Transgender rights bill vote
The Senate and the House are expected to debate a compromise transgender rights bill that was unveiled yesterday at the State House.
Economic development legislation
The House is expected to debate its version of Gov. Charlie Baker’s $915 million economic development bill, with roll call votes planned to begin at 1 p.m.
Duck boat safety hearing
The Joint Committee on Transportation holds a hearing on a bill that would require increased safety measures for sightseeing vehicles, including the popular Duck Boat tour vehicles, following the death earlier this year of a Boston woman who was struck by a Duck Boat, Room B-2, 10 a.m
Drought task force
With the recent lack of rain across the state, the Massachusetts Drought Management Task Force meets to consider changing the drought level index for some parts of the state, 100 Cambridge St., 2nd Floor, Room D, Boston, 10 a.m.
Walsh denies planting anti-Ortiz story, but then sings the praise of a free press
Mayor Marty Walsh acknowledges that he knew in advance that the Huffington Post was preparing a story on U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz, whose office has been investigating City Hall’s alleged strong-arm tactics on behalf of unions. But he denied he or his chief of staff, Daniel A. Koh, who formerly served as chief of staff to Huffington Post Editor Arianna Huffington and as general manager of Huffington Post Live, planted the story that turned out to be a scathing attack on Ortiz, report the Herald’s Jack Encarnacao and Brian Dowling.
But Walsh obviously loved the piece – and proceeded to wax poetry about the virtues of the Fourth Estate. “I think that the reason why this country is so great is because we have a free press and reporters can write what they feel, and I think that this is another article in a series of articles that have been written, and that’s pretty much what I have to say on it,” said Walsh, whose thoughts seemed to tail off toward the end there, perhaps when he realized Carmen Ortiz reads newspapers too. Indeed, Ortiz’s office did read the Huffington Post story, which basically argues that Ortiz’s office is going after the “good guys” in political corruption cases, with an Ortiz spokeswoman saying that “our office is proud of the work we do here” and that “our work is not focused on one area as that one article insinuates.”
Meanwhile, the Globe’s Joan Vennochi has a great column this morning conceding that Ortiz may be going a little too far in the current City Hall investigation. But she makes the excellent point that it’s been Ortiz and other U.S. attorneys who have gone where local prosecutors have refused to go: “By pursuing political corruption, she’s doing what has become, by default, the US Attorney’s job. Scott Harshbarger, the last AG to make political corruption a priority, paid for it later, when Democratic Party leaders abandoned him during an unsuccessful run for governor. It fell to the US Attorney’s office to prosecute three former speakers of the House — Charlie Flaherty, Tom Finneran, and Sal DiMasi. The US Attorney’s office also prosecuted former state senator Dianne Wilkerson and former Boston city councilor Charles Turner.”
Rapists escaping justice
This is shocking (and depressing): Dozens of convicted rapists have received no prison time for their crimes in recent years in Massachusetts, even convicted rapists with lengthy criminal histories, the Globe’s Matt Rocheleau reports. A Globe review of Massachusetts court system statistics on 305 rape convictions found that in 42 cases, or about 14 percent of the time, defendants received no prison time. That’s higher than the national rate. Plea bargaining and sometimes victims asking for leniency account for some of the no-prison sentences, the article notes.
Meehan: UMass tuition and fees could rise by 5 to 8 percent
University of Massachusetts president Marty Meehan is signaling that tuition and fees at the five-campus system may rise by 5 to 8 percent, far exceeding the growth in inflation and personal income, reports State House New Service’s Michael Norton at Wicked Local. Meehan pointed to recent tuition and fee hikes at Bridgewater State and Westfield State universities, from about 8 percent and 5 percent, and said on Boston Herald Radio that “my guess is that we’ll be somewhere in that same range,” Norton reports.
Baker to oppose driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants
Here’s a hot-button issue: Gov. Charlie Baker is planning to alter language in a budget bill that would have opened the door to illegal immigrants possibly getting state driver’s licenses, the Herald is reporting. “As the commonwealth works to comply with new standards set by the federal government for credential-holders, it is imperative that we provide greater security and ensure that new licenses are only obtained by individuals with proper documentation, including proof of lawful presence,” Baker said.
Simple: No sales tax holiday, no legislative per diems
Writing in the Globe, Meredith Warren, a Republican political consultant, demands a quid pro quo: If lawmakers refuse to approve a sales tax holiday this year, then it should also eliminate legislative transportation per diems, monthly office expenses and committee stipends. Sounds like a fair deal to us, but we’re sure lawmakers might think otherwise. http://www.bostonglobe.com/opinion/2016/07/06/mass-budget-woes-mean-lawmaker-perks-need/NL3cWT53kJRZRGvhzQLyaP/story.html
Compromise transgender rights bill could hit Baker’s desk by end of day
After reaching a compromise yesterday on transgender rights legislation, the House and Senate are expected to take swift action on the bill and ideally have it on Gov. Charlie Baker by the end of the day, according to an Associated Press report in the Herald. Negotiators compromised on a number of differences between the two chambers, including making the law effective Oct. 1, instead of immediately as the Senate originally wanted or Jan. 1 as the House wanted. Significantly, the final bill keeps, with small alterations, House language that would allow the attorney general to issue guidance on what to do with people who make “improper” assertions of their gender identity. That clause was considered key to winning the support of Baker, who’s expected to sign the bill. About 20 other states have already passed similar public accommodations protections for transgender people, according to published reports.
