DEBT ON THE DOCKET — Democrats’ push to wipe out billions of dollars in federal student loan debt is running up against a seemingly skeptical Supreme Court. But Rep. Ayanna Pressley says she’s “not ready to talk contingency plans” because “failure is not an option.”
“I’m not conceding defeat,” Pressley told Playbook hours after justices heard arguments over the debt-relief plan she and Sen. Elizabeth Warren spent two years pressing President Joe Biden to enact. “The administration has made a legally sound case. The Supreme Court needs to uphold the law.”
But several of the court’s conservative justices questioned the legality of Biden’s plan to cancel up to $20,000 per borrower. They debated the congressional authorization his administration is relying on for the $400 billion program, a provision of the 2003 HEROES Act that gives the education secretary power to “waive or modify” federal student loan programs to help borrowers during national emergencies.
And they challenged the fairness of eliminating loans for some people over others, including those who already paid their loans or never had any, in an echo of Republicans’ arguments against canceling debt.
Pressley pushed back on that, saying Republicans are trying to “obstruct the will of the people” and that debt relief would be “transformational” for those struggling to buy homes or pay for child care. A POLITICO analysis of all applications received by the Department of Education showed that most of them came from places where the per-capita income is under $35,000.
And the stakes in Massachusetts are significant. More than 800,000 people here are eligible for federal student debt relief under Biden’s plan. Some 380,000 applications have already been approved. Pressley’s district has more eligible borrowers and approved applications than any congressional district in the state.
Debt relief isn’t dead yet. Borrowers have a chance, my colleagues report, if a majority of the justices decide the plaintiffs in the two cases don’t have the legal standing to bring their challenges in the first place. But the court is unlikely to issue its ruling until June.
With loan forgiveness paused amid the legal challenges — and with Democrats playing defense in the Republican-controlled House — Pressley is turning to state-level partners like Gov. Maura Healey and Attorney General Andrea Campbell to step up. She praised Healey’s plan to make community college free for those over the age of 25 who lack college degrees as “a bold step in the right direction.” She also called for more investments in vocational schools and HBCUs.
“We have to be on parallel tracks here,” Pressley said. “We have to alleviate this hurt that people are feeling right now.”
GOOD WEDNESDAY MORNING, MASSACHUSETTS. Healey will divulge the details of her long-promised free community college plan, dubbed “MassReconnect,” at a 9:30 a.m. event at Bunker Hill Community College. She’ll follow that up with a full budget reveal at 2 p.m. at the State House.
TODAY — Boston Mayor Michelle Wu makes an announcement about special education programming at 1 p.m. at Brighton High.
Tips? Scoops? Running for mayor of Revere? More on that after the jump. Email me: [email protected].
— NORTH SHORE SHAKEUP: Add Revere to your list of mayor’s races to watch this year. Brian Arrigo, a former city councilor who swept into the mayor’s office in 2016 and steered his hard-hit city through the worst of the pandemic, said Tuesday he’s made the “bittersweet decision” not to seek a third term. Arrigo wrote in a letter to residents that he intends to “pursue public service outside of elected office in some capacity” but told Playbook he has no formal plans yet.
The race is already on to replace him. City Council President Patrick Keefe Jr. told Playbook he plans to run for mayor. Councilor Dan Rizzo, the former mayor who Arrigo ousted from office, told Playbook he’s considering making a play for his old job. Councilor Steven Morabito and state Rep. Jessica Giannino also said they’re looking at it. One person who said she’s definitely not running for mayor: former state Rep. Kathi-Anne Reinstein.
— “DeSimone pulls off surprise win in Attleboro special mayoral election,” by Jim Hand, The Sun Chronicle: “City Councilor Cathleen DeSimone pulled off a surprise victory in Tuesday’s special election for mayor, defeating Acting Mayor Jay DiLisio, former City Councilor John Davis and Timothy Barone. … DeSimone won’t have a lot of time to savor her victory, however. DiLisio said he would take out nomination papers Wednesday to run for mayor again in the regular November election.”
— “Oliver tops Amaral in race for [New Bedford] Ward 3 city councilor,” by Arthur Hirsch, New Bedford Light.
— “Salem mayoral candidates agree on need to improve public transportation but differ on how,” by Chris Van Buskirk, MassLive.
— FIRST IN PLAYBOOK: Former Boston state Rep. Nika Elugardo will start as chief counsel to Sen. Ed Markey in June. She’ll oversee the senator’s justice portfolio, focusing on issues including housing, immigration, civil rights, electoral reform, gun safety and the judiciary.
Markey praised Elugardo as a “brilliant leader and fierce advocate” in a statement to Playbook in which he said she’ll bring “deep experience and unwavering commitment to the kind of intersectional policymaking and systems change we need to build and ensure a livable future.”
Elugardo called her new gig a “dream job” in a brief chat with Playbook. While she’ll be moving to Washington, D.C., Elugardo said she’s keeping her home in Boston.
— FIRST IN PLAYBOOK: Roslindale resident Robert Orthman is officially jumping in the race to replace Ed Coppinger as state representative for the 10th Suffolk. Orthman is a deputy general counsel at the state Department of Early Education and Care and Democratic activist. His campaign manager is Elvira Mora.
Orthman has competition. Bill MacGregor, who served as chief of staff to former City Councilor Matt O’Malley, raised nearly $23,000 in the opening four days of campaign, his team told Playbook exclusively. His donors include his former boss, former City Councilor Mark Ciommo, and former Walsh administration Cabinet members Chris Cook and Pat Brophy.
