FIRST IN PLAYBOOK: NEW GOV RACE POLL — State Attorney General Maura Healey leads her Republican rivals for governor by at least 28 points in hypothetical general-election matchups, a new UMass Lowell poll shows.
Healey leads Geoff Diehl 61 percent to 30 percent in the survey of 1,000 likely voters being released online later this morning. Eight percent of respondents were undecided between the Democrat and Republican who secured their respective party’s endorsement for governor, and 1 percent said they would vote for another candidate.
Healey leads Chris Doughty by a slightly smaller margin, 58 percent to 30 percent, with 10 percent undecided and 2 percent who would vote for someone else.
State Sen. Sonia Chang-Díaz, Healey’s Democratic primary rival, leads Diehl 54-29 and Doughty 50-30, with more undecided voters. The UMass Lowell Center for Public Opinion survey was conducted from June 7 to 15 and has a margin of error of +/- 4 percentage points.
“What we’re really seeing is the Democratic Party in Massachusetts sort of finally punching at its weight in the governor’s race,” UMass Lowell pollster and Center for Public Opinion associate director John Cluverius told Playbook.
And for the Republicans to close those “huge” gaps, “Doughty or Diehl would need to convince the state’s ‘Market Basket Democrats,’ the ones who are in the Gateway Cities or the suburbs and who vote reliably, to vote for a Republican and be convinced they are a Republican in the mold of Charlie Baker,” Cluverius said.
The survey also puts data behind several key issues:
— ON THE ECONOMY: 29 percent of respondents reported difficulty paying for a basic expense in May. And inflation is hitting lower-income earners harder: 58 percent of those who make $50,000 or less annually reported serious financial difficulties over the past month, compared to 15 percent of those who make $100,000 a year.
— ON GIG-WORKERS’ RIGHTS: The UMass Lowell survey was almost entirely conducted before the state’s top court tossed proposed ballot questions to continue classifying app-based drivers as independent contractors. But it showed 59 percent of likely voters opposed the initiative, 30 percent were in favor of it and 11 percent were undecided.
— ON ABORTION: 62 percent of respondents said people should “definitely” have the right to an abortion. But views on medication abortion were more mixed: 31 percent of respondents support access to over-the-counter abortion pills without a prescription; 28 percent believe a prescription and a telehealth appointment should be required; 29 percent believe a prescription and in-person medical appointment should be required; and 13 percent believe medication abortions shouldn’t be allowed.
GOOD WEDNESDAY MORNING, MASSACHUSETTS. Speaking of the economy, President Joe Biden will call to suspend the federal gas tax for three months in remarks scheduled for this afternoon — and he’ll urge states to either do the same or find ways to offer similar discounts. Massachusetts’ Democratic legislative leaders have for months rejected a gas-tax holiday. Look to see if that changes at the president’s behest.
TODAY — Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito chairs a Governor’s Council meeting to address sexual assault and domestic violence at 10:30 a.m., presides over a Governor’s Council meeting at 12:15 p.m. and speaks at the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women’s 2022 Commonwealth Heroines Event at 1 p.m. in Boston. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Rep. Ayanna Pressley join the AFL-CIO for a roundtable on student debt cancellation at 10:15 a.m. in D.C. Healey joins Holyoke officials for a campaign media availability at Carlos Vega Park at 3:30 p.m. and tours the Victory Theatre Project at 4 p.m.
State Sen. Adam Hinds announces the opening of the Berkshire Flyer pilot program at 9 a.m. at the Pittsfield Intermodal Transportation Center. Boston Mayor Michelle Wu attends a mid-Dorchester coffee hour at 9:30 a.m., speaks at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for Roca Boston at 11 a.m. and is on “Java with Jimmy” at noon.
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— GETTING THE T BACK ON TRACK: After Gov. Charlie Baker overhauled the MBTA’s financial and operations management in 2015 with the Legislature’s approval, he was met with mixed reactions.
“Some joked, after barking and chasing car, dog catches car. Now what?!” Baker wrote in “Results,” the book he released earlier this year. “Others more somberly warned, be careful what you ask for. The MBTA would now be my administration’s responsibility.”
Now Democratic legislative leaders want the outgoing Republican governor to own the T’s woes. Prompted by service cuts and “alarming directives” from a federal review of the T that showed staffing and safety issues, top Democratic lawmakers are now calling for a rare oversight hearing into the beleaguered transit agency.
“Since 2015, at his request, Governor Baker has had control of the MBTA. It has since been the Administration’s responsibility to keep up with maintenance and manage an efficient system that customers can rely on,” House Speaker Ron Mariano and Senate President Karen Spilka said in a joint statement yesterday that nodded to the Legislature’s approval of Baker’s oversight overhaul. “Given the FTA’s interim findings and alarming directives, there is an increased need to better understand the agency’s shortcomings and help restore public confidence.”
