Healey’s big Cabinet addition – POLITICO – POLITICO

THE PICK IS IN — Gov. Maura Healey has made one of her most important hires by tapping Kate Walsh, CEO of Boston Medical Center’s health system, as her health and human services chief.

HHS is the largest secretariat, with 12 agencies that oversee everything from MassHealth to the state’s two soldiers’ homes and combine to account for more than half of the state’s budget. Walsh will take over from acting secretary Mary Beckman.

Walsh is no stranger to running vast organizations. She’s spent nearly 13 years helming BMC’s health system and steered it through the pandemic. Her priors include high-level positions at Brigham and Women’s, Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research and Massachusetts General Hospital.

Walsh “has a proven track record of delivering results on health equity, affordability and behavioral health, while also addressing social determinants of health like food and housing insecurity,” Healey said in a statement. “She will bring an innovative and compassionate approach to the office that centers the needs of patients and providers.”

Healey’s Cabinet is almost complete. Her transportation secretary, Gina Fiandaca, will be sworn in by month’s end. Healey has tasked a working group with helping to create her standalone housing secretariat. And she’ll need to appoint a veterans’ services secretary, which rises to the Cabinet level in March under soldiers’ home reform legislation passed last year.

GOOD WEDNESDAY MORNING, MASSACHUSETTS. New documents from MassGOP Treasurer Pat Crowley show just how cash-strapped the party that’s so often described as cash-strapped really is.

The GOP could have just $35,000 left in its coffers after it pays off outstanding invoices, according to the latest trove of documents Crowley emailed to state committee members yesterday and obtained by Playbook.

The party already owed some $86,000 to vendors at the end of last year, mostly to the Stirm Group for digging up dirt on Healey at Chair Jim Lyons’ request.

Crowley has since found another roughly $30,000 in previously unreported invoices from September and October that weren’t paid until this month. According to Crowley’s latest calculations, continuing to pay off those bills would drain almost all of the roughly $152,000 the party had across its state and federal accounts at the end of 2022. His analysis doesn’t include the party’s January income.

The continued document dumps from Crowley provide fodder for those seeking to oust Lyons as chair in next week’s leadership election. But they’re also galvanizing some Republicans to Lyons’ defense. Neither Crowley nor Lyons, who’s suing the treasurer over access to the party’s bank account, returned requests for comment.

Speaking of financial woes, Fair and Secure Massachusetts, the MassGOP-aligned ballot committee that led the failed effort to repeal the new law granting undocumented immigrants access to driver’s licenses, appears to be in the hole. The committee has nearly $45,000 in liabilities and less than $5,300 in its account to pay them, according to its year-end report.

TODAY — Healey speaks at MassBio’s annual policy leadership breakfast at the Omni Parker House (event starts at 8:30 a.m., remarks around 10:10 a.m.) and chairs a Governor’s Council meeting at noon at the State House. Boston Mayor Michelle Wu gives her first state of the city address at 7 p.m. at the MGM Music Hall in Fenway; Healey attends.

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— WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN YOU’RE EXPECTING (A BIG SPEECH): Boston Mayor Michelle Wu will deliver her first state of the city address tonight to some 3,500 city and state electeds, business bigwigs, union heads, faith leaders and community members at the MGM Music Hall in Fenway.

There will be policy, but also some pomp and circumstance. The lobby will feature a gallery of “civic heroes” — city employees across a variety of departments who are “working exceptionally to help city residents and build community,” her office said.

Wu’s speech will also be simultaneously interpreted into seven languages: American Sign Language, Spanish, Haitian Creole, Mandarin, Cantonese, Cabo Verdean Creole and Vietnamese.

“Lego’s North American headquarters is coming to Boston,” by Dana Gerber and Catherine Carlock, Boston Globe: “The Lego Group on Tuesday announced that it would move its North American headquarters from Enfield, Conn., to Boston over the next few years, a transition expected to bring hundreds of jobs to Massachusetts at a time when concerns are mounting over the state’s ability to compete for big business.”

