Late-session shockwaves shake Beacon Hill- POLITICO

LABOR DISPUTE — Beacon Hill is reeling after Senate President Karen Spilka abruptly rejected Senate staffers’ long-languishing request to recognize their union, saying her chamber “does not at this time see a path forward for a traditional employer-union relationship.”

Senate officials say there’s nothing in state law that allows staffers to unionize, citing a statute that carves out legislative staff from the list of which public employees can collectively bargain. Modifying that law would necessitate other changes, including to the state’s campaign finance and conflict-of-interest laws, to cover staffers’ off-hours political work, they said.

State Sen. William Brownsberger told reporters that the legislative staffing structure is different here than in other states where union efforts are proceeding, And he said legislative rules mean union contracts would have to be renegotiated every two years with each new Legislature.

But Tara Wilson, a legislative and budget director in the Senate, told reporters that leadership has “closed the door without reason. … I don’t think I’ve ever heard the excuse before that we’re not going to do something because it’s too complicated.”

Spilka’s decision drew swift rebukes from current and former staffers, some of her own caucus members, and Democrats running for statewide office. And the criticism was as much about the message as it was the timing: Spilka’s announcement, via email late Thursday afternoon, came with less than four days left of formal sessions when staff, who are often those writing the bills lawmakers are voting on, are already scrambling.

“Our staffers have told us … that they do not have adequate representation and that they are operating in a toxic workplace environment,” state Sen. Diana DiZoglio, an auditor hopeful who’s been working with staffers to address their workplace issues, told Playbook. “I appreciate the work done to analyze this issue, but the final decision by the Senate president is simply not OK.”

Spilka told staffers in the email obtained by Playbook that she remains “committed to making the Senate a great place” to work and that senators will “continue our efforts to improve working conditions, benefits, and salaries.” She invited staffers to a meeting with Senate counsel this afternoon to discuss the results of the four-month legal review into the unionization effort.

But staffers contend there’s nothing explicitly prohibiting them from unionizing — and they’re vowing to fight on.

“Hearing from lawmakers … who have refusedto act on the will of their own employees in a state that champions itself on its deep labor history, it is very demoralizing,” Evan Berry, a union organizer who works for state Sen. Becca Rausch, told reporters. “But we are not stopping here.”

GOOD FRIDAY MORNING, MASSACHUSETTS. Speaking of late-session surprises, Gov. Charlie Baker threw lawmakers a curveball yesterday by, through a budget amendment, tacking elements of his now-defunct dangerousness bill onto lawmakers’ push to make phone calls free for inmates. And a little-known tax law from 1986 is potentially scrambling spending plans and could result in the state returning upwards of $2.5 billion to taxpayers.

That’s just some of what lawmakers are dealing with heading into the final three days of formal sessions, in which bills that would legalize sports betting, update cannabis regulations, expand access to mental health and more have yet to emerge from conference committee, the Senate has yet to take up the gun legislation Democratic legislative leaders vowed would make it to Baker’s desk by Sunday, and the governor has yet to sign or return key reproductive rights and climate bills. Check this space Monday for what makes it through — and what doesn’t.

TODAY — Boston Mayor Michelle Wu is on GBH’s “Boston Public Radio” at 11 a.m.

THIS WEEKEND — Rep. Ayanna Pressley hosts a canvass kickoff with Sullivan at 10 a.m. in Mattapan Square and helps AG candidate Andrea Campbell open her campaign headquarters in Dorchester at 12:30 p.m. Saturday. LG hopeful and state Sen. Eric Lesser is on WBZ’s “Keller @ Large” at 8:30 a.m. Sunday. Boston City Councilor and Suffolk district attorney candidate Ricardo Arroyo is on WCVB’s “On the Record” at 11 a.m. Sunday.

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— POLLING TIME: This week’s Suffolk University/Boston Globe poll came and went without insight into the four statewide Democratic primaries, adding to the dearth of public polling in those races with voting about to begin.

