Attorney General Maura Healey Unveils Aggressive Agenda
Names Community Engagement, Violence Prevention, Casinos, Youth Protection as Top Priorities
BOSTON — Attorney General Maura Healey rolled out an aggressive first-term agenda today focused on engaging with the public, tackling heroin and prescription drug abuse, holding casinos to their promises to Massachusetts and better protecting young people on the streets, in their homes and online.
In an inaugural address at historic Faneuil Hall after being sworn in by Chief Justice Ralph Gants, Healey vowed to forcefully carry forward her core values and back it up by tackling challenges from campus sexual assault and guns on the streets to health care and energy costs.
“As the people’s lawyer, the Attorney General is here to take on those tough challenges,” Healey said in an address to 800 attorneys and staff from the office, family, friends and supporters. “Fighting for opportunity across Massachusetts and securing its promise for every resident, that is my commitment to you.”
Healey promised to work every day to tackle her aggressive plan and build on the record of excellence established by her predecessor, Attorney General Martha Coakley, who attended the swearing-in alongside Governor Charlie Baker, Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, Speaker Robert DeLeo, Mayor Marty Walsh and dozens of other leaders and law enforcement officials.
“All of this is a tall order for maybe the shortest person ever elected to this office,” said Healey, who is a 5-foot, 4-inch former college and professional basketball player. “But I’ll be at every community meeting, courthouse and, yes, every basketball court I can get to where there are willing partners to roll up their sleeves and turn these words into action.”
The 43-year-old Charlestown resident was elected Attorney General in November after serving for seven years as a leader in the office – beginning as chief of the Civil Rights Division in 2007 and later running nearly half the office as chief of the Public Protection and Advocacy Bureau and the Business and Labor Bureau. She led the office’s work in helping successfully topple the wrong-headed Defense of Marriage Act in the U.S. Supreme Court and in leading the nation on protecting homeowners through the innovative HomeCorps program. She previously was a senior litigator at a Boston law firm.
In her address , Healey proposed creating two new divisions within the office to help keep her promise to be the people’s lawyer and to use the resources of the office to better protect at-risk young people.
The new Division of Community Engagement will work to bring to life and action her values of responsiveness, inclusion and integrity.
“Through events and social media, with our website and with video, through robust consumer hotlines and a strong presence in regional offices across the state, we will strengthen our efforts to engage and serve the public,” Healey said. “That is how we will lead the people’s law firm.”
Specifically, the new division will improve coordination between outreach and intake processes in the office, use technology to track complaint trends and focus potential investigations, and create improved mechanisms for the office to respond to constituent complaints in a coordinated and timely manner. Healey also intends to require each division in the office to develop engagement plans to ensure that the public understands the breadth of services and assistance available through the office.
Healey also intends to create a regular “Ask the AG” online forum, attend public meetings in regional offices and launch new announced “office hours” in places without permanent offices.
The new Attorney General also reiterated plans to aggressively tackle unscrupulous, for-profit colleges which prey on students offering empty promises of jobs while saddling students with significant debt, and to establish a first-in-the –nation division focused on protecting young people, the Child and Youth Protection Division.
“The division will fight to keep our children safe and healthy, in their schools and in their homes, on the streets and online,” Healey said. “Together with our partners, we will take on teen addiction, dating violence and child abuse and find ways to reduce the number of young people in our juvenile justice system. And we will work with our state agencies to help ensure the reforms we need.”
Reiterating commitments made in her first major policy pronouncement last week, Healey said she will work with Governor Baker’s administration to ebb the public health crisis in heroin and prescription drug abuse. She shared tragic stories she has heard from families in Massachusetts since her announcement and vowed to stand with families demanding immediate and long-term solutions.
The new Attorney General, who has consistently raised concerns about casino gambling, struck a strong tone for needed consumer protections as casinos open in the coming months.
“The casinos have made many commitments in exchange for their licenses. As the people’s lawyer, I will hold them to those commitments and make sure they follow the law,” Healey said.
Violence will continue to be a key part of the Attorney General’s efforts, Healey said, from guns on the streets and in our neighborhoods to a culture of sexual assault extending from college campuses to communities around the state. Healey also vowed to work with Mayor Walsh to create the state’s first safe house for victims of human trafficking in Boston.
She also thanked AG Coakley and those in the office for their service, vowing to build on the work done the last eight years.
“You led an office defined by excellence and integrity,” Healey said to Coakley. “The work we do going forward would not be possible without your leadership over the last eight years.”