Future of Transportation
Gov. Charlie Baker, Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack, MBTA Fiscal and Management Control Board Chairman Joseph Aiello and Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation President Eileen McAnneny will participate in a foundation-sponsored forum titled The Future of Transportation: Paving a Path to Progress, UMass Club, 1 Beacon St., Boston, 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Advancing National Security Innovation
Gov. Baker speaks at the ‘Advancing National Security Innovation: Fostering DoD/New England Industry Collaboration’ conference, hosted by the National Defense Industrial Association’s New England Chapter, UMass Lowell Inn and Conference Center, 3:30 p.m.
A thank you to Game Change participants
New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft and Attorney General Maura Healey host a thank you event for the organizations and schools that took part in the Game Change anti-violence partnership program that seeks to end domestic violence, Gillette Stadium, Cross Pavilion, 1 Patriot Place, Foxborough, 4 p.m.
‘Make it Stop’ symbolism
By now, you’ve probably seen or heard about the Boston Globe’s highly unusual anti-assault-rifle editorial that was not only on the front page – it was the front page, literally a four-page section wrapped around the actual print paper. The Globe’s online site was similarly dominated this morning by the Globe’s “MAKE IT STOP” editorial that called for a ban on the type of assault rifles used in Sunday’s Orlando massacre and in other mass shootings.
The Globe’s editorial package, which obviously mimics the NYT’s now famous front-page editorial on gun control following last year’s San Benardino shooting, comes as members of the Massachusetts congressional delegation boycott moments-of-silence in Washington for the Orlando victims (saying such feel-good gestures only encourage further inaction by lawmakers), filibuster in the Senate and chant in the House chamber for a vote of some sort to restrict access to assault rifles.
But it’s all symbolism. The efforts will lead to little or nothing. How do we know this? From the Globe’s very own Michael Levenson, who writes in a non-editorial story this morning: “But beyond the strong words and symbolic protests, the members of Massachusetts’ congressional delegation say there is little they can do to advance gun-control measures in the Republican-controlled Congress.”
It’s all about the math. Everything else is symbolic political theater.
Trump blinks, NRA winks
Actually, one could well argue that Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump is feeling the pressure for some common-sense gun control measures. Yesterday, he tweeted that he was meeting with the NRA to discuss passing a measure banning people on terrorist-watch lists from buying assault rifles. That’s a political blink. Incredibly, the NRA appeared to blink too. But it was actually more of a wink, in retrospect, as the Herald’s Kimberly Atkins notes: “The gun rights group initially replied to Trump on Twitter with, ‘Our position is no guns for terrorists — period.’ Then Chris W. Cox, executive director of the National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action, clarified that the group’s position had not changed.”
Accuse us of being cynical, but Trump was likely expecting (and hoping for) that response. I.e., more symbolic political theater.
Cram session on Beacon Hill
Like college students facing an intense few weeks before final exams, lawmakers on Beacon Hill are now facing a legislative cram session of their own. Not only is the state budget now seriously out of whack, many other bills – including those related to long-term energy policies, ride-sharing issues and transgender rights – are caught up in an “unusually complex and volatile finale” to the two-year legislative session, reports the Globe’s Jim O’Sullivan.
At the top of the complexity list with just six weeks left in the session is the new state budget, now facing a potential $750 million revenue shortfall. Yesterday, House Speaker Robert DeLeo called for a “pause” on budget deliberations so that lawmakers can get a handle on projected revenues for next fiscal year. But DeLeo went a step further, effectively saying that the Senate has bogged down the budget process with non-budget “policy issues” that further complicate matters, reports State House New Service’s Michael Norton at CommonWealth magazine. The speaker was already signaling yesterday that some legislative bills are going to have to be jettisoned this session, among them Gov. Charlie Baker’s call to cap the amount of sick time state employees can accumulate over the years. Speaking of which …
Public unions denounce Baker’s plan to cap sick time
Public unions were on the warpath yesterday against Gov. Charlie Baker’s plan to cap the amount of unused sick time state employees can accumulate and later cash out upon retirement, showing up in force at a legislative hearing yesterday to make their views known, reports Shira Schoenberg at MassLive. The administration’s proposal came in the wake of huge sick and vacation time cash-outs by top brass within the state’s higher education system. But Baker’s plan “would punish rank and file workers for management abuses of sick leave, while not addressing the true golden parachute issue,” said Marie Cunningham, vice president of the Massachusetts Organization of State Engineers and Scientists.
Public unions can relax a bit. As noted in the item above, House Speaker Robert DeLeo is signaling that the sick-time bill is likely one of many issues that will get punted into the next session.
