Happening Today

Environmental legislative breakfast

Senate President Stanley Rosenberg and Rep. Stephen Kulik are scheduled to speak at an environmental legislative breakfast hosted by environmental advocacy groups, Carrie Nation, 11 Beacon St., Boston, 9:30 a.m.

Bump on the radio

Auditor Suzanne Bump is a scheduled guest on “Morning Meeting,” Boston Herald Radio, 9:30 a.m.

‘Economic opportunity legislation’

 Sen. Cynthia Creem and Economic Mobility Pathways host a briefing on “economic opportunity legislation” that includes bills dealing with paid family and medical leave, child support, creation of a tuition recovery fund and debt collection practices, Room 222, 11 a.m.

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Governor’s Council

Governor’s Council interviews trial attorney Charles William “Bill” Barrett of Concord for a seat on the Superior Court, Council Chamber, 11 a.m.

Senate Democratic caucus

Senate Democrats holds a closed caucus on Wednesday, their first such gathering of the 2017-2018 session, Senate President’s third floor office, 11 a.m.

Representatives sworn in

Gov. Charlie Baker attends a weekly meeting of the Governor’s Council with Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, where he will administer the oath of office to Reps. Denise Garlick, Paul Heroux and Denise Provost to the Massachusetts House of Representatives, Room 360, 12 p.m.

HPC Advisory Council

Health Policy Commission’s Advisory Council meets to receive an update on the first four years of the HPC’s work and programs to address health care costs in Massachusetts, 50 Milk St., 8th Floor, Boston, 12 p.m.

Tollway demolition update

MassDOT holds a public meeting on the Massachusetts Turnpike toll plaza demolition and road reconstruction project, WGBH – Yawkey Theater, One Guest St., Brighton, 6:30 p.m.

Today’s Stories

Business groups blast Baker’s cap-and-penalize health proposal

They’re normally supportive of the Republican governor, but not this time. From the Retailers Association of Massachusetts to the Associated Industries of Massachusetts, business groups were blasting away yesterday at Gov. Charlie Baker’s proposal to slap a $2,000 per-employee fine on firms that don’t provide health-care coverage for workers and to implement a price-control cap on how much health providers charge for services, according to reports at the BBJ and Eagle-Tribune and Boston Globe. The $2,000 penalty especially irked business officials, some of whom dared to call it a flat-out tax increase. A tax increase? Nah, it’s only a $300 million “assessment.”

Walsh zeros in on education funding

In his State of the City address last night, Mayor Marty Walsh, now facing a re-election fight with City Councilor Tito Jackson, touted his record on education, pushed for a new funding stream for universal pre-kindergarten, called for changing the funding formulas for charter school reimbursements and other goodies, according to reports at the Globe and at the Herald. He did talk about other non-school issues, but education is emerging as one of his major campaign themes to counter Jackson’s haves-versus-haves-not strategy. 

Here’s the full text of the mayor’s speech, via the Globe.

Tito seeks Deval’s help in taking on Marty

As Mayor Walsh basked in the limelight last night, his mayoral opponent divulged he’s been working to secure the support and endorsement from a certain key individual. From the Herald: “City Councilor Tito Jackson is calling on Deval Patrick for help in his attempt to dethrone Mayor Martin J. Walsh, but the former governor might have bigger ambitions that will keep him out of the fray.” Not even Tito, who used to work for Patrick at the State House, sounds optimistic about Patrick jumping into the fray. “I think he’s a little busy right now,” said Jackson.

Boston Herald

So how does Walsh’s salary stack up with other U.S. mayors?

The BBJ’s Craig Douglas crunched the numbers and found that Boston Mayor Marty Walsh is tied with Seattle’s mayor as the 11th highest paid mayor in the U.S. One can look at Walsh’s $175,000 salary two ways: The pay is out of whack compared to other similar-size cities or the pay is in line with other high-cost cities. Fyi: The top five mayors are in San Francisco ($289,000), Los Angeles ($238,000), Houston ($235,000), New York ($225,000) and Philadelphia ($218,000).

