Sarah Birnbaum

State House Reporter, WGBH Radio

Sarah Birnbaum is WGBH Radio’s political and State House reporter. When she’s not on the campaign trail, she loves telling stories about health care and education policy, and all the issues that come through the Legislature that matter to voters.

Before coming to Massachusetts, Sarah worked for CBS Network News in New York, where she covered stories ranging from the Virginia Tech shootings to the Clinton/Obama primaries to the Academy Awards. Her stories have been heard nationally on NPR and CBS Radio, and on stations throughout Massachusetts.

Sarah has a B.A. in art history and English literature from Stanford University.

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Politics & Government
2:36 pm
Fri May 22, 2015

House Speaker DeLeo Asks High Court To Settle Dispute With Senate President Rosenberg

House Speaker Robert Deleo.
Credit (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

Massachusetts Speaker of the House Robert DeLeo wants the state's highest court to settle a dispute he's having with the Senate President — the latest chapter in a legislative power struggle.

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Local News
5:08 pm
Thu May 21, 2015

Mass Medical Society Publishes New Opioid Guidelines

The Massachusetts Medical Society, which represents 25,000 physicians, published new guidelines to combat the state’s opioid epidemic.

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Politics & Government
4:15 pm
Wed May 20, 2015

Possible Beacon Hill Tax Collision?

The Massachusetts House of Representatives has yet to weigh in on a tax plan passed this week by the state Senate that reverses an expected tax cut in order to fund an antipoverty program.

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Politics & Government
5:44 pm
Tue May 19, 2015

State Senate Trims Income Tax Cuts Rather Than Eliminate Hollywood Film Subsidy

Rather than eliminate the tax-film credit, which studies show costs Massachusetts money, the senate goes after a modest income tax rollback.

The Massachusetts Senate today Tuesday passed a measure that would cancel expected tax cuts in order to boost an antipoverty program.

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Politics & Government
4:35 pm
Wed May 13, 2015

Feds Say No To More Snow Dough

FEMA was cold to Gov. Charlie Baker's efforts to get more disaster relief funds.

The federal government has again rejected Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker's request for more snow cleanup money. 

At first, Baker tried the unorthodox approach of getting the entire 28 day period starting January 26 classified as a single disaster. But the Obama administration said no.  And only granted an emergency declaration for a 2 day period.  

That means the state would end up with tens of millions of dollars less than hoped for.  So Baker and the entire Massachusetts Congressional delegation went back and asked the feds to extend the period for one more day.

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Politics & Government
4:19 pm
Tue May 12, 2015

State Senate Budget Plan Hikes Spending 3 Percent

Protesters rally in support of the film tax credit outside the State House.
Tim Estiloz

The Massachusetts Senate has released a budget plan that increases spending 3 percent over last year — and there are only a few points of disagreement between the Senate budget and the one passed by the House last month.

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Politics & Government
1:10 pm
Tue May 12, 2015

State Senate Derails Gov. Baker's MBTA Plan

Gov. Charlie Baker testified to a State House hearing about his plan for the MBTA.
Credit Howard Powell / WGBH News

Massachusetts Senate leaders have dealt a blow to Republican Gov. Charlie Baker’s plan to overhaul the MBTA.

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Politics & Government
4:30 pm
Mon May 11, 2015

Baker Pitches MBTA Plan At Union-Packed State House Hearing

Gov. Charlie Baker testified to a State House hearing about his plan for the MBTA.
Credit Howard Powell / WGBH News

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker urged lawmakers today to adopt his plan to overhaul management of the MBTA. The plan sets up a potential clash with the unions.

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Politics & Government
4:34 pm
Wed May 6, 2015

Federal Health Survey -- Including Questions About Sex -- Riles Some Bay State Parents

Parents versus experts on Beacon Hill.
Credit Fogster

Some parents and advocates are complaining about a federal health survey given to Massachusetts students because it asks kids about sex. 

The survey is developed by the Centers for Disease Control and given to 7th through 12th graders across the country.

It asks kids if they’re gay or transgender. It asks them what kinds of sex they’ve had and with how many partners. Parent Jamie Allen says when she saw the survey.

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Politics & Government
4:27 pm
Tue May 5, 2015

Gov. Charlie Baker Sees Eye-To-Eye With New UMass President Marty Meehan On Online Ed

New UMass President Marty Meehan speaks at his confirmation hearing.
Credit AP Photo

University of Massachusetts president-elect Marty Meehan met with Gov. Charlie Baker Tuesday for the first time since Meehan was chosen to lead the five-campus system.

