Public Health regulations and transfer review
The Public Health Council will hear a briefing on proposed amendments to regulations regarding the “determination of need” process used to consider physical and service expansions at hospitals and mobile integrated health; the council also plans to vote on the request from Kindred Hospital in Boston, Peabody and Stoughton to transfer nursing home ownership to Curahealth Boston – North Shore, LLC, Public Health Council Room, 2nd Floor, 250 Washington St., 9 a.m.
Goldberg to launch college savings program
Treasurer Deb Goldberg speaks at the launch of the new college savings program “$eedMA,” EcoTarium, 222 Harrington Way, Worcester, 4 p.m.
Tolls going up for some, total savings going down
The Globe has a good chart and an accompanying article about how the switch to an all-electronic tolling system on the Mass Pike and elsewhere, including the airport tunnels, will largely lead to slight toll increases for some and toll decreases for others. The hardest hit motorists will be those who don’t have roadway transponders. Overall, the idea is to make the new system revenue neutral, state officials say. But here’s a seemingly small detail that caught our attention: “State officials also said Monday that the changes — originally projected to save $50 million a year — now will save only $5 million.” And, yes, the word “only” is warranted. How did they miss by $45 million? That’s a huge difference from what was originally touted, sort of like ballooning state construction budgets in reverse. Not that the disappointing savings number negates all the many benefits of switching to an all-electronics system. But huge savings were a major rationale for adopting the new system and now … poof. They’re gone.
Pro-charter school Dems strike back
A week after the state Democratic party officially came out against a November ballot question to expand charter schools across the state, a pro-charter lobby group, Democrats for Education Reform, is seeking a public poll to determine where rank-and-file party members stand on the contentious issue, the Herald’s Kathleen McKiernan and Dan Atkinson report. In particular, the group is furious at the Massachusetts Teachers Association for saying Democrats in general are overwhelmingly opposed to lifting the cap on charter schools in the state, which the group says isn’t true.
The group may or may not have the truth on its side. But truth doesn’t matter much at this point. The fact is last week’s vote by party officials was one step closer to making the anti-charter schools a party orthodoxy – and orthodoxies are among the hardest things to change in politics and life.
Communities weigh whether to wage legal war on fed stormwater rules
Citing what are described as “astronomical” costs tied to new federal stormwater regulations, a number of communities in central Massachusetts are mulling a legal challenge to the rules that some say are “too burdensome, too costly and go far beyond what the federal Clean Water Act intends,” reports Elaine Thompson at the Telegram. Dozens of communities, including Shrewsbury, Upton and Millbury, have already indicated they will join the campaign and help fund the appeal of the fed regulations. Officials in Shrewsbury and Millbury said they also believe the new permit is overstepping the intent and purpose of the Clean Water Act, reports Thompson. The regulations impact more than 200 cities and towns in Massachusetts.
This is going to be a huge issue moving forward, once other towns and cities realize just how expensive it will be to comply with the fed mandate.
State Trooper: A truly bad apple
Prosecutors want to slap “severe restrictions” on the continued release of a State Police trooper awaiting trial on rape and assault charges, after he bragged about his GPS ankle bracelet and threatened to “bury” his former girlfriend, also a state trooper, the Globe’s Nestor Ramos reports. You have to read the story to appreciate how Robert Sundberg – who faces 14 criminal counts, including two counts of rape and one count each of assault with intent to rape –isn’t just nasty, but dumb to the core, in a pumped-up, frat-boy way, if the allegations are true. Exhibit A: “While at work, prosecutors allege, Sundberg would blow into his portable breath-test device and text photos of the readings to friends as a joke — 0.168, in one case, more than twice the legal limit.”
Weld and Johnson to barnstorm across New England, stopping in Boston on Saturday
The Libertarian presidential and vice presidential ticket of Gary Johnson and Bill Weld will hold a rally at the bandstand on Boston Common this Saturday, reports Boston magazine. The 1 p.m. Boston event will be the culmination of a prior three-day swing through the region, starting with a rally in Burlington, Vermont on Wednesday, the New Hampshire State House in Concord on Thursday, and Lewiston, Maine on Friday, the Globe reports.
Somerville agrees to end Wynn appeal, vows to be a good neighbor
After months of opposing the Wynn Boston Harbor Casino in Everett on the grounds that its environmental permit did not go far enough to address traffic, pollution and other concerns, Somerville Mayor Joe Curtatone said he would end legal appeals and work cooperatively with the developer, Bruce Mohl of CommonWealth Magazine reports. Curtatone said the city’s legal actions, which were down to a single appeal option, had the desired effects, and “did yield significant and meaningful results for our residents, so we feel the process worked.” The Herald doesn’t agree, saying the “taxpayers of Somerville really ought to demand a full accounting of the costs of this quixotic legal gambit, given how little the city appears to have secured in return.”
