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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Local News
4:44 pm
Fri April 18, 2014

Body Found In Sterling Could Be Jeremiah Oliver

The body of a small child was found in the woods in Sterling, Mass., Friday. Officials say the remains could belong to 5-year-old Jeremiah Oliver — whose disappearance late last summer raised serious questions about the state Department of Children and Families.

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Local News
2:59 pm
Thu April 17, 2014

MGM Asks For Delay On Springfield Casino Decision

A rendering of the proposed MGM Springfield.
Credit Courtesy MGM

After investing millions of dollars in its Springfield casino bid, MGM is now asking gambling regulators for a delay.

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Local News
7:17 am
Thu April 17, 2014

Anti-Muslim Backlash Missing From Marathon Bombing Aftermath

The Islamic Society of Boston
Credit Wikimedia Commons

Hours after the Boston Marathon bombing suspects were identified as Muslims, the Islamic community there began to fear the worst. But instead of the violence that happened after Sept. 11, Muslims in Boston say — for the most part — they didn’t experience backlash.

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Local News
5:36 pm
Thu April 3, 2014

D.C. GOP Zaps Mass. Health Connector Chief

The head of Massachusetts’ health insurance exchange testified on Capitol Hill Thursday, along with the directors of five other state exchanges. A Republican-controlled subcommittee is examining the most troubled of the websites, set up under the Affordable Care Act. 

 In an embarrassing moment for Health Connector chief Jean Yang, Oklahoma Republican James Lankford produced the minutes from a meeting of the Massachusetts health connector’s steering committee:

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Local News
5:55 pm
Wed April 2, 2014

Mass. House Debates Minimum Wage Bill

The Massachusetts House is debating a bill that would raise the minimum wage  for the first time since 2008 to $10.50 an hour by 2016.

 Representative Tom Conroy, a sponsor of the bill, says make no mistake. this increase  is not going ot make a low wage worker suddenly wealthy:

“This bill is a significant step in the right direction," he said. "And will make it just a little easier for parents to make ends meet and ease the financial pressure in their households.”

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Local News
4:12 pm
Tue April 1, 2014

Remy Case Sparks Beacon Hill Crack Down

Jared Remy, son of Boston Red Sox broadcaster Jerry Remy, stands beside his attorney Edward Ryan Jr., left, during arraignment Tuesday, Oct. 8, 2013, at Middlesex Superior Court in Woburn, Mass., on murder and assault charges in the death of his girlfriend Jennifer Martel. Remy pleaded not guilty in the stabbing of Martel at their Waltham apartment on Aug. 15.
Credit AP Photo/Boston Herald, Ted Fitzgerald, Pool

Massachusetts House Speaker Robert Deleo introduced legislation at the State House Tuesday vowing to make Massachusetts one of the toughest states in the nation on domestic violence cases.  

Speaker Deleo said he began working on the bill last August, after Jared Remy – the son of the Red Sox broadcaster – was charged with stabbing his girlfriend to death. 

“I didn’t know how I could just sit back as a speaker, a father, a man and not do everything I could to stop such senseless acts of violence.”

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Politics & Government
8:29 am
Tue April 1, 2014

DeLeo Hopeful On Minimum Wage Bill

Massachusetts House Speaker Robert DeLeo
Credit (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

Massachusetts House speaker Robert DeLeo maintained Monday that the House and Senate will reach a final agreement on the minimum wage increase and unemployment insurance bills, despite recent delays.

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Local News
6:35 pm
Thu March 27, 2014

Governor Declares Painkiller Crisis

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick declared a public health
emergency today in response to the state's growing problem with heroin
and other opiod addictions.

"At least 140 people died  of suspected overdoses over the last months
in Massachusetts .  Levels previously unseen."

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Politics & Government
8:34 am
Mon March 24, 2014

Charlie Baker's Tea Party Rival Just Misses Gubernatorial Ballot

Charlie Baker stands with his wife Lauren as they are bathed in confetti after accepting the GOP nomination.
Credit (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia)

Massachusetts gubernatorial candidate Charlie Baker just barely kept his Tea Party rival Mark Fisher off the September primary ballot. Party delegates voted on the matter at the State Republican convention this weekend — but the battle could go to the courts.

