Casinos, child welfare among new AG’s priorities


This originally ran in the State House News Service and on 22 WWLP's website

A division of community engagement will also be created in order to engage the public.

By Gintautas Dumcius, State House News Service

BOSTON (State House News Service) – After taking the oath of office, Attorney General Maura Healey on Wednesday put forward an agenda with aggressive stances toward casino operators, for the protection of children online and at home, and against for-profit schools that offer little training.

Healey, a 43-year-old who made her opposition to casinos a key part of her first run for public office last year, on Thursday morning plans to testify in front of the state gambling commission on a number of proposed regulations. The commission, which has so far awarded licenses for planned casinos in Everett and Springfield, meets at 10:30 a.m. at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center.

“Casino operators have made their commitments to communities, they need to be held to those commitments, whether it’s with respect to the jobs promised or the environmental traffic mitigation measures they’ve promised,” Healey, a Charlestown Democrat, said after she was sworn in as the state’s fifty-fifth attorney general inside Faneuil Hall. “Certainly as a consumer advocate in utilizing consumer protection authority, we want to make sure that consumers are protected as things go forward here.”

In her speech, Healey called the office “the people’s law firm” and said she would also establish a division focused on children, as she had said during the 2014 campaign. The division would seek to keep children safe “in their schools and in their homes, on the streets and online,” and tackle addiction issues, dating violence, and child abuse, she said.

The division will also seek to “reduce the number of young people in our juvenile justice system,” she said.

A division of community engagement will also be created in order to engage the public. Healey indicated she would continue former Attorney General Martha Coakley’s oversight of for-profit schools, saying she recently met with a group of young women who enrolled in for-profit schools that “offered little training and no real job opportunities.”

“If you want to prey on our students, then you picked the wrong state,” Healey said.

Healey also pointed to residents facing rising health care costs and a “market they can’t understand” as families struggle to pay loans and heating bills.

A Superior Court judge is weighing a proposed agreement that would allow Partners Health Care to acquire three hospitals with some restrictions, though an independent health care agency has raised concerns that it could lead to increased costs. The accord was worked on by Coakley’s team, and the judge, Janet Sanders, has expressed interest in hearing from Healey.

Healey told the News Service on Wednesday that she has not received any request from the judge to weigh in on the proposal. Healey said in her speech she would seek to improve the state’s prescription monitoring program, enforce the domestic violence law passed last year and target drug traffickers and “pill mills.”

She drew a standing ovation from the crowd when she said she plans with Boston Mayor Marty Walsh to open a “safe house” for victims of human trafficking.

Attendees of Healey’s swearing-in ceremony filled Faneuil Hall to capacity and included former U.S. Sen. Mo Cowan, Gov. Charlie Baker, House Speaker Robert DeLeo, Mayor Walsh, former Gov. William Weld, current and former lawmakers, and judicial officials.

Healey is the first openly gay attorney general and widely considered to be a rising star within the state’s Democratic Party after handily beating former Sen. Warren Tolman in a September primary and Republican John Miller in November.

Asked afterwards by the News Service about the prospect of the Summer Olympics coming to Boston in 2024, Healey, a former pro basketball player, said she’ll “watch that develop.”

“Well, I’m more interested in the Patriots in the Super Bowl, at this point, I’ve got to tell you that,” she added when pressed.

“We all will be learning more through the public conversation that’s going to take place on that issue, which is important,” Healey said.

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