The pending legislative hearing and full FTA report on the T could spell more bad press for Baker and raise more questions about the managerial expertise he touted in the book that’s supposed to serve as a guide to good governance. A Baker spokesperson told the Boston Globe the “administration shares the Legislature’s goal to make the T as safe as possible.”
But timing is everything. And with the Legislature’s formal session set to end July 31 and the full federal inspection report of the MBTA not expected until August, the T’s myriad issues are on track to become the next governor’s problems to solve.
Some transit advocates, including a former state transportation secretary, argue the Legislature should focus on stopping the T from riding off a fiscal cliff rather than doubling up on the feds’ oversight efforts.
Legislative leaders have tucked $400 million into a borrowing bill to help the MBTA address the FTA’s concerns. Both chairs of the joint Transportation Committee called that figure a placeholder that could be revised.
— “MBTA pulls all new Orange Line cars after ‘battery failure;’ says another up escalator reversed direction with passengers on it,” by Taylor Dolven, Matt Stout and Samantha J. Gross, Boston Globe: “The MBTA pulled all of its new but troubled Orange Line trains out of service this week after a ‘battery failure’ on one of the cars, officials said Tuesday. … Responding to questions from the Globe late Tuesday, Battiston said that on Sunday at the Chinatown station an ‘escalator malfunctioned and reversed direction from up to down’ with about 10 passengers on it. She said no injuries were reported.”
— “Can $400 million fix MBTA safety issues? Transportation advocates look at how that money could be spent,” by Chris Van Buskirk, MassLive: “[S]ome transit advocates are worried the funding may not tackle a large portion of operational issues outlined by the FTA like staffing challenges at the Operations Control Center, which coordinates train movements across the system.”
— “Report: MBTA is ‘rolling the dice’ on plan to pay off employee pension debt,” by Gayla Cawley, Boston Herald: “A new report by a Boston-based think tank has found that the MBTA plans to undertake what it described as an ‘ill-advised, quick-fix’ approach to pay off its $1.3 billion unfunded pension liability by taking out more debt.”
— “East-west rail boosters upbeat following signals from Beacon Hill,” by Jim Kinney, Springfield Republican: “The proposed Western Massachusetts Intercity Rail Authority is not dead, according to both U.S. Rep. Richard Neal and state Sen. Eric Lesser. … The state’s legislative leaders — House Speaker Ronald Mariano and Senate President Karen Spilka — on Tuesday morning issued a joint statement saying they are not yet ready to create a Western Massachusetts Intercity Rail Authority despite Republican Gov. Charlie Baker calling for one. But Spilka and Mariano, both Democrats, also affirmed their support for the project and — picking up a theme voiced by Neal, D-Springfield — regional equity in the state’s transportation system. Later in the day, the state’s House Ways and Means Committee released a bill that could increase the bonding allocation for east-west rail to $250 million.”
— “Massachusetts COVID cases drop 24% over the long weekend, parents can start booking vaccine appointments for youngest kids,” by Rick Sobey, Boston Herald: “The state Department of Public Health reported a daily average of 1,017 COVID cases over the long weekend, which was down 24% from the daily rate of 1,334 infections last weekend.”
— TRIED AND TESTED: Three dozen Democratic lawmakers are urging Education Commissioner Jeffrey Riley to reverse course on plans to stop providing Covid-19 testing to schools this fall. Districts will still be able to purchase self-tests through a statewide contract. But the lawmakers, led by state Rep. David LeBoeuf, say that’s not good enough.
“Withdrawing strategies to reduce transmission, particularly ones as effective and minimally disruptive as testing in schools, is extremely disheartening,” LeBoeuf wrote in the letter sent to Riley Tuesday night. “Moreover, offloading the costs of the existing testing program onto individual schools and districts would be a remarkable abdication of responsibility for the safety and lives of the state’s children and educators, as well as their families and communities, and it would disproportionately impact many districts serving lower-income and diverse residents.”
— PASSING NOTE: A group of 97 mostly Democratic state lawmakers also wrote to Riley and the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education yesterday opposing a proposal to raise the MCAS scores students need to graduate high school. “If the state’s goal is equity, this is the wrong way to go,” lawmakers wrote in the letter spearheaded by state Sens. Jo Comerford and Pat Jehlen, and state Rep. Jim Hawkins, all Democrats.
— “Police officer recertifications start to flow into the POST Commission as a race against the clock and deadline continues,” by Chris Van Buskirk, MassLive: “Roughly 70% of police officers who are a part of the first group of law enforcement personnel to apply for recertifications have submitted their information to a state commission tasked with certifying police in Massachusetts, according to new data presented Tuesday morning. Members of the Peace Officer Standards and Training and law enforcement agencies across the state have been racing toward a June 30 deadline, when certifications for officers with last names starting with letters A-H expire.”