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Politics & Government
5:07 pm
Fri March 21, 2014

Richard Tisei To Skip State GOP Convention

Richard Tisei

The Massachusetts Republican party gathers Saturday for its nominating convention — but one leading candidate for congress won’t be there.

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Politics & Government
5:55 pm
Thu March 20, 2014

DeLeo's Minimum Wage Bill Hits Snag

Massachusetts House Speaker Robert DeLeo during a press conference at the Statehouse in Boston Thursday, April 21, 2011 where he discussed and unveiled legislation designed to overhaul the state Probation Department.
Credit (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

Massachusetts House Speaker Robert DeLeo's minimum wage bill was scheduled to be released today, but it has hit a roadblock.

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Local News
7:31 am
Thu March 20, 2014

Minimum Wage Details To Be Released Today

The Massachusetts State House
Credit Wikimedia

The details of a proposal by Massachusetts House Speaker Robert Deleo to raise the minimum wage are scheduled for release Thursday.

Speaker Deleo has proposed raising the state's minimum wage from $8 per hour to $10.50.

Deleo's proposal sets up a potential showdown with the Senate which passed a larger minimum wage hike last year. The senate wants to raise the minimum wage to $11 dollars per hour.  

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Politics & Government
4:12 pm
Tue March 18, 2014

Mass. To Spend $3 Million To Combat U.S. Food Stamp Cuts

Massachusetts will join seven other states and the District of Columbia in making an end run around food stamp cuts.

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Politics & Government
5:40 pm
Mon March 17, 2014

Bay State Ditches Health Web Contractor

Sarah Iselin says the Mass. health care website won't be fixed until the fall.

Massachusetts is planning to cut ties the company that built its troubled health care website.

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Politics & Government
6:50 pm
Thu March 13, 2014

Can Technology Fix DCF?

Massachusetts Department of Children and Families Commissioner Olga Roche.
Credit Sarah Birnbaum / WGBH News

A watchdog group hired to review Massachusetts’ troubled child welfare system is calling for better technology and increased staffing levels.

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Politics & Government
1:57 pm
Thu March 13, 2014

House Speaker DeLeo Proposes $10.50 Minimum Wage

Massachusetts House Speaker Robert DeLeo proposed on Thursday gradually raising the state’s minimum wage from $8 an hour to $10.50 — a less aggressive plan than the Senate passed last year.

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Local News
5:00 am
Wed March 12, 2014

Eye Spy: An Invasion Of Privacy?

Are police license plate scanners a violation of our civil rights?
Credit Ross D. Franklin/AP via NPR

Small cameras that record and store our license plate information are popping up almost everywhere, raising alarms around the country. In Massachusetts, privacy advocates are urging the state Legislature to regulate the data. But others say there's something standing in the way – the U.S. Constitution.

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Local News
6:15 pm
Thu March 6, 2014

Beacon Hill Bans 'Upskirting'

Credit Wikimedia

Massachusetts House and Senate lawmakers passed a bill on Thursday to ban the practice of secretly taking photographs up the skirts of women in public just one day after the state Supreme Judicial Court ruled that a man who took cell phone photos up the skirts of women riding the Boston subway did not violate the law.

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Local News
7:11 am
Thu March 6, 2014

Bill Would Allow Undocumented Immigrants Driver's Licenses

A supporter of the Bill at the State House on Wednesday
Credit Sarah Birnbaum / WGBH

Hundreds of immigrant rights advocates on Wednesday pressed Massachusetts lawmakers to change the law to allow undocumented immigrants to obtain driver's licenses.  

The hearing room was standing room only and both sides offered impassioned testimony. 