It’s been more than a month since the last public poll of the primaries for lieutenant governor, attorney general and secretary of state, and even longer since there’s been one of the auditor’s race.

And that’s because, pollsters say, without the draw of a competitive Democratic primary for governor, people just aren’t paying that much attention to the down-ballot races.

“There’s only so much time on a survey, so you don’t want to waste it on a question where voters have limited information,” UMass Lowell pollster John Cluverius told Playbook.

With no public insight into where these races stand, campaigns and their supporters are starting to tease internal polls to fill that void. An internal polling memo from Quentin Palfrey’s campaign made the rounds earlier this month.

And now supporters of Secretary of State Bill Galvin are touting a mid-month poll done for the National Association of Government Employees that shows the incumbent leading challenger Tanisha Sullivan by nearly 26 percentage points, with 28 percent of voters undecided, per numbers obtained by Playbook.

Take internal polls with a massive heaping of salt. While the NAGE poll of 300 likely Democratic primary voters was conducted by DAPA Research — Suffolk pollster David Paleologos’s firm — it’s still for an organization that’s backing Galvin and has a reason to want these numbers out there. But with more public polling unlikely until the end of August or just before the Sept. 6 primary, expect more of these internal numbers to start creeping into public view.

— ENDORSEMENT ALERTS: State Treasurer Deb Goldberg has endorsed state Rep. Tommy Vitolo for reelection.

1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, which represents more than 70,000 members, has endorsed state Rep. Jake Oliveira for Hampden, Hampshire and Worcester state senator.

“‘We’re going to have enough money to be competitive:’ LG Candidate Kim Driscoll addresses fundraising gap in race,” by Kiernan Dunlop, MassLive: “The over $1,000,000 Sen. Eric Lesser has in cash on hand in the race for Lieutenant Governor does not put the office out of reach for his competitors, according to fellow candidate Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll. … Driscoll said she had assets in her arsenal that Lesser doesn’t have, including over 200 endorsements from local officials and from important organizations from labor to Planned Parenthood.”

“Massachusetts reports almost 10,000 new cases, virus hospitalizations tick up,” by Rick Sobey, Boston Herald: “The daily average of 1,422 COVID cases is similar to the daily rate of 1,464 infections during the previous week.”

— ”Town-by-town COVID-19 data in Massachusetts,” by Ryan Huddle and Peter Bailey-Wells, Boston Globe.

“Massachusetts reports 36 new monkeypox cases, as outbreak balloons across country,” by Rick Sobey, Boston Herald: “The 36 new monkeypox cases in the Bay State — yet another one-week record high — is up from 30 cases during the previous week.”

“In a surprise, Baker says taxpayers could receive ‘north of $2.5 billion’ in tax relief under little-known law,” by Matt Stout and Samantha J. Gross, Boston Globe: “With state coffers overflowing, Massachusetts taxpayers could receive nearly $3 billion in tax relief under an obscure 36-year-old law, Governor Charlie Baker’s administration said Thursday. … It also complicated legislators’ negotiations over a $1 billion package of tax breaks and rebates — a mammoth proposal lawmakers pursued to help ease the pinch of ballooning inflation but were still scrambling to complete before their legislative session ends Sunday night. How much the state could ultimately hand back to taxpayers is unclear. But Baker said Thursday that the state appears poised to trigger a 1986 voter-passed law that seeks to limit state tax revenue growth to the growth of total wages and salaries in the state. Should revenue exceed that ‘allowable’ amount, taxpayers are then due a credit equal to the excess amount. The state auditor is tasked with determining the final amount from the previous fiscal year each September.”

“Baker says he’s leaving state in good shape financially,” by Shira Schoenberg, CommonWealth Magazine: “Gov. Charlie Baker on Thursday signed into law a $52.7 billion state budget for fiscal 2023, representing an unusually high 9.3 percent growth in spending over the prior year. The high growth was fueled by tax revenues coming in higher than expected and an influx in federal COVID recovery money. The budget includes higher spending in areas like local aid, housing, and education. … Baker, at a signing ceremony in his State House office, touted the fiscal progress the state has made since he took office in 2015. This is Baker’s last budget before he leaves office in January.”

