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Divide over the Israel-Hamas War splinters Massachusetts state lawmakers

A pro-Palestinian protester interrupted Congressman Jake Auchincloss during a press conference with Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey and other administration officials in November 2023.
Alison Kuznitz
State House News Service
A pro-Palestinian protester interrupted U.S. Rep. Jake Auchincloss during a press conference with Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey and other administration officials in November 2023.

Protests continue across the state in the country — including in western Massachusetts — as many are demanding a cease-fire in the Israel-Hamas war.

This has divided politicians in Massachusetts, as well. Some state leaders who are Jewish said they were disappointed and saddened by comments made by the chair of the Legislature's Racial Equity Committee, Sen. Liz Miranda, which reflected anti-Semitic tropes.

Chris Lisinski of the State House News Service explains what Miranda said and the reaction she received from colleagues.

Chris Lisinski, SHNS: State Sen. Liz Miranda went on the radio recently and basically sought to explain why she did not join a Senate resolution condemning the Hamas attack in Israel in October. Essentially, in her radio interview, Sen. Miranda said she took issue with what she perceived in these Senate resolutions as an implication that the Israeli government and military could do whatever they wanted to to defend themselves.

At one point, she said of the Jewish people [that] they have gone through the Holocaust, have always been marginalized in the United States, but have amassed a lot of political and financial power — really playing into a very common anti-Semitic trope. That prompted some of her high-ranking colleagues in the Senate, who are Jewish themselves, to express a lot of disappointment and frustration with those remarks.

Carrie Healy, NEPM: Last week, a panel of offshore wind industry representatives came together to discuss challenges ahead after some plans have fallen through. The Healey- Driscoll administration has said that the state is "all in on offshore wind." But, Chris, given the difficulties, what does that mean to be "all in"?

Yeah. At this point, being "all in" is really, I suppose, a sign of optimism that the state will be able to navigate this really uncertain stretch. At one point, we had as much as 3,200 MW of offshore wind power under contract waiting to be built in the pipeline. That's down to just 800 MW now because of projects withdrawing.

So declaring that Massachusetts is "all in" is a sign that state leaders are not going to turn their backs on the industry, are not going to turn away from this and still envision it as really key to achieving clean energy goals here in Massachusetts, even if getting to the end point is more challenging than once perceived.

And challenging, too, because the future of offshore wind projects to meet Massachusetts' climate goals involves permitting by the federal government. So does the possibility of a re-election of Donald Trump imperil the state's future plans?

It certainly does seem to. While he was in office, President Trump really antagonized the offshore wind industry. It delayed Vineyard Wind I, which is the single project still under contract here in Massachusetts that's actually just about to get up and running. It only came back on track when Joe Biden was elected [president]. So there is absolutely a risk that if Trump is re-elected, it could slow down this this whole process.

The state's Cannabis Control Commission remains in a bit of a mess. The chief communications officer and director of human resources have been suspended. Its executive director is left and the chair, Shannon O'Brien, remains out of the loop due to a high profile suspension. So, Chris, what's the latest here and is there a plan for some stability?

We're still waiting to see what will happen with Chair Shannon O'Brien. Late last week, a judge heard arguments from her and from Treasurer Deb Goldberg about how the hearing will unfold to weigh allegations raised against O'Brien and what role Treasurer Goldberg will play in that. But no resolution as of yet.

Currently, Commissioner Ava Callender Concepcion has been chairing the commission on an acting basis. And she is somewhat frustrated herself. She says that the agency has been working really hard to issue new regulations to put into effect some significant reforms that lawmakers embraced last year. And she's frustrated that some of this personnel upheaval has somewhat overshadowed the rest of the commission's work. And right now, officials are just trying to keep their noses down and keep executing that day-to-day work.

And briefly looking ahead, the Legislature's Judiciary Committee is scheduled to hear about a bill from Rep Bud Williams of Springfield that seeks to expunge certain cannabis convictions. Chris, I thought the state already had wiped pot convictions from people's records. What are lawmakers seeking here?

Yeah, it looks like this legislation is tackling anything that might still be remaining looking at. Any records from criminal court appearances, juvenile court appearances, or anything else basically related to possession or cultivation of any amount of marijuana that was once illegal, but since has become legal through various state laws and most importantly, through the 2016 ballot question that legalized recreational marijuana statewide.

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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