Collective Bargaining Fight Could Come Home This Week

By Sarah Birnbaum

Apr. 25, 2011

BOSTON — On Beacon Hill, state government steps into high gear. This week could see a fight between unions and lawmakers, a high profile bribery trial and tough questioning for a groundbreaking state Supreme Judicial Court nominee.  

There’s a battle looming on Beacon Hill over collective bargaining rights for city and town workers, and it kicks off Monday when the Massachusetts House takes up the budget. House leadership is backing a budget proposal that would let mayors and town councils raise health insurance copays and deductibles without any say from municipal employee unions. Union leaders are fuming, and are vowing to fight the measure.

And that’s not the only controversial part of the budget. It also eliminates health coverage for some 20,000 legal immigrants and makes some of the largest spending cuts in 20 years.

Then, on Tuesday, jury selection begins in the biggest political corruption trial to hit Massachusetts in decades. Federal prosecutors hope to prove that former Massachusetts House Speaker Sal Dimasi took tens of thousands of dollars in bribes from a local software firm in exchange for helping the company secure state contracts. DiMasi has pleaded not guilty.    

Earlier: Court won't dismiss any charges against DiMasi
Earlier: Key DiMasi co-defendent pleads guilty

Adding to the drama, Gov. Deval Patrick, Senate President Therese Murray, and Speaker of the House Robert Deleo could all be called upon to testify sometime in the coming weeks.

On Wednesday, Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court nominee Barbara Lenk goes before the Governor’s Council for a confirmation hearing. If confirmed, Lenk would make history as the first openly gay judge to serve on the state’s highest court, and also the only justice to be married to a same sex partner. Critics are questioning whether she could remain impartial on the court.  Supporters point to what they call her long, distinguished record on the Court of Appeals.

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