“State officials want to expand the MBTA Board of Directors, but Gov. Charlie Baker wants power to appoint,” by Chris Van Buskirk, MassLive: “Gov. Charlie Baker agreed with the Legislature on expanding the MBTA’s governing board Thursday morning but suggested a different set of requirements for who should fill a set of two new, proposed seats on a body that is just over a year old. … In signing the state budget Thursday, Baker sent back to legislators a provision that would have expanded the board to include two new members, one chosen by the mayor of Boston and another local official from the MBTA’s service area picked by the governor.”

“Baker appoints two new members to state education board,” by Adria Watson, Boston Globe: “Farzana Mohamed, an author and management consultant, and Tricia Canavan, chief executive officer of Tech Foundry, will be replacing board members Amanda Fernandez and James Morton, who completed their five-year terms at the end of June.”

“In the Long Island Bridge legal saga, another victory for Boston,” by Danny McDonald, Boston Globe: “Thursday’s ruling by Suffolk Superior Court Justice Rosemary Connolly involved a 2018 decision from state environmental authorities that Boston’s proposal to rebuild the span did not require the city to prepare an environmental impact report and that the proposal did not require further review under the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act (MEPA). Quincy officials challenged that state certification, arguing that Boston misrepresented the environmental impact of the project. Connolly, however, ruled that Quincy ‘has not pointed to evidence in the record showing that damage to the environment is about to occur as a result of the MEPA process.’ In her order, she denied Quincy’s motions for summary judgment and judgment on the pleadings in the case, essentially ruling against its challenges to the 2018 environmental certification.”

“Suffolk DA candidates talk strategy amid mounting wave of hate crimes and neo-Nazi activity,” by Tori Bedford, GBH News: “The next Suffolk County district attorney will face a challenging question: Is Boston equipped to handle a rising tide of hate crimes and white supremacist activity? ‘It’s not just about what has happened, it’s about where we’re going,’ incumbent Suffolk DA Kevin Hayden said at a candidate forum Thursday hosted by the Urban League of Eastern Massachusetts. ‘We have key elections coming up and controversial decisions coming down from the Supreme Court [of the United States] that we know are going to bring more issues to bear … we need to be better prepared for the future.’ Hayden’s primary challenger, Boston City Councilor Ricardo Arroyo, called for an ‘urgent reevaluation’ of policing in response to white supremacist groups, particularly those with strong local recruitment efforts.”

“Former state Sen. Dean Tran pleads not guilty to criminal charges related to alleged fraud gun deal,” by Flint McColgan, Boston Herald: “Former state Sen. Dean Tran, who is also running for the 3rd Congressional District, pleaded ‘absolutely not guilty’ to each of his six criminal charges related to an alleged theft of a firearm. … Judge James Reardon released Tran without bail but imposed the conditions that Tran surrender all firearms and his license to carry to the Fitchburg Police Department, check in with probation every two weeks and have no contact with the alleged victim or witnesses in the case.”

— More: “‘He should be in jail’: Fitchburg woman speaks out against Mass. congressional candidate she says stole her guns,” by The Associated Press and WHDH.

“SJC quickly dismisses lawsuit over dental ballot question,” by Shira Schoenberg, CommonWealth Magazine: “The Supreme Judicial Court quickly dismissed a lawsuit brought by opponents of a ballot question regulating dental insurance that sought to change the ballot question summary submitted by proponents.”

“Class-action suit says solitary confinement at MCI-Cedar Junction amounts to ‘torture’,” by Jeremy C. Fox, Boston Globe: “Three men held in solitary confinement at MCI-Cedar Junction in South Walpole have filed a class-action lawsuit against state Department of Correction officials alleging that their near-total isolation amounts to torture and has led to depression, anxiety, and a loss of social skills.”

