STATE CAPITOL BRIEFS - LUNCH EDITION - FRIDAY, AUG. 8, 2014

STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE

VIDEO: WARREN SAYS IRAQ REQUIRES "NEGOTIATED SOLUTION

During a visit to the State House Friday, U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren commented on what she described as "a very complicated situation" in Iraq, where President Barack Obama recently authorized limited military and humanitarian action. "The president has taken very targeted actions to provide humanitarian relief that the Iraqi government requested and to protect American citizens. But like the president, I believe that any solution in Iraq is going to be a negotiated solution, not a military solution. We do not want to be pulled into another war in Iraq," Warren said. - M. Deehan/SHNS

>>> For video of Warren speaking with the press about Iraq, go to: http://www.statehousenews.com/video/14-08-08warren/ Subscribers may download and repurpose all SHNS video. <<<

BAKER WEIGHS IN ON LOBSTER CATCH RESTRICTIONS

Republican gubernatorial candidate Charlie Baker on Friday joined a bipartisan effort to lobby federal fishing regulators to reconsider new restrictions that would close Cape Cod and Massachusetts Bays to lobstering from January to May. "The fishing industry of Massachusetts has been under attack from federal bureaucrats for too long and these new regulations are unacceptable," Baker said in a statement.


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"These new provisions will not only hurt lobstermen and their families, but also hit all of the related businesses that support the boats that leave our harbors." Effective June 27, the National Marine Fisheries Service implemented a new rule designed to protect right and humpback whales that prohibits lobster traps in an area stretching from Cape Cod Bay to Boston between Jan. 1 and April 30. Lobstermen were at the State House on July 31 trying to draw attention to the new rule that they say will hurt their industry and ability to make a living. In an op/ed written and signed by 44 state lawmakers, including Senate President Therese Murray, the legislators argued that the plan to protect whales was "significantly flawed and based on incomplete science," and they urged the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to reconsider the restrictions after receiving updated data from state fishing regulators. The "Coastal Caucus" said ongoing efforts by lobstermen to protect whales from entanglement in traps have resulted in the near elimination of whale fatalities while the right whale population has grown from 263 in 1996 to over 450 in 2009. The lawmakers last week met with members of the Massachusetts Congressional delegation, as well as staff at the Attorney General's office and the Division of Marine Fisheries. - M. Murphy/SHNS

ENVIRO GROUP SEEKS IMPACT ON LEGISLATIVE RACES

Two environmental organizations are teaming up and hoping to have an impact on state legislative races, endorsing candidates and advertising on their issues online and in newspapers. "Environmental organizations in the state have hundreds of thousands of members and they're largely quiet," said George Bachrach, president of the Environmental League of Massachusetts Action Fund, which has joined forces with the Massachusetts League of Environmental Voters. Bachrach said the groups sent out questionnaires, including a question about repealing the indexing of the gas tax - which ELM opposes. The new effort is Massachusetts United for Science, Climate, and Environment, or MUSCLE, and Bachrach said his group has enlisted politicos such as Doug Rubin, Seth Gitell and Warren Tolman - a candidate for attorney general - to train campaign workers. Bachrach said the group is underwriting workers on the campaigns of some favored candidates. Describing the environmental community as a "sleeping giant," Bachrach said it seemed as though candidates from across the spectrum are actively seeking the endorsement. In an ELM ad mockup that features commuter rail cars surrounded by floodwaters, the group asks the public to send a message to the next governor and the Legislature to support renewable energy, the transit system and a carbon tax. In addition, ELM is backing a requirement for home energy audits before transactions so buyers know the property's capabilities. Arrayed against ELM, according to Bachrach, is the natural gas industry, the Tank the Automatic Gas Tax ballot question, and the real estate industry. - A. Metzger/SHNS

STATE HEALTH EXCHANGE GET THUMBS UP FROM FEDS

The Obama administration has given Massachusetts the green light to continuing developing its state-based health insurance exchange for a November rollout, signing off on the new website and allowing the state to abandon its preparations for possibly joining the federal healthcare.gov marketplace. State health officials, including the governor's special project manager Maydad Cohen, travelled to Washington on Thursday for a meeting with leaders at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services where they demonstrated the latest capabilities of the new website using off-the-shelf software developed and customized by hCentive. "The decision we've made and the decision CMS supports is to move forward exclusively with hCentive," Cohen said on a conference call Friday morning, expressing optimism that the new site would deliver a "smooth consumer experience" for residents when it goes live on Nov. 15. Having passed this latest test, Cohen said the Health Connector would stop its simultaneous preparation to join the federal health insurance marketplace, which was intended to be a fallback plan in case CMS or state officials doubted the potential for the new state website to be operational by the start of the next open enrollment period in 99 days. [Developing] - M. Murphy/SHNS