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Senate Republicans demand Gruber’s removal from Connector

PUBLISHED: | UPDATED:

STATE CAPITOL BRIEFS – MONDAY, DEC. 1, 2014

STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE

SENATE REPUBLICANS DEMAND GRUBER’S REMOVAL FROM CONNECTOR

The Senate Republican caucus on Monday called for the resignation or “immediate removal” of MIT health care economist Jonathan Gruber from the board of the Massachusetts Health Connector. In a Dec. 1 letter to Gov. Deval Patrick, the four Senate Republicans pointed to news accounts of a video showing Gruber saying the federal Affordable Care Act became law thanks to a “lack of transparency” and the “stupidity of the American voter.” At a Connector board meeting in November, Gruber declined to comment on his remarks, though he has told MSNBC he regretted making the comments. “Professor Gruber’s comments are not only in direct opposition to those of us who seek to expand public trust in government they call into question his ability to act impartially and in a manner that upholds the integrity of the Health Connector Board,” said the letter, which was signed by Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester), and Sens. Robert Hedlund (R-Weymouth), Richard Ross (R-Wrentham) and Donald Humason (R-Westfield). “Professor Gruber’s advocacy for an ideology founded in deceit should have no place in our government.” The lawmakers added, “Professor Gruber’s comments were reprehensible, repugnant and demonstrate a level of disdain for the American public that has no place in government and should not have any place on the Health Connector Board.” Gruber is set to testify on Dec. 9 in front of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, chaired by California Republican Rep. Darrell Issa. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Marilyn Tavenner is also slated to testify at the hearing, which will focus on the Affordable Care Act and “repeated transparency failures,” according the committee.- Gintautas Dumcius/SHNS

BOSTON-AREA FAST FOOD WORKERS TO STRIKE

Boston-area fast food industry workers plan to walk off the job Thursday, a move that union organizers say will mark the second anniversary of their fight for a $15 an hour wage. According to MassUniting, the wage battle and push for union rights has spread to 160 cities around the U.S. since workers in New York City launched the movement two years ago. Airport and home care workers are also among those pursuing higher wages and better benefits. McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Burger King, KFC, Domino’s and workers at other fast-food restaurants are expects to strike on Thursday. A spokesman could not provide an estimate of how many workers plan to walk off job sites. – Michael Norton/SHNS

ROSENBERG: PAY RAISE RECOMMENDATIONS “BOLD”

Sen. Stan Rosenberg, the Amherst Democrat in line to succeed Senate President Therese Murray, on Monday described a special commission’s pay raise recommendations as “bold” and said the panel’s proposed ban on outside income for legislative leaders and constitutional officers would be the first of its kind in the nation. Without taking a position on significant raises for the House speaker and Senate president, as well as six constitutional officers, Rosenberg noted the panel had recommended elimination of per diem allowances lawmakers may taken when they travel to Beacon Hill and called the process the panel used to reach its conclusions “transparent and thorough.” He plans to review the report and the data used by the commission. House Speaker Robert DeLeo, who is expected to retain his post next session, also didn’t take a position on the raises Monday, while Gov. Deval Patrick said he supported raises and Senate President Therese Murray said she was reviewing ways to implement the pay hikes. Rep. Geoff Diehl (R-Whitman) on Monday said it was a “bad time” to call for the salary increases. “When the taxpayers of Massachusetts don’t know how much more costs are going to be coming out of their pocketbook because of the way the state’s been managed these last few years, it’s the wrong time to say legislative leaders deserve a pay raise,” said Diehl, who has pledged to appear at informal sessions in order to block attempts to advance pay-raising legislation. “Everything, I think, in here I would like to see subject to debate so we can get to the justifications and have the conversations about how appropriate it would be,” he told the News Service. While eliminating per diems is a “good thing,” Diehl said the commission recommended increasing the amount doled out for legislators’ office expenses. “It’s not necessarily coming out as a wash,” he said. Diehl also said the panel’s membership included a few people who could be affected by funding votes made by the Legislature, such as employees of the University of Massachusetts system. – Michael Norton and Gintautas Dumcius/SHNS

Sen. Stan Rosenberg, the Amherst Democrat in line to succeed Senate President Therese Murray, on Monday described a special commission’s pay raise recommendations as “bold” and said the panel’s proposed ban on outside income for legislative leaders and constitutional officers would be the first of its kind in the nation. Without taking a position on significant raises for the House speaker and Senate president, as well as six constitutional officers, Rosenberg noted the panel had recommended elimination of per diem allowances lawmakers may taken when they travel to Beacon Hill and called the process the panel used to reach its conclusions “transparent and thorough.” He plans to review the report and the data used by the commission. House Speaker Robert DeLeo, who is expected to retain his post next session, also didn’t take a position on the raises Monday, while Gov. Deval Patrick said he supported raises and Senate President Therese Murray said she was reviewing ways to implement the pay hikes. Rep. Geoff Diehl (R-Whitman) on Monday said it was a “bad time” to call for the salary increases. “When the taxpayers of Massachusetts don’t know how much more costs are going to be coming out of their pocketbook because of the way the state’s been managed these last few years, it’s the wrong time to say legislative leaders deserve a pay raise,” said Diehl, who has pledged to appear at informal sessions in order to block attempts to advance pay-raising legislation. “Everything, I think, in here I would like to see subject to debate so we can get to the justifications and have the conversations about how appropriate it would be,” he told the News Service. While eliminating per diems is a “good thing,” Diehl said the commission recommended increasing the amount doled out for legislators’ office expenses. “It’s not necessarily coming out as a wash,” he said. Diehl also said the panel’s membership included a few people who could be affected by funding votes made by the Legislature, such as employees of the University of Massachusetts system. – Michael Norton and Gintautas Dumcius/SHNS

NEW MTF PRESIDENT BEFORE CHRISTMAS

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