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.


Local News
5:06 pm
Tue August 26, 2014

Healey Distances Herself From Coakley During Debate

Democratic Massachusetts Attorney General candidate Maura Healey tried to distance herself from her ex-boss, the current Attorney General and candidate for governor, Martha Coakley at a debate Tuesday.

During her campaign against former state lawmaker Warren Tolman, Healey routinely boasted of her accomplishments while working for Coakley in the Attorney General's office. But during the debate at the Boston Globe, Healey gently criticized some other work done in the office, a deal Coakley worked out with Partners Health Care.

Read more
Politics & Government
3:25 pm
Mon August 25, 2014

Grossman, Berwick Attack Frontrunner Coakley In Debate

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Steven Grossman, right, speaks during a debate at the Boston Herald Radio Studio, Monday, Aug. 25, 2014, in Boston. Listening are Martha Coakley, left, and Donald Berwick.
Credit (AP Photo/Boston Herald, Ted Fitzgerald, Pool)

With less a month to go before the primaries, the three Democratic candidates for governor met for a debate Monday on Boston Herald Radio — and this debate made the others look tame.

Read more
Politics & Government
12:27 pm
Fri August 1, 2014

Mass. Legislature Passes Flurry Of Late-Night, Last-Minute Bills

Like college freshmen scurrying to finish their term papers, Massachusetts legislators showed that procrastination doesn't always spell doom. Before last night's deadline, they squeaked through bills aimed at reducing gun violence, creating jobs and strengthening domestic violence rules.

Read more
Local News
4:38 pm
Wed July 30, 2014

Mass. Gets New Abortion Clinic Protection Law

Police in Massachusetts will have new powers to disperse crowds around abortion clinics under a new law signed by Governor Deval Patrick Wednesday.

The governor signed the bill flanked by the Attorney General and the Senate President, the two most powerful women on Beacon Hill. He praised the lawmakers' speedy response to the recent supreme court decision which struck down Massachusetts' 35-foot buffer zone law around abortion clinics.

Read more
Local News
4:18 pm
Wed July 30, 2014

Hundreds Gather At Mass. State House To Protest Gas Pipeline

The debate over a proposed natural gas pipeline across northern Massachusetts reached Beacon Hill on Tuesday. Several hundred people converged on the Boston Common to object to the plan. 

One of the protestors is Carolyn Sellars, who says her family's owned land in Winchedon since 1901.

"My family has protected for 113 years now and we got a notice from Kinder Morgan that they want to bring a pipeline right straight through our one hundred acres of land," she said.

Read more
Politics & Government
3:13 pm
Tue July 29, 2014

State House Renovation Tab Nears $50M

Members of the Massachusetts House and their families and friends wish congratulations after being sworn-in to office in the House Chambers at the Statehouse in Boston, Wednesday, Jan. 5, 2011.
Credit (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

The Massachusetts State House renovation tab keeps growing.

Read more
Politics & Government
5:09 pm
Thu July 24, 2014

State House Democrats Silent On Probation Conviction

As the probation verdict came down Thursday, the State House halls were silent.

When the jury returned with the verdict, there was no reaction from senators who were in the building debating a housing bill.

Read more
Politics & Government
2:57 pm
Wed July 23, 2014

State Rep. Files Measure To Block State From Sheltering Undocumented Children

Today state Rep. Ryan Fattman, a Republican from Sutton, introduced a non-binding resolution on the House floor to stop Gov. Deval Patrick from sheltering immigrant children who have crossed illegally into the U.S.

Read more
Local News
3:36 pm
Tue July 22, 2014

Police Argue For More Control Over Rifle, Shotgun Licenses

The Massachusetts State House dome.
Credit Fogster

  Chiefs of police are urging Massachusetts lawmakers to restore a provision to a gun bill that they say could keep rifles out of the hands of dangerous people. Right now, police can deny someone a license to carry a handgun – even if the person passes a background check. 

The Massachusetts House voted to give police the same discretion when it comes to licenses for rifles and shotguns. But the senate stripped that section out of the bill and gun control advocates are furious.

Read more
Local News
5:09 pm
Mon July 21, 2014

Mass. Gov. Candidates React To Patrick's Stance On Child Immigrants

Candidates for Massachusetts governor are all over the place when it comes to Governor Deval Patrick's offer shelter a thousand children who were caught crossing into the U.S. illegally.

Charlie Baker, who touts himself as a moderate Republican, offered a carefully worded comment on the governor's plan to keep the kids at a military base in Chicopee or Bourne.

