A Path Opens For Sen. Rosenberg; DeLeo Speaks: The Week Ahead On Beacon Hill
The Massachusetts Senate has accepted the resignation letter of Senator Linda Forry, who accepted a job in the private sector. Just weeks before, Forry had been angling to lead the chamber, as Amherst Democrat Stan Rosenberg stepped aside amid a sexual harassment investigation into his spouse.
Acting Senate President Harriette Chandler said Forry’s departure would leave “an immense gap in our building.” State House News Service reporter Matt Murphy tells us the larger ramifications of Forry's departure.
Matt Murphy, State House News Service: It came as a bit of a surprise. I mean, just a few weeks ago, we were talking about her possibly being the most powerful Democrat in the Senate, and now she's gone.
There still are three other Democrats who would potentially like Rosenberg's job, but I think there is a growing sense that perhaps if the committee and the investigation clear him, he will have a glide path back into the Senate presidency.
Carrie Healy, NEPR: Speaking of Sen. Rosenberg, can you give us a quick update on the policy change that was made last week by that Senate committee investigating him?
Yeah, there has been a bit of interest for the last week, in how the committee and how the special investigator was potentially handling subpoenas after WGBH and The Boston Globe reported on potential witnesses who may have information valuable to investigators, fearing of coming forward because they didn’t want their identities to be made know to the Ethics Committee members.
The Ethics Committee itself voted on a motion that would keep everyone's identity from them shielded, and they say that this was just a codification of current practice. But the problem was, if that was in fact the case, they never really communicated to anyone. Because they are the power that has to OK those subpoenas. They say that they're going to do it blindly.
Now if investigators come to them, they will only generally describe who they are subpoenaing. They will not identify the people. And they'll move from there. So this potentially could quell some of those fears of people coming forward, but it remains to be seen.
Last week, there was a huge backlash against the Group Insurance Commission and its decision to reduce the number of health plans offered to state workers and retirees. And a quick disclosure: many NEPR employees get their insurance through the GIC. This week is the pressure on. Will the spotlight still be on the GIC?
I think a lot of eyes will be on it. It may be the final chapter in this saga, which was really just a poorly-rolled-out, major change to health insurance. I think if we've learned anything, it’s that people are very sensitive to changes in their health coverage.
The Group Insurance Commission is expected to vote on Thursday to take back their decision to consolidate those plans, and reinstate the three plans that they had eliminated.
Legislators here on Beacon Hill are still planning to go forward this week with oversight hearings, trying to figure out what happened, why this is such a mess, and where the GIC's going to go from here.
If they're not going to move forward with this plan, there's still the issue of controlling costs and making sure out-of-pocket expenses for the 450,000 members in the GIC remain under control. So still a lot of questions here, and I don't see this story going away anytime soon.
There are going to be a couple of big addresses made this week, one of them of course from President Trump, as he makes his first State of the Union Address. Another will be from House Speaker Bob DeLeo, who will be addressing the chamber. Do you get a sense of what DeLeo's message will be to lawmakers?
I think a lot of people are very interested. We heard from the Governor [Baker] last week: he had his agenda, he rolled out his budget, he spoke in the State of the Commonwealth address about wanting to get his second opioid bill done, to get a major housing bill done.
But DeLeo really has, in many ways, more control over the agenda on Beacon Hill than the governor, and to hear from him when he speaks to his caucus, and his members in the House chamber this week will be telling for the year to come.
I think they share some of the same goals. I think you'll hear talk about doing something on health care, doing something on opioids, but the speaker may have a few of his own ideas.