Scandal. Turmoil. And The Week Has Only Just Begun: Beacon Hill in 5

Apr 1, 2018

Last week, Bryon Hefner -- Massachusetts state Senator Stan Rosenberg’s estranged husband -- was indicted by a state grand jury on felony charges connected with sexual assaults, criminal lewdness and the distribution of nude photos.

Rosenberg released a statement saying, "These are serious charges. They are now being handled by the judicial system. I have faith in that system and trust that it will adjudicate this case fairly."  

Carrie Healy, NEPR: What’s the talk been about this on Beacon Hill?

Matt Murphy, State House News Service: Certainly, this was a major bombshell. The fact that the grand jury beat the Ethics Committee investigation to the punch in indicting Hefner only makes it a bit worse, at least for Stan Rosenberg, who doesn't know where that investigation is heading right now.

Obviously, the Senate is dismayed by this. Senate President Harriette Chandler said they will cooperate fully with the criminal court proceeding. This is not a good look for the senator, and the Senate itself as a whole. There are obviously questions also about whether or not people will get rolled into this investigation as the court proceedings unfold.

But with the Ethics Committee investigation still hanging out there, there's still another shoe to drop, which just continues the uncertainty that has kind of plagued the Senate for months now.

The Massachusetts Senate seems to be going through a tough period, to paraphrase Senate Ways and Means Chairwoman Karen Spilka. The session begins with 40 elected senators, and quite a number of them won’t be making it all the way to to the end. What kind of numbers are we looking at?

Yeah, there’s a good deal of turnover. Already, Senator Linda Forrey left, and that seat will be filled in about a month. Most likely, Representative Nick Collins will take that seat, and he’ll have to run again for it in the fall. You had Senator Brendan Crighton just take his seat, replacing Tom McGee after he became the mayor of Lynn. 

[There are] several senators not running for re-election next year, like Senator Kathleen O'Connor Ives of Newburyport. You have Senator Eileen Donoghue preparing to hit the exit as she prepares to take over as the next city manager of Lowell.

No one has directly attributed the kind of rush to the doors to the turmoil that has plagued the Senate over this whole session, but there is certainly a great deal of turnover and churn there. You’re going to have a lot of new faces, and the people who do remain will have seniority along with relatively little experience in the Senate, as a whole.

It looks like the GOP has already begun to strategize for the mid-terms in the Senate – Republican Chairwoman Kirsten Hughes said, “It’s clear that Senate Democrats will be unable to credibly separate themselves from the toxic, unaccountable culture they created.” What about Republican Governor Charlie Baker, and his State Police overtime scandal? Will all that have a real effect at the ballot box?

This is going to be a fascinating election in November, I think. Certainly, you wouldn’t think Massachusetts would be immune to the blue wave that most experts think is coming.

I think we’ve seen that at the legislative level play out in the fact that there are a highly unusual number of Democratic primary challenges to incumbents this year. Republicans will try to make some gains -- that could be difficult for them.

And then you have Governor Charlie Baker who continues to be wildly popular, but he’s hit a bit of a rough patch at a bad time for him, as his Democratic opponents for governor are trying to gain some traction and gain some attention. 

You have a situation at the RMV, where wait times have skyrocketed up again. People are unhappy. The State Police scandals are unfolding. All of this points to make a bit of a chaotic November.

And now that we’re actually in April, there is some movement at the Statehouse. What are we looking at this week?

We are expecting the House to take up a major road repair funding bill. The Senate is also going to advance their criminal justice reform bill that they released a little over a week ago.

This would be a major accomplishment for the legislature and the governor, if they can get this done.

We don’t know if the House will take it up immediately, but they could also act this week to get this piece done, and that would be a big feather in their cap as they try and focus the discussion on policy, and away from some of these distractions.