— More: “How Boston pieced together the Lego headquarters move,” by Sean Philip Cotter, Boston Herald: “The process started with a missive from the business-focused nonprofit MassEcon: a big company’s thinking about coming to Boston. You interested? They were.”

“Busing doesn’t improve academic outcomes for Boston students of color, study finds,” by Christopher Huffaker, Boston Globe: “[D]espite the changed demographics of the district, Boston public school students are still being bused. But what if busing has little educational upside today? That’s the provocative question raised by a new study that tracked Boston sixth-and ninth-grade students over about a decade. The research conducted by MIT’s Blueprint Labs found that students who were bused to schools outside of their neighborhoods saw no academic benefit.”

“Boston police account for $31 million of city legal payouts since 2020, including $16 million for wrongfully convicted man,” by Danny McDonald, Boston Globe.

— WU WOULD DISAGREE: “Boston Eyesore? City Hall Nearly the Ugliest Building in US, Survey Says,” by NBC10 Boston.

— DOLLARS AND SENSE: The consensus from yesterday’s consensus revenue hearing is that there’s … no real consensus yet on how the millionaires tax will impact the state’s finances.

First, it’s unclear how much money the new surtax will actually generate once it kicks into fuller force in fiscal 2024. Beacon Hill’s chief budget writers heard revenue estimates yesterday ranging from $1 billion to $1.7 billion. Prior estimates had ranged from $1.2 billion to $2 billion.

Second, it’s still not clear where, exactly, the money from the millionaires tax is going. The constitutional amendment stipulates it’s supposed to go toward transportation and education initiatives. But the final spending decisions rest with the Legislature, which hasn’t set anything in stone.

Independent budget experts offered some ideas, like putting the money into a trust fund to split evenly between transportation and education. Or they suggested capping how much of it could be spent in the upcoming fiscal year, given the potential volatility of the new tax, and putting the rest into savings. But it’ll be weeks before we know what executive and legislative budget writers decide.

— More: “Top budget officials still undecided on tax cuts,” by Bruce Mohl, CommonWealth Magazine: “[E]conomists and officials from the Department of Revenue projected tax income would slightly exceed the revenue forecast for the current year while coming in below last year’s record-setting pace. For fiscal 2024, which begins in July, most economists were forecasting revenues to increase slightly over fiscal 2023. Top budget leaders in the Legislature and in [Gov. Maura] Healey’s administration said the state is in reasonably good shape assuming the predictions of modest revenue growth are accurate, but they weren’t committing to a tax cut package.”

“Lawmakers push for universal free school meals,” by Christian M. Wade, Eagle-Tribune: “A bipartisan proposal filed for consideration in the upcoming two-year session would make breakfast and lunch free for all public school students, regardless of their family’s income. The move would make permanent a pandemic-related policy that provided free school meals for students in the past three years.”

“Legislation addresses root causes of health disparities in the state,” by Zeina Mohammed, Boston Globe: “The bill aims to prioritize equity in the state government by creating a new Cabinet-level Executive Office of Equity, led by a secretary of equity, and requiring state agencies to track and publicly report health equity data. It also aims to improve universal access to quality care by expanding MassHealth coverage to people of all immigration statuses, requiring provider organizations to meet national standards for culturally relevant services and addressing the cost of medication for chronic diseases that disproportionately affect diverse and low-income communities.”

“Mass. employers to disclose salary ranges if pay range transparency bill approved,” by Alison Kuznitz, MassLive: “Employers with 15 or more workers would be required to share estimated salary ranges on job postings and advertisements, should a bill filed by state Reps. Josh Cutler and Brandy Fluker Oakley move forward in this new legislation session.”

“’Ambitious and attainable’: Mass. school officials defend new school accountability plan,” by Carrie Jung, WBUR: “School superintendents from across the state filled the seats at Tuesday’s meeting of the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to voice support for a proposed new student accountability plan unveiled by the state department of education in a special meeting earlier this month. The significant turnout by school leadership came after the department’s proposed accountability goals received stiff pushback from BESE members at a Jan. 3 special meeting.”

