Breakfast With Maura Healey, Massachusetts Attorney General

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OSBON_017We occasionally write about important non-financial events in the public interest, like this one last week.

Thanks to PR industry leader Geri Denterlein for hosting our energetic attorney general for the Commonwealth, Maura Healey, at last week’s “In The News” breakfast series at the BC Club. An Osbon Capital client who is associated with Denterlein’s agency was kind enough to invite us and we were eager to hear what the chief law enforcer in Massachusetts law had to say.

Maura_orangeWhat is on Maura’s mind these days? The question and answer presentation with moderator and legendary retired Boston news anchorman R.D. Sahl featured plenty of charm, wit and frank talk about key political issues of the day, both here in Massachusetts and across the United States.

Here are a few highlights of the discussion, with quotes by the Attorney General in italics.

Should pot be legal in Massachusetts? 

 “I support decriminalization and oppose legalization.  Now (legal pot) is not the time.  We must deal with reality (surge in THC overdoses at MGH from edible marijuana products) and safety issues (with kids).”

Legalization of retail marijuana sales in Massachusetts is likely to be on the November ballot as a referendum question. The Attorney General recently joined a highly-visible campaign to defeat the measure. This issue is layered with complexity. In 2012, Bay State voters approved legalization of medical marijuana. That followed a successful 2008 ballot initiative to decriminalize marijuana. Public opinion surveys suggest that registered voters support legalized sales of marijuana by a 55-35 margin.

The legalization movement comes at a time when Massachusetts is grappling with the opioid crisis. According to Massachusetts Department of Public Health data released in January, 1,099 people died in 2014 from an overdose of heroin or related opioid product, a rate of three people each day and the highest death toll ever recorded in the state. News report indicate the average age of a fatal opioid overdoses is 41.

How can Massachusetts hold the line pain on healthcare affordability?

“The rising healthcare cost curve is frustrating.  Access and affordability are related. There are no immediate solutions.”

State healthcare spending rose 4.8 percent in 2014, according to the state Center for Health Information and Analysis, which doubled the 2.4 percent increase reported a year earlier. The 2014 increase, nearly tripled the rate of inflation in the state (1.6 percent), was attributed to a 19 percent increase in expenses associated with the state’s taxpayer-funded Medicaid program, which insures 1.8 million Massachusetts’ residents, or nearly 27% of the population.

What can be done about high priced prescription drugs?

“Some prescription drug prices are [the result of] unfair trade practices.”

AG Healey does not support price caps, which would significantly impact the state’s pharmaceutical and biotech/life science sector. She favors “transparency” in terms of pricing and reimbursement rates, noting that “what’s good for markets is generally good for consumers.”

What’s your position on casino gambling?

“I oppose casino gambling and am responsible for enforcing the law.  There are real concerns over traffic and entry”

The Massachusetts legislature and then Governor Deval Patrick legalized a limited number of casinos for the state in the fall of 2011. The first ‘slots’ facility opened in June 2015 and three more resort casinos are expected to be up and running by the end of 2019. AG Healey’s office is charged with oversight of the Massachusetts’ Gaming Commission’s Enforcement Division and with appointing one of five gaming commissioners. Healey has expressed reservations about increased level of crime such as money laundering, human trafficking and narcotics.

Does the same go for fantasy sports betting?

“Our new sports betting rules provide consumer protection, fair play and favor regulation over shutting down [the industry.]  The handicap system is like golf – you play with people at your level.”

In March, Healey’s office announced comprehensive regulations of daily online fantasy sports operations, which include Boston-based DraftKings. These rules, which include a minimum age of 21 for participation and prohibition on games associated with amateur and college athletics, are expected to establish a new national standard for other states. The rules go into effect on July 1st.

Will you seek higher office or possibly work for the next president?

“I love the [Attorney General] job. Hillary Clinton is most qualified to be President and, no, I would not accept a position in a Clinton Administration. My job fires me up, it excites me.

That sounds good to us! Massachusetts is fortunate to have an effective and passionate advocate as its attorney general.