ExxonMobil accuses Healey of ‘abuse of governmental power’
ExxonMobil is resisting Massachusetts Attorney Maura Healey’s subpoena for millions of documents related to what the oil company might have known over the years about climate change, saying Healey’s probe is a “fishing expedition” and an “abuse of governmental power,” reports Brian Dowling at the Herald. A Healey spokeswoman vowed the AG’s office will continue to “fight aggressively” to obtain information needed to ensure the safety of state residents.
Rosenberg faces a Senate seat challenger: A bona fide, proven-beyond-doubt faker
We’ll just let MassLive’s Dan Glaun run with this one, verbatim from the top: “Until this year, Donald Peltier’s chief mark on the political landscape was his establishment of fake websites, with attached donation pages, for the Republican and Democratic National Committees. Now, he has gone official. Peltier, a South Hadley man whose quick domain name trigger finger and arguably fraudulent use of those websites made him the subject of an ABC News investigation in 2012, has registered to run for state Senate in the Hampshire, Franklin and Worcester District — the same seat occupied by State Senate President Stan Rosenberg.”
You can take your time coming home from Europe, Stan. No need to rush.
Galvin and public records chief are in the running for secrecy ‘award’
Secretary of State Bill Galvin and Supervisor of Public Records Shawn Williams have both been nominated for the Golden Padlock award, given by Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE) to highlight government secrecy, Kyle Scott Clauss of Boston magazine reports. IRE says Galvin and Williams were named for “supporting the withholding of a wide range of public records including race and ethnicity data and a recording of a public official making derogatory comments about two women at a public meeting.” The Massachusetts State Police “won” the award last year.
T police pension finally releases some info
After multiple delays and under a court order, the MBTA Police Association Retirement Plan yesterday released some information on its operations, showing that only one retired T cop earns a six-figure retirement payout, Chris Cassidy and Matt Stout of the Herald report. The report also shows one pensioner has received a $13,000 payout since July of 1986. The fund continues to seek additional taxpayer support to help cover a growing unfunded liability.
Report: T should boost manager pay
Still on the subject of the T: A report to be released Thursday by the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation will argue that one step the MBTA should take to improve performance is to increase pay for key managers, Greg Ryan of the Boston Business Journal reports. The report, which also focuses on the T’s long-term capital needs, says T management salaries are not competitive with similar transit systems nationwide.
State says third Cape bridge no longer main focus
State officials say they have turned their focus away from building a third, toll-supported bridge over the Cape Cod Canal and instead will focus on upgrades to the two existing, outdated structures, Ethan Genter of the Cape Cod Times reports. A proposal for a public-private partnership to build and operate a third bridge first surfaced about three years ago and still has not been ruled out, according to Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack.
Beyond boring municipal ‘weed whacking’ bill wins House OK
The House did some routine gardening work yesterday, as State House News Service’s Colin A. Young reports at WWLP TV: “Gov. Charlie Baker warned that his package of municipal government reforms was some of ‘the most boring weed-whacking stuff you ever saw in your life,’ and the House on Wednesday seemed to agree. The House passed a redrafted version of Baker’s bill (H 4397) unanimously.”
We’re talking really, really boring weed whacking here, like modernizing municipal finance and government, partly by streamlining oversight and incorporating technological advances. But weeding has to be done if the flowers are going to grow.
City’s Uber partnership off to slow start
A much-touted partnership between ride-hailing service Uber and the city of Boston to share data has not lived up to expectations, Adam Vaccaro of Boston.com reports, citing emails uncovered through a public records request. Uber has cited privacy concerns that limit what data it can share and city officials say the information has not yet proven to be as useful for transportation planning and policy decisions as hoped.
Kerry’s controversial yacht on the block
Secretary of State John Kerry has put the 76-foot yacht he owns with his wife Teresa Heinz—the same vessel that got the politician into hot water over whether he deliberately was avoiding paying state taxes by docking it in Newport, R.I.—up for sale, Gayle Fee of the Herald reports. The couple is seeking $4 million for the Isabel, far less than the $7 million they paid for it. The couple has also put their Nantucket home on the market for $25 million.
Meet the new poster boy for the ‘millionaire’s tax’: The buyer of a $37.5M condo in Boston
And, finally, meet John Grayken: A Cohasset native, Dallas private-equity billionaire, an American turned Irish citizen, owner of a private island off of Cohasset, and now the owner of Millennium Tower’s 13,000-square-foot penthouse condo, taking up the entire 60th floor, with a 2,000-square-foot outdoor terrace, reports Catherine Carlock of the Boston Business Journal. The price tag: $37.5 million. Proponents of the so-called “millionaire’s tax” may have just found their poster boy for why the future ballot-question measure should pass.
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