After a little rewriting here and there, the SJC approves marijuana ballot question
The Supreme Judicial Court yesterday approved the ballot question that will ask voters whether to legalize the sale of marijuana in Massachusetts, but in an odd twist the court pulled out a pen, figuratively speaking, and rewrote the language, according to the BBJ’s Jessica Bartlett: “The court said the title of the ballot, ‘marijuana legalization’ will be changed to read ‘legalization, regulation and taxation of marijuana.’ The court has also ordered that the language to the ‘yes vote’ be changed to specify that the law would legalize not just marijuana but edible products as well.”
So why, pray tell, did the court feel compelled to actually rewrite the ballot question? According to Bartlett: “The court said it considered issuing an order to amend the statement, but given the July print schedule of the ballot, ‘there is simply not time.’” In an editorial headlined “SJC going to pot,” the Herald accuses the court of judicial overreach: “You’d think if something needed that much rewriting to adequately explain it, well then maybe it shouldn’t be on the ballot at all — that maybe something so flawed at the petition-signing stage should have to start from scratch.”
In related news, Secretary of State William Galvin’s office says that four campaigns have qualified to put their ballot questions before voters in November. According to SHNS (pay wall), the four ballot questions will ask voters to decide on charter school expansion; legalization of marijuana; a ban on the use of certain restrictive cages for farm animals; and authorization of a second slots parlor in Massachusetts.
Madison Square Garden takes control of Boston Calling (yes, that Boston Calling)
The Madison Square Garden Co. has purchased a controlling share of Boston Calling, the concert series now at the center of federal corruption probe about whether City Hall officials used strong-arm tactics to force Boston Calling and others to use union labor, according to a report at WGBH. Details of the deal were not disclosed. Madison Square Garden owns the famous Madison Square Garden arena in New York, as well as the New York Knicks and Rangers, and Radio City Music Hall.
Massachusetts doctors prescribing fewer opioids, but …
A new analysis shows Massachusetts physicians are apparently prescribing far fewer opioids in response to the addiction crisis roiling the state, Felice J. Freyer of the Globe reports. Athenahealth of Watertown reports that opioid prescriptions are down 25 percent in the state since the start of 2015, far outpacing the 13 percent decline nationwide, a possible sign that efforts to educate doctors on the risks of the powerful drugs are having an effect.
And there are indeed risks – and potentially very lethal risks. The Athenahealth data comes as the state released findings that two out of every three fatal overdose victims had been prescribed opioids at some point, Matt Stout reports in the Herald. The Department of Public Health study looked at the 1,356 known fatal overdoses reported in 2014 and also found that addicts who were forced into treatment were twice as likely to die from an overdose as those who voluntarily sought treatment or had no exposure to formal treatment.
City wants out of T’s money room
The city of Boston is exploring alternatives to the MBTA’s cash-counting facility in Charlestown after a scathing audit found a host of security lapses including propped-open doors and scores of spare keys to safes, Matt Stout reports in the Herald. A spokesperson says the city has been looking for several months for another place to count some $7 million worth of parking meter fares. The city has used the T’s facility for 15 years and says it remains confident in how its cash is being handled.
Credit report restrictions eyed by Senate
The state Senate is expected to take up a proposal today that would restrict employers from using potential employees’ credit reports in deciding whether to offer jobs, Christian Wade reports in the Salem News. Some business groups have come out against the measure, saying credit reports can shine light on whether employees are more likely to engage in illegal behavior.
Despite opposition, Weymouth mayor pushes for larger mixed-use development
Weymouth Mayor Robert Hedlund is asking a developer to scale-up a mixed-use project that has already been called too large by some residents, Christian Schiavone of the Patriot Ledger reports. Hedlund wants the development at Weymouth Landing to grow from 54 apartments to 84 units so the town can qualify for a state grant to pay for the “daylighting” of nearby Smelt Brook.
Brockton continues to evict homeless from tent encampments
Officials in Brockton continue to evict homeless people in tent encampments around the city, several of which have popped up since the mayor ordered the bulldozing of a large-scale camp known as Tent City, Marc Larocque of the Enterprise reports. Larocque also reports that the CSX Corp., which owns the land on which Tent City used to sit, will repay the city for some of the cleanup costs.
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