BBJ

Picking the pot law to pieces

Proponents of Question 4, the marijuana-legalizing ballot initiative overwhelmingly approved by voters in November, are becoming increasingly agitated over all the talk – much of it coming from Senate President Stan Rosenberg – about tinkering with the new pot law, from increasing taxes on pot sales to lowering the amount of weed homeowners can grow, the Globe’s Joshua Miller reports.

Boston Globe

Kennedy: ‘Somewhere along the way, we lost their trust’

Appearing at a Democratic strategy meeting last night, U.S. Rep. Joseph Kennedy III defended his decision to attend Donald Trump’s inauguration later this week and pleaded with fellow Dems to try to understand why Democrats have lost so many middle American voters. “Somewhere along the way, we lost their trust. We have to get it back,” Kennedy said, as reported by the Herald’s Bob McGovern.

As for Trump’s inauguration, Kennedy said it’s not about the man, but about the constitution and democratic tradition, reports the Globe’s Jim O’Sullivan. “For me, this is about the celebration of the democratic process and the transfer of power, and recognizing that, still in some parts of the world this doesn’t happen,” Kennedy said. “So, it’s not about the person, it is about the process and the celebration of our democracy, so I should be there.” 

The Herald’s Joe Battenfeld is impressed with Kennedy’s stance, saying “he isn’t a traditional flamethrower or into publicity stunts like inaugural boycotts.”  But Lauren Dezenski at Politico says that those in attendance weren’t very impressed and let party chairman Gus Bickford know it after Kennedy left the room.

Playing with fire: Lawmakers to review recommendation for pay hikes

From SHNS’s Andy Metzger: “The leaders of the House and Senate on Tuesday revived the often controversial topic of compensation for the state’s political leaders, announcing plans for a hearing Thursday to take up a 2014 report that found the pay for legislative leaders and constitutional officers is ‘generally outdated and inadequate.’”

Gov. Charlie Baker says he’s “fine with where we are” in terms of pay, but promised to give any final plan a “good, solid review,” reports Gintautas Dumicus at MassLive. Which means? Lawmakers proceed at their own political peril.

SHNS (pay wall)

Eversource’s rate-hike catnip

Almost as fast as you can say “utility” and “rate” and “hike,” Attorney General Maura Healey was blasting out a press release and tweet yesterday opposing Eversource’s request for a distribution rate hike ranging from 7 to 10 percent. “Eversource should be returning profits to customers as savings, not raising rates,” Healey tweeted. Commonwealth’s Bruce Mohl has more on why Eversource asked for the rate boost. 

CommonWealth

Moody’s finally pays the price for its subprime mortgage antics

Attorney General Maura Healey was active on another front yesterday, announcing that credit rating agency Moody’s has agreed to pay $12 million to Massachusetts to resolve pending litigation that alleges it acted deceptively when rating certain securities tied to last decade’s subprime mortgage meltdown, reports Alison Bauter at the Beacon Hill Patch. The payment is part of a nearly $864 million national settlement agreement with 22 states.

Patch

Coakley reassures lawmakers of DraftKings’ noblesse oblige intensions

Former Attorney General Attorney Martha Coakley, who now represents the sports gaming firm DraftKings, told lawmakers that her client is a “Massachusetts success story” and that current regulations are enough to protect consumers who pay to play daily fantasy sports, reports the BBJ’s Kelly O’Brien.

BBJ

Take that, Donald: Lewis to speak at Berkshire school

Fresh off his spat with President-elect Donald Trump, it turns out U.S. Rep. John Lewis, the civil rights icon from Georgia, will be a commencement speaker at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts and he will receive an honorary Doctor of Public Service from the Berkshire County school, reports Mary Serreze at MassLive.

MassLive

Baker administration claws back money from Warren Buffett-owned firm

From the BBJ’s Greg Ryan: “In an unprecedented move, the Baker administration is forcing a jewelry maker owned by billionaire Warren Buffett to pay back a $400,000 tax break given through its Economic Development Incentive Program because the company failed to add enough jobs at its facility in Attleboro.” Indeed, the Richline Group actually reduced its headcount by 75 workers since getting the tax break in 2013, so, yeah, give us back our money.

