday and ‘several days of contract negotiations,’ the Marblehead School Committee announced in a brief statement Wednesday afternoon that they have come to an agreement with Buckey resulting in his resignation as Superintendent of Schools, effective immediately.”
— “In unlikely presidential bid, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. cobbles together motley coalition,” by Emma Platoff and Matt Stout, Boston Globe: “Three months into his quixotic bid for the presidency, Kennedy has cobbled together a motley coalition of Democrats, Republicans, political neophytes, and recent converts — a group that seems unlikely to land him in the White House but demonstrates how far a candidate can go with a familiar name and a conspiratorial bent.”
SPOTTED — Presidential candidate and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley fundraising on Nantucket last night.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY — to Joe McCarthy, Andrea Battle, WBZ NewsRadio’s Nichole Davis and former Patriots/Bucs QB Tom Brady, who is 46.
NEW HORSE RACE ALERT: BUDGET BALLOT BATTLES — Budgets and ballot questions, oh my! Hosts Steve Koczela, Jennifer Smith and Lisa Kashinsky break it all down. Subscribe and listen on iTunes and Sound Cloud.
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