— “Estate tax, earned income tax credit under review in Senate, Spilka says,” by Matthew Medsger, Boston Herald: “The state Senate will work to provide some form of tax relief to residents before the end of the legislative session, the upper chamber’s president said Tuesday. ‘We are currently in discussions about a tax relief proposal, which may include changes to the Earned Income Tax Credit and the estate tax, among others,’ Senate President Karen Spilka told the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday.”
— “BA.4, BA.5 Subvariants Now Account for 25% of All COVID Cases in New England,” by Marc Fortier and Mary Markos, NBC10 Boston: “[R]ecent data shows that the two new subvariants have begun to spread more rapidly, rising from 10% to 24% in New England in the last week alone. Nationally, BA.4 and BA.5 cases account for about 35% of COVID-19 cases, up 5% over the previous week.”
— “Two local educators named finalists in Boston superintendent search,” by James Vaznis and Jenna Russell, Boston Globe: “Two local educators with strong ties to the Boston Public Schools emerged Tuesday as finalists in the search for the system’s new superintendent, setting the stage for a whirlwind of public interviews this week and a decision next week. The finalists are Somerville Superintendent Mary Skipper, who previously worked in the Boston system for nearly two decades, and Tommy Welch, a regional BPS superintendent who oversees 15 schools, in East Boston, Charlestown, and the North End. The panel overseeing the search selected the two out of a field of 34 applicants. … Moving forward with only BPS insiders is a departure from other searches over the last two decades that mostly yielded finalists from out of state with limited or no prior knowledge of the Boston school system. And unlike the searches in 2019 and 2015, the slate doesn’t include any Black and Latino candidates, even though about three-quarters of the system’s 49,000 students identify that way.”
— ENDORSEMENT RECAP: Rep. Ayanna Pressley endorsed NAACP Boston Branch President Tanisha Sullivan for secretary of state. Sullivan has now been endorsed in her Democratic primary challenge of Secretary of State Bill Galvin by two members of the congressional delegation; the other is Rep. Seth Moulton.
— JP Progressives endorsed state Sen. Sonia Chang-Díaz for governor, state Rep. Tami Gouveia for lieutenant governor, Chris Dempsey for state auditor, state Rep. Nika Elugardo for Second Suffolk state senator and Sam Montaño for 15th Suffolk state representative.
— Salem School Committee Vice Chair Manny Cruz has been endorsed for 7th Essex state representative by the Massachusetts AFL-CIO and the North Shore Labor Council.
— “Mass. high court to hear arguments in DiMasi lobbying case,” by Matt Stout, Boston Globe: “The Supreme Judicial Court will hear arguments, likely in the fall, on a case involving former House speaker Salvatore DiMasi, who was convicted of exploiting one of the most powerful offices in the state and now is a registered state lobbyist. At issue is whether those found guilty of federal corruption charges should be barred from lobbying state lawmakers, the governor, and other Massachusetts officials for 10 years after their conviction, even if their crimes aren’t directly cited in the state law. In a twist, while DiMasi is at the center of the case, he won’t be impacted by any ruling.”
— “Emails point to concerns over Danvers surveillance system prior to Ritzer murder,” by Julie Manganis, Salem News: “In the months before Danvers High School math teacher Colleen Ritzer was murdered, in October 2013, the state of the security system at the newly renovated Danvers High was a topic of significant concern, according to emails described in court Tuesday.”
— “Nativity School of Worcester gets $100,000+ in donations since Worcester Bishop strips it of Catholic identity for flying Pride, BLM flags,” by Kiernan Dunlop, MassLive: “Since the Bishop issued his decree, Nativity President Thomas McKenney said the school has received over $100,000 in donations from more than 1,200 people from across the country.”
— “Mass. housing prices continue to rise,” by Christian M. Wade, Eagle-Tribune: “Massachusetts housing costs are continuing to skyrocket, with the median price of a single-family home jumping to $590,000 in May, according to a new report.”
— “Maine cannot ban tuition aid for students at religious schools, Supreme Court rules,” by Brian MacQuarrie and Travis Andersen, Boston Globe: “In its latest decision supporting religion in public life, the US Supreme Court on Tuesday struck down a Maine law that since 1981 barred the use of taxpayer dollars to pay for tuition at religious schools. … The Massachusetts Constitution bars taxpayer subsidies to religious schools, and voters have twice upheld that policy by overwhelming margins in statewide referendums, once in 1982 and again in 1986. The policy also has withstood court challenges.”
TRANSITIONS — GBH has hired Sandra Lopez Burke as managing director of community and government relations.
— Caroline Fenyo is now digital press secretary for Rep. Jake Auchincloss’ congressional office and digital director for his campaign. Fenyo previously worked for GMMB and is a Pete Buttigieg presidential campaign alum.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY — to Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who is 73; state Rep. Tram Nguyen, state Rep. Kay Khan, Matt Sheaff, senior communications adviser to Rhode Island Gov. Dan McKee, and Brendan Concannon.
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