Advice for Charlie Baker: Patrick programs worth keeping

26 Dec Advice for Charlie Baker: Patrick programs worth keeping

A new administration brings a mandate for change, but some of outgoing Governor Deval Patrick’s programs are well worth preserving or expanding. Here, Globe Opinion writers suggest some programs that Governor-elect Charlie Baker ought to keep.

Grant visas to entrepreneurs

Governor Patrick’s innovative Global Entrepreneur in Residence program — which Fortune magazine called a “clever immigration workaround” — is exactly how state government should be thinking about immigration and talent retention. The program takes advantage of a legal provision that exempts H-1B visa candidates sponsored by a research institution from the visa cap. Applicants must be entrepreneurs just graduated from an area college, with a solid business model; they can work for the research arm of the partner university while developing their startups. For Massachusetts, which has so many great colleges and universities, it makes perfect sense to keep foreign students who happen to be entrepreneurial. — MARCELA GARCÍA

Keep fixing bridges, fast

The closings of the Long Island Bridge, the lifeline to a homeless shelter, and the Old Northern Avenue Bridge, connecting the Innovation District and the Financial District, are a stark reminder of how critical these spans are to the poor, rich, and working class. So Baker must extend the Patrick administration’s Accelerated Bridge Program. Funded through 2016, the $3 billion effort has dropped the number of structurally deficient bridges in Massachusetts from 543 to 416. Without it, the number of crumbling bridges would have risen to nearly 700. When people talk about connectivity today, they usually mean 4G, Wi-Fi, and Internet speeds. But it’s just as critical to keep the Commonwealth connected with nuts, bolts, and girders. — DERRICK Z. JACKSON

Invest in neglected cities

In downtown Springfield, the Patrick administration helped revitalize a five-block stretch by investing in the Pioneer Valley Life Sciences Institute, where researchers from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and clinicians from Baystate Medical Center work together. State grants helped reopen the Lynn Vocational Technical Institute and the Greater Lawrence Vocational Technical School, which had closed because of budget cuts during the recession. Now students can prepare for careers in precision machining, which afford middle-class salaries without enormous college debt. Baker should follow Patrick’s lead and push for investments in innovation well beyond Boston and Cambridge. — FARAH STOCKMAN

Go further on guns

This year, Patrick signed a bill to overhaul Massachusetts’ gun laws: a comprehensive package that, among other things, mandates that the Commonwealth finally comply with the National Instant Background Check System by submitting certain mental health records to the federal database for gun background checks. Baker, who supported the bill, should make sure the state follows through. He should also pursue additional recommendations made by a state task force on gun violence — from limiting gun purchases to one per month to launching public service campaigns that encourage people to remove firearms from the homes of family members with serious mental health issues. —MARCELA GARCÍA

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