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
4:10 pm
Tue January 20, 2015

Baker Pegs Mass. Budget Shortfall At $765M

Gov. Charlie Baker
Credit Gretchen Ertl/AP Images for Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology.

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker says the state is facing a whopping budget gap that’s far bigger than the previous administration estimated.

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Local News
4:43 pm
Mon January 12, 2015

Charlie Baker Meets With State Democrats For First Time

Republican Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker downplayed any potential areas of conflict as held his first face to face meeting with the Democratic leaders of the House and Senate.

The atmosphere was chummy as Baker, House Speaker Bob Deleo and new senate president Stan Rosenberg emerged from the closed door meeting. Former Governor Deval Patrick held regular private meetings with Democratic leadership. Baker is continuing the tradition.

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Local News
5:05 pm
Thu January 8, 2015

Baker Calls For Fast Action On Charter Schools

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker called for fast action on charter schools in his inaugural speech on Thursday.

Baker said traditional public schools will always be the backbone of the education system, but...

"We need more high performing public charter schools, especially in under performing school districts.”

Baker's predecessor, Democratic Governor Deval Patrick, had been cool to charter schools. Last year, the Massachusetts House passed a bill lifting a cap on the number of charters, but the Senate let the proposal die.

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Local News
9:49 am
Thu January 8, 2015

DeLeo Kicks Off 4th Term As Speaker

House Speaker Robert DeLeo greets the crowd at his swearing-in.
Credit Sarah Birnbaum / WGBH News

Bob DeLeo sailed to a fourth term as speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives Wednesday, joining new Senate President Stan Rosenberg in presiding over the 189th session of the Massachusetts General Court. The day was dominated by ceremony.

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Politics & Government
2:14 pm
Tue December 23, 2014

Grading Deval Patrick On Education

Gov. Deval Patrick
Credit Meredith Nierman / WGBH

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick is leaving office next month after eight years. Patrick instituted bold and controversial educational policies in the middle of his term, in part to close what's called the achievement gap between students with different economic and racial backgrounds. Did the governor meet his goals?

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Politics & Government
9:32 am
Tue December 9, 2014

Boosters, Opponents Clash Over Boston 2024 Olympics Bid

Critics slammed boosters of a Boston Olympics for a lack of transparency at the first public debate on the city's bid yesterday.

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Local News
5:06 pm
Mon December 8, 2014

Olympic Committee Changes May Benefit Boston Bid

Olympic boosters and opponents will host the first public debate on whether Boston should host the 2024 summer games.

Former Boston City councilor Mike Ross will be making the case for hosting the Olympics, alongside the chair of the group No Boston Olympics.
 
Last week a private group formally submitted a bid to host the games. They say the event would cost less than $5 billion - paid for with private funds - although that number does not include road and other infrastructure projects.

Local News
8:01 am
Mon December 8, 2014

Kinder Morgan Re-Routes Mass. Natural Gas Pipeline Through N.H.

Opponents of a proposed natural gas pipeline protest on Boston Common July 30, 2014. Kinder Morgan has proposed the $3.75 billion extension of its northeast pipeline through Massachusetts and says will provide clean-burning natural gas to the northeast.
Credit (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Kinder Morgan is filing paperwork Monday with the Federal government to change the route of a proposed controversial natural gas pipeline. It would bypass central Massachusetts and goes through southern New Hampshire instead.

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Local News
4:11 pm
Mon December 1, 2014

Commission Recommends Pay Raise For Mass. Governor

Credit Fogster

An advisory commission created by the Massachusetts legislature is recommending significant pay raises for the governor and other top leaders.

 Right now, the governor makes $150,000 a year. The panel recommends raising that by $35,000 and adding a $65,000 housing allowance. Ira Jackson is a dean at UMass Boston and chair of the commission:

  “The governor is the CEO of the largest institution in the state.  And yet there are 1,254 state employees who earn more than the governor, including every member of the governor’s cabinet and the governor’s chief of staff."

