By Ellen Ishkanian
Attorney General Maura Healey told capacity crowd of business and civic leaders in Newton that she’s taking on Washington in these “chaotic, at times, confusing, difficult, challenging times” because decisions being made by Trump Administration are hurting Massachusetts’ residents and businesses.
“It seems [Trump] needs to be reminded at times that the Constitution does not begin with, ‘I, the president.’ Actually, it begins with, ‘We, the people,’” Healey said during the keynote address at the Newton-Needham Regional Chamber’s Fall Business Breakfast on Nov. 9 at the Newton Marriott.
Healey said she has taken action to protect communities across Massachusetts from national policy changes that will adversely impact residents here, especially in the areas of immigration, healthcare, energy and the environment.
That included going to court to try and stop an immigration ban where repercussions were felt at hospitals, colleges and universities and businesses.
“TripAdvisor was one of the many businesses that stood side by side with our office in that case, signing on to an amicus brief that reminded the court that we are, and will always be an immigrant nation. And that the consequences to our businesses and our economy if we forget that are problematic. It’s not who we are,” she said.
Healey also noted that stakes are particularly high in healthcare, where this state made the bipartisan decision years ago that access to healthcare is a right, and not a privilege.
“I know premiums are going up. And I know there are problems with the Affordable Care Act. But what I ask, and what I hope for, is leadership to actually address those deficiencies,” said Healey, who joined attorneys general from 17 other states to go to court to try and restore the ACA funding.
“Instead, the administration acted to further destabilize our insurance market and sabotage access to healthcare.”
“The question for me was, what does that mean for Massachusetts?” she added.
And what it means, she said, is 80,000 residents who get their insurance on the exchanges would see double digit premium increases, an economic driver of the state’s economy put under threat, and instability for the insurance market.
In addition, she said, it means in the midst of a devastating opioid crisis in this state, fewer resources would be available to care for and treat people.
Earlier this year, Healey joined with governors and mayors from across the United States, including Newton Mayor Setti Warren, to pledge along with business leaders to meet commitments made in the Paris Climate Agreement that Trump pulled the country from.
“I thought the obligation on all of us was to leave this world and this place a little better off for children and grandchildren of future generations,” she said.
Since pulling out of the Paris Agreement, Healey said the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Energy have “doubled-down” on an anti-science, climate denial agenda that undermines the strides this state has made to clean the environment and help drive the economy.
The new mindset is putting the $11 billion clean energy economy in Massachusetts at risk, and putting the 11,000 clean energy jobs in jeopardy, she said.
She pointed to the 12,000 solar panel array at the recycle and transfer station in Needham, and Newton’s community solar share initiatives that will help 1,200 residents save on their energy bills.
“There are more clean energy jobs right here in Massachusetts than there are coal jobs in the entire country,” she said.
Healey said she’s prepared to fight moves to force states to subsidize coal and nuclear at the expense of renewables and other alternatives.
“We are a global driver of medical and life science innovation. Members of this very chamber have won millions in [federal National Institutes of Health] grants. In fact, Massachusetts is the second largest recipient of those funds that help power our knowledge-based economy,” she said.
Healey stressed that as a former professional basketball player, she knows how to play defense, but knows the importance of playing offense as well. And while her office is busy defending against Trump’s policies, that’s not all it’s doing.
“I run a $50 million a year operation, I have 600 employees and four offices across the state. For every dollar spent on my office, we’re bringing back between $10 and $18. I’m very proud of that,” she said.
Her office also opened a student loan assistance office to work with people who have defaulted or are about to default on a student loan to find a better payback plan. She’s also tackling housing by working with local communities to rehabilitate dilapidated and abandoned properties by getting a receiver appointed, getting a contractor in place to rehab the property, and then selling it, often to first-time home owners.
“We’re currently working on 10 properties in Needham alone,” she said.
“Where we can contribute to vibrancy in cities and towns, that’s where I want to be,” she said.