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The Download: Days of yore

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As much of America is fixated on a wedding in the royal family -- except, believe it or not, viewers of Fox 25 -- that harkens back to the time when we were colonists, yet another vestige of long ago is making its voice heard in our own backyard.

The Executive Council (aka the Governor’s Council), that eight-member panel that has alternately been called a necessary counterbalance to gubernatorial powers and a constitutional anachronism whose freshen date expired around the time Patrick “Sonny” McDonough began calling in his votes from his Florida residence, is once again beginning to call attention to itself. Whether that’s not a good thing depends on your politics.

With the grilling of Appeals Court Judge Barbara Lenk for a vacant seat on the Supreme Judicial Court highlighting the ideological fault lines within the council, many say it may be time to remove the panel’s ability to advise and consent on gubernatorial nominations and let the Judicial Nominating Commission continue to do the vetting and perhaps move the confirmation process to the state Senate.

Some may cry the Senate, with its overwhelming Democratic makeup, would be nothing more than a rubber stamp for a Democratic governor but the Governor’s Council has not rejected a nominee since 1993. That record will likely stay intact despite the presence of three new members who are nothing if not irritants to the corner office. Most votes have gone from 8-0 to, nowadays, 4-3, and Lenk’s confirmation will most likely continue that trend.

Lenk’s sexual orientation and her views on gay marriage, a settled matter here in Massachusetts, dominated yesterday’s hearing.

“We already have so-called gay marriage being used as a weapon to bring the homosexual agenda into our public schools and classrooms. Do we need yet another appointment to be used as a weapon?” Sally Naumann, a conservative activist from Carlisle, Lenk’s hometown, asked according to State House News Service.

Accidental Councilor Charles O. Cipollini, a conservative Republican, has been most vocal in his criticisms of Gov. Deval Patrick’s nominees, such as naming Justice Roderick Ireland as the first black chief justice and his appointment of Justice Fernande Duffly as the first Asian-American to the court. Cipollini says the governor is using the nominations to satisfy an agenda for a variety of groups who support him and, like his votes on Ireland and Duffly, Cipollini intends to vote no on Lenk. He thinks she has predetermined views on homosexuality and gay marriage, despite her deferring on commenting about specifics from him and the other naysayers such as Mary-Ellen Manning on the council.

“Well, why would she rule,” he tells WBUR’s David Boeri. “I like spaghetti. And if they change the definition of the spaghetti to give me a bunch of worms on the plate and say, ‘That’s spaghetti,’ I’m not going to accept it.”

Cipollini had a bout with Lenk that may have brought out the ultimate response from those who want the council to disappear. During one exchange -- if you can call a lack of response from Lenk an exchange -- Cipollini insisted on probing her views on assisted suicide, aggressively asking if she was “a supporter of Dr. [Jack] Kevorkian, yes or no?”

“Are you asking me?” an exasperated Lt. Gov. Timothy Murray, ex officio member and president of the council, said to Cipollini. “At this moment, I think I am.”

                                                                                                                                                                               --JACK SULLIVAN


BEACON HILL

The House’s municipal health care reform vote is the big story. The Salem News talks to local lawmakers about their votes for or against the proposal. Interestingly, Rep. Brad Hill, the Ipswich Republican, voted no. He says his vote reflected concern about how the measure was hastily presented with little debate. The Eagle-Tribune interviews lawmakers and local officials who say the measure will prevent more municipal layoffs. The Item interviews local union officials, who all condemn the vote. The Pioneer Institute’s Steve Poftak praises the vote, pointing out that municipal managers can raise rates no further than what the state Group Insurance Commission’s largest plan charges. The Professional Firefighters Association of Massachusetts, on its website, has the House roll call and a quote from president Edward Kelly. “There is a class war in this country and today the Massachusetts House sided against the middle class,” he says.  Meanwhile, Gov. Deval Patrick tells union leaders to chill following Tuesday's House vote, saying, “This is not Wisconsin.”

Senate President Therese Murray talks to the Herald about her performance management bill.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

WBUR interviews Lawrence residents who want Mayor William Lantigua out. And it turns out the city’s economic development director isn’t so good at managing his own finances.

Sandwich officials work on resolving a controversy over adult use of the high school pool.

Newton Mayor Setti Warren likes the municipal health care reform vote, but Newton teachers don’t.

Instead of waiting for the results of a state investigation, East Bridgewater officials have hired their own lawyer to probe no-bid snow removal jobs from this past winter.

NATIONAL POLITICS/WASHINGTON

Harvard Law School professor Randall Kennedy says, on the New Republic site, that Stephen Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg should retire from the Supreme Court to ensure that President Obama gets to name their replacements.

Newt Gingrich takes US Rep. Paul Ryan to task over medical and scientific research funding.

Joshua Green likens the debt ceiling debate to a group of diners grousing over the dinner check after they’ve stuffed themselves.

ELECTION 2012

Donald Trump lands in New Hampshire – in full bluster following the (second) release of President Obama's birth certificate. Meanwhile, veteran newsman Bob Schieffer, host of Face the Nation, calls out Trump and says there is “an ugly strain of racism” at work in the birther controversy. David Remnick also labels the furor “race-baiting.” Wendy Kaminer says the White House should stop trying to debate Trump, who doesn’t play politics the way everybody else does. The Atlantic ponders what birther polling really tells us about the electorate, and then rounds up a list of other things the White House should release - the Kraken foremost among them. And the New York Times feels compelled to write one of those media analysis stories that explain why they’re even bothering to cover this nonsense.  But, as the Milford Daily News shows, there are those who will never be convinced Obama was born in the United States.

Obama tries to make up with Wall Street, as well as Wall Street’s checkbook.

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke holds a first-ever press conference and says the economy is recovering but high unemployment rates won’t be going away anytime soon, NECN reports. The Fed has also decided to  stop throwing money at unemployment figures.

Mass Mutual plans to layoff 75 employees in Springfield mostly from its IT department.

EDUCATION

State education officals vigorously defended a plan to tie evaluation of teachers to student MCAS scores, the Globe reports.  According to a story in the Lowell Sun, the way Lowell analyzes MCAS data to identify weaknesses and strengths in the student population can be tweaked to help evaluate teacher performance.
 
The Globe reports that Boston officials and leaders of charter schools in the city will today announce a historic agreement to collaborate on everything from teacher recruitment to making surplus city school buildings available for lease to charters.

HEALTH CARE

On his Not Running a Hospital blog, Paul Levy calls attention to the latest report from the Commonwealth Connector for his national readers who wonder whether their state can successfully implement the health care reform mandates from the federal government.

Milton Hospital, clinically affiliated with Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center since 2003, is one step closer to ceding financial control to the Boston hospital.

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

US Rep. Edward Markey urges President Obama to bring down gasoline prices by tapping the nation’s strategic reserve, WBUR reports.

Cape Wind opponents speak out against the project after whale sightings in Nantucket Sound.
On the opposite side of the state, developers of a proposed wind farm in Savoy are running into trouble with wetlands permitting and finding a company to buy the power the plant would produce.

PASSINGS

Alice Ward, the mother of boxer “Irish” Micky Ward, died last night at a Boston Hospital. The chain-smoking matron of the family that spawned two world-class fighters, was the basis for an Oscar-winning performance in the critically acclaimed movie “The Fighter.”

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