“Lawmakers pushing for MBTA to electrify Commuter Rail by 2035,” by Gayla Cawley, Boston Herald: “Legislation was filed in both the House and Senate that calls for the MBTA and its rail contractor, Keolis, to operate a fully electric Commuter Rail system by Dec. 31, 2035, and ‘ensure sufficient zero-emission infrastructure is in place’ to meet that timeline.”

“Cape Cod bridge project cost worth looking at, Healey says it’s a priority,” by Matthew Medsger, Boston Herald: “The governor is confident, despite twice being denied by the federal government, that funding to replace the busy bridges connecting Cape Cod with the rest of the state will come through.”

“Greenfield calls for more passenger rail to Boston as commission mulls how to get the trains rolling,” by Jim Kinney, Springfield Republican.

“Massachusetts lawmaker asked ChatGPT to write his floor speech,” by Tal Kopan, Boston Globe: “On Wednesday, Representative Jake Auchincloss will debut a new speechwriter: An algorithm. The Newton Democrat is set to deliver a speech written by an artificial intelligence program, ChatGPT, the first time an AI-generated speech will be given on the House floor, according to his office. And a casual observer would never know the difference, based on a copy of the speech shared with The Globe. Auchincloss will use the remarks to plug legislation he plans to introduce that would establish an artificial intelligence research center between the US and Israel, a bipartisan bill that he also introduced last Congress.”

“Lapses persist for Capitol Hill panic buttons two years after insurrection,” by Jess Bidgood and Lissandra Villa de Petrzelka, Boston Globe.

“Holyoke mayor seeks ouster of Historical Commission chairwoman,” by Scott Merzbach, Daily Hampshire Gazette: “Citing an incompatibility with where the city is going, Mayor Joshua Garcia has informed the chairwoman of the Holyoke Historical Commission that he intends to remove her from the panel. On Monday afternoon, during a 90-minute hearing on her removal, Commission Chairwoman Paola Ferrario told the mayor she would fight her termination.”

“Vineyard Wind opponents ask federal judge to halt project over environmental concerns,” by John Hilliard, Boston Globe: “Opponents of an offshore wind turbine farm under construction south of Martha’s Vineyard are asking a federal judge to halt the project, and require federal authorities to take another look at the project’s potential impacts on the environment and wildlife.”

“Stacia Kraft enters mayor’s race,” by Dustin Luca, Salem News: “Stacia Kraft, a Federal Street resident and prior candidate for City Council in 2019 (Ward 2) and 2021 (Councilor-at-Large), has pulled nomination papers to run for the upcoming special mayoral election on May 16, according to the city clerk’s office. Kraft is the fifth resident, and so far the only woman, to enter the fray.”

“Up for the challenge: Somerville city councilor looks to abolish medical debt,” by Lance Reynolds, Boston Herald: “[Somerville City Councilor Willie Burnley Jr.] is leading the charge by requesting city officials consider allocating $200,000 in American Rescue Plan Act funds to team up with RIP Medical Debt, a national nonprofit that abolishes medical debt across the country. If approved by Mayor Katjana Ballantyne, the $200,000 allocation is estimated to reach 5,000 of Somerville’s roughly 80,000 residents as early as this summer, wiping out $4.3 million in debt, Burnley told the Herald on Tuesday.”

“Parent group blasts ACLU over book ban stance,” by Jim Sullivan, Daily News of Newburyport: “The American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts and the GLBTQ Legal Advocates and Defenders sent out a letter Monday urging state public school districts to protect students’ legal rights by rejecting censorship in school libraries. … The letter drew instant condemnation from local parent advocacy group Citizens for Responsible Education which drew considerable attention last summer and fall for its criticism of the Newburyport Public Schools and books made available in the middle and high school libraries or on a student app (SORA) that they believe should not be in the hands of kids.”

“Norwell’s Jennifer Coolidge named Hasty Pudding Woman of the Year,” by Dana Barbuto, Patriot Ledger.

TRANSITIONS — Former LG hopeful and former state Sen. Eric Lesser is joining WilmerHale’s public policy and regulatory affairs group as senior counsel.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY — to Ted Chambers, Heather Bellow and David Newman.

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