The sponsor of the bill, Representative Tricia Farley-Bouvier of Pittsfield, argued changing the law would allow people to commute without fear and decrease the number of uninsured drivers on the road:

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Politics & Government
3:01 pm
Tue March 4, 2014

Report: Dookhan 'Sole Bad Actor' In Drug Lab Scandal

Former state chemist Annie Dookhan
Credit Anne Mostue

An investigation by the Massachusetts Inspector General found that chemist Annie Dookhan was the "sole bad actor" in a scandal at the now-shuttered Hinton state drug lab — but added management failures at the lab helped Dookhan get away with faking test results.

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Local News
8:16 am
Mon March 3, 2014

Bill Would Allow Wastewater Dumping Directly Into Ocean

Environmentalists say a bill making its way through the Massachusetts Legislature could put the quality of state ocean water at risk. 

A water infrastructure bill recently passed the state senate with little fanfare. But environmentalists say that tucked into the bill is a provision that rolls back protections for ocean sanctuaries that have been in place for four decades. 

The bill would allow the dumping of treated wastewater into state ocean waters, a practice that has been banned.

ack Clark of Mass Audobahn society said he’s highly concerned.

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Local News
2:28 pm
Thu February 27, 2014

Slots Are Coming To Plainville

Slots are coming to Plainville
Credit iStockphoto via NPR

Massachusetts gambling regulators voted 3-2 for Plainville to be the site of the state’s first and only slots parlor.

The Gaming Commission fiercely debated where they wanted the slots parlor should go. In the end, it came down to Leominster and the Plainridge racetrack in Plainville.

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Local News
4:38 pm
Wed February 26, 2014

Mass GOP's Top Candidates Clash With More Conservative Platform

Charlie Baker
Credit AP Photo

The Massachusetts Republican committee voted last night to adopt a more conservative platform on abortion and gay marriage, setting up a clash with two of the party's leading candidates. 

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Politics & Government
5:49 pm
Fri February 21, 2014

Patrick Says Bumpy Medical Marijuana Dispensary Application Process On Track

Gov. Deval Patrick during a previous appearance on Boston Public Radio.
Credit Meredith Nierman / WGBH News

Massachusetts' medical marijuana process is off to a bumpy start. Today, Gov. Deval Patrick tried to assure residents that everything's under control during an appearance on WGBH News' Boston Public Radio.

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Politics & Government
2:22 pm
Thu February 20, 2014

Gov. Patrick Moves To Cut Recidivism By Half Over 5 Years

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick said Thursday the state is expanding programs to reduce the number of criminals who re-offend. He's aiming to cut that number in half over the next five years.

Patrick is making this push in his final year in office, but he says he's been saying for years that the state’s criminal justice policies need to change.

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Politics & Government
4:55 pm
Wed February 12, 2014

Lawmakers Slam State Health Care Website

Health care executive Sarah Iselin answers questions at an oversight hearing.

Massachusetts lawmakers bashed the state health care website and the Gov. Deval Patrick administration's response to the problems during an oversight hearing Wednesday.

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Local News
4:53 pm
Tue February 11, 2014

Panel Considers A Boston Olympics

With the Olympics underway in Sochi, Boston's Olympic commission is talking about the costs involved in hosting the games. The panel is considering whether Boston should bid to bring the Olympics to New England in the summer of 2024.

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Politics & Government
4:56 pm
Mon February 10, 2014

Patrick Stands By DCF Commisioner Roche

Massachusetts Department of Children and Families Commissioner Olga Roche.
Credit Sarah Birnbaum / WGBH News

Gov. Deval Patrick says he continues to have faith in the commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families.

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Politics & Government
5:26 pm
Thu February 6, 2014

House Votes To Expel Carlos Henriquez

The Massachusetts House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly to expel Rep. Carlos Henriquez, who is serving a six-month jail sentence for assaulting a former girlfriend.

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Local News
1:34 pm
Thu February 6, 2014

DCF Commissioner Called In For Closed-Door Meeting

The Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families was called in for a rare closed-door meeting at the State House today. 

DCF, which has been under fire after Jeremiah Oliver, a 5-year-old Fitchburg boy, went missing while his family was under DCF supervision, usually only holds to discuss an employee’s reputation, health or dismissal.

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