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Politics & Government
1:56 pm
Wed November 26, 2014

Mass. Blue Law Keeps Bay Staters From Shopping On Thanksgiving

In most of the country, national chains like Best Buy and Target open their doors on Thanksgiving Day. But in Massachusetts, a state law keeps shoppers at the dinner table.

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Local News
5:26 pm
Mon November 24, 2014

Health Connector Hiccups For Immigrants

Some immigrants are having trouble signing up for insurance on the Massachusetts health care exchange website. 

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Politics & Government
3:13 pm
Thu November 20, 2014

DeLeo Won't Back Patrick's Plan To Cut Aid To Cities And Towns

Massachusetts House Speaker Bob DeLeo – the top Democrat in the House — says he will not back the governor’s plan to cut $25.5 million in direct state aid to cities and towns. 

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Local News
4:57 pm
Tue November 18, 2014

Markey Slams Keystone XL Oil Pipeline

Credit Richard Vogel/AP via NPR

Massachusetts’ two U.S. senators are planning to vote against the Keystone XL pipeline project.

Senators Elizabeth Warren and Edward Markey say they’re opposed to the crude-oil pipeline, which would run from Canadian tar sands to Gulf coast refineries.

Markey argued on the Senate floor the pipeline would enable Canadians to export oil out of the United States. 

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Politics & Government
9:16 am
Tue November 18, 2014

Health Connector Website Relaunches Smoothly

The Massachusetts Health Connector website.

State officials say the new Massachusetts health-care website is running well, despite some minor glitches.

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Politics Government
5:06 pm
Wed November 12, 2014

Patrick Hopes To Spare School Aid In Pending Budget Cuts

Credit (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick says he’d like to spare public schools from the next round of budget cuts.  

Governor Patrick says he's working up a plan to close the 325 billion dollar budget gap : “The only thing that I would not like to go near is chapter 70 funding but we’re looking to see if we can get  there with everything else on the table.”

Chapter 70 funding is state assistance for public schools.  The administration has also said  it won’t dip into the state's rainy day fund.

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Politics Government
3:13 pm
Tue November 11, 2014

Patrick Sends A Commutation And Four Pardons To The Governor's Council

Credit (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick says he is acting in the interest of justice in commuting the prison sentence for a nonviolent drug offender and granting 4 pardons.

"There’s very strong cases made in the five recommendations that I have and I think some basic justice that we can do and should do.  And now it’s up to the governor’s council."

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Local News
5:50 pm
Mon November 10, 2014

After Gas Tax Defeat, Mass. House To Tackle Transportation Funding

Incoming Massachusetts Senate President Stan Rosenberg says lawmakers will have a challenge ahead of them when it comes to paying for road repairs.  That's after voters last week said "no" to automatically raising the gas tax with inflation.

“It causes a bit of a problem but the voters have spoken. And it’s gone. It’s off the table. We have to think about how we’re going to finance transportation going forward.”

Politics & Government
11:18 am
Thu November 6, 2014

Charlie Baker's The Next Mass. Governor. Now What?

Bleary-eyed Charlie Baker staffers stumbled into a room at the Seaport Hotel Wednesday morning. They'd been following returns all night.

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Local News
4:46 pm
Mon November 3, 2014

Baker, Coakley Make Their Final Pitch To Voters

Democrat Martha Coakley and Republican Charlie Baker their final pitches to voters on Monday, the last full day of campaigning before the election for Massachusetts Governor.

At a small diner in Braintree, Baker gave hugs, put on a Braintree baseball cap -- backwards -- and gratefully accepted a gingerbread man decorated to look like him. he joked around with voters, like city Councilman John Mullaney.

"It’s the first time I’ve ever gone Republican," Mullaney said. "I’m going to my psychiatrist"

You know, it won’t hurt," Baker told him.

