Gov. Maura Healey knew coming into office at the start of 2023 that Massachusetts’ emergency shelter system was already experiencing issues as more people sought refuge in state-funded temporary housing.

But an influx of migrants fleeing unstable home conditions and rising housing costs hurting vulnerable residents already here pushed the shelter network to the brink, producing a logistical headache for Beacon Hill and one of the top political stories of the year.

“I certainly knew that we had a migrant crisis when I took office,” Healey said in an interview with the Herald earlier this month. “What I didn’t know is that it would grow exponentially worse.”

From the overburdened shelters to former U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts Rachael Rollins resigning in disgrace and continued woes at the MBTA to legislative action (or inaction), 2023 shaped up as a head-spinning year for those in power in the Bay State.

Shelters burst with newly-arrived families and those from right here at home

Democratic governors across the country have experienced headwinds with a surge of migrants arriving in their non-border states, sometimes at the behest of Republican governors who send them there in what they say is an effort to demonstrate the challenges southern leaders face on a day-to-day basis.

Healey is no exception. The shelter system has hovered around the 7,500-family-limit since it was put in place in November.

A political firestorm in what some consider a deep blue state — but one that often acts more purple than anything else — whipped up in 2023 over how to pay for the shelter system moving forward.

The debate has run in parallel to whether the state should keep its right-to-shelter law, which requires state government to provide temporary shelter to homeless families with children and pregnant people.

Healey said state officials started to see an exponential rise in the number of people coming to Massachusetts in March. It was not until August, after thousands more families came to the state, that Healey declared a state of emergency, which remains active to this day.

Those who have arrived in Massachusetts from another country have been lawfully let into the United States by the federal government, a point that is often forgotten by critics.

It’s not raining money anymore in Massachusetts

Beacon Hill’s ability to point to consistent tax revenue growth when approving major spending bills may be on the line this fiscal year.

Collections for the first months of fiscal year 2024 have come in below expectations, leading to some concern in the halls of the State House that Massachusetts’ rose-tinted financial picture is in jeopardy.

Top budget writers in the Legislature acknowledged the dismal revenues in November, with Senate Ways and Means Chair Michael Rodrigues describing the situation as having “storm clouds on the horizon.”

“It’s not bright and sunny, it’s not raining money as it has been over the last few years, (but) we are still being responsible in addressing the long-term liabilities of the commonwealth,” he said.

Alarm bells are not ringing for Healey as she looks ahead to fiscal year 2025. She pointed to a “great” bond rating, more than $8 billion in the state’s rainy day account, and a “really strong” foundation in Massachusetts.

Don’t forget — there is still an ominous tab the state may have to pony up and pay to the federal government after officials here learned former Gov. Charlie Baker’s administration mistakenly used $2.5 billion in federal pandemic-era relief funds to pay off unemployment benefits.

New York arrives in Massachusetts

Who had narrow tracks on a brand new segment of the MBTA bringing trains to walking speeds on their bingo card for the year? Not us.

In what has felt like an unbreakable pattern, the troubles at the MBTA continued in 2023 as federal oversight of the agency remained and disruption to commuters persisted.

While it might feel like there is no hope for one of the oldest public transit systems in the world, there is one key difference this year the Healey administration likes to point to: New York’s own Phillip Eng took over as the agency’s general manager.

He arrived in April with a promise to overhaul the beleaguered transit system.

Much to his likely dismay, however, former transit officials left Eng, a veteran of the Long Island Rail Road and the MTA, an unwelcome surprise — the $2.3 billion Green Line Extension that extended service into Medford and Somerville had to slow down because tracks were too narrow.

The MBTA apparently knew about the issue as far back as April 2021, when former General Manager Steve Poftak and Baker were still around. But Eng, who brought in a cadre of officials from New York, made clear that the public would not carry the burden of a slowed-down transit system for much longer.

Rachael Rollins exits the political scene after making a scene

Former U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts Rachael Rollins had quite a year, to put it lightly.

The once-Suffolk County DA resigned from her post after a pair of federal reports accused her of multiple ethics violations.

One report said Rollins “committed an extraordinary abuse of her power” when she violated the Hatch Act, a law prohibiting federal employees from participating in partisan political activity. Another federal report accused Rollins of using her position to try to sway last year’s race for Suffolk County District Attorney between Ricardo Arroyo and Kevin Hayden.

The allegations landed like a bombshell in Massachusetts and exposed the underbelly of local politics in a city historically known for corruption.

Dysfunction junction at the corner of Beacon and Bowdoin Streets

There were notable legislative accomplishments on Beacon Hill this year, mainly a number of sweeping policy changes that were included in the fiscal 2024 state budget and a tax reform bill that finally made it across the finish line.

But the story out of the Legislature in 2023, as highlighted by the other newspaper in town, might be the lack of urgency to push forward bills on some of the most pressing issues facing the state even as the halls of the State House have not been quiet.

Advocates and lobbyists have packed 24 Beacon St. to press lawmakers on everything from housing to gun reform and education to renewable energy, at one point even standing nearly butt naked in the Senate Chamber over the summer.

Still, Democratic supermajorities in the House and Senate have not passed standalone bills on those subjects during the first year of the two-year session. The majority party even got stuck in a spat with Republicans over funding for shelters.

Leftover political pieces from the year that was

The Registry of Motor Vehicles went on a hiring spree after an immigrant driver’s license law took effect … Massachusetts’ statewide police regulatory body released thousands of disciplinary records … but not every department was happy … Republicans picked up a seat in the Senate … That one time Massachusetts made Ron DeSantis’ X (Twitter?) feed … We learned State Auditor Diana DiZoglio could sing … Healey went on an $83,000 trip to Ireland … New Hampshire heated up …Baker’s son pleaded not guilty to an OUI … The state’s pot boss was suspended … The MassGOP tried to remake itself … Former Transportation Secretary Gina Fiandaca announced her surprise departure as rumors swirled



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