© 2023 WSHU
NPR News & Classical Music
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations

The women now leading Massachusetts, after historic election, get down to work

Massachusetts Governor Maura Healey, and Lt. Gov. Kim Driscoll, hold their first press conference, surrounded by cabinet secretaries.
Sam Doran
/
State House News Service
Massachusetts Governor Maura Healey, and Lt. Gov. Kim Driscoll, hold their first press conference, surrounded by cabinet secretaries.

The history-making women leading Massachusetts forward are getting down to work. Last week, Gov. Maura Healey and Lt. Gov. Kimberly Driscoll were sworn in and the process made history as the first Massachusetts all woman executive office team in state history. In that inaugural speech, Healey laid out ambitious plans for transportation, housing, climate change and securing federal infrastructure money. Reporter Matt Murphy of the State House News Service says it was not just business as usual for a Massachusetts governor's inaugural speech.

Matt Murphy, State House News Service: Obviously, the historic nature of swearing-in of Gov. Healey and Lt. Gov. Driscoll was really the focus of the day. I think a lot of people coming into this inauguration were thinking that they were going to hear Healey reflect on her historic win and speak in sort of aspirational tones about the challenges facing Massachusetts and how she plans to marshal government to meet those challenges. She did all that, I should say. You know, a lot of that was in her speech, but she also put a lot of specifics in there, and not all of it was new. Of course, some of these things we heard her talk about on the campaign trail.

She did put some definitive timelines and some new ideas on there. We heard her talk about directing her new budget office to identify state-owned land within a year that could be used to build new housing. She talked about funding positions to hire 1,000 new MBTA workers to address workforce shortages and performance issues at the T. She talked about investing climate change and followed that up with signing an executive order the next day, creating her new climate chief. And she talked about the MassReconnect program, which we heard her talk about on the campaign trail, pledging in her first budget to create and fund a program to make community college free for anyone age 25 and older who does not yet have a degree. So, I think to some degree we saw her put more specifics on the table than a lot of people were thinking coming into that speech.

Carrie Healy, NEPM: And it was pretty different from that of neighboring New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu. His inaugural speech last week only highlighted his state's past achievements; he delivered no policy proposals. You know, many lawmakers in attendance at Healey's inaugural seemed to embrace those infrastructure initiatives. Could that speech act as a kind of guide for lawmakers in shaping legislation this session?

Sure it could, though, a lot of these details are going to need to be worked out. I mean, hiring a thousand new employees will require a significant investment. The governor also promising to put someone in charge very quickly of overseeing safety inspections at the T and doing a top to bottom review of that agency. We know the Legislature is keenly interested in this. They're going to be working on this and they're going to have to all work together to come up with a plan. All eyes for now will be on the governor and her search for a new general manager to lead the T. And we know this is going to be an ongoing issue for this new administration in the first year and probably beyond, and not something that's going to have a quick fix and probably not just one fix. I think we're going to see this be dealt with over the coming years.

Swearing in of Mass. Gov. Maura Healey
screen capture
/
Commonwealth of Mass House Broadcast Services
Swearing in of Mass. Gov. Maura Healey

The House chamber was packed with lawmakers, special guests, press and others. I know you were watching. I was watching. I thought there were some notable points in this ceremony that stood out for me. I was interested in the size and scale of Lt. Gov. Driscoll's swearing in Bible as compared to the more petite one that Gov. Healey used that apparently was her great, great grandmother's. Was there anything that you noted at that ceremony?

 Mass. Lt. Gov. Kim Driscoll's swearing in ceremony
screen capture
/
Commonwealth of Mass House Broadcast Services
Mass. Lt. Gov. Kim Driscoll's swearing in ceremony

Well, you know, there were some personal touches there, of course. I think it's always interesting to see all of the former governors and members of Congress come to these events. I noticed up in the balcony, former Attorney General Martha Coakley was there sitting with her former running mate, Steve Kerrigan. They're sitting together watching this ceremony, perhaps wondering what could have been as Martha Coakley became close to becoming the first female governor of Massachusetts and and watching as Maura Healey achieved that and also broke the so-called curse of attorney generals unable to crack that barrier in Massachusetts. You had John Kerry and Bill Weld sitting together down on the floor watching this. Of course, they ran their own contentious race against each other for Senate.

These events are always interesting for who they kind of bring together. But it was a pretty celebratory mood in the chamber. People were excited about the new beginning. And I think everyone is starting with high hopes for this new administration and looking to see them succeed.

And before we lose track of this, Charlie Baker did sign a stack of bills into law before he left the governor's office. Are there any new laws to take note of among those that passed?

Yeah, there was obviously a stack, a lot of those local bills, but the governor did before he left, he signed that road safety bill that we've talked about, the one creating new guidelines for drivers to ensure the safety of pedestrians and cyclists on the road, giving them ample clearance when passing them on the shoulder. The governor also signed an expansion of Medicare coverage for postpartum care and also a so-called Bill of Rights for foster parents. These were just a couple of the bills that made it across the finish line in the final day of the session.

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.