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Politics & Government
3:00 pm
Mon April 27, 2015

House Keeps Mass. Film Tax Credit

The Massachusetts House slammed down a proposal Monday to eliminate the decades old tax break for movie and TV production.

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Local News
4:11 pm
Thu April 23, 2015

E-Cigarettes Debated At State House Hearing

A sales associate demonstrates the use of a electronic cigarette and the smoke like vapor that comes from it in Aurora, Colo. on Wednesday, March 2, 2011.
Credit AP Photo/Ed Andrieski

Users of e-cigarettes and critics of the devices weighed in today Thursday on proposed state regulations. The Massachusetts Attorney General wants to ban the sale of electronic cigarettes to minors, prohibit free product giveaways or sampling and require childproof packaging.

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Politics & Government
4:47 pm
Wed April 22, 2015

Charlie's MBTA: Governor Baker Proposes New Administrative Structure

Governor Baker seeks to appoint three of the five members of a new board that would govern the troubled transit system.
Credit WGBH News

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker proposed changes to the law that would give him more control over the MBTA. 

Baker wants to create a new board to oversee the T temporarily. He would appoint three out of the board's five members.

At a press conference, Baker said the changes are necessary.  He said the T’s operating costs are too high and its performance is too low:

“Left alone, the MBTA would continue on an unsustainable path. Our region cannot afford this and our taxpayers shouldn’t have to.”

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Politics & Government
5:34 pm
Tue April 21, 2015

Baker Meeting New England Govs On Natural Gas

Five New England governors will gather in Connecticut Thursday to discuss curbing energy prices by increasing natural gas capacity.

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Politics & Government
4:41 pm
Tue April 14, 2015

DeLeo And Rosenberg At Odds Over Beacon Hill Rules

Know the rules well, so you can break them effectively, says the Dalai Lama.
Credit Fogster

A power struggle between Massachusetts' top legislative leaders is becoming increasingly public. It's about the rules that determine which bills make it to the floor.

Senate President Stan Rosenberg says the joint-committee structure gives the House more power.  Last month he took his cause to Twitter and Facebook.

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Politics & Government
6:22 pm
Mon April 13, 2015

Legislature Aims To Rollback Baker's $5 Million Tourism Budget Cut

In terms of employment, tourism is Massachusetts' third largest industry.
Credit WGBH News

Massachusetts lawmakers expect the legislature to undo cuts proposed by Governor Charlie Baker to the 16 regional councils that advertise local tourist attractions.

This is the second time in several days that the Democratically controlled legislature has shown signs of resistance to the Republican Governor's plans to balance the state budget, which is out of whack to the tune of $1 billion.

Last week the state Senate expressed reservations about plans to offer early buyouts.

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Local News
7:53 pm
Thu April 9, 2015

AG Healey Joins Bid To Offer Corinthian College Students Relief From Loans

Attorney General Maura Healey is seeking relief for students burned by a for-profit college.
Credit Steven Senne/Associated Press

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey has joined with eight other attorneys general to ask the US Department of Education to forgive the school loans of students enrolled at a for-profit college chain. 

Healey and the other attorneys general sent a letter to the Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. The letter asks his department to relieve Corinthian College students of their obligation to repay their federal student loans.  

Here's Healey:

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Local News
9:27 am
Thu April 9, 2015

Panel Report Rips MBTA

Passengers board a Red Line MBTA train at Park Street.
Credit Anne Mostue / WGBH News

A panel convened by Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker to examine the MBTA ripped the transit agency, saying it’s in severe financial distress, has ineffective management and struggles to complete all types of projects.

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Politics & Government
6:39 pm
Mon April 6, 2015

State Senate Skeptical Of Baker's Buy Out Plan To Fix Budget Defecit

If Gov. Baker's early retirement plan is rejected, the alternative to balancing the budget would be layoffs.
Credit Fogster

  The Massachusetts State Senate is not fully on board with an early retirement program proposed by the governor and passed by the House.

Governor Charlie Baker wants to offer thousands of state employees early retirement packages in order to help plug a $1 billion plus budget hole.  

Senate President Stan Rosenberg has some reservations:

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Local News
9:41 am
Fri April 3, 2015

As Mass. Heroin Deaths Exceed 200, Rehab Beds Remain Scarce

The plague continues.
Credit Wikimedia Commons

Heroin addicts and their families Thursday sad there are not enough beds in treatment facilities. Speaker after speaker shared that point at a State House meeting of the Massachusetts heroin task force.

