Four Things to Watch for in Gov. Baker’s State of the Commonwealth Speech

Reform, hydroelectric power, the opiate crisis, and charter schools are some of things he will address.

Governor Charlie Baker

Governor Charlie Baker. Photo via AP

Tonight at 7:30 p.m., Gov. Charlie Baker will take to the dais in the State House to deliver his first State of the Commonwealth speech, reflecting on his first year in office and looking forward to future legislative goals this session.

Based on conversations with Baker staffers, here are four things to expect in tonight’s speech:

1. Government Reform

Baker will celebrate reforms currently being implemented at three of the most disliked agencies in state government: the Department of Children and Families, the Registry of Motor Vehicles, and the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. Look for Baker to talk about changes and improvements to the Health Connector program, too.

2. Hydroelectric Power

Baker pushed for expanded hydroelectric options for the state’s power grid for much of 2015. In the fall, he met with his counterpart in Quebec to discuss importing hydroelectric power generated in Canada as a way to reduce the state’s dependency on fossil fuels and meet greenhouse gas reduction goals. Baker will again press this issue before the House and Senate membership. A report on hydroelectric power in Massachusetts is due out in February.

3. Opiate Crisis

The opiate crisis is a deeply important issue to Baker, so watch for him to push for the passage of legislation to address the growing epidemic. Some of his proposals, like new limits for doctors when prescribing opiates and giving hospitals the power to hold people after overdoses, did not make it into the House version of the bill passed this month.

4. Charter Schools

Baker will call for the legislature to lift the cap on charter schools in Massachusetts in order to allow more school districts to open them. A ballot question to raise the cap on charter schools is expected to make the 2016 statewide ballot. The State Senate recently responded to the potential ballot question by announcing they will take up the charter school cap issue this session and, hopefully, produce some legislation before July.