 "I think it’s incumbent on the states to be cooperative with the federal government on this issue given the humanitarian crisis that’s at hand," Baker said.  He laid out the conditions:

Read more
Politics & Government
8:19 am
Fri July 18, 2014

State Senate Passes Stripped-Down Gun Bill

The Massachusetts Senate passed a wide-ranging gun bill Thursday, but not before stripping it of a key provision that would have given local police chiefs more discretion to deny licenses for rifles and shotguns.

Read more
Politics & Government
6:28 pm
Wed July 16, 2014

Mass. State Senate Passes Abortion Clinic Safety Bill

With almost unprecedented speed, the Massachusetts Senate passed a bill Wednesday that was crafted after the Supreme Court threw out the state's so-called buffer zone law. 

The vote came just hours after the bill was cleared by committee, but the bill's passage will likely be followed by more legal action.

Read more
Local News
4:11 pm
Tue July 15, 2014

Mass. Senate OK's Social Media Protection Bill

The Massachusetts Senate unanimously passed a bill on Tuesday that would make it illegal for employers to demand access to job applicants Facebook and other social media accounts as part of the interview process. 

State Senator Cynthia Stone Creem is the sponsor of the bill:

"It is not necessary to see someone’s pictures or Instagram before deciding whether to offer them a job, just as 20 years ago we would have cringed at the thought of an employer asking to look through our photo albums. Why is this any different?"

Politics & Government
8:04 am
Tue July 15, 2014

Legislators Write Buffer Zone Workaround Bill

This photo taken Dec. 17, 2013 shows anti-abortion protester Eleanor McCullen, of Boston, standing at the painted edge of a buffer zone outside a Planned Parenthood location in Boston.
Credit (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

Massachusetts Democrats say they've written a new bill providing clear access to abortion clinics, following a U.S. Supreme Court decision that found the state's "buffer zone" law unconstitutional.

Read more
Local News
6:04 pm
Mon July 14, 2014

Beacon Hill Considers New Abortion Clinic Protection

Massachusetts Democrats say they've written a new bill providing clear access to abortion clinics, following a Supreme Court decision that found the state's "buffer zone" law unconstitutional.

Read more
Local News
5:44 pm
Thu June 26, 2014

Mass. Poised To Have Highest Minimum Wage In The Nation

Massachusetts is poised to have the highest minimum wage in the country.

Governor Deval Patrick signed into law today a bill gradually raising the wage from $8 an hour to $11. Hundreds of union leaders, workers and activists cheered as Patrick signed the bill at the State House.

 “Raising the minimum wage is about bringing a little relief to the working poor many of whom can do jobs we cannot live without.  An who by the way will recycle that money right back into the economy.”

Read more
Local News
5:14 pm
Wed June 25, 2014

DeLeo: Casino Ban Would Strain Budget

Massachusetts speaker of the House Bob Deleo says lawmakers would have to patch a multi-million dollar hole in the state budget if voters choose to repeal the casino law in November.

“We would have to make some difficult decisions in terms of cuts. That’s one of the issues I thought about this morning actually,” DeLeo told reporters Wednesday. 

The state is banking on $54 million in casino licensing fees and $20 million in slot parlor money in the budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

“We’ve already started to use it and depend upon it.”

Local News
10:29 am
Tue June 24, 2014

Mass. Court: Casinos Issue To Go To Voters

Massachusetts' highest court says voters can decide the fate of the state's casino gambling law.

The Supreme Judicial Court ruled Tuesday that a question calling for repeal of the 2011 law can be on the November ballot.

The ruling overturns Attorney General Martha Coakley's finding that the proposed ballot question is unconstitutional because it would cause casino developers to lose property without compensation.

Read more
Local News
3:13 pm
Mon June 23, 2014

Gubernatorial Candidate Evan Falchuk Has Enough Signatures For Ballot

Evan Falchuk

Independent candidate for Massachusetts governor Evan Falchuk has collected enough signatures to make it onto the November ballot.

Read more
Local News
5:37 pm
Thu June 19, 2014

Bill Would Require Welfare Recipients To Search For Work First

The Massachusetts Senate later this week is expected to vote on a welfare reform plan. The House has already approved the bill. 

Read more
Politics & Government
5:15 pm
Tue June 17, 2014

New England Governors Meet To Stem Opioid Abuse

Five New England governors met today to discuss a regional strategy for fighting the surge in heroin and opioid addiction.

Read more
Politics & Government
9:50 am
Mon June 16, 2014

Post-Convention Question: Can Coakley Rain On Grossman's Parade?