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Local News
8:27 am
Wed October 29, 2014

Baker, Coakley Strike Emotional Tone In Final TV Debate

Credit AP Photos

Candidates for Massachusetts governor Martha Coakley and Charlie Baker covered little new ground when they met last night for the final televised debate. But both become emotional at one point.

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Politics & Government
8:19 am
Tue October 28, 2014

Coakley, Baker Go On Offense In Debate

Charlie Baker, left, and Martha Coakley debate at NECN.
Credit Courtesy NECN.

The major party candidates for Massachusetts Governor squared off in their most heated debate yet Tuesday night, as the candidates traded accusations and vigorously defended themselves.

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Politics & Government
9:21 am
Wed October 22, 2014

Baker, Coakley Trade Tax Barbs, Want To Be Liked In Debate

Martha Coakley and Charlie Baker debate at WGBH Tuesday night.
Credit Meredith Nierman / WGBH News

Republican gubernatorial candidate Charlie Baker and Democrat Martha Coakley accused each other of misleading voters about their tax plans at Tuesday night's WGBH News/Boston Globe debate.

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Politics & Government
9:45 am
Mon October 20, 2014

Ed Markey, Brian Herr Square Off In Senate Race Debate

Generating little attention this year is the election for U.S. Senator in Massachusetts. Democratic incumbent Ed Markey faces former Hopkinton selectman, Republican Brian Herr.

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Local News
4:41 pm
Thu October 16, 2014

U.S. Budget Cuts Could Endanger Local Ebola Efforts

Health experts say federal budget cuts could threaten Massachusetts’ ability to fight Ebola if it comes to the state.
 
Dr. Paul Bidinger is Chief of Emergency Preparedness at Mass General Hospital.
 
Testifying before state lawmakers on Thursday, he said hospitals use federal funds to buy protective suits and to support emergency training exercises.
 

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Local News
4:07 pm
Thu October 16, 2014

Braintree Mayor Describes Ebola Confusion

Braintree Mayor Joseph Sullivan faced a panel of state lawmakers Thursday about last weekend’s Ebola scare in his town.

Mayor Sullivan described confusion and communication problems between emergency workers on the ground and state department of public health officials.

“Cell phones created a lot of static noise, supervisory staff could not hear, we had different individuals on different cell phones all doing their best but having individual conversations with DPH personnel.”

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Politics & Government
4:31 pm
Wed October 15, 2014

Super PAC Ads Hit Both Sides In Mass. Governor's Race

In the Massachusetts Governor’s race, outside groups on both the Republican and Democratic sides are spending millions of dollars.

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Local News
3:53 pm
Tue October 14, 2014

Mass. Dems, GOP Roll Out The Big Names This Week

Massachusetts Democrats and Republicans are rolling out the big names this week to campaign for their candidates for Governor.

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Local News
5:20 pm
Thu October 9, 2014

Kerry Rings The Alarm On Climate Change

 

Secretary of State John Kerry says the country and the world need to confront the threats of climate change while there's still time.

 

“I know that climate change to some people can feel like a distant future prospect, maybe even a future challenge.  That’s dangerous – falling prey to that perception.  Because it’s not.”

 

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Politics & Government
1:34 pm
Thu October 9, 2014

Kerry Says Saving Kobani Not Coalition Goal

John Kerry spoke in Charlestown Thursday.
Credit Howard Powell / WGBH News

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says that protecting the Syrian border town of Kobani is not the main objective of U.S.-coalition forces.

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Local News
6:36 pm
Wed October 8, 2014

Coakley, Baker Spar Debate Super PACs, CEO Salary

Republican candidate for governor of Massachusetts, Charlie Baker, and Democratic nominee Martha Coakley squared off Wednesday for the second time in 12 hours. They debated issues ranging from TV ads to Baker’s former salary.
 
Business leaders sipped coffee and ate breakfast, while the candidates stood next to each other at the front of a large hotel ballroom.  On the menu? Eggs, potatoes and superPACS.
 

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