BBJ

Unions and community groups push for workplace-safety bills

From SHNS’s Colin Young at the Worcester Business Journal: “Labor unions and community groups fanned out across the State House on Tuesday to push for bills that constitute a ‘healthy workplace legislative agenda’ they said will make workplaces safer for all employees.” The groups plan to focus on the bills that came up short last session – one in which all public employees would be covered by safety measures that meet federal Occupational Safety and Health Act standards and another that would expand the scope of workplace disfigurement injuries covered under workers’ compensation policies.

Worcester Business Journal

Critics: Lobbying rules could have stalled Grand Prix before it crashed

Strict new rules on lobbying at City Hall could have steered the city around the time and expense wasted on the ill-fated Boston Grand Prix race, critics of the fiasco told a City Council hearing into the proposed regulations, Andrew Ryan of the Globe reports. Rules under consideration by the council requiring disclosure of lobbyist ties would have meant the proposal for the South Boston race would have become public sooner, leading in turn to better policy decisions, testified Felicity Lingle, co-chairwoman of the Coalition Against IndyCar Boston. 

Boston Globe

Mass. smokers pay the price

A new study says cigarette smokers in Massachusetts face the second-highest costs associated with the habit, doling out an average of $43,000 a year on butts and related health and societal costs, Lindsay Kalter of the Herald reports. Only New Yorkers who light up face higher costs, a study from WalletHub estimates. 

Boston Herald

Baby Boom boomerang: Immigrants needed to fill jobs of retiring workers

Future growth of the Massachusetts economy will require a constant influx of new workers to replace retiring Baby Boomers, experts told the New England Economic Partnership during an event at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston on Tuesday, Fred Thys of WBUR reports. As a result, changes in federal immigration policy could have far-reaching economic implications for Massachusetts, said Northeastern University economist Alan Clayton-Matthews. 

WBUR

Obama pardons former Raytheon board member

Gen. James E. Cartwright, who resigned from the board of Waltham-based Raytheon in October after pleading guilty to lying to the FBI as it investigated leaks of classified information, received a pardon from President Obama on Tuesday, David Harris of the Boston Business Journal reports. Cartwright’s pardon is one of 1,385 such actions taken by Obama so far.

BBJ

Mayors group takes Holaday

The Massachusetts Mayors Association has tapped Donna Holaday, the three-term mayor of Newburyport, as its new president, the Daily News of Newburyport reports. Boston Mayor Marty Walsh will serve as the vice president of the group, which is affiliated with the Massachusetts Municipal Association. 

Daily News

Today’s Headlines

Metro

Six takeaways for the business community from the State of the City – Boston Business Journal

#MartyLostMeWhen, “A Rough Hashtag For The Mayor” – Universal Hub

In state of city speech, Walsh vows to fight ‘for our values’ – Boston Globe

Could lobbying rules have saved Boston from ill-fated Grand Prix? – Boston Globe

Massachusetts

Curt Spalding, regional EPA leader under Obama, says goodbye to the job, but not SouthCoast – Standard-Times

Newburyport Mayor Holaday elected president of Mass. Mayors’ Association – Newburyport Daily News

State lawmakers revive plan to raise their pay – Boston Globe

Water contamination in Pittsfield draws visit from Mass DEP – MassLive

Joe Kennedy pleads with Dems to win back votes – Boston Herald

Bay State smokers burn through cash at near national high – Boston Herald

Pols ‘alarmed’ whites make up 90 percent of state police ranks – Boston Herald

Grafton selectmen rescind approval for gas pipeline drilling – Telegram & Gazette

Natick selectmen reject requests to fly peace, NRA flags – MetroWest Daily News

Former Haverhill worker charged with stealing money from city – Eagle-Tribune

Facebook thread erupts amid debate over sanctuary city measure in Easthampton – Hampshire Gazette

Continued Growth Of Mass. Economy Depends On Immigration, Experts Say – WBUR

Nation

Poll: Obamacare at its most popular on eve of repeal – Politico

Why are no senators boycotting the inauguration? National ambition is part of it – Washington Post

Obama to free Manning, jailed for a vast leak of U.S. secrets – New York Times

U.S. abortion rate falls to lowest level since Roe v. Wade – NPR

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