|Kennedy steps down from Senate Judiciary panel
WASHINGTON — Sen. Edward Kennedy said last Friday he is stepping down from his Senate Judiciary Committee post to focus on achieving a breakthrough on health care reform.
The Massachusetts Democrat said he was hopeful of achieving progress with President-elect Barack Obama taking over the White House. Kennedy, who is fighting a malignant brain tumor, chairs the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee and was a strong Obama backer during the 2008 campaign.
“I expect to lead a very full agenda in the next Congress, including working with President Obama to guarantee affordable health care, at long last, for every American,” Kennedy said in a statement. “This is the opportunity of a lifetime, and I intend to make the most of it.”
Kennedy, 76, has championed universal health care coverage for more than four decades in the Senate. He has been consulting with staffers, other senators and health care advocates for months on a new blueprint for extending coverage.
Kennedy’s statement also noted that Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada had asked Democrats to reduce their committee assignments to give junior lawmakers more opportunities.
Kennedy had a seizure in May and underwent surgery in June for the brain tumor. After undergoing chemotherapy and radiation, he has increased his public activity. He spent time working on health care reform while recovering at his Cape Cod and Washington homes. He has held several video conferences with lawmakers and staff on the issue in recent months.
He returned to work in the Senate last month for the first time since last summer. In July, he made a surprise return to Capitol Hill to vote on a Medicare bill.
Kennedy is vacationing with his family in Florida and expects to return to Washington when Congress reconvenes in early January.
As a senior member of the Judiciary panel, Kennedy has been a leader on civil rights issues and immigration issues. He played a key role opposing Robert Bork, the conservative whose Supreme Court nomination failed in 1987.
“I remain deeply committed to civil rights, equal opportunities and immigration reform, and I will always be involved in those important debates and discussions,” Kennedy said.
Earlier last week, Kennedy received an honorary degree from his alma mater at Harvard University.
|Mass. lottery forecasts deeper ticket sales drop
The staggering economy has brought bad news to the Massachusetts State Lottery: The agency has increased its estimate of how much it expects ticket sales to decline this year.
The lottery now says it expects a 4 percent drop in sales, or about $200 million, compared to the last year. It previously predicted a 1.5 percent drop in sales, or about $75 million.
The agency now expects to turn over $863 million to cities and towns, instead of $903 million.
Mark Cavanagh, the lottery’s executive director, said the lottery had been running ahead of last year’s record $4.7 billion in sales until the fiscal crisis hit in September.
He said $3 million has already been cut from the lottery’s operating budget and the agency is looking for more savings.
Patrick not pleased with diversity of his court nominees
Gov. Deval Patrick is criticizing himself for not nominating enough minority judges.
Just two of the 29 judges Patrick has nominated have been minorities, a record he told The Boston Globe last Friday is “not good enough.”
Because he is the state’s first black governor, there were expectations that he would increase diversity on the bench.
But the Democrat’s rate of minority nominations is lower than his three Republican predecessors at their terms’ midpoint. The number of minority judges in Massachusetts has fallen to 10.2 percent, down from 10.9 percent, under his administration.
Of his 29 nominations, eleven have been women, one of whom is Hispanic, and one has been black.
Patrick says he is pleased with the quality of his nominees.
|Firings hitting Mass. secretaries, clerks hardest
Secretaries and clerical workers in Massachusetts are taking the biggest hit as companies race to reduce staff.
The Boston Herald reported last week that nearly 17 percent of those receiving unemployment insurance benefits in October had lost an office or administrative support job — known as the “pink collar” work force.
More than 13,000 of “pink collar” workers are now receiving benefits, up from less than 10,000 a year ago.
And the numbers are only expected to grow as more companies tighten their belts in the down economy.
Those working as secretaries and clerical staff say their work is often underestimated — until they are let go and others have to pick up the slack.