— MOULTON’S MISSION: Reps. Seth Moulton and Veronica Escobar (D-Texas) have introduced the “Mass Shooter Prosecution Act” to legally deem mass shooting as acts of terrorism and allow law enforcement to prosecute them as such.

“107 Dem lawmakers to Biden: Extend student-loan payment pause again,” by Ayelet Sheffey, Insider: “On Thursday, Sens. Chuck Schumer, Bob Menendez, Cory Booker, and Elizabeth Warren, along with Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Lauren Underwood, and Tony Cárdenas, led 100 of their Democratic colleagues in sending a letter to Biden and Education Secretary Miguel Cardona pushing for an extension of the federal pause on student-loan payments. The pause, currently set to expire after August 31.”

“Surprise Deal Would Be Most Ambitious Climate Action Undertaken by U.S.,” by Lisa Friedman and Brad Plumer, New York Times: “The $369 billion climate and tax package forged in a surprise deal by Senate Democrats would be the most ambitious action ever taken by the United States to try to stop the planet from catastrophically overheating. … Senator Edward J. Markey, Democrat of Massachusetts, said the legislation would restore American credibility in international negotiations.”

“Trader Joe’s employees vote to unionize at Hadley store,” by Brian Steele, Daily Hampshire Gazette: “Employees of the Trader Joe’s grocery store on Route 9 have voted to form the national chain’s first labor union by a margin of 45-31. … The National Labor Relations Board conducted the union election by secret ballot outside the 375 Russell St. store on Wednesday and Thursday. NLRB staff counted the ballots immediately after voting ended, finding 59% wanted Trader Joe’s United to represent them. A simple majority was needed to determine the outcome.”

“Somerville maps fastest path to state’s first supervised consumption clinic — starting in a parking lot,” by Martha Bebinger, WBUR: “A report commissioned by Somerville spells out location and design options for a supervised consumption, or overdose prevention center. … The 81-page document, prepared by Fenway Health, recommends the city begin with a large trailer, outfitted as a clinic, stationed in a city-owned parking lot.”

“Worcester voters could see new school committee districts designed to bolster Black, Latino voices, on ballot next year,” by Erin Tiernan, MassLive: “Worcester School Committee candidates could be vying for district-level seats as soon as next year, following a year-long process to reconfigure city election maps that was designed to bolster Black and Latino candidates in a majority minority school district that has long been led by a majority-white school committee.”

“Drier and drier: Severe drought area in Massachusetts expands,” by Martin Finucane, Boston Globe: “The area of Massachusetts experiencing severe drought conditions has expanded south from the northeastern corner of the state, according to the latest report from the US Drought Monitor.”

“Landlocked and loaded: longtime litigation leads to new bill and battle over Aquinnah,” by Rachael Devaney, Cape Cod Times: “While the Gay Head (Aquinnah) Wampanoag Tribe was federally recognized in 1987, and was successful in land-back initiatives, in Aquinnah, litigation continues as Wampanoag and non-Native private land owners fight — with the Vineyard Conservation Society, the town of Aquinnah, and the Gay Head (Aquinnah) Wampanoag Tribe — for access to parcels of land along Moshup Trail.”

HAPPY BIRTHDAY — to former state Rep. Byron Rushing, Shelby Ashline, Hayley Fleming and Hirak Shah.

HAPPY BIRTHWEEKEND — to Brendan Roche, who celebrates Saturday, and to Sunday birthday-ers former Gov. Bill Weld, who turns 77; former Gov. Deval Patrick, who turns 66; Boston state Rep. Nika Elugardo, former Westfield Mayor Donald Humason Jr., author Dave Wedge, Amy Inglis and Robert C. Merton.

NEW HORSE RACE ALERT: THE UNHAPPIEST HOUR — Hosts Steve Koczela, Jennifer Smith and Libby Gormley take a deep dive into efforts to bring back happy hour in Massachusetts with guests including state Sen. Julian Cyr. Subscribe and listen on iTunes and Sound Cloud.

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