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Election season in Massachusetts is bursting with state office hopefuls

The Massachusetts Statehouse.
Creative Commons

The field of Democratic hopefuls for the office of Massachusetts attorney general is coming into focus.

Last week, we heard a formal announcement from Quentin Palfrey, who's now in the running for attorney general. He was the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor in 2018, entering a field alongside fellow Democrats Shannon Liss-Riordan and Andrea Campbell, all vying to become the state's top prosecutor.

Matt Murphy of the State House News Service joins us to talk about how the candidates are trying to set themselves apart in these early days.

Matt Murphy, State House News Service: These candidates are not particularly well-known statewide, but they're going to take some time to introduce themselves.

Quentin Palfrey got into the race last week. He is the last entrant we're expecting on the Democratic side. Talking about his experience, he's someone who has worked in the attorney general's office before, as an assistant AG, and then went on to hold roles in the Obama administration and work on things like voting rights.

Shannon Liss-Riordan has her own lane already carved out for her — a well-known, established labor attorney. She has been getting endorsed from several unions. She has a track record of taking on companies like DoorDash and Uber, suing for the rights of workers to have good pay and good benefits.

And early polling suggests that Andrea Campbell —coming off her run for mayor, though unsuccessful — is one of the better-known of the three candidates statewide, particularly in Greater Boston and within the Route 128 corridor. So she is going to try to expand on that, her experience in the city and as a lawyer.

Carrie Healy, NEPM: Joint Rule 10 [PDF] was marked on Beacon Hill last week, the deadline for most joint committees to make up or down decisions on bills they've been reviewing. Among the thousands of bills lawmakers sifted through, could you pick out and briefly highlight a few that came out with a favorable vote? Any you think we might see again?

It's really hard to know which bills are actually going to gain traction. There are big bills that we're aware of, bills the governor has filed, bills the speaker has filed and championed.

But these thousands of other bills get through committee and advocates watch this closely. Sometimes it takes two, three, four cycles for them to come through committee before they get to the floor.

We saw that climate change is a top priority for many lawmakers. Advocates really pushed last week to tackle the emissions that come from the building sector, and a bill did get through committee with language that requires the state to retrofit a million homes to be more energy efficient over the next 10 decades.

That's 100,000 homes a year, way more than the state is already retrofitting. But this is an idea we could see pieces of get into an energy or climate bill before the end of the session.

A lot of the bills I think bear close watching were put into extension. These are bills on which committees said they needed more time.

One in particular is an idea that Gov. Charlie Baker first surfaced a few years ago. This would allow cities and towns, if not the state, to put a transfer fee on local real estate transactions to raise money to support affordable housing.

Housing is a big issue in communities both big and small across Massachusetts. I think the Legislature will be looking to do something on housing this session, and this could be one idea that makes it into a bigger bill somewhere down the line.

On an entirely different topic: The price for health care continues to rise. Some advocate groups are calling on state senators to act swiftly on relief from higher drug costs. A bill filed by Sen. Cindy Friedman aims to curb those costs. It's just one of several measures out there. What are advocates saying about this Senate bill?

This bill looks a lot like a bill that Sen. Friedman helped write last session. The Senate took it on and was not able to get through the Senate and House, not able to finalize anything on drug cost control.

But this is a major consumer bill that the consumer advocacy groups, doctors groups really like. They're anxious to see the Senate act... to take this up on Thursday.

They would like to see the House get this through as well this session, because this would do things like put caps on very expensive but life-saving drugs, like insulin, and control the cost.

But you know, we're hearing, predictably, from the pharmaceutical industry and drug companies, about how this could hamper research, and their ability to generate revenues that support the research and development that leads to breakthrough drugs that can cure future diseases.

So this is the balancing act that legislators are trying to strike with these drug cost containment bills. This bill, in particular, the Senate will debate on Thursday.

And this is an issue to watch moving forward, particularly with Gov. Baker getting ready to leave office and having such experience in the health care field, and the health insurance fields in particular. He could look to put his fingerprints on this as well.

Carrie Healy hosts the local broadcast of "Morning Edition" at NEPM. She also hosts the station’s weekly government and politics segment “Beacon Hill In 5” for broadcast radio and podcast syndication.
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