And there’s another potential entrant in the race to succeed Jon Santiago in the 9th Suffolk: Michael Falcone, a biotech consultant who worked for Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts before it became Reproductive Equity Now. Santiago takes over as veterans services secretary today, while Coppinger starts as head of government affairs for MassBio.
— “Six years after pay raise law, many top Mass. officials rank as highest paid in the country,” by Matt Stout, Boston Globe: “Treasurer Deborah B. Goldberg’s annual salary of $238,794 is nearly $19,000 more than that of any other elected treasurer in the nation, according to a Globe review of available salary data. The pay for Attorney General Andrea Campbell, at $222,639, and Auditor Diana DiZoglio, at $229,377, also top all their elected peers, while the salaries of Lieutenant Governor Kim Driscoll and Secretary of State William F. Galvin rank second among those elected to those positions.”
— “Ed board eases hiring policies for administrators,” by Christian M. Wade, Eagle-Tribune: “State education leaders have approved a plan to grant provisional licenses to principals and vice principals, along with a slew of other changes aimed at helping public school districts ease a chronic shortage of administrators. The changes, unanimously approved by the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education on Tuesday, update existing licensing regulations to allow school administrators to get a provisional license before they complete the required Performance Assessment for Licensure evaluation.”
— “As prices soar, fossil fuel industry looks after its interests on Beacon Hill,” by Jon Lamson, Dig Boston: “The state’s five for-profit utilities, which function as regulated monopolies responsible for distributing gas and electricity to residents, cumulatively spent more than a million dollars on lobbying in 2022, a 17% increase compared to 2021.”
— “Healey’s tax relief plan won’t spur the economic development Mass. needs, analysts say,” by Alison Kuznitz, MassLive: “Gov. Maura Healey’s $742 million tax relief proposal falls short of adequately boosting the state’s competitive edge, particularly as the nascent administration prioritizes costly measures designed to benefit affluent residents, two leading Beacon Hill policy analysts signaled to MassLive.”
— “Fla. Gov. DeSantis moves to get Martha’s Vineyard migrant lawsuit dismissed,” by Chris Van Buskirk, MassLive: “Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, state transportation officials, an aviation company, and an alleged on-the-ground operative asked a federal judge Tuesday to dismiss a lawsuit stemming from a decision to fly a group of South American migrants to Martha’s Vineyard last year. DeSantis, a likely 2024 Republican presidential candidate, and his associates argued that the federal court in Massachusetts lacked jurisdiction over Florida and its officials.”
— NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK: Former Gov. Charlie Baker takes over as president of the NCAA today. His former chief of staff, Tim Buckley, also starts today as the college sports association’s senior vice president of external affairs.
— “Baker’s home still covered by state police details,” by Christian M. Wade, Salem News: “When he was governor, security details — provided by the State Police — included a driver and round-the-clock protection for Baker and his family. The details were supposed to end when he stepped down, but the agency is still posting troopers in marked and unmarked cruisers outside his home, including on the weekends.”
— DEPARTURE LOUNGE: With Marty Walsh’s time as Labor secretary almost up, President Joe Biden has nominated Julie Su, the deputy Labor secretary, as his replacement. Walsh is set to leave this month to take over the NHL Players’ Association.
— “New Massachusetts GOP chair Amy Carnevale looks to rebuild the party from the ground up,” by Rob Lane, Tiziana Dearing and Steve Brown, WBUR: “In what may be an attempt to extend an olive branch to supporters of the Charlie Baker wing of the party, Carnevale said she has named Mike Kennealy, the former governor’s housing and economic development secretary, as the party’s new finance chair.”
— “Rural challenges: Hilltown officials outline bevy of concerns in a visit by state auditor,” by James Pentland, Daily Hampshire Gazette: “Hilltown officials had the opportunity Monday to share some of the challenges faced by rural areas in western Massachusetts with state Auditor Diana DiZoglio, who visited town in advance of a snowstorm to gather local concerns from the source. Municipal building problems, all-volunteer emergency services, inadequate highway funding and large areas of tax-exempt or tax-limited land were among the issues the participants from Cummington, Worthington, Westhampton and Goshen highlighted.”
— “Mass. Board of Elementary and Secondary Education OKs Worcester charter school,” by Jeff A. Chamer, Telegram & Gazette: “Members of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education voted to award a charter to the Worcester Cultural Academy during a meeting Tuesday morning. … Along with the [Worcester Public Schools] superintendent, nearly the majority of speakers urged the board to vote the proposed school down.”
— 2024 WATCH: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is headed to New Hampshire in the next few weeks, the New York Times’ Maggie Haberman scooped. DeSantis has been absent from the state in recent months while other presidential hopefuls and potential candidates have swung through. But the Courageous Conservatives PAC is running a pro-DeSantis (and anti-Nikki Haley) radio ad in his absence.
— FROM THE OPINION PAGES: “Seth Magaziner’s rise is coming faster than anyone thought,” by Dan McGowan, Boston Globe.
TRANSITIONS — Aida Ross is now rapid response director for the New Hampshire Democratic Party.
— Secretary of State Bill Galvin has appointed retired Superior Court justice Thomas A. Connors to a five-year term on the State Ethics Commission.
— MassLive court and cops reporter Tom Matthews is heading to Worcester City Hall where he’ll join the city manager’s office to handle communications.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY — to state Rep. John Lawn, Sean Fitzgerald, Hannah Klain, Dan Mead, Max Morningstar and Henry Richardson.
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