Dudley selectmen defiant on Muslim cemetery controversy
Selectmen in Dudley again deferred on deciding whether to schedule a town meeting to allow a town wide vote on whether to purchase land where the Islamic Society of Greater Worcester wants to build a Muslim cemetery, Debbie LaPlaca of the Telegram reports. The town has until late October to decide whether to match the purchase price on the property. The board also defended past actions by other town agencies and said a recently disclosed federal investigation into potential civil rights violations in connection with the cemetery will prove the town has acted lawfully. ““Whether it’s ACLU, Department of Justice or anybody else, the bottom line is this, ultimately, the truth will expose the falseness of accusations and the motivation of the people who make those accusations,” Selectman Paul M. Joseph said.
UMass prof: Bernie & Phyl’s free furniture threshold is ridiculous
Borrowing a page from a certain rival furniture retailer, Bernie & Phyl’s is offering to give customers their purchases for free if the country reaches 75 percent voter turnout in the Nov. 8 election. But Erin O’Brien, chair of the political science department at UMass Boston, writes at WGBH that there is no way that threshold will ever be reached. National turnout last reached 75 percent in 1896 and most recent presidential races have topped out in the high 50s and low 60s. “New Englanders, free furniture is not happening. At least not with this deal,” O’Brien writes.
North Shore cities: More liquor licenses, please
Peabody Mayor Ted Bettencourt will ask the city council to back a request to state lawmakers to free up 20 more liquor licenses for the North Shore community just two years after it was granted 10 additional licenses above its population-determined limit, Taylor Rapalyea of the Salem News reports. Peabody’s neighbors will also ask lawmakers for more booze permits—Beverly wants a dozen more licenses, while Salem plans to ask for two. Lawmakers scuttled a bid by Gov. Baker to lift the license cap as part of an economic development bill, and now will likely face a flood of home-rule petitions from individual communities.
Prescription monitoring upgrade
In attempt to combat the opioid crisis, the state yesterday rolled out a new multimillion-dollar prescription-drug monitoring program that will require doctors to check more frequently before handing out prescription for opioids, reports Lindsay Kalter at the Herald.“As we work to bend the trend on the opioid epidemic, today’s new PMP launch will make it easier and faster for prescribers to use the system and make more informed clinical decisions based on data,” Gov. Charlie Baker said. “This system will provide prescriber performance benchmarks, create transparency and raise awareness as we work collaboratively to fight this public health crisis.”
Sadly, the program is necessary because of the over-prescription of opioids by good-intentioned doctors.
We’re No. 1 … in economic performance
At least this ranking is better than the one showing Massachusetts has the most number of school bomb threats: Governing magazine ranks the Bay State tops among states in terms of overall economic strength, reports SHNS’s Colin Young at the Berkshire Eagle. But before you cheer too much, one of the key measurements was the state’s personal income per capita. That doesn’t mean a heck of a lot since our high income is directly tied to our high cost of living here, which isn’t something to economically brag about. Still, the Governing ranking is in line with other surveys showing that Massachusetts has one of the best economies in the United States. So it’s re-confirming good news.
State House temporarily evacuated after soldering work triggers alarms
Gov. Baker and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito were among those who had to vacate the State House yesterday around 11 a.m. yesterday after soldering work in a mechanical room triggered the evacuation alarms, reports Sam Doran and Michael P. Norton at State House News Service. The alarms also rang out just as the House and Senate were about to launch their 11 a.m. sessions. After about 20 minutes, it was announced that the building was cleared for employees and visitors to reenter.
And the Senate is simply moving out …
From Katie Lannan, also at SHNS: “Beginning in January, the Senate plans to hold its sessions in both Gardner Auditorium and a recently renovated fourth-floor meeting room to allow for restoration work in the Senate chamber, Senate President Stan Rosenberg’s office confirmed when asked by the News Service.” Details are still being worked out as to when each room would be used and the timeline of the multimillion-dollar Senate chamber renovation.
‘Hard-up companies may not be able to pay $17-million judgment for deceptive advertising of penis-injection treatments’
OK, we couldn’t resist posting verbatim Adam Gaffin’s latest great headline, this one concerning a Suffolk Superior Court judge’s order that two firms that advertised erectile-dysfunction treatments have to pay $17 million in penalties. But there’s one small hitch: The companies have ceased operations and it’s not known how the money can be collected. Adam’s quick-hit piece explains.
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