“I’m getting a lot of messages and it’s horrible,” said William Pfaff, who founded the group Heroin is Killing My Town. 

Pfaff read one of those messages to the panel: “We could not find that bed.  We called and asked around.  But we don’t need the bed anymore. They died."

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Local News
5:17 pm
Wed April 1, 2015

Baker Declines To Nix Indiana Travel

Governor Baker
Credit AP Photo

The governors of Connecticut, Vermont and New York have banned non-essential state-funded travel to Indiana in the wake of a controversial law critics say discriminates against gay people. Massachusetts' governor is declining to do the same.

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Politics & Government
5:14 pm
Tue March 31, 2015

Hollywood On The Charles: State Looses 77 Cents On Each Dollar Of Film Tax Credits

Emotions were in full flower at the legislative hearing to consider repeal of the film-tax credit.
Credit Fogster

 At a contentious state house hearing today, workers argued that Governor Charlie Baker's proposal to eliminate the 25 percent film tax credit will cost Massachusetts thousands of jobs. 

The hearing room was packed with union reps and small business owners. Some wore yellow stickers saying films equal jobs.

Deb Cutler, a Boston-based set decorator, said: “75 percent of my job is buying things and I buy everything in Massachusetts whether its furniture, hardware, antiques, artwork, window treatment lighting.  It’s all bought here.”

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Local News
9:50 am
Wed March 25, 2015

Nothing's Easy: The Ins And Outs And Politics Of An Olympic Ballot Question

Boston 2024 says it wants to collect signatures to put a referendum on the ballot, asking Massachusetts residents if they want to host the Olympics. But Secretary of State Bill Galvin's office is raising a red flag.

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Local News
9:22 am
Tue March 24, 2015

AG Maura Healey Argues Against Legalizing Marijuana

Attorney General Maura Healey
Credit Steven Senne/Associated Press

While Massachusetts state lawmakers are mulling a bill to legalize recreational marijuana, Attorney General Maura Healey is publicly lobbying against the idea.

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Politics & Government
8:47 am
Tue March 24, 2015

Beacon Hill Leaders To Hire A $250K Consultant To Advise On Boston Olympic Bid

Beacon Hill leaders are looking to spend up to $250,000 to hire a consultant to look into Boston's Olympic bid. 

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Politics & Government
10:54 am
Wed March 18, 2015

AG Moves To Regulate E-Cigarettes

A sales associate demonstrates the use of a electronic cigarette and the smoke like vapor that comes from it in Aurora, Colo. on Wednesday, March 2, 2011.
Credit AP Photo/Ed Andrieski

New proposed regulations of e-cigarettes in Massachsuetts are attracting some unlikely allies.

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey wants to prohibit the sale of e-cigarettes to minors, ban free giveaways  and require the devices to be stored behind the register.

Jon Hurst represents Massachusetts retailers.  He’s supporting these regulations.

“Frankly we would prefer a good moderate statewide law, then a crazy quilt of local ordinances."

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Politics & Government
7:57 am
Tue March 17, 2015

Legislature Plans To Hire Olympics Consultant To Shield Taxpayers

A rendering of the proposed 2024 Olympics.
Credit Boston 2024

Top Massachusetts lawmakers say the state is moving forward with a plan to hire an outside consultant to make sure no taxpayer money is used for a potential 2024 Boston Olympics.

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Politics & Government
8:39 am
Wed March 11, 2015

Galvin: Baker Didn't Budget For 2016 Primary

Credit Fogster

Gov. Charlie Baker didn't budget enough money for Massachusetts to run presidential primaries in 2016, according to Secretary of State Bill Galvin.

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Politics & Government
9:05 am
Tue March 10, 2015

Baker's Budget Would Mean Fewer Lottery Games — And Less Revenue For Cities

Lawmakers on Beacon Hill hold their first public meeting Tuesday about Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker's budget plan — there's one particular point of contention.

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Politics & Government
9:01 am
Fri March 6, 2015

Baker's Homelessness Plan Is Much The Same As Patrick's — But It Just Might Work

Massachusetts Gov.-elect Charlie Baker, center, greets diners while serving meals at the Pine Street Inn homeless shelter in Boston, Wednesday, Dec. 24, 2014.
Credit AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

    

Gov. Charlie Baker laid out a seemingly intractable problem at at a press conference this week.

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