Massachusetts state Treasurer Steve Grossman reaches into the crowd from the stage to thank supporters at the state Democratic Convention on Saturday, June 14, 2014 in Worcester, Mass.
Credit (AP Photo Stephan Savoia)

The analysts predicted this would happen, but that doesn’t make it anymore unusual: Treasurer Steve Grossman won the party’s formal endorsement for governor at the state Democratic convention in Worcester.

Read more
Politics & Government
1:26 pm
Fri June 13, 2014

MGM Springfield Awarded State's First Casino License

Rendering for the proposed MGM International Casino in Springfield.

MGM Springfield has been officially named the winner of the state’s first casino license, capping a more than two year process.

Read more
Politics & Government
5:28 am
Fri June 13, 2014

Time For Mass. Dems To Step It Up, Or Drop Out

The Democratic candidates at a Boston Herald debate earlier this week.
Credit Twitter/Joe Battenfeld

On Saturday, 6,000 Democratic activists will meet in Worcester for the state convention to endorse a candidate for governor.

Just how important is that endorsement to the outcome of the race?

Read more
Local News
4:52 pm
Thu June 12, 2014

Mass. May Soon Have The Highest Minimum Wage In The U.S.

Top Massachusetts House and Senate leaders finalized a deal on Thursday that would give Massachusetts the highest state minimum wage in the country.

The plan would raise the minimum wage over the next three years from $8 to $11 per hour. Full-time work at that rate translates to about $21,000 a year. This is a signature issue for Senate President Therese Murray, who says low-wage workers deserve to be valued: 
"We're paying attention to the fact that even though they work hard, they're not making it in Massachusetts and hopefully this will help them."

Read more
Local News
5:54 pm
Wed June 11, 2014

Mass. House Poised To Pass $100 Million Bill To Spur Business Growth

The Massachusetts House is poised to pass a bill that would spend $100 million to spur business growth.

The wide-ranging bill would fund computer science education in public schools.  It would award grants to clean up plots of land contaminated by hazardous materials.  And it would create a new tax credit for angel investors, in the hopes of making it easier for entrepreneurs to raise money for Massachusetts startups.

Representative Joseph Wagner, of Chicopee, is a sponsor of the bill.

Read more
4:46 pm
Tue June 10, 2014

Mass. Democratic 'Rivals' Stay Friendly In Final Debate Before Convention

The five Democrats vying for the support at the Mass. Democratic Convention this weekend debated on Tuesday at the Boston Herald.
Credit Twitter/Joe Battenfeld

The five Democratic candidates for governor of Massachusetts faced off today in a final friendly debate before the convention. 

At one point, Juliette Kayyem accused front-runner Martha Coakley of trying to avoid blame for ruling that a proposed ballot question to repeal the casino law is unconstitutional.

“When you go after banks or use the role of the Attorney General for something good, you always say 'I did this.' On this issue it’s 'we, 'my office.'"

This is as feisty  as the debate got. The "rivals" even posed for a group selfie outside the studio. 

Read more
4:41 pm
Mon June 9, 2014

Big Week For Mass. Democrats

What happens on Saturday at the Massachusetts Democratic Convention in Worcester will affect the outcome of the Governor's race.

Though Attorney General Martha Coakley has continued to enjoy a big lead in the polls against rival Democrats, her campaign is lowering expectations for Saturday's convention results.

Read more
Local News
5:25 pm
Thu June 5, 2014

Mass. Considers Deer Hunting On Sundays

The Massachusetts House of Representatives has passed a bill that would allow deer hunting with bow and arrows on Sundays during deer hunting season. 

Eleven states don’t allow hunting on Sundays- all original members of the 13 colonies.

In Virginia, there’s no hunting on Sunday, except for raccoons until 2am. In Maryland, no hunting on Sunday, except among other things, for using raptors to hunt game birds.

And Massachusetts? No hunting at all. 

State Representative Paul Frost, a Republican from Auburn, is a sponsor of the bill:

Read more
Local News
4:13 pm
Wed June 4, 2014

Mass. Towns Must Create Emergency Plans For Pets

In preparation for hurricane season, Massachusetts passed a new law that requires cities and towns to come up with emergency evacuation and sheltering plans for pets.

Leighton Jones is with the American Red Cross of Massachusetts. He said the law will help protect people as well as animals:

"People won’t evacuate their homes if they aren’t able to take their pets with them. Many people, myself included, consider their pet as a member of a family," he said. 

Read more